In Defense of Total Liberation: A Response to Animal Liberation Canada/USA’s Racialized Rhetoric

By Press Officer Nicoal R. Sheen
North American Animal Liberation Press Office

This past Tuesday a letter purportedly from a group styling itself “Animal Liberation Canada/USA” was received by Toronto’s Chinese Business Association concerning the recently successful shark fin ban. The “communique” was shamefully shot through with slurs, crude generalizations and racially charged rhetoric directed towards Toronto’s Chinese community and Chinese communities worldwide. In addition, the Press Office believes this letter is a venture by the industry to discredit the animal liberation movement.

In light of this disturbingly racist and fraudulent “communique”, we wish to put forth the following assertions as human beings and animal liberation activists.

Across the entire world, animal lovers, liberators and rescuers exist – irrespective of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or geographical location. Such people have dedicated themselves to an unshakeable ethic of compassion, equality and liberation. Some also risk their freedom and indeed their very lives on behalf others by carrying out acts often considered illegal by the State.

Point in fact, there are liberationists in China fighting for their non-human brothers and sisters everyday. In fact, some of these liberations and open rescues have occurred in broad daylight. In Beijing, during the summer of 2011, 520 dogs destined for the slaughterhouse were rescued during the day from the truck in which they were being transported. Additionally, more than 300 companion cats were rescued from a dealer, who would have sold the animals to restaurants for food, and returned home in Shanghai. These are just some examples among many.

In the strongest possible terms, we as animal liberationists denounce any ideology, communique or action that seeks to simplify animal or human oppression when it is an undeniable fact that part of the social group being blamed for such atrocities is itself opposed to the very practice. For example, not all Chinese people are responsible for shark finning, in the very same way that not all Americans are responsible for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We believe this letter was written by the industry to discredit animal liberationists and illustrate the movement as misanthropic. A few reasons point to this conclusion:

1. Throughout the history of animal liberation, there has never been militant direct action taken on the heels of legislative victory for animals, as there seems no motive to do so. Direct action has always been taken when other efforts were ignored, not effective or other tactics are considered too passive. Anonymous individuals who take direct action for animals do not look to the law to justify their acts; they willingly and consciously take unlawful direct action to free animals, destroy places or tools of exploitation, or implicit threat to the animal abusers themselves.

2. Poison threats have never been directed towards one social and/or ethnic group. Instead these threats are directed towards a few who are responsible and oversee the torture, murder and enslavement of non-human beings (e.g. companies who carry/produce consumer items resulting from animal exploitation, people who carry out animal experiments or finance animal abuse). Moreover, poison threats have targeted the general public in some cases as a possible deterrent from buying a product from a company who profits off the abuse of animals (e.g. POM Wonderful, Savlon Anti-septic gel made by Novartis). Such threats (whether actual or not) forced companies and stores carrying such product to pull the item(s) from the shelves as a precaution, costing the animal abusing company hundreds of thousands to millions. However, threats towards the general public were just that – general. These actions did not pin point one social group since there is diversity of animal activists and it would be fallacious to assume otherwise.

3. Most animal liberationists are conscious and awake to the intersectionality of oppressions such as racism, sexism, speciesism, heterosexism, classism, among other forms of systemic tyranny. We strongly believe that a letter such as this would not come from the animal liberation/animal rights movement due to the heightened sense of ethics, morality and justice for all beings.

Racism and racial generalizations perpetuate speciesism, and vice versa, due to the fact that such stereotypes and classifications have been closely intertwined throughout history and have been used to degrade one group or another. People are compared to “undesirable” non-human animals and associated with their perceived behaviors e.g. the Jewish Holocaust and rat references, with similar slurs also prevalent in the U.S. during WWII towards Japanese people. Thus, in this very instance, non-human animals are categorized by such false attributes and ordered as a less than whole being e.g. rats as conniving and ruthless or pigs as unintelligent slobs. Such categorizations of a “less than” or an “otherized” status allows for those claiming dominance and superiority to enslave, exploit, torture and murder all other sentient beings, human and non-human alike.

As liberationists, we must embrace the fight and struggle for liberation of all oppressed beings on the planet. Since our struggles are interconnected, the liberation of one cannot be achieved without the liberation of the other. We would only continue to perpetuate a hierarchical ordering of beings if we fought to eradicate speciesism but not racism, sexism but not classism, heterosexism not speciesism, so on and so forth. We have one common goal: to liberate ourselves and others from the systemic injustices of modernity, which in some cases have become the norm.

We must recognize that this letter is an effort to divide the movement and ultimately conquer through infighting and fractionalization. On all accounts, we must speak out against the slander and mistruth and invalidate such attempts.

We stand in solidarity with all animal liberationists and activists around the world. May we all fight against our oppressors as a community.

We fail ourselves and the animals if we strive for anything less.

The North American Animal Liberation Press Office has not received a communique or direct communication from Animal Liberation Canada/USA nor has the Press Office ever heard of or from anonymous individuals under such banner. Also, the Press Office is unaware if any other organizations received an official communique. Rather, the letter was released by the mainstream media after it was received by the Chinese Business Association, and may be an attempt to discredit the animal liberation movement by those who profit from the abuse of non-human animals.

Read the actual letter received in Toronto, Canada here. Please be forewarned that this letter contains vile and racialized language that may trigger feelings of distress, uncomfortableness or possible traumatic experiences. If you have such sensitivities, we recommend to our subscribers that they not read the letter.