Opinion August 10, 2020
Standing up for justice should not be limited to a select group.
With increasing amazement, I see how several anti-racism activists are ignoring the suffering of animals from factory farming. For example, Fati Benkaddour argues that « the constant broaching of ‘Islamic wrongs’ in the meat industry is motivated by Muslim or Jewish hatred. » Akwasi then went a step further by stating in his Parool interview that Golden retrievers are better represented in the House of Representatives than people of color. These kinds of statements show us the wicked blinders that fighters for justice can have. They recognize one injustice (racism), but ignore the other by reducing animal activists to racists and hobbyists. It begs me the question: if you really have an eye for the seriousness of one injustice, then you must understand that you shouldn’t downplay the other injustice?
The injustice is not downplayed
After all, that other injustice is undeniably great. Animals are widely confined, maimed, forced on a torturous diet, forced inseminated, separated from their families and gassed. In the Netherlands alone, an estimated 1.7 million animals are killed every day. It is a number so great that I can hardly imagine it being so. And yet this is the bizarre reality. Anyone who is aware of this realizes that this is too cruel to say. As far as I am concerned, the way we treat animals is downright criminal.
Why then the trivialization?
Why then the trivialization? Benkaddour’s opinion piece assumes that those who oppose the slaughter without anesthesia are mainly driven by hatred of Muslims or Jews. That view does not come out of nowhere. The PVV undeniably uses the sacrificial feast to be able to bash Muslims. A broader sympathy for animals can only be observed with Dion Graus. To conclude from this that Muslim or Jewish hatred is a major motivator for opponents of the sacrificial feast is reprehensible. There are plenty of animal activists who do not hold double standards and criticize both slaughter without stunning and factory farming. Sandra van de Werd was therefore rightly agitated to Benkaddour’s piece: « I am done being dismissed as a racist because I stand up for animals. »
Rapper Akwasi went a step further this week. He reduces the fight against the criminal treatment of animals by the Party for the Animals to the representation of golden retrievers. Now I know that Akwasi often makes provocative statements and that it is wise to let stupidity pass you by, but I cannot ignore this kind of madness. It shows an important and more common flaw in movements that fight for justice: the blinkers of a focus on just one kind of injustice.
Carol J. Adams book The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory show the problem well. In this book, Adams compares the oppression of women to that of animals. In doing so, she convincingly shows that the oppressive ways of thinking have connections. According to her, anyone who is able to reduce an animal to a thing is also the case with a woman. An idea for which there is a lot of evidence. Adams is rightly surprised that many recognize one injustice and trivialize the other injustice.
Adams’s insight that oppressive ways of thinking have connections and are reprehensible in whatever form is of course equally valid for reducing someone from color to inferior being. Philosopher Eva Meijer draws the only correct conclusion from this: “If you are an anti-racist and feminist, you should automatically be a vegan too. The processes of exclusion of women and non-white people are based on the same underlying structures as those of animals. ” So standing up for justice should not be limited to a select group, because then you close your eyes to other injustices.
Suppression of animals, women and people of color are all undesirable. This is why I stand up for women, animals and people of color. Benkaddour and Akwasi supporters would do well to do the same. Anti-racism activists, feminists and animal rights activists all fight against injustice, so let’s fight that fight together and without blinkers.