Animal Rights Zone

Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism

I'm for justice, no matter who it's for or against; activists shouldn't hit people with pies ~~ Vincent J Guihan

"I'm for justice, no matter who it's for or against." Malcolm X

I haven't read Lierre Kieth's book in its entirety and I can't say that I care that much about it. I know that she is an ex-vegan, and I wish it
were otherwise. But someone hit Keith in the face with pies (allegedly)
laced with cayenne pepper at a recent speaking engagement.

To be clear, I am against ecoprimitivism (and any expression of non-vegan ideology) for dozens of reasons, none of which I'll be belabor here. I
am also regularly reminded of the serious inadequacy of animal welfare
activism by all of the ex-vegans rising to the surface these days. Others have criticized her for transphobia,
which I also find deeply, deeply objectionable. So, it would be an
understatement to say that I think Keith's views are misguided.

I also have little doubt that her book will be much more than another in an endless stream of paeans that justify violence against vulnerable
nonhuman animals for a number of unfounded pretexts. I have even less
doubt that it will convince some misguided "vegans" to stop being
vegan; it will also provide rationale for those who are not vegan in
the anarchist community (and some outside of it) to keep right on being
not vegan.

But at a time when the public is beginning to understand and warm to veganism, this was neither the right nor the effective thing to do. "As Keith stood at a lectern,"
writes Demian Bulwa at the SF Gate:
at the Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, three people in masks and black hooded sweatshirts ran from backstage, shouted, "Go vegan!" and
threw pies in her face. While they fled, some in the audience cheered
or handed out leaflets. [...] Keith said her values are similar in most
ways to those of her attackers. She believes in militant action, even
property destruction, if it can lead to change. In her book, she said,
she railed against factory farming and promoted the restoration of
prairies and forests.
My views on this are fairly straightforward: there's more than enough violence in general and
there's more than enough sexism, heterosexism, racism, speciesism,
ableism and other wrong kinds of isms (far too few of the right kinds
of isms) in the animal welfare community and its "militant" wing to go
around. This was the wrong thing to do. It was also the ineffective
thing to do. What did this do to help other animals? Absolutely nothing
(unless you count enriching the owner of the store where they bought
the ingredients).

I have written elsewhere that violence is a river and that violence on the part of animal advocates is a matter of pissing into that river. There's no need for
any vegan (or anyone else for that matter) to piss in that river and
call it a dam.

Although I wouldn't describe Keith's values as similar to my own, clearly she shares at least some values with her attackers. Is she going to change her opinion as a result of
this attack? Almost certainly not. Will anyone in the public change
their minds? If so, it will almost certainly be in the wrong direction.

What the public will take away from this bit of "work" is that those who promote violence toward nonhuman animals are the victims of vegans. This only provokes the repressive apparatus
of the state. That only provokes the hostility and the defensiveness of
the public. This only pushes the faces of those already living and
dying in slavery further down into the mud of their status as human
property as well as the cultural prejudice and fear that underlies that

Had neo-Nazis done this to a vegan, the advocacy community would be outraged. A justice predicated solely on an affinity with the victim is hollow and hypocritical. Like
Malcolm, I am for a real justice no matter who it is for or who it is
against, regardless of what I may think of the victim. And yet she and
her attackers (for that is the appropriate word) will remain under the
impression that violence can wring change; they remain mired in a
similar if not identically dogmatic and imaginative worldview in which
these acts will achieve something positive. It can't and they won't.

Instead, what this will provoke is a rehardening of the already fossilized power relations in which many human and all nonhuman animals are varying
degrees of vulnerable and some select human beings hold a knife to
their throats deciding when and who it cuts. It will summon dismissal.
It will provide the opponents and detractors of veganism one more in a
series of outstanding examples that link veganism with violence toward
human beings in ways that make all advocates look as far from reality
as they are from adulthood.

But more than anything else, this underscores the creaking irrelevance of what is incorrectly dubbed
"militancy" in North America. Left to praise antics that mimic PeTA's,
the bored, confused and bourgeois apologists and provocateurs in the
advocacy community who cheer this kind of rubbish only further remind
us all that those who preen for the cameras and draw themselves the
limelight by announcing and extolling the violence of others don't just
misunderstand veganism or the rights of animals, they misunderstand
militancy and militant social struggle.

I condemn these actions in no uncertain terms, as a vegan, as an animal rights advocate and as someone with a long personal history of broader
social justice work, as someone who grew up poor, as someone who grew
up white, as someone who grew up with a disabled parent, as someone who
grew up male, as someone with a mother, as someone who went to
university, and as someone who used to work as a janitor cleaning
apartments. Activism is always a matter of doing what's right most
effectively. Harming another person (human or non) to gratify the
emotional needs of "advocates" is neither.

It is now easier than it ever has been to go vegan, it is more and more a matter of public discussion, and why some advocates feel the need to
push the public from it in an effort to emotionally gratify themselves
at the expense of other animals, I'll never be able to guess.

Vincent J Guihan ~ Animal Emancipation ~

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