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Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD): The animal crisis is a human crisis

Recognizing that structures that harm animals also harms humans helps us forge novel forms of political consciousness that allow us to establish and preserve relationships of respect for human and animal dignity.

ALICE CRARY & LORI GRUEN: Today it is undeniable that the human use and destruction of animals and their habitats, including practices that result in mass animal deaths, have existential implications not only for non-human animals but also for human beings and the entire planet.

Human activities are polluting and destroying animal habitats on land and sea at such a rate that we are confronting what some scientists call a sixth mass extinction. Pollution is heating the seas and leaving them strewn with plastics that degrade ocean ecosystems, while the size and number of fertilizer-laden, run-off–triggered, hypoxic aquatic “dead zones” continue to grow.

The wide-ranging destruction of land-based ecosystems is also intensifying. Anthropogenic destruction of animals is enormous, deliberately perpetrated in laboratories, hunting grounds on land, in the sky, and in the oceans, and aqua-farms and land-based industrial farms.

Factory farming alone, increasingly global in its reach, accounts for the slaughter, worldwide, of around 200 million land animals every day, and the industrialized harvesting of the sea accounts for the extermination of more than 1 trillion creatures annually. These technologies are some of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emission, pollution, and the decimation of animal habitats.

For the past fifty years, the discipline of animal ethics has been a key site for addressing this human-caused animal crisis. One strand of animal ethics is preoccupied with suffering—suffering that occurs in slaughterhouses, laboratories, and other sites of animal confinement. Another strand counters this focus on the elimination of suffering by urging that we instead emphasize respect for the rights and dignity of animals.

While contributions to these strands of animal ethics have contributed to increased recognition of animals’ plights, they mostly presuppose frameworks that obscure the nature of the problem. Many practices that harm animals are embedded in institutions that also systematically harm socially vulnerable human beings. Analyzing these mutually supporting systems of harms to humans and other animals is imperative so that we are equipped to meaningfully intervene in the injustices animals and human outgroups are facing…

An important component of successful acts of resistance is solidarity among all creatures, animals as well as humans, decimated by life-destroying structures. There is no antecedent guide to such solidarity that could save animal defenders the difficult work of responding to the particular contexts in which overlapping injustices afflict humans and other animals.

Inter-species solidarity is an occasion for improvisation informed by awareness of complex injustices and social mechanisms responsible for generating them. Recognizing that structures that harm animals also harms humans helps us forge novel forms of political consciousness that allow us to establish and preserve relationships of respect for human and animal dignity. This is an urgent step to bringing about more just and liberating forms of life. SOURCE…

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