Anarchism and Animal Liberation; Essays on Complementary Elements of Total Liberation – Foreword & Introduction
Foreword by David N. Pellow
Ashanti Alston, a former Black Panther and Black Liberation Army activist and one-time political prisoner, once told me, “I really feel like of all the groups, the anarchist mindset is open to understanding all the different oppressions.” I concur and I share Alston’s perspective because, like him, I also identify as an anarchist person of color and I see evidence every day of my life that anarchism’s core principles and promises make a lot of sense to those of us who are committed to total liberation—ideas, scholarship, artistic expression, and action aimed at challenging all forms of oppression. To my knowledge Anarchism and Animal Liberation is the first book to place anarchist studies and Critical Animal Studies in conversation with one another, and for that reason alone, this is a path-breaking work.
In so many ways, the essays in this book focus on expanding our understanding of hierarchy and inequality by making sense of the often tense and violent relationships among humans and nonhuman animal species. In so doing, the editors and contributors facilitate the goal of achieving a better grasp of inequality’s ramifications while also deepening our understanding of the nature of inequality itself. Only then can we truly grasp the depths of our socioecological crises and address them effectively.
As a sociologist I must confront the most basic yet profound questions raised in this book: what is inequality and why does it matter? At its most basic level, inequality means that if you are “on top” of a social system, or higher on a social status ladder when compared with another being, then you possess or have access to more resources, wealth, and privileges. But more importantly—and from the standpoint of anarchist studies and Critical Animal Studies—your elevated position above others also means that your life is of greater value than others living within that social system. You likely own or control and affect more of the planet and its constituent residents and life support systems than others, you likely own or control and affect more living beings (and, therefore, likely produce more death) than others, and you control and benefit from the ideational systems that give meaning and legitimacy to such dynamics. Inequality is a means of ordering the human and nonhuman worlds for the relative benefit of some and to the detriment of others. Anarchist studies and Critical Animal Studies explore the origins and consequences of varied forms of inequality and hierarchy, and resolve to oppose them at every level.
Public health scholarship reveals that human life expectancy, morbidity, mortality, and wellbeing are highly correlated with key measures of inequality. In the case of environmental inequality and environmental racism, working class people, people of color, women, immigrants, and Indigenous persons are more likely to face health risks as a result of the uneven exposure to environmental harm that social and institutional forces routinely perpetrate (practices that are rooted in multiple forms of social inequality and hierarchy). Thus social or human inequalities derive their existence through inequalities that also divide, rank, and exert control over nonhumans and ecosystems. Inequality is, above all, unnatural in the sense that it does not “just happen”—it requires a great deal of energy, labor, and institutional effort to produce and maintain unequal societies. This point is crucial because there is often a great deal of energy invested into making inequalities appear to be a natural state of affairs. As ecofeminist Greta Gaard writes, “Appeals to nature have often been used to justify social norms, to the detriment of women, nature, queers, and persons of color.” Inequality is not just an imbalance of resources or power, but is frequently experienced as unearned privileges made possible by domination and injustice. Those who suffer its consequences also routinely resist inequality. This book is a clarion call to solidarity and a call to join those who are leading these resistance efforts.
Anarchism and Animal Liberation embraces the idea, vision, and practice of total liberation, which views inequality as a threat to life itself—for oppressed peoples, species, and ecosystems—and is organized around the struggle for justice for all life forms. Individuals, collectives, organizations, networks, and movements seeking total liberation organize and mobilize in favor of symbols, metaphors, language, signs, representations, practices, and structures of equality and justice to do what social movements have always done: to imagine and create a better world. Only this world would be based on the idea that inequality and unfreedom in all their known manifestations should be eradicated.
The editors and contributors to this invaluable collection contend that one cannot fully grasp the foundations of racism, classism, sexism, patriarchy, ageism, and ableism without also understanding speciesism and dominionism because they are all ideologies and practices rooted in hierarchy and the creation of oppositional superior and inferior subjects. This total liberation framework links oppression and privileges across species, ecosystems, and human populations, suggesting a theory and path toward justice and freedom—something missing in traditional models of intersectionality. Thus the concept of total liberation reveals both the complexity of various systems of hierarchy while also suggesting points of intervention, transformative change, solidarity and coalition building across myriad boundaries. Total liberation is, above all, a cultural force because its greatest power lies in the strength and audacity of its vision. And while it may never gain widespread appeal, it is socially significant because the ideas embodied in the concept of total liberation constitute a threat to the core operating principles and assumptions behind the current social order. Read this book with great care because you will never be the same again.
Gaard, G. (2004). “Toward a queer ecofeminism.” In Rachel Stein (Ed.). New perspectives on environmental justice: Gender, sexuality, and activism. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. Pp. 21–44.
David N. Pellow is the Don Martindale Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of three books on animal rights and environmental topics. He has served on the boards of directors for Global Response, the Global Action Research Center, the Center for Urban Transformation, Greenpeace USA, and International Rivers.
Foreword by John C. Alessio
Twenty-five years ago I was looking for a good book about anarchism to use in one of my classes. At the time there was little discussion about the integration of oppression issues among anarchists. In fact, I would have been happy to find a decent book that served my classroom needs that wasn’t notably sexist. I was unsuccessful. I am pleased to write a foreword for a book that brings anarchism into the twenty-first century by pulling together the various threads of oppression around an anarchist framework. I thus begin by giving high praise to the editors and the authors. When I mention an author by name please assume I am referring to one of the authors of an essay within the present work, Anarchism and Animal Liberation.
This book inspired me to review my own thinking and writing related to anarchism and animal rights, so I apologize in advance for referring to my own works. Issues related to the relationship between the state and capitalism were nicely covered by Nocella et al., something I discuss in a slightly different way within my 2011 book, Social Problems and Inequality. The state (typically nation-state) is not only controlled by wealthy capitalists; it was designed and constructed by and for wealthy capitalists. Of course this construction took place over a long period of time, but it greatly accelerated and took its contemporary form during the industrial revolution and was reshaped through various imperial wars. It is difficult to determine causal order. While the state was necessary for the industrial revolution to take place, the evolving cultural instruments of the industrial revolution greatly inspired and solidified the importance of the state for capitalist interests. Hence, Boisseau and Donaghey’s focus on the violence of industrialism and Pfeffer and Parson’s critique of “industrial civilization” are important contributions toward understanding the relationship between the state and capitalism.
There is often confusion about the general concepts of “government” and “state.” They are sometimes treated by anarchists and right wing conservatives alike as if they are the same concept. Anarchist thinking that grew out of the Kropotkin-Marx/Engels debates was clearly about the oppressive nature of the state and what should be done with it. Government, on the other hand, is something that can take place by mutual agreement among individuals. Such agreements don’t have to be called government, since that concept carries some baggage. But the point is that people can decide how they want to live together by consensus and this can only take place in a reasonable manner among local populations. Local populations can also form agreements with other local populations, and so on.
Can we expect a perfectly balanced system? Touched by Dominick’s realism one might ask if anyone knows of any perfectly balanced system that involves human interaction, even among friends or intimate partners? Not likely. But that is the goal toward which all anarchists might strive to create a more just and sustainable world. Perfection, or some sort of utopian life, is not expected. But freedom from an oppressive capitalist state and the various forms of oppression fostered therein is a reasonable expectation. This book does an excellent job of moving the reader toward that understanding. Intersectionality, interconnectedness, holistic thinking, critical thinking, and integrative activism, teaching, and scholarship are well addressed by many in this important volume, but see Drew & Socha for a particularly cogent statement on integration.
As we look specifically toward the often neglected issue of nonhuman animal oppression we must recognize, as do the authors of this book, that no being is free until all beings are free. I am impressed with Lupinacci’s plea to make friends with all forms of life, including trees and other non-animal forms of life and parts of nature. The impending disaster of dramatic climate change that most independent scientists are predicting (sixth mass extinction) will continue to seize the futures of many species, including humans. When reproduction and growth are completely controlled, living organisms are denied their own forms of biological and social organization—forms of organization that can only develop slowly through a gradual process of complex mutual adaptation with other forms of life. This is just as true for plants as it is for animals.
The most serious questions for all forms of life, particularly humans, are what shall we eat to survive and then what shall we not eat to survive as a species? The answer to the latter question, I discussed in my 2008 paper, “Being Sentient and Sentient Being,” drives part of the answer to the first question, but more importantly contextualizes speciesism within a very broad framework: the world isn’t just for human and nonhuman animals, and animals cannot survive without plants. As Alexis points out, there are reasons for objecting to animal mistreatment that are beyond the arguments related to suffering. Patriarchy, gendering and other forms of oppression are among those reasons, as Alexis emphasizes. I would extend Alexis’ argument to include why people might choose to be vegan. It isn’t just that animals in agribusiness suffer, although that is very important. Animal production denigrates all life in multiple ways, including the plants fed to the agribusiness animals. Generally an organic vegan diet is the healthiest for most humans in the short run and the healthiest for all species of Earth in the long run.
Perhaps stretching Lupinacci’s comment further than intended, we must, indeed, make friends with all life forms. Those of us who are vegan might at least suspect that the plants we are eating are no less sentient in their own way, and certainly no less important, than ourselves. All life requires sustenance that comes from consuming other forms of life. Can consumption take place with respect, gratitude, and wisdom about what is healthiest for us and the environment? Complete elimination of suffering is not possible as long as living beings must consume other forms of living beings, but we still might ask how much suffering could be eliminated now and into the future if everyone adopted a vegan diet. Of course it is not possible to know, but it would certainly be an extremely high percentage of all the suffering that currently takes place and that will take place into the future based on current food production and consumption patterns.
Contemporary anarchists know that actualizing the answers to the above two questions requires dramatically altering human social life from its current form, and creating a form of human social life free of hierarchies and oppression, as promoted by all the authors of this book. While we can look forward to the eventual absence of the capitalist state, clever people around the globe are finding ways of living locally now despite the continuing existence of nation-states. The wealthy benefactors of the state know this well and are spending a lot of money (with frightening success in some areas) to take over local community life (for example, the Koch Brothers in the United States). The imperative of decentralized horizontal decision-making becomes obvious, and such decision-making is sorely missing in most communities. Awareness is critical and people are sometimes easily confused by propaganda. The various social movements we have witnessed in recent years; Occupy, community gardens, organic farming, local farmer’s markets, local exchange economies, etc., are all signs of hope on what can otherwise seem a dark landscape. Contemporary anarchists don’t have to fit into an anarchist mold, but nor do they have to be disorganized and lost. We might not agree on what the final picture should look like, but we have considerable agreement about what it should not look like. This book is a powerful testament to that claim.
The Intersections of Critical Animal Studies and Anarchist Studies for Total Liberation
Anthony J. Nocella II, Richard J. White and Erika Cudworth
Anarchism and animal liberation have advanced in many intersectional ways for the goal of fostering peace and justice. For example, Kimberly Socha (2014) has opened the door even more widely by writing a book on anarchism, animal liberation, and atheism. Socha emphasizes the importance of a political and economic analysis of speciesism that will enable us to address systems of oppression that exploit, torture, murder, and dominate nonhuman animals. Some animal liberationists have been drawn in to various intersected struggles: opposing organizations which promote capitalism and encouraging radical political struggles to address various kinds of social oppression including sexism, racism, and ableism. Critical Animal Studies is providing space and place for scholar-activists to go beyond the limits of connecting marginalized oppressed groups together for total liberation (Pellow 2014) and can be seen to build bridges between anarchist theory and practice and animal liberation. Anarchism is a socio-political theory which opposes all systems of domination and oppression such as racism, ableism, sexism, anti–LGBTTQIA, ageism, sizeism, government, competition, capitalism, colonialism, imperialism and punitive justice, and promotes direct democracy, collaboration, interdependency, mutual aid, diversity, peace, transformative justice and equity (Amster, DeLeon, Fernandez, Nocella, and Shannon 2009). Critical Animal Studies grounded in anarchism is intersectional and radical. It stands against all systems of oppression and domination, and promotes activism and community organizing. This does not mean simply writing articles and books and building a career within the academy, or seeking reward for writing about popular topics (Nocella, Sorenson, Socha, and Matsuoka 2014). Critical Animal Studies, therefore, is about liberation, total liberation (Pellow 2014).
It is no exaggeration to observe that, at a time of deep and prolonged crises which threatens the very existence of the world as we know it, anarchist thought and practice has enjoyed a resurgence of popularity and influence across (radical) academic and activist circles. Anarchism, with its explicit intent of challenging and ending all forms of domination, is seen to bring something of real value, hope and possibility. Those who study this theory and action are situated in anarchist studies, a field dedicated to not only promoting the theory and action, but studying and conducting research on anarchists and anarchist movements throughout world history (Amster, DeLeon, Fernandez, Nocella, and Shannon 2009). This collection, written by anarcho-vegans, re-visits influential streams of thought evident within the anarchist canon, and shows that this can be a fruitful endeavor, not least in understanding the barren impotency of both “state-” and “market-” based solutions to the entrenched problems we face. Indeed, the anarchist critique—unlike other radical approaches—has seen the market and the state as being absolutely central to creating and perpetuating the violent geographies that we see (Shannon, Nocella, and Asimakopoulos 2012). However, while looking backward—like the two-headed dog of Janus—anarchists have also looked forward for inspiration and guidance in the here and now. What does our contemporary world offer in terms of providing appropriate resources with which to create new visions, and with an on-going commitment to practice and realize new futures?
This challenge—to create something of substance and import at a time of crisis—burns brightly at the heart of this book. Violence and domination know few boundaries; nowhere is this truer than in our relationship(s) with other sentient beings, be they human or other animals. In agitating for a (new) anarchist consciousness in the reader, one claim rings out: we concede too much power to others to “make the right choice” on our behalf. Acknowledging this, and recognizing the importance of engaging one’s body and mind to create and maintain meaningful forms of direct action, a pre-figurative praxis needs to be taken to heart. To be encouraged to make new connections and to be open to learning from the experiences of others are always important. In this context, for many authors in the book, inspiration has been found in the critical space which a Critical Animal Studies approach creates, to which we now turn our attention.
Critical Animal Studies should be both a field of study and a movement focused on telling and fighting for the truth about the treatment of other animals by many humans, and this truth clearly threatens the powers that be. Critical Animal Studies stands with the oppressed and against the establishment. Critical Animal Studies will always experience a range of problems in its relations with institutions such as the academy and government which many of its adherents—certainly many of those contributing to this collection—see as oppressive institutions. Therefore it is not surprising that Critical Animal Studies scholar-activists often have a difficult time finding academic full-time careers in higher education. Many Critical Animal Studies scholars are not waiting to get tenure or a safe position to challenge oppression and domination, but are organizing now, conducting hunt sabotage, civil disobedience, street blockades, sit-ins, banner drops, and store occupations. Critical Animal Studies has not been preoccupied with establishing an academic field that can secure academic jobs for its adherents, but is focused on liberation of those that are oppressed. Many Critical Animal Studies scholars write on academic repression (Nocella, Best, and McLaren 2010), and argue that those seeking tenured positions may be better advised to align themselves with non-contestationary scholarship in mainstream animal studies. Critical Animal Studies does not seek reform, but transformative revolution and total liberation. Our scholarship in Critical Animal Studies therefore, is by definition, emancipatory. As such, CAS scholars are critical of existing social arrangements and established institutions which are understood to be unjust (see Best 2009). Rather, the agenda of CAS is one of transformation, and such transformation implies a confrontational stance.
Critical Animal Studies (or CAS), founded in 2006–07, arose out the work of the Institute for Critical Animal Studies. Both today are international and supported by the efforts of volunteer activist-scholars. CAS has been growing rapidly with the greatest effort coming from students rather than professors. While there are some professors doing great work, academia tends to restrict individuals and encourage conformity not radicalism, for which they are certainly unlikely to be rewarded. As Richard Khan (2010) notes, the labelling of some high profile U.S. scholar-activists in CAS as domestic or international “terrorists” operates as a warning, and suggests that engaging with CAS may be more likely to be a strategy for “getting fired” rather than ensuring tenure or promotion. CAS, while scholarly, is opposed to much of what passes for scholarship and teaching in academia. It does not feign neutrality or disinterest, but rather an engaged scholarship that seeks to promote radical change. In addition to its politicization, it deals with the nonhuman, and for mainstream academic scholarship in the humanities and social sciences (and elsewhere) this is not to be taken seriously. As Rhoda Wilkie (2013) has recently suggested, on both grounds (that of politics and of subject matter), the labor we engage in as CAS scholars is “tainted labor” or “dirty work” at disciplinary borderlands.
Critical Animal Studies sets itself against “nonemancipatory” scholarship (Peggs 2012, p. 149). Rather, it is demanding everyone to think critically about their own positions and their own privileges, and to resist and fight the forms of domination we criticize as though we are fighting for our lives. Yet if we did just that, we would be living our lives a great deal differently. Currently we say radical things, while doing very little for animals, as long as it is not too much of an inconvenience. We must destroy colonialism and civilization, but how? As a number of contributions to this collection emphasize, change cannot come from a politics based on ethical veganism exclusively, and certainly not by simply eating fake meats, wearing faux leather, and shopping in ethical stores. Rather, emancipatory scholarship and activism demands a broader view, a politics of coalition and solidarity around multi-faceted oppression. And in thinking about what this means, the concept and praxis of intersectionality is a useful way forwards.
Intersectionality is important for two strategic reasons. First, it brings movements together so that there is more support and room for collaboration. Second, intersectionality allows activists to educate themselves about the goals, purpose, tactics, history, and campaigns of movements with which they have has less involvement. Many activists who begin to study and analyze social movements for their own social causes and identity have often joined those other struggles after finding out about their own experiences of oppression. It is through this process that people become aware of multiple experiences of oppression and that no one has a single identity. Out of this process of exchange arose conceptual and theoretical intersectionality, first associated with black feminist scholarship in the United States (see Crenshaw 1989). This stresses that groups, movements, and people often have multiple experiences of oppression related to their different axes of identity, such as ability, gender, sexuality, race, class, age, nationality, and religion. Therefore, intersectionality highlights the need to understand feelings of oppression as a phenomenon rooted in people’s diverse, overlapping socio-political economic identities and locations in relation to social power and cultural hegemony. Intersectionality is both a methodology and theory that speaks to “the relationships among multiple dimensions and modalities of social relationships and subject formations” (McCall 2005). The development within social movements embracing intersectionality aided in the initiative of multi-movement alliance politics.
Intersectionality emphasizes that oppression is related by systems of domination (hooks 1994). This concept was made well-known by feminists of color (Collins 1998; Collins 2000a), who emphasized that while being a woman is difficult in society because of patriarchy, it is even harder to be a Black women, and harder for those Black women who are poor and may also be lesbians and/or have disabilities. In addition, the developing field of intersectionality studies in feminism over the last twenty years has also shown that intersections are complex. Within what Collins (2000b) calls the matrix of oppression and domination, there are situations on multiple axes so that it is not simply a case of listing forms of oppression and assuming that inhabiting multiple categories makes for a greater degree of oppression. Rather we need to examine how the intersections of various forms of oppression work for various groups in specific locations, especially in the context of globalization (Walby 2009). Examining oppression and relating experiences of oppression together is a strategy of organizing people together in order to increase resistance, deconstruct, and challenge multiple systems of domination. Many intersectional social justice activist-scholars (some who also identify themselves as total liberationists, see later) argue that only when everyone in the world understands and respects they are not one dimension (Marcuse 1964) and are related through identity and experience, can we end domination of one another through massive social transformation (Lederach 2003). Intersectional social justice activist-scholars believe people are inherently capable of good and will be more unlikely to harm and dominate others if they understand that forms of injustice are related. This mass social transformation will lead to transforming individual acts and perspectives as well, influenced by an oppressive society that promotes sexism, homophobia, ableism, racism, ageism, and classism (Morris 2000).
Intersectionality, a theory that examines subjects from a multi-standpoint perspective, arose greatly out of the efforts of interdisciplinary studies. A great deal of interdisciplinary fields of study emerged out of successful social movements, for example, the civil rights movement in the United States fostered Africana studies and the women’s rights movement fostered women’s studies. Often, intersectional scholarship will be found within interdisciplinary fields, and certainly attempts to consider various kinds of social/political/cultural/economic exclusion, oppression and domination within varied overlapping fields of gender, race, age, ability, class and others, lends itself to interdisciplinary scholarship and multi-movement politics. While there has been concerted resistance to this in traditional disciplines, the increased popularity and use of intersectionality as a framework has helped mitigate this resistance. Intersectionality and multi-movement politics within the animal liberation movement most notably emerged with the work of eco-feminists such as Carol Adams, whose book The Sexual Politics of Meat (1990) was influential. Today the intersections have grown more diverse and complex such as between race and nonhuman animals (Harper 2010) and between disability, environment, and animal justice (Bentley, Duncan and Nocella 2010), for example. In thinking critically about human relations with nonhuman animals, CAS draws in scholars from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds and furthers interdisciplinary studies and multi-movement politics, for total liberation.
Total liberation is intersectionality in action. Intersectionality can be found in moments when multiple identities cross and the same moment because of an experience an individual, group or community has. Ideas about total liberation were voiced in the 1960s by many radical political organizations, and was used to describe an uncompromising multifaceted approach to complete freedom and justice for all suffering from oppression and domination. Total liberation as practice does not mean that each rally, protest, conference and forum, must address every injustice in the world. If this was the case we would not be able to ever discuss specific strategies, tactics, and experiences. Moreover, total liberation is not academics writing about radical ideas or advocating revolutionary change. Rather, it is about individuals organizing together in collaborative transformative ways in their community and globally against systems of oppression and domination (Del Gandio and Nocella 2014). Consequently it is not, for example, about vegan activists going to a LGBGTTIQ parade and promoting veganism; it involves being at other social movement’s events in order to fully to support them and to be in solidarity with them. In light of this, the following are organizing strategies we suggest might be helpful for supporting other movements.
• Be invited to the movement and community, thus don’t go where you are not invited
• Listen before speaking or suggesting ideas and make sure you are asked to speak and for your suggestions
• Make sure to articulate one’s commitment so everyone knows your limitations
• Explain to others in the movement your skills so others can utilize you to your fullest capability
• Explain to others in the movement your motivation and personal goals on why you want to help and join the movement
• Be willing to follow and never lead
• Be willing to not get credit, but give credit to non-dominate voices
• Be willing to take accountability and own one’s supremacy and domination
• Be willing to be challenged personally and be called out publicly
• Be willing to learn new processes and cultural practices
• Be willing to take more risks than others that are more oppressed
• Be willing to do more labor
• Be willing to not take money or other benefits from organizations
• Challenge acts that tokenize, patronize, commodity, appropriate, and coopt
• Be willing to leave when asked and not blame others for being asked to leave
These suggestions on coalition and solidarity building are unlikely to be a solution to the emergence of tensions and conflicts. However, conflict should not necessarily be viewed as a problem, but rather as an opportunity to learn and address challenges.
Total liberation is greatly influenced by anarchism in that it is opposed to all forms of oppression and domination and is also not reformist. Therefore total liberation, Critical Animal Studies, and anarchism supports the Animal Liberation Front, Earth Liberation Front, and other revolutionary and resistance organizations (Colling & Nocella 2011, Best & Nocella 2006; Best & Nocella 2004). To change the enormous and intertwined problems that we face, we must think creatively and in community, rather than thinking that the answer will be by using oppressive strategies, cultural traditions, and established systems. Audre Lorde’s well-known phrase captures this best: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Thus total liberationists must develop alternative ways of transforming social, political and economic relationships and systemic structures.
Overview of Book
At the heart of this collection, and opening the book, is Brian Dominick’s “Anarcho-Veganism Revisited.” This is a critical reflection of the highly influential concept veganarchist, which was introduced by Dominick in the mid–1990s. Rejecting a fundamentalist culture that has, on many levels—sought to appropriate the term veganarchy over the last twenty years, the essay critically addresses the limits of a militant or dogmatic interpretation of veganarchy. In this context, the essay makes an excellent and persuasive case for developing a more nuanced understanding of veganism and anarchism, one composed of constellations of values and principles. To this end Dominick outlines a powerful, important and brave new animal ethic, one which seeks to agitate for and create new spaces of resistance and liberation.
“Anarchist Criminology Against Racism and Ableism and for Animal Liberation” by Anthony J. Nocella II draws some important connections and implications between a diverse range of social justice causes. Nocella encourages the reader to think critically about the nuances and complexity that define each of these concepts, beginning with the very idea of anarchism itself. The powerful connections between both oppression and liberation of humans and other animals are convincingly made. In this context, Nocella demonstrates how some of the most important and well known forms of direct action, undertaken in the name of the Animal Liberation Front, embody the principles of anarchism, both in organization and in targeting the sources of domination and economic exploitation. An important discussion of the various strategies of resistance employed, particularly those which focus on property and economic sabotage in the name of liberation is forthcoming. The relative success of these tactics, Nocella argues, can be seen in how this organization has attracted such powerful propaganda (especially the association with terrorism) that the ALF has attracted from the economic and political elite. A more detailed critique of (private) property—including animals as property—is then developed before the essay then goes on to problematize the uncritical call for incarceration (of animal abusers) that many in the animal rights movement make. Critiquing the criminal justice system as a necessary part of critiquing the oppressive State apparatus needs to be engaged at all times. This is crucial if we are to take a significant step nearer to the truly free and liberated society—for all—that we hope is possible.
In “Doing Liberation: The Story and Strategy of Food Not Bombs,” Drew Robert Winter provides a timely and important critique of an organization that has done, and continues to, engage in some incredibly important forms of intervention and action. As Winter notes, the success of the Food Not Bombs movement has come in the face of great adversity and the dedication, commitment, and resilience that has allowed it to thrive (not merely survive) pays testimony to the individuals and groups involved. Drawing on personal experience with FNB, and undertaking interviews with Keith McHenry (FNB co-founder) Winter develops a range of powerful insights, themes, arguments and conclusions which demonstrate how many of the principles of FNB are animated by anarchist praxis, and the significance of this. Also the practice of giving food—we all need food—as Winter reminds us, can be fun, and the basis of conversation and expressions of solidity and support. We should do well not to forget this.
In “‘Nailing Descartes to the wall’: Animal Rights, Veganism and Punk Culture,” Will Boisseau and Jim Donaghey explore the considerable (but rarely discussed) overlaps between punk culture and animal rights activism/vegan consumption habits and anarchism. Drawing on first-hand interviews with key individuals and influential bands associated with contemporary UK punk scene, the authors present a range of valuable—and contested—insights concerning the influence of anarchism and intersectional opposition to all forms of domination. The deeper links between punk music, animal rights, and anarchy against broader forms of domination and exploitation, particularly capitalism, are confidently explored. The essay is rich in detail and significance on many levels. It contains many new and important insights and connections of great relevance to a wide audience.
“Intersectionality, Species and Social Domination” makes the case that anarchism is highly open to, if not already characterized by, intersectionality. Erika Cudworth considers the history of anarchist thought and practical political engagement to demonstrate concern with an eclectic range of dominations—around “race,” ethnicity and nation; caste, class and wealth; formations of sex, sexuality and gender; colonialism, imperialism and warfare amongst others. This openness of anarchism to considering multiple forms of domination, she suggests, means that it is well-suited to develop powerful critiques of the human domination of other animals. The essay begins with a consideration of two important anarchist contributions to debates on human relations with other animals: those of Kropotkin and Bookchin, both of whom see humanity as co-constituted in “federations” of life with nonhumans, despite Bookchin’s inability to move decisively away from the dichotomy between humans and other animals. The essay proceeds to examine anarchist work which foregrounds the intersectionalized oppression of humans and other animals, arguing that while intersectionality and social domination are increasingly engaged with by both anarchism and animal liberation discourse, there is a significant way to go. Nevertheless, anarchist theory and politics—opposed as they are, to a range of dominations that are understood to be interlinked and interdependent—are highly compatible with a politics which contests the human oppression and exploitation of nonhuman animals.
“Beyond Suffering: Resisting Patriarchy and Reproductive Control” pushes these intersectionalized understandings of the world further with a detailed and compelling account of ways in which the control of the reproductive capacity of farmed animals constitutes a form of gendered oppression. Nekeisha Alayna Alexis wants to take animal liberation “beyond suffering.” She shows how a focus on suffering has been key to resistance against factory farms, with activists recording and disclosing undercover footage of creatures languishing in appalling conditions; of humans beating, electrocuting, kicking and using other forms of extreme force against animals; and of animals enduring bloody and excruciating deaths in slaughterhouses. The essay begins by outlining the possibilities and inherent limitations of using the suffering narrative to make changes on behalf of farmed animals and identifies some he external pressures challenging this narrative. The essay proceeds to explore the ways patriarchy manifests itself in animal agriculture, particularly in the area of reproductive control, and highlight the connections between animal liberation and gendered oppression. Alexis makes a provocative and convincing case that building an argument for animal liberation that does not rely on narrative of suffering is currently an urgent task facing animal advocates. Rather, she argues that expanding the farmed animal advocacy narrative to include concerns of resisting patriarchy and reproductive tyranny can undergird a currently beleaguered suffering agenda.
In “Industrial Society Is Both the Fabrication Department and the Kill Floor: Total Liberation, Green Anarchism and the Violence of Industrialism,” Mara J. Pfeffer and Sean Parson make a powerful and provocative argument through an examination of the linkage between ideas of total liberation, green anarchism and a critique of the inevitable large-scale violence embedded in industrial practices and lifeways. Through a series of cases and vignettes, they argue that if we are to be concerned with animal liberation and ending unneeded suffering, then our politics must go further than attacking the state and capitalism. The key contention of this essay is that there can be no “total liberation” without addressing the problem of industrial civilization. Further, Pasons and Pfeffer suggest that there is only one alternative—the demise of industrial society. They begin by documenting the violence of industrial society. Millions of human animal deaths and countless billions of nonhuman animal deaths are a direct result of the industrial system in which increasingly, we all live. Significant levels of mass destruction of living creatures (both human and nonhuman) and ecosystems is an inevitable product of resource extraction. Parson and Pfeffer proceed to argue for a politics beyond veganism and centered around solidarity with various oppressed groups. A key element of this is not just a thorough critique of capitalism and colonialism, but a profound questioning of industrial civilization as a form of systemic oppression itself. While this is an argument for a primitivist anarchism, it is a nuanced one, for the authors are clear that primitivist politics needs to be much more critical in understanding animality and in calling for “rewilding.” Rather we need a critical politics of “becoming animal” where we avoid reproducing patterns of colonialism, classism, racism, and sexism and promote a postindustrialist politics for total liberation.
In “‘A wider vision’: Coercion, Solidarity and Animal Liberation,” Will Boisseau considers the relationship between animal rights groups and the contemporary anarchist movement in Britain, concentrating in particular on tensions around coercive or violent tactics. As such, this essay begins by mapping the range of ways in which anarchist and animal liberation tactics might coincide, for instance discussing how both forms of radical politics may be organized as affinity groups or under wider “banners.” Drawing on primary interview data with animal advocates, including former political prisoners, and activist publications, Boisseau proceeds with a more detailed examination of the use of allegedly coercive or violent tactics by some animal rights groups and considers how this may or may not coincide with contemporary anarchist conceptions of legitimate tactics. The focus on tactics in this essay is important because it acknowledges that animal liberation has often acted as the site of interchanges (both co-operative and conflictual) between anarchist groups and the wider British left. Illustrating this is a discussion of relations between the class struggle anarchist group Class War (perhaps the most recognizable anarchist presence in Britain after their formation in 1983), and the Animal Liberation Front. The essay concludes with some examples of ways in which anarchist animal liberationists have either succeeded or failed to combine their efforts for animals with other social justice issues.
Lara Drew and Kim Socha provide an interesting and heartfelt case, in “Anarchy for Educational Praxis in the Animal Liberation Movement in an Era of Capitalist Triumphalism,” for intersectional approaches to activism through engaging in radical education to reveal new ways of seeing the world. They begin with the claim that animal liberation activists are de facto educators as they overtly or covertly attempt to effect change by using a range of techniques which teach others about human (mis)use of other species. The need for radical learning and education through activist communities is more urgent now than ever, Drew and Socha argue, given the various crises faced by human animals, nonhuman animals, and the Earth. Bringing together anarchist studies, Critical Animal Studies, and adult education literature, they offer engaging ideas for how such theories generated by these different yet compatible fields of study can inform activists to resist oppressive practices. Drawing on diverse literatures from these fields, and on personal accounts they demonstrate how educator-activism is effective in revealing new ways of seeing the world. They further suggest that informal learning spaces, which implement liberatory pedagogies can both be an effective strategy for change for animal activism and one which encourages better practices grounded in the politics of intersectionality.
In “Recognizing Human Supremacy: Interrupt, Inspire and Expose,” John Lupinacci draws attention to the importance of anarchist praxis through the presence of direct action organizations, networks and groups including the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). Lupinacci argues that such commitment to action, in order to challenge and confront animal abuse, social suffering and environmental degradation, should never be overlooked or taken for granted. Among other arguments of great merit, this essay makes an excellent case for scholar-activists to explicitly address anthropocentrism among social justice activists, and to better recognize and tackle the interconnected natures of violence and oppression. To stand the best chance of success the essay argues that activists of all persuasions should strive to be building bridges across old divides, express new forms of solidarity, and form new identities—and friendship—with both humans and more-than-human animals.
Aragorn Eloff’s “Do Anarchists Dream of Emancipated Sheep? Contemporary Anarchism, Animal Liberation and the Implications of New Philosophy” focuses on the relations between contemporary anarchism and animal right/liberation through the lens of Deleuze/Guattari–inflected complex systems theory. The content is rich and thought-provoking. Indeed there is much to be gained from focusing on the interesting research findings that Eloff highlights concerning the number of vegans in the broader anarchist milieu. The insights into the rationales behind the responses are particularly illuminating. The essay also includes an engaging historical discussion of anarchism and animal liberation, which will be of general interest to many readers. The essay then focuses intently, and critically, on the abstract machine of hierarchy and domination, which leads to an important consideration of the implications that this has for the everyday practices as anarchists and/or animal liberationists.
Finally, Richard J. White, in “Following in the Footsteps of Élisée Reclus: Disturbing Places of Inter-Species Violence That Are Hidden in Plain Sight,” begins by taking us with him on his walk from home to the station for his morning commute. In doing so, he pushes us to think about the extreme levels of violence against nonhuman animals entangled in the urban fabric which is so commonplace and pervasive that most do not see it. White contends that intersectional politics challenges us to see violence in everyday spaces that we move through, and argues for the importance of taking place seriously when understanding how violence toward nonhuman animals is normalized and made invisible. In doing so, the essay concentrates not on spatially marginal, “exceptional” places of violence (such as slaughterhouses), but apparently “civilized” public places that we regularly encounter, such as a high street. The essay begins by exploring the contested geographical definitions of space and place, proceeding with more detailed discussion of an emerging critical animal geography, and then anarchism and anarchist geography. This field of study actively acknowledges the presence/absence of more-than-human violence, and the essay revisits White’s walk to the station with these insights, before briefly discussing forms of street-based activism that are able to unsettle and disturb these everyday spaces of speciesist violence. Ultimately, the essay argues that strategies focused on total liberation, which are sensitive to the interconnected oppression and violence affecting human and other animals, need also to pay attention to the imperative to liberate “the spatial” landscapes, and disturb the normalization of violence-toward nonhuman animals.
This is the first book bringing anarchist studies and Critical Animal Studies together, which means that it cannot represent all voices and does not cover every topic on the intersection of multiple dominations. There are many animal liberationists and anarchists not present here (including those who are currently held as political prisoners), and the book, despite the efforts of the editors, is dominated by white voices. This book, therefore, is just one of many efforts to discuss the intersection between animal liberation and anarchism. This book moreover, is more rooted in scholarship and academia, than experiences and narratives from the activist trenches, hence this book is more rooted in anarchist studies and Critical Animal Studies, than anarchism and animal liberation. Consequently, these fields and scholars are not detached from radical organizing, but rather their scholarship and activism inform one another. In conclusion, this book is a critical reflection of our theories, perspectives, and actions from scholar-activists and activist-scholars. It is not a defining statement, but rather a contribution to an emerging conversation which we very much hope will flourish.
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