Animal Liberation, Total Liberation
No One is Free While Others Are Oppressed
from No Compromise Issue 27
 

Rhetorically speaking, it is clear that many animal liberationists recognize the interconnection between all forms of oppression -- speciesism, sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, body-typeism and so on. Many groups have built such palaver into their mission statements, pointing out (as does one particular group) that they acknowledge "the relationship between all forms of oppression and view[s] the struggle for animal rights as a part of the larger political struggle to end all forms of oppression."

Similar themes of "total liberation" have been the hot topics of recent conference organizing and ongoing internal debate.

For those of us who acknowledge the relationship between animal exploitation and other forms of oppression (though as debatable as any other philosophical stance), the formula is clear. The oppression of virtually all “weaker” groups – animals; women; people of color; people of varied gender and sexual orientations; the poor; "third-world nations"; the Earth, etc. -- is grounded in the same sociopolitical/ economic mire. Disavowing this knowledge severely limits our ability to target the root of animal oppression and causes us to miss great opportunities for strong coalition building.

Though many activists agree that animal liberation is part of a larger struggle, action toward challenging the fundamental power structure is rarely incorporated into our activist agenda. That’s a crucial misstep, because it’s this fundamental power structure that not only allows for, but to a large degree necessitates, the oppression of animals and other groups.

We often bark about the reasons that feminists should be animal liberationists (or at least go vegan). Yet for the most part, we fail to recognize the importance of combating the rampant and insidious sexism that still finds a cozy home within our movement. While we tout the phrase that "no one is free while others are oppressed," oppressive language, thought and action remain commonplace within our ranks.

These double standards exist because, though many of us recognize the interconnection between all forms of oppression, few of us understand it and take time to combat our own internalized "isms." Owing to the long-standing and insidious nature of oppression, all of us are subject to some degree of internalized racism, sexism, homophobia, speciesism, body fascism, classism and so on, whether we realize it or not.

When faced with this realization, in order to avoid asking ourselves the really hard questions, we pull out our bag of excuses and proudly announce the reasons that animal liberationists are exempt from their own rhetoric. A few of our magical "EXEMPT" gems:

“With so many important animal issues at stake, there is no time to focus on our personal dysfunction.”

“If we are too ‘PC,’ we will loose our ability to appeal to the mainstream.”

“Human rights is just a scam, liberate the oppressed and they, in turn, become the oppressors.”

“With all the government oppression activists are facing, now just isn't a good time to raise such sensitive issues.”

However, if we truly understood the connection between animal exploitation and other forms of oppression, we would understand that animal liberation necessitates human liberation and that making excuses only serves to strengthen the oppressors' hold on our animal friends.

Incorporating true "total liberation" into our multi-pronged attack against animal oppression is easily said and, to some extent, surprisingly easily done. The first and most important place to start is your own head.

Our movement is made up of individuals, not floating rhetoric or walls of supposed moral superiority. Every action we take and every word we speak is tainted by our personal, internalized "isms." Therefore, it is on an individual level, with the support of our friends, family and comrades, that we must fight against deep-seated oppression.

When we react with hate or fear to someone's differences, we must challenge ourselves to explore and confront our own paradigms of negative thought. We must open our minds and evaluate our daily choices and actions through the eyes of the oppressed. We must focus on the issues and abandon hurtful and oppressive name-calling.

We must meditate on what a world free of oppression would look like and what fundamental changes are necessary to bring us there. Stalling will only serve to impede our ability to rock the foundations of animal exploitation and will prolong the plight of the animals.

No one is free while others are oppressed. Keep up the good fight for total liberation!