Sexual Harassment in Our Animal Rights Community

Sexual Harassment in Our Animal Rights Community

AR Harm-Free Community

May All Beings Be Free From Harm

When the news of Harvey Weinstein’s behavior became public, we on the NARN board were not surprised. While sexual violence can be committed or experienced by individuals of any gender, men in positions of power particularly seem conditioned to believe that they can do whatever they want to womxn and femmes and get away with it. Sexual harassment, intimidation, abuse, and rape are committed by men in positions of power everywhere, and men in power in animal activism are no exception.

The animal rights movement, though filled with some of the most caring, compassionate people, is not immune to the effects of rape culture and misogyny. In fact, numerous men in positions of power within the animal rights movement have perpetrated sexual harassment and abuse on their fellow activists. Too often their victims are silenced through threats of legal action, bullying, and/or shame. The abusers’ behavior is excused, disbelieved, or dismissed because of name recognition and/or because these abusers are “such good activists.”  It can be hard to get folx to talk about the sexual exploiters because it makes our movement look bad.

What is truly bad for our movement, however, is the continued tolerance of abuse and abusers. Many womxn and femmes don’t feel safe in our movement because, in lieu of accountability, abusers are often rewarded and survivors are rarely believed when they speak out. We have cultivated an atmosphere of fear, silence, and tolerance. Many of us find it difficult to believe that vegan animal rights activists can also be misogynists or perpetrators of sexual violence, but these things can and do happen.

For far too long this behavior has been tolerated and it has absolutely been damaging to our movement and the people in it. We understand that it can be difficult to know what to do when perpetrators and their defenders hold such positions of power, but thankfully more people are beginning to have these difficult conversations. NARN believes in the right of all beings to live free from harm, and that includes those who would be victims of sexual violence or harassment within our movement.   

As an animal rights organization, we also want to tell survivors doing this work that we believe you and we know it’s not your fault. It is–and will continue to be–our responsibility keep NARN events free of misogyny, harassment, and abuse. In the past, NARN has given corrective counseling for subtle, unintended violations and has refused to host or work with men who are known to be sexual harassers and abusers.  These values remain at the heart of our mission, and we are committed to continuing to do better.

As a part of our commitment to keeping all activists safe in our community, we are currently drafting and documentating a formal harassment and violence policy. (If you want to know more about how to address or prevent these issues in AR work, subscribe to our email here to find out about our next animal activism training). If you have any concerns that you would like to address to the Board, please contact us here or reach out to any specific board member you feel comfortable with.

Additionally, if you have ever experienced any kind of sexual harassment or abuse while working or volunteering within the animal welfare and/or vegan movement, resources for reporting, and other support, can be found here. We also encourage you to consider participating in this confidential online survey being conducted by, an activist and author, Dr. Lisa Kemmerer to assess the prevalence of these situations within the community.

If you’re a man or someone who is masculine-identifying in the AR movement—even, and especially, if you see yourself as one of the “good guys” who would never exploit womxn and femmes–we encourage you to talk to other men in the movement about sexual violence and misogyny. Start conversations, hold each other accountable, interrupt sexism, speak up, believe womxn, and use your privilege to examine your own behavior and to reduce and prevent harm to all beings.

For further information on this topic, author Carol Adams has some great insights in this Bearded Vegans podcast interview. Her book The Sexual Politics of Meat is still relevant reading today, and her website offers many other links, resources, and discussion points. Additionally, Critical Resistance provides a plethora of resources for activists and activist communities, addressing harm, accountability, and healing on their website.

Raise Your Voice! It’s Not Too Late for the Mountain Goats: Deadline 10/10/17

Photo by Wingchi Poon (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Oreamnos_americanus#/media/File:Wherever_you_go_I_will_go.JPG) Creative Commons license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

Photo by Wingchi Poon (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Oreamnos_americanus#/media/File:Wherever_you_go_I_will_go.JPG) Creative Commons license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

Anyone who’s so beleaguered by the treatment of animals or the state of politics in this country, or both, that they haven’t taken time to speak up for the mountain goats of the Olympic Peninsula  (HERE IS THE LINK TO COMMENT) should take heart: We have been here before. We can make a difference.

Just ask Roger Anunsen and Cathy Sue Ragan-Anunsen. They helped lead the fight against removing the mountain goats in the ‘80s and ‘90s, when it seemed the National Park Service (NPS) had its case all sewn up.

The Anunsens represented The Fund for Animals (now part of The Humane Society of the United States) on the National Park Service Olympic Mountain Goat Management Committee and ended up reading the NPS’s entire case — article after report after brief — on long drives between their home in Oregon and meetings about the goats in Port Angeles.

Before they started reading the full documents, “we believed everything that the park officials said publicly and to the media and thought the only remaining question would be how to solve the (alleged) problem in a non-lethal manner,” Ragan-Anunsen said. Reading every available document changed their minds.

First, the NPS didn’t acknowledge historic evidence — including a 1896 report from National Geographic, which was one of the foremost scientific publications in the country — that goats lived on the Olympic Peninsula before the 1920s, when other reports say people first located them there. The NPS “told the public over and again that there was no evidence whatsoever that mountain goats were ever seen in the Olympics before the 1920s,” the Anunsens said. But, they said, their FOIA records request uncovered the fact that the NPS knew about that same 1896 National Geographic article and intentionally hid it from the public.

Why would the park service hide something like that? It’s hard to say, but possibly because they believed it was in the best interest of the area’s plants that the goats be removed, the Anunsens said. One group pushing hard to remove the goats were concerned about native plants — but the vegetation studies they cited were either flawed (the goats were drawn to salt blocks that the NPS’s own scientists had placed near the plants in order to attract the goats for a goat study — oops) or found the goats had little to no actual impact on the plants.

The Anunsens, The Fund for Animals, professional photographers Keith and Antje Gunnar of Whidbey Island, and others campaigned for years to keep the goats in what may be their native habitat, and they succeeded with the help of many others who reconsidered their position once they became aware of park officials’ unsubstantiated claims and “sloppy science” that served as the foundation for their effort to remove or kill the Olympic mountain goats. U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks helped. So did The Seattle Times’ editorial board.

It’s unclear why a similar widespread campaign is not happening now, the Anunsens said. But some reporters have documented the parallels:

  • The Kitsap Sun’s Seabury Blair Jr. views the state’s environmental impact statement as “an impressive document that demonstrates four decades dedicated to justifying slaughter of a wild animal.”
  • A conservation biologist who led an independent team looking into the goats’ impact on the peninsula in the ‘90s found that the goats now there came from the 1920s goats — and that they have little impact on the rare native plants. Wind, rain and snow do more damage, he recounted to The Seattle Times’ Evan Bush.
  • In that same article, Bush recounted questions that NARN board president Rachel Bjork posed at one of the poorly attended public meetings regarding the goats, along with the state’s answers:
    • Don’t you just want them for hunting in the Cascades? (Harris responded that officials are motivated to grow the Cascades populations. They’d need to see rising numbers before considering hunting.)
    • Why can’t you use contraceptives instead of killing? (Contraceptives are untested for mountain goats, Happe said, and only last for three years in other ungulates.)
    • Why allow the option to take some mountain-goat kids to zoos? Isn’t it inhumane to take them from their parents? (Kids could struggle in relocation and zoos are interested in young mountain goats, Harris said.)

It’s not the full-throttled outcry of the Fund for Animals, a U.S. representative and the editorial board of the state’s largest newspaper. Nor is it a book like 1998’s “White Goats, White Lies: The Abuse of Science in Olympic National Park” by R. Lee Lyman, an anthropology professor from the University of Missouri-Columbia. It’s also not the 25-page booklet, “Olympic Monarchs: Don’t Let Them Get Your Goat!” that the Anunsens compiled to refute the park’s case point-by-point and to save the goats from transfer, hunting, zoos and killings in the ‘90s.

For some reason, there’s not been an outcry this time — at least not yet.

“To make it through this part of the process without major controversy … I’m encouraged,” the park’s acting superintendent, Lee Taylor, told The Seattle Times. “It feels like this is the moment we could get it done.”

“[W]e could get it done” doesn’t sound right, perhaps because it’s not.

Let’s at least step up the number of comments the Park receives on behalf of the goats. Please let the Park know what you think of its plan for them — HERE IS THE LINK FOR COMMENTS, WHICH CLOSE ON 10/10/17. Please take a moment to take a stand with us. Please submit a comment, write a letter to your local paper, call your state or national lawmakers and post on social media on behalf of these mountain goats.

“I think we are now at that same stage we were in initial hearings [decades ago], where everyone believes it’s a done deal,” Ragan-Anunsen said. “If we can let them know it doesn’t have to be that way, if they want to be involved, perhaps we can stop the train in its tracks.”