Animal Rights Zone

Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism

Transcript of Dylan Powell's Live ARZone Guest Chat

Transcript of Dylan Powell’s ARZone Live Guest Chat

19 November 2011

5pm US Eastern Time

10pm UK Time

20 November 2011

8am Australian Eastern Standard Time

 

 

 

Carolyn Bailey:

ARZone would like to welcome Dylan Powell as today’s Live Chat Guest.

 

Dylan Powell is a community organizer from St. Catharines, On (Canada). He started the media project/radio show, The Vegan Police, in Oct 2008, as a campus and community vegan radio show. Their primary objectives are to promote vegan and veganism through providing a wide array of viewpoints, music, interviews and more.

 

He has since gone on to co-found Marineland Animal Defense, a campaign dedicated to ending animal captivity at Marineland (Niagara Falls, On) as well as the intersectionality based Live Free Collective, a collective dedicated to highlighting the intersections of oppressions and working against them.

 

Prisoner support has been a focus of his activism and he has held fundraisers and provided support for numerous animal activists/liberationists; the AETA 4, Walter Bond, SHAC 7, Spanish 12 and more. He also currently works on Conflict Gypsy, a free online archive of radical animal and earth liberation publications. Dylan welcomes the opportunity to engage with ARZone members today on a range of topics. Would you please join with me in welcoming Dylan to ARZone?

 

Welcome, Dylan!

 

Jason Ward:

Welcome to ARZone Dylan!!!

 

Sharni Buckley:

Hi Dylan, it's a real pleasure to see you here!

 

Brooke Cameron:

Hi Dylan, welcome and thanks for being here! :-)

 

Kate:

Hello and welcome Dylan. Thanks for being here. Hello everyone. :-)

 

Tim Gier:

Hi Dylan!! Welcome to ARZone!

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Welcome Dylan. Thanks for being here!

 

Pauline McGuigan:

Hi Dylan

 

Cath Ens-Hurwood:

ok dyl?

 

Sky:

hello

 

Roger Yates:

Welcome to ARZone Dylan.

 

Jesse Newman:

Hello Dylan.

 

Dylan Powell:

Thank you everyone. I want to thank ARZone for providing the opportunity.

 

Mangus O’Shales:

hi mr. powell

 

Will:

you old pro dylan!!!

 

Lisa Viger:

Hi Dylan!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Dylan will be responding to his pre-registered questions first, and then we’ll open the chat up for all members to engage him.

 

I’d now like to ask the first question on behalf of Adam Little, who is unable to be here:

How do you think music can positively affect the animal rights movement? Is using it of grave importance in your mind? Thanks, Dylan!

 

Dylan Powell:

Hi Adam, thanks for your question. Everyone loves to talk about music and this is a great opening question. I think the arts and individual expression are of grave importance....period.

 

Our ability to think creatively drives our ability to grow, to understand and to resist. When it comes to the arts and social justice, the arts have the ability to communicate on a visceral level that can make people more receptive to messages that they would otherwise dismiss or ignore. I think many people here can relate and can relay examples where they were influenced or opened to a social justice issue through the arts.

 

Personally, the immediacy and DIY ethic of the punk/hardcore genres were a huge inspiration driving me to put my beliefs into practice. The messages of bands like Propagandhi, Oi Polloi, Ted Leo, Conflict, The Gorilla Biscuits, etc. were the spark that pushed me to where I am today. ;-)

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks Dylan, Sharni Buckley has the next question, please go ahead Sharni...

 

Sharni Buckley:

Thanks, Tim. I saw a status update from someone on Facebook the other day that said something like “I’m tired of people saying that in order to be vegan a person must also be a feminist. I’m not a feminist and I am vegan, get over it.” What do you think, can a person truly embrace the ideals of veganism without also embracing the ideals of feminism?

 

Dylan Powell:

Hi Sharni.

 

Sharni Buckley:

:-)

 

Dylan Powell:

This is a common response given when people bring up intersectionality in social justice  (intersectionality theory is the theory that oppression cannot be understood as “static” but instead is fluid, overlaps and intersects.) Veganism as a concept has been burdened by seventy years of capitalism (greenwashing, ethical consumerism) and co-opted by a focus of “health” and the “environment” divorced from a critique of human supremacy.

 

It is extremely unfortunate that people prioritize “veganism” over other social justice issues, however, this is exactly where the conversation and critique around veganism - especially veganism as reduced to a mere boycott - needs to develop.

 

It may be possible to be vegan without being a feminist, however, it is not possible to liberate other animal species with male supremacy in tact (or white supremacy, heteronormativity, ableism, etc.) Liberation is a collective process - the structures which uphold domination and hierarchy cannot be separated.

 

Statements like the one above are particularly sad as feminist theory and the women’s suffrage, rights and liberation movements have all played a significant role in developing anti-speciesist resistance and theory.

 

Sharni Buckley:

Thanks, Dylan, may I ask a follow-up please?

 

Dylan Powell:

Please do.

 

Sharni Buckley:

Thanks! Could you please explain what you mean by veganism as reduced to a mere boycott?

 

Dylan Powell:

Sure. Adam Weitzenfeld has written some great commentary around this issue, some here I know are aware of that work and that is a good place to find a critique that is a lot more developed than mine.

 

What is meant by refering to veganism as a "mere boycott" is that it has been severed from it's source as an intersectional ethical practice and becomes merely something people do not do/ do not purchase. I am not saying that is what veganism is, but, unfortunately, that is sometimes what it gets reduced to. The notion that liberation can come from simply not eating something, or purchasing something, is without merit.

 

The anti-slavery movement had a similar tactic called the Free Produce Movement. It was a movement made up of people who only purchased products that were made free from slave labour. They have grocery stores, literature, speakers, etc. I would be shocked if anyone else here knew anything about the Free Produce Movement. It is given very little historical coverage because of how ineffective it was as a tactic.

 

Sharni Buckley:

Great, thanks so much for the detailed response! :-)

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Next question will be from our admin, Tim Gier. Tim, please go ahead....

 

Tim Gier:

In an interview with Lantz Arroyo posted at www.theveganpolice.com, he laments that “Many of my friends around that time who shared my values and were very militant are no longer vegan.” Do you think Arroyo’s experience is typical of “straight-edge” vegans? Are the demands of being vegan simply more than many people want to continue to live up to?

 

Dylan Powell:

Hi Tim.

 

Tim Gier:

HI!

 

Dylan Powell:

The narratives around “straight edge” folks should be easily recognizable to a lot of vegans - wild generalizations, people reduced to the behaviors of other individuals, constructions which divert attention away from issues, etc. As with veganism, there is no one universal expression for people who have a critique of intoxicants, claim “straight edge,” or promote radical sobriety.

 

There is a larger issue within hardcore communities of recidivism - which I think can be tied to hyper individualistic notions of veganism and straight edge, machismo and posturing and a complete lack of developing a critique beyond “youth culture.” I would argue that many people who renounced their anti-speciesist and anti-intoxicant views did so because they had no critique of the ways in which these issues effect their lives as they age. There is a notion that straight edge is a “youth thing” and dismissed as immature - something to move beyond (you see this in ex-vegan narratives as well.)

 

However, there are numerous  ways in which intoxicant use and animal use become even more normalized as we age - i.e. the inability to want to appear “strange” in a society where one has to sell their labour (market themselves) to an employer and also in order to find a partner, the inability to deal with chronic stress and the desire to self medicate, cultural anesthesia and how that effects our ability to recognize and resist oppression, etc.

 

There is an irony here because this notion that there is a universalized expression allows for these issues to go unchecked. We need to pay a lot more attention to longevity and recidivism and understand how our diverse personal experiences create unique challenges.

 

That all said, from the most radical, to the more mainstream animal advocacy organizations, the animal liberation movement is chalked full of long time vegan straight edge folks who are still driven to act. Also, historically, the animal advocacy movement and the temperance movement had a lot of crossover. To some it may seem like these ideas are unpopular, or too “hard,” but there is a long legacy there.

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks Dylan, may I ask a quick follow-up?

 

Dylan Powell:

Yes

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks. Do you think this ties into the idea above about veganism as a boycott, as a personal lifestyle choice rather than as part of a broader social justice movement?

 

Dylan Powell:

Exactly. When I say things like "hyper-individualized notions of choice," I am talking about people who see veganism as merely a "personal choice." The old line, "I don't care what you do." There is a whole set of language around this, people tend to expect greater legitimacy when they don't confront issues - "I'm not like those vegans, etc." However, they are actually re enforcing the structures which allow for animal domination - the notion that human "choice" is supreme.

 

Tim Gier:

Thank you!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Dylan! The next question is to be asked by Jesse Newman, when you're ready, thanks, Jesse.

 

Jesse Newman:

Thank you Carolyn, I appreciate the opportunity ARZone provides for these discussions! Dylan, please explain your critique of the use of the words “abolition” and “liberation” in the context of the animal rights movement?

 

Dylan Powell:

Hi Jesse. For context I think Jesse is referencing commentary that I wrote: http://theveganpolice.com/main/?p=1417  As I wrote in that commentary, my caution is that the animal rights movement has a tendency to prioritize animal liberation and co-opt other social justice struggles and cultures without critical reflection.

 

With the term “abolitionist,” there is historical continuity - many anti-slavery figures were influential figures in the animal advocacy movement, William Wilberforce, Nathaniel P. Rodgers, Amos Alcott, etc. You have anti-vivisection publications already using this language during the 19th Century - publications like “The Liberator” - a nod to William Lloyd Garrison’s paper and also “The Abolitionist.” However, this basic continuity is never really traced within our movement.

 

Even when there is a direct lineage between ideas like William Lloyd Garrison’s notions of “non-resistance,” Leo Tolstoy’s theories of Christian Anarchism and Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.’s practice of “non-violence,” and our movements current notions of non-violence, we instead co-opt these ideas and present them as “new,” “original” or “unique.” The most offensive problem is that by obliterating this history we present notions of post racial societies - the idea that blacks and other people of color have equal opportunity and rights within our society.

 

The thirteenth amendment abolished slavery, but it did not abolish white supremacy and the structures which uphold it. Black scholars from W. E. B. Dubois to Angela Davis have all noted the rise of Jim Crow and the prison industrial complex after the abolition of slavery. This is one reason why calling something the “Abolitionist Approach” - without mention of prison abolition, abolition democracy, the prison industrial complex - is offensive and absurd. We are using the power associated with another struggle in order to gain legitimacy for our own, regardless of the ways in which that negatively effects other human beings.

 

Tactically, there is also an issue with presenting “Abolition” as one approach, and also as an approach critical of property destruction.I think one would be hard pressed to find anyone who would consider a figure like Harriet Tubman as “violent,” or who would construct an argument that the Underground Railroad actually hurt the anti-slavery movement, however, this is the exact line of reasoning presented by so-called “Abolitionists” within the animal liberation movement. The insertion of “ahimsa” and other cultural appropriations should offer the exact same pause and reflection. Why do our theorists have to rely so heavily on claiming power from other struggles and from cultural appropriations? Is this really the foundation for a theory which is dynamic and useful? I don’t think so.

 

My critique of theorists like Steve Best and sites like Negotiation is Over is that they pay lip service to “total liberation” while presenting ideas that are hyper masculine and nonsensical. The site has featured commentary that frequently relies on distorting quotes or historical context from the anti-slavery movement while arguing for violence against other human beings in the service of animal liberation.

 

John Brown, the anti-slavery figure who organized the failed raid on Harper’s Ferry, is typically brought up as a figure that our movement needs to emulate. For those who have actually read about that raid, they would know that Brown was only interested in defensive warfare and that he ensured that the slave-owners that he took hostage survived his failed raid. Afterwards, each one of them noted that restraint and that they could have been killed at any time. In proper historical context, it makes no sense to bring up John Brown’s name as validation for assassinating vivisectors.

 

Also of note is that John Brown hated macho rhetoric and preferred action to talk. I don’t think he would think too highly of blogging. If we are going to have a dynamic movement, capable of building coalitions and bridges with other movements and struggles, we need theories that can get us there. We can’t merely mimic the past, or our distorted white-dominated interpretation of the past, if we are going to get there. This isn’t that I think abolition or liberation are dirty terms, I just don’t think much of what is presented under their names is worthy of the title.

 

Jesse Newman:

Wow. Thank you very much. I will have to think carefully about all you've said.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Dylan. Great answer! Cath Ens-Hurwood is up next with a question. Thanks, Cath

 

Cath Ens-Hurwood:

Okey, dokey - perhaps a less erudite question than the previous, but nonetheless ...it seems to me that an inordinate amount of time/energy/money is spent "rescuing/rehoming" domestics (companion animals) esp. cats & kittens. How can we influence folks to move from 'reactive' to 'proactive' in this regard?  Further, indeed to help them notice that other animals too are as sentient, worthy of care & compassion?

 

Dylan Powell:

Cats! I love cats. Cath knows I love cats. Is there a more divisive topic in the animal advocacy community than our conflict over our social construction of the worth of cats? I hope if someone disagrees with what I write here they won’t dismiss everything else as well!

 

I think the most important thing when talking about domesticated animals is whether or not we are thinking critically about ending domestication, or as Prof. David Nibert calls it “domesecration.” Much of the time spent focused on domesticated animals forgets this larger critique. (I should footnote here that Prof. Colin Salter delivered a great paper at this years Institute for Critical Animal Studies Conference where he argued that for some animals we see the individual trees and not the forest  namely cats and dogs, while for other animal species we see the forest and not the trees - namely “farmed” animals.)

 

Personally, I think the most important thing is for people to support high volume spay-neuter initiatives and to also do their part to help rescue, re-home and adopt domesticated animals in need (and if you can do it - do that in high volume as well) We’ve had over forty cats come through our home over the last four years and we have done that with little resources outside of our local groups, while still keeping domescration in sight and while also advocating for all other animal species.

 

In the end, I think what most people on every side of this debate have to keep in mind is that we have constructed a society wherein all of our so-called “choices” about cats are “bad choices.” My best answer is a cop-out! 

 

Cath Ens-Hurwood:

hmmmmm. not sure you answered my question, Dyl ... we don't always have a lot of time to discuss...but thanks, anyway.  I think you also know that I wasn't referring to how you approached the topic.

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks Dylan, I agree with you about most of our choices being bad ones. Barbara DeGrande has the next question. Go ahead please, Barbara

 

Dylan Powell:

Of course. Just trying to offer my own personal experience. I wish I had an "answer" to this one.

 

Barbara DeGrande:

You discussed on one of the Animal Voices segments about maintaining a positive outlook and moving forward while acknowledging that there are divisive elements in our moevment for animal liberation.  I agree with you about remaining positive, yet there are times one feels called to defend oneself or one's colleagues from false accusations while not wishing to fuel the fires of dissension. Any suggestions?

 

Dylan Powell:

Thanks for your question Barbara, this has been something I think a lot of us struggle with. The commentary I posted above to Jesse’s question was actually commentary that I wrote and then sat on for over a year simply because I didn’t want to enter into a seemingly never ending - go nowhere internet debate. I am glad that I posted it because it has influenced people with better writing skills, who have more tact and are smarter than I am. Ha!

 

However, that was a hard decision. I think people in our movement frequently lose perspective of how large our reach is and just who we are in conversation with. There is a concept called “cyber balkanization” which relates to the ways in which sub groups use the internet to shut out views they don’t wish to see and maintain a group think community.

 

I think a lot of the conflict people see on the internet in our movement is this process in action. It is always ugly when it happens, but what is worse is that no one is recognizing that this process is actually making our reach smaller.We tend to fetishize small differences, are openly hostile to each other and spend far more time talking amongst ourselves than we do trying to build coalitions with other social justice movements or even doing our own outreach. This is a vegan recipe for disaster.

 

I am definitely guilty of this and the only real suggestion I can offer is to really be critical about your time on the internet and also be critical of (faux) online communities and keep critiques based in ideas. I love debate, I love ARZone and I think we get farther when we talk. That said, familiarity breeds contempt and if we concentrate so much time in heated debate with each other over the internet we need to start questioning our use of the internet.

 

Barbara DeGrande:

It is an internal struggle for me, Dylan. But I agree it is important to concentrate on the work at hand rather than infighting. Thank you! Next up is Carolyn Bailey. Carolyn, whenever you are ready.

 

Dylan Powell:

I will add, living well is always the best revenge!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Barb. Hi again, Dylan! There seems to be a vast array of opinions in the animal advocacy community in regard to alliance politics and why the animal movement should or shouldn’t align with other movements. One concern is that, in aligning with a movement which has little to no acceptance of the significance of other animals being oppressed, commodified and exploited in relation to their own goals, this would necessarily involve compromise. Could you please explain why you support the Occupy movement, and why you think it is relevant to the animal advocacy community?

 

Dylan Powell:

Hi Carolyn. Over three years of organizing with the intent of coalition building I have worked with dozens of other organizations without having to compromise my convictions or a critique that is intersectional. This includes issues from migrant workers rights, queer liberation, women’s liberation, environmental advocacy, harm reduction, human rights and disaster relief, etc. It has meant declining to do some things, however, that can still be done tactfully where people know your stance and room is made for potential work in the future.

 

If people attempt this work with the assumption that animal liberation is more important than any other movement or struggle, or with the attitude of “what do other movements have to offer to me,” then yes, coalition building will fail miserably. There has to be a fundamental acknowledgement that oppression is intersectional and that we don’t need to prioritize any one issue or cause as more important.

 

Occupy Wall Street and the OWS Movement is relevant to animal liberation and intersectionality for so many reasons. First, the declaration which comes out of Occupy Wall Street actually names and acknowledges non-human animals. Whether or not the animal liberation movement wants to be involved, the OWS movement is already interested in confronting human supremacy. There is no real precedent for this from decades of leftist/environmentalist organizing. Never has such a space been created from animal liberation and animal liberationists.

 

Second, the OWS movement is non hierarchical, participatory and consensus based. This relates to a critique of the state - as this is an alternative to our current understanding of governance (more on that later).

 

Third, the OWS movement offers people power that no animal liberation community can currently leverage on their own. For people who organize, this is clearly a space where we NEED to make our issues present.

 

Lastly, you have a movement that has no endpoint. This causes anxiety for a lot of people who feel this movement is going no where. I would suggest this is the strongest and most effective tool of the OWS movement. This isn’t a summit that will end in a weekend, or a movement that can be stalled or destroyed by small government concessions. This is a framework for lasting change that is; non-state, concerned with other animal species, and participatory.

 

The movement may not look like much to some right now, but the possibilities are currently endless. The greater involvement from the animal liberation communities - and the more intersectional we are - the greater potential for long lasting substantive change. Short answer: Get in the streets!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Dylan. I totally agree that there has never been an opportunity like this one before.

Tim Gier has another question now, thanks, Tim

 

Tim Gier:

I’ve spoken with more than one person who takes exception to the framing of the animal rights movement in terms of slavery and abolition. Because of the cultural significance of those words and out of respect for the human beings who suffered under slavery, they prefer to not talk in those terms. Is the movement for nonhuman animals shooting itself in the foot by making analogies that many otherwise sympathetic people simply cannot accept?

 

Dylan Powell:

Hey Tim, I hope you and others interested will also read the question above from Jesse for some context. To give a rough sketch there are currently three schools of thought around the use of these terms and analogies.

 

The first prioritizes animal liberation above all else and claims that any critique of using this language is speciesist and nothing else. From this camp I have heard claims like “abolitionist” doesn’t have to relate to the anti-slavery movement, something which is odd as the animal liberation movement develops the notion directly from that movement. We use that language constantly, even if we ignore their tactics and history. This camp is generally not critical of white supremacy - that our society is structured in ways in which we privileged and prioritize whites over people of color and generally does not understand how their whiteness frames their use and interpretation of this terminology. There is also usually no critique of colonialism or how our messages are constructed in colonialist terms - moralistic, absolute, condescending, etc.

 

A second believes that these terms are not inherently offensive or oppressive, but that it is the ways in which we use them that determine that. Are we using these terms to be dynamic?  Are we acknowledging the movements we are claiming power from and is our use accounting for that resistance?

 

Lastly, there is a school of thought that this language will always prioritize whites over people of color and that we need to develop new language and theories that are developed to confront that. I would say I find myself somewhere between the second and third schools of thought. The only thing stopping me from adopting the third position is that I don’t think that we have earnestly put forward a theoretical basis which is dynamic and which we can build coalitions around. It may be impossible and we may all decide in the future that it is impossible to use this history and language if we are going to be intersectional, but the current uses of the term are so inept and absurd that I think we don’t have a good bearing.

 

For people here who wish to develop a critique of whiteness alongside a critique of animal domination, I think Breeze Harper is doing extremely important theoretical work around those issues. I would also suggest that reading the work of Angela Davis and reading about the history and historiography of the abolitionist movement should be mandatory for anyone who thinks of themselves as an “abolitionist.”

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks Dylan, I've spent some time speaking with a sociologist who focuses on the history of race in America, and I think he would agree with you.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks again, Dylan! Brooke Cameron would like to ask the next question. Thanks, Brooke.

 

Brooke Cameron:

Dylan, part of your advocacy includes supporting humans who have been imprisoned for illegal actions taken which they regard to be in defense of other animals. Could you please explain your own position on the use of arson as a form of activism, and explain where you believe activists cross the line, if at all, from acting justifiably on behalf of innocents and acting inappropriately violently?

 

Dylan Powell:

Hi Brooke. It would be impossible to answer this question honestly without providing some personal context. Growing up I had to deal numerous times with lawsuits against my family and also had to deal with my father being charged and imprisoned for a brief period of time. One example had my father being jumped by three men and then being arrested and found guilty of “going too far in defending himself.”

 

From a young age I knew that the court system favored those with money and influence and that police officers are not always your “friend.” I know what it is like to be treated differently because of my father’s involvement with the law and I know that was largely unfair. I also know the mental toll that lawsuits take on people and the economic toll of dealing with large lawyers bills. This is an atmosphere I was raised in and provides the basis for why I take prisoner support personal.

 

First and foremost, people are innocent until proven guilty. If you are a political prisoner, you will almost immediately have a public relations campaign started against you in order to counter your support. In the case of Walter Bond, who has pleaded guilty to the arsons he was charged with, media immediately reported that he had recently eaten a hamburger. This source was someone who also admitted in the piece that they did not like Walter. The story was false, however, by the time Walter could respond most people had only heard that story and were only shown an unflattering mug shot and commentary about his face tattoos.

 

My initial response of support was to counter this process and included interviewing Walter to provide a more realistic and human face and also interviewing other animal liberationists to provide context on the process on the part of authorities and why support is so vital. I have also helped with a fundraiser for Walter and also donated money to his support fund. I am going to speak specifically about Walter as that is the only time, so far, that I have provided support for an arsonist. The notion that providing prisoner support equals an open agreement with tactics is simply not true. I find the opposite to be true, to decline support to a political prisoner is to support the prison industrial complex.

 

As to what tactics cross the line, and if there is a tactic that I would not support, it is very hard as each case has it’s own specific context. I will say that I do think that violence against humans in the service of animal liberation is best applied by other animal species (their resistance.)

 

For people who would like more context about arson as a tactic I would highly recommend watching the documentary “If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front.” The documentary does an amazing job of charting the climate that leads people to tactics like arson and also does a good job of putting a human face on those who have used the tactic.

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thanks, Dylan. I support the support you may show for Walter, however, I don't support his right to commit arson, as doing so will always cause harm and death to other animals. But, as I said, I understand your comment and know it's a difficult topic

 

Jason Ward:

Thanks Dylan for your insightful answers- next up with a question is Tim Gier- please go ahead when you're ready Tim.

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks! Would you explain the role of the prison industrial complex in post-emancipation America and what significance it bears to the status of other animals as legal property?

 

Dylan Powell:

Another great question Tim! The prison industrial complex is a critique that is developed after the abolition of slavery in the United States and the introduction of Jim Crow laws and the move of large populations of black men from the plantation to the prison system. This is a legacy that lives on today - it is not “in the past” - and is evident in everything from state sanctioned lynchings, like the lynching of Troy Davis, to the extreme disproportion of black men in the United States “correctional” system.

 

Statistics: "Black males continue to be incarcerated at an extraordinary rate. Black males make up 35.4 percent of the jail and prison population — even though they make up less than 10 percent of the overall U.S population. Four percent of U.S. black males were in jail or prison last year, compared to 1.7 percent of Hispanic males and .7 percent of white males. In other words, black males were locked up at almost six times the rate of their white counterparts.”

 

When we co-opt the language of the anti-slavery movement, as well as the civil rights movement, without acknowledging this problem we are presenting the notion that we live in a post-racial society. That these issues have already been solved. I’ve heard numerous times that the animal liberation movement is the new “civil rights” movement, or the extension of the anti-slavery movement, but NEITHER of those movements are over. White supremacy has brought new consequences in the face of it’s concessions. We need to acknowledge that, or we are tacitly supporting and perpetuating that structure.

 

Tactically, making this acknowledgement should make one very weary of the notion that we can “legislate to liberate” or that the state can provide long lasting liberation to humans and other animal species. If the state merely makes concessions that will uphold structures of domination, then we also need a critique of the state and tactics that will rid our reliance on it.

 

This is an issue we desperately need to confront as one of the largest debates within the animal liberation movement has stalled over what legislative change we should actually push for - reforms or abolition of “property status” without any critique of the state.

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks Dylan, I appreciate your thoughtful response. I am looking forward to re-reading what you've said in the transcript!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Dylan, you’ve been a part of MAD (Marineland Animal Defense), a group which was formed to end captivity of other animals at Marineland in Canada. The group seems to have had a specific target of releasing Ike, an 8 yr old Orca, to Seaworld, which I believe was recently achieved. Could you please explain the difference between Ike being held captive in Marineland, as opposed to Seaworld, and why this was an important campaign for you?

 

Dylan Powell:

Hey Carolyn, I am saddened that was the message you got from the campaign as that is not our intent at all. Since court documents were released earlier this summer and local media began to run the story, we have maintained a stance that all captivity is exploitative and that no marine park can provide proper “psychological and physical care.”

 

Local media is generally out of the question for this campaign as Marineland (Niagara Falls, On - Canada) is one of the largest traditional ad clients in the region so we were lucky to be interviewed numerous times by the Toronto Star for articles that were written with a very critical lens. These articles brought to light; the back room deals of money hungry men who trade captive animals like baseball cards, the link between Ikaika, the orca who was part of the breeding loan, and his father Tilikum who recently killed a trainer at SeaWorld, as well as, mentioned the graveyard on site at Marineland - an image we think is vital to countering “family - fun” public relations efforts. Marineland celebrated their 50th anniversary this year, and with a history of over 20 years of protest on site, this year was one of the worst for Marineland as far as public relations goes.

 

The campaign at Marineland is important in my eyes because it is the largest blight in the Niagara Region and it is a site for intersectional resistance; animal use, worker’s rights, critique of capitalism. Owner John Holer evicted residents of a trailer park after purchasing it and assuring them he wouldn’t, etc. This provides us with a central site to bring people who are concerned about these issues into our community, to coalition build and to extend the reach and leverage of the animal liberation community in the Niagara Region.

 

Our first year of the campaign has seen us make a handful of important connections in the community with other social justice groups, brought out many people who later became interested and or transitioned to vegetarianism or veganism  and also brought back grassroots campaign models that are being developed for other animal domination issues in the region.

 

This is how campaigning can actually aid community building. To me, community building is the key because if we are ever going to be a movement with the leverage to make substantive change, it will come through people power.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks for that, Dylan. This concludes the pre-registered questions for Dylan’s chat today, and I’d like to thank you, Dylan, for your considered responses to our questions! I’d like now to open the chat up to others who’d like to address Dylan and ask that you contact an admin to let us know if you’d like to do so. I’d like to begin by asking Sky to ask Dylan the first of these questions, thanks, Sky.

 

Sky:

Hello Dylan and sorry to go over old ground. In-fighting has been on my mind this week lol! Can you explain why these people like Rob Johnson, Elizabeth Collins (I USED to listen to her podcast) And Corey Wrenn attack vegans ALL the time instead of TALKING to them about differences like we do on ARZ? Are they infiltrators or just set in their ways?

 

Dylan Powell:

Hey Sky, if we apply the concept of cyber balkanization it becomes clear that some channels provide conflict for messages that people want to hear. If it doesn't match up with what they believe, they may want to block out, ignore, or silence that message. I don't want to apply this wholesale to Francioneists or other elements of the animal liberation movement, because I think it can be found anywhere. Unfortunately this is something that gets heightened with internet use - fast paced largely anonymous and unaccountable communication. As I said before, I think it's best to recognize this process for what it is and be critical about the internet and the ways in which we use it.

 

When talking specifically about Francioneists though, I think it is important that people move beyond personal disagreements or questions of character and actually move towards critiquing the ideas that are being put forward. There is a line of thinking that Gary's ideas are sound, it is just his approach which is flawed. I would argue that his ideas are fundamentally flawed and the more time we spend focused on personalities, the longer it will take us to move beyond those flaws.

 

Sky:

Thanks. Can I do a follow up?

 

Dylan Powell:

Yes

 

Sky:

:-)  cyber what?

 

Dylan Powell:

Cyber balkanization, it is a concept I introduced earlier in the chat. For those who didn't catch it, it relates to the ways in which sub groups use the internet to shut out messages that don't align with their beliefs. This process has grave consequences for social justice movements as the internet is facilitating processes of group-think and creating a facade of growth when in actuality we are limiting our reach.

 

Sky:

thanks!

 

Roger Yates:

Next up is Sharni Buckley with a question....

 

Sharni Buckley:

Hi Dylan, there was a recent MFA investigation at a factory that McDonalds buy hens’ eggs from, which led to McDonalds claiming they will refuse to buy eggs from there in future. A 20/20 investigation claimed that animal “rights” groups were claiming this decision as a “major victory.” Would you agree with that, and, in your opinion, was this factory significantly different from other egg factories, and if not, who benefits from McDonalds choosing another factory to buy just as many eggs from? Thank you.

 

Dylan Powell:

Thanks for the question Sharni.This is a complex question as these campaigns are multi-faceted. Something which typically gets lost in discussion. Undercover video is hard to attain. Exposure of the video is also hard to attain. I can't speak for the decisions being made at Mercy for Animals, but it seems as though using McDonalds as a target was part of a strategy to ensure larger exposure. In that sense, the video was played on 20/20 last night and that would make it a success. On the other side, it seems as if the decisions being made are pragmatic and do sacrifice consistency.

 

Mercy for Animals can and will point to research that shows a drop in consumption after undercover video is released. Others will rightly point out that the message is inconsistent and may confuse people. It is my hope that the people who view the video will follow through with their interest and learn more about the issues themselves. This is always the goal. With no substantive way to chart that and no other current viable alternative in the movement I find it hard to critique MFA's messaging merely for the sake of critique.

 

Capitalism will certainly account for changes in the supply chain, however, undercover video has proven to be effective for changing behaviors. I would again fall back on the notion of "bad choices."

 

Jason Ward:

Hi Dylan - obviously you are very dedicated to the movement - and you are out there as a strong activist- as you know it can be quite daunting and overwhelming at times - how do you fight 'burn out' that we all face at one point or another?

 

Dylan Powell:

Hi Jason, this in an interesting question to come at the end of the week where I am physically and mentally exhausted. Every single day this week I was involved in some form of advocacy; guest lectures, vegan food serving at a youth shelter, hosting a film screening, speaking at city council, etc. I look forward to tomorrow! Hahaha.

 

Personally I have a history of chronic stress and unlike a lot of people I tend to stay in modes of constant stress - I don't roller coaster like some other people experience. This has been bad for my personal health, but it has also allowed me to maintain a pretty even keel. There is a quote from Josh Harper - who will be on ARZone soon - in an interview in the latest Journal for Critical Animal Studies that I think really speaks to the heart of what I go through when I feel burnt out. It is something to the effect that when we are out of "fight" we need to borrow it from our friends, and when they are out of it, we need to borrow it from people in the past who inspire us.

 

Learning about resistance struggles and movements is great for providing perspective and getting people through rough times. And developing friendships with other people who you know are in it for the long run is also a really good way of pulling yourself through. Most people who seem themselves dedicated to this movement are pretty open about burn out and when they feel run down. That is a good thing. We can all help each other through.

 

Jason Ward:

Well - in that case Dylan - YOU ROCK!!! - you are an inspiration for us all - I'm motivated by your work - and it does matter you are out there even if I don't know you personally. :-) thanks. you help MY burnout

 

Tim Gier:

Dylan, Brooke Cameron has a question, and computer troubles, so I'll ask it for her. Hi Dylan, some time ago The Vegan Police created an excellent educational piece named “New Welfarist Scum”.[ http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/7737283/new-welfarist-scum] Can you tell us what caused you to create the piece, and tell us whether you were surprised by its apparent enormous popularity and success?

 

Dylan Powell:

Hahahah. I actually made that video exactly one year ago today. I originally made it anonymously and sent it around to just a handful of friends that I thought would enjoy it. A couple of months later I noticed that some other people had been posting it around and was surprised at how many views it had. It was a little conflicting because it is pretty sarcastic, but the fact that it got the response that it did shows that this tapped into something that a lot of people were frustrated with.

 

After the latest Abolitionsit Approach forum started up I joined for the pure sake of kicking up some dust and poking holes in some ideas that people had seen as "exceptional" or "unique" but which were anything but. I think I hold the honor of being the first person - in what has turned out to be a long line - to be booted from that forum. The video was made largely in response to that happening and my complete disillusion with people who seem unwilling to confront the implications of their own theories. I am glad that it has served a small purpose of cutting away at some of the nasty rhetoric in the animal liberation movement - people can now wear the title of "new welfarist scum" with pride.

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks Dylan, I enjoyed the video when it first came out, and it still makes me laugh. Mangus O'Shales has a question now.... Mangus, please go ahead

 

Dylan Powell:

Humor is important!

 

Mangus O’Shales:

hi mr. powell. a man named richard kahn wrote some comments on mr. geir's blog and he said that violence is something that is bound to happen in any movement for social justice. i think he means that we have to learn how to understand it, instead of just condemning it, do you agree?

 

Dylan Powell:

Hey Magnus. The violence debate brings up a lot of generalizations that are meaningless. "If violence solved anything, we'd already live in a perfect world." Or "If non-violence solved anything, we'd already live in a perfect world." Both statements make no sense as we are never always violent, or always not violent, and neither of these statements actually explain what is effective in advancing social justice.

 

The notion that ALL social justice movements throughout history have been violent, therefore we should be violent, is without merit. It is false for one, and whether something has been done previously has little bearing on what is effective now. I am not a pacifist nor do I think we need to merely accept violence as inevitable. We need to develop critiques and analysis which allow us to understand how effective our tactics are - all of them. I respect Richard, he was a co-founder of the Institute for Critical Animal Studies, but if that was in fact his comment I do not support it.

 

Mangus O’Shales:

i don't always understand this stuff, so i might have got what he said wrong.

 

Dylan Powell:

If we are being intersectional we should be attempting to develop theories which are dynamic, fluid and have a broad reach. I don't think those theories should accept violence as inevitable. (Also for context - I don't consider property violence or defense to be "violent.")

 

Mangus O’Shales:

thank you

 

Tim Gier:

Thank you Dylan! I'd like to thank you on behalf of all the ARZone admins and members for all of your time and effort tonight. It's been a pleasure and very informative!

 

Roger Yates:

Thanks Dylan!

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Thank you so much, Dylan. Wonderful!

 

Will:

thanks man

 

Sadia:

Thank you much Mr.Powell for thoroughly investigated replies, in coherent with some very controversial and critical inquiries. Indeed much to deduce from the transcripts later (as Sir. Gier stated earlier). Greatly appreciative of your time.

 

Sky:

Thanks!!!!

 

Jesse Newman:

Yes, thank you Dylan, it's been a very good chat.

 

Dylan Powell:

Huge thank you back to the admins and to everyone who came out, asked questions and stuck around. I hope people can take something away from this which will help them move forward.

 

Emily Maze:

thanks dylan!

 

Jason Ward:

thanks Dylan for your time with us here today - I got alot from the chat itself - but I know when I reread the transcript after I'm going to get alot more out of it, some of it was pretty deep and well said.

 

Janine Laura Bronson:

thanks Dylan for your time and your intelligent discussions and much appreciated information!

 

Mangus O’Shales:

thanks again sir

 

Dylan Powell:

One final note - all of my opinions expressed here are my own. Please don't hold them against anyone or any organization that I am involved with. Also, huge thank you to my partner Crista for helping with edits and extra thank you to the admins who will hopefully dress up the transcript to hide my errors! I had fun!

 

 

ARZone exists to promote rational discussion about our relations with other animals and about issues within the animal advocacy movement. Please continue the debate after “chats” by starting a forum discussion or making a point under a transcript.

 

 

 

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