Anarcha-feminism and Animal Liberation
SEKHMET issue 8
"Meat is like pornography - before it was someone's fun, it was someone's life" -- Melinda Vales
Lots of anarchists find the idea of animal rights quite dodgy. Guaranteeing "legal" rights to animals sounds pretty useless given the amount of notice the state takes of human rights. Intellectual dudes like Peter Singer focus more on allowing moral considerations to animals, based on their similarity to humans. But what about the bigger picture? Anarcha-feminists who are into animal liberation link male domination and exploitation of animals with the male domination and exploitation of women. It's about breaking down the divisions - male/female, rich/poor, black/white ... animal/human. We want the self-determination of both animals and humans.
Hunting and eating animals is traditionally done by the boys. Dead animals and women are objectified in similar ways. TV, magazines, and video fames sell us funky fantasy images of happy cartoon chickens (like the one at Big Fresh) and airbrushed anorexic women, targeted at male consumers. Women are called cows, chicks, birds, vixen - domestic and game animals. If men are compared to animals they are wolves, bears or stallions. Lots of women are kept in suburban homes like battery hens or pigs - continually pregnant, bored, depressed.
As well as being a massive torture industry, vivisection is another way of objectifying animals. Lots of experiments, such as the Draize test destroy the animals' eyes, turning them into objects who can't return the male gaze. Women and animals are experimented on without their consent by male doctors. Caesarean section is the standard way lab animals give birth, as it used to be for women.
Lots of pornography portrays women as animals. Look at "Adult Entertainment" (ironically next to "Pets and Livestock") in the Evening Post - ads like "Cuddly bunny especially for you". Meat-based recipes are also advertised in sexual terms "Hot Stuff". The whips and chains of bondage imagery is based on gear for breaking in horses. Lots of men who abuse women start off abusing pet animals.
Is there a problem in supporting both animal rights and pro-choice? I feel these movements have a lot in common: 1) both focus on life and self-determination of the individual woman and animals 2) both women and farm animals are forced into unwanted pregnancies 3) the anti-abortion movement romanticises motherhood in just the same way that the meat industry romanticises farm animals. Abortion in early pregnancy isn't murder in the same case killing animals is - medical evidence suggests foetuses can't feel pain before the seventh month of gestation.
Does animal liberation ignore race and class issues? It's true that most of the Animal Rights movement is a whiter shade of pale. However, indigenous peoples tend to be objectified as animals to be consumed in just the same way women are. People of col our and animals are both overworked, marginalised, and economically exploited. The same power structures oppress both. Defending animals and fighting racism is part of the same struggle.
I want to mention possums because they cause a lot of damage in Aotearoa. Do we need to murder possums to save indigenous trees and birds? This has worried me quiet a lot. However, Pakeha bought possums into Aotearoa - this is a Pakeha problem, not a possum problem. It is up to pakeha to find a solution that doesn't oppress possums. The destruction of bush by possums is minimal compared to that destroyed by Pakeha for farmland or timber. Rather than murdering possums, we need to focus on stopping further bush being cleared for profit, and on keeping existing possum-free areas of bush possum-free.
It's interesting that both anarcha-feminism and the animal rights movement are based around direct action tactics. Both aim to destroy the existing systems and practices rather than reform them -- i.e. no veal calves rather than better conditions for veal calves -- no laws rather than better laws. The liberation and self-determination of animals and people is thus inseparable.
"Merely by ceasing to eat meat, merely by practising restraint we have the power to end a painful industry" - Roberta Katechofsky
I'd really recommend the following books:
(i) Carol J Adams Neither man nor Beast: feminism and the defense of animals
(ii)Vandana Shiva and Maria Miles Ecofeminism