Symbiotic Liberation

Or Why Animal Rights Spell Human Rights (and Vice Versa)

Let us give Nature a chance; she knows her business better than we do.

— Michel de Montaigne

There is a scene in Louie Psihoyos’ film The Cove where a dolphin looks at itself in a mirror. It doesn’t ignore the image, look past it or mistake it for another dolphin. It performs a serious of maneuvers, swimming upside down, righting itself, gyrating this way and that. It looks into its own eyes. It is a conscious being.

In case you missed it, The Cove is a documentary exploring the plight of dolphins in captivity, as well as the annual dolphin slaughter in the Japanese village of Taiji. Among the more interesting facts exposed by the filmmakers: prior to the slaughter, dolphin “trainers” select the best specimens (driven into pens by a wall of ships using acoustic devices) to be imprisoned in “dolphinariums” across the globe. It establishes a direct link between dolphins in captivity – a multi-billion dollar industry – and the horrific butchery at Taiji.

Sea World and other “respectable” aquariums have apparently stopped acquiring dolphins via capture, choosing to breed the animals instead. “Breed” is a euphemism, and I don’t mean sex. Online videos reveal the grotesque spectacle of Sea World trainers masturbating sedated orcas and collecting the semen in plastic bags.

Whether kidnapped or bred, The Cove makes a compelling case that for dolphins and other cetaceans, captivity amounts to torture. One can extrapolate this to most wild animals in captivity, with varying degrees of evidentiary support.

Scientists now argue that the intelligence of dolphins may rival or even surpass our own.

In the wild, dolphins live in highly evolved and complex social structures bearing unique cultures, languages and interpersonal relationships. They swim vast distances in a single day. They have sex for pleasure. They play practical jokes on other species. They comfort one another. Like humans, they have been known to engage in what we call atrocities (albeit on a much, much smaller scale) including infanticide, rape, and cannibalism. Also like humans, dolphins have been known to come to the rescue of other species in peril – in their case, us.

Their primary means of navigating the world is sound.

Quite obviously, being locked in what amounts to a bathtub, bombarded with noisy music and boisterous crowds, denied their traditional social structures and relationships, and forced to “perform” in exchange for dead food is not a healthy or “humane” living environment for the ocean’s most intelligent creature. Nor is this really open to debate. We now know that dolphins in captivity (including orcas or “Killer Whales”) develop symptoms akin to neurosis. In an average seven year time span, half of all captive dolphins perish.  Causes include pneumonia, intestinal disease, chlorine poisoning, and a variety of stress-related illnesses.

Like caged parrots tearing out their feathers, captive dolphins frequently abuse themselves by banging their heads against the walls of their tanks.

For spectators, the willingness to patronize organizations like Sea World can be attributed to ignorance. “The dolphin’s smile”, says former dolphin trainer turned activist Ric O’Barry in The Cove, “is nature’s greatest deception”. It is highly unlikely that even a small percentage of Sea World customers understand that these beloved aquatic performers are living in a state of profound distress. One cannot say the same of the “trainers” and other professionals.

Jason Hribal, author of the forthcoming book Fear of the Animal Planet: The Hidden History of Animal Resistance, exposes the disturbing history of orcas in captivity. While orca whales do not knowingly attack human beings in the wild (and have never killed one of us, so far as we know) they frequently do so under our “care”. Incidents range from orcas leaping out of the water and slapping human beings in the head with their pectoral fins, to orcas violently dragging trainers around their pools and submerging them under water until they drown. The history reveals an unmistakable pattern of calculated aggression. In an article published in Counterpunch, Hribal outlines one incident involving an orca in San Antonio:

The orca jumped on top of his trainer and repeatedly pushed the man underwater. Sea World, afterwards, tried to pass the incident off as rough play, saying that at no time was the trainer in danger. Witnesses did not buy it. As one of them explained, ‘the whale was staying between the [exit] ramp and the trainer and finally the trainer jumped on top of the whale’s back and leaped over him and another trainer caught him.’ At that point, ‘the whale turned around and slammed down on the ramp and he was pretty upset that the trainer got out of the pool.’

And another:

We do not know which orca it was that started it, but all three, Nootka, Haida, and Tilikum, took their turns dunking the screaming woman underwater. ‘She went up and down three times,’ another visitor continued. The Sealand employees ‘almost got her once with the hook pole, but they couldn’t because the whales were moving so fast.’ One trainer tossed out a floatation ring, but the whales would not let her grab it. In fact, the closer that such devices got to the young woman, the further out the whales pulled her into the pool. It took park officials two hours to recover her drowned body.’

Dozens of such incidents have slipped through Sea World’s carefully manufactured PR wall (including numerous attacks by “smiling” or bottlenose dolphins). Hundreds if not thousands are likely to have occurred behind the scenes. In all likelihood these are not “playful” mistakes but expressions of pent up rage. For some reason, we have no problem with the idea that a tiger might lash out in anger at a Siegfried or Roy, but recoil at the suggestion that orcas might do something similar to the perky slave-masters at Sea World.

Why don’t they bite us in half or swallow us whole? Luckily enough, human beings have never been on the orca’s menu. Their failure to react with frequent and extreme violence is far more likely to be a sign of intelligence than lack thereof.

The sole remaining justification for places like Sea World is that they serve a vital educational role. I’m a good case study in establishing the absurdity of this claim.

I was taken to the Vancouver Aquarium several times as a boy, where several orcas were held captive (a few belugas remain). I remember being dumbstruck at their awesome power, but don’t recall really appreciating them as a species until I encountered them in the wild or watched a documentary video (I can’t remember which came first).

As a teenager, I was lucky enough to have occasional access to beachfront property on Saturna Island in British Colombia. The first time I encountered wild orcas was in a tiny fishing boat about the size of a bathtub. As the pod approached, my father turned off the motor and told me to reel up my line. He informed me that “killer whales” do not attack humans. He also expressed displeasure at the “whale watching” boat traveling about twenty feet behind the pod. I would like to tell you I was the picture of valor during this encounter, but the truth is that I was scared shitless.

It is difficult to communicate the sensation of sitting in a tiny boat in the middle of a dozen or so ten-ton animals with jaws the size of Volkswagen bugs. Orcas attack everything from polar bears to great white sharks to whales ten times their size. Moose have been found in their stomachs. They are the apex predator of their environment. To a puny little human, they can be very frightening indeed. Wildlife filmmaker Martha Holmes (of BBC Blue Planet fame) had this to say on the subject:

Two words describe my first encounter with killer whales in the wild: absolutely terrifying.

Yet a strange thing happened that day, sitting in my little fishing boat: as they began gliding gracefully by, not even nudging us, my fear was replaced with respect.

I’ve seen orca pods on about 20 different occasions, one while snorkeling. Each incident was exhilarating in its own way. I eventually became so comfortable around the animals that when a pod swam by, I’d row out to meet them. Foolish? Probably. But they never once rocked my boat.

Seeing orcas in nature imbues you with a deep appreciation for the animal – not least because they don’t make mince meat of you. The same appreciation can be taught from a good documentary, article or book. Sea World teaches the opposite lessons. It teaches us that it’s acceptable to take the ocean’s apex predator, confine it to a virtual swimming pool and force it to perform stupid tricks for our passable amusement. It’s degrading for both species. In the end, it’s really not much different than forcing a bear to ride a unicycle while wearing a silly hat.

We heard the usual excuses in the wake of orca “trainer” Dawn Brancheau’s death at the hands of “Tilikum the killer whale” at Sea World. The animal was only “playing”, the trainer screwed up, it was a horrible “accident”. Eyewitness reports of the orca seizing her by the waist and violently thrashing her about were replaced by a story of Dawn’s ponytail “brushing Tilikum’s nose” and causing some sort of bizarre Orcoid reflex. Some suggested her hair became caught in the big dumb animal’s teeth, and that Tilikum was actually attempting to dislodge her from his massive jaw when tragedy ensued.

Other commentators argued that Tilikum was a “serial killer killer whale” (Dawn was the third victim). Call it the bad apple theory applied to marine biology. The American Family Association urged Sea World to put the animal to death. Quoting Exodus 21:28 (“When an ox gores a man or woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner shall not be liable”), they dismissed out of hand the notion that the animal had any rights of its own.

At this point, one is tempted to argue that Tilikum the Killer Whale is, in all probability, more intelligent that the folks at the American Family Association. This is not meant in jest. Controversial anti-whaling activist Paul Watson (star of the highly popular Whale Wars on Animal Planet) notes in his article “Why Killing Whales is Murder”:

One difference that has been used for years to differentiate humans from all other animals is the presence of spindle neurons in the human brain. These specialized brain cells are thought to process emotion and are the cells behind feelings of love and grief. The spindle cells are located in the parts of the human brain linked with social organization, empathy, speech, and intuition.

Amazingly, a recent research project has revealed that these spindle cells reside in the same area of the brain in humpback whales, fin whales, orcas, and sperm whales as in humans. More importantly, they have existed in cetacean brains for much longer than humans have had them. Even more amazing is that proportionally these whales have three times as many of these spindle cells in their brains as humans have.

All this added to the fact that whale brains are larger, four-lobed compared to our three, and have more convolutions on the neo-cortex than humans and we are looking at the possibility of a sentient creature that has emotions, thinking abilities, self awareness, and is capable of intense suffering and grief.

‘Their potential for high-level brain function, clearly demonstrated already at the behavioural level, is confirmed by the existence of neuronal types once thought unique to humans and our closest relatives.’

[Professor] Hof added, ‘Dolphins communicate through huge song repertoires, recognize their own songs, and make up new ones. They also form coalitions to plan hunting strategies, teach these to younger individuals, and have evolved social networks similar to those of apes and humans.’

In a review of The Cove, a writer for the Japan times echoes a popular sentiment: “If dolphin killing is banned, why shouldn’t the slaughters of cows and pigs be banned as well?”

The analogy is not particularly helpful. Dolphins and whales are wild animals, and very few Japanese people eat them or are even aware of events like the annual slaughter at Taiji. A better comparison would be to ask: “What’s the difference between eating a chimp or a gorilla and eating a whale or dolphin?” Or: “What’s the difference between eating a lion or grizzly bear and eating a whale or dolphin?”

Because dolphins and whales (and sharks) are the apex predators of their environment, they are vitally important in maintaining the balance of the ocean’s ecosystems. They also take much longer to repopulate when they become endangered. The health of these animals is vital to the ocean’s health – and therefore human health – as a whole. Even in the absence of ethical considerations their slaughter is not only cruel and gratuitous but foolhardy in the extreme.

When we kill these animals we play with fire. As much as we like to pretend we have nature pretty much figured out, the truth is that we don’t know all that much about our own environments, let alone the ocean. Barely a day goes by in which some new discovery challenges previous assumptions or leaves experts perplexed. Recently, scientists discovered that blue whales are now singing in a richer, deeper tone. Why?

It’s a mystery said whale acoustic researcher Mark McDonald, co-author of a report on the recent findings. “It got to be really problematic when we started digging and hey, they’re going in the same direction all around the world yet they’re different song types.”

Biologists Hal Whitehead notes of the peculiar trend:

The exciting possibility, I think, is that they’re all listening to each other. This is a worldwide cultural phenomenon, and that’s very cool.

According to The Cove, the dolphin killers in Taiji are not motivated solely by the profit that dolphins – dead or alive – brings to their community. There is an element of misplaced nationalism at play, and there is also an element of equally misplaced inter-species competition. Many of the fishermen regard the slaughter as a form of “pest control”. Dolphins eat fish, ergo, they are our competitors.

Similar sentiments are often expressed by advocates of the barbaric seal slaughter in Canada. The seals are eating up all the cod, therefore their population needs to be kept in check. John Efford, former Canadian Minister of Natural Resources, spoke none too delicately of this widespread concern:

Mr. Speaker, I would like to see the 6 million seals, or whatever number is out there, killed and sold, or destroyed and burned. I do not care what happens to them…the more they kill the better, I will love it.

When critics point out that the East coast seal population was once five-to-ten times its current size, and that cod were nevertheless so plentiful that “the sea there is full of fish that can be taken not only with nets but with fishing-baskets, a stone being placed in the basket to sink it in the water” (John Cabot, 1497), seal hunt advocates use human mismanagement of fish stocks as further justification for the slaughter. Alas, we fucked it up so bad we have no choice but to continue driving spikes into the skulls of baby seals.

In reality, there is virtually no evidence that killing seals increases cod, and quite a bit of evidence to the contrary. There are at least twenty species of fish in the coastal waters of Newfoundland that prey on cod. The seals, in turn, prey upon the cod’s predators as well as the cod itself. Food webs are exceedingly complex, and cannot be reduced to a simple “human-seal-cod” or “human-dolphin-fish” dynamic. Clupeids have been identified as major predators of cod eggs and larvae in the Baltic. Guess who eats clupeids?

Strangely enough, there seems to be a good deal of online hostility toward The Cove. Some of the anger derives from people who feel the film treats Japanese people unfairly; in other cases it can be traced to a belief that animals should not have any sort of “rights”, and that suggesting as much is akin to religious blasphemy, cultural imperialism or anti-human bias.

Charges of “Japan bashing” have been leveled at the filmmakers. This is unfair, but also understandable. Regrettably, the film fails to mention the annual pilot whale slaughter in the Faroe Islands (Denmark) by European people. It also fails to mention the thousands of dolphins killed every year by driftnets. The Cove laudably establishes a link between the dolphin slaughter and the callous attitudes that allows the continuing degradation of the oceans, but where is mention that 50% of all seafood ends up in the food dishes of livestock living on factory farms? The second greatest predator of fish is not the seal, or the whale, or the shark – it is the pig.

There is no question, however, that Japan holds the current title for greatest defiler of our oceans. Since the 1931 Geneva Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, Japan has consistently ignored quotas, international boundaries and species protections. Currently, under the guise of “scientific research”, they butcher hundreds of whales in the wildly misnamed Antarctic whale sanctuary. Each killing is an atrocity in itself, with some whales taking up to an hour to perish. Explosive-tipped harpoons strike the first blow, followed by electrocution and prolonged drowning.

Recently, the Japanese government successfully lobbied against a proposed ban on the fishing of bluefin tuna by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Bluefin are critically endangered, and will likely go extinct in the near future. One might expect, considering Japan’s voracious appetite for the prized fish, that they would have led the charge in ensuring its survival. But to suggest as much would be to overlook a far more important consideration than sushi: profit.

In Japan, a bluefin currently sells for about $100,000. The more endangered the fish becomes, the more expensive it is to buy, the more eager are fishermen to catch it. Ain’t capitalism grand?

When it comes to dolphins and whales, neither taste nor sustenance is at issue. The meat tastes like especially fatty spam, or so I’m told, and if killing dolphins may once have provided essential nourishment to the town of Taiji (this is also unlikely), it is no longer necessary. It is however profitable. A live dolphin can go for a cool one-hundred-fifty-thousand. Thus are our closest cousins in the ocean reduced to circus freaks and delicacies.

A group of scientists recently claimed that the dolphin is so intelligent that it should qualify as a “non-human person”.

The researchers argue that their work shows it is morally unacceptable to keep such intelligent animals in amusement parks or to kill them for food or by accident when fishing. Some 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises die in this way each year.

There are many assumptions at play here, the most glaring of which is the idea that human-defined “intelligence” should be the deciding factor in the way we treat other animals (rather than, say, the ability to feel pain). But let us run with the concept.

Religious fundamentalists, amongst others, are obviously not too keen on the prospect of dolphins being granted “personhood” status. Only humans have souls, so the theory goes, and to advocate otherwise is blasphemous.  In fact, it’s a restriction on human “freedom”.

The reductionism of dolphin = any other animal is important in this respect. It maintains our position upon God’s special throne and keeps nature in its proper place – beneath our collective boot.

To be fair to the right-wing Christians and libertarians, it is not difficult to find misanthropic sentiments amongst some environmentalists. Often these remarks come from extremely wealthy individuals who would undoubtedly save the life of an endangered whale over the life of an endangered human living in poverty. Prince Philip expressed his desire to return to earth as a “deadly virus” in order to reduce the human population. Henry Kissinger once stated, “Depopulation should be the highest priority of U.S. foreign policy towards the Third World.” Dr. Eric R. Pianka argued in a speech at the Texas Academy of Science, “We’re no better than bacteria!” and said that the human population should be reduced by 90%.

Strangely absent in the work of “human cull” advocates is the work of Frances Moore Lappe. Debunking Malthus with a vengeance, her work reveals that “antidemocratic power structures create and perpetuate conditions keeping fertility high” and that “children are poor people’s source of power”:

In sum, convincing historical evidence suggests that when individuals and families are gaining power because their rights are protected – particularly the rights to education, medical care including contraception, old-age security, and access to income-producing resources – they no longer have to depend only on their own families for survival.

Thus are progressive social values such as equality and social justice inextricably wed to environmental protection. Paradoxically, it is not overpopulation that creates poverty; it is poverty that creates overpopulation. Eventually, you end up with a sort of vicious cycle in which one begets the other.

The failure of many environmentalists to link hierarchical, anti-democratic socio-economic structures with the pillaging of Mother Earth is perhaps the single greatest stumbling block to achieving real sustainability. It is far easier to recommend lifestyle changes (minimize your meat intake, use less toilet paper, recycle) than to recommend a radical restructuring of our political and economic systems. The problem with limiting our critique to lifestyle choices is that the system keeps on humming along regardless, fish after fish, tree after tree. Endless growth is the defining characteristic of our modern economies, and endless growth spells suicide.

In his advocacy of libertarian socialism or “participatory democracy”, Noam Chomsky spoke convincingly on the relationship between institutionalized hierarchy and environmental destruction:

The reality is that under capitalist conditions – meaning maximization of short-term gain – you’re ultimately going to destroy the environment: the only question is when. Now, for a long time, it’s been possible to pretend that the environment is an infinite source and an infinite sink. Neither is true obviously, and we’re now sort of approaching the point where you can’t keep playing the game too much longer. It may not be very far off. Well, dealing with that problem is going to require large-scale social changes of an almost unimaginable kind. For one thing, it’s going to certainly require large-scale social planning, and that means participatory social planning if it’s going to be all meaningful. It’s also going to require a general recognition among human beings that an economic system driven by greed is going to self-destruct – it’s only a question of time before you make the planet unlivable.

Agreements don’t require centralized authority, certain kinds of agreements do. One’s assumption, at least, is that decentralization of power will lead to decisions that reflect the interests of the entire population. The idea is that policies flowing from any kind of decision-making apparatus are going to tend to reflect the interests of the people involved in making the decisions—which certainly seems plausible. So if a decision is made by some centralized authority, it is going to represent the interests of the particular group which is in power. But if power is actually rooted in large parts of the population—if people can actually participate in social planning—then they will presumably do so in terms of their own interests, and you can expect the decisions to reflect those interests. Well, the interest of the general population is to preserve human life; the interest of corporation is to make profits—those are fundamentally different interests.

Having jobs doesn’t require destroying the environment which makes life possible. I mean, if you have participatory social planning, and people are trying to work things out in terms of their own interests, they are going to want to balance opportunities to work with quality of work, with the type of energy available, with conditions of personal interaction, with the need to make sure your children survive, and so on and so forth. But those are all considerations that simply don’t arise for corporate executives, they just are not a part of the agenda. In fact, if the C.E.O. of General Electric started making decisions on that basis, he’d be thrown out his job in three seconds, or maybe there’d be a corporate takeover or something – because those things are not a part of his job. His job is to raise profit and market share, not make sure that the environment survives, or that his workers lead decent lives. And those goals are simply in conflict.

We have reached the point where “save the humans” might be just as accurate a slogan for the environmental movement as “save the whales”.

Antibiotics used in factory farms are creating a breeding ground for “superbugs”; Avian influenza, swine flu and other viruses are emerging with alarming regularity; Monsanto’s genetically modified crops were recently linked to liver and kidney damage; a study of 291 freshwater streams by the US Geological Survey found that more than two-thirds of the fish contained unsafe mercury levels; pesticides used in industrial agriculture are killing off the honey bees (responsible for pollinating more than 90 million crops in the United States alone).

Chemical pollution is causing an explosion in cancer rates. Dr. Dominique Belpome, a French cancer specialist, charted a 35% rise between 1980 and 2000 among the same age groups in France. He argues that 70% of all cancers are of environmental origin. Cancer rates in Canada are growing twice as fast as the population.

Human beings are causing the greatest mass extinction since the disappearance of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. According to a survey of 400 scientists, this “mass extinction event” is more dangerous to the survival of our species than “pollution, global warming and the thinning of the ozone layer.”

90% of the big fish in the ocean have disappeared. Again, according to scientists, “If the serial depletions continue unabated, major seafood stocks will collapse by 2048.” Seven out of ten human beings rely on seafood for their primary source of protein. If the oceans die – we die.

This isn’t a question of mere greed. Corporations are mandated by law to maximize profits regardless of social or environmental cost (see Dodge v. Ford). It should not be surprising, therefore, that overfishing has become the rule, any less that factory farming has emerged as the logical means by which we raise and slaughter livestock, or sweatshops the preferred method of producing commodities.

For warriors on the front lines – animal liberationists, sea shepherds, Earth Firsters – it is tempting to embrace a certain level of misanthropy. What kind of a dumb species spoils its own nest? And why should we care about the livelihood of fishermen or loggers when blue collar workers in countless other industries are being laid off by the hundreds of thousands due to “free trade” agreements, corporate downsizing and off-shoring of jobs?

I think it’s important to look at the bigger picture.

The reality is that so long as workers are living in a state of desperation, there will be more than enough bodies to dump toxic effluent from your friendly local factory farm into your once pristine waterways. So long as people can barely afford to eat, or are too busy working overtime to cook a good meal, McDonald’s and Burger King will persist in fattening up the populace. So long as dolphinariums make a killing, the killing of dolphins will continue.

I am sympathetic to people who scoff at “mainstream” or “liberal” environmentalists.

Most workers are too worried about their own horrific living conditions to consider the horrific living conditions of the former cow in their Big Mac. When a Bono or an Al Gore exit their private jets to lecture the plebs about sustainability, disgust is an entirely appropriate response. Many people, especially urbanites, cannot afford or do not have access to organic produce or meat from local farmers.

Ultimately, the worker/environment dichotomy is fallacious. It’s nothing more than a ruse designed by corporations to create hostility between workers and shield environmental pillage with the threat of unemployment. It suggests that the interests of animals/nature and man/sustenance/health are diametrically opposed. The opposite is true.

Real environmentalism recognizes the rights of human beings as well as the rights of dolphins. As much as we like to pretend otherwise, we are all, after all, part of the environment. This includes the “useless eaters” in the “third world” that eco-misanthropes like Prince Phillip would slaughter in the name of sustainability.

The Cove is important because it refuses to succumb to the either/or proposition. It links human health to animal health, and it also opens the door to an expanding awareness of the rights of animals in general.

If we can’t even extend human compassion to the most intelligent animal in the ocean – by all indications, a “non-human person” – then the prospects for doing so with other, allegedly “lesser” animals are bleak. This also applies to the human animal himself, who (let’s face it) should probably be placed on the endangered species list right alongside the bluefin tuna. It’s not just about saving other creatures, it’s about saving ourselves. From ourselves. At the very least, it’s about rescuing certain quaint notions about “humanity” which no longer seem justified – that we are capable of acting rationally, that we care about the fate of our grandchildren, and that short-term profit is not the sole impetus for our collective behavior.

The emerging consensus amongst scientists and environmentalists regarding our relationship with nature is not a leap forward but a leap backward. It represents a final, lasting recognition that indigenous peoples had it right after all.   What Frederick Turner described as “The Western Spirit Against the Wilderness” – the urge to conquer rather than co-exist, exploit rather than liberate – was doomed to failure from the moment we started viewing mother nature as the enemy rather than the protector.  The current, hollow speeches about green capitalism and sustainable development are the last gasps of a dying system.

Real, participatory democracy in both the political and economic realms will allow communities to act collectively and to consider factors other than short term profit. It is time for the mainstream environmental movement to recognize this fundamental correlation and act upon it. Save the whales. Save the humans.

Scott Noble is a documentary filmmaker and wage slave. His films are available at his website Read other articles by Scott.

7 comments on this article so far ...

Comments RSS feed

  1. bozh said on April 6th, 2010 at 10:00am #

    For good 40 yrs i have deplored almost all zoos and pools for dolphins and orcas.
    Kids do enjoy zoos and pools, or do they? Be it as it may, kids have so much ‘entertainment’ to drive away manufactured boredom in order to escape captivity, but do not understand nor even perceive that they are captives raised to be serfs and cannon fodder for the rich people.

    In a way kids are treated like animals. So, it is no surprise that an orca or kid loses it! tnx

  2. Don Hawkins said on April 6th, 2010 at 1:32pm #

    West Virginia and the miners well coal is the game why not start there in a big way clean energy. Wind, solar, low loss power lines start there and yesterday would be a good time to do just that. Much better working conditions all the way around.

  3. lichen said on April 6th, 2010 at 3:10pm #

    The Cove is an amazing film–a beautiful show of humanity on the part of the film-makers, and horrifying for the depiction of the corrupt, stupid dolphin slaughter. However, there are many right wing, ecocidal aspects of indigenous cultures, and we need not emulate them–we can create something new that is much more beautiful. Indigenous people killed whales and dolphins, too; and they were not all democratic or participatory.

  4. Movingpast said on April 6th, 2010 at 8:01pm #

    Great article, I think this is one of the important areas overlooked on both the Left and within animal liberation/welfare circles.

    For those interested,
    I have written on Participatory Democracy and Animal Liberation here-

  5. Scott Noble said on April 7th, 2010 at 1:06am #


    Terrific article on Znet. “The elements that are present within Animal Liberation arguments need to be expanded, to incorporate a wider critique, just as the Left has the moral and conceptual capability to expand our horizons.”

    Please feel free to post Symbiotic Liberation on Znet or any other locale.

  6. Scott Noble said on April 7th, 2010 at 1:18am #


    “Indigenous people killed whales and dolphins, too; and they were not all democratic or participatory.”

    Quite right. I do mean to suggest that any society is perfect or above reproach, only that indigenous societies on the whole were and are more attuned to ideas like healthy co-existence and symbiosis than the Europeans who conquered them. As scientists learn more about our ecosystems we are re-acquainting ourselves with these concepts, but they rarely find expression in our political systems.

    In The Re-enchantment of Nature, Morris Berman argues that prior to the Enlightenment, Europeans viewed nature more as an interrelated web than a series of objects to be dissected and exploited. The Scientific Revolution had a dark side as well as a light side, and was a major factor in the rise of capitalism.
    Like a scientists vivisecting an animal, “Capitalism views the earth at a distance”, says Berman; this allows unfettered pillage.

  7. kalidas said on April 7th, 2010 at 6:29pm #

    Along with many secrets of nature, the unenlightened ones swept a large piece of their humanity under that Pagan rug.