[Marxism] The Trotskyist who fought for animal liberation

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Jun 2 18:26:39 MDT 2016

In 1944, Spira became a supporter of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). 
He and fellow activist John Black recruited New York City high school 
students to the SWP. He became a merchant seaman in 1945, joining other 
Trotskyists who were active in the National Maritime Union (NMU). When 
communist and left-leaning union members and leaders were purged from 
the NMU during the McCarthy era, he was blacklisted as a security risk; 
in March 1952, he was told that his presence on an American merchant 
vessel was "inimical to the security of the U.S. government." He later 
told Peter Singer, "I just figured it was part of the game: Fight the 
system and they get even with you."[3]:1–17

During the 1950s and 1960s, Spira wrote for the SWP’s newspaper, The 
Militant, and other leftist and alternative publications, often under 
the name Henry Gitano. He covered a United Auto Workers strike in New 
Castle, Indiana, during 1955, in which striking workers were injured and 
martial law was declared. He also wrote extensively about the civil 
rights movement in Montgomery, Alabama, and Tallahassee, Florida, in 
1956, during the bus boycott; and about the larger fight against 
segregation and for voting rights through the 1960s. He was known for 
talking directly to people involved in struggles and relaying their 
stories, and for building bridges between the labor and civil rights 

Around the same time, he read a column by Irwin Silber in The Guardian, 
a left-wing newspaper in New York (now closed) about an article on 5 
April 1972 by the Australian philosopher Peter Singer in The New York 
Review of Books. Singer's article was a review of Animals, Men and 
Morals (1971) by three Oxford philosophers, John Harris and Roslind and 
Stanley Godlovitch. Singer declared the book a manifesto for "animal 
liberation," thereby coining the phrase.

Spira got hold of Singer's article and felt inspired: "Singer described 
a universe of more than 4 billion animals being killed each year in the 
USA alone. Their suffering is intense, widespread, expanding, systematic 
and socially sanctioned. And the victims are unable to organize in 
defence of their own interests. I felt that animal liberation was the 
logical extension of what my life was all about – identifying with the 
powerless and the vulnerable, the victims, dominated and oppressed."[7]

In 1974, he founded Animal Rights International (ARI) in an effort to 
put pressure on companies that used animals. He is credited with the 
idea of "reintegrative shaming", which involves encouraging opponents to 
change by working with them – often privately – rather than by vilifying 
them in public. Sociologist Lyle Munro writes that Spira went to great 
lengths to avoid using publicity to shame companies, using it only as a 
last resort.[8]

In 1976, he led the ARI's campaign against vivisection on cats that the 
American Museum of Natural History had been conducting for 20 years, 
intended to research the impact of certain types of mutilation on the 
sex lives of cats. The museum halted the research in 1977, and Spira's 
campaign was hailed as the first ever to succeed in stopping animal 

full: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Spira

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