Beyond Animal Liberation

This is a collection of writings that critique the animal liberation movement and the corresponding lifestyle choice, veganism. We have spent extensive time working within the animal liberation movement in North America and our critique is highly influenced by our personal experiences. Through study and discussion, we have developed a new understanding of domination, making this a critique not only of the animal liberation movement but also of our previous selves and the ways in which we attempted to deal with animal oppression.

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poorly argued and unconvincing

While you make some good points about vegan fundamentalism, most of your core argument rests upon really dubious logic. I'm keen to write a full response at some point, but for now here are some scattered thoughts:

- I agree with you that violence is impossible to avoid within an inherently exploitative system, but why does it follow that we should not seek to diminish the violence we are complicit in? We live in a rape culture; does it follow that we are not to be held accountable for behaving like rapists simply because we're structurally embedded in this culture? (Yes, I know, it's the 'dreaded rape analogy'.) Additionally, you assume here that the *only* effect consumer / lifestyle choices have is to contribute to the capitalist system we are bound by, whereas it's reasonably obvious that our personal choices can have multiple effects, even if these effects do not by themselves result in the one final goal of anarchy. I'm sure I don't need to point out why this logic leads to a pretty steep slippery slope ;-)

- You're also using some serious strawmanning; Peter Young's views on non-vegetarian prisoners are pretty offensive, while Walter Bond is an authoritarian extremist whose dumbass ideas on the ethics of dumpster diving are not representative of most folks in the animal lib scene. Nor is a 'bill of animal rights' something many anarchist-type animal libbers would seriously consider. We're agreed that rights discourse is fucking stupid.

(As for Steve Best, his game is obvious: he wants to politicize vegans, hence his endorsement of 'total liberation'. Regardless of his conflation of anarchists and 'teh left', I think he has been quite effective in this regard - I've noticed a distinct shift towards radical politics amongst a number of the previously apolitical vegans I know.)

- You repeatedly describe veganism as an ineffective consumer or lifestyle choice, whereas most vegans and animal lib folks would argue that it is qualitatively different from most lifestyle choices in that it involves - reasonably directly - the exploitation of other animals. In the same way infoshops usually sell Fair Trade coffee and radical publishers use unionized labor and recycled paper (none of which, we're agreed, will themselves result in the revolutionary overthrow of class society or the return to wildness or whatever it is you're after), surely we should also try, to the extent that we're able to in a horribly stratified, hierarchical society, to minimize our complicity in relations of exploitation? In fact your argument only works if you eschew the entirety of prefigurative practice within the anarchist milieu; you attempt to do exactly this by falsely asserting that prefiguration / 'lifestylism' is usually understood as a *sufficient* condition, whereas for many anarchists, I suspect, it's seen as a *necessary* but insufficient condition.

- Oddly, you also argue that prefiguration *is* a valid practice: 'developing non-hierarchical relationships with animals requires thoughtful analysis, an attempt to recreate the one-on-one interactions we have with animals in our daily lives, and acts of resistance against the system that dominates us all.'

(In this regard, it's also odd that you invoke the insurrectionist argument against effectiveness, given that you've just critiqued veganism on grounds of lack of effectiveness. Do you only use the measure of effectiveness when convenient or did you in fact you mean to write two different essays - one produced using the automatic Wolfi Landstreicher essay generator and one defensive rant against the anal vegans at your local anarchist cafe?)

- I agree with you when you say that "We must go beyond the social roles that have been forced upon us – beyond the role of man, of woman, even the role of human. We must subvert the human-animal relationship that is based on human dominance over animals and start creating new relationships that reflect our desires and passions."

If you look into the work that's been done in critical animal studies and posthumanism (e.g., Cary Wolfe's stuff), you'll notice that the contemporary animal liberation scene is fast becoming aware of the problematic reasoning behind attempts to 'equalize' humans and other animals by reworking the criteria for belonging to a category that is itself a product of capitalist relations; we now use words like 'radical otherness' and 'fields of difference' to talk about our relations to other animals and 'the natural world'.

- I partly agree with your appeal to Stirner and amoralism (as I wish all anarchists did); Joel Marks has some interesting views on amoral veganism / situated ethics:

PS: Sorry you failed at veganism. I know how tasty that cheese can be :P