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.