[Marxism] A socialist analysis of the value of the animal liberation movement

Haines Brown brownh at hartford-hwp.com
Tue Jun 10 05:37:38 MDT 2008

> I'd agree that unnecessary cruelty to animals should be curtailed,
> and that we should defend the biosphere from that which can render
> it unhospitable to human life (like global warming, say), but from
> there to postulating animals as actual subjects, with rights,
> etc... that's taking it too far imo.

David, I'm in full agreement with you, but wish I knew just why.

Your second example (defend biosphere) makes sense in that we depend
on our environment (even for aesthetic pleasure), and so naturally we
don't wish to harm it any more than we have to. We have a practical
interest in not vandalizing (I hesitate to use this word because the
Vandals in North Africa were really admirable revolutionaries) our
world. It is just enlightened self-interest.

But your first example, with which I also agree, represents a
challenge. Why not be cruel to animals? How does one defend this point
in terms that are rational and naturalistic? While the answer might
not be conventionally Marxist, I believe that one should be able to
provide an answer that is at least compatible with Marxism.

Off hand, I come up with two answers. The first is psychological in
that such behavior is destructive of self (comparable to the notion
that caritas primarily serves self-development and only incidentally
may be of help to another). We shape ourselves through our actions,
and being cruel tends to make us cruel and therefore we end being
crippled or pathological persons

The second is based on systems analysis and is that, in a manner
comparable to the key notion of "social being" in Marxism, we have a
"natural being". That is, as the terrasphere and biosphere are
increasingly integrated into a single system that is coming to be
governed by human development, our relation to our environment is
becoming a relation to our externalized selves.

Social being implies that we are not self-contained, but are unique
instances of a social whole that accounts for our development
(individuation). Well, could we make a somewhat similar argument about
our natural environment? Not only is environmental dissipation the
ultimate engine of all development (which is why economic production
holds a central role in a Marxist analysis), but we are transforming
our world so that as a whole it is becoming a raw material (what is
shaped to meet the needs of production). This makes us into natural
beings in a sense far more profound than is merely implied by our
biological selves. As the world becomes an aspect of human nature,
being cruel to animals is being cruel to an aspect of what we are.

But I hope others can offer their own (and better) suggestions why we
should not be cruel to animals.

Haines Brown

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