On “Compassion,” “Nonviolence” and “Justice”
Why all the quotation marks? Because I've been thinking about the evolution of my own thinking–and languaging–regarding animal rights.
Both animal rights groups and animal welfare groups use "compassion" frequently. Then again, so do people who kill animals for a living. "Compassion" has been so diluted that most people don't bat an eyelash at the idea of "compassionate carnivores." After all, they "love" the animals they kill.
"Nonviolence" is much more difficult to finesse if you're killing animals for a living. "The Nonviolent Carnivore"? I don't think so. Being vegan because you want to live as nonviolently as possible and you don't want to contribute to violence and you don't want to respond to violence with violence is admirable to some, though refusing to support the defense of sentient nonhumans when you probably would if they were humans bothers me.
When you refer to your own beliefs with "nonviolence" you rightfully invite questions about what nonviolence means and it behooves you to work that all out beforehand. Not that I'm giving you a deadline. I still haven't figured it all out. What I do know is that I feel an urgency for the causes I care about that blogging, baking, giving money and doing TNR work simply doesn't satisfy. It's a minuscule drop in an ever-overflowing bucket.
My definition of violence would begin with the physical harm of living beings. I think most would agree with that one, although there is the question of psychological harm, and activists are all over the map with that. First there's "What constitutes psychological harm?" and then there's "Is that okay with you?"
Then there's the most controversial question: "Is property damage violence, and is there a spectrum where some types of property damage aren't considered violence (as in open rescues) or are considered violence but are also considered acceptable?" That's the bit that trips up many of us.
Furthermore, there's the notion that though you're not for violence, you recognize that the most significant vehicle for the liberation of nonhuman animals, just like the liberation of human animals, probably isn't going to be a petition. Or vegan pumpkin pie.
These days, I don't use nonviolence rhetoric because there's so much to explain. And I don't think that most people understand that supporting a variety of tactics doesn't necessarily equal support of violence.
Finally, there's "justice." Now there's a word I can get behind. I was thinking of naming my son Justice but that might be a bit burdensome for him.
I especially like "justice" because it forces you to ask: "Is it morally right to enslave sentient nonhumans, rape them, take their babies and their lives on your own time and profit from them?" No matter how they are treated, is it right to use them? Is it fair? Is it just?
But enough from me. What do you think?