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Feb 11, 2006
Reflections on Language and Activism

Rights for Animals recognise the substantial part that language plays in cementing or changing the way in which other animals are treated by our society. Central to this issue is the debate as to whether animal rights campaigners in addressing the public should refer to practices involving nonhumans as animal ‘use’, ‘exploitation’, ‘abuse’, ‘slavery’ or ‘oppression’. While Rights for Animals regard all these terms as accurate descriptions of practices using animals, we are critical as to the tactical virtues of each one in our campaigning for an end to those practices. There seem to arguments in favour of and against each term, considering that using nonhuman animals in a way that harms them is indeed intolerable abuse and exploitation. In reality there is virtually no distinction between use and abuse of animals (humans and nonhumans) unless no harm is inflicted on them.


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The case for the terms 'exploitation' and 'abuse'

'Use' is the word that those who want to defend the idea that we may exploit nonhumans employ. Such terminology makes animals seem just like objects or tools that just get used. According to this, it seems that animal rights activists should counter this in their language: they should label 'use' for what it is - exploitation and abuse. They should describe it as slavery. Otherwise a chasm can be opened between the exploitation of humans and the exploitation of nonhumans. One has trouble imagining anti-slavery campaigners of old referring to slavery as ‘the use’ of those humans who were enslaved. Or feminists solely talking of ‘the use of females for male purposes'. It's oppression. In order to equate human and nonhuman exploitation, this should be reflected in the language we employ.

The case for a term such as ‘use’

On the other hand, it can be claimed that terms such as exploitation or abuse can often be confusing. The problem is how do people understand what abuse or exploitation is? Most of the public understand these as causing wanton or unnecessary harm. So people think that we are abusing nonhumans, for instance, not by killing them for producing food, but only by keeping them in “bad” conditions, kicking them during their transport, causing them extra suffering when they are being killed, and so on.

In fact, welfarist propaganda has no problem with using these same terms: while it accepts practices such as eating nonhumans it derides as abuse practices such as skinning them alive.

This would then be the reason why slogans against ‘the use of animals’ as such would help to question speciesism and its consequences better than those that oppose ‘animal abuse’ or ‘animal exploitation’. For that reason, ‘use’ would appear to be at the end of the day a much more radical term. Virtually everyone agrees with the claim that abusing or exploiting animals is unacceptable. But arguing that using animals in any way in which you inflict harm on them is unacceptable is different. No possible confusion here, no possible welfarist interpretation of the message: we are putting it crystal clear. Now, of course, there’s one condition to this: it is by all means necessary to use those same terms when we are speaking of humans.

Further remarks

Perhaps a good solution would be to combine all these terms so that the idea that using someone (in a way which harms him or her) means abuse or exploitation. Although the problem with this could be that such explanations are not always explicit.

On the other hand, terms ‘slavery’ or 'oppression' don’t seem to be problematic in the way that has been commented. The reason for this is that they don’t denote a particular treatment of someone at a certain point, but rather a general state of affairs in which a group is downtrodden by others. Furthermore, the terms ‘slavery’ and ‘oppression’ are also a valid description of animal usage but haven’t widely become inappropriately associated with only an extreme fraction of animal usage like the terms ‘abuse’ and ‘exploitation’ have.

http://speciesism.org/
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Posted: Feb 11, 2006 10:01am
Dec 18, 2005
Hi friends!
Sorry for not being around much & also for all your sweet messages. My friend left today & i had my exam, so i'll comeback to you as soon as possible before my next friend visits.
Here is a pic of the last activism i took part to, against foie gras, with the antispeciesist group. More on monday, tuesday & wenersday...

i hope you're all doing great!


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Posted: Dec 18, 2005 10:33am

 

 
 
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