Why It's Ok to Torture, Kill and Eat Animals

I'm not a hard core animal rights activist (probably less than 5% of my time is spent on that issue), but I am interested in how the oppression of animals is so easily seperated from other forms of oppression.

Most progressive activists believe in a common anti-oppression doctrine that says that oppression by either race, gender, class or sexual orientation is very bad. Until recently class was viewed to be the most significant factor and most activists ignored race, gender and sexual orientation up until the Sixties/Seventies.

From my participation in activism, I think there is generally little to be gained by arguments about whether oppression by race, gender, class or sexual orientation is generally worse. You can say things like the racial divide in the student movement is worse than the other factors. Or you could argue that students at Notre Dame face the greatest discrimination based on sexual orientation (as they aren't meant to even form clubs). However, for the most part, it is safer to argue that these forms of oppression are just very different in how they operate, and yet also very similar.

For the same reasons that these four forms of oppression are bad, many activists will also advocate the discrimination by age, by religion (especially for historically oppressed faiths like Judaism and Islam), and - yes even animals - is also bad.

Of these additional forms of oppression, they are generally recognized. However there is a strong resistance to animal rights. It is very acceptable to "call out" someone for racism, sexism, heterosexism, or classism - but not for eating meat or other animal products.

I think that what is happenning is that activists are using a ends-oriented set of moral values. Normally activists care a lot about the means. We want our groups to be democratic, empowering, and our work to be environmentally responsible and anti-racist/sexist/classist/heterosexist. We often strive to have really good process, instead of trying to make decisions as quickly as possible. We are willing to lose some battles, instead of compromizing our values because losing our values will hurt in the long run.

By contrast, the failure to end animal oppression is a cold calculation. We are building alliances with people who eat animals, and we are willing to alienate vegeterians/vegans and to compromize our moral beliefs (or convince ourselves of something that is morally wrong) so as to maximize our power to create social change.

(Of course there are problems with animal rights activists which make them harder to integrate into the mainstream movement, but these could be overcome.)

We will end animal oppression after the revolution.

(Imagine if someone said that about racism.)

Or will we?