Within the animal movement, a fraction is suddenly particularly concerned about not what humans do to non-human animals, but what a lion in need of food is doing to a zebra in order to survive. This approach is misguided in many ways. For a start, I consider myself part of the animal liberation movement, similar to the liberation movement of people of colour in the USA or of women worldwide. The issue is not the reduction of suffering in a liberation movement, but the liberation of beings of a certain group due to a suppressive ideology, be it racism, sexism or speciesism. The goal is for those beings to be able to govern their life independently of powerful interest groups, which solely exist in technological mass societies. Hence, animal liberation means the liberation of nonhumans from human suppression in such a society. Animal rights, which only exist in such societies and not outside, are a means to that end.
Being just back from a trip with the tent into the wilderness of the Southern Carpathians in Romania, I realised once again the truth of the statement: Most wild animals are happy most of the time. With wild animals I mean here animals, who are not being persecuted by humans, who live an independent life outside of civilisation. I say that, because I keep seeing animals in the wild, and they almost always seem content and happy. Some are frolicking in the sun, some are playing, some are making love, some are resting and simply enjoying themselves. In only very rare occasions do I see animals, who are suffering.
On international conferences, I am often met with utter disbelief that the group I work with, VGT, does not receive any funding from the state. Isn’t animal advocacy work charity in the public interest? Especially in Eastern Europe, it seems, the financial existence of most groups is depending on that kind of income. The disbelief changes to amazement, if I add that in Austria, to the contrary, the state is considering us enemy number one and will try everything in its power to attack and destroy us, on all fronts.
A new proposal is floating through the movement, wildlife intervention to prevent wildlife suffering. If you are new to this topic, you might be forgiven for thinking wildlife suffering is referring to hunting, or trapping, or „pest control“ or car accidents. No, it is not. The proponents of this idea are talking about the, as they call it, „most abundant animal suffering on the planet“, the suffering of wild animals due to interpersonal conflict between themselves, predation and natural hardship. The solution proposed ranges from extending civilizational technologies into the wild to genetic modification of predators so that they become natural vegans. If you think that is a fringe issue, maybe it is, hopefully, actually, but I hear some people are preparing a conference on solely that question in Berlin next year.
It was 2002, when we held our first animal rights conference in Austria. From the start, the question was hotly debated if the conference language should be English or German. We chose German for 2002 and 2004, but took on English in 2006. In 2008, we switched back to German again. The organisers in Luxemburg, seemingly inspired by our style of conference, never had these quarrels. English it should be from the start, to become a truly international European animal rights conference. And so it was this year with a few hundred participants as well.
20 years ago, the primary line of conflict within the animal rights movement was between grassroots groups and big national organisations. The former claimed the latter were too mainstream, only after money and image without being effective, and not idealistic anymore. The other lamented the opposite, too radical, too scruffy, too non-conformist, too violent and without effect as well. The arguments circled around the justification and effectivity of illegal direct action and other than public pressure on the animal abuse industry.