A couple months ago, I did an hour-long radio interview on Animal Voices, a weekly animal liberation radio show that is focused on bringing critical perspectives to the animal rights and environmental justice movement. It was such a pleasure to speak with Dan and Vic (the co-hosts that day) and speak on such diverse topics as queer/trans/animal liberation, anti-racist animal rights organizing, prison abolition, and polyamory. I am including the questions they asked below, because I was so impressed by their thoughtfulness. Their questions enabled me to think through some ideas that I hadn’t even considered before.
Can you tell us about how you came into animal and queer activism?
Your direct action everywhere talk is called “trickle-up queer animal liberation” – in it, you refer to how trickle-down principles suggest that one must address the oppression of individuals closest related to the dominating group first, then move on to the next one. Trickle-up is the opposite, and claims that we must care about and help combat all forms of oppression, including/especially those furthest away from the “norm” – could you elaborate for us about why you advocate for trickle-up over trickle-down?
You refer to two types of messaging that is commonly repeated that says that some issues that non-human animals and queer individuals might encounter is that they might be seen as “cute”, which makes it so that only said “cute” animals are the ones that receive attention, and with the queer population, there are certain behaviours/identities that are maybe seen as more “digestible” to the mainstream heteronormative ideal – how does this homogenization harm liberation?
I really like what you said in the talk about not understanding queer and non-human animal lives as “tragic beings”. I’ve had conversations in the past about this, especially about NH animals, because when we see factory farm footage for example, there’s a tendency to perhaps see “the life as a chicken” as one of misery, but in the right conditions, a chicken could be very happy. Would you be able to unpack the idea of the “tragic being” a little more, and how is this view projected in queer individuals?
On a related note, when we do talk about violence, we often do fall into the pitfalls of the above two issues we just discussed about valuing certain lives over others, and/or focusing on the violence rather than the inherent value of the individual experiencing said violence. You are with the Colorado Anti-Violence Program – would you be able to speak on your strategies for addressing/working against violence?
What resources are out there for those who have either experienced, or witnessed violence, and are there ways we can perhaps reach out to those who are either perpetrators, or are hesitant to take a stand if they don’t necessarily feel personally affected (and of course it is possible that people can be on both sides of this issue as well)?
Let’s talk about the idea of bodily autonomy. As “property”, the bodies of non-human animals are owned, exploited, and destroyed by industry, but in human societies there is also a significant policing of women’s/queer/trans bodies. What is your response to policies, perspectives, and practices that attempt to control bodily autonomy, and how do you suggest we subvert that?
Liberationists, who seek empty cages for NH animals, often also advocate for prison reform/abolition – could you elaborate on the intersections here, and what might you advocate for in regards to alternative solutions?
On a lighter note, talking about understanding animal lives not just as “tragic beings”, can you tell us about working at a rooster sanctuary? What have you learned from the animals you work with, what are their lives like outside of factory conditions?
I was wondering if you’d also be interested in commenting on your work with combining anti-racism and anti-speciesism activism. I think it’s important that we all are constantly maintaining and increasing our awareness of words/behaviours/actions that might be oppressive to any individual or group. Last week on the show, we interviewed an activist who addressed fatphobia and thin privilege in the vegan community. Would you be able to speak to some ways that we should be aware of and fighting against xenophobia and white privilege in the vegan community as well?
Although I’ve noticed issues like racism and fatphobia in the vegan community, I feel like discrimination against queer individuals is perhaps not quite as pronounced – don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that vegans, just like anyone else, have internalized transphobia, biphobia, homophobia, polyphobia, etc. Would you be able to comment on how some of these forms of discrimination and oppression might have manifested themselves in vegan communities?
What about in the other direction, I have noticed that there are of course tons of queer individuals and communities that have embraced the speciesism and animal exploitation of the hegemonic class and human supremacy. For example, in Calgary around stampede time, there is what’s known as the “gay rodeo”, which is exactly what it sounds like – obviously a celebration of animal abuse/exploitation for the sake of “entertainment”. So when engaging with those who are potentially/probably involved in struggles for their own liberation, such as those in the queer lib movement, how do you incorporate bringing NH animals into their understanding of sexuality? Likewise for feminists, anti-racism activists, etc?
You mention non-monogamous relationships, I’m curious about how you see these identities and forms of relationships tying into queer and animal liberation. For me it seems like having autonomy is the common ground in liberation struggles, in the sense people can building their own identities and experiences rather than living in fixed ones.