Do We Need a Revolution?

This is not the question I asked my friends and fellow activists week ago but maybe next time I should. I asked: Could you, please, tell me for my blog couple of words about animal rights this year? What was important, was there any development?

Sociologist and social justice activist Corey L. Wrenn said that she subscribes to most of the big charities in the US & UK and at first it seems the only real achievements were getting more vegan options available in big chains. “Veganuary had record numbers of registrants, 600k; also 1 in 4 new products in the UK were vegan; the Vegan Society failed us all with the recent racist gaffe, Nathan Winograd (founder of the no-kill movement) has posted quite a few major legislative changes on his blog (some cities in the US are banning the sale of dogs). Bernie Rollin died in November and Nancy Regan died this year too. Millions of animals died in wildfires in Greece and floods in Canada. In the UK, octopi, lobsters, crabs were recognized as sentient; so – a lot actually happened now that I think about.”

Saara Mildeberg, doctoral student of cultural studies, mentions ban of fur farms in Estonia. “Changing a legislation has very important outcomes and also symbolic power, at home as well as internationally. But – our work continues because fur is still allowed as a sub product and every legal act gives opportunity to break the law. But it is a remarkable achievement in Estonia and globally; how can I mention something else. Second best is our conference Animal Futures what was organized despite the pandemics; I think that academics who are in critical animal studies and are swimming upstream anyhow; for them this corona time has probably been quite lonely.  But as one of the organizers, I am biased, of course.” Good place to mention that 7th conference – Animal Futures takes place in May, 2022.

Head of Estonian Animal Shelters, Triinu Priks, mentions ban of fur farms as well but also describes how she has noticed kind of nervousness in animal agriculture. “These ones are smarter who go with the changes and not blame plant based consumers of their troubles. If we talk about welfare of pets, then in Estonia the most remarkable development is work of Tiina Kukk – new animal welfare specialist of Estonian Agriculture and Food Board. Finally, animal abusers get what they deserve.”

Many other activists mention the ban of fur farms but not only in Estonia. Jake Conroy, long-time activist, says; “I think the movement against fur has been really exciting this past year. Lots of bans on farming and sales. And in the US, lots of grassroots pressure and success against designers and retailers.”

Anny Drobet, board member of Estonian Vegan Society answers that for her, the most significant phenomenon in animal rights field is that we fight the zoonotic diseases with animal tested vaccines. “It seems that we fight the outcome of exploitation with double exploitation of animals.”

And it’s true: the number of animals used for experiments in Europe has only fallen by an annual average of 1% over the past 10 years since Directive 2010/63/EU has been in place. This year European Commission promised to phase out cages for farmed animals (End of the Cage Age gathered more than million signatures of EU citizens) and European Parliament voted in favour to a vote in favour of a comprehensive plan to phase-out experiments on animals. About time.

In animal welfare there are more news: Turkey passed a new animal welfare law that reclassified strays and pets as living beings rather than commodities. The legislation also laid out harsher penalties for cases of animal cruelty. In May, the U.K. launched the Action Plan for Animal Welfare. It addresses around 40 different animal welfare concerns, including those surrounding international trade, farm animals, pets and sporting animals, and wild animals. As such, the government pledged to crack down on foie gras, end live animal exports, and ban primates as pets, just to name a few. In Estonia, many local governments decided not to organize new year’s fireworks because of animals and environment.

The Dutch government has unveiled a €25bn plan to radically reduce the number of livestock in the country as it struggles to contain an overload of animal manure. But the plan, the first of its kind in the world, faces a huge backlash  from farmers who have staged big street protests in recent years over the prospect of tough regulation and farmer buyouts. They fear permanent damage to food production in the country if too many farmers are forced to quit.

Despite of that meat consumption is growing, livestock industry is lobbying to get more support everywhere. Estonian state funded campaign is quite ridiculous. But – meeting Paris Agreement is impossible with continuation of meat consumption.

Finnish animal advocacy organization Animalia writes in annual summary article that market of plant protein has grown more than one third and plant based products are bought over 50 million euros during one year.

It’s almost impossible to be sure how big is the meat consumption impact to climate change.  It’s huge, maybe really in first place, no need to find exact numbers even if official data is smaller than in reality. And mostly because of that, line between animal rights/protection and environment protection has blurred. I think, it’s remarkable that Estonian Environmental Law Centre nominated ban of fur farms as environmental act of the year. (Go, Loomus!). There is a danger in this process – if the line is blurred, people don’t think so much about animal rights but their own survival and this is not fair. It’s speciesism. Yes, of course, animal farms are breeding ground for new viruses and yes, meat consumption makes humankind more ill due to bacteria resistance for antibiotics but even these things are not the main point. We just don’t have rights to exploit other species. They don’t want us to.

Last year documentary “Seaspiracy” was at least some time number one in Netflix and in the same streaming platform “Don’t look up” got lots of attention. I like the idea that this movie is not about climate change but also about global totalitarianism and more.

I’ll write this blog text over new year’s eve if I’ll continue with important books published this year but Mihkel Kunnus, lecturer of environment protection lists some authors and books published in Estonian this year. He answers my question like this: “As a book person, I remember this year by books. In 2021. 200 years passed since the birth of Fyodor Dostoevsky, the great expert of human soul. His attitude towards animal protection movement (yes, it existed in his lifetime) was warm and in his books there is repetitive motif about person who abuses his horse as his property – as an example of deepness of human decline. To read the texts of A. H. Tammsaare at the same time – discussions about animals and humans, and how awful is the killing of animals committed by humans; then it’s quite weird to read that Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation (was published in Estonian this year) is a revolutionary book. I am glad that also books of Pentti Linkola were translated to Estonian this year and I’ll add to recommended reading list this year “Mama’s Last Hug”, by Frans de Waal and “Ökoloogia võhikutele” (Ecology to Ignorants), by Kristjan Zobel. Surely, it’s hopeful that in the editorial of “Postimees” (daily newspaper) was call to reduce one’s meat consumption. Animal protection is kind of the same as healthy lifestyle, we can’t delegate it fully to the specialists, changes in general behaviour are very important. Biggest hope is in these branches of animal protection movement whose suggestions to change one’s overlap with suggestions of energy saving.  Until life – we have hope.”

Yes, we still have hope, like in this example: In 2022 the New York Court of Appeals will hear whether a single elephant, Happy, can leave her hellish Bronx Zoo life and go to a spectacular sanctuary that will give her 3,000 beautiful acres and friends, instead of the 1 pathetic acre and loneliness that have tormented her for decades. In making its decision this court will do what is required to determine an advance of common law: consider wisdom, justice, right, ethics, fairness, policy, shifting societal norms, and the surging reality of changed conditions. I’ll try to monitor this case.

This year I personally felt hopeful listening many online seminars and conferences in critical animal studies. This is one good outcome of pandemics – really, I can easily live without travelling if I can attend online conferences. Knowledge is everywhere and the best thing is to get some wisdom from the best animal advocates sitting in my own kitchen with cats. Critical animal studies are a big and important part of animal liberation and I hope like social and political theorist Dinesh Wadiwel that one day we have a strong intellectual movement for animal liberation.

Or maybe it’s more understandable to finish with the words of Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. She wrote the answer to me: “Let us all please work in every country and internationally to stop the scourge of animal abuse and bring about animal liberation! Every word, every deed counts. Let’s feed people who have never tried vegan food, let’s buy only things where an animal is not involved at all, and let’s educate via videos and Word of mouth and example. Good luck to all of us in 2022 for the animal sake!”

I know what I’ll ask next year.

Foto: We Animals Media

British Columbia has felt the devastating effects of climate change throughout 2021 with wildfires, a heat dome and most recently, severe flooding. Ground zero for the November floods hit one of Canada’s largest animal agriculture zones in the Fraser Valley, which produces 75% of the dairy and the majority of the chicken and eggs for the province. According to the B.C. Chicken Growers Association, 60 poultry farms have been directly affected by the flooding, 20 of which raise chickens for meat. As of November 17th, BC Dairy has confirmed that 59 dairy farms are under an evacuation order. When the floods inundated Abbotsford, hundreds of thousands of animals, mostly chickens, are believed to have perished in the disaster. Citizens with their own boats, who were attempting to save human and non human animals were ticketed, told to leave the area and fined $2,000 each. Despite evacuation orders and restricted access, our photographer Nick Schafer was on the ground in Abbotsford to document the disaster and share the untold stories of these farmed animals.

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