National Disaster: Leading our own Movement

nonprofitindustrialcomplexI’m going to talk about something now that is probably going to get a lot of peoples’ backs up. I know this because whenever I discuss the idea with people who don’t share similar views to me it does exactly that. But it is not something I say in order to get that reaction, I say it because I honestly believe it, and that is that I don’t like the national groups. In fact I think they’re detrimental to the animal liberation movement.

Before I explain why I think we need a little clarification here because people always ask: “But what about this group or that group?” When I say “national group” I am specifically referring to organisations that: have paid employees; a centralised structure; are often NGOs or not-for-profits; have a supporter base from which they secure funds and are essentially in the business of “animal rights”.

Why do I dislike these groups so much? The simple answer is that I believe they ineffective and unable to bring about an end to animal exploitation due to the way they are funded and structured. I also believe that they draw energy and resources away from local grass-roots organisations who are more fit for purpose to achieving animal liberation.

National groups may have the animals’ best interests at hearts but they are essentially nothing more than animal welfare organisations. The reason they are nothing more than animal welfare organisations is because they have costs to cover: Rent for offices and staff to pay. Because of this they need to maintain a steady source of income, and that comes from donations. To achieve the maximum potential for cash donations they need to appeal to the lowest common denominator in order not to upset any potential donors.

This means being careful not to rock the boat too much. Which translates into easily winnable animal welfare campaigns that increase peoples’ trust in the organisation but doesn’t necessarily make any considerable gains for the animals. Anything more might risk losing donations, which means being unable to pay rent and wages, which means being unable to continue campaigning.

Thus national groups are sucked into this downward spiral where in order to continue functioning they must keep creating winnable campaigns that do not challenge the status quo, so that they can make enough money to carry on existing. To challenge the status quo would be to risk their livelihoods, I mean if animal exploitation were to be abolished, they would be out of a job!

RevolutionBecause of this constant need for donations animal rights groups like these often draw money and resources away from local grass-roots organisations working on the ground to achieve animal liberation. National groups are always more than happy to provide us with leaflets or campaign materials (sometimes for free!) but on the back of every leaflet is a donation form which encourages you to give so much a month to the group. We’re essentially doing their hard work for them.

This leaves local grass-roots organisations who are often (if not always) made up of volunteers organising their own fund raisers while the nationals rake in all the donations. Sometimes we can plead to them for a share of the wealth that we helped create and sometimes they’ll be generous enough to split their bounty. But they got costs to cover, like I mentioned, they can’t afford to give out money willy-nilly!

The tactics of the national groups often do not lend themselves to building a bigger, more effective animal liberation movement. In a time where the animal liberation movement is at a noticeable low we should be encouraging as many people as possible to get involved with their local groups and influence change directly. What is the national group line though? Join us! Become a member! Donate £5 a month and we’ll fix the problems for you!

Sometimes they might even encourage you to write a letter to your MP or sign a petition, if they’re feeling particularly passionate about a campaign.

What is the alternative though? We need the national groups don’t we? They’re the only ones with the resources to produce leaflets; carry out investigations… uh, what else do they do again?

The truth is the only reason they have those resources is because of the donations they receive thanks to the leaflets handed out by us. There are people within the movement right now with all the necessary skills to do what the national groups do (and more). There may not be one in every local group but that is why we need to pull together our resources.

If we began to communicate with one another about what we needed we’d suddenly find that we have the means to fulfil each other’s needs. Instead of waiting for the national groups to lead us let’s take matters into our own hands. We need a leaflet about an upcoming event? There is somebody in London who can design it; and somebody in Leeds who can print it; there are groups in Bristol, Brighton, Cardiff and Newcastle who can pay for it. You get the picture.

The national groups should answer to us, not the other way round. Its time we started calling the shots. Maybe we don’t need the national groups at all. If we can communicate with each other in a way that means we can achieve everything the national groups did (and more) we wouldn’t need them, we would of superseded them.

What if we created our own organisation: One that was led by the decisions of local grass-roots organisations; that pulled together the collective resources of the national animal liberation movement; that had no need for leaders or paid staff because work was shared out equally amongst its members; that would combine the collective strength of the thousands of animal liberation activists together; a group that was accountable to the grass-roots because it was the grass-roots.

Why would we even need the national groups then?#

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Rights/Protection/Liberation: Some Notes on Terminology

As the movement to end animal exploitation has evolved throughout history so has the terminology surrounding our struggle: From the “animal welfare” of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) to the development of “animal rights” by writers such as Lewis Gompertz and Edward Nicholson.

With the publication of his book of the same name in 1975, Peter Singer coined the term “animal liberation”. His usage of the word “speciesism” in this text led to it becoming an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1989 (though the term was created by Richard Ryder in 1970).

Since then other terms have sprung up to define different currents within the animal movement. The “Abolitionist” approach, as favoured by Gary Francione and Tom Regan, argues for an end to animal ownership, much in the same way Abolitionists fought against the Slave Trade in an attempt to end the ownership of Blacks by Whites.

“Protectionist” or “Animal Protection” has also cropped up as a new term to describe our movement though its usage dates back to as far as 1635 in Ireland with the passing of animal protection legislation that prohibited pulling wool off sheep, and the attaching of ploughs to horses’ tails. Modern Protectionists favour gradual change for the benefit of the animals with the end result being complete abolition.

We at Baring Teeth favour the term “Animal Liberation” as we feel it best describes our approach to tackling animal exploitation. We see parallels between the struggle for animal liberation and the fight for Black Liberation or Queer Liberation. We do not define Animal Liberation as merely the act of liberating animals from places of cruelty (as the Animal Liberation Front does) though we do not dismiss this as a vital tactic.

We see Animal Liberation as a philosophy that advocates for the end of animal use for human need (i.e. abolition) but also the rejection of the anthropocentric world-view that places humans above other animals and nature. It is the incorporation of humans into the struggle for animal liberation, because humans are animals too. It is the struggle against speciesism and all other forms of oppression. It is the understanding that all these oppressions are interlinked and therefore must be combated together if we are to ever achieve true liberation.

We aware that some people are worried that the term “Animal Liberation” may be seen as too “extreme” or have negative connotations but we argue that what we are advocating is extreme. We are fighting for the emancipation of all animals from exploitation. We are calling for a social revolution to remove the oppressive systems that dominate and control all life on this planet. If that’s not extreme, then I don’t know what is.