I have a deep, abiding, ethical concern with the suffering of animals. In the late 1980s, when I was a committed human rights activist, the animal rights struggle became my ultimate choice and existential meaning. The more I learned about the enormity of animal suffering, the more radical my positions became, shifting from animal welfare to animal rights to animal liberation, and finally to total liberation politics that articulates human, animal, and Earth liberation struggles as an inseparable unity that must be conceived of and fought for together.
In 1999, I decided to take a public and very controversial stand in support of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). This group emerged in England in 1976, and quickly spread throughout the world, such that it is now active in over three dozen countries. The ALF is the newest anti-slavery and abolitionist struggle on the planet; ALF principles are rooted in a rights framework that rejects any form of animal exploitation as unjust and renounces all welfarist attempts to regulate rather than to wreck institutions of oppression as unacceptable and antithetical to liberationist goals.
Anyone who follows the animal liberation movement in England knows that the direct action element has become increasingly powerful since the 1970s. By abandoning often futile efforts to influence oppressors through feeble protests and appeals to government, and by taking the fight directly to the animal exploiters themselves, groups such as the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), SPEAK (originally named Stop Primate Experiments at Cambridge), and Save the Newchurch Guinea Pigs (SNGP) have developed highly effective campaigns against all facets of the vivisection industry, a primary target of attack.
The animal rights movement has rocked the core of the British establishment and the Home Office has taken extraordinary measures against it, but this righteous force cannot be stopped or defeated. The menacing cops and laws of the UK dictatorship are not enough to stop the children, youth, families, mothers, and grandmothers from marching in the streets and knocking down walls to free animal prisoners. England is a barometer of the kinds of political storms one can expect in the US and elsewhere around the world as the struggle over animal rights moves to entirely new levels.
Speciesism is arguably the first of any form of domination or hierarchy and it has spread like a deadly virus throughout the entire planet and all of human history. The problem is not limited to Western culture or to the modern world, such that there is some significant utopian past or radical alternative to recover. The problem is the human species itself, which but for rare exceptions is violent, destructive, and imperialistic. Universally, humans have vested interests in exploiting animals and think they have a God-given right to do so. To change these attitudes is to change the very nerve center of human consciousness, and thereby to change the totality of society itself. That is our task – no more and no less.
Dr. Steve Best is TPC’s associate editor. Associate professor of philosophy at UTEP, award-winning writer, noted speaker, public intellectual, and seasoned activist, Steven Best engages the issues of the day such as animal rights, ecological crisis, biotechnology, liberation politics, terrorism, mass media, globalization, and capitalist domination. Best has published 10 books, over 100 articles and reviews, spoken in over a dozen countries, interviewed with media throughout the world, appeared in numerous documentaries, and was voted by VegNews as one of the nations "25 Most Fascinating Vegetarians." He has come under fire for his uncompromising advocacy of "total liberation" (humans, animals, and the earth) and has been banned from the UK for the power of his thoughts. From the US to Norway, from Sweden to France, from Germany to South Africa, Best shows what philosophy means in a world in crisis.