We Can’t Ignore Nonhumans in the Fight for Liberty

The roundtable on youth climate organizing in the most recent issue of Upping the Anti is a significant recognition of the importance of youth climate justice and inclusion. However, there is a moment I would like to discuss: within the interview, Yohanna writes, “[activists] made dehumanizing and racist comparisons between animal rights activism and the Black liberation movement, echoing ‘All Lives Matter’ sentiments.” While I condemn anti-Black statements, I believe there is a degree of humbling that needs to happen in regard to animal rights. It is an undeniable fact that animal agriculture has not only torn the earth at its seams, but so too is there the fact that like in all oppression, nonhumans by the billions are detained, tortured, and enslaved due to their species. It is important to realize that claims of lower capacity to cogitate, poorer or nonexistent speech, and disparate appearance, have occurred within all systems of oppression and still do today as excuses to oppress. I myself am a mixed, queer, transperson who has experienced a great deal of discrimination and abuse as a result of my birth; and while I haven’t experienced anti-Blackness, I suggest that all oppressed groups come together not to ignore the torture of nonhumans, but to accept that they, like us, have the capacity to suffer and do so at the helm of severe oppression.

In the US, Black women are, proportionally, the largest population of vegans, and people of colour are often those that are subject to the trauma within factory farms, or live near them due to Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) discrimination. The idea that it is only privileged white people who support the animal rights movement, who believe all creatures deserve equal rights, is a myth that only perpetuates the idea that POCs can’t sympathize with those beyond them. In fact, it is also a myth that eating sustainably and vegan entails a great deal more costs and therefore is completely inaccessible to those in low-income areas. While the truth of this can vary widely depending on the community, a study conducted by Lancet Planetary Health Today found that in high-income countries, such as the US, vegan diets can actually slash food costs by more than a third. To ignore the oppression of nonhumans is to ignore the oppression of so many more, and I believe the plight of nonhumans has been, and still is, shared by other groups subject to discrimination.