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
Similar themes of "total liberation" have been
the hot topics of recent conference organizing and ongoing
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
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"
“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!