Coming out for animals

// 25 September 2008

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Animal rights activist and self-identified Queer blogger, Chris [Deep Roots Animal Rights Blog] addresses a comment made by Vegan Ideal which attempts to connect the attacks on LGBTI activists in Uganda and those of animal activists in the US

Why do queer activists in Uganda but animal activists in the USA bear the brunt of police suppression in their respective countries? Are they similarly subversive of “cultural” practices that turn out to be critical to the maintenance of state power?,

It doesnt work for Chris or and doesnt work for me. Chris responds……

There is perhaps a problem with comparison in this example. Animal rights activists in the U.S. are targeted for our activities and successes against large corporations. Queer activists in Uganda are not targeted because they are activists, or not solely because they are activists. They are targeted for being Queer, thus the situation requires the transition into activism.

I am left wondering why Vegan Ideal chose to use Ugandan LGBTI activsts as a comparison. How can you compare actions based on a choice of belief against actions based on what you are – it assumes there is a choice in being a lesbian or not. Yes there may be a choice in coming out or not or even acknowledging one’s sexuality. But there isnt a choice in being a lesbian or not.

Comments From You

Virginia // Posted 25 September 2008 at 3:55 pm

I agree. Even more I would say it’s not just that the animal activists have chosen their position but that it is some of the more extreme actions they take that lead to their persecution – just being an animal activist or taking part in a peaceful protest activity isn’t going to get them in trouble.

Lauren O // Posted 25 September 2008 at 6:11 pm

I am all for lowering meat consumption, banning cruelty to animals, etc., but I just don’t understand the people who compare the suffering of cows to the suffering of humans. And from what I know, saying that animal activists bear the brunt of police oppression in the US is pretty ridiculous.

Monty // Posted 25 September 2008 at 9:56 pm

“just being an animal activist or taking part in a peaceful protest activity isn’t going to get them in trouble.”

Yes good point, i wonder how many instances of ‘police supression’ against an animal activist engaged in a legitimate peaceful protest this blogger could recall.

Dani // Posted 25 September 2008 at 11:11 pm

Re: “I am left wondering why [The] Vegan Ideal chose to use Ugandan LGBTI activsts as a comparison.”

Hi, Sokari Ekine! Just a quick clarification. I agree with you and Chris. In fact, I’m not the one making the comparison; I’m very opposed to it, and would also like to know why it was chosen.

Please see my original post in response to the this comparison, titled “Asking the Right Questions,” and my follow up to Chris, titled “Is it Safe to Come Out?

The people who are actually making the comparison did so in call for proposals for a book with the same title as this blog entry. Attempts to make my response known in comment section on the linked “call for proposals” posting have been denied by the editors of this anthology. My criticisms were also offhandedly dismissed by a book editor who commented on the Deep Roots blog.

Chloe // Posted 25 September 2008 at 11:56 pm

Lauren O: In much the same way that I believe that women’s rights are equal to (and in many cases overlap) LGBT/black/other minority group rights, I believe that women’s rights are equal to animal rights. Animals are exploited because we, as humans, think that the world was created “for” us and our own pleasure. This is the same excuse that has been used for centuries by men to exploit women, white people to exploit black people, straight and cisgender people to exploit LGBT people. It’s not a valid argument to say that women are more important than animals. Every living thing should be of equal value.

And Virginia: many of my friends (including my mum!) in the animal rights movement have been arrested for carrying out peaceful actions or leading peaceful campaigns. And that’s in this country. I’m pretty sure the situation is worse in America. Persecution against animal rights protestors is generally because we are fighting big business – mainly pharmaceutical companies. Several animal rights protestors in the UK and America have been held without trial for over a year.

sokari // Posted 26 September 2008 at 12:42 am

Hi Dani @ Thanks for the clarification and sorry you were not able to make a comment by the editors of the anthology which seems very unfair. Things can easily get lost when posts are linked to linked posts and so on – somewhere down the line things get lost which is what happened here and I take responsibility for not looking further than Chris’s post.

Kath // Posted 26 September 2008 at 11:30 am

Chloe, you clearly feel very strongly about animal rights and I admire your conviction. However, not everyone feels the same as you. I, for example, find your comment that women are not more important than animals pretty offensive. I do not believe every living thing to be of equal value and I doubt you do either. Do you consider bacteria and plants to be of equal value to human beings or other animals? I do not hold any religious belief that the world was “created” “for” humans, just that through the accident of natural selection we became the intelligent and creative species that we are, more so than any other species. I’m sure we would disagree on the subject of animal testing, but here is probably not the place to go into that.

Anne Onne // Posted 26 September 2008 at 3:43 pm

Chloe, the thing that we as human rights supporters find disturbing in the parallel between women’ rights/gay right/civil rights and animal rights is that our predecessors fought hard to have women, LGBTQ people and POC recognised as human, people capable of making their own choices. Marginalised groups have always been compared to animals as a way to make them seem less human less worthy of treatment as a person, and less reason to let them have any choice. A lot of the discrimination is by not letting them express their opinion,or no giving them control over their legal actions or life, or not letting them have informed decisions. These are rights that all humans should have (and those that can’t make use of them fully should be protected by the state from abuse of these powers by their carers), but these are not powers that an animal can have, because even the most intelligent animals aren’t capable of understanding to such an extent. The way animals experience the world is very different to our own (especally the lower down the complexity ladder you get), and our needs are entirely different. It feels like conflating the two to claim that they are equal considerations. The one thing essential is that we do not inflict deliberate, unnecessary pain and that we try to alleviate suffering and look after the ecosystem.

The thing about animals is they are by definition a very diverse group in terms of size and complexity, and animal rights is an issue that should be addressed in different layers, depending on the complexity and capacity of the organism. People say ‘every living thing’ but by doing so, we forget not only the multitude of living creatures on this planet, but their diversity. Bacteria are living things. Parasites are living things. We’re in a constant war with both, and their lives are certainly not more important than the diseased humans we are trying to save. Society allows us to protect our weak, and to try and reduce the suffering of others, but it can’t completely divorce us from the cutthroat reality of nature. In this way, focusing on ecology is really a form of animal rights activism in itself.

What most of us really mean is higher order animals like mammals, in terms of what we can do to protect them from pain that is caused by humans. It’s fair enough, since they have a greater capacity to feel pain and suffering than less developed organisms. It’s the capacity for suffering in an animal that we have to take into account when it comes to drawing up protection, because without this consideration, we are in danger of anthropomorphising animals and ignoring the cruelty of treating people as if they are animals, even if we treat them like well treated animals.

That doesn’t mean that animal cruelty isn’t important – intentional cruelty to animals is simlply not acceptable – but the needs and abilities of an animal are not the same as those of a human. Animals have no need of a vote, they are incapable of deciding to take birth control or not, don’t face job discrimination etc. In the wild, animals live with a harsh reality that is far from pleasant, but that’s evolution and life, I guess. This isn’t to say they shouldn’t be protected. I do believe it important to reduce suffering wherever possible, and I have a great deal of respect for those who campaign fairly for animal rights, because it does need to be done. I’m a believer in everybody focusing on what they feel best able to fight for, which is great.

But it is stepping along a tricky road to say that women’s rights are no more important than animal rights, because the focus falls again on the oppressed, and how they are less than. I get where you’re coming from, because animals, too, shouldn’t have to needlessly suffer, but the language and the sentiment that the oppressed are like animals, or as important as animals has been so much a way to keep many people down, by giving them only the rights animals should receive.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 26 September 2008 at 4:39 pm

i also think all life is equal. i think we end lives in order for our own to survive and sometimes we cant help killing things like when we step on a snail but that everything that dies for our sake should be respected. i dont find humans more important male or female, however i think that as well as having the duty to protect creatures weaker or less capable or intelligent than ourselves that we also have a duty to look after our own species. the difference is that we should know better. thats about it. protecting our own race is instinctive, much like protecting our own family and friends over other people.

i do agree with the post that the comparison is pretty out. people choose to be activists but they do not choose to be who they are at base, and all of that.

im tired if this didnt make sense

Laura // Posted 27 September 2008 at 10:49 pm

Slightly different point, I’m not sure how far the comparison with Ugandan LGBT activists works. I used to work for a human rights organisation in Uganda and don’t have any recollection of coming up against any instances of police agression/suppression/brutality against LGBT activists. Not to say the LGBT position in Uganda is great – homosexuality is illegal (and the generally accepted term is ‘homos’, which I always had a bit of trouble with!), but there was at the time a lively debate on the subject in the media (general conclusion: Uganda isn’t ready) and I can’t think of any incidences of police suppression of gay rights protesters.

Sue // Posted 28 September 2008 at 7:35 pm

I’m not entirely sure that being an animal rights activist is a choice any more than being lesbian, gay, transexual or straight. Just as being feminist is a part of me too. Having thought through the pain and cruelty inflicted by humans on ‘others’ I don’t have a choice but to be both feminist and an animal rights activist. I have to take responsibility for my place in the world and the actions I take.

I cannot be responsible for animals being imprisoned tortured and killed, I cannot tolerate being sexually harassed, and I cannot change my sexuality.

And if you want to know whether animal rights people are unduly harassed try looking into the arrests of ten people in Austria in the last few months – this article is a good starting point –

As women we struggle to be who we are. We are expected to be daughters, wives, mothers, helpmates, lovers, employees. We should be pretty, skinny, wear make-up, shave our legs and pits, have nice hair, be nice, never get angry, be always smiling and happy coz that’s what society says we should be.

Few of us can ever truly be ourselves – do we even know who we are anyway, we’re so influenced by our upbringing and our culture? Uganda is an extreme example of this and I do feel for LGBT people who suffer the oppression of their culture and the need to hide such an intrinsic part of themselves.

Akachi Odoemene // Posted 23 October 2008 at 9:53 am

Dear Sokari, Good day. Please, i am writing you on another issue all together. I am a doctoral student at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. I an writing a paper for an international conference on the Nigerian Military and sexual violence against Ogoni women. Please, I would need your aid here. I had come across an article online written by you which dealt on this issue. I would be highly honoured if you could help me with some more information or materials on this. I could be reached through my e-mail. Thanks and best wishes.

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