Sunday, 5 January 2014

A Greenprint for Animal Liberation

A Greenprint for Animal Liberation

What follows is my personal opinion formed after over 40 years in the animal
liberation movement.

It is intended for those who wish to see animal liberation, i.e. an end to all persecution, exploitation and killing of other animals by human beings or for us to reach a situation that is as near to that as possible.

It is also focused on what we should be doing in England. In other countries the situation may be different, particularly with regard to the political aspect.

What has concerned me for a long time is that we have no overall strategy or masterplan for the achievement of animal liberation and that the lack of this causes disunity among us and inefficiency in the use of our resources.

In order to formulate such a masterplan or blueprint, or greenprint, as I prefer to call it, I think we first of all need to try to understand why it is that the human species persecutes, exploits and kills other animals in the first place.

Although there are many things that exacerbate the mistreatment of other animals by humans, there is one fundamental cause of it, which is speciesism or human supremacism, i.e. the arrogant, selfish and irrational belief that human beings are somehow more important than other sentient animals.

As a socialist I want to see an end to capitalism, but although the greed, wastefulness and desire for profit inherent in the capitalist system certainly increases the mistreatment and exploitation of other creatures, animal abuse would still exist in a socialist society if speciescism continued to hold sway.

All abuse of other animals flows fundamentally from speciesism, so if we are to achieve animal liberation we need to challenge the speciesist mindset in human beings and strive to create a situation where humans behave towards other animals in a non-speciesist way.

We tend to divide animal abuse into various areas - vivisection, the fur trade, zoos, hunting, farming etc. - but all these areas of animal abuse are really symptoms of an underlying disease, which is speciesism, and unless we treat and cure that underlying disease, we will be forever having to deal with its symptoms.

If we are to persuade human beings to live in a non-speciesist way, the most
important thing we need to do is to educate them to end their consumption of animal products, because eating flesh, eggs and dairy is the most fundamental speciesist thing that most people do and also because, when we consider all the areas of animal abuse normally campaigned against by our movement, 99.5% of the persecution of other animals by humans occurs in the food industry (several billion animals slaughtered annually for consumption by humans in England, with the next highest area being the approx. 4 million victims of the UK vivisection industry).

Thus, the most important form of activism for other animals is vegan outreach
and our main focus as a movement needs to be on educating members of the public to become vegan.

This doesn't mean we shouldn't also campaign against other forms of animalabuse, but that we should always seek to promote veganism at the same time.

So, on our stalls we should always have vegan information to give to the public and on any demos or protests we do, the leaflets we give out need to contain information that will lead people towards veganism, in addition to information about whatever form of animal abuse we are protesting against.

If we are to educate ordinary people to become vegan, we need to consider what are the best ways of doing this.

To educate the public, we need to be where the public are - and that means we have to do street stalls, stalls at community events, free food events to which the public are invited etc. etc.

We also have to be in what the public read and listen to, which means articles and letters in local newspapers and interviews on local radio/TV.

So what is going to be the vehicle for these local outreach events and this local media presence? It has to be local vegan outreach groups.

Therefore, what we need to do is to try to set up a large network of such groups throughout the country, so that every town and city is covered, and to train and give confidence to the people within those groups to engage positively with the public and the local media.

Of course, educating people to go vegan is not an easy task and we need to try to understand how people operate in order to do this effectively.

People, in general, tend to be passive creatures of habit who don't like change and want to be the same as everybody else and not stand out from the crowd. Animal liberationists are not at all like that, but we need to take people for what they are and not presume that everybody is fundamentally the same as us.

Thus we need to make veganism seem as "normal" and easy as we possibly can
and not get frustrated when there appears to be a slow uptake of the vegan message. That is bound to be the case at first, but as the number of vegans gradually increases, a level will be reached when veganism is no longer considered to be that unusual and that will then cause the amount of vegans to rapidly increase.

It isn't just a case though, of persuading ordinary members of the public to go vegan, but of persuading existing vegans to become involved in outreach.

The Vegan Society has estimated there 
are at least 150,000 vegans in the UK. Opinion polls have put this figure as high as 600,000, but, for the sake of argument, I'll stick to the lower estimate.

I've done many vegan outreach events just on my own or with the help of only one other person, but if, once again for the sake of argument, we say it would take 10 vegans to do one event, this would mean that if each of the estimated 150,000 vegans in this country just took part in one outreach event per month, that would equal 15,000 events per month, 3,000 events per week and about 500 every day.  

And just think how many more vegans 
could be created, if that were to happen!

The vast majority of vegans are vegan because they are opposed to the suffering and slaughter of animals and so they would, presumably, want that suffering and slaughter to end entirely (or, at least, as near as we can possibly get to that situation), but that won't happen unless we persuade lots of other people to go vegan and that, in turn, won't happen unless we get out there and interact with the public in order to do it.

Surely the difficult bit is actually becoming vegan, with all the initial trials and tribulations that involves, especially on a social level. So, having become vegan, it would only take a comparatively tiny step more to do a bit of outreach. So many vegans seem unable to take it, however, and this is a problem we have to try to solve, if we really want animal liberation to be achieved.

I've spoken above about the importance of vegan education in persuading people to change their attitudes and, hence, their behaviour towards other animals.

It would be naive in the extreme, however, to suppose that we can succeed in
educating everybody and we need to accept that some people will remain unaffected by our educational efforts and will wish to continue their support for or involvement in animal abuse.

People change their behaviour for one of two reasons, either because they want to or because they fear the consequences of not doing so. Thus there are two ways of changing human behaviour, education and coercion, and with those who refuse to be educated, we are left with coercion.

I've talked about local vegan outreach groups being the vehicle for education, but what is to be the vehicle for the coercion we need in order to change the behaviour of those we are unable to educate?

Basically, there are two types of coercion that could be applied to enforce correct behaviour - coercion by the individual (or group of individuals) or coecion by the state.

Non-state coercion would need to take the form of illegal direct action and the problem with this is that it is highly unlikely that enough people could be persuaded to do this in order for it to be effective.

This leaves coercion by the state, in other words the passing and enforcement of laws to protect animals from abuse and in order to get such laws passed, we need an elected government that would be prepared to pass them.

Governments are formed by political parties, which means that all of us who want animal liberation need to support the political party which gives the best hope for strong animal protection legislation.

I think we can say immediately that isn't going to be the Tories or the Lib-Dems, so is it going to be Labour?

Sadly, there is nothing in the fundamental philosophy of the Labour Party or its record in relation to animal protection to indicate that this would be the case.

We must never forget how Labour reneged on their promise of a Royal Commission to investigate vivisection, how the number of cruel experiments increased under their administration and how they brought in new laws to persecute anti-vivisection activists.

Apart from a half-hearted "ban" on hunting with dogs and the abolition of fur farming (but not the fur trade) most forms of animal persecution continued to increase and prosper when Labour were last in power.

In my view, the best hope of a government for animal protection lies with the Green Party.

The Greens have policies that would end the badger cull, ban all animal experiments, abolish the fur trade, end the use of all animals in circuses, strengthen the law against hunting, abolish shooting and snaring, end live exports and factory farming and encourage veganism through the promotion of a diet free from animal products.

The strong environmental protection policies of the Green Party are also of great benefit to non-human animals in terms of preserving their habitats and reducing the risk of them being harmed by pollution, climate change etc.

A large number of Green Party politicians and activists are already involved at local, national or   European level in fighting factory farming, live exports, animal experiments, the badger cull, bullfighting and many other forms of animal abuse.

We need to get the Green Party into power if we are ever to truly protect animals in this country and if we don’t try our utmost to do so, we will be partly to blame for the continuing persecution of other creatures under Tory and Labour regimes.

A Green Party government is not an impossible dream. The Greens are not only the best party for animal protection, but also the best for social justice and the environment – and if everyone who cares about all or any of these issues were to support the Green Party, they could easily sweep to power at an election.

Let’s not forget that only about 20% of the population would need to vote Green in order for that to happen.

As I mentioned above, it is a fundamental trait of humans in general to be passive and to not want to stand out from the crowd. However, in order for us to get a Green Party government, most people don't need to be outspoken activists. They just need to put a cross on a piece of paper in the right place!

Anarchists within the animal protection movement will object to my support for the Green Party, but it is my contention that those who support anarchism are harming the cause of animal liberation by advocating that members of the public should not vote at elections.

Most human beings are fundamentally leader-followers, so the problem is that if there is no good guy (or gal!) for people to follow, most of them will inevitably follow the bad guy. Therefore anarchists are playing straight into the hands of the bad guys by advocating that animal protectionists do not vote, because all that achieves is to make sure that animal abuse supporters will continue to get elected.

Likewise support for the Animal Welfare Party can also be harmful to the cause of animal liberation in that it takes the votes of animal protectionists away from the Green Party. Unlike the GP, the AWP has no chance of ever being able to form a government, because it can only ever appeal to that small minority of the population that is highly focused on animal protection above everything else. On the other hand, with its excellent policies on social justice and the environment, as well as on animal protection, the Green Party has the potential for mass appeal.

There is also an argument that if we just persuade enough people to go vegan, politics will change accordingly and we'll get animal protection legislation without supporting the Green Party.

However, just having a large number 

of people wanting animal protection
doesn't mean that legislation will be passed to enforce their views. For decades a substantial majority of the public were opposed to hunting with dogs without it being abolished, forinstance, and a large majority against the badger cull hasn't prevented that from going ahead. Similar failure to reflect the views of the majority in legislation can also be seen with regard to the fur trade, live exports and animal experimentation.

This means that hand in hand with educating people to go vegan, we have to build up the political force that will form a government for animal protection and reflect the views of vegans in its legislation.

Thus my Greenprint for Animal Liberation is a combination of vegan outreach and support for the Green Party and I would urge every single person who yearns for animal liberation to do the following in order to help achieve it:-
(1) Join your local vegan outreach group (or, if there isn't one, form one) and start educating members of the public to go vegan.
(2) Join your local Green Party and help them with the process of getting people elected both at a local and a national level.

None of this will be easy, but I see no other way. What I am talking about is basically the creation of a new type of animal protection movement that focuses less on shouty demos and hero-worship of direct action and more on vegan education and political involvement.

We have to find a way of moving away from being brave losers, constantly trying to throw ourselves against an overwhelming force, and towards a situation where we ourselves become that overwhelming force that can make the world our own and carry all before us in the struggle for animal liberation.

The above is just my opinion and I welcome constructive criticism. My plan may not be an easy one to put into operation or to see through to the end, but at least I have a plan, so please do not tell me mine is wrong without putting forward one of your own!

(Please note: This article was written before the unexpected rise of Jeremy Corbyn, and a left wing Labour govenment could possibly offer hope for strong animal protection measures, but only if most of its current MPs are replaced by people who share his views.)