By Roland Windsor Vincent Editor, Eco-Socialism, the Environment, and Animal Rights.
[A protest against seal slaughter organized by Friends of Animals (FoA). The organization was founded by Alice Herrington who, like most of her generation and social class, was basically clueless and indifferent about the political roots of animal exploitation. Unfortunately, the next generation has not proved a marked improvement in that regard.]
The paucity of involvement by animal activists in the political arena, in general, and in the politics of the real Left, in particular, is explainable if not excusable.
Early animal activists were mostly comfortable suburbanites, the products of middle class backgrounds and Conservative political philosophy. Their experience in political struggles was virtually non-existent, and certainly did not extend to radical social issues of the day, ie, civil rights, integration, and voting rights.
In seeking political support to end the more egregious abuses of animals with which they became familiar, they turned to those with whom they were familiar, their Conservative elected officials. The issues that primarily concerned those early activists regarded dogs, cats, and vivisection of laboratory animals.
It should have been immediately apparent to those early activists that they were imploring the enemy for help. Of course, they had no clue.
Even then Conservative politicians were firmly in the grasp of Big Pharm and the medical lobby, and concerns about abuse and torture of animals in medical research fell upon deaf ears. Activists were placated with lip service about stray dogs and cats, and they went away feeling they had impacted those in positions to help.
No such help was ever received. Then, the enactment of the Animal Protection Act in 1966, engineered by Republican Robert Dole and signed into law by Democrat Lyndon Johnson, convinced the rather naive activists that animal issues transcended partisan political agendas, and that the plights of animals, and the solutions to those plights were totally apolitical or at least non-partisan.
Almost 50 years later the damage done by that misguided notion is only beginning to be recognized.
Since those early years of the animal movement the country has come under the growing influence of Big Business, Wall Street, the Banks, Big Oil, and Big Agriculture. Their power is based upon the politicians whose campaigns they finance and upon whom they bestow contributions and gifts. They are rewarded with the passage of legislation they favor and with the appointments of industry insiders and lobbyists to position of authority in agencies regulating those very industries. The result is as predictable as it is pernicious: Industries are running the government, at least insofar as legislation and regulatory oversight is concerned.
And it is just that legislation and oversight which operates against the interests of animals where they conflict with the interests of business.
The result is Big Oil destroying wildlife habitats, Big Pharm is killing millions of laboratory animals each year, Big Ag is opposing any relief to the suffering of animals trapped in the food system, Conservative politicians are defending puppy mills, circuses, and aquatic parks, etc, as free enterprise.
Even with the mountain of evidence that Conservative politicians are the mouthpieces for business, apologists for the exploitation of animals, and defenders of animal cruelty, there are still animal activists who refuse to look at the evidence and who defend the Conservatives’ records.
Fortunately, those activists are advancing in years and giving way to a younger, more politically astute crop of animal defenders and movement leaders.
This next generation of activists is better educated, more Liberal,
familiar with history, and possessed of worldviews that embrace universal rights and the struggle for both human and animal liberation.
The Animal Rights moment has its dinosaurs. They are older, politically unsophisticated, philosophically adrift, and clutching feverishly to the notion that somehow Republicans and Conservative Democrats share their interests. They have to believe it, lest their whole world crumbles around them.
They will have been proven to have been wrong for the entirety of their lives.
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