The activists among us should remember that there’s plenty to do together
I hope everyone’s been following the discussion on animal rights and environmentalism. I continue to be impressed with the decency and thoughtfulness of the community that’s gathered here.
Frogfish said most of what needed to be said. The unit of analysis for conservationism is population; for animal rights it is the individual. If you ask me, animal rights is morally bankrupt in the absence of environmentalism — not the other way around.
But we should all remember: parsing the logical and ethical differences is a matter for thinkers. For doers, for activists, the job is to get things done. That means rallying people around the things they agree on, not emphasizing those that divide them.
Think, for instance, about CAFOs. They are offensive environmentally, for air and water pollution. They are offensive ethically, for unthinkable cruelty to the animals involved. They are offensive socially, for the way they dominate and sicken neighboring communities. They are offensive economically, for the way they externalize cost and internalize profit at the expense of small, community-based livestock farmers.
Take your pick. There is no excuse for CAFOs, no defense, either philosophically or practically.
What keeps CAFOs in operation is not good arguments but political power backed by lots of money. The way to take down CAFOs is not with good arguments but with political power backed by lots of organizing.
Environmentalists and animal rights activists are both guilty of choosing their battles based on proprietary concerns, often with the result that the most extreme cases are highlighted. They — and activists from other progressive interest groups — should think more strategically about pressure points around which a broad coalition can be or already is mobilized. There are many.
There is much we can do working together. Let’s achieve the achievable first, then turn to our more quixotic individual crusades.
When environmentalists and animal rights types reach a point in history where their differences exceed their common goals, I’ll be more inclined to hash out the nuances. But that point is a long way off.
Get Grist in your inbox