by Dr. Steven Best & Camille Marino
Notoriously single-issue, elitist, merely liberal, or altogether apolitical (there are exceptions to the rule, but exceptions they remain) vegans and animal activists are miniscule, weak, and marginalized forces largely due to their own tunnel vision and inability to grasp the larger social and global structures of oppression that stem from capitalism and neoliberalism. And vegans (less than 1% of the population in the US), above all, are overwhelmingly deluded that they are winning victories daily, gaining ground fast, and leading a social revolution all on their own.
The most dramatic eruptions of social protests emerged in 2010, beginning in the Arab world, moving into Spain, taking hold in the US Occupy Wall Street Movement in September 2011, and have spread to hundreds of US cities and 1500 cities worldwide. Never before has there been such an opportunity to escape the dungeons of history, to catch the wave of global resistance, to do the education and outreach work on an unimaginable and unprecedented scale, to add much-needed diversity to our white and middle/upper class populations, and to form alliances with other social movements without which vegan and animal activist communities will never take one major step toward achieving our goals to any significant degree.
It is not surprising that vegans and animal activists overwhelmingly have ignored the events of the century, have watched from the sidelines, or have not deigned to even consider joining the burgeoning resistance movements because “those people are speciesists and not vegans.” History is knocking at their doors, and lifestyle vegan purists can only say “Go away, you’re from the unholy mob!” And even on October 15, World Occupation Day, most vegans and animal activists were entombed in domestic prisons, baking cakes and cookies or chatting up a storm on Facebook about profound global issues such as which sugars are vegan and what recipes to use for birthday cakes. Of the many online discussions we perused yesterday — an illuminating sample of the global vegan community — there was not a single mention of what was happening in the world, in history at that moment, throughout the day, outside their kitchen windows, and beyond their computer screens.
The train of history is roaring through a city near you, and vegans and animal activists can either watch it pass them by, board with great trepidation that the humanist conductors will send them to the caboose, or walk boldly to the front, articulate their incredible important message, an indispensable contribution to a viable future, and demand an equal voice and decision-making power to move toward a post-capitalist, radically-democratic, non-speciesist, non-hierarchical, and ecological society.
But fortunately, a small but not insignificant contingent of vegans and animal activists throughout the world have grasped the importance of the new resistance movement, and didn’t hesitate to join the throng of leftists and social “progressives.” From Spain to LA to Australia, they marched into the streets to represent nonhuman animals (the vast majority of the 99% and the most exploited beings in history); to raise their banners high; to leaflet the huge crowds; to connect the dots; and, at their best, to advance a vision of total liberation which establishes the commonality of oppressions; the inseparability of human, animal, and earth liberation struggles; and a shared enemy in capitalist domination.
Occupy Miami reached hundreds of people Saturday with regards to Anti-Vivisection and Animal Rights
While our signs were visible in the crowds and we established our presence, now the real work begins. We must massively amplify our numbers, we must formulate a clear plan, we must decisively and eloquently intervene with our message to educate the rest of the 99% and our agenda must transcend the humanist limitations of this movement. While veganism is clearly our goal, it would be an utter mistake to proselytize to the masses. These are the same people who regularly tune us out and go buy a Big Mac. They are motivated by self-interest and angered by their exploitation and marginalization. They must be recruited into our movement despite themselves. Veganism is an endpoint and a definite nonstarter.
We must connect on issues of corporate globalization, capitalist exploitation, the ruination of the environment, climate change, species extinction, the spread of agribusiness and huge spike in world meat consumption, the appalling massacre of over hundred billion land and sea animals for food consumption, the epidemic of diseases transmitted through the conventional food supply and the growing power of Big Pharma who’s profits depend on perpetuating disease rather than promoting health. At the center of concern for all groups – social justice, environmentalists, farmers, indigenous peoples, heath care activist, and animal liberationist, and so on – is the systemic consequences of the growth of agribusiness and meat production, and no sane, evolved, or sustainable world can tolerate this force of destruction anymore than we can accept the hegemony of multinationals and the state-military complex in our lives.
Myriad bloggers and global media outlets are covering the growing Occupation Movement, but this is the only place you will see comprehensive coverage of this moment in history from the perspective of vegans and the animal rights community.
Here are pictures, reports, and documents from some of the worldwide vegan and animal rights actions over the course of the recent occupations, an assemblage we will update and revise as more information comes in. Here are reasons why we can still have hope for a future that is not in flames, drowning in blood, and a massive graveyard of species and victims of predatory capitalism and hierarchical systems, above all the speciesist structures that gave birth to the dominator cultures that have colonized our planet and must be destroyed.
Animal rights/vegans activists have participated in demonstrations since the beginning of the Spanish movement “Indignados” at “Puerta del Sol” protest. An Animal Rights Commission –“Independent Animalist Collective” — has been created as the 15M Movement spreads to other Spanish cites, and this commission also has been established throughout the country.
Colectivo Animalista Independiente Comisión Derechos de los Animales 15-M (15 M Animal Rights Commission)
Activists Occupy Roof of Green Hill Beagle Farm
Italian Indignados Protest Turns Violent. Banks Assaulted
Occupy Adelaide Australia: In a city that is both a center for vivisection and whose port is used for the live animal export trade, Animal Advocates Adelaid distributed a flyer which communicated the message that “[Animals’] industrialised enslavement, exploitation and murder is driven by the greed of the same 1% that profits from human inequalities and injustices and the escalating destruction of the earth. The domination and oppression of humans, nonhumans and the earth are closely intertwined. None can be free until all are free. We must struggle for total liberation – of all animals and the earth.”
Interviews with several mainstream Toronto news outlets ensured that the animal liberation message would reverberate with the 99% whether they were at the occupation or not. Participants were receptive to the message of animal liberation and eager to draw parallels with their own struggle. Surprisingly, facilitators distributed 1,000 vegan meals to masses already empathetic to environmental concerns. Toronto activists highlighted the need to challenge the effectiveness of fighting oppression whilst being an oppressor yourself.
Animal Rights/Environmentalism Discussion Group for Occupy Wall Street
“The Animal Rights Handbook Manifesto”
Occupy Times Square
Occupy Times Square
“Occupy the Tundra’: One woman’s lonely vigil in bush Alaska”
AR Solidarity with Occupy Seattle
NARN Declaration of Solidarity
Vegan/Animal Rights Occupation Bibliography
“First Official Release from Occupy Wall Street”
Among the list of demands to protect humans and the earth, the manifesto thankfully (if all too briefly) included reference to how corporations “have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless nonhuman animals, and actively hide these practices.”
“Foodies, Get Thee to Occupy Wall Street”
“Occupy Wall Street Takes on Corporate Animal Abuse” (Animal Legal Defense Fund)
“Occupy Wall Street: A Social Justice Movement for People, Animals and the Environment?”
“Occupy4Life: Revolution in the Name of All Species”
“Taking Protest to Your Plate”
“The WTO, the Occupy Movement, and Animal Liberation”
“The WTO and the New Global Realities: The Impact on Animals”
“Why Occupy Wall Street Needs Food Policy on its Plate”