Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Animal Rights and Anarchy?


I know almost nothing about anarchy, so don’t worry, this is not going to be a political blog post. I do know enough to recognize that the media, and most of the general public, has no idea what it means. (hint: anarchy does not equal chaos!) I’ve read a few books, had some general conversations about it, and while I am not even going to attempt to make any claim as to whether it is a realistic option, there are many aspects that appeal to me.

First is that if you want something done, you do it yourself, but “yourself” is just as likely to be you, the individual, as it is to be you, the community you live in. You don’t expect the State to do for you, instead you band together and do it as a group. No leader needed. Sure, it sounds somewhat idealistic, but I’m not really concerned with that at the moment.

What I have found interesting is that so many vegans/animal rights activists have anarchist leanings. Likewise when I hang out at the local infoshop, I know that a fair number (perhaps overwhelming majority) are vegans. When they provide food, it is always vegan. Or, at least, it has been in my experience so far. And not just at my local infoshop. When I go to Bluestockings, the anarchist bookstore in NYC, their attached coffeebar is vegan, or mostly so.

I started a correspondence with someone in prison, who was described to me as an “anarchist”. Turns out that he’s an animal rights activist as well, and anarchism was something he found through his AR work. He’s vegetarian in prison, not vegan, because…well, because it pretty well sucks for food in prison. (even those with a court order for vegan food find it difficult) I asked him what the connection was, in his mind. I’d read “Ecology of Freedom” and Murray Bookchin didn’t see an issue with exploitation of animals. I’d read “Vision On Fire” and it was clear that Emma Goldman hadn’t given animal exploitation a thought. I’ve read “Horizontalism” and again, animal exploitation was a goal to reach, rather than a goal to abolish. So clearly, it isn’t built into everyone’s view of anarchism.

Here is what my friend had to say:

I do see animal rights and anarchy as connected. I think animal rights issues are based on the belief of a universal right to happiness, and freedom from suffering inherent to all sentient beings, regardless of species or other measurements of classification, and that is also the basis for anarchism. The freedom not to be governed, told what to do or how to live, the freedom from exploitation and slavery, the freedom to find your own, and our own collective, happiness.

I find this interesting, maybe because it is pretty close to what I “feel” even though I’d have nothing to back it up with. That’s where I started with animal rights, though, with a gut feel of what seemed “right” or “best” to me. The more I educate myself on the issues, the better I am able to both communicate my beliefs as well as take a critical look at them. For now I’m interested in the connection that others are seeing between the two.

pigs in the old barn

5 responses to “Animal Rights and Anarchy?

  1. bob February 17, 2007 at 7:48 pm

    Interesting post! This is definitely a relationship that I’m interested in fleshing out further. I don’t mean to be shameless, but my forthcoming book will make an argument for anarchist theory as central for challenging the hierarchy in our current social order and for re-articulating a new vision for us.

    I’m hoping that I can start making these connections, as i think they’re there, they’re just currently not being explored in enough depth.

    Nice post, thanks!

  2. Kate February 17, 2007 at 10:37 pm

    Great post!

    I started out identifying as a libertarian and then an individualist anarchist, and so (or perhaps incidentally) my conception of anarchism is very much bound up in, even defined by, rights theory. If we don’t see our way to extending membership in the moral community (to use GLF’s wording)–and therefore inalienable rights–to non-humans, anarchism remains inconsistent. Where the door is open to the establishment of hierarchy based on species, how can it be closed to that same based on other types of categories?

    As for Emma, if she were alive today I think she’d be vegan–she’d have an intuitive understanding of the absent referent. As a young immigrant she attempted to prostitute herself in order to support herself, and that experience remained vivid to her at the time she wrote Living My Life. Not only that, but she and Alexander Berkman had fled the Russian pogroms, where the anti-Jewish rhetoric of the time incorporates speciesist language.

  3. Deb February 18, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    Bob, I’m definitely looking forward to your book! I found it frustrating in Horizontalism and Ecology of Freedom that people were so aware of hierarchy and so passionate about eliminating it, but their view of it began and ended with humans. Write fast! And be as shameless as you like. 😉

    Kate, I guess what made me think that Emma wouldn’t be concerned with AR is because in “Vision on Fire” she sees people raising animals for food as a positive thing, part of the collectivism that was so important during the Spanish Revolution. I haven’t read anything else by her, though, and I shouldn’t base my entire judgement on the one book. I have “Living My Life” on my list to pick up. I completely agree that a hierarchy based on anything opens up hierarchies based on other things. I think a speciest society will always also be a sexist and racist society, for example. I think it is all connected.

  4. Princess Bulldog February 19, 2007 at 8:06 am

    Its kind of funny, I took up veganism a year before I considered anarchism. I came across an anarchism pamphlet by chance. And it fit some of the cornerstones of why to go vegan and also made me realize that many of my social and political criticisms were identical to the criticisms put forth by anarchism. I was an anarchist and just didn’t know it all this time.

    I have since developed my anarchist understanding.

    Someone says you are writing a book?

    If so, feel free to bounce questions about anarchism and I will answer my best. 🙂 However, there are many flavors of anarchism out there. I think anarcho-capitalism is a contradiction myself. It simply gets rid the rule of political rulers and would establish whoever is the biggest beast as the new dominating force — as if corporations aren’t powerful enough already, just imagine if government completely let them do whatever they want. Ugh. Bad idea.

    Anyway, glad to have stumbled across this blog and hope to come back again later.

  5. Deb February 19, 2007 at 9:31 am

    Princess Bulldog, “I was an anarchist and just didn’t know it all this time” probably describes many of us! It makes some of the things I read in Emma Goldman’s “Vision On Fire” ring especially true for me.

    Bob Torres is the one writing a book, not me!

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