Don’t Tell Joan Dunayer: Scientists Use Wasps to Detect Chemical Weapons

Researchers at the University of Georgia-Tifton have been exploring an interesting way to check for trace amounts of explosives or chemical toxins — they’re using wasps of all things.

The wasps, Microplitis croceipes in this case, is trained using conditioning methods to detect a chemical odor. According to USA Today,

To do their work, five wasps — each a half-inch long — are placed in a plastic cylinder that is 15 inches tall. This “Wasp Hound,” which costs roughly $100 per unit, has a vent in one end and a camera that connects to a laptop computer.

When the wasps pick up an odor they’ve been trained to detect they gather by the vent — a response that can be measured by the computer or actually seen by observers.

The wasps are able to detect chemicals when exposed to concentrations as low as four parts per billion.

Researchers hope to go to pilot testing soon and could have commercially available applications of their wasp research available within 5 to 10 years.

Just don’t tell activists like Joan Dunayer who think even insects should be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to rights.


Scientists recruit wasps for war on terror. Mimi Hall, USA Today, December 27, 2005.

Activists Upset Op-Ed Focused On Killer Meatpackers Rather Than Their Victims

On August 3, the Washington Post published an op-ed by Human Rights Watch activists Lance Compa and Jamie Fellner. The article was about the often difficult conditions which people work in meat and poultry plants face. The article concluded by suggesting tighter regulation of such plants.

This did not sit will with animal rights activists Joan Dunayer and Jim Robertson, who both posted the op-ed to AR-NEWS complaining that the article contained, as Dunayer put it, “sympathy for killers, not their victims.”

Robertson complained that,

The article below says nothing of the non-human toll or the living conditions of the target animals of meat-packing plants, asside [sic] from an idle mention of bloody “kill floors” and live hang” areas. While justifiably concerned for the rights of the workers, this article’s authors can’t be bothered with addressing the plight of the ultimate victims of the meat-plant industry.

This is the same Jim Robertson, of course, who has said of the comparison between the Holocaust and animal agriculture that,

. . .the only minor difference being the victims’ species.


Op-ed, sympathy for killers, not their victims. Joan Dunayer, AR-NEWS post, August 3, 2005.

Meatpacking’s human toll. AR-NEWS post, August 3, 2005.

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.

Joan Dunayer Withdraws from Friends of Animals Conference Because Opponent of Animal Rights/Eco-Terrorism Invited As Well

In April, Joan Dunayer announced she was withdrawing from the Friends of Animals’ July 9-10 conference because organizers dared to invite Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center as its keynote speaker.

In a letter to other activist, Dunayer writes,

I’ve withdrawn, in protest, from participation in Friends of Animals’ July 9-10, 2005 conference, at which I was scheduled to speak. I refuse to participate because the conference will feature Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as keynote speaker. Director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project and editor of the SPLC’s quarterly Intelligence Report (IR), Potok is a virulent speciesist and opponent of nonhuman rights.

As described by the SPLC’s website, the Intelligence Project “monitors hate groups and tracks extremist activity throughout the U.S.,” providing “comprehensive updates to law enforcement, the media and the public.”[1] The Project uses “high-tech online tracking as well as solid fundamental investigative techniques.”[2] For some time now, the SPLC has been casting animal rights activists as terrorists and hate-mongers and monitoring their activities.

Potok’s IR portrays animal rights advocacy in an entirely negative light. A synopsis of the 2002 anonymous IR article “From Push to Shove” reads, “Environmental radicals and animal rights activists say it’s ‘ludicrous’ for the FBI to call them the No. 1 domestic terror threat. But their rhetoric and increasingly extreme criminal actions are making the ‘eco-terror’ label stick.”[3] The article has sensationalistic headings such as “A Growing Radicalism,” “At the Hilton, Violence is Cheered,” and “Targeting Scientists, and Others.” The text abounds with pejoratives applied to animal rights advocacy. For example, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty employs “escalating violence,” uses “terroristic tactics,” and “sets a new standard for eco-terrorism.” Even lawsuits filed against factory “farmers” are “attacks.” The article refers to Chris DeRose as the “boss,” not president, of Last Chance for Animals and to Peter Singer as a “long-time darling of many eco-radicals.” According to the article, the Farm Animal Reform Movement holds its annual animal-advocacy conferences in “surprisingly highbrow” settings. “But the discussions are down and dirty.”[4] (By Potok’s own admission, the SPLC gathered information on activists at Animal Rights 2001.)[5] A 2003 SPLC article on PETA’s “Holocaust on Your Plate” campaign is titled “Hate in the News: PETA Turns Holocaust into Pig Pen,” as if drawing connections between racist and speciesist atrocities–and deploring both–constitutes hate.[6]

IR articles express no objection to the ongoing violence that humans perpetrate against countless nonhumans and no concern whatsoever for those victims. In the language of IR, vivisection labs against which activists campaign are only “perceived as abusing animals” (emphasis added).[4] All of IR’s expressed sympathy is for those who abuse nonhumans or profit from such abuse–from vivisectors, mink killers, and pig enslavers to hunting guides and pelt dealers. IR portrays nonhumans’ abusers as the innocent victims of animal rights “terrorism.” Vivisectors are “scientists.”[4] Huntingdon Life Sciences “tests drugs.”[4] (IR omits the information that HLS also uses nonhuman animals to “test” everything from industrial chemicals to mascara.) Animal rights activism caused cat vivisector Michael Podell to abandon what IR terms his “AIDS studies.” In the manner typical of pro-vivisection propaganda, IR states, “Scientists say that some research, like Podell’s, cannot be done with computer modeling or with human subjects.”[4] Podell’s cat victims did not, of course, have AIDS; they suffered from artificially induced Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, a very different disease. IR favorably describes and quotes the vivisection-promotion group Foundation for Biomedical Research.[4]

Mark Potok clearly is largely ignorant of, and indifferent to, the cruelty and injustice of vivisection, the pelt industry, food-industry enslavement and slaughter, and other forms of speciesist abuse. He’s an active foe of animal rights and animal rights advocacy. It’s an understatement to say that Potok has no genuine understanding of animal rights and is not an appropriate keynote speaker for an animal rights conference.

Friends of Animals does a disservice to nonhuman animals and their advocates in hosting Potok, giving him positive publicity, and presenting him as a credible spokesperson with regard to animal rights. I no longer will participate in the FoA conference because I no longer believe that participation is in the best interests of nonhuman animals. Further, I advise animal advocates to be wary of Potok and the SPLC.

Its interesting that Friends of Animals is willing to host a speaker who is opposed to a segment of the animal rights movement, while Dunayer can’t apparently stomach even the hint of a dissenting view.


Joan Dunayer Withdraws, in Protest, from Friends of Animals Conference. Joan Dunayer, Letter, April 14, 2005.

Vegan Voice Interview With Joan Dunayer

The March-May 2005 issue of Vegan Voice features a 6 page interview with animal rights activist Joan Dunayer, who has made waves with her absolutist abolitionist view of animal rights.

This site has featured more than a dozen items about Dunayer, but before ripping into the interview, let me say that to some extent I respect Dunayer a lot more than many other animal rights activists because a) I have never seen an instance where she has advocated violence to achieve animal rights ends, and b) she is honest about what granting rights to animals ultimately entails, and is not afraid to follow her thinking consistently to the end. I much prefer that to some of these activists who say they favor animal rights but when you challenge them about pets or some other human use of animals suddenly start vacillating.

In her interview, Dunayer makes it clear where she stands — favoring a radical interpretation of rights for animals that would require massive changes in human societies. She begins by noting how she defines speciesism in her book Speciesism,

Chapter 1 opens, “Whenever you see a bird in a cage, fish in a tank, or nonhuman mammal on a chain, you’re seeing speciesism. If you believe that a bee or frog has less right to life and liberty than a chimpanzee or human, or you consider humans superior to other animals, you subscribe to speciesism. If you visit aquaprisons and zoos, attend circuses that include ‘animal acts,’ wear nonhuman skin or hair, or eat flesh, eggs, or cow-milk products, you practice speciesism.” Those examples illustrate that speciesism is both an attitude and a from of oppression.

. . .

. . . it’s speciesist to give humans greater moral consideration than nonhumans for any reason, such as humans’ generally using tools and verbal language.

Dunayer has become controversial within the animal rights movement for attacking organizations that are ultimately pro-animal rights but sometimes seek improvements in animal welfare as what they bill as a short term solution. Dunayer continues that attack in her Vegan Voice interview, citing People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ campaigns against McDonald’s and Burger King in which those companies have agreed to make some changes in how their suppliers treat animals. Dunayer says,

Years ago animal rights activist commonly changed, “What do we want? Animal Rights! When do we want it? Now!” Today much activism could be expressed only with a chant like this: “What do we want? Slightly bigger cages! When do we want them? Whenever McDonald’s or some other massive abuser requires that their suppliers use them!”

Dunayer’s first book, Animal Equality, focused on changing the way people talk about animals — for example, she complains that rather than talking about “dairy farmers” we should talk about “cow enslavers” (seriously). In Vegan Voice, Dunayer argues that almost all religious speech is by definition speciesist, since human’s tend to anthropomorphize God,

Religious language that conveys a proprietary, condescending view of nonhumans also impedes animal equality. The Lord, Jesus Christ, and other language that anthropomorphizes divinity elevates humans over other animals.

Dunayer has famously asserted that even insects have rights, and in her Vegan Voice interview she takes up the cause for radial invertebrate rights,

Evidence of sentience is compelling with regard to invertebrates who have a brain and increasingly strong with regard to invertebrates who lack a brain but have a nervous system. Any creature with a nervous system should receive the benefit of the doubt. All nervous systems share many physiological characteristics. Why would beetles, oysters, or anyone else with a nervous system not be sentient?

What I can’t understand is why she doesn’t include creatures that lack a nervous system as well. True, to creatures that possess nervous systems it may be difficult to understand how such creatures could be sentient, but using Dunayer’s logic that represents nothing more than nervous system-ism. Do we really have the right to condemn such creatures to death simply because they aren’t sentient in a way that is meaningful to humans?

But, as I said at the beginning, it is Dunayer’s uncompromising adherence to what animal rights entails that makes me grudgingly admire her, though its a sign of just how difficult such consistency can be that even Dunayer occasionally would violate her own precepts. Vegan Voice asked Dunayer what rights she would bestow on animals, and she replied (emphasis added),

First of all, nonhuman personhood would end nonhuman enslavement. Nonhuman servitude to humans would cease. Humans no longer could compel other animals to labor, perform, compete, or provide any service. No more horses pulling carriages, tigers jumping through hoops, greyhounds racing, capuchin monkeys being house slaves for humans with disabilities, and so on. Nonhumans would be emancipated from property status-freed from human ownership. The law would prohibit humans from breeding, buying, or selling nonhumans for any purpose, from vivisection and food production to pet keeping and propagating endangered species.

Nonhuman captivity would be phased out. Upon emancipation, “domesticated” nonhumans living with loving, responsible human companions would stay with those humans. Liberated from exploitation and other abuse, other “domesticated” nonhumans would be fostered at sanctuaries and private homes until adopted. Nonhumans in human care would have essentially the same legal rights as children. To the fullest possible extent, “domesticated” nonhumans (including dogs and cats) would be prevented from breeding-for example, through “spaying” and “neutering.” The number of “domesticated” nonhumans would rapidly decline.

. . .

As full constitutional persons, nonhumans also would have a right to property. They would own the products of their bodies, such as milk and pearls. A honeybee colony would own the honey that it produces. A robin would own the eggs that she lays. In addition, nonhumans would own what they build, such as hives and nests. A dam built by a family of beavers would belong to those beavers and their descendants. It would be illegal for humans to take, intentionally damage, or intentionally destroy anything that nonhumans produce or create within their natural habitats. Further, nonhumans would own their natural habitats. All nonhumans living in a particular area of land or water would have a legal right to that environment, which would be considered their communal property. Land currently inhabited by nonhumans and humans could remain cohabited, but humans wouldn’t be permitted to encroach farther into nonhuman territory (for example, by building more houses on land occupied only by nonhumans). It would be illegal to intentionally destroy or dramatically alter any “undeveloped” habitat.

So unlike other activists who will flinch and vacillate when you start talking about pets or something like guide dogs for the blind, Dunayer is unwavering — they have to go. Then she takes that a step further by pretty much banning any human interference in the animal world. If a beaver dam is causing a problem, too bad. Its a shame she doesn’t say what would happen when wasps decide to build a nest on the side of my house. I’m assuming we have to live with this (after all, if we can preemptively kill the wasps, it is just a short jump to killing other animals preemptively that may pose threats, such as bears or large cats).

It is odd, though, that she wouldn’t allow humans to touch beaver dams or move into uninhabited areas, but she has no problems castrating cats and dogs who, presumably, have an interest in not being modified that way. Apparently animals only have rights to the extent that they are alienated from human beings.

Which brings us to the very odd conclusion that animal rights leads us to. Starting out from the proposition that all animals are morally equal, we come to the bizarre conclusion that human beings are nothing more than alien invaders; a species so unnatural and unlike anything else, that its members must be controlled in ways that animal rights activist’s would never contemplate doing for animals.

It is interesting, for example, that Dunayer seems to think beavers have some sort of natural right to build dams without interference wherever they want, but human beings clearly would not have the right to build skyscrapers anywhere they wanted. Dunayer presumably wouldn’t dream of restricting mobile predators such as wolves to areas which they and their descendants must never stray from, but clearly her views would classify nomadic tribes of human beings as inherently violating the rights of others.

This is what so many opponents of animal rights activists mean when we say that the animal rights philosophy elevates animals above human beings. Dunayer and others like her denigrate in human beings precisely the same behaviors that they glorify and wish to protect in animals. Both beavers and human beings make changes to their environment when they build dams for their own selfish purposes, but the beaver dam is sacrosanct, while human modification of the natural world is inherently immoral. Similarly, many species hunt and kill other species for food and fun, but the animal rights philosophy only finds this morally suspect in a single species.

Using the same analogies that Dunayer and other activists use, typically in a human setting if I say that it is okay for every human being to vote except for the Black ones, that is considered racism and discrimination. Similarly, when Dunayer and other activists maintain that it is okay for every carnivorous and omnivorous species to hunt, claim territory and other activities except for human beings, THAT is speciesism.

And, after reading Dunayer and other activists, the thread is clear that it is not so much a respect for other species which drives this ideology, but rather a loathing for homo sapiens and what it represents and has achieved. Animal rights activists are nothing more than modern day flagellants, believing that humanity’s role in the world is one of evil and sin. Only by scourging ourselves and retreating to some bizarre ascetic vision of humanity can we be redeemed.

Thankfully, we do not live in times that are conducive to this sort of self-hating religious fanaticism.


Speciesism: Interview with the Author (Joan Dunayer). Sienna Blake, Vegan Voice, March-May 2005.

Christina Louise Dicker Reviews Joan Dunayer’s Speciesism

In the March-May 2005 issue of Vegan Voice, Christina Louise Dicker reviews Joan Dunayer’s recent book, Speciesism. Like other activists, Decker is smitten with Dunayer’s extreme, if consistent, animal rights philosophy.

Dicker highlights the expansive nature of the types of creatures that Dunayer would grant rights (emphasis added),

Dunayer’s arguments are hard-hitting and rock solid as she uses plain and simple language, supported by a myriad of examples, to clarify every aspect of the discussion. . .

. . .

The author convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that our fellow species on this planet are not our inferiors. She argues that “any form of consciousness should suffice to confer legal personhood,” and when discussing the grounds for such a statement she carefully explains how consciousness and sentience (rather than complexity and intelligence) are the only relevant methods to assess a creature’s right to justice.

I’m assuming, based on Dicker’s use of quotation marks, that the section highlighted above is Dunayer’s formulation. Regardless, it is absurdly broad.

Dunayer has previously argued that it is wrong to use indirect human measures of consciousness to assign rights. Dunayer criticizes Steven Wise, for example, for Wise’s refusal to grant rights to honeybees on the grounds that bees are invertebrates. Dunayer says this creates a nonsensical hierarchy of species.

But if any form of consciousness should suffice, then we are in the same boat with every species. For example, I am fairly certain that my fern is not conscious. However, in arriving at that view, I am inferring it from the fact that the plant does not exhibit minimal signs that I would argue are necessary at a minimum for consciousness, such as acting intentionally (which is not to say that every being that acts intentionally should be considered conscious — though Dunayer seems to take that view — but rather that creatures that don’t act intentionally would seem to be automatically excluded from the set of beings that is conscious).

But if “any form of consciousness” qualifies, the same objection applies — how dare we apply our human-mammalian-animal prejudices to deciding whether or not my fern is conscious?

Rather than simplifying things, Dunayer’s views taken together appear to create a number of problems for those who would embrace them. And yet, embrace them she does as Dicker seems to explicitly recognize where Dunayer’s position leads. She writes, (emphasis added),

Throughout the ages, one of the most effective methods of achieving social reform has been education, followed by action. My prediction is that Joan Dunayer’s work will have a snowball effect as other considerate human beings to [sic] accept, adopt, and then promote the goals outline in this book. The potential impact of this amazing text is ready to prove once again that the proverbial pen has the power to change the world.

A book like Speciesism promotes a thoroughly positive step forward for the future of our planet, since the rebounding effects of the abolition movement will bring about improvements for other global problems, such as environmental degradation and human overpopulation. It envisions a day when people stop heralding the “sanctity of human life” and start proclaiming “the sanctity of all life.”

My prediction is that Dunayer’s book won’t be read outside of a small circle of extremist animal rights types and will have no impact on the wider debate about society’s treatment of animals, in large measure because of the extreme view which Dicker articulates that advocates for “the sanctity of all life.” That view takes an already fringe view and cranks up the nuttiness by a factor of 10. Its absurd to talk about the sanctity — and presumably rights — of all living things. Even vegans need to regularly kill living things in order to survive, unless Dicker and Dunayer favor Newkirk’s dream of a world absent humanity, because that’s ultimately where the abolitionist version of the animal rights philosophy leads.


Review of Speciesism by Joan Dunayer. Christina Louise Dicker, Vegan Voice, March-May 2005.