Animal Rights Zone

Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism

Transcript of Prof. David Nibert's Live ARZone Guest Chat

Transcript of Prof. David Nibert’s Live Guest Chat

30 July 2011

6pm US Eastern Time

11pm UK Time

31 July 2011

8am Australian Eastern Standard Time

 

 

 

Carolyn Bailey:

ARZone is pleased to welcome Prof. David Nibert as our chat guest today.

 

David Nibert is Professor of Sociology at Wittenberg University. He teaches Animals and Society, Global Challenge, Social Stratification, Minority Groups and Law and Society.

 

David has worked as a tenant organiser, as a community activist, and in the prevention of mistreatment and violence against devalued groups.

 

He connects animal rights theory with other economic and sociological theories, and believes that speciesism is an ideology that seeks to legitimise animal slavery, defending the discrimination against sentient beings based on their species. David promotes veganism and abolitionism.

 

David is the author of “Animal Rights/Human Rights: Entanglements of Oppression and Liberation.” (2002) He has published articles in such journals as Child Welfare; the Journal of Interpersonal Violence; RESPONSE: To the Victimization of Women and Children; Critical Sociology; Race, Gender, Class; Society and Animals; and the International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy.

 

He co-organised the section on “Animals and Society” which was part of the American Sociological Association, and in 2005 he received their "Award for Distinguished Scholarship."

 

David welcomes the opportunity to take questions from ARZone members today on a broad range of topics. Would you please join with me in welcoming David to ARZone today?

 

Welcome, David.

 

Will:

Hiya Prof.

 

David Nibert:

Hi folks.  Please bear with me, this is my first time doing an online chat, much less an interview, but I'm really glad to be here.  Thanks to all of you for joining in.

 

Sky:

Hello Professor Nibert!!

 

Sadia:

Hello Professor! Grateful for your presence , thank you for being here and welcome.

 

Ben Hornby:

Hey David! Good to see you here.

 

Jason Ward:

Good day David!!!

 

Maynard S. Clark:

Greetings, Dr. Nibert!  Long way from Springfield... remotely

 

Tim Gier:

Hello David!

 

Roger Yates:

Welcome to ARZone David.

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Thanks for being here, David!

 

Leah:

Hi, David!

 

Jordan Wyatt:

:-)

 

Luna Hughes:

Hi  David

 

Jesse Newman:

Hi David

 

Cavall de quer:

Hello!

 

Mangus O’Shales:

Hi there

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Please feel free to send a private message to an ARZone admin if you wish to address David at any time.

 

I’d now like to ask Barbara DeGrande to ask David his first question. Thank you, Barbara.

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Thanks Carolyn! As someone who has worked with devalued human beings in the criminal justice system, I have found it interesting that often the animosity towards my clients would be transferred to me as well. Do you think this is also happening in the world of animal advocacy?

 

David Nibert:

Hello Barbara. While I have not looked into any research on this topic, I do believe that advocates for other animals, especially advocacy beyond those labeled as “pets,” are treated with considerable reproach. Certainly, I’ve experienced it on an individual level, facing jeers and worse during demonstrations and marches and more subtle hostility even in academic settings in presentations or when raising issues about other animals in faculty meetings and the like.  I’m sure we all have stories to tell, eh?

 

Other animals are at the bottom of a socially constructed hierarchy of worth and humans are taught to devalue them and disregard their interests. This profound devaluation is necessary for terrible and systemic – but profitable – oppression to occur.  Anyone who advocates for their interests therefore challenges what everyone knows to be “true” is are subjected to various types of social sanctions.  A similar process occurs when men challenge other men over sexist behaviors, etc.

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Thank you, David. Next up is Dr. Roger Yates.  When you are ready,Roger.....

 

Roger Yates:

In the “liabilities of landscapes and language” section of Chapter 6 of Animal Rights Human Rights: Entanglements of Oppression and Liberation, you focus on the importance of language within the social construction of speciesist reality. You cite a judge who calls those who have been found guilty of breaking the law, “Punks, Vermin and Animals.” You are careful to use the term “other animals” throughout your book. Can you say something about how language is used to shape our social understandings, and suggests ways by which animal advocates can help other animals through the language forms they use? 


David Nibert:

Hi Roger. The public acceptance of the profitable oppression of other animals – that frequently leads to the expression of animosity towards their advocates – is socially engineered in no small part through the creation and ubiquitous use of reality-defining words and expressions that disparage or objectify other animals. As William Kornblum puts it, “a culture’s language expresses how the people of that culture perceive and understand the world and, at the same time, influences their perceptions and understandings.” Words such as “cattle,” “poultry” and “livestock,” and even “milk” and “eggs,” facilitate a psychological-social detachment, in which the reality of the lives and deaths of other animals is masked and the other animals themselves become what Carol Adams calls “absent referents.”  I believe that everyone should avoid language that supports or legitimizes oppressive arrangements.

 

Activists and scholars challenging racism have called into question the term “nonwhite,” as implicit in its use is the acceptance of “white” as the norm. I am uncomfortable using the term “nonhuman animal” for similar reasons. The expression “other animals” is an explicit recognition of the fact that humans also are animals and an attempt to unmask anthropocentric views that allow for the creation of so much social distance from those who are oppressed.

 

Roger Yates:

Can I ask a follow-up?

 

David Nibert:

Sure

 

Roger Yates:

Thanks for that David. I note that you are troubled by your frequent use of “other animals” in the book, a phrase you call “broad and oversimplified.” Similarly, I find the phrase I use – human-nonhuman relations – problematic. I wonder if you are familiar with Geertrui Cazaux’s acronym, meaning “animals other than human animals”? Not sure that “Human-Animals-Other-than-Human-Animal Relations” works though!!

 

David Nibert:

Well, it's hard to be both politically correct and graceful at the same time, eh?

 

Roger yates:

Thanks David - next up is Prof Tim Gier....

 

Tim Gier:

I often see analogies made between the movement to end the exploitation of other animals and the movement for the abolition of human slavery in the US. Usually the analogy is used to suggest that slavery was abolished in the US almost entirely as the result of a single-minded campaign for abolition & that no person of good morals supported or advocated for any kind of incremental reforms measures. Do you think such a characterization is valid? 

 

David Nibert:

Hi Tim. Certainly, humans who were enslaved favored the view of abolitionists over those who advocated simply for reforms, and I’ve got to believe that if other animals could express a preference they would say the same thing. Reforms, always a problem in terms of significance and enforcement, are likely to undermine critique and activism. Indeed, top-down “reforms” often have been used to protect capitalism from more significant challenges from workers and civil rights activists.

 

Actually, I believe the moral opposition to human enslavement in the United States did not, by itself, lead to abolition. There were powerful economic forces at play as northern elites saw enslavement, and other interests of the southern elite (such as low tariffs), as obstacles to the expansion of U.S. capitalism. Thus, when some scholars suggest that, because human enslavement ended under capitalism, an end to the enslavement of other animals also can occur without basic economic changes, I am very skeptical. Capitalism is a powerful driver of the oppression of other animals and systemic change is required before abolition can be achieved.

 

Tim Gier:

Thank you, may I ask a quick follow-up?

 

David Nibert:

Sure, go ahead.

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks David. I agree with you that reform measures pose significant problems on their own, and that, of course, the victims of oppressive exploitation would prefer abolition as opposed to reform. However, we must acknowledge, must we not, that between where we are now and where we want to be necessarily involves transitive stages? As you said in your book isn’t it true that “strategists for liberation of humans and other animals should continue to pursue liberation through political measures” even while challenging the fundamental structural problem of capitalism?

David Nibert:

Yes, so long as those "transitive stages" are moving us toward abolition and not a reform and stabilization of current arrangements.

 

Tim Gier:

Thank you.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, David. Jesse Newman would like to ask the next question. Thanks, Jesse.

 

Jesse Newman:

Thank you Carolyn, and thank you David. Are the changes being sought by advocates for nonhuman animals going to come by evolution or revolution?

 

David Nibert:

Jesse, perhaps it will occur by way of an ‘evolving revolution.’ People around the world are being seriously harmed by the global capitalist system, and this harm will intensify as finite resources are squandered and global warming continues. The oppression of other animals figures profoundly in all this destruction as the enormous level of precious resources needed to produce growing amounts of “meat,” “dairy” and “eggs” is responsible for an enormous level of environmental damage and contributes to food shortages in many parts of the world. So long as the powerful can maintain control over the mass media, and can scapegoat devalued groups for the injuries caused by concentrated wealth, they can forestall true democratic movements.

 

I believe developing economic stress – coupled with public education that includes the moral and practical necessities of developing a global plant-based food system – will be the pathway to a more just and humane global system.

 

Jesse Newman:

I don’t disagree, but when people making minimum wage vote to protect the tax cuts for the rich, is there any hope?

 

David Nibert:

I agree, it's sometimes particularly difficult in the States for people to see past the obfuscation (the power of the mass media coming through) and to vote or otherwise act for their true best interests.

 

Roger Yates:

Thanks David - The next question comes from Brooke Cameron. When you are ready Brooke...

 

Jesse Newman:

Thanks!

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thanks. David, you have written that, “the movement for the liberation of other animals will be limited in its effectiveness if the primary focus of change is on individual consciousness and morals as they pertain to our treatment of other animals.” Does that mean that slogans like, “The World is Vegan if You Want it” are rather meaningless and empty unless accompanied by additional advocacy and activism? If so, what else is needed apart from reliance on individual morality?

 

David Nibert:

Hello Brooke.  One of my goals in writing Animal Rights/Human Rights was to suggest to animal rights advocates that we are not simply dealing with individual prejudices against other animals. Rather, those prejudices are socially engineered and reflect the interests of those who profit from the oppression of other animals (i.e., those with deep investment in agribusiness, factory farms, fast food firms, etc.)

 

That is not to say that efforts to educate and enlighten individuals and encourage them to think about the moral implications of their choices are insignificant. I believe all activities promoting veganism are important and valuable, and the lives of both humans and other animals are saved as more humans adopt the vegan lifestyle.

 

However, to move effectively towards ending the horrible treatment of other animals we have to recognize the economic forces – and political support – that ultimately underlie the oppression. We are dealing with a social structural as well as a moral problem. Consequently, we need to work and march with activists striving to transcend capitalism. I believe these other activists – disproportionately the youth – are likely to respond to the evidence vegans present regarding the deeply entangled nature of oppression of humans and other animals – past and present.

 

Brooke Cameron:

May I ask a follow-up, please, David?

 

David Nibert:

Go ahead

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thanks for that David. I really like that line, "We are dealing with a social structural as well as a moral problem." That is so true! The people who write about making connections with other campaigns seem depressed to always find them resistant to the vegan antispeciesist message. Do you think there is some "extra" layer of resistance to seeing the reality of speciesism within groups fighting against other "isms" like sexism and racism?

 

David Nibert:

Yes, definitely.  First, most activists are overwhelmed dealing with their own particular issues -- and many of those are even more difficult in the current economic times.  Second, though, I think specieism and its many forms, eating other animals, is particularly entrenched in most cultures.  (Just look at the ubiquity of ads for every possible kind of "meat" at fast food joints and restaurants.)

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thank you, David

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks Prof. Nibert, next up is Roger Yates, please go ahead Dr. Yates...

 

Roger Yates:

You argue that “sociologists tend to use the suffix -ism in a more specific way” than others do generally, and you suggest that this is the case with regard to speciesism. Can you explain how you see speciesism as an institutionalised ideology rather than merely a prejudice or attitude held by individuals?

 

David Nibert:

Good question, Roger. In my effort to communicate the structural nature of oppression I expanded a theory on the origins of ethnic conflict created by Don Noel, a sociologist in the United States, to create a broader theory of oppression. From this point of view,

(1) economic interests motivate the creation of an oppressive system and,

(2) the disproportionate control of power – especially state power – enables the oppression. However,

(3) the oppression must be legitimated and made to appear natural. This is the function of ideology.

 

Racism is an ideology that rationalizes and explains why humans of color should be treated unequally. Sexism is an ideology that rationalizes the oppression of women. And speciesism is an ideology that defends the oppression of other animals.  So, speciesism by itself is not the problem.  Challenging speciesist beliefs is important, but challenges also have to be made to the system that drives the singled-minded quest for profits – some of which are used to control the political processes necessary to legalize and support such an oppressive system.

 

Roger Yates:

Thanks for the answer, David.... Next up is Carolyn....

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Roger. You're a gem! Some people assume that by working to change legislation, the ways in which other animals are commodified will be markedly improved. Do you think that we should be advocating for a change in laws, and if so, why would any politician consider changing any laws in favour of other animals, against the wishes of 99% of the population?        

 

David Nibert:

I think we should support legislation only if it is abolitionist in nature. Creating legislation requiring larger cages for chickens exploited for their eggs is likely to make most humans feel more comfortable eating chicken’s eggs – and thus is not abolitionist, eh? (And such laws are not likely to be rigorously enforced.)  Legislation preventing the confinement of chickens at all would be a step forward. It would be much more difficult to exploit them if they were not confined. I believe if the public knew about the real treatment and experiences of chickens, pigs, cows, sheep and other animals by agribusiness many would support abolitionism. Even more would come around if they knew of the entangled nature of the oppression of humans and other animals and the great threat that this oppression – especially by agribusiness – poses for the future of the planet. Under a true socialist system the mass media would be democratically controlled and public education and real debate could occur.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, David. May I ask a quick follow-up, please?

 

David Nibert:

Sure, Carolyn.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks! So, as things are now, you believe that effective and meaningful vegan education isn’t even possible?   

 

David Nibert:

Well, of course, every effort helps.  But individual-level education only goes so far.  We also have to do more to challenge the structure that allows such widespread oppression and suffering.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, David. Next up is Tim Gier with another question. When you're ready, Professor Gier.

 

Tim Gier:

Do you think most people act primarily as they do towards others because of some considered set of moral or ethical principles or because of what the dominant social norms and cultural discourses? 

 

David Nibert:

While I am not a total social determinist, I believe the dominant norms, values and beliefs of a society largely form the basis for individual moral decision-making. Some individuals may come to understand the reality of oppression, but may continue to accept the oppression – especially if they have some vested economic interest in such practices. However, I believe the majority are greatly influenced by the conventional ideas promoted in the family, by the schools, and especially by the mass media – which is why wealthy capitalists appropriated mass communication technology shortly after it was created.

 

Tim Gier:

May I ask a follow-up?

 

David Nibert:

Sure

 

Tim Gier:

Thank you

So then, is it fair to say that people are able to make individual choices, but the range of options available for them to choose from are limited by the social norms and values they find themselves embedded in?

 

David Nibert:

Yes, that's exactly right.  And the social acceptability of individual choices is circumscribed by the dominant norms and values.

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks again

 

Roger Yates:

Thanks David... Next up is Barbara DeGrande with her 2nd question....

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Thank you, Roger.

As a proponent of abolitionism, what do you consider to be the best way to eradicate the current negativity towards abolitionists?

 

David Nibert:

I am not sure those of us who are abolitionists will be socially accepted anytime soon. In my own work I have tried to highlight the connection between animal rights and human rights and the necessity of ending the oppression of other animals if we desire a sustainable and peaceable future. I think our ideas may not be embraced on a large scale until the capitalist system has been transcended and public education and democratically controlled mass media allow our message to be heard by everyone.

 

Then the world can be made aware that animal rights activists have also been truly human rights activists all along. So much violence against humans and deprivation around the world is related to struggles over land and water as elites expropriate resources for “meat” production – a practice that is unsustainable and is causing the depletion of invaluable finite resources and making future warfare imminent.

 

Moreover, premature loss of human life because of the consumption of products derived from oppressed other animals is growing throughout the world. If someone suggests your priorities are askew because of your animal rights advocacy you can tell them that by working for other animals you ARE working for the future of our own species. We must continue our public education and activism and be prepared to participate in the planning of a sustainable future when opportunities for structural change arise. However, I expect our detractors will be with us for some time to come.

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Thank you. A follow up please?

 

David Nibert:

Sure.

 

Barbara DeGrande:

What about the negativity from other vegans, from within the AR community? I often find this some of the most difficult.

 

David Nibert:

Negativity about abolitionism?

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Yes.

 

David Nibert:

I think we need to challenge them to examine the actual effects of reformist legislation over the last 50 years.  Despite decades of effort, animal oppression and suffering have increased tremendously, in large part because the scale of factory-farming is growing.  So ask them to consider what "reform" has accomplished, eh?

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Thank you! Next up is Roger Yates! Go ahead Roger.

 

Roger Yates:

We had the pleasure of recording a podcast recently with Ronnie Lee, co-founder of the Animal Liberation Front in the 1970s, and he argued - as you do - that real liberation for other animals is unlikely within current political systems and a substantial move towards socialism will be required. You have argued that we must transcend and destroy the capitalist mode of production in order to secure the rights of others animal. However, social science research suggests that the demographics in the animal advocacy movement are unlikely to be helpful in terms of gaining support for this political move. In this sense, how has your entanglements of oppression and liberation thesis been received within the animal movement?

 

David Nibert:

Roger, when I last spoke to Ingrid Newkirk of PETA she was somewhat hostile. To suggest that true advocacy for other animals requires an abolitionist approach, and a realization of the terrible role played by the capitalist system, is inconsistent with the general campaigns and strategies of large organizations like PETA. (which, as you know, is also not keen on recognizing any relationships between sexism and speciesism.) Smaller, abolitionist organizations have been much friendlier to critiques of capitalism, as are a growing number of critical animal studies scholars throughout the world. I think we have to do a better job communicating our information and positions to the political left around the world.

 

Roger Yates:

Thanks for that, David - I'd like a follow-up please...

 

David Nibert:

Sure.  And thanks for staying up late to be with us.

 

Roger Yates:

Interesting. Ironic I suppose that Newkirk wrote an endorsement for your book although, even there, she reduces things to prejudice and “economic bullying.” However, I wonder about the psychology of your position. IOWs, for those who want to “help animals,” which is a daunting task in the first place, the news that they’ll need to take apart the capitalist system may cause them to simply give up. That in itself could explain why the large corporate interests in the animal movement would be extremely wary of going there. (I'd stay up all night for you, David!)

 

David Nibert:

I think PETA and the larger organizatons are reluctant to take on capitalism for fear of losing some of their economic base.  However, as daunting as it is, we must recognize the structural basis of the oppression to be truly effective. I do agree that it seems like a lot to take on, but it's all one struggle, eh?

 

Roger Yates:

Many thanks David, I agree. There is one pre-registered question to come, from profeesor Tim I heard it through the grapevine Gier after that we have our open session.... so if you have a q. for Professor Nibert, please contact one of the admins and we'll cue you in.... off you go Tim

 

Tim Gier:

In your book Animal Rights / Human Rights you recount at great length the oppression of human beings at the hands of other human beings. Within the animal rights movement the notion is often put forth that the institutionalized oppression of other animals is fundamentally different from that of human beings because human beings are oppressed despite being acknowledged as legitimate rights holders. The idea is that “the oppressors” accept the moral value of the humans they are oppressing, but just choose to ignore & abuse it. In contrast to this, in the case of other animals, this thinking goes, the moral value is never accepted to begin with. What do you think of these ideas?

 

David Nibert:

Tim, your question gives me one more opportunity to challenge the capitalist system.  (You knew I would take that opportunity, right?) While members of our species theoretically are “rights holders,” in reality their rights to even such basic necessities as food and water are trampled in the quest for expanding profits by powerful transnational corporations. (And, as I’ve mentioned, ideologies such as racism and sexism as well as labels such as “illegal aliens” have been used to undermine the status of many individuals and groups, who are deemed somehow to be less worthy of basic rights than other people. An 1857 United States Supreme Court decision asserted that “the Negro has no rights that a white man is bound to respect."  In 1902, in answer to a reporter’s question about starving mine workers, a railroad executive responded, "They don't suffer. They don't even speak English."  Such attitudes may be more subtle today, but they still exist.) The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, created more than 60 years ago, has had minimal impact on the plight of countless humans around the world, disproportionately women, plagued by violence and deprivation.

 

While I support the idea of legal rights for humans and other animals, any real implementation of such protections will be rejected or ignored by powerful corporations and capitalist-controlled so long as they dominate the global economic and political order.

 

Tim Gier:

Thank you Prof. Nibert. I just read your book, and found it enlightening.   

 

David Nibert:

Thanks, that's nice to hear.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, David! This concludes the "formal" session for today, and I'd like to thank you sincerely for some excellent responses to these questions!

 

David Nibert:

Thank you for organizing this; it's been a pleasure.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

I'd like to open the chat up to others to engage David at this time, and ask that you please let one of the admins know if you'd like to address David at any time.

 

Sky:

you've been great Professor

 

David Nibert:

Thanks, Sky.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

I'd like to ask Jesse Newman to ask the first question in this open session. Thanks, Jesse.

 

Jesse Newman:

Thank you again Carolyn.

Prof. Nibert, taking capitalism down sounds almost impossible. Do you have any specific advice for advocates working on the local level?

 

David Nibert:

Capitalism, while being shaken profoundly around the world right now, will not be transcended anytime soon. Look for opportunities to educate and work with the political left in your communities. Promoting labor rights, health care and the like. Build bridges and also steps, sometimes small ones, toward a more humane and democratic future. This certainly will serve the interests of other animals. At the same time, you can be discussing and promoting animal rights issues and veganism to other activists.

 

Jesse Newman:

Thank you!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, again, David! Julie Jordan would like to ask a question now, thanks, Julie.

 

Julie Jordan:

Hi David what are your suggestions for practical activism, for someone who regularly engages 'the left' on these issues. Getting any recognition of the connectivity of the issues is frustrating! Cheers jj

 

David Nibert:

I hear you on this one.  A good place to start is by pointing out the growing links between food shortages, water issues and climate change on the one hand and the spread of factory farming and an animal-based diet on the other. Activists who care about poverty and hunger, say, or the environment, should be made aware of how substantially the use of our limited resources for producing "food" from other animals contributes to these problems.


Julie Jordan:

Thanks David, I'm actually finding I'm getting a better understanding of anti-capitalist issues from the AR community, so I sort of move back & forth between the two.

 

David Nibert:

Right.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, David. Next up with a question is Will. Thanks, Will.

 

Will:

Ta - sorry if you’ve already kinda answered this but--- Hi Prof. We are wanting to take down capitalism right-a violent system-we gonna do that with or without violence on our part? Thats it.

 

David Nibert:

Violence is not a productive or ethical strategy.  Nonviolence may not be easy, as Gandhi and Dr. King showed, but it can be effective in the end.  And we don't want to lose our own moral compass, eh?

 

Will:

i get that... just dont see the cap system budging without a bloody fight

 

David Nibert:

The system in many ways is undermining itself, and people are beginning to call for change in many areas around the world.

 

Will:

Thanks

 

David Nibert:

When people stop simply accepting the system, that's when change will occur.  Thanks, Will.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, David. Mangus O'Shales is up next. Thanks, Mangus.

 

Will:

Thanks vol II

 

Mangus O’Shales:

You talked about revolution so I’m wondering if you think that violence has to happen—I mean some people are just going to be like John Brown, aren’t they?

 

David Nibert:

Hi Mangus.  A revolution doesn't necessarily involve violence.  The animal rights movement is striving to stop violence against animals, and it would be anathema to consider violence and more suffering to achieve that end.

 

Mangus O’Shales:

I'm not saying violence would be good, I just don't see how there isn't going to be some. thanks! I'm done

 

David Nibert:

The use of violence would be counter-productive because it would undermine the credibility of the movement.  Even peaceful activists for animals already are labeled as terrorists, and any use of violence would only make it easier for corporate interests and the media to apply those labels and demonize or dismiss us. 

 

Julie Jordan:

We could debate all day/nite about views on what is violence, what are your views David, on justifiable force done jj

 

David Nibert:

Julie, do you have an example in mind?

 

Julie Jordan:

Yes, probably every animal incarcerated in intensive farming faciliities would come to mind, would need justifiable force to be liberated.

 

David Nibert:

This is a difficult issue for all of us.  Obviously, saving any one individual from factory farming could be seen as a compelling moral choice.  However, we could not begin to liberate even a tiny percentage of the animals who are confined. And we would have to balance that action against the negative effects it would have on the movement and its goals. I do think this is a difficult question. Thanks, Julie.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, David. Maynard S. Clark would like to ask the next question. Thanks, Maynard.

 

Maynard S. Clark:

Thank you, Carolyn, and thank you David for such thoughtful analysis of issues that concern all of us - and in some sense, everyone concerned with suffering - of persons.  However, is something else motivating you - and many AR activists? You know, David, we're all concerned about 'inauthentic community' and heteronomy (Tillich) and structural violence, but various socialisms have also been plagued by those human-related patterns of wrongdoing. I'm really not sure you havelocated the sociological locus for the oppression of animals (not rightly identified it with his blaming 'capitalism' as such).  An earlier guest noted that some form of capitalism COULD protect persons (protected values). Is it really necessary to have no capitalism (which many feel is inherent in the way things are) or should we merely dismantle present structures of oppression, which are also corporatistic?  Emergent economies might be capitalistic or might not.

 

David Nibert:

Hi Maynard, nice to be talking to you even in this round-about way.  (Maynard and I grew up in the same small town in Ohio but haven't met.)

 

Maynard S. Clark:

Heh Heh :-) My loss

 

Will:

Really?  I thought Maynard was genetically engineered

 

Roger Yates:

:-)

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Hah!

 

Maynard S. Clark:

Coincidental patterns abound in the vegetarian/vegan and animal rights movements; there are synergies and efficiencies to be gained. Organizational

 

David Nibert:

Well, I'm not sure we've seen any true socialist system in the world; the capitalists have undermined and challenged them at every step.  A system that is truly democratic and socialist has yet to come along.

 

Maynard S. Clark:

Likely true

 

Roger Yates:

Absoluately

 

David Nibert:

But I think it's our best hope.  Certainly, as capitalism becomes ever more centralized and concentrated, the problems for both humans and other animals have intensified.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks again, David!

Tim Gier would like to ask one more question. When you're ready, Tim.

 

Tim Gier:
I’ve got a theory about reforms measures which says that as the mainstream “animal welfare” orgs. and the industry adopt these measures,  (actually Melanie Joy seems to share it). the 95% of the population which heretofore has had no problem whatsoever consuming other animals, as a result of these reforms now must at least acknowledge on some level that a problem exists. Granted, the solution to exploitation which reform presents is no solution at all, but insofar as those reforms might be conducive to (or a part of) a broader cultural awakening, they can actually be seen as a sign of progress. Am I crazy?

 

Will:

is Tim crazy? Form a queue

 

David Nibert:

Well, I've got to respectfully disagree with Melanie on this one. I believe that most reform measures pacify people who might otherwise be concerned about animal issues.  ("Free-range" items are very popular with those who consider themselves progressive.)  And, again, after years of reform, consumption of animals is at higher levels than ever, and so is the suffering.

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks David, I don't think people generally are all that concerned with animal issues, frankly. That's why most of them eat them. More likely, people say they oppose cruelty because they know they are supposed to.

 

David Nibert:

There's a lot of truth in that, I think.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, David. I couldn't agree more. Leah would like to ask a question now. Thanks, Leah

 

Leah:

Do you think it's a problem that environmentalism and animal rights are seen as complementary or sometimes even inextricably linked, since environmentalism prioritizes the balance of natural processes above the wellbeing of individuals?


David Nibert:

I agree that sometimes environmentalists are too focused on eco-systems and lose sight of the countless other animal individuals who are involved. But such tremendous environmental damage is being done by corporate agribusiness that environmentalists' resistance to CAFOs, for example, is entirely compatible with our work. So, too, is concern about deforestation for ranching and feed-crop production.  At this point, I think our interests converge more than diverge. Thanks, Leah.  

 

Leah:

Thanks. :-)

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks again, David. For the last question today, I'd like to ask this one on behalf of Kate, who is very busy transcribing your chat. (Thanks, Kate!) Hello again David. Given that animals are sentient and that plants are insentient, would you advocate the killling of insectivorous plants?

 

David Nibert:

Hi Kate, thanks for the work.  I've never really thought about insectivorous plants. At this point, though, it seems to me that the more important goal is to minimize, with the goal of stopping, human harm to other animals. But maybe we all can discuss the plant issue in more detail sometime, over a cup of [fair trade] coffee.

 

Sergio Tarerro:

May I ask one?

 

David Nibert:

Hi Sergio, go ahead.

 

Sergio Tarerro:

Hi David. Some friends in the transhumanist community consider that, in order to really help sentient life out of this awful situation we have (both the exploitation of nh animals, and suffering going on in the wild) the most important thing we can do is bring about a benevolent/supermoral artificial general intelligence as soon as possible (in other words, to precipitate a benign intelligence explosion or Singularity). Should the AR community (or sections thereof... abolitionists in particular ) not be trying to help the folks best positioned to code such an AI do their work (maybe through fundraising, etc. so that they can do their work faster?).

 

David Nibert:

We'll discuss that one over a WHOLE POT of organic fair trade coffee.

 

Sergio Tarerro:

Cool. One of these days. Thanks.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, David! I'd like to thank you, David, sincerely for your time and your insight today. It's been a great chat!

 

Sadia:

Much Gratitude Prof. Nibert! Very grand and kind of you to facilitate your wise. wonderful to meet you. And Thank YOU.

 

Sky:

Thanks David Nibert - a shining star of our movement!

 

David Nibert:

Thanks, Carolyn and everyone out there.  I'm glad to be part of the ARZone.

 

Will:

Bye Prof. David--you are good stuff

 

Sergio Tarerro:

Thanks Prof. Nibert.

 

Maynard S. Clark:

Bye.  Thank you. thanks! this was another good chat. I learned something.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

It's been our pleasure, David! Thanks for being so generous with your time too!

 

Roger Yates:

Thanks David - I hope you enjoyed your time in the Twilight Zone!

 

Sky:

:-)

 

Lisa Viger:

Thanks for an excellent chat! :-)

 

Jesse Newman:

Thank you Prof. Nibert, I'll have to read your book.

 

Matt Bowen:

Thanks, Professor Nibert!

 

Will:

Great chat -one of ze best

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thanks for a great chat and some wonderful information, David!

 

Pearl Lotus:

Thank you very much, Prof. Nibert.

 

David Nibert:

Thanks, everyone!

 

Tim Gier:

Thank you David, it's been great.

 

 

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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Comment by Tim Gier on August 9, 2011 at 23:59
I think you're right reddog and I think that's what Norris and Messina mean. A vegan diet isn't magical in it's properties. People can eat a vegan diet and still either inflict damage upon themselves through their diets or be afflicted by diet related illnesses and diseases despite their vegan diets.
Comment by red dog on August 9, 2011 at 21:27
And their focus on ethics is a refreshing change from that of animal advocates who push the alleged health benefits of Oreos and avoid mentioning ethics (like some people I had the misfortune of knowing) ...
Comment by red dog on August 9, 2011 at 21:22
Veganism means no animal products at all, and the person's motives are important ... so you could eat a well-planned vegan diet and still wear leather shoes, or go to circuses, or be a vivisector. Or you could eat a well-planned diet that is vegan except for honey. Or you could eat vegan because no animal products are available where you live. There's no evidence that a vegan who eats a well-planned diet is healthier than any of these people, and anyone who says otherwise will be dismissed as unreliable. That doesn't mean a typical diet that is heavy in animal products (i.e., the way most of us were raised) is harmless to the individual's health and I find it hard to believe that's what Norris and Messina mean. I'm sure they're very conservative in their arguments and don't want to say anything that could possibly be disputed.
Comment by Billy L on August 9, 2011 at 21:06

Hi red dog,

"I don't think they're suggesting humans need to eat nonhumans or that vegans need to sacrifice their health... is that what you're suggesting?" No.

 

"I think Norris and Messina are writing to counterbalance exaggerated claims and unsupported statements that have led mainstream health professionals (their peers) to distrust and discredit the vegan movement altogether. That doesn't mean the use of animal products isn't also killing humans"

What I get from that article (I haven't read Vegan For Life either), is that a well-planned, nutritious vegan diet is equal to a well-planned diet that includes meat and other animal-based "food". Matt proposes: "[...] the way to have the biggest impact for the animals is simple:

1. Focus on the animals as the irrefutable bottom line: Buying meat, eggs, and dairy causes unnecessary suffering; we can each choose not to cause this suffering.

2. Provide people with honest, thorough, evidence-based information so they can change their diet and maintain that change." 

 

The original quote from the chat^ states the claim I hear from many many vegans "[...] premature loss of human life because of the consumption of products derived from oppressed other animals is growing throughout the world." In other words, veganism is better for your health.

 

I see claims of that sort as contradictory to Vegan Outreach's claim (which I understand as): "[...] the fantasy that veganism (and veganism alone) is the perfect diet isn’t simply false (again, see this, especially the meta-survey that shows vegans having higher mortality than fish-eaters), it is the exact opposite of many people’s real-world experience."

 

I don't dismiss Norris and Messina's point of view, because I am assuming that there is ample science behind their claims in the Vegan For Life book. On the other hand, I have seen no science to back up any assertions that veganism is better for your health, or to argue against Vegan Outreach. That means I don't really know which claim is true, until I investigate further.

 

Vegan Outreach promotes reduction of consumption, and not worrying about perfection; which I can't help but agree with Francione and many others, could be a confusing message to nonvegans that are new to animal rights and veganism.

 

I'm with you on the environmental stuff. :)

Comment by red dog on August 9, 2011 at 13:28
I meant to add that the incredible waste of resources to grow crops to feed animals raised for slaughter is contributing to global warming, which is resulting in more floods, hurricanes, mudslides and maybe even earthquakes (because the polar ice caps are melting and tectonic plates are becoming unstable). Humans do die in those disasters, but obviously that's not the reason behind veganism ... and arguing for veganism solely or mainly for the reasons given above is likely to be ineffective as well as speciesist.
Comment by red dog on August 9, 2011 at 13:21

Billy, I haven't read V4L yet but I've read some of the authors' work on the Internet and I think their purpose is to guide people toward a healthy vegan diet so they *don't* get discouraged and give up. I don't think they're suggesting humans need to eat nonhumans or that vegans need to sacrifice their health... is that what you're suggesting?

I think Norris and Messina are writing to counterbalance exaggerated claims and unsupported statements that have led mainstream health professionals (their peers) to distrust and discredit the vegan movement altogether. That doesn't mean the use of animal products isn't also killing humans ... it takes so much land to grow crops to feed animals who are being raised for slaughter, not to mention the increased demand for energy and pesticides. And as poor countries start eating more animal products (meaning they're eating them in greater amounts, not that they were vegan to begin with), they are getting more diabetes, cancer, etc. Cheaper meat and dairy products don't necessarily correspond to cheaper medical bills in those countries. It really isn't all that controversial and I don't think it's a contradiction, but whether or not it's what Nibert meant I can't say ...

Comment by Billy L on August 9, 2011 at 8:26

"Moreover, premature loss of human life because of the consumption of products derived from oppressed other animals is growing throughout the world."

I've understood this to be the case, only because of what I have heard many proponents of veganism say.

I'm wondering if anyone has thoughts about this contradictory article: http://www.veganoutreach.org/advocacy/jacksbookmb.html - the following excerpt will highlight the crux of the piece:

"Still, many advocates have this seemingly unshakable belief that veganism is so miraculous in its health benefits, there simply must be a way to convince the majority to go vegan. But the fantasy that veganism (and veganism alone) is the perfect diet isn’t simply false (again, see this, especially the meta-survey that shows vegans having higher mortality than fish-eaters), it is the exact opposite of many people’s real-world experience.

When VO co-founder Jack Norris started leafleting around the country in 1995 and 96, he was stunned by the number of former vegetarians and vegans who told him they had gone back to eating meat because they hadn’t felt healthy as a vegetarian or vegan. This, of course, is completely counter to the standard vegan line that meat, eggs, and dairy are deadly poisons, being vegan will cure / prevent all manner of diseases, etc."

Comment by Paul Hansen on August 2, 2011 at 5:59
Thanks, Kate. I will read it. Meanwhile, I hope you can tell from my terse comment that I do NOT defend speciesism. These sorts of semantic discussions among philosophers often get so “technical” that is leaves the average non-philosopher yawning with boredom. Later, PH
Comment by Kate✯GO VEGAN+NOBODY GETS HURT Ⓥ on August 2, 2011 at 3:49
Comment by Paul Hansen on August 2, 2011 at 2:17

Thanks to Carolyn Bailey and ARZone for the interview with David Nibert, whose book I look forward to reading. Sorry I missed the live chat. I want to offer a general comment/point for consideration that applies to ARZ’s slogan, “Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism.” I am completely in agreement and sympathetic to this cause, having written my MA thesis on “Assessing the boundaries of the Moral Community.” However, as several philosophers have pointed out—including, for example, Mary Anne Warren (Moral Status, 2000), Mary Midgley (Animals and Why They Matter, 1983), and Gary Varner (In Nature’s Interest?, 1998)—in our attempt to be “biocentric” we can never abandon our first-person point of view, and, in fact, to conserve nature’s biodiversity and alleviate the suffering of other animals may ultimately serve human interests as well. If a truly biocentric or theocentric point of view is unavailable to us, so that we are unable independently and impartially to assess the “cosmic value” or significance of various creatures—and if concern for the survival of kin and posterity are “naturally” operative in every species—then we can no more be accused of ‘anthropocentrism’ in the pejorative sense than a rabbit can be accused of “conejoism,” a bird of “avianism,” a cow of “bovinism,” a dog of “caninism,” or a cat of “felinism.” In short, every individual or member of a biotic community looks after its own kind, and we are no different in that respect. Defined in this minimal and benign sense, ‘anthropocentrism’ is not equivalent to ‘speciesism.’ I have noticed that in many online discussions, the terms ‘anthropocentrism‘ and ‘speciesism’ tend to get conflated; but this is a conceptual mistake. The former does not necessarily entail the latter. Therefore, any non-trivial charge of “speciesism,” like that of racism and slavery, should be reserved for clear instances of harm and oppression. The danger, of course, is that anthropocentric thinking may become speciesist, or follow a kind of “slippery slope”, as it were, toward abuse of others creatures and their habitats, treating them as mere “resources” or commodities.

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