Earthling Liberation Kollective – ELK

Promoting the radical goal of total liberation through transformative justice, with special priority given to organizing around anti-speciesism work.


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Remember when we were called Animal Liberation Ontario – ALO?

Did you know we used to sport the name Animal Liberation Ontario – ALO (along with a wicked logo)?
But now we’re called ELK! So why the name change?
Well we have recently moved to the west coast and so we saw this as a great opportunity to re-brand ourselves according to the lessons we learned in our first year of existence: specifically, we still operate as a space for promoting liberation for all species (obviously!),

no borders
but we wished to drop the word ‘ontario’ from the name. We recognize that provincial and national borders are straight-up colonial violence, and that we are perpetuating their legitimacy when we continue to use the names of settler governments who stole land to displace and murder the original human and nonhuman inhabitants. Borders are nothing but lines on maps drawn by men with guns, calling themselves governments. Borders reinforce the notion that land (and animals) are property to be owned and divided among their possessors (for more on how the division of the world into states policed by armies hurts both human and non-human animals, see The Turtle Talk by pattrice jones). Borders reinforce the notion that some people can be considered as “illegal” for existing in that space (for more on some amazing work being done about this issue, check out No One Is Illegal).

So because we at ELK believe that we also reinforce the violence of borders when we continue to use the lingo of the colonizing settlers, we opted to abandon the name ALO. Fuck colonialism. Fuck nationalism. Fuck borders.


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parallels between how people defend racism and speciesism

a lot of people – predominantly white people – are taught to think of racism only as individualized actions, where you need to say or do something really malicious against a person of color to be considered a racist. what these people fail to grasp is that racism is in fact institutionalized power, producing white privilege and white supremacy. it manifests in our political policies and practices; constant media stereotypes; what our education systems teaches and doesn’t teach our children; cultural colonization; distribution of wealth and resources; the legal system’s version of ‘justice’. basically, racism is a ubiquitous system promoting domination by white people at the expense and subjugation of non-white people. it’s racist therefore to be ignoring these realities, or refusing to learn about the ways in which this oppression can be recognized, challenged and undone.
similarly, a lot of humans regard speciesism as some overt hatred of other species, where you need to be individually abusing an animal to be considered speciesist. but speciesism too is institutionalized, whereby our systems of politics, economies, food system, religions, science, media & art, and more, all are situated upon foundations of anthropocentric, species privilege and human supremacy. basically, speciesism is another ubiquitous system that makes it nearly impossible for people to function in our societies without witnessing, benefiting from, being complicit in, and perpetuating this cycle of violence against animals. so the same goes, it’s speciesist to ignore and deny these truths that our society is built to make it really fucking hard for people to find resources and communities that do not center around the exploitation of animals.

to help illustrate, look at the western culture’s general disgust towards asian food practices of consuming dogs and dolphins. note the overlap of people assuming that white cultural standards are superior to that of non-white, and justifying it with assumptions that white culture eats the ‘correct’ food animals – being pigs, cows and chickens.

while oppressions like racism and speciesism may exist separately, and so should be addressed independently too, don’t ever doubt that they depend upon one another.


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parallels between how people reinforce speciesism and patriarchy

victim-blaming is a core element to any oppression, precisely because it shifts our attention away from the oppressor (the perpetrator of the injustice) and towards the oppressed, as if they – the victim – are the ones who must account and justify themselves to the rest of society for why they were targeted. this puts the onus, and the threat of blame, onto the survivor to convince the oppressors that the oppression was unwarranted – communicating a theme that sometimes oppression could be warranted if the victim deserved it. and that’s fucked up.

the patriarchy thrives on this, because it directs questions – and so potential for lessons & solutions – away from disrupting the routine of gendered violence. if an assault happens, media focus and state-responses center around debating the best way to “fix” the survivor: change their clothes; control their alcohol consumption and/or drug use; teach “self-respect” (read body shame). the perpetrator is forgotten in all this conversation, as though their behaviour was inevitable, natural and understandable. the patriarchy both needs people to victimize – targeting essentially anyone defying, or even appearing to defy, the dominant able-bodied cis hetero male archetype – and also needs to blame these survivors as a means of escaping any critical attention upon itself as a system built to oppress.

similarly, speciesism follows this same strategy of violence, wherein humans justify the institutionalized forms of animal violence (like slaughterhouses and testing labs) and individual acts of animal abuse (like neglecting animal companions and killing “pest” animals) by blaming those being most victimized in the relationship. focusing on the “defects” in other species – most often the perceived “intellectual inferiority” of animals, or similar ableist rhetoric – there is an intentional assumption that the human species is entitled to dominate and exploit others that defy this strict anthropocentric archetype. again, we see the media and state-responses focus our energies on ways to “fix” the victim: muzzle the dogs; de-claw the cats; cage the endangered; de-beak the chickens; castrate the “livestock”; “population control” of wildlife; even genetically modify their digestive systems to sustain the factory farms. speciesism literally depends upon the human oppressors to continue deflecting responsibility and sustained reflection on these violent prejudices by rationalizing all the ways the non-humans “deserved” it.

it is not the qualities of the oppressed that need changing or “fixing”, but the systems of oppression that manufacture conditions and relationships whereby the few benefit at the deliberate expense of the many. each and every incidence of violence, and the subsequent campaign to discredit the victims & survivors, is always a symptom of a deeper, wider problem.
the system isn’t broken, it was designed this way.


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does anyone else notice…

does anyone else notice a trend of animal cruelty criminal convictions happening only at farms & slaughterhouses, and not elsewhere, like the testing labs?
can we safely assume it’s because the prison industrial complex targets communities of color and low-income peoples, who are often the employees at these farms & slaughterhouses?

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vegans are not going to solve world hunger.

please stop confusing the really common argument tossed around that “we” could solve world hunger if everyone adopted a plant-based diet.
no doubt the animal industrial complex is staggeringly inefficient, self-destructive and wastes so many precious resources (land, water, food crops & energy). that fact is pretty well established, on top of the well-documented realities of normalized violence against nonhumans that comes along with it.
but, veganism is not going to end white supremacist colonialism & capitalist imperialism, the systems responsible for so much of the reasons we see white governments & consumer-societies wiping out cultures, peoples, ecosystems and species to sustain the privileges many of us assume to be “rights” (like having easy, affordable access to foods that are not sprayed with chemicals, or consuming foods/products that did not bring violence to someone’s life & family before it arrived in its plastic wrapping for us to enjoy and throw away).
rather, mainstream veganism comes out of this same culture of white colonialist mentality, and we do a GIANT disservice to each other, to animals, and to the struggle for liberation when we conveniently overlook this fact (similar to the frustration most vegans have likely experienced when people conveniently overlook that “dairy” milk is never acquired consensually from a mother cow, which is just plain fucked).
so if you’re vegan and claiming or suggesting in some way that we’re going to live in a utopia once everyone adopts the same diet as you, i’m encouraging you right now to think a lot harder about whether this planet can sustain herself if every human lived & consumed at the same rate as you do – and if you think she could sustain herself supporting some 7 billion of you, then ask yourself how many people & communities are being oppressed & exploited – right now – to make your footprint as small and moral conscience as clean as you think it is. just the same, consider the fact that the billions of “minorities” might not have any desire to conform to the mainstream white able-bodied hetero-cis-normative veganism that peta & those lobby groups wants everyone to be.
so if you can be vegan, then good for you. congrats. but please don’t ego-trip yourself up into being so naïve into thinking a vegan world won’t be just as racist and colonialist and patriarchal (and …) to retain this world order where cash-poor communities (primarily children & womyn of colour) are constantly repressed and forgotten.\


tule elk

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Empty the cages! And fill the prisons?

This writing was originally printed in Project Intersect #1: Clarion Call”

My name is mike, and I am a white settler residing on Attawandaron Territory, trying to connect the issue of prison abolition and animal liberation. While I have immense privileges that prevent me from fully grasping the oppression that is the prison industrial complex, I will approach this subject from my own experience and academic education in the subject of “criminology”.

Why do we have cages? Because we live in a very violent and very oppressive society, where governments and industries have taught us to believe imprisonment of one another are the solutions – and not the symptoms – to complex social problems. Need to conserve an endangered species? Put them in zoos! Need some community entertainment? Visit the aquarium tanks! Need to “advance science”? Build more cages for animal testing! Of course, all this is just a big nasty consequence of our institutionalized speciesism, where we imprison nonhumans as a status of domination and species privilege. As for our human prisons, we can recognize a parallel of oppressive mentality for addressing social issues.

As Black feminist and prison abolitionist, Angela Davis explained,

“Prisons do not disappear social problems, they disappear human beings… Homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, mental illness, and illiteracy are only a few of the problems that disappear from public view when the human beings contending with them are relegated to cages.”[1]

The system of incarceration (jails to exile, punish and supposedly “rehabilitate”) exists as a limb of the criminal legal system used by settler colonial governments across Turtle Island, along with law enforcement (surveillance of communities to police, intimidate and arrest) and the judiciary (courts to judge, convict and sentence punishments).  This criminal legal system is founded on a punitive model of retribution, which assumes that punishment will bring justice and resolution to any harm caused. Consequently, prisons perpetuate systems of domination whereby perpetrators are taken out of communities, put into prison and then later re-integrated back into the same unjust, politicized and wholly unequal society. The systemic relations of power and oppression are left untouched, and actually reinforced as poverty and marginalization fuel a cycle of incarceration.

Also known as the prison industrial complex (PIC), it is a system used for capitalist gain as politicians spout “tough on crime” rhetoric to criminalize and displace our communities through prisons, jails, juvenile and immigration detention centers. The PIC can be better understood by simply looking at who it targets: queer and trans* folks; communities of colour; indigenous peoples; immigrants; people with disabilities and mental health issues; poor and low-income communities; drug users; and more recently, environmental and animal rights “terrorists”.

The PIC is a flourishing colonial enterprise, where despite declining crime rates, Canada’s imprisonment of people of colour has increased by 75% in the past decade. Indigenous peoples continue to comprise nearly 25% of the prison population – despite only encompassing 4% of the people living within these borders! – and incarceration rates of Indigenous women and girls have increased by 80% in past decade[2]. In addition to this blatant racism, prisons don’t work. Prisons don’t reduce recidivism or victimization, and don’t help change abusive behaviour or the social relationships that contribute to each incident of violence (e.g., poverty). So instead of addressing social harms and the conditions which breed violence, prisons only isolate and disempower people further, worsening their behaviour and situation.

Despite the role that prisons play in propping up capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, colonialism and other oppressive systems, this violent logic of retribution permeates campaigns for animal rights. From activist commentary to “test on criminals, not animals”, or banner slogans of “jails are for the guilty [and not marine animals]”, to petitions for greater criminalization of animal abuse, we rely on appeals to the state and social elites to discipline and punish our communities. It is made to seem as if these powers are somehow neutral within the wider scheme of speciesist violence. Remembering that part of the logic of prisons is to expel people from society, we need to stop protest chants screaming for “animal abusers” to “leave town”, because this only encourages perpetrators to go to another community and commit harm again. Undercover animal abuse investigations are among the most popular strategies used by mainstream animal rights activists. With many case examples of gross abuse and neglect of animals by people employed in animal industries, we are encouraged to view resulting police raids and worker arrests as an empowering resolution. With these tactics often receiving more widespread mainstream media attention, we need to consider how criminalizing low-income, racialized workers as individuals helps to stop the systemic exploitation of nonhuman animals. How does enabling the colonial and racist PIC resemble anything like liberation? In a society that condones, normalizes and enables violence against animals, this problem cannot be solved by locking up people. More to the point, it is the corporate and government elites orchestrating and profiting from this system of speciesist exploitation that should be held accountable. By supporting imprisonment as a solution to violence against animals, we are advocating then that the oppression of being imprisoned itself is not a problem, but only who is being oppressed. This says that caging one another is not the problem, but only the worthiness of the one in the cage.

It’s not the purpose of this writing to discuss alternative models of justice (e.g., transformative justice), so for more information on the many radical communities working outside the criminal legal system with violent sexual offenders, see Philly Stands Up! and generationFIVE; for more on community accountability, see INCITE!; and for more on prison abolition, see Critical Resistance.

Essentially, relying upon prisons and the criminal legal system reinforces the systems that speciesism depends upon. We need to view speciesist violence as both a contributor and product of patriarchal control, capitalist oppression, institutionalized racism, internalized ableism and ongoing colonialism. If we recognize that these oppressions are interdependent, we need to understand that our liberation too is interdependent. Securing our collective liberation requires political organizing and societal transformation away from communities governed through domination, violence and control. Any alternative to this system should not pretend to offer a quick-fix or one that works successfully all the time in every community. Relying on the criminal legal system has taken away our initiative to organize collectively, and as result, our fractured and alienated communities don’t know how to create effective community-led responses to violence against animals. We need to be consistent when we challenge the belief that caging and dominating one another makes our society better, and commit to a solution of total transformation away from these social systems. By even beginning to recognize the interconnecting web, with varying strands of domination, control, alienation and oppression, we have begun the process of transformation.

[1] Davis, Angela. 1998. “Masked Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex”. ColorLines.

[2] Brosnahan, Maureen. 2013. “Canada’s prison population at all-time high”. CBC News.


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