Review: Making a Killing

Making a Killing: The Political Economy of Animal Rights
by Bob Torres
AK Press, $17.95
153 pages

A lot of animal activists like to say they want to address the root causes of animal exploitation, but few see past the symptoms (i.e., suffering). Even fewer see through the hierarchical justifications for using animals as commodities. But, with Making a Killing, Bob Torres has synthesized abolitionist animal rights theory and social anarchy to expose the commonalities of oppression (such as privilege and “might makes right”), to recommend an integrative, anti-speciesist approach to advocacy that eschews “lifestyle politicking” and narrowly focused approaches to animal (much less human) liberation, and to explain why–unlike so much other activism–promoting veganism as a means to the abolition of animal exploitation is actually consistent with that end.

The book is written accessibly for the most part (I found myself re-reading only a handful of paragraphs) and, at 153 pages, it’s a fairly quick read. As someone with almost no background in anarchism of any sort, a relatively solid foundation in abolitionist animal rights, and a real itch to undermine the root causes of oppression, I found Making a Killing to be a useful starting point for understanding the application of anarchist theory to animal rights. It builds solidly on the notion that the enslavement of nonhuman animals is made possible because of the hierarchical structures in our society that lead to the domination of animals and their exploitation as commodities, and it prescribes a change in our approach to social relations that undermines these structures and actively presents an alternate vision for the world that we can start living right now.

Though I don’t know many anarchists (at least, I don’t think I do), I got the sense that this would be a solid intro to animal rights for those already steeped in anarchist theory on the Left, but who have not yet given animals due consideration. For those unfamiliar with Bookchin, Kropotkin or even Chomsky, this may be a relatively simple introduction to how their ideas lend themselves to animal rights. For still others, this may represent their first occasion to grasp a theoretical foundation for why veganism makes so much sense, beyond the common knee-jerk response to animal suffering. For those unconvinced that capitalism itself is the crux of the problem, you will find yourself challenged by a scathing critique that indicts a system built on exploitation.

In addition to capitalism, Torres takes to task some rather sacred cows in the animal rights establishment, along with corporations that promote veganism as a consumerist, “ecosexual” lifestyle. Though some in the animal rights movement might well be taken aback, assuming they have missed out on much of the recent to-do over abolition versus what Gary L. Francione called new welfarism in Rain Without Thunder, I have yet to see any heated responses on this front. Please do share your comments with links below if you have come across any of this. I’m curious to read those reactions, as well as any other reactions to Making a Killing.

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6 comments

  1. How can one be an advocate for animal rights and an anarchist at the same time? Anarchy is defined as the absence of government or authority. Without the authority of some kind of government with the power of law to enforce them, rights, in reality, do not exist. Not even human rights, let alone animal rights, would exist in a state of anarchy. The idea that anarchy can coexist with any kind of rights is intellectually bankrupt detritus; a Utopian pipe dream with no rational merit.

  2. As mentioned in the review, I know very little about anarchy, but you could ask the same question of human rights. Perhaps it comes down to having respect for all individual beings. Further, moral rights aren’t the same as legal rights, but the author would perhaps be the best person to answer your question. If you google him, you will find blogs, contact info, etc..

  3. Well, William Godwin (a philosophical anarchist) for instance, opposed revolutionary action and saw a minimal state as a present “necessary evil” that would become increasingly irrelevant and powerless by the gradual spread of knowledge. He believed that in an enlightened society, government would be abolished since it would be unnecessary. However, this is not to say that in an anarchist society, “anything goes”. Moral action and rights would be enforced, but not through government, but by public disapprobation and censure.Regarding how animal rights (or human rights) can be respected or enforced without state authority, well, we live in a speciesist world, but many of us are still vegan, despite the fact that we are not coerced into being so.The idea that anarchy can coexist with rights is not intellectually bankrupt. As to whether it is a utopian dream, that’s another matter, and I personally do hold that view. I can’t see anarchy function except within small communities. Still, philosophical anarchism is very insightful with regards to right conduct, justice and morality.I would highly recommend reading William Godwin’s Enquiry Concerning Political Justice ( http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/anarchist_archives/godwin/PJfrontpiece.html ) and Peter Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution ( http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_Archives/kropotkin/mutaidcontents.html )

  4. Anarchists differentiate between civil society and the State, the State being the institution with a monopoly on legal violence. In anarchist theory, the State has taken many of the faculties of civil society, such as public works and what might be called “governing” capabilities. So while the media and popular culture attempt to portray anarchism as a state of chaos, its more akin to self-government and free association. Anarchism historically has been an anti-statist socialism with an emphasis on direct democracy, though there are many currents.But before anyone gets into a huff about it, I’d suggest actually reading the book.

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