Monday, March 24, 2014

How Non-Profitization Euthanizes Animal Activism

Euthanasia implies a "soft" killing, one that is not done maliciously, but takes life by surprise, so to speak, or without full awareness. In this manner, dogs and cats are killed by the millions each year under the premise that this is a rational strategy in the face of insurmountable speciesism.  But I don't think this is a species-specific phenomenon; I think it is endemic to advocacy spaces.  We have nurtured this ideology of unpleasant but necessary institutionalized death in the interests of other animals as a movement ethic.

The animal rights movement is being quietly killed behind the closed doors of non-profits.  Many advocates abhor the term "euthanasia," a euphemism that suggests dogs and cats are killed with mercy, when in fact they are usually healthy animals that are not so much victims of homelessness as they are of bureaucratic carelessness. But the bureaucracy of animal rights is killing more than dogs and cats; it's killing our movement.

Somewhere along the line, the great capitalist state has convinced social justice advocates that incorporating into the non-profit system will be a good thing. Not just a good thing, but the epitome of activism. As we are all indoctrinated with capitalist values, we look to non-profits as the natural progression in social movement mobilization. Becoming a non-profit means access to grant money, free postal service, tax exemption, and government support. But it also means an organization's ability to lobby is severely limited and they must make all of their operations transparent to state surveillance.

Another benefit to becoming a non-profit is the ability to make a living at social change. We have bought into the idea that we can make a living off of the immense suffering of other animals. We can pull a salary. Where did we get this fantastical idea that radical structural change can also pay our bills?  It should also come as no surprise that making a career out of social change is a privilege that is reserved mostly for well educated, well networked persons--usually white, straight, able-bodied men from Western nations.

In my opinion, non-profit incorporation is a death sentence. A group cannot hope to change oppressive social structures on one hand when, on the other hand, it relies on those oppressive social structures to remain in business. Becoming a non-profit necessitates a compromised message to keep conservative donors on board.  The state nurtures this system because it effectively stamps out the threat of serious social agitation. It also benefits from the cheap labor of non-profits that attend to social services the state has neglected in its catering to capitalist enterprise.

Non-profitization is killing us softly. As much as we love slick websites, glossy magazines, and salaries, these are detracting from the important grassroots work that is absolutely essential to real change. We cannot expect social change to pay the bills. In fact, disadvantaged communities have been doing social justice work for free for many decades. Social change is made by lawyers, teachers, business owners, service workers, factory workers, scientists, doctors, nurses, mothers, fathers, children, and even the unemployed...not by professional grant-writers. Grant-writers make money, not change.

HSUS pulled in $125 million in 2012

Non-profits, despite their title, are businesses. They raise money, they make money, the grow money, they employ staffs, and they are good for the economy. Vegan Outreach, for example, spent about 70% of their approximately one million dollars in intake for the 2011-2012 year on services unrelated to outreach. That's a lot of money going into other people's pockets. Considering that Vegan Outreach is one of the smaller animal rights organizations, it is staggering to imagine how many millions of dollars the animal rights movement is raising and spending on bureaucratic expenditures instead of putting it directly towards anti-speciesism work. Capitalism loves non-profits.

We need to step away from the misguided notion that more money=more change. The capitalist ethos of "more is better" and the fetishization of bureaucratic growth is what created the problem in the first place. Social change is hard work, but not everyone can expect to be compensated for it. It will take mass volunteerism. All skills must be welcomed and valued, not just the ability to write grants or donate money. Do not be led to the gas chamber that is the non-profit industrial complex.