Archive for October, 2011

redacted documents flickr image By wnjr

by Jerry Policoff (OpEdNews)

One of the President Obama’s first promises after becoming President of the United States was a commitment to usher in a new era of unprecedented government transparency . Instead the Obama administration has exhibited what may be an unprecedented obsession with government secrecy including blocking numerous law suits by invoking the doctrine of “State Secrets.” The administration has even come up with an interpretation of the Patriot Act which many in Congress who have seen it claim is overly broad and bestows more power on the Executive Branch than was intended by Congress when they passed it.

Unfortunately those in Congress who have seen this document are not permitted to divulge its content, and we, the public, cannot see it because the administration has chosen to classify it as a “State Secret.” In other words, you might be doing something that the Obama Administration believes violates the Patriot Act, but you won’t know it until they indict you for breaking a law you did not know existed (I might be breaking it just by penning and publishing this article).

Now the Obama/Holder Justice Department is attempting to re-write the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), empowering or even compelling government agencies to deny the very existence of records they know to exist if they believe they are legitimately exempted from disclosure. Of course they are most likely the sole arbiter of whether they are indeed exempt from disclosure. In effect the Obama/Holder Justice Department wants to be free to legally lie about the existence of records in response to FOIA requests. Apparently they want to avoid the embarrassment and inconvenience of being officially rebuked by the courts for doing exactly that (lying to a Federal judge), as occurred earlier this year when, in a strongly worded opinion, U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney wrote that the “Government cannot, under any circumstance, affirmatively mislead the Court.” The solution is simple: re-write the law so the government, in many circumstances, can affirmatively mislead the court.

Despite substantial opposition by such groups as the ACLU, The National Press Club, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington,, Judicial Watch, et al to this radical re-write of the FOIA Law , this controversial effort by the Obama Administration to evade the very transparency it so passionately promised to deliver has been virtually ignored by the mainstream media which is supposed to the guardian of the people’s right to know.

Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican or neither, this move by the Obama administration should trouble you deeply. Is this change we can believe in???

Below are snippets of reports on this controversy, none of them from a mainstream media source. That was not my intent. I just could not find any. I learned about it just this morning in an e-mail from the National Law Journal:

National Press Club Urges Administration to Reconsider Draft Rule on Freedom of Information

“Under the new Department of Justice proposal, in replying to a request for information under the freedom-of-information law, if the information is allowed to be withheld under certain statutory exceptions, then federal officials “will respond to the request as if the excluded records did not exist”–even if that is not the case.

“No rule or law should allow, let alone require, the government to mislead the press or the public about anything,” said Mark Hamrick , a broadcast journalist with the Associated Press who is the 2011 president of the National Press Club. “If enacted, it appears that this proposed rule would offend the precepts that informed the Freedom of Information Act, and it would tarnish the government’s credibility.

“What’s more, the change seems unnecessary,” he said. “If agencies are exercising legally allowable exceptions to the law and withholding certain records, they can just continue to do as they do today: neither confirm nor deny the information’s existence.””


Justice Dept. proposes lying, hiding existence of records under new FOIA rule

“The Justice Department has proposed the change as part of a large revision of FOIA rules for federal agencies. Specifically, the rule would direct government agencies who are denying a request under an established FOIA exemption to “respond to the request as if the excluded records did not exist,” rather than citing the relevant exemption.

The proposed rule has alarmed government transparency advocates across the political spectrum, who’ve called it “Orwellian” and say it will “twist” public access to government.

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Separated from those who have been trained to obey them, even the most bloody heads of state are hardly more dangerous than a pickpocket or mugger. It may be true that we have a demented pack of inbred maniacs running the world right now, but they aren’t the ones that I fear. I fear the conditioned masses which would put me to death at the drop of a hat if the right order is given. I fear the herd of well-meaning idiots which believe that written law and authority is to be followed at all cost, even at the expense of self-evident morality…

Cheap meat has become a way of life in much of Europe, but the full price is being paid across Latin America as vast soya plantations and their attendant chemicals lead to poisonings and violence.

Much of the cheap meat and dairy produce sold in supermarkets across Europe is arriving as a result of serious human rights abuses and environmental damage in one of Latin America’s most impoverished countries, according to a new film launched in conjunction with the Ecologist Film Unit.

An investigation in Paraguay has discovered that vast plantations of soy, principally grown for use in intensively-farmed animal feed, are responsible for a catalogue of social and ecological problems, including the forced eviction of rural communities, landlessness, poverty, excessive use of pesticides, deforestation and rising food insecurity.

The film, Killing Fields: the battle to feed factory farms – produced by a coalition of pressure groups including Friends of the Earth, Food and Water Watch and with European coordination by Via Campesina, – documents the experiences of some of those caught up in Paraguay’s growing conflict over soy farming and reveals, for the first time, how intensive animal farming across the EU, including the UK, is fuelling the problem.

Campaigners plan to use the film to highlight the ‘unsustainable’ nature of modern food production, and to spearhead efforts to raise awareness of the largely hidden cost of the factory farming systems supplying much of Europe’s cheap meat and dairy produce.

The moves come as international concern over global food insecurity grows, and amid fresh warnings that millions of the world’s poorest people face acute hunger in the coming months and years because of the twin threats of climate change – impacting farming in large parts of the developing world – and the ongoing credit crunch which has seen global food aid budgets slashed.

Protein king

Soy is prized for use in animal feed as it provides a cheap source of protein for poultry, pigs and other intensively reared animals that require fast growth in order to produce large meat, egg and milk yealds. The EU ban on the use of bonemeal and other animal by-products in agricultural feed following the BSE crisis has further driven demand for soy as a principal feedstuff.

Globally it has been estimated that as much as 97 per cent of soymeal produced is now used for animal feed.

Attracted by cheap land prices, poor environmental regulations and monitoring, widespread corruption and low taxation on agricultural export commodities, agribusinesses have long viewed Paraguay as an ideal country in which to do business. In recent decades increasing chunks of rural land have been bought up and turned over to export-orientated soy cultivation.

Paraguay is now the world’s sixth largest producer of soy, with over 2.6 million hectares of land given over to cultivating the crop, and the fourth largest exporter. Vast quantities are exported to neighbouring Argentina, from where much of the crop is shipped to China to supply the country’s growing demand for animal feed. 

The EU is the second largest importer of Paraguayan soy, with Germany, Italy and the Netherlands among the biggest customers.

Food supplies shrink

The arrival of export-orientated soy production in Paraguay has led to significant swathes of forest being destroyed to make way for crops, according to critics, threatening biodiversity and depleting resources vital for many rural communities.

In testimonies collected by investigators from villages adjacent to soy plantations – and featured in the film – local people complain that there is no longer an abundance of food and other produce:

‘We indigenous people used to live from the forests, [from] animals, fruits… now we cannot do that any more because we are surrounded by ranches,’ Jose Dolores Berraro, from the Yrbucua community, says. ‘It’s an invasion because instead of reforesting they come to deplete natural resources and these forests.’

Although new laws have been introduced to protect forested areas following the decimation of the world renowned and ecologically important ‘Atlantic Forest’ region, campaigners say the rate at which forests elsewhere in Paraguay are being devastated to make way for soy plantations is increasing, with some 500 hectares per day still being lost, according to some estimates.

Families have been displaced by the spread of soya farming. There are reports that those who refuse to sell their land to farmers have their land sprayed with herbicides

Chemical fix

Industrial scale soy production, particularly for genetically modified (GM) crops – some 90 per cent of Paraguay’s soy is now thought to be GM – is dependent on the frequent application of powerful pesticides and other agri-chemicals which have been linked to environmental degradation and a host of negative health impacts on people living near to soy farms.

Crop spraying has polluted important water sources in many rural regions, say campaigners, poisoning both domestic and wild animals, threatening plant life, and resulting in a number of health problems in people, including diarrhoea, vomiting, genetic malformations, headaches, loss of sight and even death.

The film contains harrowing testimony from Petrona Villaboa, who lives in Pirapey, whose son Silvano died after being sprayed with toxic chemicals on a soy plantation.

Statistics compiled by pressure groups suggest that as much as 23 million litres of pesticides and herbicides are sprayed in Paraguay each year, including several that have been classified by the World Health Organisation as being ‘extremely hazardous’.

 Armed response

 Paraguay has a long history of land conflict, and the arrival of large scale soy farming has been met with significant resistance from many rural communities. Peasant and indigenous organisations have repeatedly protested against the encroachment of their land – organising protests, blockades, land occupations and actions to prevent pesticide spraying.

 But the response from soy farmers, often backed up by police and paramilitary units acting on the orders of the authorities, has been brutal, according to peasant leaders, with violent evictions, frequent shootings and beatings – resulting in numerous injuries and several deaths – as well as arbitrary detentions and frequent disappearances.

Those who protest against soya plantations have met with a heavy-handed response, according to campaigners

In one of the worst incidents to date, during the forced eviction of the peasant community at Tekojaja, in Caaguaza, soy farmers – reportedly under the protection of police and soldiers – forcibly removed some 270 people from the village, including children, arrested 130, set fire to crops and bulldozed houses, before shooting dead two inhabitants, Angel Cristaldo and Leopoldo Torres.

In another incident reported by the peasant’s movement MCP, in Canindeyu, activist Esteban Hermosilla disappeared from his house and was discovered dead and half buried, on a nearby agricultural estate. His assassins reportedly cut off Hermosillas’ ear as proof he had been killed, before sending it to the man who it was later claimed had ordered the murder.

Such cases are far from unique – peasant organisations have compiled a detailed dossier of violent repression linked to the soy industry in Paraguay – and pressure groups are keen to highlight this seldom-reported human cost of intensive farming.

Since the beginning of the soy boom in Paraguay in 1990, it has been estimated that as many as 100,000 small-scale farmers have been forced to migrate to cities – with about 9000 rural families evicted because of soy production annually.

Upon arrival in urban areas, many familes are forced into slums and struggle to adapt. With few employment opportunities and little state assistance, many face a life of poverty.



To see an extended version of the film available in 15 languages, and to find out more, visit

I have violence and anger in my mind
Suffer in silence but now your gonna find
That we’re inciting the actions we commit
For animals the fuse is being lit

We won’t take no more, and this is fucking war
We’re on the attack, we dress in black

Animal Auschwitz , a modern holocaust
They live in fear but how long will it last
Call us extreme, it eases your shame
We’re not the ones creating all the pain

We won’t take no more, and this is fucking war
We’re on the attack, we dress in black

Animals are victims of the selfish human race
Do you feel no emotion when you see the bloody waste?
Have you ever felt there’s something that you feel that you could do?
Cuz animals don’t have a voice, it’s up to me and you
Cuz there’s too much suffering and it’s being overseen
Are you blind to the slaughter and deaf to the screams?
We couldn’t give a fuck if you call us terrorists
It’s an eye for an eye and we ain’t no pacifists

And smash the fucking labs

And smash the fucking labs

Resistances are easily crushed, co-opted, deflated, or comprised in favor of paltry reforms that leave the system in question wholly intact and for their initial promise, change nothing. The current occupation movement has proved more spirited and enduring that most could imagine, but it remains a galaxy away from a revolutionary movement and we must not walk away with crumbs or replace one dictator with another, as happened throughout the Arab uprisings.

We must build the anger, energies, masses, and critiques to nothing short of an anti-systemic movement against capitalism, and abolish this global gulag with decentralized radical democracies and wholly new institutions, values, and priorities. The point is nicely expressed here:


“It is no longer possible to reform capitalism.  Its current ruthlessness is unsurpassed in human history.  The countless millions who toil at its mercy along with those that toil despite its existence can no longer be saved by liberal politicians or reformers.  Nor can they be saved by green capitalists or those that operate on the Ben and Jerry’s model.  While the efforts of these corporations are commendable in their own limited way, the very fact that they subscribe to the capitalist mode ensures their inability to solve the ills that economic system creates.  While it is certainly true that some capitalists are crueler than others, the fact is that when times are tight and profits are squeezed the very nature of capitalism forces any corporation desiring to survive to exact some kind of heartlessness if they wish to survive.  This is why monopoly capitalism itself is the problem.  If the Occupy movement had only one demand that would address all of those demands attributed to it, it should be to abolish monopoly capitalism.

The organic (as in its free flow and non-hierarchical, not what it eats) nature of the Occupy movement is its strength and weakness.  Occupying is in itself a radical statement. Yet, as a veteran of numerous occupations/liberations I can honestly say that the fact of occupying can often become the raisin d’etre of a movement, thereby preventing further political action beyond that involved in maintaining the liberated space. Those of us with an anti-capitalist analysis would do well to involve ourselves in a manner that is neither forceful nor foolish.”

Despite the glowing reports I read even up to last night on various blogs about the “progress” we are making as “more and more people are becoming vegetarian and vegan,” here are the latest sobering US government statistics as reported by FARM:

“10,153 million (nearly 10.2 billion) land animals were raised and killed for food in the United States in 2010, according to data extrapolated from U.S. Department of Agriculture reports. This is a 1.7% rise from the 2009 totals, larger than the 0.9% increase in US population, meaning that animals killed per-capita increased slightly.”….

“Based on January-August 2011 USDA slaughter numbers, it is projected that the number of land animals killed in 2011 will increase an additional 1% from 2010 numbers, rising to approximately 10,266 million animals. Fortunately, due to increased feed prices and sinking domestic demand is speculating that there may be a 5% drop in animals raised for food in 2012! [see: (”

With pathos, I note  the desperate need for optimism in the FARM citation of this Bloomberg report, as suggested by the enthusiastic and joyous explanation point. But markets are fickle and prices could drop or government could provide more subsidies, and the estimate 5% drop is not an iron-clad prediction but a speculation. Moreover, no mention is made of China, India, and other parts of the world where meat consumption is rising, so in fact the animal holocaust is worsening dramatically. AND it must be emphasized that any current or future drop in some sectors of the US consumption market (again, it has risen over the last year) has little to do with the success of vegan education/outreach, but rather principally stems from other factors, such as China’s with growing demand for corn, wheat, and other crops, thereby raising prices globally, and with market dynamics generally.

“Globally,” the FARM report continues, “the number of land animals killed each year for food has exceeded 65 billion, according to conservative U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization figures. Aquatic estimates are unavailable.”

As far as I can discern, the number vegans use to prove they “save” thousands of animals a year remains a fantasy figure; I spent some time on the Vegan Outreach in every case I clicked on a hyperlink to a report, study, or data that I thought was going to lead me to some kind of evidence to support their claim, almost every link was broken! I find it hard to believe this is an accident, and my suggestion to the VO group, if in fact they have some supporting data, is to fix these links (of all links!) immediately, and support your claims with the best studies and science you can provide. I suspect no such data exists or, if it does, has been peer-reviewed, checked, and cross-checked.

I have been criticized for saying, in my recent Germany speech that vegans claim that they save an animal life for every pamphlet they hand out; this was hyperbole, I admit, but more accurately is was satire, and I stick to my argument that vegans have no idea how many lives their “boycott” of meat, dairy, and eggs save; that no liberation should make boycotting commodities a central tactic and strategy; that no matter what a minuscule population of vegans do is virtually meaningless; and that “ethical vegans” should drop the moral posturing and just admit, to revise the bon mot of Isaac B. Singer, that they are vegans not for the chicken’s health, but for their health, because nothing they are doing or can do (perhaps for decades to come, if ever) will make a difference in the life of a chicken or any farmed animal.

Other statistics kept, such as the US Census Bureau shows a steady rise in meat and dairy consumption from 2003-2010 (

The gross inadequacies of looking only at countries like the UK and US, where meat consumption is leveling off, compared to China and other developing nations, is clear in this 2009 Guardian report:

“Increased meat-eating has followed rising affluence in many parts of the world. China’s levels doubled between 1990 and 2002. Back in 1961, the Chinese consumed a mere 3.6kg per person, while in 2002 they reached 52.4kg each; half of the world’s pork is now consumed in China.

The US and the UK are among the few countries whose meat consumption levels have remained relatively stable. Surprisingly, it is not the US with the largest consumption (124.8), but Denmark with a shocking 145.9kg per person in 2002” (

Of other developing countries, a recent USDA Government says the following:

“India [now] displaces the United States as Third Largest Exporter. Beef exports are forecast to rise 5 percent in 2012 on robust global demand, particularly by Southeast Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. India accounts for nearly half of world growth in 2012 of increased supplies and price-competitive shipments to emerging markets. Expansion enables the rising exporter to nudge the United States to become the world’s third largest exporter. The United States maintains gains achieved since in 2003, the last year before the BSE detection in Washington State, to reach record level exports. Despite a weak dollar, additional U.S. growth is constrained by lower production. Russia is the world’s largest beef importer (

There are certain things I don’t believe in — like the Rainbow Bridge, the eternal afterlife, and a benevolent God — that I prefer to be wrong about, and this includes the overwhelming amount of statistics which support the fact that world meat production, the animal holocaust. and environmental destruction continue to rise or deteriorate dramatically, as vegans keep that smile pasted on their face. I’ve read the fuzzy math, seen the fantasy figures, looked for credible  data, listened to the arguments (not one of which transcends the US or even a limited sector of the US to address the global dynamics), and I remained decidedly unconvinced and continue to believe veganism is more of a wish fulfillment and religion than an ethics or science.

So the vegangelicals who insist “we” (who is “we”? One sector of the US? The entire US? The whole world??) are “making progress,” and are leading the world from a trail of tears and river of blood down the primrose path, please, tell me, what am I missing here?

It amazes me that vegetarian and animal rights conferences continue to hold the same panels and talks, year after year, whereas there ought to be a annual World Congress Meeting on how to tackle this problem and dramatically rethink vegan philosophy, education and outreach efforts, and tactics from the bottom up. Because clearly what we have been doing for decades has not been working and is surely a dead-end and recipe for total failure for the years and decades to come.

This is the most powerful dialectical critique of veganism yet articulated. Dr. Best shows that, although veganism is essential to the future of all life on the planet, this potential is not being realized. He identifies the systemic flaws and fallacies that weaken our movement and then proposes a radical social and political model of veganism based upon alliance politics. The video ends with a rousing call to civil disobedience, mass resistance, and revolutionary struggle….

Reviewed by Jessica Gröling

The first International Animal Rights Conference (IARC) took place in Luxembourg between May 19 and 22, 2011, bringing together around 180 activists, scholars and hybrids of the two for an exhilarating four days of presentations, workshops, discussions, campaign reports from around the world, stalls and art exhibitions, a film screening of Bold Native, plenty of delicious vegan food, and two special animal rights concerts. During his introductory speech, Heiko Weber, one of the conference organizers, divided the conference into eight themes: reformism vs abolitionism, vegan outreach vs direct action, animal liberation and human liberation, cultural aspects, ecological aspects, psychological aspects, philosophical aspects, and repression of animal rights activists.

The reform vs abolition debate was represented by a presentation by Catriona Blanke from Animals‟ Angels and a panel discussion with volunteers representing both sides of the debate. Blanke gave an introduction to her organization, which campaigns worldwide on the issue of live exports. The campaign consists of investigating and reporting on the suffering that animals endure, „being there‟ to help alleviate their immediate suffering, developing training programs for police to enable them to respond appropriately to issues that arise during the transportation of live animals, giving advice to decision-makers at various levels of government, and raising public awareness and support for the campaign to enable legislative action. The group‟s current campaign is petitioning to reduce live export times to a maximum of eight hours, as a first step in the campaign to end live exports altogether. Concerns were raised in the audience that this was a welfarist campaign that risked being co-opted or giving the impression that limiting transport times to eight hours was enough despite the vast suffering it would still entail. If anything, the Animals‟ Angels campaign may fall into the category of what Gary Francione has labeled „new welfarism‟, in other words conforming to the long-term goals of animal rights but using welfarist or reformist means in the hope of achieving those goals. This debate was continued in a panel discussion that afternoon, which seemed to conclude that there were no clear lines to be drawn between reformist and abolitionist strategies of achieving social change and that the two are not mutually exclusive.

The vegan outreach vs direct action theme included several contributions. A joint presentation by Felix Hnat, Jeff Mannes and Christian Vagedes, representing the Vegan Societies of Austria, Luxembourg and Germany, generated productive discussion of the role of vegan outreach campaigns in the fight for animal rights. Vagedes, who later gave a presentation about the abuse of chemicals in animal agriculture, spoke about his organization‟s decision to focus not on the animal rights struggle but to promote the positive nature of veganism by encouraging people to “bring love to their refrigerator”. A comment was made that veganism is often reduced to a form of diet or lifestyle, distracting from the issue of animal rights and making it easier for the vegan message to be co-opted and corrupted by capitalist interests. It was argued that the product-focused nature of many vegan societies played into a middle-class consumerist fantasy that is not an adequate response to the ever-worsening issue of animal exploitation. Nevertheless, panelists remained convinced that there was a role for non-confrontational, positive campaigning to attract people to veganism and animal rights who might be turned off by more aggressive tactics.

This point was reiterated by both Felix Hnat and Melanie Joy in their workshops on vegan campaigning. Melanie Joy, psychologist, activist, and author of several books on the psychology of meat-eating and strategic action for animals, outlined some of the key obstacles to effective advocacy. Firstly, the meat-eating mentality, which she has labeled carnism, is structured to defend against our message. Secondly, most activists lack formal training in communication and advocacy strategies to circumnavigate carnist defenses. Finally, our own psychological state can have a negative impact on effective advocacy, leading to reactive rather than responsive campaigning. She provided a list of useful tips on how to communicate effectively, how to create a safe environment so that people are more receptive to our message, how to empower the listener to take action, and how to recognize our own needs. The role of advocates is to be compassionate witnesses, to find common ground, build on existing compassion, and speak from personal experience to expose defenses such as dissociation, denial, and myth without explicitly naming them. Things to avoid are seeing carnists as the enemy rather than as victims of the carnistic mentality, overwhelming listeners with „the Truth‟, which can lead to paralysis, demanding that people change immediately and expecting facts to sell the ideology. Knowledge or content, she says, can only lay the groundwork, but feeling inspires action.

Chad Weidner, lecturer and researcher in ecocriticism at Roosevelt Academy, Utrecht University, gave a daring presentation on “animal rights activism and the problem of violence”. Weidner spoke about the ALF, Animal Rights Militia and Justice Department and their respective stances on violence, arguing that the use of violence has proven to be strategically counter-productive because it makes the entire movement a target for state repression and alienates moderates. His presentation attracted heavy criticism from members of the audience, many of whom questioned the evidence he had given for violent intent within the movement, leading next to a discussion about the definition of violence. Melanie Joy reiterated a difference between violence as an ethical issue and violence as a strategic issue, claiming that acts of violence, by virtue of their symbolic nature, are only strategically useful when there is already widespread support for a movement. British activist Brendan McNally also interrogated Weidner on his assessment of the use of violence in past human liberation struggles, arguing that inconsistent pacifism amounts to a speciesist double standard.

The pertinent question of how to define violence was also picked up in a presentation and Q&A session with Camille Hankins, a long-term activist and member of the North American Animal Liberation Press Office, who later also gave a very informative presentation about the use of direct action, and Steve Best, professor, author, and supporter of the ALF and direct action tactics. Best argued that pacifists within the movement exhibit Stockholm Syndrome, having adopted the definition of violence used by the corporate–state complex. At the same time, he argues that being pro-liberation is not the same as being pro-violence, in the same way that being pro-choice is not the same as being pro-abortion. The crucial thing for him is to define and assess violence within a context, rather than excluding it a priori from the list of tactical options. Both Hankins and Best provided evidence for the effectiveness of direct action, dispelling the myth that animal liberation is pointless because liberated animals are soon replaced. They agreed that social change comes about through persuasion and coercion and that coercive tactics are often the only option in the face of extreme violence from an oppressive force. Best challenged the idea that veganism is a form of activism, but argued that there is no outright opposition between vegan outreach and direct action. Rather, we ought to opt for a plurality of tactics and need to be driven by a lucid realization of the vast challenges the movement faces, not least of which is the challenge to do real vegan outreach, by which he means speaking to communities that are currently not being reached and avoiding the promotion of white middle-class lifestylism. Best concluded by saying:

The big picture is not this: it‟s not violence versus non-violence, it‟s not pacifism versus militant direct action, it‟s not welfare versus rights, it‟s not the above-ground versus the underground, it‟s not liberation versus vegan outreach. It‟s the whole structural global system of capitalism and do we reform it or do we revolutionize it? The question we must not lose sight of is how do we create a global revolution against capitalism? […] We live in a system that is nihilistic. […] The world will be vegan but it won‟t be because of us, but rather because of global social crisis and ecological breakdown.

The need for a holistic appreciation of the crises we face and the intersectionality of different forms of oppression and liberation was also raised in contributions under the animal liberation and human liberation heading. Historian and sociologist Renate Brucker traced the roots of the animal rights movement back to ancient times and gave an interesting insight into the more recent links between animal rights and the peace movement and women‟s movements, naming notable proponents of both animal and human rights.

One of the highlights of the conference was a successful videolinked presentation by Carol Adams, ecofeminist theorist and author, who gave a talk about the sexual politics of meat. Adams explained the concept of the absent referent and how it prevents us from seeing ourselves as having any kind of relationship with animals. She talked about how the Western phenomenon of equating manliness with eating meat exerts enormous pressure on men to prove their virility by conforming to the culinary status quo. Women on the other hand are frequently depicted as meat, at the same time as food animals are often depicted as though sexual gratification could be gained from eating them. Women and animals suffer from interlocking oppressions, where the exploitation and objectification of one frequently compounds the oppression of the other. Ecofeminism appreciates that one cannot understand or address the oppression of women without understanding how it relates to the exploitation of animals and the environment, and vice versa. By objectifying women‟s bodies in the service of animal rights, Adams argues that groups such as PETA reinforce oppressive attitudes towards women by appealing to the human male subjectivity: the Derridean notion of carnophallogocentrism. Many liberal feminists equally reinforce the human–animal binary by explicitly distancing themselves from nature and arguing for their similarities with men.

The argument that different groups are oppressed by being associated with other subjugated groups was also explored by Jessica Gröling, PhD student at the University of Exeter, in her presentation about the commonalities and tensions between anarchists and animal advocates. She made the case for the intersectionality of struggles for human, earth and animal liberation, and suggested that an anarchist critique of capitalism and the state is essential for an appreciation of the causes of most forms of animal exploitation. Dividing her analysis of classical and contemporary anarchist theory into ontological and epistemological forms of anarchism, Gröling examined how thinkers from Kropotkin to Bookchin and contemporary anarchist activists respond or would respond to the animal question, concluding that some anarchist theory is limited by its humanist tendencies and is often dismissed for not offering concrete solutions to the problem of animal exploitation. Gröling concluded by exploring the common anarchist criticism of contemporary veganism as a flawed lifestylist, consumerist attempt to create social change and suggested ways in which ethical veganism could be transformed into a form of prefigurative politics.

In two rousing talks about animal liberation and moral progress and the revolutionary implications of animal standpoint theory, Steve Best expanded on the critique of anarchist and Marxist humanism, outlining how the Left has not adapted to the implications of recent findings in cognitive ethology that show that animals can no longer be reduced to brute beasts, and arguing that the struggle for total liberation is a struggle against hierarchy and dominator cultures, not just capitalism and the state. His animal standpoint theory builds on the leftist tradition of writing history „from below‟. In the same way that feminist analyses reveal the logic of patriarchy, and postcolonial theory or critical race theory can illuminate colonialism and the pathology of racism, animal standpoint theory interprets history from the perspective of human–non-human interactions and shows how human exploitation of other animals has had extensive social and ecological consequences. Only by drawing on multiple perspectives are we able to understand history and the origins of our present predicament. The first hierarchy that we developed, Best reminds us, was human over non-human. Today, progress is still defined according to the extent to which we have imposed our control on other species and replaced nature with culture. Best concluded that rather than discarding the concept of progress altogether, as postmodernists might suggest, we ought to reconstruct it along different lines. This concept of progress could not be based on a zero-sum game, as it currently is, and ought to consist of a broadening of the moral community and the universalization of rights.

The three presentations that formed the cultural aspects theme all focused on animal rights in the African context. Kai Horsthemke, associate professor of philosophy at the University of the Witwatersrand, spoke about the conflict between animal rights and cultural tradition. The pervasive view that African peoples see nature differently and speak to or about nature differently seems to suggest that there is no anthropocentrism within traditional African cultures. Horsthemke however argues that the traditional belief that animals embody the souls of ancestors and that humans have to protect animals in order to safeguard their own surroundings and not degrade their environment contains anthropocentric undertones. Indeed, in quasi-Kantian fashion, the concepts of ubuntu (“I am because we are”) and ukama suggest that we have only indirect duties to animals in the sense that we must protect them only to ultimately protect ourselves. Furthermore, the holistic idea that humans must aim for peaceful coexistence with animals, plants, and minerals amounts to a quasi-Christian dominionist view of human nature and doesn‟t provide concrete suggestions for how we might peacefully coexist. Horsthemke questioned whether the bastion of tradition excuses practices such as the Zulu Ukweshwama bull-killing ritual, which as Sarah Rutherford Smith explained in her presentation, was brought before the courts but rejected on grounds of “freedom of worship and religion”. Rutherford Smith, lecturer in legal philosophy at the University of South Africa and South African representative of the International Fund for Africa, wondered whether perhaps promoting veganism as a form of culture rather than a form of protest would prove to be an advantage in such cases.

Anteneh Roba, president and co-founder of the International Fund for Africa, concluded this section by giving a talk about factory farming, which coupled with the growing trend in land-leasing, whereby wealthy nations lease land abroad to grow food solely for their own citizens, is causing increased volatility in the food supply. The problem of hunger in Africa is often misunderstood to be technological in nature, when the real causes are dysfunctional trade agreements, international commodity speculation, inadequate food distribution systems, and gross inequality. Factory farming contributes to already existing problems by causing land degradation, food sovereignty issues, loss of biodiversity, and threats to small farms. Dr. Roba argued that food which could feed humans should not be diverted to feeding livestock. He has been campaigning for the adoption of plant-based diets across Africa and has worked with vegetarian and vegan organizations in Ghana, Togo, and Ethiopia.

Lisa Kemmerer, associate professor in philosophy and religion at Montana State University Billings, provided the only contribution under the ecological aspects heading. Her talk focused on the significant harmful effects that consuming animal products has on every element of our environment, drawing particular attention to the contribution the livestock industry has made to our most significant environmental problems.

In a series of riveting presentations, Melanie Joy and Stijn Bruers provided an insight into the psychology of meat-eating. Joy challenged the audience to question why it is that appealing to logic and reasonable argument concerning the inconsistency of eating some animals and keeping others as pets rarely changes a meat-eater‟s perception of his or her behavior. She suggested that the cognitive moral disconnect is only the result of a deeper problem rooted in an invisible belief system, which she calls carnism. Carnism is an institutionalized oppressive ideology that enables speciesism and creates a wall of defenses, such as the three Ns of justification (natural, normal, necessary) to maintain perception. By viewing the problem we face as the result of a deeply entrenched belief system rather than as a matter of personal ethics, and by naming that belief system and bringing it into the open, Melanie Joy has suggested a way to overcome one of the obstacles to effective advocacy and begin to break down carnistic defenses. Joy‟s final conference contribution was a well-attended group discussion about how we relate to meat-eaters in our lives. This discussion provided a space to air frustrations and share personal experiences, while also reinforcing Joy‟s earlier points about the predictable nature of carnistic defenses.

Finally, activist and writer Stijn Bruers presented a series of recent scientific findings in support of the claim that a large group of meat-eaters feel uncomfortable about their meat consumption but suppress and deny their feelings of guilt and continue to consume meat due to social pressure or lack of knowledge. He also briefly touched upon research that suggests that a large group of people eat meat for reasons related to social status rather than taste.

Bruers‟ other contribution was a presentation about the philosophy of animal rights, in which he presented what he believes to be the most consistent approach to animal ethics. Beginning with common moral intuitions about the (im)permissibility of sacrificing one person to save the lives of a few people, he generated three moral principles. These principles of equality represent elements of deontological, consequentialist, and feminist care ethics, and include basic rights, tolerated choice equality, and prioritarian justice, none of which, he claims, are in contradiction with emotional inequality. Next, he contended that the characteristics we use to exclude non-human animals from our moral community are not morally relevant, nor are there any absolute distinctions between all humans and all non-human animals. The principle of consistency therefore demands that one of our original principles be modified. Bruers argued that we have the choice between permitting discrimination, throwing out the basic rights of humans, or forbidding the consumption of non-human animals, the former two of which he believed to be based on stronger moral intuitions. His presentation raised many interesting questions from the audience, some of whom challenged his original assumptions about common moral intuitions. Bruers now intends to investigate whether this discrepancy between average responses to moral dilemmas and responses from those present during his talk suggests an above-average proportion of deontologists within the animal rights movement, or may even be the result of differences in the brains of vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters.

Emil Franzinelli, student of philosophy at Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt and editor of the German animal rights magazine Tierbefreiung gave two provocative and slightly satirical presentations exploring rational anthropocentric reasons for being vegan and supporting animal rights, arguing that even those who hate animals ought to go vegan, if for no other reason that enlightened self-interest. He argued for an animal ethics that respects individuality and doesn‟t rely on moral intuition, common sense, religious myths, and traditions, or naturalism, although he acknowledged that an ethics not based on metaphysical assumptions and moral principles risks remaining anthropocentric, unless in quasi-Kantian fashion it can be demonstrated that the abuse and exploitation of animals may lead to violence against other humans.

The final theme, repression, was repeatedly touched upon throughout the conference. However, Felix Hnat also provided an update of the Austrian trial, and Camille Hankins and Brendan McNally gave a brief history of the repression of animal rights activists in the UK and the USA, drawing on the experience of hunt saboteurs and SHAC activists as they were faced with new laws concerning aggravated trespass and conspiracy. Hankins also gave a talk about the history of the SHAC campaign, its successes, and the trial of the SHAC 7 and emphasized the importance of prisoner support. Finally, Kai Horsthemke gave a presentation with the title “Animal liberation: terrorism or civil disobedience?”, which brought together many of the discussions that had been started about the ethical and strategic use of violent and illegal means to bring about social change.

On top of the busy presentation schedule, conference participants enjoyed two evenings of delicious vegan food at Café ROCAS followed by performances by Gina Simmons & The Nobodies, SoKo and Tes. During the conference a solidarity arts raffle also raised over €1000 in support of Chris Moser, one of the victims of the Austrian trial against thirteen activists. The conference was an overwhelming success and received excellent feedback, due in no small part to the efforts and dedication of the organizers at Save Animals Asbl and the groups that sponsored the event.

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