November 29, 2016
This post is long but about an important local issue, we hope you’ll take the time to read it.
As an intersectional organization, Brock Students for Animal Liberation supports decolonization efforts, including a key component to decolonization – that of Indigenous self-determination. As such, BSAL supports the Haudenosaunee right to self-determination, including the treaty right to hunt deer at Short Hills park.
Supporting the hunt is based on a recognition of power relations that exist between the dominant settler culture and marginalized & oppressed Indigenous cultures across Canada. The act of white settlers challenging the cultural norms of an Indigenous nation contributes to such power relations. We as a group are interested in disrupting these power relations, which includes supporting Haudenosaunee self-determination.
We anticipate a counter-argument along the lines of “at the end of the day it’s the deer who suffer & are unacknowledged victims in our attempt to battle colonialism”. While we can understand where this argument may come from, we offer the following response:
– One of the main messages put out by the animal liberation & animal rights (hereby “AL/AR”) movements is one that questions the dominant cultural norms of speciesism & human superiority. Such norms consider humans to be above all other animal species, & therefore the only animal species whose lives are worthy of consideration. The AL/AR movements challenge such norms by arguing that nonhuman animals are equally deserving of respect, rights, & consideration. Nonhuman animals are capable of experiencing pleasure, pain, & are subjective agents capable of creating conscious thought & decisions. As such, norms that disregard their complex personhood & focus solely on species membership, thereby degrading all species outside of the one we belong to, is harmful, oppressive, & unjust. It is these cultural norms that the AL/AR movements attempt to disrupt & challenge.
– When it comes to questioning Indigenous cultural norms regarding nonhuman animals, it is important to recognize that the norms that determine how animals are treated are very different than the dominant cultural norms most commonly targeted by the AL/AR movements. To question such norms without having prior knowledge about that culture is disrespectful. Even if an aspect of that culture goes against your beliefs – in this case, that killing animals under any circumstances is wrong – this does not justify neglecting to learn about the culture as a whole.
– Since the initial contact between European settlers & Indigenous peoples on this land, the latter have experienced attempts at cultural assimilation from the former. This has always been rooted in settler assumptions that their culture & ways of life are superior to Indigenous cultures & ways of life. While such ideas may be easy to remember as wrongdoings from the past, it is important to acknowledge that such attempts at assimilation are ongoing realities continuously faced by Indigenous nations across Canada today.
– It may seem odd from an AL/AR perspective to think that our message could be considered a form of pushing the dominant settler culture onto Indigenous peoples. The dominant settler culture regularly rejects our message, how could we possibly be considered to represent it? However, when the majority of the members of a social justice movement come from the dominant culture, it is necessary that we understand how our cultural background contributes to our abilities to hold the views we have & live the way we live. When a group of predominantly white settlers challenges the actions of an Indigenous nation – in this case, the Haudenosaunee – this is a prime example of ongoing colonial attempts at cultural assimilation – it is directly saying that the cultural view of the white settlers on “this” side are superior to the cultural values held by the “other” side. The AL/AR side may not be reflective of the entire white settler culture, but it is an aspect of it that is being pushed onto the Haudenosaunee during Short Hills protests. (We recognize that many cultures outside of Western, predominantly white, cultures share values related to animal rights & liberation. However, since white folks holding a large degree of privilege in society are the loudest voices expressing such views, it’s important that we acknowledge how our message conveys the experiences of white settler ways of life).
– Now one might say – “but if I believe that an animal should live & someone else’s culture says that animal should die, I’m okay with the message that my belief is superior. This is about an individual’s life, that is more important than respecting culture”. However, such an argument would be erasing the fact that culture is directly connected to Indigenous survival. Threatening Indigenous cultures is an act of threatening the meanings and dignities of Indigenous lives. We are arguing that Indigenous lives are of equal importance to the lives of deer, & that questioning Indigenous cultures is akin to questioning their very lives & livelihood.
There are some other points that are worth acknowledging:
– Many of the supporters of the hunt have expressed an interest & willingness in supporting protests against factory farms. This shows that respect for nonhuman animals is commonly held by many different people from many different walks of life. While AL/AR values generally hold that all form of animal killing is wrong, even if treatment of the animals is improved, it’s important to recognize this aspect of solidarity amongst seemingly-opposite sides.
– The above is an example of potential forms of allyship & solidarity between movements. With the many social justice issues that exist in the world today, it is of vital importance that social justice movements join together & work in solidarity to challenge dominant modes of oppression in its many forms. Joining with Indigenous groups to challenge issues such as climate change, environmental degradation, animal mistreatment in areas such as factory farms, and various other human rights issues has a huge potential to make necessary changes in this world. When we stay divided, we allow the oppressors to win. When we join together, recognize difference, & work toward solidarity with one another, we can make serious & awesome change.
If you agree with the above statements, we encourage you to join demonstrations at Short Hills park this Thursday & Friday, from 4-6:30pm (sic 2016), to support Haudenosaunee rights to sefl-determination.