Consider the following response to the suggestion in our OPED, Primate Worship: or Depo-Privations?, that over $6,000 a month for an Austrian chimp might be pushing the boundaries of excess in the animal rights movement. Our comments were originally posted on OPEDNEWS, reposted on COANEWS, and picked up by several animal rights blogs. Our take on Hiasl the chimp might just expose the haters.
This criticism was posted by a “Xena,” who is clearly not a warrior for human rights.
Xena says: "You admit that 'We found our little Congolese girl Florence slaving in her fields, tending to goats and maize, carrying a pocket full of bananas...while conservation organizations which tout donations to her welfare were nowhere to be seen' as if the animal activists are supposed to act like a UN Peace operation. While there needs to be more help and awareness for this poor little girl, who apparently does have access to healthy food (which might not be the case if she has ten babies who need to compete for that limited section of food), many animals are rapidly becoming extinct because there food and habitat is being taken away without any regard to their existence. IF activists are advising suffering young humans to have less babies than that should be applauded because corporations are destroying food sources for humans and animals. WE hope more than just that can be done, but a start may be to recognize our inter-connection with the animals and their habitats which are destroyed because animals have no right to habitat in both theory AND practice. Let's help human animals and non-human animals."
My read on this comment is that Xena believes that a healthy diet consists of bananas and manioc, child labor is OK, and in case the human race is in danger of running out of food, genocide is acceptable, and apes have a right to displace poor, starving Congolese villagers.
We fully expected criticism from the NGO community, but since the NGO’s operating in Eastern Congo have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar, perhaps they are just hoping we will go away.
What is frightening is that what I have suspected about certain factions of the animal rights, far right, and green movements is true. Intellectual circles have coined the phrase “the greening of hate.” Zero population growth has been hijacked by the far right as an argument for immigration control, racists have long opposed population growth in Africa, and environmental movements, especially those concerned with preserving ape habitats, have latched onto “population and family planning” (coerced genocide) in animal habitat.
Academic Betsy Hartmann was interviewed by the print edition of New Scientist in February 2003. What caught my eye was her assertion that environmental scholars were aiding and abetting the journal Population and the Environment, which was staffed by holocaust debunkers and anti-immigration promoters. She raised the question: “What are environmental scholars (Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb) doing getting mixed up with these kinds of people?”
“These kinds of people” included board member and Canadian psychologist J. Philippe Rushton, who theorizes that black people have small brains and high aggression!
Hartmann terms population pressure a misleading ideology, i.e., poor peasants have too many children and this degrades the environment. This Malthusian concept has recently been used to explain the Rwandan genocide, but as scholars such as Hartmann point out, the racist-incited carnage began in under populated areas before spreading to the cities in Rwanda. Hartmann says that, on average, women around the world have less than three children each--hardly earth-threatening and definitely sustainable.
So, while the United States and the rest of the developed world consume most of the world’s resources, certain USAID backed NGO’s in Africa continue to live in their gated compounds with satellite television, build mansions from pilfered funds, visit the over-stocked NGO stores, and generally live high off the hog while engaging in systematic population control. Meanwhile, Florence is surviving on bananas and manioc, and there are no apes to save in her “habitat” anyway.
For readers who feel that Xena’s comments are absurd, there is real danger in dismissing her attitude. Racism and prejudice is the soft underbelly of the animal rights movement, which in itself, is a noble concept. I consider myself a champion of animal rights, but not at the expense of humans. Can both issues be addressed? From what I have witnessed in the United States, Rwanda, South Africa, and DRC, I don’t have much hope.