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.