A major disconnect: two slaves pulling the funeral procession carriage for the late civil rights and social justice leader US Senator John Lewis, 2020
When I say, on my Home Page, that I’m an animal rights and eco-social justice activist, that’s being generous to me and a slight to actual activists. More precisely, I’m an activist ‘light’. I occasionally participate in activist demonstrations; have been, over the decades, and am a member of various activist organizations; and I help other (real) activists and otherwise support and participate in efforts to address and raise awareness of numerous issues and causes.
What sorts of issues and causes? Animal rights, social-justice, environmental, peace, labour. I think that the term ‘eco-social’ can reasonably be used to cover those terms. I consider the ‘social’ to extend beyond humans, in opposition to speciesism. I sometimes describe myself as an eco-socialist.
Here are a few things that I’ve learned, through experience and study, about eco-social justice activism.
- Oppression through racism, speciesism, misogyny, homophobia, ageism, classism, etc., all share the same logic. It is practiced typically by some members of privileged social groups against members of other social groups whom the privileged group considers to be inferior to the privileged group.
- Oppressor groups and oppressed groups exist within both groups.
- Resistance by and activism on behalf of the oppressed can bring about social change and can otherwise mitigate some oppression.
- Activists against the various forms of oppression can work together and, when they do, they can achieve more than when they each work on their own.
- Nevertheless, oppression exists within and between activist groups.
- Oppression is often invisible to the oppressors and sometimes even to the oppressed.
- Historically, oppressed groups emerge who were previously not considered (by whom and to what extent?) to have been oppressed.
The oppression of non-human animals (we are all animals; but humans are the ones who wear clothes) is an icon of invisible oppression. It is so accepted and pervasive, that it is invisible to us. It is also a reflection of our species’ general default attitude towards the ‘other’ – other humans and everyone/thing non-human. We can be as environmentally-politically-socially-correct as can be, kind to one another, generous to our favourite causes, and even be activists for social change; but it all means nothing, if we’re wearing, eating, torturing, hunting, and otherwise using people (should only the animals who wear clothes be considered ‘people’; and considered by whom?) who, except for humans, would live their own lives on their own terms. Selective, limited, or narrow kindness or empathy is disingenuous, at the least.
The reverse doesn’t work. If all non-human animals were respected and treated the way that most humans would themselves like to be respected and treated, then it isn’t conceivable (to me) that any of the other social justice and environmental issues and concerns would exist.
A good example of invisible oppression is in the 2020 photo (top of page) of Senator John Lewis’ funeral procession. Apparently, nobody gave an empathetic thought to the two horses used as slaves to pull the funeral carriage. The tragic irony is obvious. Another sad example of invisible slavery is the iconic and ubiquitous use of horses in ‘cowboy/western’ movies.
One major issue that I’ll just briefly mention here (for now) is that not everybody is concerned about oppression or about social injustice, etc. I was in my 40s when I was surprised to learn that some people (e.g., Hayek) are explicitly and ideologically opposed to the notion and practice of social justice, for example. Also, there are those who are happy oppressors, sadists, and megalomaniacs. And there are those who are apathetic, self-centred, and myopic. The point being that we don’t all agree that oppression is a problem or is one worth doing anything about. I think that the differences are down to variances in the depth, breadth, and intensity of empathy among people. I also think that, while those variances may be genetically and/or culturally informed, they can and do change within individuals. So, building empathy is, I believe an important means, though not the only one, of minimizing oppression.
Obviously, I’m vegan. And I urge everyone to be vegan.
If any of what I’ve said here interests you, you can find out more at
Earthling Ed: “You Will Never Look At YOur Life The Same Way Again” (anything by Earthling Ed is worth checking out.)