Language liberation

Liberate your language by Vegina is a great post which focuses on oppressive language use and speciesist ideology. It ties in with the ableist language issues I blogged about last week. By liberating communication, we liberate thinking and the way behaviour plays out, in my view.

[…] it is impossible to discuss speciesist language without also discussing racist and sexist language, as they are all interlinked by a prevailing structure of inequality that operates within most institutions, belief systems, governments, and cultures globally.

Vegina

If you missed my last guest blog on Viva La Vegan, here it is! 

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Through slang terms, idioms, insults, and standardized grammatical constructs, language reflects current social inequalities. It is packed with the vestiges of a culture’s history of domination, exploitation, and discrimination. In this way, language not only reflects inequality but also has the potential to oppress. In using problematic language, we reinscribe abuses and inequalities. However, by simply not using such language, we can free our own words of exploitation, forcing others to confront these issues when they hear us speak.

In this post I will focus on how language oppresses (and how we can liberate that language) as it applies to nonhuman animals and speciesist ideology. Importantly though, as I will describe below, it is impossible to discuss speciesist language without also discussing racist and sexist language, as they are all interlinked by a prevailing…

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269 tattoo campaigner says humans don’t need rights

I got invited to an event by a friend on Facebook, and cringed at the term ‘disable’ used as follows:

We are not interested in popularist Kony-style campaigns – this event is about committing yourself for life to actions that disable the animal holocaust.

It was a worldwide tattoo event “in solidarity” with an activist who got branded with hot iron. I tried wading through the long description (which began with biblical quotes) and didn’t see a link 5 long paragraphs down to the 269life site. I thought I’d click on one of seemingly many FB friends’ profiles at some less busy point in my life to learn more. I found nothing at all browsing a few ‘269’ profile photos for captions or comments. The intent to find more info about the event or the movement before I get into any potential debate over ableist language is not because the background is relevant, all vegans are more or less familiar with speciesist language, but because people tend to detract from criticism instead of taking it constructively.

There are many suitable and inoffensive words one could use such as ‘end’ or ‘dismantle’ the animal holocaust, it is all the more strange to use ‘disable’ as holocaust automatically makes one think of the 200,000-250,000 disabled victims of the Holocaust. The movement is trying to get people to make the link between the Holocaust and the massacre of animals on a larger scale. Many Jews prefer the term Shoah because ‘holocaust’ comes from the Greek word holókauston – an animal sacrifice offered to a god in which the whole animal (olos) is completely burnt (kaustos). The term was, in English, for massacres where many lives are lost. Whether or not the 269 campaign wishes to oppress the disabled, disability also affects non-humans. In the industrial complex of their massacre, they’re probably the first to be killed, to forego the expense of dealing with an injured animal whose life has no value, whether farm animal or race horse, or pet. To ‘disable’ in the animal exploiting industry very much means to ‘end’ or to’destroy’. Our speciesist culture constructed our language – so why refuse to change it?

Not a likely sight. In industries, the pig would be dead as soon as it finds itself diseased or unable to stand in a crate or on a farm. Image source: Barbara McClure.

It’s a very simple procedure to edit Facebook events, I gave them options on their event page (which has been deleted). Vegans surely want animal exploitation to end not ‘be redefined’. As anyone, I’m making assumptions on what they ideally mean. Here are synonyms from freedictionary.com which has a longer list but these sum it up:

alter, change, modify – cause to change; make different…
lay up – disable or confine, as with an illness…
nobble – disable by drugging; “nobble the race horses”
pinion – cut the wings off (of birds)

restrain, confine , […]

I used the interwebs which is ‘free’ and straight-forward, I don’t have another dictionary and even 2nd language English speakers, like me, often use the online dictionaries out of convenience. I left two of the above decriptions’ full versions so you’d see how it’s also clearly speciesist to use the oppressive term, in case they wish to pinion or nobble the animal massacre. Likewise, it is ableist to mean ‘destroy the capacities’ or whatever they mean because ableism is ignored by most, and ableism hurts.

I’m the only one I’m seeing thus far criticising ableist language that I’ve come across in the last week, maybe it’s to do with the percentage of disabled people and allies in the movement. Maybe you put them off with all your ableist language and inability to listen to other perspectives when criticised, Movement. If we want to afford animals the same respect we afford humans, how can we refuse to respect humans and perpetuate oppression?

On the campaign itself: Firstly I would never go google/YT something about someone’s tattoo. Even if a tattoo cost near to nothing, to donate to/wards a calf sanctuary or if the intent is to promote the 269 movement’s words, to collectively buy stickers/buttons from their webshop (scratch that idea and please read comments for the latest – they are proudly and deliberately misanthropist) could’ve been an option.

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Update after trying to bring up word-usage with the organiser/s and getting insulted today, 10 days later, I realised that the event isn’t over, it’s rolling on to December then to January. Instead of discussing this or dismissing what I’m saying respectfully (NB no one replied to my older post or edited the event description in 10 days), Sasha-Vegan Cannibal (AKA Sasha Boojor) first had a laugh and engaged only with a Skye Hollywood in the thread, mostly speaking about me in 3rd person:

“rolling on the floor atm … this is too much!!! fucking animals are been raped and butchered alive and shes complaining about some shit like that!!! just get lost pls
i dare her to go on a human anti rape event and post some stupid shit like that! i dare her! the nerve on her! unreal!”

I wouldn’t ever think that ‘fucking’ is a suitable adjectives for tortured animals, unless the person saying it has Tourette’s maybe… He then finally addressed me (I don’t know about what exactly):

“nope none for self involved speciesist scum such as your self […] saw old on the brink of death mothers which can hardly stand or even hold thyre heads up to look at me as i was passing by… so ye i could give 2 shits about this stupid shit you preaching”

His only responses (now deleted but you’ll find plenty of similar examples on their page at every hint of critical thinking) of ridicule followed by violent (verbal) opposition is something all vegans are familiar with in 2012, we’ve all watched Earthlings or have at least heard of Schopenhauer’s 3 stages of truth-processing and most vegan advocates have experienced this first-hand on trying to confront someone on their speciesist lifestyle or simply when being confronted, ridiculed or attacked because someone feels threatened by one’s mere vegan existence.

To someone on their event asking questions because she was in two minds and had restrictions about wearing visible ink at her job, Ashley Vegan-YogaGeek added something about avoiding overthinking: ‘Don’t think, just do.’ (which is probably the full Nike slogan too!), so I have to wonder, what is this, a cult?

Answer: Very possibly! I doubt most even read this (although linked in the very same thread of our discussion) because Ashley just said to Sasha “pls End this convo. It’s bringing bad energy […] Enough low frequency chat, let’s raise the earths vibration right now.”

Sadly, events like 269life’s are at the forefront of the ‘movement’.

Injustice anywhere…

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

The assumption that animals are without rights, and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance, is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. ~ Arthur Schopenhauer, The Basis of Morality.

Veganism is in truth an affirmation that where love is, exploitation vanishes. It possesses historical continuity with the movement that set free the human slaves. […] veganism is itself a principle, from which certain practices logically flow. ~ Leslie Cross (Vice Pres, Vegan Society, 1951)

I don’t know anything about Leslie Cross or the context of the latter quote so it’s worth pointing out that Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks and many abolitionists were vegetarians. Angela Davis is vegan, Alice Walker agrees with the ethics (in a foreword to a book) but isn’t vegan.

The first vegan cookbook written about was No Animal Food by Rupert H. Wheldon in 1910. In 1912 a plant-based diet was suggested as the proper vegetarian diet by the editor of the Journal of the Vegetarian Society in Manchester after a debate between readers – s/he deemed the reasons for milk and egg consumption unsatisfactory. The focus changed to Henry Salt’s emphasis on animal rights later. The ethics predates it by centuries or decades, but as I’m pointing out documentation is vital in writing history. I only recently realised that “vegan” was coined by Dorothy (Morgan-)Watson in the 1940s. Her husband Donald Watson founded the first Vegan Society with Elsie Shrigley in London, in 1944. Veganism seeks to exclude anything that entails the exploitation and use of animals as far as possible, thus implies no use of meat, milk, fish, eggs, honey, leather, silk, wool, zoos, circuses, horse-riding, etc.

I follow a strict vegan diet in spite of multiple food allergies but one who cannot comply to the same for health reasons, or income, or who dumpster-dives (freegans),  is vegan. There are freegans who are strict vegans and one for instance who looks for freshly dumped egg and dairy products for his friends or relatives who were going to buy these products anyway. Do bear in mind that the latter products are priced low with the aid of government subsidies and although they are perishables, energy-wasting methods are used to make their distribution easy (and their waste just as). With our diversity and differing circumstances in mind…

I define ‘veganism’ as the willingness to do the least harm possible on any group/page I’ve created because in a few words, it encompasses all the above as well as this quote from (Sarah Woodcock’s) Vegans Unite Against ALL Oppression: “We can’t effectively battle speciesism with other forms of oppression. Tolerating any form of oppression means tolerating every form of oppression.” I’m not linking to vegan abolitionist pages anymore. Gary Francione is very far from being representative of all vegans and his brand is problematic from the use of the word ‘abolitionist’. That a Francionite runs the above page doesn’t eclipse the privilege and isms he doesn’t accept criticism about.

Speciesism is the arbitrary discrimination against, abuse and murder of other species; while it is comparable to any other arbitrary discrimination, abuse and murder, it is important to prioritise respect for oppressed groups consistently and also not to engage in oppression olympics.

Compassion is not a requirement for morality. Since I have none, I favour logic, logic does not change with emotional states. If one wishes to be part of an ethical movement, one has accepted being part of rational discussion. Those who oppress humans and persist to do so, denying or enjoying the harm they cause, or refusing to see it as harm, while calling themselves ‘vegan’ – harm the movement. I experience discrimination as a direct result of that in my communities, I call myself vegan and I may not get to explain that I do not mean white supremacist or privileged. I shouldn’t have to. There are other fine two-syllable words like ‘plant-based’ to denote herbivore; the term ‘anti-speciesist’ can be used in all languages.

It would be dishonest, to say the least, for an animal-rightist to pretend that it harms the movement for others to discuss ignored forms of oppression, or to explain how harmful inter-human oppression is. I’m oppressed and if I’m less so, it frees up my time and spoons to do something for them, it’s good for animals too. That’s like very simple maths. Erasing my reality and experience means wanting a white supremacist or privileged vegan movement.

If we advocate to give animals the same respect as we give humans, then encouraging the indifference to, absence of or dilution of equal rights, or of respect, among human does a dis-service to animal advocacy.

There are many individual vegans and activists who are outspoken against many forms of oppression, and this movement has some more great quotes from prominent historical figures you may recognise that promoted connectionism. Veganism, as it ought to be, is not limited to the above. Some of those whose voices should matter may not be in a position to be seen or heard. It took me a long time to start blogging and it’s not only time-consuming, I now have to organise internet access for it.

How we wish we had answers to questions that generations after generations ask :
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