Animal Rights Zone

Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism

Roger Yates ~ Evil Monsters, Vivisectors, Being B&W and Goodies and Baddies.

Supporter on animal experimentation, Colin Blakemore, appeared as the guest interviewee on Animal Rights Zone last week. The reaction to his invitation has been "mixed." 

I’m rather fascinated as to how Colin Blakemore seems to have been socially constructed as an evil monster. I suppose it was inevitable that he would be within the anti-vivisection movement, especially the flesh and dairy-consuming parts of it, but that does not explain why he often appears to be the number-one hate figure among the wider animal advocacy community. Not if physical animal suffering and “cruelty” is the main issue, which seems to be the case for many animal advocates.
Blakemore has claimed that the cats he experimented on did not physically suffer - during the experiments at least - because they were anaesthetised throughout and were not allowed to recover; they were “sacrificed” as vivisectors like to put it while still unconscious. Of course, from an animal rights point of view, these are gross rights violations even in cases where there is little or no suffering. Account should also be taken of how the cats came into being, how they were confined, and the fact that their lives were deliberately cut short. Furthermore, they were also regarded as items of property, as “things” and of course, “models,” during their lives and deaths.
Vivisectors do not stop being the users of other animals once they step outside of the laboratory - and I think we can safely assume that most consume flesh and dairy, wear leather and wool, and engage in a whole range of practices that harm nonhuman animals.  However, Colin Blakemore is opposed to a range of animal-using activities that many all people happily support and engage in, such as an “innocent” visit to the zoo or the circus, fishing, and going hunting.
I am not suggesting that this opposition wipes his moral slate clean. Not at all – but then, who has a clean one anyway? However, I’m forever told that virtually all activities, such as the childish and sexist antics of PeTA, are acceptable if they get people to at least begin to think about the ethics of society’s routine and systematic use of nonhuman animals. So many, we assume, think little or nothing morally as the truck off the McDeath’s every week, or when they eat ham and cheese pizzas, splash calf food on their cereals, visit zoos, circuses with nonhuman animal “performers,” and when they frequent commercial aquaprisons. Moreover, many defend most uses of other animals on public forums. Odd, then, that many animal advocates fail to acknowledge Blakemore’s position in this regard, and heaven forbid that he may be given credit for the fact that he does think ethically about animal use, both his own and more widely.
While one of Dave Warwak’s “corpse munchers” will be praised by some animal advocates for taking part in “meat-free Mondays,” the fact that Blakemore does not eat some animals due to moral considerations apparently must be ignored. Now, we need to be careful here, because “not eating mammals” is not doing overly much from a vegan-based animal rights position, especially if that means that more fishes, shellfishes and dairy are consumed – however, many animal advocates would nevertheless declare it “a step in the right direction” in the case of the average Joe on the street.
Perhaps we need to appreciate a little more that the real world is not as black and white as we might like – it is not filled with easily identified “goodies” and “baddies.”

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Comment by Brandon Becker on March 7, 2011 at 5:33
I agree with your views, red dog. Thanks for sharing!
Comment by red dog on March 5, 2011 at 4:30

Obviously nothing I've said here is new, and I'm not sure who may have said it first. I wanted to reply to this blog post because I think it raises a good point and I can see both good and not-so-good reasons for people to hate Blakemore as much as they do. But in the end, I think the hate and anger are to be expected considering Blakemore's deliberately chosen status as a public figure who's very publicly made it his mission to defend vivisection. If Hitler were still alive and ARZone hosted a chat with him, it would be odd if people engaged him in a discussion about dog training methods. If Susan Smith were a chat guest, no one would ask her about her knitting (if she knits). I can understand why ARZone wants its guests to be treated civilly, but I can also understand the feelings of those who expressed discomfort with the idea of talking to a vivisection spin doctor in such a friendly setting.

You all asked Blakemore some really good questions, and I think the answers he gave in defence of his speciesist ideology were pathetic. Maybe there could have been a few more follow-ups challenging him to defend that ideology, but I suspect he would just have dodged them.

Comment by red dog on March 4, 2011 at 18:22

When it comes to the larger reasons people might overlook the violence of animal agriculture and focus on vivisection, I agree that a lot of it is speciesism. Many of us grew up with dogs, cats, bunnies and guinea pigs and haven't had as much contact with farmed animals. We feel especially repulsed by vivisection because we associate the victims more strongly with our own nonhuman family members. (Of course farmed animals are vivisected too, and vivisectors are happy to take advantage of speciesism when they defend experiments on pigs and other animals who aren't normally kept as companions.)

Also, the antivivisection movement got an earlier start and seems to have been more successful in influencing the public with horrible images of animal torture. Maybe we have to ask ourselves what we're doing wrong and why people aren't just as horrified when they think of the slaughter of animals for "food" ... ?

Another reason we might think of vivisectors as more "evil" than other animal exploiters is their privileged status in society: They're the best and brightest among us and they've carefully chosen their careers, unlike our image of a typical slaughterhouse worker. I think the perception is that slaughterhouse workers must have had some disadvantages in life and took the work that was available. Then again, there are higher-level positions in the slaughter industry, just as there are in vivisection ...

Comment by red dog on March 4, 2011 at 17:47

I'd never heard of Colin Blakemore until recently, but I get the impression that he's more than just an ordinary vivisector--I think he's also a "spin doctor" who's made it his mission to make vivisection more acceptable to the general public. Unlike average members of the public, who as you say may not have thought about these issues in depth, Blakemore has thought about them and has chosen to manipulate the information to perpetuate the institution of vivisection. I think you have to look at the motives behind the positions he takes and not just the positions themselves. For some people, avoiding pig or cow flesh might be a first step toward greater awareness of their responsibilities to nonhumans, but I don't get the sense that that's the case here. On the contrary, Blakemore has probably made a calculated decision to portray himself as what some might call a "conscientious omnivore." He probably sees it as the best strategy to persuade people who are presently ambivalent about vivisection but could possibly change their minds.

Blakemore knows vegans aren't going to be persuaded to support vivisection because of anything he says, and he also knows he has nothing to worry about from the "average Joes" who eat at McDonald's without giving it a second thought. He wants to appeal to people in the middle, and his dietary choices reflect that. His apparent concern for animal "welfare" reinforces the notion that the position he advocates is the "moderate" position and the one compassionate people should choose.

I think people are naturally repulsed by liars and spin doctors, and they are right to be repulsed. But I'm sure there are other factors involved too, and I'm not condoning the speciesism that makes it easier for people to condemn vivisection than animal agriculture.  

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