Do you think a child raised to respect animals could be bigoted against humans?
I’ve heard variations of this question thrown around on social media an awful lot in the past weeks. To answer, let’s take a look at what happened last month.
June is Pride month in many places. As such, many animal rights organizations took the opportunity to highlight LGBTQ+ persons doing important work to end animal exploitation. For the most part, it was a positive experience. Mercy For Animals, Plant Based News, and LIVEKINDLY are three organizations who even included yours truly (recognition for which I’m deeply honored).
Unfortunately, this also came with a not-insignificant amount of bigotry. Below are just five examples of the homo-antagonism that was being stated openly by people who identify as ethically vegan.
There are at least a dozen more examples that I could share. But my purpose is not to document all of it. I shared these examples in particular for a reason. When casually looking at the profiles of the people who made these bigoted statements, I noticed that all of them were raising families.
...as in, they have children.
...as in, these values of homo-antagonism were being passed down between generations.
Why is this important? Because it reveals that even people who reject animal violence can (and do) still perpetuate violence against other marginalized groups. So it’s idealistic to think that eradicating speciesism will automatically clear up all discrimination.
I don't blame anyone for thinking this. And my hat is certainly off to anyone who is doing the important work of fighting animal exploitation.
My only point is that it is overly simplistic, inaccurate and potentially dangerous to portray anti-speciesism work as a magic bullet, and I would caution anyone against doing so.
I would also point out that many people who subscribe to the notion that anti-speciesism work in isolation will lead to total liberation tend to misunderstand or otherwise understate how whiteness operates in the background of these conversations. This is an important observation because these same people also erase the role of white supremacist institutions as the architects of speciesism, homo-antagonism, anti-blackness, and more.
How are we expected to eradicate animal violence without naming the foundation that codifies it? Even the characters in Harry Potter eventually realized that not naming their antagonist gave him undeserved power.
So yeah, I’ll take a hard pass at the idea that children who are not raised with speciesism will automatically reject all oppression. Indeed, I think to believe this is to fundamentally misunderstand both speciesism and systemic oppression. Again, I understand and empathize with people who make that argument. But being on the receiving end of both anti-black racism and homo-antagonism from people within the animal rights community reveals this to be a dangerously unsophisticated analysis. As long as white capitalist patriarchy persists, the structure that allows speciesism to flourish will remain intact. Just as being feminist is no guarantee of embracing transgender people [glares at London Pride this weekend], animal liberation is no guarantee of human liberation.
But for those of us unfortunate enough to stand at the crossroads of both, we don’t have much choice other than to work on them together.
Note: Pride flag design courtesy of Julia Feliz, Sanctuary Publishers