Making Animal Liberation Accessible – A How-To Guide

a lion and zebra drinking together from a water hole


[This document includes alt text for all images]

This resource manual is available for anyone planning & facilitating an event.
It is however written specifically for those involved in animal advocacy and animal defense within the continent of North America.

The purpose of this resource is to help you help make events more accessible and more inclusive for different peoples to participate.
This resource is not intended as a resource for evaluating diversity of tactics,
nor for strategizing success within any particular campaign.

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why animal rights fails at intersectionality

content warning for triggering material, including racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, colonialism, transphobia, speciesism, tokenizing & violence against animals.

animal rights people love that word, intersectionality.
maybe you’ve noticed?

it’s a trending term of recent years within animal rights activism culture, popularized as a way to include animal advocacy among other historical-ongoing social justice struggles, as a way to finally be taken seriously when talking about animal abuse, about veganism, about speciesism.
but it is also a way that animal rights has fucked up, repeatedly.

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embracing our herstory of animal loving madness


*this is a written transcript of a video presentation available here with Closed Captioning*

hi my name is archie.
and this is Phoebe.
thanks for tuning in to my presentation.

so to briefly summarize what i am going to be talking about today – basically this is a presentation about mental health, mental illness, about identities of madness and how those topics interrelate with animal advocacy, animal defense, animal rights.

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Transformative Justice for Animal Liberation

this is a talk i gave a year&1/2 ago, where i shared some analysis about the failings of criminalizing animal abuse and the ways in which transformative justice is a more accessible means for achieving animal liberation.

yea – i am soft-spoken and very uncomfortable taking up that much space, so don’t mind how nervous i am throughout it.. as well, this talk was for an academic conference (critical animal studies), so i apologize for any jargon or mumbo-jumbo that may make it harder to follow along…


why animals need us to write & read radical fiction

animal liberation is fiction.
it is the stuff of fairy tales, of make-believe, of magical fantasies.
it is wishful thinking, daydreaming.
it is a fabricated concept.
it is an invented premise.
it is an imaginary future.
animal liberation does not exist.


what does animal liberation look like?

sure – there are many happy, safe animals living with us today. even as i write these words, there are 3 content animals sleeping beside me.
but none of this translates to “animal liberation”, at least in the grander scheme of lived reality, which is what i think many of us dream about when we talk and organize for a future beyond speciesism.

to me, “animal liberation” on a broader, collective level would be a future where our humyn species can live communally with other earthling species, and do so outside systems of domination and exploitation.
so whether we focus our efforts on cultivating a liberated existence first from within us, or instead in our environments through empowering community organizing, both paths lead us into the wild unknown.

and this wild unknown of “animal liberation” means moving looking for something that you have never, ever seen before. perhaps we all don’t know where it is or when we will come upon it, but we trust that we will know it when we do meet it. or maybe we have already passed it by, and in our hurry to find the obvious solution to speciesism, we have neglected the simple, basic answers that require no special gifts or talents to receive and put into practice?

world without capitalism

“We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings.”              Ursula Le Guin

either way, the point remains that we all share the burden of having absolutely no template of experience, of memory, or of historical knowledge to draw upon when we advocate for the “liberation” of ourselves, of others, and for all the animals.

all speculation about the liberation of animals revolves around imagining
a) what animal liberation might look like, and
b) the ways in which we might manifest that vision.

what does animal liberation look like?

what does a world look like without zoos, rodeos and marine-parks?
how different would things be in a future where animals are not “farmed” for their fur, their muscle meat or their breast milk?

animal liberation is fiction, because imagining a world without cages is as fantastical as anything you might read in science fiction & fantasy.

how so?

not too distant future.jpg

artwork credit to Hartmut Kiewert

well, i don’t mean to sound facetious when animal liberation is the stuff of fantasy – i mean instead that both fiction and animal liberation rely upon our capacities to imagine and speculate something that is not (yet) here, not already existing, not a “fact” that can be proven.
and both follow the simple formula of sampling from existing situations & familiar struggles in humyn existence.

science fiction projects a potential future available given current technology and research – and then it weaves together a story from there, like explaining how the exponential growth of artificial intelligence suggests a near future where sentient super-intelligence revolts against humyn civilization.

fantasy fiction is a broader projection of the things we assume cannot ever happen – and then it weaves together a story from there, like explaining how the core of the planet is so terribly hot because there are fire-breathing dragons hibernating inside and whom may wake up tomorrow.

and what that all means is that animal liberation looks like fiction. it looks like science fiction. it looks like fantasy.
for the very act of speculating radical imaginative ideas is liberating.

so it follows – speculative fiction can look like animal liberation.

what are ways to manifest this vision of animal liberation?

to write and read radical fiction is to manifest visions of animal liberation, because whether we are author or reader, we are asking the question:
“what is the world we want to live in actually look like?”

Illustration by Michelle Leigh.jpg

and when we campaign in the streets or produce content to share or when we organize online, we are making efforts towards a version of reality that we deem more accountable, loving and anti-oppressive. yet all these efforts are attempts to manifest something not yet existing, something speculative, something fictional.

Walidah Imarisha, the educator, writer, organizer and spoken word artist who coined the term visionary fiction (to describe how we can use science fiction, horror, and fantasy genres to envision alternatives to unjust and oppressive systems), explained how:

“All organizing is science fiction.
When organizers imagine a world without poverty, without war, without borders or prisons—that’s science fiction.
They’re moving beyond the boundaries of what is possible or realistic, into the realm of what we are told is impossible.”

 Walidah, along with adrienne maree brown, collected and edited a radical anthology of short stories that explore the connections between speculative fiction and movements for social change.
they called it Octavia’s Brood, in commemoration of the incredible wisdom and talents and love that was Octavia Butler, and the book is available now for purchase through the rad folks at AK Press.

Octavia Butler

both Walidah and adrienne have emphasized, in writings and spoken word, that “there are as many ways to exist as we can imagine”. so by using speculative fiction to reach and inspire imaginations of wider audiences, we can nurture our collective imagination and make any fiction more alive, more feasible and more real.

imagining rad futures.jpg

from left to right, co-editors Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown with Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha at the 2015 INCITE! Color of Violence conference


adrienne explained further how visionary fiction is:

“A perfect testing ground to explore the countless alternatives that could exist to policing and institutions like prisons.

It’s incredibly important that we begin to shift our thinking away from the state keeping us safe, given that that has never been the purpose of the state—it’s never been the purpose of the police or the prison system—and instead begin to ask, how do we keep each other safe?

How do we prevent harm from happening?

How do we address harm when it does happen in our communities in ways that are about healing, and about wholeness, rather than about punishment and retribution?”

and further, adrienne says how visionary fiction is political because:

“Being able to create and imagine bigger is a process of decolonization of our dreams.
Our dreams have gotten smaller and smaller, but as we engage sci-fi in reading and in dreams, our imaginations can grow and decolonize.”

visionary fiction


so in applying their emotional labour and wisdoms to the issue of animal politics means liberating ourselves to imagine and then re-imagine what the liberation of animals could look like.

writing radical fiction for animal liberation

“We’ll need writers who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries – realists of a larger reality”.
Ursula Le Guin

radical fiction is a tool, an art form, available to all of us wishing to explore social political issues through a new lens of perspective. if you feel inspired to write radical fiction, or at least inclined to try reading some of it, then remember that the intention of this art is to communicate deep themes outside the narratives of the mainstream.

this means fiction that focuses attention on marginalized identities, and not the typical cis-hetero white able-minded-bodied male. to read
this means fiction that focuses on relevant problems in all its varied complexities, and not the trope of evil faceless tyrants wishing to conquer all that is “white and pure and free”.
this means fiction that is both realistic and honest but remains empowering and hopeful.
and so not stories about collective change coming from the top of the political hierarchies, nor stories about token heroes & animal characters used as anthropomorphic instruments to validate the humyn ego.

instead, by weaving the struggles and limitations towards liberation into an engaging story, and by creating  characters who are not victims of the system but survivors and grounded leaders, all of this can become real lessons for us all to learn from and inspire towards.

whether you are writing and/or reading it for expanding your imagination persynally or for the sake of anti-oppressive community organizing, remember that the core of the story always needs to be about hope.
a new hope that comes from things to come for what we choose to do today, choose to do now, for choosing to not relent but to endure.

“In April we cannot see sunflowers in France, so we say the sunflowers do not exist.

But the local farmers have already planted thousands of seeds and when they look at the bare hills they may be able to see the sunflowers already.

The sunflowers are there.

They lack only the conditions of sun, heat, rain, and July. Just because we cannot see them does not mean they do not exist.”

– Thich Nhat Hanh

by using fiction as a platform for exploring new alternatives to anti-speciesism strategies, perhaps we can discover answers that have been buried and hidden by the systems of oppression. perhaps the system depends on us all continuing to feel trapped and lost and hopeless?

“Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them.
Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

perhaps even the smallest hints of hope, of hoping for hope, to find meaning and purpose to exist however we dare to imagine, perhaps that is where we will find the liberation of animals.


Lisa Kemmerer – Sister Species

Full video with closed captioning available here

Thank you all for being here and thank you for the organizers. I am just so pleased to see so many people turn out and I know how much work it takes to put such a thing together, so thank you all. It’s terrific. Good organization and good job organizing all this for the conference.

So I worked for a very long time creating a nice Powerpoint for today, thinking how nice it would be to have your attention somewhere else. And it would be all neat and tidy, and I couldn’t make many mistakes because I could think it all through, and then mike told me that no one else was doing Powerpoint and the technology might not work anyways, so..


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mandy hiscocks – OPEN THE CAGES! Zoos, labs, factory farms & the Prison Industrial Complex

Full video with closed captioning available here

My name’s mandy, and I’m here today to talk about zoos, labs, factory farms and the prison industrial complex. I feel like in the room there’s a lot of folks who are pretty aware of the issues with zoos, factory farms and labs, so I’m going to focus a little bit more on prison, because I’m making an assumption that that’s something that maybe people are less familiar with… do folks feel like that’s a fairly accurate assumption to make?

[Nods from the audience]

Okay. Cool. I was asked to speak because, like Alanna said in the introduction, I spent most of last year in Vanier Centre for Women which is just down the 401 in Milton. It is a women’s jail and it’s also a provincial jail, so just for some context: a provincial jail is one where you would go if you were convicted of something that got you two years less a day, or less, as a sentence.

So basically, not your most violent crimes. It’s also a place where you would be if you’ve been charged with something and you haven’t been convicted yet – you haven’t even gone to trial yet – but you haven’t been able to make bail. Continue reading

lauren Ornelas – Beyond Veganism: Diet & Consumption in a Global World

Full video with closed captioning available here

I apologise as I’m used to a very U.S.-centric audience. So hopefully I’ve adjusted it for y’all being more progressive types here, so thank you for that. It feels like family already. I am going to ask everybody to keep an open mind to the things that I’m talking about because when I’m talking about all this stuff. I’m not asking activists of anything that you’re working on, to give up your passion. If you’re an animal rights activist and you’re working on anti-vivisection work, what I’m talking about here, I’m not saying: “Oh, you shouldn’t be working on that.” What I’m asking for, is for us to try to be a little more consistent and more aware of the choices that we make in our lives and the things that we say as activists, that we need to be aware of how they impact others and other social justice movements that are taking place.

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Remember when we were called Animal Liberation Ontario – ALO?

We used to sport the name Animal Liberation Ontario – ALO, along with a wicked logo. True story.

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!), but we wished to drop the word ‘ontario’ from the name. We recognized that provincial and national borders are straight-up colonial violence, and that we are perpetuating their charade of 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).no borders

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.


white human guilt – [some] parallels between how people defend racism and speciesism

this is an ongoing series of short rants on the commonalities of oppressions. this one here is about racism (systems of power and privilege to dominate, discriminate and stereotype by race and color) and speciesism (systems of power and privilege to to dominate, discriminate and stereotype by species). specifically, it is about a parallel between them, a commonality in how these two interact.

it’s called “privilege guilt”.

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vegans are not going to solve world hunger.

this is an ongoing series short rants on the commonalities of oppressions. this one is all about some parallels between capitalism (political and economic systems of exploitation of workers, based around property and profit for the few at the expense of the many) and speciesism (political and economic systems of exploitation of non-humans, defining animals as property for the profit of the few at the expense of the many). one such parallel centers around the practice of excusing and/or shaming peoples as “consumers”. specifically, it is about a parallel between them, a commonality in how these two interact.

it’s called “consumer privilege”.

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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”.

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