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Don’t Mourn—Organize!

Feminists for Animal Rights founder Marti Kheel died last weekend. Marti was a dear friend of the sanctuary as well as a sincere and steadfast ally of animals. We grieve.

Marti Kheel, 1948-2011

How might we aptly memorialize Marti? By putting her ideas into action

  • Set up networks to foster the companion animals of women seeking refuge in battered women’s shelters. Perpetrators of domestic violence often injure or threaten companion animals. Because most domestic violence shelters don’t accept companion animals, women frequently stay in dangerous situations for fear of what will happen to beloved animal companions if they leave them behind or take them to a “humane” society where they might be euthanized. FAR helped to spark the creation of networks of foster placements—safe spaces where the animals can stay for as long as it takes until their caregiver has found truly safe permanent housing and where she and her children might visit them in the interim—in a handful of communities. We need many more. Could you be the person to start the conversations that could lead to such a network in your community? Could you write or call the animal rescue and domestic violence projects in your community, proposing the idea? Could you research and share relevant information with them? Do you happen to know people who work in either of these areas? How could you bring them into conversation with one another?
  • Do more to undermine milk. In many conversations with sanctuary co-founder pattrice jones, Marti expressed the wish for animal advocates to focus more on dairy. (She had the idea for a Mother’s Day campaign encouraging adults to wean themselves.) We relocated to Vermont in part so that we could begin to offer sanctuary to dairy industry refugees, which we have done. We’ve been heartened by recent efforts of Mercy for Animals to expose the gendered cruelty that is the dairy industry. We now pledge, in Marti’s memory, to do more to demystify milk. We’d like, eventually, to coordinate an explicitly feminist national campaign to debunk dairy while building bridges between the women’s and animal liberation movements. If you’ve got creative ideas for such a campaign, or if you’d like to be involved when it gets rolling, write us or leave a comment below.
  • Support or initiate other projects that both illustrate and intervene in the intersection between sexism and speciesism.
    Cows exploited for milk and hens exploited for eggs are female creatures who are enslaved and tortured so that men may reap profits from their reproductive capabilities. Roosters exploited in cockfighting are both victims and unwitting agents of the social construction of masculinity. These and many more specific forms of animal exploitation both reflect and perpetuate gender bias. Marti wanted us to both see and intervene in the deep linkages between the subordination of women and the exploitation of animals. Let’s remember her by doing that. Let’s do that in the spirit of generosity and heartfelt solidarity in which Marti lived her remarkable life.

It’s pattrice writing this post, and I just want to say in closing: Marti, we miss you already, but we know you won’t be all-the-way-gone as long as we carry on the projects you inspired with the same sincerity you carried into everything you did.

8 comments to Don’t Mourn—Organize!

  • Many times I wrote and never received an answer from Feminists for Animal Rights. The name was taken but it had no organization or projects or even someone to answer emails. It made me angry. Now I wonder if you are going to infuse the organization with some life? Maybe write some grants for staff? I know, however, there is very little money for feminists. Most of the billionaires are men and they hate women basically. But the name “Feminists for Animal Rights” should not be an empty promise on google.Maybe some of the women who have written books on the subject should be asked to organize under the name.
  • bravebird
    pattrice here. I hear you. FAR started in the 80s and maintained a staff until the early 2000s (not a bad record) but then ran out of funds and steam. Marti preserved the website as an archive of past activities and publications. Since FAR was (and may still be) a duly incorporated non-profit, seizing the name would not be simple, even if one wanted to engage in such appropriation. Let’s see what the surviving members of FAR’s board of directors decide to do. Meantime, let’s not get hung up on the name. (I prefer “liberation” to “rights” anyway.) Let’s think instead about what to do. Any ideas?
  • I have been gathering links to Eco feminist – compulsively – not knowing why, I think the links should all be on the FAR website with the sanctuaries. A blog should be started where we talk and keep up with one another. The board should elect new members. The name is important and should be a home for feminists on the web.

    Right now class is the issue. I know this seems a great diversion but every one of us is up against corporate money, one way or another. There is a movement to amend the US constitution — yes I said it. To get money out of the democratic process by passing a cluster of amendments:

    1.state and federal campaign financing reform, (no private money – period. Public air time – public funds)

    2.blind trusts for congress members and govt. employees,so they cannot do insider trading of their stocks and become part of the 1%

    3.eliminating ALL congressional and regulatory contact with lobby money (including no revolving doors)

    4.elimination of gerrymandering, state or federal congressional exemption from the laws passed and every state, citizen referendum initiatives rights.

    7. Politician, staff and govt. workers benefits shall be restricted to use of the public “entitlements”. Salary shall be the medium income of their state workers.

    All this is vague and the movement is already being co-opted I know a place that may support us if we were organized with a blog people actually read.( See The United Republic —- BUT real change can only happen when we have an equal voice in the political arena.

    I say Eco-feminists take the lead in this on the FAR website and within the organization.. Most of us are fierce organizers. Then after equalizing the weight of our voices and reinstituting democracy instead of oligarchy, we can end Ag subsidies and talk about conditions without having a gazillion dollars drowning out our voice. The first task is to get those seven issues organized into amendments.

    I know this sounds extravagant but do you still believe in electoral politics as a path to change? No. We need a revolution and i don’t mean sleeping in tents and pooping in the parks.

  • bravebird
    It’s Miriam. :-)

    Definitely I don’t think electoral politics is the answer — but I also have no faith in any governmental solutions. So, I hear you and agree that gathering alone won’t solve the problems — but I also believe that at this point, our government (and most governments) are so hopelessly entwined with corporate interests that it’s not possible for it to give up corporate money, give up lobbying, etc. It ain’t gonna happen.

    In my mind, the only thing that will make corporations care about OWS is hurting them with — you got it — money. Take your money out of banks and put it into credit unions. DO NOT SPEND MONEY — how many people leave the OWS camps and go buy shit? DO NOT BUY ANYTHING NEW. Ever. It’s possible, really. Support CSAs. Stop driving your car when you don’t have to. The list goes on, but it’s the same old list. And in my mind, it’s the only thing that might have any kind of impact, but only if done en masse.

    Perhaps that will happen now. I don’t know — but I do believe that any sort of political finagling will prove to be a waste of time because those people are so heavily in bed with each other, they will never get out.

  • Pattrice and Miriam,

    I just linked out to this post from your “in memoriam” writings about Lou. Thank you for this tribute. Marti’s book “Nature Ethics: An Ecofeminist Perspective” forever changed my perspective on ecology. I’m a wildlife photographer who was also trained as a volunteer wildlife rehabilitator. In the course of my ongoing environmental education, I’ve often felt marginalized because of my more “sensitive” perspective on wildlife … which is to say, simply, that I have the same concerns for individual wild animals as I’ve always had for domestic animals.

    I read “The Sexual Politics of Meat” for a Women’s Studies seminar when it first came out in the early 90s, and this helped form my ideas about domestic animal abuse and feminism. “Nature Ethics” effected as profound a change in my life. I’m frequently the outlier among fellow ecologists, birders and others who’ve accepted the species-at-large paradigm — the one which ignores the fate of individuals in the interest of the greater whole. Marti’s words gave me the historical perspective and the vocabulary to defend my sometimes solitary stance on these issues. I just wish I’d known of her work sooner, and I’m so sorry we’ve all lost her voice of reason and compassion.

  • pattrice
    Ingrid, when we first started the sanctuary, we got a lot of help from a wild bird rehabber who had herself only recently expanded her sphere of concern to include farmed animals. (Other rehabbers have helped us in various ways in the intervening years.) Ever since then, we’ve been brooding on two questions: (1) How to get birds watchers to see chickens as birds? and (2) What can be done to bridge the divide between wildlife rehabbers and the animal liberation movement? Concerning the latter, it seems to me that, within every local community of wildlife rehabbers, there are one or two people (usually women) who, like you, neither withhold concern from “domesticated” animals nor see a conflict between care for individuals and care for species. So, I’ve often thought that (a) it would be useful to bring those folks into conversation with one another, and (b) that that’s a standpoint from which the rest of us might learn something. But I’ve been stuck on the question of a mechanism for sparking such communion.
  • Pattrice, I sometimes find myself at a loss to bridge this chasm as well. My training at the wildlife hospital was preceded by at least 10 years of volunteer work with domestic animals, primarily dogs and cats in shelter situations. I also returned to college as an older student where authors like Carol J. Adams had personal relevance for me, having experienced some of those linkages in my personal life. As such, I brought a different sensibility to my volunteerism with wildlife. Perhaps that’s also true with the other women you mention. I was already sensitized to a number of animal welfare and rights issues at that point. And, frankly, personal connection isn’t always viewed as an asset in practices where emotional detachment is actually expected, you know, from the standpoint of not habituating wild animals and also dealing with animals who are in the truest sense, predators. I think some people see an inherent conflict between accepting the life-and-death world of wild animals, and then embracing an animal liberation philosophy that calls into question “natural” conventions for humans. But, that’s obviously a simplistic and generalizing assessment that has no empirical basis.

    I do, however, frequently see the disconnect you mention, between, say, a wild grouse in the lens of the birder’s scope and the chicken on the lunch plate. I’ve questioned why this blind spot exists and I can’t say definitively. I do think there’s a level of indoctrination, the very split Marti Kheel addresses in her book, one that effectively persuades those who care about wildlife that they are somehow misguided or soft if they grant individual animals the same value as, say, the wildlife departments grant to “species management.” I know that among fellow photographers and among birders I am often a solitary voice, arguing against some of the despicable hunting or species eradication practices I’ve had the misfortune to witness. I think, as is true with animal exploitation in general, if people engage empathy on an individual level, they risk having to challenge the dominant paradigm which, in terms of wildlife science, rewards a calculated pragmatism. It also makes acceptance of natural predation more problematic if you don’t want to entertain the complexities of moral agency. Beyond that, there are people who engage practices like birding out of purely, self-interested list building.

    As far as a mechanism for sparking a communion of ideas, I think one of the more viable areas is in the connection between livestock ‘production’ and habitat destruction along with predator slaughter. There’s such a clear link between the killing of wolves, coyotes and prairie dogs and then the interests of ranchers and livestock farmers. In Washington State where I’m living for a time, the entire Wedge pack of wolves (as one example) was eradicated this year at the behest of one thoughtless rancher. I’ve found George Wuerthner’s discussions of livestock and habitat damage to be persuasive from a naturalist’s perspective. Of course, it’s a stretch from these practical considerations to making choices based on empathy for the plight of animals. But, as you know, once you become aware of certain facets of industrial farming, it’s not that big a leap to other ethical considerations with food choices.

  • […] and the Earth collects a number of the contributions to the 2012 conference honoring the work of Marti Kheel, along with new essays written especially for this volume. If you’ve never understood why […]

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