Milan, Italy: The Commodification of the Ideals of Liberation
Report of the conference of Contagio Antispecista at the festival Festa Antispecista (Milan – Italy, September 16, 2017)
The text that follows is the content of the speech given by Contagio Antispecista on the 16th of September in the context of the debate Michela Vittoria Brambilla and the commodification of veganism, which took place during the gathering Festa Antispecista at the independent center for art, culture and research Macao, in Milan.
Maybe you have heard of the cease-and-desist letter, that reached the organization of the festival and the speakers of the debate, from the lawyer of the Member of Italian Parliament Brambilla, a measure which speaks for itself proving the intimidating and censoring tendency that is in every atom of our life.
We leave you with the contents of a meeting which has registered a great participation of the public.
Contagio Antispecista is not meant to be a group or a collective, it’s a platform to share and analyze information with the purpose to clarify what antispeciesism should be during a moment in history in which it is deprived of its original aspirations because and due to the fault (a direct and conscious fault) of, as it was mentioned by the previous speakers, politically indifferent derivations, infiltrations by fascists, and of the mass action of the commodification carried out by capitalism and its supporters.
This is also the reason why we are two and we introduce ourselves as spokespeople instead of speakers.
This entity doesn’t have to be identified with the individual, but with a collective work which could lead the ones who support and carry out radical antispeciesism to a wider perspective of a convergence of shared struggles.
One of the many reasons which contributed to the birth of this entity was the definition (that each one of us has) of antispeciesism.
When we talk about politically indifferent derivations (before even talking about infiltrations by fascists) there isn’t a hasty or summary judgment, but a deep critique on the perspective itself of the etymology of the words.
As we all know the term “qualunquista” (translated “politically indifferent”) has always had a negative meaning, it’s not up to us, in this context, giving this kind of labels, but the connotation of antispeciesism has taken on different meanings and especially various paths to approach it.
Contagio arises exactly from this fact and particularly from the question, not from a question, but from the question: how could it have happened that a term which is so basic and simple in its understanding has undergone a constant disintegration?
We realized that the possibility of the term (intended as a concrete fight) to be attacked arose from an apparently innocent dysfunction (apparently innocent, so we prefer calling it “division”) which took place in the 80’s that is the difference between ABOLITIONISM and LIBERATIONISM.
As any liberation struggle of the past that has raised up crowds and contradictions at the beginning, also in the antispeciesist fight there was a moment when unconsciously we opened the doors to a direct and indirect collaboration with the same tools that caused oppression.
Nowadays even in radical antispeciesism it’s hard to understand this initial anomaly.
The antispeciesist fight, in order to be credible, should necessarily be unattackable and therefore lasting, and it should have a unique and clear meaning for everyone, that’s why we talk about liberationist antispeciesism and therefore about total liberation, up to arrive at one only proposition: animal liberation which encloses within itself non-human and human animals, and the context in which they live, the Earth.
All the aspects that led to a deviation of antispeciesism, for yesterday as for today, originated from that initial alteration: ABOLITIONISM antispeciesism (with all its aberrant consequences, a weak and reductionist approach to antispeciesism).
The pioneers of the ABOLITIONIST orientation were international associations like WWF and PETA, but in the last years the ABOLITIONIST orientation has found promoters and advocates in that kind of approaches similar to Leonardo Caffo’s one, and from a part of animal-rights associations like: Essere Animali, Animal Equality and Sea Shepherd which, in addition to selling off veganism as a “challenge”(through initiatives as “12 steps to veganism” or “the vegan week”) and supporting the homogenization of veganism by the industry in the wake of “for animals anything goes”, “animals are not interested in politics” and least but not last “we are their voice” and “oceans first of all”, they set up collaborations with personalities (both those involved in politics and not) who are tied to and linked to institutions, and bodies of power, in fact delegitimizing the radical, clean, pure and libertarian aspect of the antispeciesist fight, of Barry Horne’s memory.
These manners cause inconsistency and contradictions (which, from a libertarian perspective, are irreconcilable at this point), making the animal liberation fight “attackable” from outside, by those who sensed a mere business in the wake of a standardization in which veganism is not a political act anymore, but just the fashion of the moment or a stale farce.
Here a short parenthesis: when we talk about a political act we mean the genesis of the term political that pushed by a redemption of fight goes beyond and grows totally apart from what today is identified as political, that is party.
Opening up hence, as we all noted in the last years, to a massive presence of both politicians and parties searching for approval and easy electoral springboards (through the exploitation of the fight), and also to the increasing foundation and spread of animal-rights groups of clear xenophobic, intolerant and reactionary origin, which allowed the consolidation of fascist entities, and so a total and massive flattening of the fight: Fronte Animalista, Iene Vegane, Foresta Che Avanza, are just some examples.
Politically indifferent derivations and selling off of the ideals of liberation that find their sublimation in those commercial expressions that are intended to reduce veganism to a trademark, facilitating its incorporation and commodification by capitalism.
Derivations which always see the presence of right wing politicians as in the case of the mutual support and visibility between VEGANOK (trademark) and the omnipresent Member of Italian Parliament Brambilla.
This collaboration was renewed during the last edition of SANA (international exhibition of organic and natural products and personal showcase for Sauro Martella & Co.), who however don’t give up riding two horses considering the space for conferences given also to representatives of Movimento 5 Stelle and the presence of many stands certified by VEGANOK at the Festa de l’Unità (social-democratic celebration organized by left wing parties) in Bologna, during the same period.
To confirm and reinforce the close collaboration between ambiguous certifications committed to capital and xenophobic and fascist groups, there is the close link (in Italy) between VEGANOK and Sea Shepherd, with mutual support that increases their visibility, ridiculing those who conduct real battles for the defense of the ecosystems in general, considering also the conferences held by Paul Watson’s association about microplastics and the work led by Martella on the certification of what’s obvious, placing his trademark on foods which are vegetal by nature, but contained in numerous layers of plastic.
But this is only one of many practical aspects, because the critical issue regarding Sea Shepherd (this is not addressed to the volunteers of the association, many of them are questioning themselves) we can find it in the origins of its constitution and international collaboration: the terrifying friendship and therefore collaboration with one of the greatest American right-wing representatives, David Foreman. In a famous interview, Paul Watson, maximum expression of SS in the world, said that he considered his association as Foreman’s Navy, in addition to have contributed to the writing and distribution of one of his books.
In this book there are some of the most xenophobic theories created by American fascism: Foreman claims that the problems of the Earth are caused by immigration, and for this reason migration flows are the first cause of devastation.
Furthermore, on several occasions, Sea Shappard enlisted American marines in its fleets.
Moving to Europe we can find the famous deep friendship with Brigitte Bardot (the actress refurbished and donated him a ship), wife of a deputy of the French Front National, and who on several occasions was sentenced for her homo-transphobic, racist and sexist public statements, which she herself has defended strongly (her interviews can be found over the Internet in French newscasts).
The collaborations between SS and LAMYA ESSEMLALI, neo-fascist of the Front National, and PIERRE RAHBI famous vegan French commentator who claims the Planet is sustainable according to a social organization based on family, better if it’s traditional and white.
Paul Watson describes Rahbi almost as his spiritual guide sharing his positions in whole.
At the beginning we mentioned the essential requirement of being as much as possible unattackable a process degraded by entities like VEGANOK which, in addition to spreading a sick idea of veganism, contribute to maintaining an anthropocentric vision of the society through the use of fetishes that resemble the abuse of animals and the sale of products which directly remind the exploitation of animals, as already mentioned in the article “Agganciati al sistema antropocentrico”.
But VEGANOK is not the only expression of the commodification of antispeciesism, there are many of them including a recent collaboration between the European Vegetarian Union (a body belonging to the European Parliament) and Unilever which provides the flood of the market with 500 products, both new and old ones, certified with the European Vegetarian Union trademark and belonging to the corporation, leader in the fields of animal experimentation, pollution, disappearances and land grabbing (or neocolonialism).
The radical antispeciesist fight is, as all the fights for the liberation of those who are oppressed, against (and battles all of its deviations) the delegation, and the following statement has the same meaning: delegation is against radical antispeciesist fight.
Animal liberation is credible if there is this assumption this is why we should start talking at last about total liberationism.
The system is a continuously self-fuelling leviathan, we can ask it to change a law about one of the forms of exploitation, then digesting any instance it multiplies a hundred different forms of exploitation.
We remind all those present that the second hearing of the trial against the comrades who released 400 slaves imprisoned at the Department of Pharmacology of the University of Milan will take place on the 30th of October at 9.00 a.m.
So we call for the creation of an antifascist sit-in of solidarity which, from the square, could express a clear message (considering also the infiltrations in the sit-in organized on the occasion of the first hearing): fascists out of the antispeciesist fight!”