A belated Web site of the Week (apologies for the delay) this week is dedicated to the online journal, Critical Society. In the words of its founding editor, Barry Kew, the journal is for “articles denied space elsewhere due to prevailing ideology, censorship, reductionism, exclusion, narrowing down, length, fashion, form, and so on; and for articles from authors, groups and organisations keen to widen their audience.” The journal publishes original articles as well previously-published historically important ones.
From the many interesting articles it is, perhaps, unfair to pick one as an example; nevertheless, that is exactly what will now be done.
Ronnie Lee’s article, “How Long ….? Revisited,” deserves attention as a provocative evaluation on how far the animal rights movement has come in the 35 years since he wrote for Peace News a review of Richard Ryder’s Victims of Science. Ronnie is, of course, co-founder of the Animal Liberation Front. Peace News is a venerable pacifist magazine. whose objectives include the promotion of “nonviolent, antimilitarist and pacifist analyses and strategies.” Richard Ryder is a psychologist, author and veteran advocate for animals, including decades of service on the RSPCA Council. And, finally, Barry Kew is also a veteran vegan, animal rights advocate who is an unsung hero of the movement.
So, with the credits and history out of the way, what does Ronnie have to say? Well, of course, I can only briefly sketch out the article here with the sole purpose of encouraging you to read it.
But, essentially, Ronnie explores the similarities and differences between how he felt in 1975 when he wrote the article with how he feels today. It is this perspective that I find fascinating, as someone who has also been involved with a similar number of years and attempting to make sense of it all in a book I’m writing. Although we have not always agreed on everything, I have a great deal of respect for Ronnie, which is deepened with his article.
Ronnie was an anarchist and, in part, it was this philosophy which influenced his, as he describes it, “raging anger against the cowardice, arrogance and tyranny of the human species in its appalling treatment of other creatures” when he was originally involved with animal rights. As he explores in the article, however, his views have changed and it is the honest and direct discussion of how he feels differently that is so interesting.
Sadly, it certainly isn’t going to be anarchists who will free animals from their enslavement, as I once believed when I was a rather naive anarchist myself, all those years ago. My experience of life has taught me that the urge to follow leaders is so deeply ingrained within the human psyche that I don’t think it can ever be changed. Therefore, the best we can do is to try to make sure we have good leaders rather than bad ones, and anarchism is actually harmful to this process, because by refusing to support good leaders, anarchists are actually making it easier for bad leaders to come to power.
Ronnie describes how he use to treat political campaigns for animals with “disdain” primarily because it supported Labour which he saw as a party “rooted in materialistic and human supremacist values and therefore fundamentally antagonistic to the cause of animal liberation.” He goes to explain his support for the Green Party “especially if some of their animal protection policies can be toughened up through the involvement in the party of people with animal liberationist philosophies.”
The Grumpy Vegan recommends Critical Society generally and particularly for its vision to publish Ronnie’s article.