Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism
The following is an adaptation of something I wrote in March of this year in response to a proposed boycott of the State of Alaska. Friends of Animals, an animal protection group, promoted the idea of the boycott as a way to induce Alaska to halt its scheduled killing of some wolves. As proposed, it was the quintessential “single-issue campaign”. It focused on a particular group of animals of a single species, it was highly visible, it was designed, at least in part, to increase donations to Friends of Animals and it did not include, as I recall, any deliberate focus on either veganism or the rights of all nonhuman animals.
Here is, with minor modification, what I wrote at the time:
It’s been suggested to me that vegans are currently boycotting those companies that utilize domesticated farm animals. Therefore, this reasoning goes, the additional boycotts against states like Alaska that utilize or kill undomesticated animals are consistent and desirable.
I believe that both the premise (that vegans boycott the suppliers of animal products) and the conclusion (therefore other boycotts are automatically worthwhile) are incorrect.
Boycotts are organized political actions against the commercial interests of an entity with the goal of changing the behavior of that entity. By that definition, vegans don’t boycott the commercial food industries that supply animal products, because there isn’t any new behavior those companies could adopt to satisfy vegans, ending the boycott. For example, the only behavioral change by Tyson Chickens that would satisfy a vegan is for Tyson to cease their chicken killing operations altogether. So vegans are not using collective political action against these companies in order to change their behaviors, they are refusing to do business with them at all, under any conditions. So the premise is false, vegans aren’t boycotting the producers of animal products. (I believe that nonviolent protests against the producers of animal products can be worthwhile, but that is a separate question.)
But what if it were true that some boycotts by vegans against some commercial interests were being successfully undertaken? It doesn’t necessarily follow that a boycott against Alaska to protest the killing of wolves would therefore be desirable.
The stated goal of the boycott is to stop the killing of animals. This presumably would be accomplished because the threat of a successful boycott, never mind the boycott itself, would cause Alaska’s tourism industry, among others, to lobby the state to cancel its wolf kill program. According to the plan, the two effects would be no wolves killed and tourism, at least, unaffected.
Would it work? Only in the sense that certain individual animals might not be killed right now and in certain ways.
The problem is that in 2009, Alaska issued 269,955 non-resident Sport Licenses to tourists, including 14,099 Hunting Licenses. The state also issued 12,180 Big Game tags to tourists in 2009. http://www.admin.adfg.state.ak.us/admin/license/2009info.pdf
The proposed boycott against the Alaskan Wolf Kill relies on the interests of the tourism industry of Alaska – which itself is helping to perpetuate the slaughter of thousands of land animals and hundreds of thousands of sea creatures. So, this proposed boycott sends the message to the public, and to those who are exploiting animals and facilitating the exploitation of animals, that the lives of a relatively small number of wolves are more important that the lives of all the other animals who are being killed, and who will continue to be killed, in Alaska. How could it be otherwise? If the tourism industry, to protect tourism itself, lobbies the government to end the wolf kill, then the effect is that thousands and thousands of other animals are going to be killed in Alaska. Why would an animal protection group protect the lives of a few wolves only to ensure the slaughter of thousands of other animals? From a rights-based perspective, this doesn’t make sense. From any perspective, this doesn’t make sense.
An effective boycott aimed at saving the lives of the most animals would be directed against the tourism industry, not enlisting its aid. The proposed Alaska boycott is not consistent or desirable; the conclusion that a boycott of Alaska would be worthwhile is false.
There may well be ways to effectively boycott industry and government to change their behaviors with respect to animals. The boycott of Alaska did not appear to be one of them.
Originally posted here: http://timgier.com/2010/10/15/boycotting-boycotts/
Add a Comment