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On the Activism and Self-Esteem

This is a new one for me. Perhaps that’s because I don’t get out much and the term has been bandied about for years and it just hasn’t gotten around to me until now. Nevertheless, I give you "animal welfare extremists," as in:

Bob Stallman, President of American Farm Bureau Federation, indicated that animal welfare extremists pose a clear and present threat to American agriculture, according to a story in Brownfield Ag News. Stallman referred to the Humane Society of the US (HSUS), an anti-livestock group that intends "to prohibit the use of animals for food or for work," he warned. Not only in the US, also in Europe and other developed countries these action groups gain ground. It is interesting to philosophize about the reason why activists almost put animal rights above human rights.

Let’s deconstruct:

  • The author of this opinion post on is one Dick Ziggers, who is mighty confused about a couple of key points, the most obvious being that activists "almost" put animal rights about human rights. That "almost" clarifies that he does not indeed think we put animal rights above human rights, but lets us know that he thinks we come dangerously close.
  • Newsflash: Animals before people isn’t the point or the intention for us. People who say we put animals first, in my experience, are usually the types who aren’t doing anything to help animals, and the excuse they use is that we’re more important. What’s odd is that the speciesist mind doesn’t allow him to understand that animals and people are important to each other, and also that caring about animals and people is not the mutually exclusive process they like to think it is.
  • Newsflash: The HSUS is not anti-livestock. They’re anti-too-much-torture.
  • And what’s this about "animal welfare extremists?" What kinds of things do they do? While Ziggers is utterly misconstruing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to make activists look pathological, he writes:
    • Cognitive needs is the expression of the natural human need to learn, explore, discover and create, to get a better understanding of the world around them. Animal activists are misusing this need. They see that their acts (arson, freeing animals) are widely covered in the press and that they can easily get away with it because it has low priority with the police. Misinformation or manipulated information further helps to spread their truth.

Again, "animal welfare extremists?" Doesn’t he mean "animal rights activists?" And why does he think the HSUS is involved in arson and freeing animals? They don’t even talk about veganism! And to say that we’re misusing our need to understand the world is nothing if not bizarre.

  • Next, we have: "The negative effects of their activities never reach the popular press. For example an undeniable tsunami of horse abuse cases has swept across the USA since a ban on horse processing – pushed by vegan driven animal rights groups – went into effect in early 2007." So now we’re talking about vegan-driven animal rights groups. Um, they’d better be vegan driven, as that’s what animal rights means. And what happened to animal welfare extremists? I haven’t seen such confusion since the New York Times displayed its ignorance about animal rights last July.
  • We come to blackmail, which is the word Ziggers uses for, um, consumers letting companies know what they want.
    • "Large retail companies are visited and forced to sell or use cage-free eggs. If the retailers hesitate, their image will be badly damaged through media-campaigns. Even peaceful living monks don’t get a pass." Ziggers evidently doesn’t know how the monks make money.
  • And finally, the conclusion. "These fundamental animal right activists lack self-esteem." What’s a "fundamental animal rights activist, by the way?"
    • He completes his piffle with: "All humans have a need to be respected, to have self-esteem, self-respect, and to respect others."  True, true.
    • "Imbalances at this level can result in low self-esteem, inferiority complexes. People with low self-esteem need respect." But wait, he just said all humans need respect. Now I’m the one who’s thoroughly confused!

There are 10 comments following the post, some of which for some reason agree with Ziggers’ point (which I think is that people who act like they care about animals have low self-esteem). One comment, by Cate, which left me speechless is: "Since free range eggs almost fly off the shelves where I shop I guess buyers must be afraid there are animal rights activists lurking in the aisles. What else but fear would make a customer spend this much on eggs." Is that a real comment? Does someone really believe that?

It’s clear that when we’re not looking, or in places we’re not looking, people who have no problem using and abusing animals will say all kinds of nonsense to make themselves look good. Lucky for us critical thinkers, though, that we’re all over the place, as other comments on Ziggers’ post clearly demonstrate with statements such as:

  • Wanting better conditions for animals and informing the public about the effects of animal agriculture has nothing to do with my self-esteem.
  • The people with a problem are those who are oblivious to such suffering or who think it is justifiable if the almighty buck can be made from it.
  • I can assure ‘dick’ that i do not suffer from any self-esteem issues, and suggest on the contrary that those who create this hierarchy, that gives anthropocentric precedence to the intricacies of this complex web of life, are the ones who have such issues.

All deconstruction of Ziggers’ twaddle aside, what do you think about self-esteem and animal rights activism?

One Comment Post a comment
  1. It’s amusing to hear all of the different reactions to “us” and “our esteem”. I put us in quotes because industry officials sometimes lump groups as diverse and opposed to each other as ALF, HSUS/Whole Foods, and abolitionists in the same bucket and then make blanket statements like “they lack self-esteem.” *snort*

    In my experience, arrogance or too much self-esteem has been the overwhelmingly common accusations of our speech or behavior by most animal exploitation supporters because we have the unmitigated nerve and confidence to criticize the herd rather than remain in our humble vegan place and mind our own damn business. So which is it? Are we “arrogant vegangelicals” or are we “lacking self-esteem”?

    In the end, we should ignore the ad-hominem-of-the-day (arrogant or self-depreciating) that animal exploitation advocates toss into the discussion to deflect attention away from the immorality and stupidity of what they do. We should shine the light of day into their dark world of torture and unnecessary killing and expose the horror show that it is. We should talk about the health and environmental benefits of going vegan, and that eventually, large masses of people will have to go vegan to keep the planet from literally dying from the pollution of the animal ag industry as it continues to grow worldwide. Animal exploitation advocates are the ones who hide their violent deeds and dark secrets behind closed and locked doors and sheds.

    February 20, 2008

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