Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Animal Rights and Racial Justice

goats playing

Coretta Scott King was an amazing woman. She went through the tragedy of her husband being assassinated, but she got through that, raised their kids, and was an incredible activist herself. Her list of accomplishments is an impressive one, and one I’ll let the wiki take care of for me. I’ll focus on her veganism. According to wiki:

King called her adoption of a vegan diet in 1995 a blessing. Her son, Dexter, had been vegan since 1988, saying that an appreciation for animal rights is the “logical extension” of his father’s philosophy of non-violence.

It makes perfect sense, but it goes deeper than that. Marjorie Spiegal makes the connection between animal slavery and human slavery in The Dreaded Comparison. Not, as so many seem to think, by saying animals and humans are the same, but rather that the force driving people to enslave other beings has the same root.

Yet another connection is made by Justice for All Species (JAS), in examining how animal exploitation relies on the exploitation of people of color, from the location of the farms, to the workers themselves. Diet for a Dead Planet talks about this as well, but this great interview on BlackVegetarians.org with JAS really ties it together. Here is one snippet from an interview filled with excellent questions:

BV: What are your thoughts about the comparison made between the enslavement of people of African descent by whites and the oppression of animals in factory farms by humans?

KC: While I can understand why some people might be offended by being compared to an “animal,” I always remember that humans are animals, too. Such comparisons are demeaning only if you make them so. So when I see pictures of animals enslaved in factory farms, I do see a connection between their condition and the unconscionable suffering that my ancestors had to go through under slavery by white domination. Humans dominate over animals because we can, not because it’s right to do, or we have to do it to survive. Factory farms and corporations profit from animal suffering, just as slave owners profited from my ancestors. I can see parallels in the oppression and the treatment of animals, and of slaves, as well as the motivations of the powerful to dominate over someone, and profit from them. Anyone interested in these connections should definitely check out Marjorie Spiegel’s book, The Dreaded Comparison .

TM: I have no problem with the comparison of humans with other species. It’s no different then comparing a raccoon with a wolf. There are significant similarities, such as self-awareness, the ability to feel pain, the desire to protect our young, intelligence and social culture. There are also significant differences that vary depending on species. This is the case with all species including humans regardless of their ancestry.

So I am comfortable with members of other species being compared as sentient beings with all people, including those of us of African descent. We cannot deny the connection with capture, transport, breeding, confinement, and denial of physical integrity. However, I am concerned about who is not being compared to animals. When the comparisons made by animal rights groups focus solely on communities that have been “treated like animals,” read Blacks, Women and Jews, the chance of white men, often the architects of such systems, being compared to other species is rare. This leaves them in a class unto themselves, and may unwittingly reinforce an existing hierarchy of oppression.

We need to continue to broaden the comparisons to include the power structures, economics, and cultural ideologies that allow and accept the torture of entire classes of beings. After all, these atrocities don’t happen in a vacuum and viewing them in context, equitably calls everyone to account for both the problems and solutions.

A quote from Mrs. King: “When you are willing to make sacrifices for a great cause, you will never be alone.”

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3 responses to “Animal Rights and Racial Justice

  1. cja January 17, 2007 at 7:04 am

    Great post! I can’t see your pics right now, since the site is doing maintenance. I do not have any issues with the comparisons of how human animals are/have been treated and the parallels which exist in how non-human animals are treated. The people that DO have a problem with that usually view non-human animals as “lower.”

  2. SoCalMuchacha January 17, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    Fabulous post…thanks for sharing it! 🙂

  3. Deb January 17, 2007 at 7:29 pm

    cja – I agree, and they also usually misunderstand the nature of the comparison. The dreaded comparison and eternal treblinka are really valuable books on the issue, though, and I think they make the points really well!

    SoCalMuchacha – thanks! and congrats on what sounds like a recent move to vegetarianism?

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