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Animal Rights/Vegan Issues: Where's the Left?

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In a recent article, I discussed how America's top liberal (sic) eco-spokesperson, Al Gore, conveniently ignores the primary cause of climate change: factory farming and the industrial meat-based diet (and thanks to Hope Bohanec at In Defense of Animals, I've learned of a new report from World Watch that found animal byproducts are responsible for 32.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year, or 51 percent of annual worldwide human caused greenhouse gas). A man of Gore's reach and influence is squandering an immense opportunity to educate, inform, and to inspire serious change.

What about those far to the left of Gore? Where are the "real" progressives on dark green issues pertaining to animal rights, veganism, and the environment? Unfortunately, in most cases, the record is equally abysmal.

For example, there's Z Magazine and Z Net founder Michael Albert. With nearly a half-century of lefty credibility and one of the largest liberal/progressive audiences around, how does Albert use this platform to address, say, fur farms or shark hunting? In his memoir, Remembering Tomorrow, Albert unabashedly clarifies his perspective: "I see no comparison in importance between seeking to eliminate the roots and branches of sexism, and seeking to eliminate the roots and branches of violence against animals. I see no comparison in importance between how chickens are treated and how women or any humans are treated. In fact, for me the animal rights agenda resonates barely at all, and the anti-sexism agenda is part of my life."

Let's be clear: Attempting to separate violence against humans from violence against animals (and all nature) is like trying to disconnect the human circulatory system from the respiratory system. The entrenched Left is not grasping obvious connections and what Albert is doing--intentionally or not--only legitimizes his personal myopia. Like Gore, he is wasting a chance to reach a large audience with an urgent message.

Which brings us to example #2: Ward Churchill. I have nothing but admiration for this American Indian scholar/activist"until he says stuff like this: "For most people in the anarchist community who organize in their little collectives and get together and eat their bean sprouts and sh*t, it's only for themselves at the present time. If you want to talk to factory workers, you need to connect with them where they are, not where you think they should be. You need to get over your prohibition on ashtrays" Get over your bicycles and go down and bend a wrench with a gear-head for a while. Do what he's f*cking doing."

Take-home message: "Real men" fix cars and smoke cigarettes. Wimps ride bikes and eat sprouts.

With 80% of the world's forests already cut down, 90% of the large fish in the ocean already gone, over 100 plant or animal species going extinct each day, and our eco-system rapidly approaching the dreaded point of no return, I'd say there's never been more urgent time to be a wimp. Yet, in the face of such a palpable global crisis, most of the Left continues to ignore the big picture--even going as far as to mock the vegan/animal rights movement.

Let's suppose Al Gore, Michael Albert, and Ward Churchill are hanging out and happen upon an old metal lamp. Immediately thinking of its recycle value, Gore decides the rub the lamp to give it a shine. Voila, a multi-cultural genie appears and offers the men three wishes. Churchill doesn't trust the genie, Albert wants to know if the genie has read anything about Parecon, but Gore convinces them both to go along. They make their wishes and in a flash, everyone in America is driving a hybrid, sexism is outlawed, and the US decides to honor at least some of its long standing treaties with this land's indigenous population. Great news all around, right?

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