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Why animal justice is crucial in addressing the climate emergency

A more skillful approach to addressing the climate and ecological emergency needs to be centered not only on humans but all sentient beings, with a shared right to be treated with respect honored universally.

PHILIP MURPHY: ‘The environmental movement Extinction Rebellion (XR) burst into public consciousness on 31 October 2018 with a “Declaration of Rebellion” against the UK government, delivered in Parliament Square in London. Responding to the “climate emergency” and advancing behind a narrative calling for systems-level change through nonviolent direct action, XR grew into a global movement that catalyzed worldwide mass civil disobedience demonstrations in April and October of 2019…

The organization Animal Rebellion was birthed… by a group of vegan animal justice advocates who were inspired by the impact of XR on the public consciousness. Incorporating the demands, core principles and values of XR and affirming an anti-speciesist stance, Animal Rebellion asserts that “we cannot end the climate emergency without first ending the animal emergency,” and calls for the adoption of a plant-based food system as a foundational means to mitigate climate change. ‘Speciesism’ simply means prejudice or discrimination that is based on species membership, rooted in the idea of human superiority…

While it can be said that Animal Rebellion has drawn inspiration from XR, it is equally true that it came into being as a response to the latter’s shortcomings with regard to the consideration it affords to nonhuman sentient beings. Virtually from XR’s launch, the movement had engendered sharp criticism from the global animal justice community regarding its failure to address the profound environmental impacts of so-called ‘animal agriculture’ and the deleterious impact of the active subjugation of non-human sentient beings for the purpose of turning them into commodities such as food. This criticism included powerful pieces by the noted abolitionist animal rights scholar and activist Gary Francione…

These critiques are well-founded: the negative environmental impacts of raising animals for food make this one of the leading causes of ecosystem degradation, if not the leading cause. These impacts include increased emissions of greenhouse gases like methane and nitrous oxide, deforestation, biodiversity loss (including species extinction), and air and water pollution (including ocean acidification)… All this is scientifically true and should be politically compelling, but the genius of Animal Rebellion is as much philosophical and ethical as technical.

The movement aims to illuminate the standing of all sentient beings as members of a moral community, and the profoundly damaging impacts associated with remaining ignorant of this fact. As Animal Rebellion’s ‘first value’ states: “We are an anti-speciesist movement that has a shared vision of change – creating a world that protects beings of all species for generations to come…We are inspired not only by human action but also animal resistance and we believe in co-creating a world with individuals from all species for a just and secure future.”

This stance affirms the landmark 2012 Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, which states that “Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuro-anatomical, neuro-chemical, and neuro-physiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness”…

A more skillful approach to addressing the climate and ecological emergency as affirmed by Read and his co-authors would necessitate that the new story and vision they advocate be centered not merely on human beings, but rather on all beings who demonstrate a unified psychological presence and who are, in the words of the moral philosopher and animal rights activist Tom Regan, the “subject of a life.” It is to all sentient beings that equality must be afforded, with the shared right to be treated with respect honored universally. Mother Nature is indeed “making us all one,” and that unitary domain must therefore include all beings who have the capacity to suffer.

By virtue of its uncompromising anti-speciesist stance and the actions that follow from it, Animal Rebellion can be identified as a progenitor of this new story and its attendant vision. Consequently, it is Animal Rebellion that can lay claim to being the climate justice movement to which all other such movements can and should aspire’.  SOURCE…


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