“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” said Martin Luther King, Jr. So it’s a positive sign whenever animal advocates begin looking beyond the immediate tasks at hand and target a wider range of oppression.
Jenna Calabrese, Miranda Robbins, Steven Roggenbuck and Victor Tsou — all former leafleters with Vegan Outreach — are doing just that with the formation of a new community of vegan activists called Living Opposed to Violence and Exploitation (L.O.V.E.). They are quick to point out this is neither an animal welfare group nor an animal rights group, but something new: an anti-oppression collective that opposes all the “-isms”: ableism, ageism, classism, heterosexism, racism, sexism, speciesism, etc.
L.O.V.E. opposes animal exploitation, not because the animals are suffering or based on any theory of rights, but because it is wrong to use any being without their free consent; therefore, L.O.V.E. seeks the liberation of human and non-human animals alike. Part of their principle is to run L.O.V.E. completely with volunteers and an operating budget of $0.
I asked Jenna to give me more details about this new endeavor.
What inspired you to create this community?
A really potent combination of being inspired by individual essays and articles we had been reading — Unpacking the Knapsack, The Vegan Ideal, Vegans of Color — and being disappointed by the actions and attitudes of many of the mainstream animal advocacy organizations led us to create a community where veganism was viewed as a response to speciesism and all forms of oppression. Many of us are human rights activists in addition to being vegan and animal rights activists, and it’s surprising and sad how rarely it is that those communities cross paths or work together, when all forms of oppression clearly stem from the same system of power and hierarchy that keeps all of these groups marginalized. We wanted L.O.V.E. to serve as a resource for writings on the topic, a guide to people looking to expand or enhance their vegan activism and a safe haven for people who agree with these ideas and want to connect with others like them.
So L.O.V.E. is not comprised of any groups?
Right now, L.O.V.E. is a collective of individuals, not groups. We had been pretty disenchanted with a majority of the animal advocacy organizations currently in operation, and we really wanted L.O.V.E. to be something different. There are other organizations which share in L.O.V.E.’s values, though, and if they wanted to be a part of the collective, they would be welcome to join. Anyone — individual or group — can do so by visiting http://www.loveallbeings.org and signing up for the website and mailing list. We are happy to have you on board.
How does L.O.V.E. differ from other organizations?
Until now, animal advocacy organizations have mostly fallen into one of two categories: animal welfare and animal rights. Animal welfare groups are concerned with the treatment of animals, often based on the idea of reducing suffering, and do not challenge the notion that animals exist for human use. Animal rights groups challenge the use of animals, using a technical idea of “rights.” This is made more confusing because “animal rights” has become a general term to mean any work in animal advocacy.
We have found both approaches — animal welfare and animal rights — lacking. Animal welfare groups understandably try to better the lives of oppressed animals, but do so with an understanding and approach that does not challenge or weaken the system that causes the animals to suffer in the first place. By working on the effects rather than the cause, animal welfare groups are caught in an endless cycle of campaigning against one abuse, celebrating a victory, then campaigning against another abuse. So long as the system of exploitation exists, the abuses will never end and old abuses will be replaced with new ones.
Animal rights groups, on the other hand, do not bring an understanding of power and privilege to the situation and therefore may inadvertently perpetuate the oppression of others. For example, some animal rights groups champion the rights of only certain animals, expanding the membership of privilege, leaving large classes of animals those groups deemed less important in the lower class subject to our exploitation.
These might seem like nit-picky, abstract points, but they’re not. In practical terms, the animal welfare approach has led to a near disappearance of the word “vegan” from public education efforts. Worse, we have seen the largest animal welfare group in the country promoting the consumption of cage-free eggs to their members in a fundraising letter. For a flavor of the problems of the animal rights approach, please see Animal Rights and the Humane Treatment Principle.
How are you using the Internet to manage L.O.V.E.?
L.O.V.E. primarily exists at the webspace at http://www.loveallbeings.org — our members live in wildly different geographical locations and cannot practically work together anywhere but on the Internet. We are hoping to encourage the growth of local activist communities by connecting people through the L.O.V.E. website. There is an activist mailing list, called COMMUNITY, that will allow people to discuss their experiences and events, as well as a blog on which people can discuss current events, articles and news and questions they may have about veganism and anti-oppression activism — which, if you don’t have anyone in ”real life” with whom you can discuss these things, could turn out to be a very useful tool. We’re also launching a Vegan Buddies Project to help connect vegans with other vegans in their areas. They can hopefully strengthen one another’s commitment to a vegan life while engaging in local activism to bring about even more change in the world.