Though they feel so clear and obvious, it is not always easy to explain your most basic perceptions and core ideas. Yet this is the goal of this manifesto, this website, and the End All Suffering movement as a whole, an explanation why the only deep-rooted, radical, comprehensive and true solution to the world’s suffering is to destroy it.
This is our call not because we believe that it is the best one, but since we think ending this world is the only way to stop the suffering. Other options are not relevant, not practically and not even theoretically, as we broadly explain in this text.
Who We Are and Who We Are Not
We are former animal liberation activists who dedicated every minute of their lives to the nonhuman liberation movement, until we realized that we were giving all we’ve got in the wrong place and in the wrong way.
Probably like many of you, we also blamed ourselves for the failure of the struggle. And it was our fault, but not because we have failed to figure out how to change humanity, but because we have failed to realize that this is not what we should focus our efforts on. Our failure was that we dedicated ourselves to the ridiculous attempt to change all the humans in the world, as if it is possible, and as if it can achieve our goal of a suffering-free world. The thought that it is not the solution, that it is not nearly enough, was always there. But it took some time for the inevitable conclusion to be internalized.
After years of demonstrations, rallies, parades, vegan food stands, information stands, lectures, seminars, direct actions, graffiting, hanging posters, handing out flyers, liberations from factory farms and from laboratories, lobbyism, articles writing, investigations, blockings, and every other way we thought could help convince humans to stop taking part in animal exploitation, today we suggest a deep-rooted, radical, comprehensive and real solution to the world suffering. Not because we are fed up with humans, not because we are tired and weary, but because it is the only way to stop the suffering.
It is so easy to hate or to despair when you encounter another horror happening somewhere in the world. It is so intuitive to seek revenge, when you realize what kind of a world you are living in. But we are not promoting the End All Suffering idea out of hate, rage or despair.
We realize that our website may come out as a human hate parade, but it is not. We don’t hate humans, we hate suffering. Humans are the ones who are responsible for most of the suffering in the world so they have a significant representation in our materials. But they are not presented as suffering causers only. Humans’ suffering is not absent, it is represented in several articles (More Than Ever Before In History, Poor Priorities, Compassion Spin, Pepsi or Coca Cola?, One Child Is More Than Enough, The "Wrong" Gender, To Their Own Flesh And Blood and Mutilate to Dominate), as well as several Visual Arguments such as World Peace, Not A Human Hate Parade, All Babies and Thay Will. So, human hatred is definitely not our motivation. We are not promoting the annihilation idea out of hate. We don’t want anything bad to happen to anyone. On the contrary, we want that all bad things never happen to anyone, anymore.
Not vengeance or despair but inspiration is what we hope you would feel when you think about the idea. Not hate or desire for retaliation but moral afflatus.
We don’t want activists to be convinced as a last resort. Our main argument is a positive one - we want the image of a world with no cages, no slaughterhouses, no laboratories, no beating and no rape, to be your motivation.
Just to make things clear, we are not advocating for a utopian world. History is full of utopian ideas that ended up making the world even worse. On the contrary, in a way, our movement is a disillusionment from utopian ideas. It is because we realize that a good world is not even theoretically possible, that we suggest destroying it.
We know that we are far from being unique or exceptional with the annihilation thought. We are aware that it is a rather banal and self-evident idea that many activists think of at some point in their lives. But we feel that mostly it pops up in times of despair and disbelief while it should be the primal concept at all times regardless of the state of affairs within the animal rights movement or with your own activism. Such a fundamental and basic philosophy shouldn’t be built on a temporary situation or episodic mood. That is why we wrapped the idea with arguments that seek to construct a serious and comprehensive case for the annihilation idea. Our aim is that what is many activists’ hypothetical desire, turn into a goal and then into action.
Many activists wish for this world to be destroyed. Many activists say they would “press the button” when asked the hypothetical question. But unfortunately very few are willing to dedicate their lives to create such a button. Very few are willing to stop focusing on their tiny spot of influence (like looking for ways to make a few more vegans), and start looking for ways to stop all of the oppressors from causing all of the suffering.
Our goal in establishing the E.A.S movement is to turn this hypothetical abstract wish into an actual ideology and goal. Our vision is to form a conceptual, philosophical and substantial practical activist agenda which doesn’t passively long for a “doomsday” event, but actively looks for ways to bring it about.
Please don’t automatically dismiss the idea as an out of reach fantasy and get back to your familiar position in your organization. You are an activist because in some point of your life you realized how much suffering exists in this world, and you have decided that you must stop it. The End All Suffering initiative is not romantic naiveness of inexperienced activists or grown fantasists. It is a rational and realistic quest for a sufferingless world.
We realize that the fact that the problem is so immensely huge that it’s almost impossible to really grasp, leads many activists to passively think big but actively work small. We want to change that so activists would think huge and act huge. Think globally and act globally.
We know how big, complicated and ambitious this aspiration is, and that the chances are small. But we also know that if no one tries, it will never happen. That’s why we are turning to other activists, trying to convince them to join the suffering abolition movement.
Even if you have doubts at least read the whole manifesto. You may get new perspectives and new ideas, new arguments and new questions to confront with. The worst thing that can happen is a “waste” of a couple of hours, the best thing is that you will decide that from now on you devote your life to end all the suffering in the world.
Advocacy is Not the Solution
The animal rights arguments are so simple and right. They are based on solid facts and clear evidences. Nobody can confront them rationally. So why is it so hard to convince humans to go vegan?
The reason is that reason is not enough. Good arguments are not relevant. Rationality has proved itself as an insufficient element in changing people’s habits. Rationality can’t beat motivation.
Collectively, we’ve had thousands of conversations, we’ve exposed the facts to thousands of people but only a very tiny fraction changed their habits in the end. Exposing the facts doesn’t convince most humans.
Humans prove again and again that their taste preference, convenience, habits, expenditures, profits, entertainment and etc., are much more important to them than not hurting someone else. Most of them are not even willing to hear the facts and listen to the arguments, not to mention stop financing animal abuse.
As you all know very well, it is not that they have to do something difficult or unusual, only to replace some of the ingredients in their food with some others.
You know all the facts and arguments, there are so many good reasons to go vegan, including egocentric ones, but humans insist on systematically torturing nonhuman animals, overlook about a billion hungry people, harm their own health and leave their children a highly polluted planet.
We find meat eating as the most classical characteristic of human nature - apathetic, impulsive, careless, selfish, dogmatic, narrow minded and without the slightest thought about present and future others.
The fact that the arguments are so strong and so well-based but still fail again and again, is the exact thing that should wake you all. Activists shouldn’t get strengthened by their strong and factual arguments but the other way around. When arguments that are so strong and so obvious don’t work, there is something wrong with the addressees. It can’t be that the problem is always with the way we deliver our message. Years of campaigns, hundreds of organizations with dozens of methods, it’s time to ask, how did all of it accomplish so little?
It’s very difficult to make someone acknowledge that the movement s/he is part of, all the effort that was put in, the life work of so many, is failing. It’s painful to admit that activists rely on small achievements missing the bigger picture and fail to recognize the mechanism.
Many honestly believe the state of animals has improved since the movement was formed. It is frightening to think how much animal suffering increased since Animal Liberation was first published. The global pigs flesh “production” increased 3 times, egg “production” 4 times and chickens flesh “production” by more than 5 times.
Since 1975 new exploitation practices have been formed, joining the ones that already existed and constantly expand. Many countries have added exploitations of species who were subjected to commercial exploitation in other countries, and further intensify their exploitation all the time. The prices got cheaper and cheaper and a greater variety of available products was introduced to the market.
Animal consumption is growing rapidly and persistently. The world’s total meat supply was 71 million tons in 1961. 50 years later in 2011, it was 294.7 million tons and it is expected to reach about 400 million tons by 2030 and 455 million tons by 2050. And maybe the scariest thing about these terrifying estimations is that they don’t include fishes, an industry that is very often ignored and would more than double the consumption figures.
In the lower-income countries, the meat consumption rose twice as fast, doubling in the last 20 years. The per capita demand in Asia has almost quadrupled since 1975 (with China’s meat per capita consumption quintupling). The “Middle Income” countries have tripled their per capita meat (including fishes of course) consumption since 1975 and it's now standing on about 50kg per year on average, and the consumption of eggs, and dairy products has also increased dramatically. These countries also hold the highest population growth rate.
People in lower-income countries currently consume on average one-third the meat and one-quarter of the milk products per capita compared to the richer countries, but this is changing rapidly. More people everywhere are eating more animal products as soon as their incomes rise above poverty level. The animal rights movement can’t deal with the current enormous numbers of exploited animals around the world, and it will only get worse. In the future many more animals will suffer much more.
The total animal products consumption has quintupled since Animal Liberation was written. It’s human population, urbanization, increase in the Gross Domestic Product, global trade agreements, corporations’ interests, the price of commodities and diseases like Avian Influenza and Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) that determine the number of exploited animals, not ethics. No point in dreaming of a vegan world when the global course is on the exact opposite.
The world is changing first and foremost because of economic reasons and political interests, not because of moral ideals. Exploitive industries such as Fur, Bears’ Bile and Foie Gras, Cockfights, and Dogfights all still exist and are very popular in spite of the campaigns that the animal rights organizations run against them for decades, and even though most of the public is against them. And if this is not enough for little and publicly unaccepted industries such as these, when will the chicken flesh industry, which is about 60 billion suffering animals per year industry, ever stop? When will the last fish be suffocated in the extremely dense fish farms or be violently pulled out of the water? Especially when currently even among the animal liberation movement, fishes aren’t often portrayed as individual victims of human consumption, and you can often hear from activists about the ocean “depletion” problem.
Every year, tens of millions more sentient beings are born into a life of suffering. Every day is worse than the one before. Our website is full of facts and figures about suffering in the world, but the worst ones are - the mentioned acute per capita increase, and that every second 5 more human babies are born. This world is so horrible that one of the greatest suffering factors is the human birth rate.
It’s time to open your eyes and admit that human society is irrevocably speciesist. So far there is every reason to believe that even within the human race, selfishness and discrimination will never be overcome. Anthropologists have never discovered a human society free of violence even towards fellow humans only, and social psychology findings indicate that elements such as group patriotism, selfishness, obedience, conformism, tendency to discriminate, as well as biases, irrational and irrelevant factors when it comes to moral thinking, are all innate to a great extent.
Even when the animal rights movement gives up on the idea of developing care towards nonhuman animals, and turns to anthropocentric and egoistic advocacy such as trying to appeal to humans’ selfish concerns like care for their children’s future, by using “the environmental argument” or care for their own kind using “the hunger argument” or caring for themselves - the hopelessness summit, using “the health argument”, or when they consider humans’ self-centered character and their ethical frailty promoting initiatives such as Meatless Mondays or Veganurary, corporate outreach, and further development of various flesh “alternatives” (all indications of how activists gave up on humans’ care for animals), it doesn’t really change humans as they are too egoistic and self-centered, even for the most anthropocentric and self-involved arguments. Even when the animal rights movement reaches the lowest point it is not enough.
Claims about the likelihood of a vegan world seem ridiculous considering that while we are asking ourselves, when will "artificial insemination" be considered as rape and slaughter as murder, humans still see rodeos, bullfighting, horse racing and circuses as sport and entertainment, zoos as education, a fox as a coat, a donkey as transportation, goldfish as decoration, and a pig as Bacon.
Veganism is a social idea and as such it is impossible to unequivocally determine that the whole world can never be converted. Technically every human on earth can be vegan. But the question is will every human on earth be vegan? And the answer is unfortunately no. The required changes on the moral, social, political, judicial, cultural, ecological, agricultural, economic, religious and even geographic level are so vast that it is extremely unlikely that the world would ever be vegan.
The closest documented case that a society ever came to being vegan is Denmark during the First World War due to a blockade. Considering that a vegan diet is much more efficient, the residents ate seeds and plants that they usually fed animals with.
During this period, the Danish death rate dropped by 34%, and was far lower than the death rate of any similar period during the former two decades. Furthermore, a flu plague that broke in the Scandinavian area skipped Denmark.
Still, the moment the blockade was lifted, the Danes returned to their “normal” non-vegan diet.
The Danes have refused to stay vegans even after they realized it was a much better diet for them and for their children. As soon as they didn’t have to maintain a vegan diet, they stopped.
This test case has failed and it wasn’t even a test case, the vegan diet was forced on the Danes and even though the result was great (health-wise speaking) no country ever tried it since.
Ironically some activists use the Denmark example as a proof that a vegan world is possible. But there is no question whether humans can maintain a healthy, cheap, fulfilling vegan diet. The question is not if they can, but will they.
In spite of the harsh conclusions you should infer from the fact that even the most selfish arguments are not working, we believe that the strongest indication of how hopeless the chances are to create a moral change in society based on humans' compassion, is the way humans treat members of their own species. Please take the time and read our articles and posts about how humans systematically exploit the poorest of their own kind, how they treat half of their own species and their own posterity. Of course it shouldn’t matter to which species someone belongs, but it does matter to them, and still, this is how they treat each other.
Many activists are saying that after the working class liberation, black liberation, women liberation and gay liberation this is the animals’ time. Discrimination on the basis of species is the last form of discrimination to be fought against.
Thinking that this is animals’ time since other forms of discrimination were already successfully addressed is a mistake from at least three different aspects. The first is a factual one - all of the so called revolutions are still far from occurring. The second is conceptual - the belief that eventually the truth has got to win, requires falsely observing history as a purposeful force moving in a linear way from bad to good, from chaotic to ordered, from irrational to rational. And the third one is analogical - even if human social struggles were successful, we can’t infer from them about nonhumans’ struggle, because they are fundamentally different.
- Factually Wrong
No social struggle has ever really ended.
The working class struggle for example is definitely not over. In fact in global and absolute numbers, many more humans are working much harder nowadays, than in any other time in history. The lives of hunter-gatherers are often being falsely romanticized by animal rights activists but at least in that perspective, the average hunter-gatherer’s life were most likely far better than the average modern worker’s in a factory. Even the working conditions of farmers after the Neolithic revolution were better than workers in modern factories. Surely they were more prone to hunger in cases of droughts or floods, but they worked less hours, they were much more fitted to the lives they conducted, they were less bored and much less alienated from their work as they directly consumed the products they made, as opposed to production line workers who are usually making one part of a whole product, doing the exact same repetitive action, hour after hour, day after day, for most of their lives.
Nowadays, instead of that most humans are farmers who are working very hard while others get richer on their expense, most humans are factory workers who work even harder while others are getting even richer.
Most of humanity is working extremely hard just to survive, with no reason to expect that their lives would ever change for the better.
Even after the major Neolithic and Industrial revolutions and after relatively smaller ones such as the French Revolution, the Communist Revolution and the modern struggle for workers’ rights - no matter the political and social order - the most important stipulation for a chance for a good life is to whom one was born. In many societies there is some room for social mobility but still the most important factor is which social group one was born to. Humans don’t have equal opportunities to develop their abilities. Other factors such as education (which is of course also mostly a factor of the social status) and natural talent are not negligible but are still extremely inferior to wealth and social status. Both can usually compensate for the lack of any other factor, and as for the ones who happen to be born into poor and low-class family, the existence of other factors, in the vast majority of cases, is almost meaningless.
The class war is here to stay. Every society in history had some sort of social stratification within it. The differences are only in the various invented categories which humans are divided by, such as ethnical origin, race, religion, language or class.
There was never a truly egalitarian society in history and this struggle is only getting worse. Nowadays the world’s classes are spread very unevenly across the globe. This way the higher classes, don’t have to face the lives the lower classes (half way around the world) have to maintain, mostly so the higher classes can maintain theirs.
In addition, currently the neo-liberal capitalistic viewpoint is not even under a serious political threat. Many treat it as the natural state of humans. It’s true that every ideology always claims that it exemplifies the natural way of life to base its ideas, but so far there were always serious opposite alternatives. We are not arguing that capitalism is here to stay (though it does seem to be very strongly based), we are arguing that classism is here to stay as no matter what is the political order, it is always there.
Another form of discrimination which is cross-cultural, era, and social order, is discrimination of women. No matter where on the globe and when in history, women are always discriminated against.
It is not just the obvious women rights violations such as imposed dress codes, the appalling female genital mutilation inflicted on millions of young girls, the denial of the right to vote, to maintain assets and to marry whom they desire, or being formally and officially men's properties, the discrimination and exploitation is everywhere. For every "unenlightened" society in which certain professions are formally prohibited to women, there are many societies that culturally and subliminally prohibit certain professions, as well as social and political positions, from women.
Western societies count women’s liberation struggle as a success, but even they are still far from being gender equal. For example, the wage gaps for the same profession are still huge. There is not even one parliament in the world with a women majority in the Upper House or Senate and there are only two parliaments where there is a women majority in the Lower House. Less than a quarter of all national parliamentarians are women. Only 17% of the world's total cabinet ministers are women.
Globally, there are 38 States in which women account for less than 10% of parliamentarians in single or lower houses, including 4 with no women at all.
Only 10 women are serving as Head of State and 9 are serving as Head of Government. Some countries still do not have women suffrage.
It is really an endless dry statistics list, but we feel very uncomfortable with these examples since they are very institutionalized and even capitalistic, and also because the problems are much more basic. As it is not just the obvious and the formal discrimination that supposedly happens only in “unenlightened” societies (and as we argue happens in great extent on the so called “enlightened” societies), it is the fact that every woman in every culture feels like a sex object during her lifetime no matter where she lives.
Women are still being treated as maids inside their houses, and when they are outside they are treated as ornaments in the least worse cases and as sex objects in the worse ones.
The estimations are that one out of four women is forced to have sex against her free and full will at least once in her lifetime, one in three is sexually attacked, and each and every one is sexually harassed.
The physical predominance of men puts women in a continuous worry. Women don’t feel safe. They don’t feel safe being alone in the streets, in some cases even in their own neighborhood. What can be more basic than that?
In many places in the world, rape within marriage doesn't even count. When a woman is married "no" to sex is not an option. A woman is supposed to give in to her husband. She is his property, his belongings.
According to the World Health Organization 20% to 80% (depending on the country) of women are regularly beaten at home.
In the United States a woman is physically abused by her intimate partner every 3 seconds. In India, more than 8,000 women are murdered each year because their in-laws consider their dowries inadequate.
Women's vulnerability is not only derived from the threat of direct violence.
Women have been the historic victims of political and economic exclusions and have suffered the ravages of patriarchy, sexism and discriminatory practices that have kept them outside of social, political and economic power structures.
Women are still the poorest of the world's poor, representing 70% of the 1.2 billion people who live in absolute poverty (incomes of less than $1 a day).
Women work two-thirds of the world's working hours, produce half of the world's food, and yet earn only 10% of the world's income and own less than 1% of the world's property. The association between gender inequality and poverty can’t be more obvious.
How long would women have to wait until they won't be murdered for expressing their opinions? For looking at “the wrong direction”? When will men understand that women belong only to themselves? When will forced marriages stop? When will women stop having sex with men they don’t desire? When will the beating, the humiliations and the discriminations end? When will be the last rape?
We are in the third millennium and half of the human population is systematically and automatically discriminated against. What hope then, do nonhumans have?
Another thing that is here to stay is Racism. Currently it is even “thriving” with the revival of extreme right wing political groups, including some white supremacy advocators, in Europe and the U.S., but that is too anecdotal in historical terms to serve as a serious basis for the claim that racism is here to stay. The reason we think so is that the human brain is structured to classify, categorize and generalize information, ideas, objects and also humans.
Humans are not built to categorize others by race (as of course, race doesn’t even exist in biological terms), but they are wired for tribalism - the natural ‘us and them’ mechanism, in other words humans have a cerebral apparatus for discrimination. So despite that race is an invented category made up by humans who used it and are still using it to serve their own interests, the mechanism for discrimination wasn’t invented along with racism, but was there all along.
Some argue that the fact there is not even such a biological category as race proves how weak racism is and that it can be eradicated, but the fact that such a fictional concept became so evident that most humans are sure it really exists shows how powerful it actually is.
Racism is a product of humans’ brain features and psychological tendencies. And evidently humans have been discriminating each other all along history on the basis of what others look like, what they wear, what they eat, where they are from, what they believe in and etc. It is always us and them.
Racial discrimination can definitely be reduced by knowledge and education and so it did along history. But there is a reason why it is such a strong phenomenon in every culture, at any era and to such great extent. It takes a lot of work to fight against such elemental biases, as favoring the ones who are similar to me and thinking less of the ones who are not. Some are ready to do it and fight hard against this unfortunate trait, while others are taking advantage of it by using it to gain political power or to accuse others for their problems or for every social problem. However it is so abundant and so fundamental because humans are built to protect their own group and to see others as enemies or threat.
The combination of innate brain traits - tribalism, classification, prejudices and other biases, the self-assurance that our group is the best and all the others are at least not as good if not the worst, along with the strong sense of social order and benefits that come with discrimination of others, is too powerful to be eradicated. It certainly doesn’t mean we are bound to accept racism and stop fighting it, but that we are bound to always fight it. It is an endless struggle. Social discrimination will always be part of the human society, just as classism and male chauvinism.
No struggle is, or will ever be, over.
- Conceptually Wrong
The belief that “this is animals’ time”, probably unconsciously, relies on an inherently religious telos, whose secular form is manifested in the enlightenment narrative and the notion of progress, in which ‘the good’ or ‘the truth’ inevitably triumphs in the end, and rationality will inevitably triumph over irrationality if given enough time. All along history activists believed that if they persist they would win in the end, the truth would inevitability be realized and therefore embraced by everyone.
The problem with this telos is that it is theoretically unprovable and practically entirely baseless. There is no guaranty that “the good” will overcome. There is nothing to support this notion other than the desperate need to believe in it.
There is no reason to believe the “good” will win. It makes much more sense that what has happened so far will keep happening in the future, and that is that the interests of the powerful of each era win. The truth about what goes on inside factory farms was revealed long ago, and yet…
Arguing that progress has occurred throughout history (despite our severe factual disagreement), is theoretically a valid argument, as opposed to arguing that history has a quality of being principally progressive and linear. But even if we agreed that factually, progress has occurred throughout history, it would be contingent, not imperative. There is no reason to believe history is progressive by definition, no reason to assume that it is the natural and necessary order of things in the world.
This approach is dangerous since it tricks many activists to believe that the world got better, keeps getting better and will get even better, while the exact opposite is true.
Even regarding humans only, the historical progress narrative is misleadingly simplistic.
Oppression systems aren’t dissolved, they shape-shift and fit themselves to the current economic and social climate, and not uncommonly turn for the worse. Brief examples are the backlash of the 70’s and 80’s, new-conservatism, neoliberalism, the rise of mass consumerism, the green revolution (in agriculture), porn culture, the continuing gaps between “races” and classes, followed by inventive new forms of oppression such as mass incarceration, the war on drugs, privatization, and the surveillance state. Many of these trends are interlinked with technological advances, widening and deepening existing oppressions.
And an historical example is the earlier mentioned Neolithic revolution which allegedly benefited humans, but actually only benefited humanity as a species. As for humans as individuals it made things worse.
The Neolithic revolution was on the face of it a very reasonable step. Humans thought that if they work harder they will ensure that they will never starve and that eventually they will have more free time. But the exact opposite thing happened. They have become bounded and depended on the system they have created which made them work harder, be less satisfied, with less free time and worse health.
The human population was able to grow and the species was able to spread and conquer the whole planet, so the human species got even stronger as result of the Neolithic revolution, but individual humans got weaker. The Neolithic revolution enabled the human species to maintain more individuals who lived in much worse conditions. And of course trillions of nonhumans became the poorest sentients ever in history.
The lives of some humans in some places in the world were improved, are improving and will probably keep improving in the future, but that is while the lives of billions of sentient beings got worse, is getting worse and would most probably get even worse.
Observing history yet thinking in terms of progress is severely ignorant or extremely speciesist, since for the animals, things have only gotten worse. There is more suffering today than ever before in history, so if anything, the world is in a linear decline.
Since the most horrific turn for the worst, both in terms of the extent of the exploitation, and the depth of the invasion into the bodies and minds of the victims, was done to nonhumans - asking the victims to “hold on”, assuming the goodness is bound to overcome, is speciesist and immoral.
It is very hard to imagine animal liberation in a world still deeply militaristic, racist, mysogenic and full of human exploitation. It is even hard to imagine a war free, non-racist, non-male chauvinist and slavery free world. Factually our world is not only none of the above, but extremely far from it.
It is extremely unlikely as long as humans’ lives are so disposable in so many parts of the world, that nonhumans’ lives would be considered so nondisposable, that no human would ever exploit nonhuman.
Most humans haven’t even made much more socially acceptable ethical decisions than going vegan. It is impossible to educate most humans not to use one another, not to objectify each other, not to turn to violence in conflicts and crisis so easily, not to discriminate each other on the basis of race, gender, ethnical orientation, class, weight, height, looks and etc.
The homo consumericus knowingly and systematically oppresses members of its own species for the most trivial material goods. The dynamic of psychologically repressing and soothing any uncomfortable thoughts about the numerous faceless human victims half way around the world that pay a huge price so that consumers wouldn’t have to make the slightest compromise on their lifestyle is very much characteristic of the human race. The ease in which humans conduct horrendous acts towards one another is proven again and again by both social-science (particularly psychology studies) and world affairs, current and historical ones. And ironically, slavery, activists’ most popular example of how animal liberation is possible, is one of the strongest examples proving the opposite.
- Comparatively Wrong
Many activists compare animals’ institutionalized exploitation with slavery. They use it as a rhetorical tool, trying to convince the public that just as discrimination based on skin color is arbitrary and wrong so is discrimination based on species, and they use it as an inspiration source arguing that just as enslavement based on skin color discrimination was ended, exploitation based on species discrimination can also end.
We find this inspiration utterly false for several reasons, which we broadly detailed in a series of posts about slavery. Here are the arguments in short.
First, we argued that neither the 13th Amendment nor the American Civil War were a product of a moral struggle.
The Civil War broke for many reasons, none of which had to do with any sort of moral cause as the abolition of slavery. Wars don’t break for moral reasons. And they definitely don’t break between two sides over the rights of a third one. Wars generally break for money or power, and usually both. And so did the American civil war. The historical review of the political, economic and moral climate before and during the American civil war, in an attempt to present the real reasons behind it, is crucial for the slavery discussion, since many cling on to these kinds of myths, building around them their activistic philosophy, and since generally, it sheds light on human society and how things work in this world, and why.
Second, we argued that not only that the American civil war didn’t break to end slavery, it didn’t even really end it at all. Humans being humans, used an exception mentioned in the 13th Amendment which is ‘involuntary servitude as a punishment for a crime’, as a loophole to keep slavery active and thriving by systematically criminalizing African Americans (we don’t mean the discriminative Jim Crow laws but the Black Codes, which was set as a legal basis for Neo-Slavery). In fact it took another century for slavery to really formally end in the United States alone.
And most importantly, regardless of the true reasons and causes for ending slavery, it never really ended. Not in the U.S and definitely not all over the world. In fact there are more slaves today than ever before in history and that’s what makes slavery ending as a successful test case for animal exploitation ending so absurd. If the comparison of industrial exploitation of animals and slavery is at all relevant, it is as a test case that proves the opposite. Since slavery never really ended, what activists should draw from the fight against slavery isn’t inspiration, but disillusion. It is a wakeup call to look for other ways to end animal suffering.
Slavery is now illegal in every nation on earth, yet it can be found in every corner of the globe. Even under the narrowest definition of slavery it's likely that there are far more slaves now than there were victims of the Atlantic Slave Trade.
In order to seriously confront slavery, legislation and enforcement are far from being enough, humanity must seriously confront slavery’s origin, which is poverty. For that, the rich world must decide to stop plundering the poorer world and minimize the luxurious lifestyle it enjoys. That’s not going to happen. Slavery will exist as long as there are power gaps between humans, and there will always be power gaps between humans.
Obviously most humans prefer to believe slavery was ended or at least that it is the work of particular evil people in the grimmest places on earth, a consequence of the wickedness of a tiny minority. The truth is that it is a consequence of the indifference of the majority who allows it to happen.
Many humans enjoy a high level of living largely because of modern slaves who make many of the products they buy and use every day. Slavery is prevalent in different stages of the supply chains from the production of raw materials like cacao, cotton, coffee, iron, rubber, wood, cobalt, wheat and sugar, to the manufacturing of every-day goods such as mobile phones or cloths made in sweatshop.
Still most humans don’t bother themselves too much with the production process of the goods they enjoy. The same as they don’t when it comes to animal derived products. If anything, that is the relevant analogy to take from slavery.
The hopes of the animal liberation movement are laid on an institution that exists for about 15,000 years, was never ended nor reduced but was actually broadened in terms of the number of slaves, the enslavement methods, the ethnical diversity, and the geographical spread. Slavery has never ended but evolved with time and it is now not only much more extensive but also less visible, and that is the surest recipe to assure its continuance.
Slavery is almost everywhere, almost in everything. The fact slavery kept growing in size, regardless of the fact that it is illegal now in every country in the world, shouldn’t be inspiring but alarming.
But not only the inspiration is false, the comparison itself is false, and it is so for several reasons. Though we understand the rhetorical power of compering nonhumans’ exploitation with humans’ exploitation, we find it crucial that activists realize how different they actually are before drawing conclusion about the likelihood of ending it.
Here are the main 10 reasons why animal institutionalized exploitation and slavery are incomparable:
One of the main rationales of the comparison is that both slaves and animals are objectified and treated as if they are property. First of all, the fact that two exploited groups are considered property doesn’t mean they were exploited to the same extent. And secondly, most animals are not considered property but merely raw material.
Enslaved humans were never milked, institutionally experimented on, skinned to be worn or eaten by their enslavers, and most animals are raised by humans not to do choirs, but so humans can fiercely take what they desire from them, mainly their own bodies, after they were murdered in the age and size humans wished for.
Some exploitations might seem similar to slavery (circuses, zoos, donkeys and horses exploitation and maybe even some animals in laboratories), but the food industry is a whole different story. Of course genocide is a well-known phenomenon in human history, but intentionally systematically artificially creating populations to kill them is animal exclusive.
Black people were treated as sub-humans who are destined to serve white people, animals are treated as a disposable bundle of meat that happen to be alive and sentient.
Overall, the estimations of the Transatlantic slave trade are of about 30 to 40 million humans during a period of about 400 years. Based on the common estimation of 150 billion victims in the various food industries each year, the number of slaves is suppressed after 2 hours.
When the gaps are so enormous and the victims are artificially “produced” in their billions every year, it is not a quantitative difference. In the peak of slavery in the United States there were about 4 million enslaved humans. 4 million animals are murdered in the food industry every 13 minutes, most after they have suffered their whole lives.
Different Depth of Control and Manipulation
Cruel family separations were common during the slave trade, but not separating all the parents from all the young, all the time. In institutional animal exploitation the separation between the parents’ population and the offspring population is systematic.
Absolute control over the reproduction of an entire breed was never recorded in the history of human exploitation. Slaves were chosen by their body size and teeth condition but their body features weren’t modified according to the masters’ desires, as happens with every factory farmed animal today.
Creating an entire breed that is designed by artificial selection for specific profitable body parts is an animal exclusive atrocity and one of the most dramatic differences between the two.
One of the greatest causes of suffering of animals is not the external prison they live in but the inner confinement. Animals are born to suffer from their own body deformities caused by genetic manipulations. Regardless of their living conditions, at some point of their lives they suffer simply from being alive. As opposed to slaves which their living conditions in many ways are ruled by their human “masters”, in the case of animals at least from this aspect they are all ruled by the mastery of their own deformed bodies.
Clearly slavery is slavery regardless of the masters’ treatment. Taking others’ freedom is sufficient to consider slavery as one of the worst things humans ever did to each other. But not all the slaves suffered every single moment of their lives. Billions of animals can’t find even one painless position they can stand, sit or lie in. Billions of animals have no single moment of relief during their entire lives.
A very dramatic difference is the value of the victim. When the function of the enslavement is the labor of the enslaved there is an incentive to protect the slaves. Not out of consideration for humans but out of a cynical protection over the “property”. That is as opposed to the case in which the function of the enslavement is certain organs that happen to be part of the body of a sentient being.
When it comes to slaves, the longer they live and the better their physical condition is, the better it is for the enslaver who paid a lot of money to buy them. When it comes to animals the fastest they reach the “target weight” the better.
Slaves are good and profitable as long as they live, animals - when they die. That’s why there is at least some sort of a built-in extremely cynical economic incentive that the slaves would be healthy and live long, and that animals grow the desirable limbs as fast as possible (on the expense of the rest of their body).
Obviously the very fact that a price tag was attached to a human is appalling, but given that this price was high, provided an incentive for the enslavers to protect the enslaved. When it comes to animals it is never the case, not even when it comes to expensive animals like some of the exploited animals in laboratories, some of the exploited animals in circuses, horses in the horseracing industry and cows in the dairy industry. And it is definitely not the case with 99% of the systematically exploited animals which are so cheap and the gap between keeping them alive and the profits made of them is so marginal, that millions of individuals are left to die in any case of a problem. In some cases a death toll of more than 10% of a population is just business as usual.
It is not by chance that much of the comparison campaigns are made using mammals and in industries in which they are worth more when they are alive. Fishes and Chickens are almost not mentioned since their lives are so cheap and short that it is absolutely incomparable with slavery.
Slaves are identified by names and documents. Cows and Pigs are identified by numbers. Chickens don’t even have identifying numbers, but they are counted as whole units. Individual fishes are not even considered as separate items - they are counted in kilograms and tones.
Different Scope of Demands
To actually abolish nonhumans’ exploitation, a much more radical change than a formal legal prohibition of selling animal based food, is required.
The enslavement of several million humans in a very specific and defined system, which is pretty clear where it begins and how it can end, is incomparable with the exploitation of trillions of nonhumans which the scope and definition of their exploitation is obscure and undefined, let alone when some forms of it are arguable even among the Animal Liberation community.
Human slavery is compared to institutionalized exploitation, mostly factory farms, but hundreds of thousands of humans privately imprison hundreds of millions of animals (mostly in their backyards) for several exploitive functions - from feeding themselves with their flesh, worming themselves with their skin, do their labor, carry their belongings, carry them from place to place, guard their yards, amuse them in their houses, amuse them in public places, bet on them, use them to kill other animals and etc.
These few examples don’t begin to cover the list of wrongs done to animals on a regular basis which happen outside of factory farms.
In addition, although human slavery is mostly compared to factory farms, animal liberation means that animals should be liberated from human tyranny. When it comes to animals everything is much more complex, every road dividing habitats, every artificial lighting operated at night, every ship invading the ocean with tremendous noise, with trembling, pollution and collisions, every flying object who does the same in the air, every industrial factory polluting materials which animals are always the first to get hurt by.
The abolitionists’ goal was to convince their own people not to force humans from a different culture (who they considered a different race) to work so hard for so little. In theory all that it required was to hire more or less the same people to work on more or less the same farms but as free humans with rights, decent working conditions and a salary.
On the other hand if we take animal liberation seriously, we must vision a world which nothing in it is similar to the one we know today. Veganism is only the first step and we have so far made less than about 1% of it. Morally we mustn’t compromise on less than a truly free world and that is never going to happen.
Even in the peak of slavery in the United States in the middle of the 19th century, the public opinion was at least bipartile if not in favor of slavery abolishment, since the North, which was against slavery (for self-serving political and ironically racist reasons), was more populated than the South.
So if to analogize, the movement’s “North” is speciesist vegans and the South is the rest of the world. On the eve of the civil war there were about 22 million people in the North and about 9 million in the South, that’s almost double and a half. Vegans are less than 1% of the world population…
And what makes things even worse is that despite that nowadays slavery is not bipartile but the vast majority of humans are against it, still there are more slaves than ever before. So what are the chances of animal liberation when the vast majority of humans are actively supporting their exploitation?
Another important difference is the set of justifications to enslave Africans. Besides the de-humanization and savageness that was attributed to Africans, which was used to excuse the supremacy and exploitation, many whites identified themselves as the Africans’ saviors. Many have convinced themselves that black people came from Africa to receive Christianity and if they have, they would gain a place in the next life which is anyway more important than this one. Whether some wholeheartedly believed in such a paternalistic view, or was it a convenient cynical way to justify what they were doing, is less relevant, the point is that salvation was never used as a justification for animals’ exploitation. The fact that “salvation” was brought up, even merely as an excuse, proves that Africans were seen as humans, not animals. Inferior to white humans in their eyes of course, but still humans, and even ones who can get a place in the afterlife.
A very dramatic difference between the two struggles is the self-representation factor. Slaves could and have represented their case by themselves, animals can’t. Fredrick Douglas’ autobiography was a best seller and he traveled the North telling people his story and what slavery is like from first hand in his own voice. That was much more effective than William Lloyd Garrison’s journals, and it is definitely more effective than human activists trying to mediate animals’ suffering.
It’s not just about authentic voices that are identifiable for the wide public. The lack of self -representation regards every aspect of the struggle – its aims, its means, its priorities. You can be sure that if animals could represent themselves everything would have been totally different. Even the very definition of what is oppression and what is not.
While the civil war wasn’t really about slavery, violence did play a part in the struggle against slavery. William Lloyd Garrison was famously non-violent, but Nat Turner, David Walker and John Brown for example weren’t. Despite that fact, they are studied in history classes. They are unquestionably considered as part of the anti-slavery struggle.
Even though they faced a much smaller atrocity compared with the one we are dealing with, the use of violence got much more support which some of it came in real time. That shows how vast the gaps are between the status of animals compared with what was the status of slaves and how legitimate animal exploitation is compared with humans exploitation.
John Brown is forever a hero for raiding an army arsenal because he wanted to initiate a slaves’ rebel, and when AR activists throw paint on a fur coat they are violent aggressors.
And don’t get it wrong, it is not a historical perspective matter, the hang of John Brown was a public event, he became a martyr a minute after he was judged, not retrospectively, years after slavery was abolished.
We in the Animal Liberation movement can only dream of such legitimacy for violence use.
Even if, despite of all the causes, reasons and evidences (specified in the post regarding the 13th amendment), there are ones who insist on arguing that the abolition movement had a crucial factor in ending slavery in the United States, even in this most flattering scenario, it can be said that they had something to do with the fact that a war broke out. Somehow activists tend to ignore that part in their version of events - that a war, let alone a civil war, was a major factor in the events held before, what is mistakenly considered to be, the ending of slavery in the United States.
It is one thing to insist that the war was about slavery, but it is a totally different story to ignore the fact that one existed. We understand that activists need to believe that it was an ideological dispute, despite all the evidences. However, even in that fairytale version, in the end what eventually turned things around was a war. So if to ignore history and focus on the logic behind the comparison only, if it took a civil war, which lasted 4 years and had more than 700,000 causalities, to free the about 4 million slaves in one country only, do activists really believe that freeing billions of animals all over the world would be gained peacefully? Or is it global war that they offer?
Who in their right mind can even imagine a war between vegans and non-vegans? And even if there are some who do, currently ethical vegans are less than 1% of the human population and probably most of this tiny minority would pass on the war against 99% of the world’s human population.
We don’t see how the abolitionists’ (admirable as they are and inspirational as they are on a personal level) marginal influence is even debatable considering the events before and after the war. The North, generally speaking, was extremely racist before, during, and after the war. Colonization programs (colonizing blacks in Africa) were considered before, during and after the war (including by Lincoln himself). Several northern states maintained their slaves before, during, and after the war. And of course, the war didn’t end slavery which continued in the South for about another century.
If one really wants to believe in that story, still, the allegedly social “change” happened by using coercion and violence. So if there is a historical lesson then it is that if you want to abolish a major exploitative system, start to acquire arms.
In conclusion, although the comparison between slavery and institutional exploitation of animals is commonly criticized for supposedly belittling human atrocities, as broadly detailed, it actually does the exact opposite.
As horrible as slavery was and still is, when it comes to the number of aspects of life the enslavers are invading, the depth of their invasion, the exploitation functions, the circumferential systems and facilities of the exploitation, the knowledge and research involved and mainly the extent of the exploitation throughout history, it is incomparable.
How is it possible to make a comparison between an oppressive system that suppresses the other oppressive system in several parameters, mainly considering that its extent is suppressed in 2 hours only?
Nothing can be compared with humans’ tyranny over animals. Not even the cruelest, most oppressive tyranny of humans over each other.
While the world is getting farther and farther from being slavery-free, as hard as it is to realistically think this institution is abolishable, it is at least imaginable. A world without speciesism is unimaginable.
Advocacy Can’t Eradicate Speciesism
Even if all the AR demands would be fully accepted, speciesism wouldn’t be ended. And that is not only because the activists are not calling for the end of every form of speciesism, but since ending every form of speciesism is impossible.
It is not the huge gaps between ending speciesism and the demands of most of the campaigns AR activists engage, but the huge gaps between ending speciesism and the reality on planet earth.
Speciesism is everywhere and in everything. Every aspect of humans’ lives is bound with the discrimination of nonhumans. Not just factory farming but any type of farming is speciesist. The level of discrimination obviously largely differ, but excluding nonhumans from a particular area, tearing out the native vegetation and planting ones that suite humans’ desires and not necessarily the needs of the native residents of the region, fencing the area, constantly poisoning nonhumans in it, changing the composition of the soil, dividing the nearby lands with roads to the farms, plundering water from other habitats, making noises with heavy machinery, crushing nonhumans with heavy machinery, polluting the area with humans’ waste of many kinds and etc. are all unquestionably forms of discrimination.
Taking the interests of each sentient being into account as if they were our own doesn’t end with turning each human vegan. And it shouldn’t even begin there, but with turning each one back to living like any other ape in the forests and savannahs. Obviously that is not the world we wish and advocate for, but at least it would be more coherent and consistent with the call to end speciesism (as it would reverse many elements of the occupation on this planet). But nobody is advocating for that. The systematical, industrial exploitation of animals in the form of factory farms is by far the worst embodiment of speciesism in history, however it is also far from being the only one.
Everything in life is on someone else’s expense. All cloths are speciesist, not only leather, fur, wool, silk and down. Houses are speciesist. Cities are speciesist. Transportation is speciesist. Electricity is speciesist. Fireworks are speciesist. Lawns are speciesist. And as we’ll further explain even Veganism and Animal advocacy are speciesists. And it is speciesist to ignore all of this speciesism.
The problem is not only that humans are cruel masters, but the fact that they are the masters and always will be. A history of thousands of years is more than enough to realize that this is not merely a theoretical built-in injustice, but a built-in power structure that practically allows humans to torment trillions of sentient beings for thousands of years, with no sign of it ever ending.
The fact that it is humans’ world and will always be humans’ world is not challenged. Humans are the ones who would determine the scope of change. In the better scenario, they would shape the world based on their perspective, and in the worse one - according to their interests. In the worst but most realistic scenario they would never significantly change.
Even in the extremely far-fetched and delusionary optimistic scenario of a revolution in the way humans view nonhumans, the level and the scope of the change would be extremely human oriented. The whole human civilization is built upon a massive global occupation that continues to violently expand on the expense of all the other sentients on this planet.
Don’t get us wrong, it’s not an argument from an ecological perspective but from an individual perspective. We argue that even in the imaginary future vegan world, since humans would still make all the calls, obviously the systematical mass violations of individuals’ rights by humanity, who maintain such a huge population with such an immense supporting infrastructure, would still constantly occur. So far, the AR movement barely influences humanity’s diet, so what are the chances to overturn the entire human civilization?
How is an extremely industrial and technological civilization of more than 7.5 billion humans, that dominates and impacts practically every inch on earth can ever grant any nonhuman being equal consideration and rights?
If a vegan world is unimaginable, then granting animals with rights is absolutely delusional. And granting rights is in itself a power based, dominant and violent act. Only the powerful who could deprive them in the first place can hold the position of granting rights, and it is always the powerful who decide to what extent the rights are given. What are rights if not a forcible extension of a previous and even more forcible restriction of the freedom of others?
Furthermore rights are a very friable concept. They are so easily trampled upon, and in many cases aren’t able to provide the protection they claim to give. All it takes for them to be evaporated is that someone stronger wants something from a weaker someone. At the moment one human is attacked by another, the abstract concept of the right “for life, liberty, and personal security” won’t protect him or her. Entire lives of genuine rights holders are shattered in a couple of minutes just because a stronger person felt like it.
In this world the mere concept of rights for all nonhuman animals is an oxymoron. Everything is on someone else’s expense. Humans’ global occupation is so vast and absolute that civilization became self-evident. But it mustn’t be. Speciesism is inherent in every human activity. Even if you insist that a vegan world may be possible one day, you can’t seriously think that humans would be convinced to voluntarily go back to living like any other species, limited to a relatively small geographical area, living off the surrounding, and include several million members only. That would be much closer to ending speciesism, and it is not even close to what is being demanded of humans and thought of by activists.
Ending speciesism is not synonymous with veganism. It’s speciesist to think that speciesism’s boundaries are within this range alone. It is not just a matter of degree (and factory farms are by no doubt the worst embodiment of speciesism), it is a matter of kind. And so a different kind of thinking is needed from activists to end speciesism. Currently activists focus on the worst degree harms that humans are doing to other species, and on what humans might, theoretically only, agree to stop doing. But a truly non-speciesist perspective must look at what is done to the discriminated beings and what can be done to stop it regardless of humans’ willingness or “opinions”.
Advocacy is in Itself Speciesist
Choosing to approach humans with rational arguments, emotional inducements and persuasion information, hoping to change their minds regarding the systematical violence they inflict on nonhumans, is accepting and reinforcing the concept that it is humans' decision whether or not to change the way they treat nonhuman animals. It is declaring that it is their minds that count.
Activists can give humans all the facts and show them all the evidences from factory farms, use every argument they know and deconstruct every excuse they throw, but it is still the abusers’ call. Letting the violent oppressors decide is supporting a power based and violent world, because it is humans’ ability to control the rest of the species that had put them in the place that it is seemingly their decision if to exploit them or not.
The mere position of asking the abusers to stop abusing is speciesist. It’s perpetuating the speciesist reality in which one species makes all the calls for all the other species, especially when the case is of systemically exploiting them. The self-evident frame of thought is that it is humans’ decision how to treat the rest of the species. And when humans leave the conversation about their abuse and choose to keep abusing, as most humans do, that’s what will happen. Merely asking them to stop abusing is letting them continue to torture.
The fact that some AR activists are calling what they do ‘demanding’ and not asking, doesn’t change the speciesist status of this twisted scenario, since as long as it’s the abusers’ choice, saying that we are demanding the end of the torture is meaningless. In that sense demanding is just an angrier version of asking. There is no “or else…”. When humans choose to abuse all they get is an upset face or a judgmental look from the “demanders”. And that is in the better case. In the worst case it is a smiley suggestion that they would at least consider reducing some of their torture.
Humans’ and even activists’ intuition is anthropocentric. The fact that some activists wear an angry face when approaching non-vegans and demand them to change their ways while showing them the most horrible footages of institutionalized exploitation and telling them to their faces that they are cruel scumbags, is still accepting that the choice whether to inflict immeasurable violence on nonhumans is in humans’ hands. It’s no different than the ones who smile all along the conversation and ask, almost beg, to be listened to even just for a few minutes.
Many activists despise the last approach which they see as an overly attentive if not obsequious. But it is not the level of ingratiation that matters but the principle. Smiling or being more hostile, both rely on humans’ willingness to change their violent habits. Both are putting the power to choose whether to abuse or not in humans hands. Both the smiling and the hostile genre, are in fact empowering the abusers by asking them to stop abusing. And when humans refuse to change, both turn to the next person using the same sort of actions.
The conventional way is speciesist. It accepts humans’ tyranny, as if it is humans’ decision whether to hurt or not. It is their decision only because activists are asking them if they are willing to try rice milk instead of raping cows, and if they care to try soy burgers instead of corpus of genetically deformed sentients. But it shouldn’t be their choice. You don’t ask the torturers if they are willing to stop torturing. You try to stop them regardless of their will. Of course it is not easy as “just” stopping them, but it is what we’ve got to do. It begins with you realizing the absurdity. With you stop asking the oppressors to stop oppressing and start looking for a way to stop it all, by all means necessary, and regardless of humans’ positions.
Another reason why advocacy is speciesist, is that as far as the advocates go, it is a timeless effort, meaning until every human is convinced, no matter how many animals must suffer until then. The struggle has no timeframe or number of victims limit. Humans are given an everlasting chance to change on the animals’ expense, and no matter how many of them are sacrificed.
Asking the victims to suffer patiently until activists find a way to the hearts of the rest of humanity, or in other words, arguing that the horror will end when humans decide it will end, is speciesism.
Giving the abusers unlimited opportunity to change while they keep their abusive routine is considering them as more important than all of their victims.
And given the average consumption figures of each human, each is worth thousands of animals. Average American meat eaters are responsible for the life of suffering of about 55,000 animals within their lifetime (data based on Countinganimals), including about 10,000 crustaceans, 1,860 chickens, 950 fishes, 55 turkeys, 30 pigs and sheeps, 8 cows and between 35,000 and 50,000 of non-directly consumed fishes and crustaceans who are either by catch, or are captured and killed to feed the directly consumed animals. And of course that is without counting the chickens suffering in the egg industry and cows in the milk industry. Morally opposing to stopping them, by all means necessary, including killing them, means they are worth more than the pain and suffering of all of these animals.
What happened to Bentham’s “everybody to count for one, nobody for more than one”?
The factor of time is even more violent and speciesist when you consider that it takes only 3 weeks for the number of animal victims to surpass the number of human victimizers. And yet it is the option of human annihilation that is viewed as violent.
The Myth of Non-Violence
There is no such thing as a nonviolent approach in this world.
So called “nonviolent actions” are indeed not violent towards animal abusers, but when failing to stop them, the "nonviolent" approach is actually violent towards the abused animals.
A non-violent approach is actually a violent one, since besides a brief moral lecture, which each violent oppressor can choose to wave off at any time, it essentially grants violent oppressors with a full autonomy on the violence. They are basically free to choose who to hurt, when to hurt, how much to hurt and for how long. And that’s exactly what’s happening every time activists didn’t succeed in convincing the abusers to change their ways. Every animal rights persuasion attempt that doesn’t end with a new non-speciesist vegan, means letting another human continue with the systematic abuse.
If activists truly believe that in their relation to nonhumans all humans are Nazis, why aren’t they all Partisan guerrilla fighters? The Partisans didn’t handout leaflets with footages from inside Auschwitz along with the numbers of humans exterminated in gas chambers.
If activists honestly think that meat eaters are serial killers and vegetarians are rapists, then by this same logic they’re accountable bystanders.
To avoid any possible misunderstanding regarding our theoretical perspective and practical suggestion, we want to make it clear that we don’t suggest killing animal abusers sporadically.
Obviously activists who would engage in violence activities towards non-vegans would get caught very fast, so it is extremely counterproductive. What we do argue is that killing every meat eater who wasn’t convinced by advocacy is morally justifiable, but since it is absolutely impracticable we don’t suggest or support that. It probably won’t help even one animal and would even end up hurting more animals by labeling animal activists as even more extreme and violent by the general public. It is a bad option which is not suggested nor implied.
Another important clarification to make is that the point of this argument isn’t that activists are actually violence supporters and speciesist because they don’t kill meat eaters (obviously activists can’t kill every non-vegan who was not convinced by their arguments since they would probably get caught after the first one), but that they are violence supporters because they don’t think they ought to.
This is not semantics but rather a crucial difference which relates to the claim about sporadic killing. If we have truly suggested that activists must kill every non-vegan who wasn’t convinced, otherwise they are violent and speciesist (since not doing so is letting them continue with their violent habits), then since we all agree it is impractical and simply a non-option, it is truly strange to define advocacy as inherently speciesist and violent. But since we don’t suggest activists must kill non-vegans sporadically, but all of them, the argument that activists would get caught after the first kill is irrelevant. While sporadic killing would obviously end up with activists getting arrested very soon, this is not the case with activists working in research institutions searching for ways to end it all with no one knowing what they are up to.
Activists who oppose killing non-vegans for non-practical reasons (meaning, due to ideological ones) are violent and speciesist by letting non-vegans inflict much more violence on many more sentients.
Activists who oppose killing non-vegans for practical reasons (while confusing sporadic killings which are truly impractical with our solution) on the other hand, are violent and speciesist, as they let this violent and speciesist world continue by not looking for ways to end it, such as the non-sporadic killing option we suggest.
All the activists are aware of the fact that much more violence is inflicted in factory farms than the violence that would be required to overthrow the human tyrants. So why asking more than 150 billion victims per year to hold on until about 7.5 billion humans are convinced?
And how letting more than 150 billion victims per year wait, is less violent than looking for ways to eradicate 7.5 billion?
Arguing that the so called non-violent approach is not really violent since activists have no other options but asking the abusers to stop abusing is false, not only because there are other options (this manifesto is advocating for one), but since activists are not choosing non-violent advocacy after a thorough examination of the options, but it was rather self-evident that what must be done facing the greatest horror in history is to inform the abusers what they are responsible for.
The fact that when most activists discovered what goes on in the world they live in, their first intuition was to hand out information leaflets in the streets and shout that animals have rights, indicates how human oriented the moral perspective is, and how bounded the discussion is. Even the most caring humans, who regularly challenge conventions, aren’t immune to the indoctrination they have absorbed their entire lives.
Activists’ natural tendency and the first and last plan of action, is to explain to humans that their daily torturing of animals for their own minor benefits, habits and pleasures is wrong, and that in itself is wrong, violent and speciesist.
Only a thorough examination of all the options, and choosing advocacy after ruling them out would prove it wasn’t speciesism that caused activists to choose it over the other options. But we don’t think that activists can honestly say that they have covered all the options they can think of, ruled out the ones they found to be impractical and were left with advocacy. Unfortunately advocacy is the first and obvious tendency and also the last sort of action.
If activists truly chose advocacy for tactical reasons and not speciesist ones, then we would have seen the opposite scenario to the one we see today in the movement. Most often, new activists who join AR groups with enthusiasm don’t think we must take down the animal exploitation system by any means necessary and it is some of the veterans who are so despaired out of humanity that they start thinking in terms of annihilation. That’s another indication of how human oriented activists’ intuitions are. The basic notion is that first we must try to convince the abusers to stop abusing and only after we tried every advocacy option we can think of, we are ready to consider violent options (which are anyway rejected).
There are lots of disputes in the animal liberation movement between activists over what is the most efficient way. Yet violent suggestions are extremely rare. That goes to show that it is not really an option. Otherwise we would have seen violent activities over the years (again, not that we wish for ones). The fact that we hardly see such activities proves that it is not among the considered options. Violence is not a disqualified option but not an option at all.
Even the relatively minor allegedly terror actions (minor compared with the enormous scale of the horror) that do occur, are directed mostly at laboratories, fur stores and slaughterhouses, while we all know very well that these specific torture facilities are the tip of the iceberg. It’s not the suppliers that are the problem, but the demanders. And the demanders are most of the human race. That’s why suggesting killing them one by one is ridiculous, and suggesting killing them all at once is essentialness.
So in light of the option of killing all humans and by that ending for good the most violent oppressing system ever in history, we argue that compromising on animals’ expense is violent and speciesist. A non-violent and non-speciesist approach should lead you to first consider the best option for the animals which is a sufferingless world (and not a vegan one let alone a world with some more vegans which is most probably what would be accomplished with advocacy).
Stopping all the suffering is what should be our goal and thinking how we can do that is where we must start, not from advocacy which is an extreme compromise on the animals’ expense. You start at the best option and only if it turns out to be irrelevant should you turn to such an extreme compromise as a world with as many vegans as possible.
We doubt that if animals could, they would choose a “non-violent” approach.
We doubt that the relative consensus around the non-violent approach would hold if it was activists who were industrially exploited, born in cages, tortured throughout their entire lives until being murdered. This issue reveals how the animal liberation movement, the only group representing the animals, is soaked in anthropocentric perspectives, talking and thinking in human terms. What else can explain the constant use of nonviolence as a relevant approach while the most violent one-sided assault in the history of this planet is raging?
So when activists say they draw the line where there is violence, they actually mean that they draw the line where there is violence towards humans.
Actually, most of the non-violence advocates do justify using violence in cases like assault, rightfully arguing for self-defense. However, isn’t that selfish to justify hurting someone in the name of self-defense but not in the name of defending someone else?
The self-defense exception condemns all the ones who can’t defend themselves to a continuance suffering. Their suffering is obviously not less significant than the suffering of the ones who can defend themselves, and so deserve the same protection from violence regardless of their ability to fend for themselves.
None of the billions of animals born into an intensive system of exploitation and violence can fend for themselves. According to the non-violence theory they must find a way to somehow defend themselves, or hold their breath until the tiny minority of humans who are trying to defend all of them will succeed in convincing the vast majority. Does that seem like a moral approach?
Currently activists’ moral standards are influenced by what they believe the public is ready to accept. But what is right remains so regardless of how the majority sees it or whether humans are ready to implement it. Public opinion is basically infirm as opposed to moral principles which are supposed to be solid. The fact that activists are influenced by what they think humans think, indicates a flawed morality. It is a reverse order of events.
Suffering is suffering is suffering. For the victim it is always bad, regardless of what the abusers are willing to do about it.
And since they are not willing to do anything about it, the responsibility is returned to you, who must ask yourself - what am I going to do about it?
We find it hard to believe that you are not disappointed by the fact that humans are ready to use violence for much smaller atrocities than the biggest one ever in history with no proportions to anything else. And you can’t seriously think it is all because of tactical reasons.
Activists can argue that society is so inherently speciesist and violent and so they are bound to act as if they are practically speciesist despite that they are not. But that is exactly the point we are trying to make. Our point is not to show that even animal rights activists are speciesist, but that even animal rights activists can’t not be speciesist. The point we are trying to make is not about the particular activists in this particular era but about AR activism in general, the mere conceptuality of AR activism which is bound to be violent and speciesist and therefore bound to be immoral.
Why is it so self-evident that humans should get to decide whether to keep abusing or not?
This is not a matter of serving justice, it is about reclaiming the power that should have never been given to humans in the first place, and taking responsibility over everything happening in this violent world. It is not about the intrinsically unjust power balance between humans and animals in itself. Obviously we would compromise on it if there was a way not only to make all humans vegans and make veganism non-violent, but also to make sure it would stay as such forever.
So far we have accomplished less than 1% of the first mission which is also the only one theoretically possible.
Maybe the saddest thing about the non-violence approach is that it is impossible even theoretically.
Everything in life is on someone else’s expense. No matter what and how little we consume, there is no way to avoid violence.
Even the most caring and compassionate, non-speciesist humans on this planet are bound to participate in a violent system, systematically hurting sentient beings they wholeheartedly believe they mustn’t.
There is no non-violent approach in this world. Not practically and not theoretically.
Veganism Is Not the Solution but Part of the Problem
Non-violence is even theoretically impossible, since practically there is no way to avoid violence. And it is certainly impossible merely by conducting a consumerist vegan lifestyle, which is far from being cruelty-free and non-violent, yet viewed as such by many activists and presented as the ideal to aspire to, by most of them.
Veganism, despite its major ethical flaws, is by no doubt the best option. We are vegans ourselves and for a long time now, since there is no better option. And that is exactly the problem. Although it is much less violent than any other option, veganism is still a violent one.
The point we are making is not about activists being vegans despite the immense harm involved in it, it’s about veganism presented as a non-violent option despite the violence involved in it.
Some violent practices involved in some plant-based products are known to some activists and vegans, with some even stretching their personal definition of veganism to include for example palm oil, coconut, sugar, coffee, chocolate and etc. But that is because of the specific ways some specific products are currently manufactured, where the violence involved in their production is relatively easy to spot, while the whole mechanism is disregarded. The violence is not in the specific production details, but in each of the ways each of the products is manufactured, transported, consumed and disposed of. The realization that violence is built-in and inherent to agriculture and other manufacture processes is too often ignored.
Clearly when facing animal agriculture, plant agriculture seems as an ethical alternative, but the cruel fact is that one form of violence is offered as the solution for a far worse form of violence.
Veganism is replacing the cruelest way of accumulating energy with a much less violent and oppressive system but certainly not an equalitarian and non-violent one.
A vegan diet is not cruelty free, and it is not because of a specific way a specific product is being produced. It is all the ways that all of the products are produced which is harmful.
It starts with “land clearing”, the clean term for mass occupation, displacement and murder, as every “agricultural land” was once home to a countless number of animals. Though mostly driven by cattle grazing, deforestation also occurs for many crops that most vegans consume on a daily basis and also advocate others to consume as part of the solution to animal exploitation. These are crops like cotton and sugar (most of the vegan cloths are made of cotton and most of the processed food contains sugar), soy oil which is the most widely produced edible oil and palm oil which is the second most widely produced edible oil and is a very important component in soaps and washing powders. And that’s a very partial list.
Like deforestation, in many cases water use is also treated as harm only non-vegans are responsible for, as if plant agriculture doesn’t involve in the plunder of water resources that other sentient beings rely upon.
When activists show the famous tables that compare the water use of producing one kilo of rice, soy and potatoes with chickens, pigs and cows meat, they show how less harmful they are, not how harmless they are. The fact that animal products consume much more water than vegan products makes them more violent than vegan products, but it doesn’t make the vegan ones cruelty free.
And it is not only a matter of quantity, it is the obvious, barely questioned human control over the accessible fresh water. Humans use and manipulate the water flow all over the world, leaving entire regions dried, and all the beings living there are left to dehydrate.
Also, plant agriculture involves the deliberate targeting of other beings, most commonly by using chemicals. A produce shouldn’t be considered vegan if poisons, conveniently called “pesticides”, were spread all over it to intentionally kill other sentient beings who rely on it for food and shelter.
Apart from pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are also sprayed to make sure nothing besides the specific crop human desire, grows on that land. All those chemicals severely affect animals living in the sprayed area, as well as many who live far from it but are affected since these chemicals often drift.
Other vastly used chemicals are fertilizers. The suffering involved in them is even less visible but not less harmful.
The most common harm is leakage of fertilizers into other environments which results in a nutrient overload. Nitrogen and phosphorus pollution causes a massive algae population increase, and as a consequence of their bloom, marine animals are killed either by toxins they release, by their blocking of sunlight, or by creating oxygen levels decline that eventually lead to the suffocation of fishes, crabs and other marine animals.
Fertilizers are a strong symbol of humans’ global occupation. They use them to completely reshape entire areas to fit their benefits, and hardly care who it harms in the short or long term.
In the hopeless search for the oxymoronic unharmful consumption, some tend to cling on to organic agriculture, most often disregarding the fact that chemicals as pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers are used for organic products as well, as long as they are “natural poisons”.
It suits the mindset of meat eaters, not animal rights activists, to be satisfied with the label “no pesticides”, concluding that no actions were made to remove those who get near humans’ "property". "No pesticides" label doesn’t mean no disinfestation, and it definitely doesn’t mean no violence. Other extremely violent “pest control” methods can include biological extermination, a violent repertory of traps, gassing, smoke bombing, fumigating, flooding and foaming burrows which are the farmers’ main targets.
Also, organic fertilizers rely mainly on animal ingredients such as bone meal, blood meal, chicken feather meal, fish-based fertilizers, burned eggshells, and urea and manures. Since fertilizers are one of the greatest expenses in plant agriculture, buying organic produce means a financial support to animal exploitation.
Being less productive, organic agriculture requires more land to be "cleared", meaning more deforestation and more habitat destruction than the conventional vegetative agriculture requires.
Furthermore, since the crops are less handled they are more vulnerable to harsh climate and are more depended on the soil type so the growth is limited to smaller and fitter areas. And with a worldwide demand, it eventually means much more transportation.
Another harmful consequence of the organic crops’ vulnerability is more packing, meaning more nylon, paper, plastic and etc. and more harms consequent of the packages manufacturing, mostly manifested in energy consumption, pollutants, and eventually more waste.
Since there are many places in the world where it is technically impossible to grow food that meets the nutritional needs year round, many humans can’t solely rely on fresh, locally grown produce and so must rely on long-distance food.
Considering that a truly vegan world is not one in which commodities are transported all over the planet, the solution must be that humans won’t live in these kinds of places. So, ”all” that is left to do is convince them to move from these locations, to places where they don’t “have to” systematically exploit nonhuman animals. Unless they do that, humans would either breed animals as food production machines, or pollute them, run them over or harm their habitats via the global transportation network.
But it is a little bit ridiculous to seriously discuss the issue of these places when currently most vegans are far from being outside this transportation based society. The world’s communities are not self-sufficient. Transportation is the life blood of the world economy. Most vegans are participating in the destructive distribution system that enabled the food to get to the market.
What now is an unnecessary reality for most vegans, who conveniently choose to participate in the consumerist society, is an inevitable reality as long as there are more than 7.5 billion humans, living practically everywhere.
To seriously tackle the harms of transportation, humans must seriously limit their population size and their geographical spread.
Currently the AR movement has managed to convince about 1% of the human population to stop systematically exploiting nonhuman animals, without them needing to do anything extra except change the basic ingredients of their diet. So good luck with convincing them not to live in vast areas of the planet they wholeheartedly believe is theirs, because they can’t efficiently grow vegetative food there.
And even local raw food is in many cases far from being unharmful. When it comes to raw fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts, besides the earlier mentioned violent growing practices and the just mentioned violent transportation methods, often there are several harmful stages which may include: cleaning, sorting, cooling, coating, drying and storage. Unprocessed foods are more sensitive and prone to go bad. Therefore in many cases, some processing stages are done around the produces, and not necessarily directly to them. Usually post-harvest processing is done in mechanized facilities, with conveyor belts, automated sorting, room size refrigerators and etc.
In many cases fruits and vegetables are covered with a wax coating, both to retain moisture and to make them more appealing and shiny in the grocery store. So not only that food items which are considered as the rawest, least processed foods on the shelves, go through several harmful processes, they contain bee wax or other secretions of insects as shellac.
And that is not the only connection between bees’ exploitation and allegedly vegan food products. Approximately one out of every three plant food items humans consume is made possible by pollinators, and honey-bees account for 90% of the pollination.
Farmers, who rely on factory-farmed honeybees for pollination, rent more than two million honeybee colonies every year in the US alone. The hives are mostly transported by trucks and sometimes by airplanes, from field to field according to blossom timings.
In economic terms, honey is not the main activity. Beekeepers earn more from renting “their” bees for pollination than they do from honey production.
These are only a few of the harms when consuming raw food. And most vegans don’t strictly stick to such a diet and also consume processed foods. Even the manufacture of products that are considered basic such as soy milk, sugar, tofu, bread, oils, tea and etc. can include dozens of sub-processes like: cleaning and removing unwanted parts such as the outer layers, separating the beans from the pod, extracting the interior which is common with seeds, liquefaction and pressing as in fruit juices and soy milk production, fermentation like in soy sauces and tempeh, baking, boiling, broiling, frying, steaming, shipping of a number of ingredients from different distances, wrapping, labeling, transportation of waste and of course transportation to the stores. All are comfortably invisible as the finished product lies on the shelf.
Many activists are not even aware of the endless list of harms involved in what they present as a moral solution. And the few who are, “solve” this problem by arguing that the ideal vegan world is one where humans grow their own food and so don’t use any means of disinfestation, no packing, no further processing and no transportation. But that can only be technically relevant for a relatively tiny group of people. The global course is exactly the opposite - more urbanization, more huge supermarkets and less small retails, more industrial food, more corporate rule over every existing plant, more chemicals in the food and in the land it grew on, more packages, much more transportation and etc.
It is very hard for us to refer to factory farms which are the vastest exploitation systems ever created in the world, as symptoms but that is what they are, symptoms.
Veganism is not the goal. Apparently it needs to be reminded to many activists all the time. Veganism became the prime concern of activists because of the suffering. But suffering is everywhere and in everything. The oil industry, the logging industry, steel, wood, plastic, nylon, cars, roads, concrete, cosmetics, electricity and as we showed here, every vegan food industry causes suffering too.
The problem is not only what humans choose to eat, the problem is everything humans choose to do in this world, everything they choose not to do about it no matter how horrible it is, and most importantly what they can’t really choose not to do. Even the most caring and compassionate, non-speciesist humans on this planet are bound to participate in a violent system. Causing suffering is inevitable. There is no nonviolent option in this world.
Yet better but still a horrible one, veganism shouldn’t be advocated for, let alone as cruelty free. It averts activists from searching for truly cruelty free options.
The conventional pretense that a vegan diet is moral, and that the yearned vegan world will be a moral one, hurts the chances for a truly sufferingless world. Activists convince non-vegans and even themselves that there is a cruelty free option, and that it is accomplishable.
We don’t accuse activists for lying to the general public arguing for a cruelty free diet while it most definitely isn’t (it’s hard as it is to convince humans to go vegan). We accuse them of being conveniently ignorant if they truly believe veganism is non-violent, or of lying to themselves and to other activists if they are aware of the violence involved in veganism but still advocate it as a moral and non-violent option. Again, neglecting to mention the horrors of a vegan diet to the general public is totally understandable, considering how difficult it is to veganize humans, the biggest problem with the veganism focus is not perpetuating the conventional lie, but that once activists have found the “answer” they stop looking, and so veganism has become the goal of most activists.
Our aim is to make activists who truly believe in some of the slogans they promote, realize that as long as they aim at a vegan world their slogans are empty. They are calling for animal rights, advocating for non-violence and arguing against speciesism while they personally, necessarily and inevitably violate animals’ rights, support violence every time they eat and participate in a systematical discrimination against beings from other species.
Truly believing that “in suffering we are all equal”, and that truly the suffering of no one is of less importance than the suffering of another, any other, can’t morally coexist with veganism.
Obviously there are many activists who do realize that veganism is not cruelty free and consequently speak in terms of the least harm principle. But why compromise on the least harm option before searching for a no harm option? Compromise should come only after the desired outcome was found unachievable.
Veganism advocators are actually more radical welfarists. Although they don’t want to widen the cages but to break them, when the whole world is a giant oppression system, it is still reformism. It is still compromising on the amount of oppression within the system, instead of abolishing it altogether.
Activists stress they make no compromises, and would never settle for wider cages. Nothing but total liberation. On the same line, we don’t want a world with less suffering but a sufferingless world. The only option for a non-speciesist, non-violent world is one with no sentients. That is the goal of our movement and what every activist should wish for and act on.
Nature Is Not Part of the Solution But Part of the Problem
An even bigger blind spot than violence and suffering caused by veganism, is violence and suffering that happen in what most humans call nature.
For many animal rights activists nature represents perfection, a romantic and virtuous ideal we should aspire to, something that ought to be reverently preserved and never criticized. But the truth is that nature is where trillions of sentient beings suffer from hunger, thirst, diseases, parasites, injuries, extreme weathers, rape, infanticide, violent dominancy fights, the constant fear of being attacked, actually being attacked, and only rarely from caducity.
Probably the first natural cause of violence that comes to mind is predation.
Predation is literally as old as life itself. It goes back to the most ancient life forms - single cell organisms. As soon as there were living single cell organisms, one of their major functions was to acquire chemicals from their surroundings. As time went by, some organisms, by chance (mutation), started obtaining the organic molecules they require by devouring the cells around them, instead of gathering them from the surroundings. This turned out to be an efficient "strategy". About 3.5 billion years later there are fangs, claws, talons, venoms, webs, beaks, sonars, infra-red vision, tentacles and etc.
But besides predation, there are many other suffering causes in nature.
Every single second somewhere in the world, defenseless and frightened babies are left alone because their mother has to search for food, a turtle is burned alive as she can’t out run the flames of a fire, a bird’s feet are frozen to a branch since he couldn’t find shelter from the harsh weather, a baboon monkey is in ongoing stress as an higher ranking female takes food out of her mouth and eats it herself, a nestling is thrown off the nest by the other siblings so they can get more food, a coyote is experiencing severe hunger as the rabbit he chased managed to escape instead of being torn apart, a female dolphin is being raped after she couldn’t outswim a male or even a few of them who gang rape her, a badger drags his rotten legs with infectious wounds resulting from constant fights, a zebra is dehydrated but can’t approach the ponds as the lionesses might be on the prowl, a lizard is being slowly devoured by a fungus that spread through the organs, a weak robin chick starves to death because his parents don’t feed him as it makes more sense energetically to invest in his stronger siblings.
In many activists’ minds humans are the only problem in this world which without them would be perfect. But…
In a humanfree world, hyena cubs would still viciously fight each other, tearing off slices of other cubs’ faces including ears and lips, to get more food.
In a humanfree world, crabs would still be pulled apart limb by limb by otters.
In a humanfree world, fishes would still be digested alive by the stomach acids of a pelicans who gulped them whole.
In a humanfree world, wasps would still inject their eggs into a live caterpillar’s body to ensure that when their descendants hatch they will have easy access to food as the larvae eat the caterpillar from the inside out.
A humanfree world is definitely not a masculinity-free world. Brutal fights for territory and for the "right" to mate would still occur in immense numbers. Walrus would still fight each other over territory with giant teeth that can reach up to one meter long and more than 5kg weight. And the biggest males with the biggest tusks would still push their way to the center of the iceberg pushing the females and pups to the edges where they are more likely to be attacked by an orca.
In a humanfree world, billions of insects would still get chemically liquefied before they are eaten by spiders. And snakes would still swallow whole animals and slowly digest them until hawks hunt them, digging in with their talons into the snakes’ body until they give up fighting back, and then start to cut off pieces of their body and eat them.
Eels would still electrify other fishes to hunt them using up to 600V in a single discharge - this is 5 times the shock one would get from sticking a finger into an electrical socket.
Young offspring would still get murdered by opportunist males who want their own genes to be spread.
And in a humanfree world, duck, dolphin, seal and sea lion females would still be gang raped routinely as a way of mating.
Unfortunately these examples are only a tiny glimpse of the horrors happening every single moment in nature.
It is amazing how one magical word - Nature - can purify anything.
“In suffering we are all equal” - the argument so many activists use so often is true about all animals just as much.
All suffering should be stopped no matter how we categorize it, where it happens and by whom.
Activists should be obligated to preventing suffering no matter to whom, by whom and where it happens. What makes animals worthy of moral consideration is their subjective ability to experience, not the objective conditions of their lives such as to what species they belong to, where they live and their relations with other species. Moral status is non-dependent. Sentient beings don’t lose their moral status when their suffering happens in nature.
The frequently quoted Jeremy Bentham is relevant here as well - “the question is not, can they reason? nor, can they talk?”, but it also shouldn’t be by whom they suffer, or where. The question is only can they suffer.
Our moral obligation to prevent suffering is driven from the fact that suffering is intrinsically bad for those who experience it. So if suffering is bad when humans cause it, there is no reason to think it is not so when it results from other causes, including the actions of other animals. We mustn’t accept suffering just because it happens in what we refer to as nature, and to nonhuman animals by other nonhuman animals. To the sufferers, suffering is bad when it is considered natural just as much as when it is considered unnatural. And the victims are not consoled by the fact that it is nonhumans that hurt them and not humans. If labeling a violent scene as ‘natural’ doesn’t affect the suffering of the victims, then it doesn’t have a moral effect.
How can a compassionate person watch sentient animals struggle to unleash themselves from an aggressive grip, hear their yelling and screaming, see their dying spasms and say that it is o.k? And using what kind of justification? That it’s a natural panic?
When watching suffering of wild animals on the screen, many humans and certainly every animal activist, are dramatically emotionally moved by these horrific scenes. Some rationalize their way out of it by calling it natural and others by claiming it is inventible, failing to infer the moral conclusion out of the situation - when something that horrible is such a natural and inventible part of life, life is horrible. Activists mustn’t rationalize their way out of horrible situations but act to change them.
Unfortunately the argument ‘what is natural is morally right’ is very popular, even in the animal liberation movement. That is despite that there is no conceptual connection between what is natural and what is moral. A natural behavior is the one that is probably the most successful in terms of survival and reproduction, not the one who successfully promotes moral ideals. Therefore many actions are perfectly natural but morally horrible.
To say that something is natural doesn’t add any moral value to it. It only says that it evolved spontaneously through time and improved or didn’t interrupt the reproduction of its beholder. Nature is indifferent to the suffering of its residents.
Activists shouldn’t consider nature as an ethical model but as an ethical problem.
An idealized and a very partial view of nature, causes activists not only to ignore most of the horrible parts of the lives of animals in nature, it also causes them to ignore most of the animals.
Usually the idealized image of nature is consisted of adult individuals of large herbivore mammals pasture in a green field. However, there is nothing ideal in the lives of adult herbivores considering the constant social stress of many, the constant fear of predation of most, the harsh weather, the hunger, the thirst, the diseases, the frequent injuries from successful escapes from predation, and the excruciating pain of unsuccessful escapes from predation. And more importantly, herbivore mammals dying in adulthood are by no doubt extraordinarily exceptional and utterly unrepresentative of life in nature.
Most of the sentient beings on earth never reach adulthood, but live for a short and extremely brutal period, in most cases, lives of nothing but suffering.
This fact is particularly relevant for the case against nature as an ideal moral model since this mass scale horror is mainly driven by one of nature’s most fundamental elements – the reproductive strategy.
The two main reproductive strategies are called K-selection and r-selection. To put it simply, K-selection is putting all the energy on maximally preparing individuals to survive the environmental conditions, while r-selection is putting all the energy on the maximum number of individuals and minimum investment (in many cases none) in each individual.
Of course these strategies are combined in some way or another among different species, but generally that is the main framework.
Basically, the higher the value of r, the lower the value of K. So every single case of reproduction of r-selected species ends up with numerous individuals who will die shortly after.
Since the population of these species is more or less the same from generation to generation, then on average only one offspring will survive to replace each parent. The absolutely natural process of r-selection reproduction involves, the starvation, dehydration or predation of hundreds or thousands of beings, often shortly after they start to be conscious. Only one individual out of them survives to sexual maturity, and then of course repeats this exact same scenario. The suffering of the rest of the individuals is meaningless in nature terms. The tragedy of trillions is nature’s triumph.
The philosopher Oscar Horta thinks that the existence of r-selection leads to the inevitable conclusion that there is far more suffering than happiness in nature. He gives an example to prove his point:
“Consider just one example regarding a certain species of animals, the Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua). These animals can lay from a few thousand to several million eggs. Let us suppose that they lay 2 million each time. It is estimated that in 2007 there were around 33,700 tons of Atlantic cod in the Gulf of Maine bank alone. An adult cod can weigh up to 25-35 kg. Assuming they have an average weight of 33.7 kg, there would be around a million of these animals (the average weight I have proposed is too high, though on the other hand I am assuming, for the sake of simplicity, that these animals are all adult animals). Assuming the cod population remains stable, on average only two of the eggs that a female cod lays in her life end up developing into adults. Thus, a total of 2 trillion eggs laid will fail to become adults. Assume each egg has a 0.1 probability of developing into a young, immature fish, a codling, and that there is a 0.1 probability that codlings are sentient. Finally, assume that on average they suffer for just ten seconds before they die. All of these are extremely conservative assumptions. Yet they entail that each time these animals reproduce we can expect that 200 billion seconds of suffering is experienced (and these are only the cods in the Gulf of Maine). Since there are 31,556,926 seconds in a year, this amounts to 6337.7529 years of suffering. If this continues over an average human lifespan (that is, six decades), the number of years of suffering generated would be 380,265.174. All this for a very specific species in a very specific area.”
Oscar Horta’s terrifying illustration is extremely important since it further refutes the idealistic view of nature, it further induces the moral need to act against it, and it further refutes the idealistic view of a vegan world which is many activists’ moral ideal.
The kinds of lives that the absolute majority of sentient beings on earth are forced to live, are of nothing but suffering. And that is a much more accurate view of nature’s true nature.
To positively view nature one must wear extraordinarily optimistic lenses when looking at individuals from K-selected species, and simply cover the eyes when looking at individuals from r-selected species.
Nature is hell but not since animals are devils. Nonhumans can’t be blamed for the horrors they cause. Our moral view is not about judgments, justice or punishments. It’s about viewing the cruel situation for what it is, recognizing that someone is a victim, acknowledging that suffering is suffering.
The fact that animals as opposed to humans aren’t cruel because they don’t inflict pain on purpose and since they don’t have other choices, doesn’t make the situation less cruel for the victims. There are no painkillers in lack of intention or in the lack of other options. Predation is immoral despite that predators are not acting immorally. Intentional or not, necessary or not, there are still victims to their actions. A hurtful action is bad even when not a bad actor does it.
Actions, and surely situations, can be horrible even if no moral agents were performing them. One unequivocal example for that are natural disasters. Earthquakes are not moral agents yet we think they are bad. We can’t hold anyone responsible for their harms, but surly we consider harms made by earthquakes bad. And not only that we consider them bad, it is unlikely that anyone would argue that we shouldn’t interfere in favor of the ones hurt by an earthquake because it is a natural disaster, in fact most argue that it is our moral obligation to do so.
Many parts of reality are cruel without anyone guilty of them. The fact that earthquakes are not moral agents doesn’t prevent us from thinking we should help their victims. So it’s not moral agency which is relevant here. The lack of moral agents makes the situation injudicable but we can certainly judge the situation as horrible.
When an earthquake happens we define it as a tragedy and bad luck for the ones hurt. If it happens in a certain place once a day, we would say that this is a very bad place to live in. That is despite that no one is doing it on purpose or can be held accountable. No moral agents, and still - a bad place. The same can be said about nature. Only that in nature the bad thing doesn’t happen once a day but every single moment. We can say that nature is bad without anyone bad living in it. Just as we can say that natural disasters are bad without anyone bad causing them.
But of course moral agency is not the only reason for the difference in the feelings towards suffering caused by humans, and suffering caused by nonhumans. Most of the suffering humans cause to nonhumans is inflicted since they want to. Most of the suffering nonhumans cause to other nonhumans is inflicted since they have to.
However, the fact that suffering is always bad for the victim, makes an action that caused suffering bad whether there were alternatives or not.
How is it of any difference to the victims if there were other options available for the victimizers? No animal would stop running away in panic if the chasing animal would explain that there are no other options but starvation.
The fact that suffering is inevitable is not a reason to ignore it, but the primal reason why this world must be destroyed.
We don’t want to annihilate nonhuman animals or human animals. Annihilation is the means not the goal. We want a sufferingless world. We don’t want fear, pain, hunger, thirst, diseases, injuries, parasitism, hypothermia and hyperthermia, whether they happen in battery cages, laboratories and slaughterhouses, or in forests, savannas and oceans. Suffering is suffering. And unfortunately suffering is an inherent part of sentient life. As long as sentient life exists, suffering will too.
The Button Argument
Like in any other situation, only when we acknowledge the roots of the problem, will we be able to solve it. That’s why the few people who care about suffering, all suffering, must do their best trying to end it.
What are you waiting for? An asteroid-hit? The sun to run out?
Will you let trillions upon trillions of sentient beings suffer until then?
If there was a button that can eliminate all the suffering in the world, wouldn't you push it?
Unfortunately there is no button yet.
Will you stand aside or will you create it?