Our primary area of interest in this article will be the current nature of humyn to nonhumyn relationships and how these relationships are from every standpoint indefensible. We will argue that, in order to truly liberate our own species, the pursuit of animal liberation must be adopted and recognized as a genuine struggle against oppression.
In order to gain an appreciation for the seriousness of the question of animal liberation, We must consider the significance of animal exploitation in our current social order. Just how vast is the system of humyn domination over nonhumyn animals today, one may wonder? 30% of all of the planet’s total land is occupied by livestock, while 41% of the continental land of amerika is occupied by livestock. At least 56 billion terrestrial animals are raised for slaughter annually. 100 million tons of fish are hoisted from the oceans every single year. At least 115 million animals are used in vivisection (animal experimentation) operations annually. Over 1 billion rabbits are murdered annually for furs, with over 75 million other fauna also killed annually for furs/hides. In short, it may be difficult to even conceive of a world sans animal exploitation, given the sheer expansiveness of the modern appropriation of animal lives by humyns.
The vastness of the industrial exploitation of animals (a broad term that encompasses all practices of animal domination and subjugation for economic purposes) leads one to the logical question – what is to become of these industries, which represent oppression in its most hyperbolic state, in a communist society? After all, is not the ultimate goal of communism the elimination of all forms of oppression? By positing that the industrial exploitation of animals is in fact a form of oppression, a practice which must cease in a communist society, We are addressing in the affirmative the following questions: Are non-humyn animals entitled to genuine moral consideration to the extent that their exploitation for economic purposes is illegitimate? Is the appropriation of their very lives for economic ends inherently destructive? Is the oppression of animals intimately bound up with the oppression of humyns? Is the prevailing perception of animal rights bastardized by capitalism? We also must answer in the negative the following question: Does it make any sense whatsoever to conceive of communist society, allegedly free of oppression, where such violent and destructive appropriation is still present? These understandings, followed to their logical conclusions, can only lead to a concept of revolutionary communism which has integrated within it the principle of animal liberation. Ultimately, it is absolutely absurd to imagine a revolutionary society in which such self-destructive systems of oppression continue to permeate the whole of humyn society.
The first article of this series will principally cover the morality of the industrial exploitation of animals. The second article will principally cover the intersections of animal oppression and the oppression of humyns, and will critique the existing animal rights movement in light of our observations.
The Moral Significance of Nonhumyn Animals
Unfortunately, discourse on the issue of animal liberation is clouded by ideological reaction, which must be unpacked and debunked before significant headway can be made into our investigation. Indeed, in the current capitalist-imperialist order, the exploitation of animals, like a vast array of other forms of oppression, exists and is reproduced under an illusory veil. This obscuring often times takes the form of the active concealment of the immense brutality in the industrial animal exploitation. As Brian Luke notes in his article “Taming Ourselves or Going Feral? Toward a Nonpatriarchal Metaethic of Animal Liberation,”
“Laboratories that experiment on animals are generally closed to the public, even when they are publicly funded. Tours of research facilities typically are restricted to the holding facilities, omitting observation of any ongoing experiments. It is not uncommon for vivisectors using dogs to remove their vocal chords, thereby preventing tortured howling, which might arouse sympathies among outsiders or the vivisectors themselves. Verbal cover-ups of the harms inflicted on laboratory animals are universal…
Animal farmers also lie about the harm they inflict. Frank Perdue, who keeps tens of thousands of unhealthy, overstressed, de-beaked chickens in a single 150-yard-long building, and whose mass destruction system kills 6.8 million birds a week, states that these chickens “lead such a soft life” (Singer 1990, 105). This falsehood is just one element of an industry-wide effort to dim our awareness of the suffering behind animal farming. Advertisements consistently show animals perfectly content to be confined, striving to be hooked, happy to become commodities. The meat, egg, and dairy industries distribute bogus “educational” materials to thousands of schools.”
Reinforcing this façade and institutionalized denialism is the generally ingrained notion that animal exploitation (though usually dressed up in less evocatively violent verbiage, of course) is either acceptable, necessary, or generally inconsequential for us as humyns. Indeed, like all other forms of oppression, there is a deeply ideological element involved in the industrial exploitation of animals, one that We will hereon in refer to as anthropocentrism – the devaluation of all non-humyn persyns on the basis that they are not humyns.
Anthropocentrism can be understood as a form of oppression since the victims of this system – nonhumyn animals – are sentient beings (they are subjectively aware and are capable of experiencing pain and suffering). This sentience means that animals (just like humyns) have an interest in both continuing to live and not being tortured, an interest which We will argue is as valid as those of humyns, and thus they are deserving of equivalent moral consideration. Since the industrial exploitation of animals is predicated upon denying non-humyn animals any moral consideration, We consider that this system is completely illegitimate. While it is true that not every single animal is sentient, nearly all of those involved in animal exploitation industries (all vertebrates and even some invertebrates) are sentient. That this is fact is demonstrated by exhaustive scientific research on the subject.
The need to emphasize the capacity of animals to be subjectively aware, experience pain, and have interests in living (that is, to firmly establish their sentience as scientific fact) is the direct result of the historic tendency of humyns to devalue, or even reduce to automatons, all nonhumyn animal species. Though dated by centuries, the archaic, reactionary, and scientifically unsound statements of theorists such as René Descartes, that nonhumyn animals lack consciousness, continue to this day to find outlets for expression in the sentiments of many so-called “leftists”. And even when the sentience of an organism is accepted as fact, objections to an equal consideration of their interests still arise. Indeed, a typical reaction to the espousal of anthropocentrism as a form of oppression involves dismissive retorts. “Animals aren’t intelligent like us, there’s no reason to treat a cow and a humyn as equal,” (which as We will see has a number of other fallacious, analogous forms) or “brutality is inherent in nature” are two such responses one may receive. In order to preserve the validity of our claim that non-humyn animals, by virtue of being sentient, are entitled to genuine moral consideration, it is imperative to rebuff these anthropocentric notions that there exists any ethical grounds on which We can legitimize our collective exploitation of animals.
In addressing the first objection, it is certainly true that there is a sizable difference in cognitive capacities, generally, between humyns and nonhumyn animals. Broadly speaking, when anthropocentrists argue that humyn beings universally possess a quality that delineates them from all other animals, the quality they tend to emphasize is that of “advanced cognition” (though it is not uncommon to also hear rationality or language used as well). That being said, a number of animals, from cetaceans to various primates, have demonstrated relatively high levels of cognitive capabilities. The real issue that arises from this erroneous argument however, is simply the fact that “advanced cognition” has no definite meaning. It is, in fact, entirely subjective. What constitutes the cutoff line of intellect that qualifies one for equal consideration to humyns? Is it the capacity to perform advanced logarithmic equations, construct tools for persynal use, or convey intricate ideas via symbols? A number of humyns, from babies to humyns with certain mental debilitations, would be excluded from moral consideration if this were accepted as truth.
Indeed, the fact there exist many humyns who lack “advanced” cognitive capabilities and are deemed worthy of moral consideration equivalent to humyns who do possess advanced cognitive capacities leads us to question the relevance of intellect (or rationality or language, for that matter) to a being’s entitlement to moral consideration. We would then, if being logically consistent, arrive at the conclusion that a requisite degree of cognition cannot be clearly demarcated when attempting to deduce moral value from cognition, and thus “advanced” cognition is not a necessary attribute for having moral rights.
As an interesting aside pertaining to the issue of language, animals such as dolphins, gorillas, and parrots have all demonstrated the ability to learn human language and communicate via it to certain extents. Given that language is an evolutionary feature suited to very specific environmental contexts, this fact is even more astounding. For a dolphin to learn to communicate in a linguistic form suited for animals (humyns) that communicate verbally and with body gestures is highly impressive.
In any event, surely We could not say that an organism’s inability to perform sophisticated logarithmic equations has any actual bearing on whether or not it is acceptable to use them in any way that results in the infliction of suffering or pain upon them, since intellectual capacity does not have any bearing on the fundamental question of whether or not an organism is sentient. Gary Francione denounces the logic underlying the notion that “uniquely humyn characteristics” (language, advanced cognition, rationality, etc.) justify the exclusion of nonhumyns from moral consideration, on the grounds that said logic assumes what needs to be demonstrated — that there is any moral relevance attached to these characteristics, “The more relevant question is what is inherently better about a species that uses human words and symbols to communicate? Birds can fly; we cannot. What makes this ability to use words and symbols better for moral purposes than the ability to fly?“
Another common objection posed is that, since the consumption of weaker organisms by stronger ones is in fact a natural occurrence, that bestowing rights upon animals – let alone even questioning the use of animals – is illogical. Surely brutality and “survival of the fittest” are elements of nature, however We do not base our conception of ethics upon what is “natural.” Rape, cannibalism, the abandoning of one’s young, and other things deemed by us to be morally reprehensible acts are certainly “natural” occurrences, but this is merely an observation, and is in no sense a model on which We should base our ethics.
There are of course more arguments made in defence of anthropocentrism, which touch on issues of “evolutionary superiority,” the alleged inapplicability of moral concepts to animals, and more. Due to limitations of space however, We cannot here address all of them. Nevertheless, these arguments have been thoroughly unpacked and debunked, courtesy of the Animal Liberation Front.
What is determined through this investigation therefore is that animals used by humyns demonstrably possess sentience, and thus have morally important interests which cannot reasonably be considered as less valid than those of humyns, since sentience can be the only logical baseline for inclusion into moral community.
Even at the most basic level, most people will outwardly agree that the infliction of unnecessary suffering on animals is immoral. However, as it will be argued in the following section, nearly all humyn activities which are predicated on animals being property necessarily involve the torturous treatment of and infliction of death upon them, and cannot be considered necessary in any meaningful sense of the word.
Is the Industrial Exploitation of Animals Inherently Oppressive?
Our argument thus far necessarily assumes the inherent existence of brutality in the industrial exploitation of animals and consequently the absolute irredeemability of said exploitation. Even the phrase itself has an implicit connotation of negativity regarding all animal utilization. Taking the point that, at the very least animals ought not to be tortured or brutally killed, one may very well cede the point that animal rights are legitimate concerns to fight for, and that the overt exploitation of animals is unjustified (such as vivisections performed for cosmetics, blood sports, etc.), but that certain animal usages (for biomedical research, food, etc.) are not necessarily illegitimate. Such an argument may rest upon the assumption that the industrial exploitation can either be remoulded in such a way as to render it “humane” or that the use of animals for food or biomedical research is a necessary evil. Even these positions however, though seemingly aware of the current torture which animals are subject to, effectively serve to legitimize animal exploitation and contribute to the ideological mythology capitalism-imperialism has created regarding animal usage. In order to debunk these criticisms, let us investigate the nature of animal consumption so as to determine whether or not its practices can be remedied and if the industry as a whole is even necessary.
It should be immediately obvious that because of the profit motive, which dominates production decisions under capitalism, our conception of “necessary” is warped and bastardized. For example, is it necessary for factory farm animals to be kept in extremely uncomfortable and cramped “housing” units or fed a diet that succeeds in causing severe ailments? Surely it is not, but according to the logic of accumulation, these practices actually make perfect sense. The capitalist-imperialist system manipulates the meaning of “necessary” to mean, effectively, that which is conducive to the greatest capital accumulation, to maximum profitability. Seldom do the interests of animals for more hospitable accommodations, long and fulfilling lifespans, and unity with their infants bode well with the needs of profitability. We simply cannot emphasize strongly enough the extent to which the common conception of “necessary” is subordinated to the needs of accumulation under capitalism-imperialism.
Keeping in mind the totality to which profit accumulation dominates the ethical treatment of animals, it’s no wonder that even the most meager gains of the “animal welfare” activist community, in the form of “better living conditions for animals,” are so often circumvented by capitalists. If capitalists allowed themselves to be truly subjected to legislation that would hamper to any serious extent the operation of their practice, they would not survive.
Even the idea that animal consumption is necessary for humyn health is a product of capitalist propaganda aimed at expanding corporate profits. For example, the notion of “the four essential food groups” was the product of the meat and dairy industries, who sought to propagate the idea of meat and dairy being essential to humyn health, especially to highly impressionable youths in schools.
In reality however, none of these practices are necessary for the integrity of humyn health, as has been acknowledged by even generally conservative health organizations. It is true that under capitalism-imperialism, We can speak of the necessity of certain segments of the population (the most economically downtrodden) to consume animal products due to their dire financial situation. The most affordable food options for the impoverished are seldom animal-free. However, in the case of a communist society where resource distribution is controlled democratically and is done on an equitable basis (with poverty effectively eliminated), there would no longer exist any economic impediments to the global adoption of an animal-free lifestyle for most* people. *(In the second article of this series, We will discuss the issue of the many Indigenous Peoples who often do rely on animal consumption, and as such constitute an exception to our argument).
Even in the best possible world, where profitability was not a factor in making decisions about the conditions of animals in captivity, a “compassionate” form of exploitation is still inconceivable. The very nature of meat production – the premature mass termination of animals for the sake of being eaten – violates the interests of animals to continue living. Moreover, even practices such as milk production (which in the minds of many is free of direct animal fatalities) precludes the utilization of any “humane” methods, since milk production is predicated on the forced insemination of cows in order to produce sufficient milk for humyn consumption, which is both cruel and necessarily produces detrimental bodily effects on them. Later on, We shall examine more deeply the relation of this abhorrent practice to patriarchy generally.
Similarly, vivisection cannot be justified on the grounds of necessity. The cruelty inherent in the practice of performing biomedical research on animals is well-documented, and requires no elaboration here. Obviously, animal testing for the purposes of developing household cleaning products, cosmetics, etc. can not be justified on the grounds that they are essential to aiding the wellbeing of humyns. But what about specifically medical operations which might genuinely serve health purposes? Overwhelming statistical evidence suggests that biomedical experimentation on animals is completely ineffective. This ineffectiveness is due to the fact that anatomical differences between humyns and nonhumyns are so dramatic that (generally unreliable) extrapolations must always be made. Said issues with extrapolating animal test results to apply to humyns (who possess completely different physiological make-ups) have prompted Trauma Surgeon Dr. Jerry Vlasak to remark that, “The vast majority of all animal research is never, ever useful for treating human health issues, it will never be useful”.
In fact, the reliance on animal testing has in many instances been directly harmful to humyn health. For instance, reliance on data collected from animal tests severely impeded research into cures for and preventive measures against lung cancer, asbestos-related diseases, polio, drug addictions, and many other conditions in humyns. These errors stemmed directly from the inability to draw definitive conclusions on how the effects of certain tests on nonhumyns would apply to humyns.
Even if said experiments aren’t necessarily detrimental to humyn health, they are more often than not unreliable. This is evidenced by the fact that 90% of results gathered in the course of animal experiments are deemed inapplicable to humyns, and that 95% of drugs passed by animal tests are deemed to not be useful to humyns. If vivisection were the only possible method to combat certain diseases and advance humyn health generally, it would make the continued widespread use of vivisection, in spite of its weak success record, more credible. The reality however is that there are hundreds of alternatives, such as computer simulation models and human cell cultures. As such, there is simply no convincing argument that vivisection is a practice so crucial to us as a species that it warrants the blatant abuse of animals.
To conclude, just as one cannot speak of the liberation of labor while the capitalist class still exists, one cannot rationally speak of introducing “compassion” to an industry predicated on needlessly killing animals for food or pleasure. The extreme majority of all mainstream usages of animals must be rejected, since said usages invariably inflict pain and suffering on the animals involved. Moreover, the recognition of animals’ moral relevance necessarily precludes the commodity status of animals, and thus a revolutionary overhaul of our relations with them must be launched.
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