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.
In the wake of the white supremacist violence at Charlottesville and across the country, NARN stands by its mission statement, which calls for for an end to the suffering of all sentient beings–both non-human and human. Because we believe the liberation of all creatures is interconnected, we also call on the animal rights community as a whole to find the empathy and compassion in our hearts and use it to show up, speak out, and get active in opposition to oppression.
We stand in solidarity with folks like Dr. Breeze Harper and Food Empowerment Project in committing to “fight against white supremacy and in a way that is more than cosmetic and “integrates [that commitment] into [our] organizational goals and values.” We urge folks to think about the US-based animal rights organizations they know of and work with and hold them accountable. As Dr. Harper says:
Let them know that they cannot be neutral about the white [supremacist] elephant in the room (and that ‘room’ is a white settler nation called the USA in which the logics of white supremacy were its foundational CORE values and still operate today– from the logic of neo nazis to the logic of white savior complex to the logic of racial profiling to the logic of gentrification to the logic of tracking in K-12 education to the logic of engaging in missionary language when campaigning about animal rights and veganism).
In that spirit, we offer the following personal reaction to what happened in Charlottesville from one of our long-time volunteers (see below). We hope you will not only take it to heart but take action (see this link for suggestions on how to do that in an animal rights context and beyond). Like we say at NARN, show up, speak out, and get involved. It cannot wait another moment.
Board of Directors
The Northwest Animal Rights Project
I had this idea in my head when I became veg as a kid–that people became vegetarian or vegan because they widened their circle of compassion and empathy beyond people that were like them to include people that were less like them and then to include individuals that were non-human. Once I found an activist community, it didn’t take me very long to realize that racism, sexism, and other “-isms” exist in the animal rights movement as well. In fact, it can be quite rampant.
Even knowing this, it somehow still hurts worse when people in the animal rights community perpetuate hate speech, violence, or are silent about others who do. There’s still a part of me that expects that vegans and animal rights activists will understand that those of us who are different than they are still have a right to live as freely as they do. That same part of me still expect vegans to be people who, when they see injustice, they do something about it instead of turning the other cheek. They speak up–not just for non-human animals, but for the human animals, too. To give a more specific example: Part of me expects them to speak up when family or friends say things that perpetuate violence against people of color.
Yes, I am frustrated by people who would stand next to me while I fight for animals, yet disappear when attacks are directed at me or other people of color. It was incredibly frustrating to have another animal rights activist tell me that if I want to feel “safe,” I should leave animal activism and do human rights activism instead. I am able to continue to do this work, because I know people like this are not the whole of our movement.
There are two vegan animal rights activists in the hospital right now who stood up against hate and were struck by that vehicle in Charlottesville. There are many of us, like them, that understand that fighting for human justice doesn’t have to take anything away from animals. Those people remind me that I am not alone–that I don’t have to choose. They remind me that it’s not some awful multiple-choice test of “who deserves the right to live?” a) myself & other people of color, or b) non-human animals.
I really ask those who care about animals but who remain silent against white violence in this country; the terrorism falling upon people of color in this country, to please reflect on the compassion and empathy that brought them to veganism in the first place. Then when you find that compassion and empathy, be willing to actually DO something with it. Use your voice, your vote, your privilege wherever you can to fight oppression and support ALL those who are impacted by it.
Northwest Animal Rights Network is a volunteer-run organization that has been fighting for the rights of animals for more than 30 years. In that spirit, NARN believes in the fundamental right of all individuals–humans and non humans alike–to be free from harassment, exploitation, and oppression. When we are threatened, harassed, or attacked as activists, it can become dangerous or impossible to do our work.
For these reasons, NARN stands with local activist Zarna Joshi. After a charged Seattle City Council meeting related to the Block the Bunker issue, Joshi was sexually harassed by a bunker supporter. Rather than let it slide, she spoke out. As a result, for the last few months Zarna has been harassed, threatened with rape and death, and otherwise attacked. While Zarna’s abuse happened at a Block the Bunker event, we know that this kind of thing could have–and certainly HAS–happened at animal rights demos and events.
Let us be clear: Women and other oppressed/marginalized people absolutely retain the right to defend themselves from misogyny and harassment. NARN supports Zarna Joshi and anyone else who makes the choice to resist oppression. We believe this resistance and mutual support is absolutely fundamental to our work as activists
Please take the time to watch Zarna’s illuminating response videos below. To read more about what patriarchy is and how it affects our work and lives, check out this article Why Patriarchy Persists (and How We Can Change It). Be sure to scroll all the way to the end for 10 ways you can take action.
Only if the orca Lolita faced “grave harm” would her captors at Seaquarium in Miami be deemed in violation of the Endangered Species Act, a judge ruled earlier this summer.
Apparently the fact that the dolphins with whom Lolita shares a small tank have scraped their teeth on her skin more than 50 times in one year does not constitute such harm. That and other signs of illnesss and misery were reported this week by The Seattle Times.
Lolita, who’s also known as Tokitae and was stolen as a young whale from the waters of Penn Cove in the Pacific Northwest, is 20 feet long. The tank she shares with the dolphins is 80 feet at its widest.
The PETA Foundation said it will appeal the judge’s ruling.
A federal judge has ruled that gray wolves should be reclassified as an endangered species. He called the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to turn management over to Idaho and Montana but keep the endangered designation in Wyoming “at its heart a political solution.”
Now a Senate bill called the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act is attempting to override that ruling — and going further by allowing “predator control” on national wildlife refuges in Alaska.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant thinks that — and the fact that his state’s last aquarium was ruined by Hurricane Katrina — makes a new aquarium on the coast a good way to spend $17 million of the damage money the state is getting from BP. “The outdoor water feature includes a dolphin exhibit where visitors could feed and touch the animals,” according to the SunHerald in Biloxi.
Gov. Bryant is wrong.
“I used to work as a dolphin trainer at Marine Life in Gulfport, before it was washed away by Hurricane Katrina. I know first-hand that a new facility for captive dolphins is the last thing Mississippi needs,” according to an online petition to stop the new aquarium.
The public has already made clear that they don’t want to see orcas in captivity. Why would they want to see dolphins?
Please sign the petition above and write to Gov. Bryant letting him know the BP money should go to a more worthy project. Here’s his online contact page.
It’s a big name — the Toxic Substances Control Act reform bill — and it could save tens of thousands of animals from chemical testing.
The House passed its version of TSCA reform this week 403 to 12. The bill minimizes animal testing and focuses on more efficient and less costly testing methods, which would save animals from being fed deadly chemical and having them rubbed on their skin and in their eyes.
Now Rand Paul is holding up the bill in the Senate.
“Well, it looks like American families will have to wait a bit longer for better protection from toxic chemicals” given Rand’s decision, Robert Denison, a lead senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, wrote in a blog post.
When a family in rural Washington found an elderly Shetland pony wandering along the road, they took him in and, if his owners weren’t found, hoped to keep him.
If no one had bought Ray, his fortunates would have gone the way of other stray livestock: to Mexico or Canada to be slaughtered.
Fortunately, State Rep. Michelle Caldier (R-Port Orchard) sat in on the auction and tried to change the law so that animals like Ray can be adopted, if someone is willing and able, rather than auctioned.
Please contact bill sponsor Rep. Caldier to voice your support: (360) 786-7802 and/or email@example.com.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is traveling the state this fall seeking public comments to help determine what values and priorities will drive the department over the next several years.
These meetings will help identify changes in WDFW’s operations and services and help shape policy, budget and fee proposals. The department’s press release says it wants to strengthen relationships with “anglers, hungers, outdoor recreation groups and others interested in fish and wildlife in Washington.”
Let’s let them know what we think — in person and in writing.
They’re taking written comments through October on the department’s website and via email (WildFuture@dfw.wa.gov) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/WashingtonFishWildlife). Public meeting information is below.
There are so many issues, but here’s a start:
Please take a few minutes to let WDFW know what’s important to you when it comes to Washington wildlife, and if you can, attend one of these public meetings, all scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.:
Sept. 30: Center Place, 2426 N. Discovery Place, Spokane Valley
Oct. 6: WDFW Mill Creek Office, 16018 Mill Creek Blvd, Mill Creek
Oct. 8: Saint Martin’s University, Norman Worthington Conference Center, 5300 Pacific Ave SE, Lacey
Oct. 14: Water Resources Education Center, 4600 SE Columbia Way, Vancouver
Oct. 20: Port of Chelan County Confluence Technology Center, 285 Technology Center Way, Wenatchee
Each meeting will include a brief presentation by a WDWF regional director, then participants will break into small groups to chat with department representatives. The department will summarize the comments and suggestions later this year.
Here’s a photo of WDFW Director Jim Unsworth, who started in January. He’s the one who’s making the effort to ask for feedback, which is commendable. Hi, Jim!
Cecil the Lion, as he was known, was a lion who lived in Zimbabwe. You’ve probably seen the media storm and public outrage this week about his murder. A wealthy American paid to hunt down Cecil—at night, by luring him out of a preserve—and shoot him with a crossbow.
It was nothing but a cowardly act by a small-minded trophy hunter, hell-bent on proving his sense of worth by killing others.
What I learned from the frenzy this week is that it pays to have a name. Cecil was a lion who’d been photographed by tourists for years (he was 12 or 13). He was GPS-collared and was part of an Oxford University study. But he was no different from many other lions that wealthy westerners (usually Americans) pay to kill. Six hundred lions are killed in trophy hunts every year, according to National Geographic.
Cecil sparked public outcry because he was well-known. In the same way we mourn for a celebrity’s death, but not the random people who also die.
For most people, the lion is a majestic creature. King of the jungle. We don’t associate them with food or clothing. That’s another thing Cecil had going for him. People around the world have issued hate mail and death threats to Cecil’s killer, and vigils and protests have sprung up at the man’s business.
Most of the people disgusted with Cecil’s death likely also eat and wear other animals. It’s a disconnect. Melanie Joy addresses this topic in-depth in her book, Why we Love Dogs, Eat pigs, and Wear Cows. This phenomenon (of loving some animals and eating others) she calls carnism. The book explains how people compartmentalize and justify this discrepancy.
It’s okay to mourn for Cecil. His death was a tragedy. His pride is in jeopardy, and his cubs will likely be killed by competing lions. But we need to also mourn for the millions of dogs and cats who are euthanized each year because they have no homes. And for the billions of farmed animals whose lives are brutal and short. They are all as precious as Cecil and as deserving of life.
We can’t stop evil people from hunting (although signing the petition to ask Zimbabwe to stop issuing hunting permits or the petition to include lions on the endangered species list would help). But we can adopt dogs and cats and never buy from breeders. And we can choose to not eat animals.
If you’re not already, please go vegan—for the countless animals just like Cecil, who are worthy of our admiration and who want to live.