Lara Drew and Daniel Kidby
The lines are being drawn
The case for a divided animal movement
For a number of years tensions have been rising in the animal movement. Intersectionality is gaining traction and more and more people are looking at the mainstream animal movement with a very critical lens. Accusations of white veganism, consumer veganism and misanthropic veganism are on the lips of many.
A week ago a prominent animal activist has announced his intention to retire from activism, putting most of the blame on the rise of intersectionality in the vegan community. Lilia Trenkova from Collectively Free was good enough to translate his loooong 2500 word essay so you don’t have to bore yourself by reading it: “Fast forward to 2017 and my white male fragility is so thin that I’d rather implode than learn something.”
Now of course, every action has reaction, and with this activist’s implosion comes an explosion of heated division in the movement. Ideological positions are being made clear, Facebook is swarmed with stirring hashtags like #FuckWhiteVegansim and the oh so eloquent #SJWCunts…
Then there are those, standing from the sidelines with mouths agape, shocked at what is happening to their beloved vegan community. “We are all vegans, we should stand together in unity” they proclaim! If only things were so simple.
Unity is of course important, but unity can only be achieved in two ways (we are obvs not going for nuance, give us a break from your academic snobbery, this is a polemic piece).
1) Bullshit unity: The mainstream animal movement, dominated by white privileged activists, spectacularly fails to have any depth of analysis, simply advocating for people to consume vegan products without taking account of capitalism, colonialism and other forms of oppression. Not only does this fail to address the complexity of animal oppression, but a denial of critical voices also results in mainstream spaces being saturated with racism, sexism, transphobia and other forms of oppression, which alienates marginalised groups. To ask for unity under this form of veganism is to ask for oppressed groups of humans (and their allies) to sit down, shut up and suffer silently, rather than going to seek out their own kickass spaces where they can feel truly empowered.
2) Real unity: Real unity is achieved through listening to the concerns and needs of different groups of people and standing in solidarity with their struggles, it requires privileged people to exercise humility, to listen and to learn. If a queer person is silenced when they try to speak about discrimination they have experienced in the movement, or a person of colour is dismissed when they object to colonial messaging in a campaign then we are not being sensitive to their needs, struggles or concerns. An intersectional mindset would platform these voices to ensure they are heard, and not heard in some bullshit tokenistic fashion, but actually heard and acted on.
Now there are enough people in the animal movement who are openly against intersectionality, who preach drivel like human struggles and oppression are of zero importance, that animals are all that matters. If we really want a unified animal movement do we want people like this in it? If they are how will marginalised groups ever feel safe in our spaces?
It is clear that if we want real unity we need to create our own spaces within the movement. We need to stop trying to reform the mainstream vegan community because these spaces already have fixed, rigid and often inherently conservative ideologies in place. Why waste your energy? Just let them fade into irrelevancy and occasionally laugh at the attention-seeking displays of the over-inflated egos of arrogant cis white men.
This is a call to action. Now is the time to create an alternative. Take a leaf out of Collectively Free’s book, they said a massive fuck you the mainstream community and are forging their own path based on principles of intersectionality, inclusiveness and social justice. Form your own collectives, communities and organisations with radical political cultures. Let’s organise and grow and transform the animal movement.
Let’s divide and conquer.
Now, you already know division is good for social movements. After all… Would you ever work with a welfarist? ;)