Anarchist Studies
Network Conference 2.0
September 2012
Dr. Richard J White
Sheffield Hallam University
[email protected]
Dr. Simon Springer
University of Victoria, Canada,
[email protected]
1. Introduction
Rise of animal studies
Importance of Anarchism
Animal liberation, human liberation
2. Beyond "Rights"? Anarchism
and the Purity of Rebellion
Simone Weil: Appeal to 'Justice'
Élisée Reclus: The Great Kinship
Giovanni Baldelli: Purity and
3. Strategies and sites of
• "Negative" obligation (no
milk, no meat)
• Critical pedagogy
• Acts of rescue
Rise of mainstream academic research focused
on human-nonhuman animal relations
Human/ animal
Conscious Raising:
growing wealth of knowledge on
Zooanimal agency, cognition,
creativity and
Sentience studies
Feminist studies
Queer theory
Worldwide, approximately 90 billion
land-based nonhumans are killed every
year in the farming industry. 150 million
a day.
Over 40 million cattle, calves, sheep,
pigs and around 900 million chickens are
killed every year in the United Kingdom
for meat.
So *despite* this celebrated scholarly engagement with
the "animal question" mass production and slaughter of
other animals sees no limits. Why?
"Most mainstream animal studies make
a reformist or depoliticized approach that
fails to mount more serious critique of
underlying issues of political economy
and speciesist philosophy." (Best)
Failure to provide effective tools of
Failure to provide counterhegemonic spaces of work?
Need for Anarchism
Anarchism stands in opposition to all forms
of unjustified discrimination, hierarchy, and
violence and sees oppression as a complex
of problems to be addressed at the root, not
sliced off at the branch.
"Hostility by animal lib activists against the
statist, capitalist, racist and ageist
Establishment... The more we recognize the
commonality and interdependence of our
struggles, which we once considered quite
distinguished from one another, the more we
understand what liberation really means."
(Brian Dominick, 1997: 5)
Why Anarchism, why now?
• Unique position
• Attention to political
• Emphasis on
Intersectionality and
alliance politics
• Recognises diversity of
tactics/ strategies
• Attention to context/ sites of
"What has attracted less attention is how human-animal interactions are
often articulated through affective/emotional registers. "
(Jones, 2011)
Animal liberation a form of
human liberation
Weil: On Justice
One cannot imagine St. Francis of Assisi
talking about talking about (animal) rights.
Possible objections to agitating
for Rights (humans/ other
1. Inadequate notion of
'person' (what is sacred/
better captured in Albert
Schweitzer's appeal to have
reverence for life)?
2. Commercial flavour
(exchange/ measure
quantity/ legal claims)
Appeal for justice, not rights
At the bottom of the heart of every
human being, ... there is something that
goes on indomitably expecting, in the
teeth of all experience of crimes
committed, suffered, and witnessed,
that good and not evil will be done to
him... Every time that there arises from
the depths of the human heart the
childish cry..."Why am I being hurt?",
then there is certainly injustice."
(Simone Weil, Human Personality)
Reclus: On Becoming Beautiful
"It is on account of the ugliness of it that we
also abhor vivisection … It is the ugliness of
the deed which fill us with disgust when we
see a naturalist pinning live butterflies into
his box…Ugliness in persons, in deeds,
in life, in surrounding Nature - this is our
worst foe. Let us become beautiful
ourselves, and let our life be beautiful!"
(Elisee Reclus, 1901)
The Great Kinship (commonality, rather
than difference)
Mutual Aid (Kropotkin)
The Great Kinship/ of being
"It was the first uncaged animal
Shevek had seen close up, and it
was more fearless of him than he
was of it.... The otter sat up on its
haunches and looked at him. Its
eyes were dark, short with gold,
intelligent, curious, innocent.
"Ammar," Shevek whispered,
caught by that gaze across the
gulf of being - 'brother'." (2006: 132)
Baldelli: A Purity of Rebellion
"Anarchism is a purity of rebellion. A pig who
struggles wildly and rends the air with his cries
while he is help to be slaughtered, and a baby who
kicks and screams when, wanting warmth and his
mother's breast, he is made to wait in the cold these are two samples of natural rebellion. Natural
rebellion always inspires either deep sympathy
and identification with the rebelling creature, or a
stiffening of the heart and an activation of
aggressive-defensive mechanisms to silence an
accusing truth. This truth is that each living
being is an end in itself; that nothing gives a
being the right to make another a mere
instrument of his purposes. The rebel against
authority holds to this truth everything that
concerns him and recognizes no other judge than
himself (sic)." Baldelli (1971: 17)
All social authorities, in addition to public opinion in
general, "work together to harden the character of
the child" in relationship to animals used for food.
This conditioning, (Reclus) says, destroys our sense
of kinship with a being that "loves as we do, feels as
we do, and might also progress under our influence,
if it does not regress along with us." (Clark and
Martin, 2004: 33)
1. Unlearning archism: critical
"While a concern for nonviolence has undoubtedly
shaped my political thought, after spending the last
few years reading anarchist philosophy, I now
realize that I was born an anarchist. In fact, we all
were. In my reading I was not actually learning to be
an anarchist; I was instead engaged in a process of
unlearning all the archist ideas that had been
inculcated in me since childhood"
Simon Springer, (forthcoming) War and
Pieces, Space and Polity.
Violence is
Writing and teaching as critical direct action
Restoring absent referents
- speaking the literal
truth - geography that
breaks your heart
(Catherine Nolin, 2010)
Break down traditional
boundaries between
academia, activism,
policy-making circles,
wider public circles.
Recognise the key points
of intersection
3. 'Negative obligation': daily
practices of non-violence
To not eat
NOR drink
their milk,
wear their
skin etc.
“29h59’59” by Chinese artist Liu Qiang
3. Focus on sites of resistance: actively "liberate" hidden
spaces and places of suffering
Attempts to change society - acts of
How to make more visible these
hidden geographies of animal
suffering and killing?
How to better integrate the authentic
voices, and experiences of
'marginalised' activists/ groups into
"our" texts, especially those who have
first-hand witness to these violent spaces
(at enormous risk/ emotional cost to
4. Think critically about the animal(s)
i.e. "The actual life situation
of most nonhuman animals
in human society and
culture, as physically and
emotionally experiences
with its routine repertoire of
violence, deprivation,
desperation, agony, apathy,
suffering, and death."
(Pederson and Stanescu,
2011: ix)
Final thought: bearing witness to animal
abuse is a heavy burden to bear...
In a general way, the temptation to give
up thinking altogether is the most
difficult one to resist in a life like this:
one feels so clearly that it is the only
way to stop suffering! Simone Weil,
(2005: 21)
Challenge/ responsibility to use
anarchist praxis to:
Provide more effective tools of resistance
Provide counter-hegemonic spaces of work
within and beyond the academy
Dr. Richard J White
Sheffield Hallam University
[email protected]
Dr. Simon Springer
University of Victoria, Canada,
[email protected]
"The open rescue from a factory farm of a ewe and her two lambs"
©Jo-Anne McArthur: WE ANIMALS Photography
References/ Wider Reading
S. Best The Rise of Critical Animal Studies: Putting Theory into Action and Animal Liberation
into Higher Education
B. Dominick Animal Liberation and Social revolution
O. Jones, 2011 The Animality of Rural Landscapes in Affective Registers. UK.
L. Mitchell (2011) Moral Disengagement and Support for Nonhuman Animal Farming Society
& Animals 19 38-58 55
E. Reclus On Vegetarianism
K. Socha (2011) Women, Destruction, and the Avant-Garde: A Paradigm for
Animal Liberation, Rodophi Press.
We Animals (photography)
Journal for Critical Animal Studies

White RJ and Springer S - Anarchism