Connections

Like so many other animal liberation activists, the founders of VINE Sanctuary came to animal advocacy from other activist movements. Miriam Jones had worked at a rape crisis center and lived on a lesbian land project; pattrice jones had worked as a tenant organizer and anti-racist educator. (They met while protesting housing discrimination against people with disabilities.) Thus, when they stumbled upon the chicken who started it all, they were already thinking about the ways that speciesism intersects with other forms of oppression, such as racism and sexism.

From early 2000 through mid-2009, VINE (then Eastern Shore Sanctuary) operated in the heart of “poultry country”—on the Delmarva Peninsula, where factory farming of chickens was invented and the poultry industry continues to dominate and impoverish local people while despoiling the local environment. Seeing the social, economic, and environmental devastation wreaked by the poultry industry allowed us to further develop our ideas about the connections between the exploitation of animals and other social and environmental problems. Now, we are learning about the similarly destructive impact impact of the dairy industry in Vermont. In both places, farmers dump factory-farm excrement on fields to fertilize feed corn. Run-off is responsible both for dead zones in the Chesapeake Bay and algae blooms on Lake Champlain. Poultry and dairy farms both produce surplus that farmers sell at below cost, with the government making up the difference in subsidies whilst dumping the products in other countries. Commodities that begin with animal anguish end up impoverishing people and wrecking ecosystems.

Hence, we have worked hard to build bridges between the animal advocacy movement and other social and environmental justice movements. We have started and joined coalition efforts at the local, national, and international levels. In our publications and presentations, we have urged animal advocates to become more cognizant of social and environmental issues while urging environmentalists and social justice activists to include animals within their spheres of concern.

Meeting of environmental, social justice, and animal liberation activists in Rome, 2002

The pages in this “connections” section are works in progress within a larger work in progress: an ongoing effort to understand and intervene in the linked ideologies and practices that sustain and support a worldwide system of oppression that now, thanks to global warming, threatens everybody. Follow the links embedded in the web of intersections graphic at the top and bottom of this page for readings and resources concerning the connections between speciesism and other forms of oppression.

The idea of the intersection of the oppressions has been articulated most extensively by feminists of color such as Kimberle Crenshaw. Black feminist scholar Patricia Hill Collins argues for a viewpoint that “shifts the entire locus of investigation from one aimed at explicating elements of race or gender or class oppression to one whose goal is to determine what the links are among these systems.” According to Collins, the “holistic approach implied in Black feminist thought treats the interaction among multiple systems as the object of study.”

Similarly, ecofeminist scholars and activists expand the concept of interlocking systems of oppression to include exploitation of animals and the environment. We aim not only to understand but also to act to undermine those systems. We encourage our supporters to do the same.

Read. Think. Follow links. Go offline and read more. Attend events staged by activists working on different local or international problems. Talk. Listen. Ask questions.

While doing all of that, be sure to take care of yourself and your fellow activists. Just as all of the problems that menace us are connected, our ability to heal ourselves and the world depends on our connections with one another.