Friends of Animals’s Response to Joan Dunayer

As was mentioned on this site earlier, Joan Dunayer pulled out of Friends of Animals’ The Foundations of a Movement conference because Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center had been invited to speak. Dunayer condemned Potok as someone who favors animal testing and who “portrays animal rights advocacy in an entirely negative light”.

In April, Friends of Animals’ Priscilla Feral issued a reply,

The Foundations of a Movement: Mark Potok

We are delighted that Mark Potok, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, will address the audience of our conference in July 2005.

Located in Montgomery, Alabama – the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement – the Center confronts discrimination and works to protect society’s most vulnerable members, handling innovative cases that few lawyers are willing to take. The Center has worked to protect people against hate directed at perceived ethnicity, citizenship status, and sexual orientation. Recently, its educational film on the non-violent legacy of Rosa Parks, which revisits the Montgomery Bus Boycott while highlighting unsung heroes of the Movement, earned an Emmy nomination.

In 1981, the Center began investigating a resurgence of activity of groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. This work evolved into the award-winning publication Intelligence Project, directed by Mark Potok. The Project monitors violent right-wing groups, including neo-Nazis, and advocates of racial or ethnic prejudice, such as, and their efforts to insinuate their views into environmentalism.

In 2002, the Intelligence Project focused one of its issues on the issue of “eco-radicalism” and the strong concern that environmental and animal activism could increasingly embrace violent methods.

Friends of Animals saw that one of the most respected U.S. social justice groups feared that the environmental and animal advocacy movements could come to stand for violence and intimidation before our message could be heard and understood by the general public.

We entered into a debate and a dialogue with Mark Potok.

While we take a categorical view that all other species are not here on this planet for the purpose of being commodified by our own, we also picked up on a message from a respected sector of progressive activism. It became apparent that our movement dearly needs a broader view of “us.”

Instead, what members of the public often first learn about as “animal rights” is a movement going the other way, becoming increasingly desperate, imprisoned, and isolated from the broader justice movement whose legacy we inherited and whose future we ought to be a part of.

Never has this been more true than at the present time, when the U.S. and British governments are restricting the right to protest — using proponents of violence in the environmental and animal advocacy to do so.[1] The government will and has seized the opportunity provided by the violent activists to outlaw peaceful dissent by all progressives.

The animal rights movement needs to become a progressive force for change — not a justification for draconian laws. In this context, we’re not about to waste conference time. We’re intent on making it happen, right now, this year.

It’s important to retain the core relevance of an essentially non-violent movement for social progress, and to do so, we must build bridges to the broader movement for egalitarianism. The Southern Poverty Law Center is part of that movement.[2] Recall Martin Luther King’s words about threats to justice anywhere, and it makes perfect sense.

Please join us.


Priscilla Feral,
Friends of Animals

[1] Britain proposes “to make it an offence to protest outside homes in such a way that causes harassment, alarm or distress to residents.” This sounds reasonable enough, until it’s discovered that the police can define “harassment, alarm or distress” however they wish. All protest in residential areas, in other words, could now be treated as illegal.

[2] Some people who identify themselves with animal advocacy have questioned our invitation of a representative of the Southern Poverty Law Center, using the argument, essentially, that a person who is not an anti-vivisection advocate is the equivalent of a pro-vivisection advocate. This is not the case. A number of people in the animal advocacy movement take public positions in support of biomedical or psychological research using animals in certain circumstances. The Southern Poverty Law Center does not take a position on the issue.

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