In Defense of the Non-Humans First Declaration

Species and Class

jon h

By Jon Hochschartner

I’d like to take a moment to defend the Non-Humans First Declaration, a text that has become something of a boogeyman amongst intersectional animalists. But first, let me be clear about what I’m not doing. I’m not defending the signatories, social media activity associated with the declaration, or anything ancillary to the text itself. This isn’t necessarily meant as a condemnation of these. Rather, I want to limit the scope of my argument.

As mentioned, the declaration has amassed many critics. For instance, while I don’t have the work in front of me, I believe in “The Politics of Total Liberation: Revolution for the 21st Century,” Steven Best described the text as ‘fascist.’ Fascism is one of those accusations slung around the left with such frequency it has lost nearly all meaning. And, as much as I respect Best, I suspect his opposition to the declaration might…

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4 thoughts on “In Defense of the Non-Humans First Declaration

  1. I don’t know if Jon follows this blog, or if would be better to put this discussion on the original Species and Class blog, to clarify what Jon is advocating. I read the article as Geoff did, as advocating a “big-tent” approach to unite people acting on behalf of non-human animals, regardless of their views on socialism or other issues. Roland seems to take a different approach, uniting people acting for socialism, regardless of their views on non-human animals. They are both big-tent approaches, but one, as the article title suggests, puts non-humans first.

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    • In an ideal world logic would dictate that all victims of cruelty and exploitation, both human and non-human, be championed by all who oppose oppression. That is the goal of intersectionalists. But one which appears as remote as does world peace. Speciesism is as prevalent on the left as it is on the right. And speciesism is the wall that intersectionalists cannot breach.

      Taking a “big tent” approach to animal rights yields a very small tent. The only inhabitants would be vegans and those attempting to enact laws granting rights to animals and those calling for destroying the legal and economic systems which allow for animal exploitation and murder. Expanding the tent to embrace animal welfarists makes a much larger venue. Including those who like their pets creates the biggest tent of all. But of course such a tent is totally useless. The tent must have a purpose and a mission. The larger the tent, the less focused the mission.

      For all practical purposes the current animal movement is a “big tent” approach. One that is a demonstrable failure. Almost everything we have done as a movement has been trying to turn the tide with teacups.

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  2. Thank you, Roland, for having the courage to publish a compelling essay that tends to undermine your own arguments for why animal rights advocates should automatically support the cause of socialist revolution. Any true revolution requires great sacrifices from its soldiers. Like Ben Franklin supposedly said, a revolution is no small thing and as the initiators of the American Revolution did, one has to be willing to “pledge one’s life, one’s fortune and one’s sacred honor.” I, personally, would never be willing to do that for the nebulous cause of “socialism” in the (probably vain) hope that once a socialist society has come into being its leaders and citizens will somehow have their consciousness magically expanded to include animal rights as one of its organizing principles. If I’m going to die for a cause, it’s not going to be for a humanist one that does not currently and quite possibly never will care about justice for non-human beings. I think the Big Tent approach alluded to by Hochschartner is more likely to yield tangible results for animals than intersectionalism ever will.

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    • While I appreciate your complementing my courage, I do not believe it is warranted. Hochschartner’s “big tent” approach differs little from my own concept of embracing all who wish to see capitalism end.

      Nor do I believe that socialism will “magically” improve the lives of animals or cause people to embrace Animal Rights.

      My support of socialism is directly related to the mechanical effect of economics on animal production, exploitation, and consumption. Socialist societies murder and consume half the animals, per capita, as do capitalist societies. The combined effect of removing profit from production, centrally planned and regulated industry, bureaucratic inefficiency, etc, means fewer animals are bred, murdered, and butchered. On a global scale, socialism would mean 30 BILLION fewer animals dying each year on slaughterhouse floors than are murdered now. It would mean one and a quarter TRILLION fewer sea creatures killed each year.

      And this would be under socialist societies which did not care a whit about animals. The effect of socialist economics alone would save more lives than thirty thousand animal movements.

      I arrive at that figure because over the last 50 years the animal movement has been responsible for saving the lives of a mere million or so animals per year. To have the same effect on reducing animal murder as socialism would have, we would need to be 30,000 times bigger than we are as a movement. Each and every animal activist, rescuer, adopter, transporter, donor, crossposter, emailer, protestor, letter writer, phone caller, voter, would need to be multiplied by 30,000!

      Capitalist apologists observe that the left is as indifferent to animal suffering as is the right. That is somehow supposed to militate for capitalism? Capitalism is the most evil force ever unleashed by humans. It institutionalizes the basest of human behaviors and instincts, and suppresses the essence of all that is admirable in our species.

      The future of humanity, if there is to be one, must be a socialist future. Not because socialism is a more moral system than is capitalism (which it is), but because capitalism will eventually destroy the environment, extinguishing humans, animals, oceans, rivers, rainforests, and the very air we all breathe.

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