The Palestinian Animal League (PAL) was pleased to present at the sixth conference of the European Association for Critical Animal Studies, which took place at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona.
Ahlam Tarayra, director of PAL, Skyped in to an auditorium of global scholars as part of the panel session ‘Anti-speciesist Activism: Strategies, learning and perspectives’.
Ahlam discussed how PAL is working to improve the physical and cultural environment for animals in Palestine. She also discussed how PAL has been observing the impact of historical British colonialism and the Israeli occupation upon animals in Palestine. PAL has been “digging back to the roots” to discover where the roots of various forms of oppression – such as speciesism, homophobia, and patriarchy – began in Palestine.
Also on this panel was Gorka Novales of the organisation Nor: an intersectional anti-speciesist group operating in the Basque Country. Gorka echoed Ahlam’s recognition of feminism as integral to building an effective animal liberation movement. He stated, male activists “must learn how not to oppress” by working to overcome the lifetime of education which has naturalised them to oppress others.
Gorka also emphasised the importance of localising animal liberation movements, in the organisation Nor’s case through using the historically oppressed language of Basque. He discussed how although it is difficult, it is essential for Nor’s work to connect with and constitute part of the broader revolutionary Basque struggle. This is an approach PAL relates to, as an animal rights organisation that has Palestinian liberation as a guiding principle.
PAL faces many unique barriers to participation in the broader animal rights community because of its Palestinian identity. When PAL is expected to speak alongside Israeli organisations that are uncritical of the occupation, PAL is obliged to withdraw from participation. Along with countless other Palestinian organisations, PAL refuses to normalise the occupation by presenting alongside its oppressors.
Initially, PAL withdrew from the EACAS conference for this reason. Shortly before the conference began, a new talk was introduced discussing 269 Life – an anti-intersectional Israeli animal rights group whose founders support the occupation of Palestine. Ahlam could not speak alongside such a problematic organisation and withdrew from her talk; and as a member of PAL Solidarity I withdrew from the conference too.
Due to the help of some valuable friends of PAL at the conference, and the efforts of the conference organisers, it emerged that the speaker for the 269Life talk, Seth Josephson, is against the occupation of Palestine and does not support 269Life. Josephson was using 269Life as a case study to explore the ways that empathy for other animals gets translated into communicative action, but he does not endorse the group. PAL warmly thanks the organisers for their efforts to clarify this issue, which meant all speakers could present as planned.
At the end of Josephson’s talk, Vasile Stanescu asked a valuable question. How does Josephson balance investigation of this pro-animal rights group, with the group’s views on issues of human politics? Josephson did not mention Palestine in his response, creating an uncomfortable elephant in the room. We urge scholars using an Israeli organisation as a case study to develop a meaningful answer to this question.
As the inspirational Aph Ko stated in the closing keynote speech, we can perhaps learn the most from those humans who are ‘fighting for animal oppression when you’re not quite human yourself’. If we open up the borders of animal rights and learn about how hegemonic groups operate to animalise other humans, new directions for animal liberation could become possible.
Text and photos by Jasmine Owens PAL Solidarity UK @j_minnow