The following post is an excerpt from my presentation at VegFestUK Bristol 2017 “Savior Complex Veganism: You’re Probably Pretty Speciesist…and you could be racist too.”
Most of the time, my discussions center on western society as a whole and the ways in which violence against animals is a reflection and extension of violence against black and brown humans (and vice versa). But in this particular talk, we examine our own biases within the mainstream vegan community.
An article was posted by a friend on Facebook about a black male dog breeder. The piece states:
A 52-year old Detroit man and suspected dog fighting breeder was reportedly outside feeding his dogs when he was confronted by three armed men wearing masks to conceal their identities.
The masked men forced him into his home where they tied him up before brutally beating and torturing him before cutting off his ear and driving away in his van. “They tied him up (the dog fighting breeder); they beat him up pretty bad.
Broke ribs, broke fingers, stabbed him with ice picks, cut an ear off. It’s just messed up,” the victim’s cousin Marty Johnson said.
Police believe the man was targeted because of his Pit Bull breeding operation which may be tied to dog fighting.
Do I know with certainty that the masked attackers were white? No. No I do not. In fact, I’m pretty sure this wasn’t the work of vegans either. But I’ll tell you what I do know:
I know that the people who celebrated this post were gay white vegan men.
I know that the perpetrators of this crime did not target a wealthy white breeder of golden retrievers.
I know that they did not seek out the home of a police officer who trained German shepherds to attack peaceful protestors or exploit victims of drug addiction.
I know they didn’t torture a military official for breeding dogs to fight in human wars.
I know that the victim of this violence was not a white person who breeds hounds to tear foxes apart for white entertainment during their hunting expeditions.
I know that this man was denied due process as is his right under the law. But of course, black people are never given due process. Not Freddie Grey. Not Eric Garner. Not Tamir Rice. Not Trayvon Martin. Not Rekia Boyd. Not Sandra Bland.
Mind you, this isn’t a defense of the despicable act of dog fighting. And I’ve argued repeatedly that breeding animals under ANY circumstances is nothing more than eugenics and theft of reproductive autonomy. Animal violence is a scourge in our society. But you cannot overlook the racial implications of targeting a poor BLACK breeder of animals.
This is a critique of how we look at justice in our society. Who we celebrate as victors and who we revile as villains. Black people who undertake acts of civil disobedience for racial justice are told that we are unlawful. Or heaven forbid we riot or destroy property in order to express our pain and frustration. Uncivilized!
If we block roads in peaceful protest, we are called violent extremists. If people cut off our ears and stab us with ice picks, they are canonized by white people.
But here’s where things become even more interesting. The piece goes on to say:
When police arrived at the man’s Detroit property, they found at least 16 Pit Bulls tied up outside, emaciated and living in filth in the backyard, and at least a dozen more in the same poor condition in the home’s basement.
A second property owned by the man was also housing dozens of unhealthy dogs.
Animal Control was called to the properties to remove the dogs, but family members insist the man was not involved in dog fighting, that he only breeds the dogs to sell them.
“No, he don’t fight dogs. He breed dogs. No, he don’t fight dogs,” the victim’s brother explained. “He has a lot of dogs; it’s been like that since we was kids.”
The men who tortured him have not yet been found and no arrests have been made.
You want to know how I know this celebration was about retribution for the crime of being black? Because they didn’t take the dogs. I’ll say that again. THE. COWARDS. DIDN’T. TAKE. THE. DOGS.
Anyone who is familiar with the plight of animal companions in the United States should be aware that when the state claims animals, the potential for execution (and yes I mean execution, because we don’t use euphemisms like ‘euthanizing’ to describe the fact that we execute animals after we criminalize them for homelessness) is extremely high, and even more so for dogs considered to be “bully breeds.”
Dogs who end up in the prison system (nee shelters) have approximately 3 to 5 days before they’re killed when facilities are full. And if these victims were in fact suffering from acute psychological or emotional trauma, they are virtually unadoptable. These perpetrators basically sentenced them to death.
It was never about the dog victims for you. On some level, you wish you could wear a mask and torture a black man without fear of being labeled a member of the KKK. Often when stories like this break, the common question asked of me by vegans who support this violence is “Well if it was YOU were being victimized, wouldn’t you want someone to intervene?”
Probably, yes. And when I have seen acts of animal cruelty being carried out, I have intervened in the past. But according to the story, the dogs were not being endangered at the moment of this attack. To the contrary, this man was attacked when he was in the act of feeding the dogs. This was not an intervention to prevent violence. Nor, since the dogs were sent to the prison system, was it an act of liberation.
In the online community, this was effectively a lynching.
This is a story of a man who got lynched.
It’s almost hilarious that I’m routinely told that I become what I hate because I don’t think I need to listen to the emotional violence of fascists under the guise of free and open dialogue…that I’m a nazi who stifles free speech…that I’m part of the ‘intolerant left.’ But white people high-fiving each other for torture is justice in our free society.
Being black and vegan means living with the twin traumas of racial violence and animal violence.
At all times.
Because it never stops.
A man was lynched. And white gay vegans laughed.
And believe it or not, people look at me daily and ask with confusion and indignation “what is this business of white veganism?” I just sigh and go back to work.
But in my mind I’m haunted. And I always will be. Because you congratulate yourselves for someone beating up a black man. And they didn’t take the fucking dogs.