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when we fight we let them win

August 2, 2010

“Fox pens” are outdoor enclosures that imprison foxes and coyotes, originally captured with leg hold traps, for the sake of hunters training dogs by setting a pack of dogs on one coyote or fox. Hunters often bet on whether the pack of dogs will catch (and maybe kill) the coyote.   The practice is much more cruel than I just described and you can learn more about it here. The vile and cruel nature of this practice is obvious, so I am going to skip that part. (And if you don’t see why this is cruel you are clearly too far-gone to help at this point).

Outside of the torture implicit in this practice, a part of this practice that is resonating with me is the way that humans pit one nonhuman animal against another. Humans inflict cruelty on one animal by trapping and then imprisoning him or her. They inflict cruelty on others by training the good nature out of them and aggressiveness into them (most likely through deprivation of food and physical affection and/or by inflicting physical abuse). Then for entertainment, the human abuser watches as the latter torments and often viciously kills the former. The same sort of process occurs with dog fighting and cock fighting.

The human perpetrators get nonhuman animal victims to abuse each other. This makes their work of animal abuse easier on them. They don’t have to feel culpable or psychotic when they don’t physically commit the act of torture or murder in its most vile moments, as the coyote or fox is being hunted or torn to shreds. By having one animal do it to the other, these sadists get away with murder, without ever getting their own hands dirty.

This is the same sort of logic that makes all oppression and subjugation successful. Those in power maintain their power by getting those without power to turn on each other. The oppressed are so busy fighting each other they forget to look up and see the real villain. Social justice movements often work against each other; they see a limited pool of resources (membership, volunteers, donations, media attention) and begin to feel as if they need to fight against other social movement organizations to get these resources.[1] Animal rights activists are used to this; we often have activists for human justice movements argue that we need to take care of women’s rights or racism or “starving children in Africa” before we take care of nonhuman animals.  As a feminist who begs for vegan events and a vegan who wishes that we could make our point without turning to sexist hooks, I have had enough with this intra-movement conflict.

I have had enough with inter-movement conflict as well. I see this process, where the oppressor gets the oppressed to turn on each other, replicated in the very movement that is supposed to help the foxes and coyotes and dogs in the fox pens. On multiple occasions I have experienced activists blaming each other for being falsely arrested during protests, when the police are the only ones who should be blamed. I have heard of groups taking credit for the activist activities of other organizations, fund raising events carelessly planned on the same day and distracting fights then ensuing when the double booking was unintentional. This all gets topped off with interpersonal friendship and dating drama. This is all is tolerable at the potlucks but not in organizational meetings or at protest events.

When we think of fox pens we can see the real villain is the human that supports and pays for it to happen. We do not look at the dogs and blame them for being vicious, we know the hunters did that. We do not look at the coyotes or foxes being attacked and think they should fight harder, we know it is the hunters’ fault they are attacked. We can see the big picture in regard to the fox pens. We need to see the big picture when it comes to our movement as well. And unlike the foxes and the coyotes and the dogs in fox pens who were forced into these positions, we do have a choice and it is our own fault. Until we stop letting those that maintain the institutions that oppress and dominate pull the strings, we will never have enough momentum or strength or focus to end fox pens or any other injustice.

Every time we deny that other social movement struggles are important, or try to rank order importance, we defeat ourselves. If we don’t leave room for all oppression to matter, we accept that compassion has limits. But the premise of the animal rights movement is that love and compassion is limitless. Every time we fight each other, we solidify the labels and boundaries that define our oppressions.  But an important teaching of feminism is that the boundaries established by those in power exist only so that they can maintain power.  When we turn on each other and fight we waste time and we get weaker, all the while doing nothing to weaken those who oppress us. If we turn to each other in solidarity and act together against oppressions, we will have a much better chance of defeating this system, or at least at making fox pens illegal.

[1] There is sociological literature galore on inter-organizational resource competition among and between social movements. If you want some citations email me:

15 Comments leave one →
  1. August 2, 2010 2:36 pm

    The thing is that you advocate worse forms of oppression as a remedy.

    • August 2, 2010 3:45 pm

      It would be one thing if you made slightly cogent arguments. I can handle disagreement, but you blabber and mumble incoherence and spam the page with posts. Please only comment if you have something of use to say. For example, you say: “The thing is that you advocate worse forms of oppression as a remedy.” This does not logically follow from the post. The post seeks a remedy to infighting. How do I forward “worse forms of oppression” in regard to this. What are the “worse forms of oppression” of which you speak?
      You need to learn how to form arguments and sentences. You need to learn to think before you speak. You need to stop wasting everyone’s time. Please go back to your own blog and keep trying to convince people that HSUS is a radical terrorist organization for promoting “flexetarian diets.” While those are silly arguments, you at least construct complete thoughts when making these arguments.

      • August 2, 2010 10:26 pm

        Your “higher truths” cannot withstand the least bit of examination, can they?

  2. August 2, 2010 2:56 pm

    Meat is brain food:

    I think that explains a lot.

  3. Daryl Seybold permalink
    August 2, 2010 10:17 pm

    We are raised to compete, especially men. Women compete with other women for men which has always depressed me. As a feminist, I would like to see women come together. As a human, I would like to see all people come together regardless of sex, race, etc. Peace activists or animal activists who fight are missing the whole point (as you point out). As for the whole meat is good, teaching animal agression is good (I couldn’t watch the videos) that is cave man thinking. We should have evolved further than that. Only by being compassionate towards our fellow inhabitants whether human or some other form of life and of the planet may be the only way we survive as a species.

  4. August 2, 2010 11:02 pm

    You know, it is not even close to an example of “evolved” thinking to condemn people in the style of Carole J. Adams. It is lowest common denominator nasty, vulgar thinking and actions.

    I’ve seen evolved thinking and acting and this is not it. One of the things that the rabid environmentalists and animal rights activists want to do is to prevent us from really getting to know giant predators. It seems to me, from personal experience, that the more a predator is an “apex predator” the greater the capacity they have for love and kindness.

    You talk about “caveman thinking” now but this movement also hates “modern” thinking and has everything in common with the Luddites.

    If you want compassion learn how to show it. Screaming “be compassionate!”, threatening me, torching my house and my car, deceiving lawmakers into making bad laws, these deliver the opposite message just as if Vegina here used 1984 as an operations manual.

    • August 3, 2010 7:03 am

      Tom, if “really getting to know giant predators” means what I assume it does, that is one of the most bizarre phrases I’ve ever heard. I hope no one armed with a high-powered rifle or accompanied by a pack of vicious dogs ever decides to “really get to know” you.

      • August 3, 2010 8:24 pm

        I am not accountable for what you “assume.”

  5. August 3, 2010 8:28 pm

    Speaking of getting the common people to turn on each other, the animal rights feminists certainly have.

  6. August 11, 2010 11:51 pm

    This is an incredible post. Your thoughts and your writing are really insightful. This type of killing and baiting animals is nothing new and should not to be dismissed, and your analogy to the infighting among animal activists actually lends power to both problems.
    One is directly linked to the other as activist infighting distracts from finding solutions to ending this and every other form of speciesist violence.
    I’ve had the unfortunate opportunity to gain a bit too much knowledge through research about what men do to non humans for recreation and it is a bit disorienting to ones psyche to say the least.

    Thank you for this post.

    Btw…Your troll Tom sounds similar to the kind of men who are involved in this type of violence that your post is concerned with. They are disconnected in thought, feelings and purpose. Not only do they have very meaningless lives but they kill defenseless animals because that exact condition bears truth to themselves.

    • August 12, 2010 12:20 pm

      Your entire stock in trade consists of false and hateful accusations against society and against men, so I am not surprised by your personal attack against me, Philip.


  1. two great reads on movement building and dealing with destructive dynamics « strength never power

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