Pearce and Predation: The Intersection of Veganism and Transhumanism

“The final dream of civilization is that everything will be controlled, organized, categorized; all wildness and spontaneity will be eradicated.”
-Miles Olson, Unlearn, Rewild

“Why confine the civilising process to a single ethnic group or species?”
-David Pearce

A recent interview with vegan and transhumanist David Pearce serves to illustrate the difficulty posed by predation for vegans and/or anyone concerned about the well-being of nonhuman animals. Predation is a Rorschach test and how one responds to it can inform their whole outlook on wild nature. Does predation mean that nature is necessarily and overwhelmingly a place of suffering and death (”red in tooth and claw”)? Alternatively, might the suffering associated with predation be offset by nature’s virtues?

Pearce understands veganism as a means to reduce suffering. But Pearce’s ultimate aspiration is not merely to reduce suffering but to eliminate suffering altogether. Predation is a significant source of suffering that would obviously need to be addressed for Pearce’s vision to be realized. Pearce says:

“I tentatively predict that the world’s last unpleasant experience in our forward light-cone will be a precisely datable event — perhaps some micro-pain in an obscure marine invertebrate a few centuries hence.” 

To realize this goal, Pearce is open to both phased extinctions and genetic reprogramming of carnivores. In the interview he says:

“I’m not personally convinced that we need such predatory species to survive.”

It is important to pause here. Pearce is saying that there may be no reason to be troubled by species extinction and that, in some cases at least, extinction might be a worthwhile goal to pursue. We don’t need lions or tigers and if they are only going to hurt other animals then they might as well disappear. Note that while such a view may seem strange, it is not necessarily inconsistent with Pearce’s veganism; Pearce would presumably view it as the logical extension of his veganism.

If predators are to be kept around:

“the carnivorous members of tomorrow’s wildlife parks will need to be genetically and behaviourally tweaked — with neurochips, GPS tracking and abundance of other high-tech safeguards to prevent accidents.”

He speaks of “wildlife parks” because at this point there will seemingly be no wilderness and consequently no free-living animals. Domestication will have reached its zenith. Animals that remain will effectively be zoo exhibits; they will exist at the discretion of human beings and in a form determined by human beings. He explains that:

“Within the next few decades, every cubic metre of the planet will be computationally accessible to surveillance, micro-management and control.”

Surveillance, micro-management, and control. These are the values of civilization and Pearce wonders: why limit the civilizing process to one species? The values of civilization aspire toward universal application.tiger collar

Note: David Pearce’s website–The Hedonistic Imperative–can be found at http://www.hedweb.com/

 

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Two Thoughts on the Animal Liberation Front

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Animals have claws; the animal liberation movement should too. And many animals, when cornered or threatened, won’t hesitate to scratch somebody’s fuckin eyes out if that is what is necessary to secure their freedom and safety. Activists speculate and pontificate about what course of action animals would take but when we look at what animals actually do, what we see is attack and that should be inspiring.

This is why I have always supported the efforts of the Animal Liberation Front as well as other entities that do not share the ALF’s commitment to nonviolence.

With that said, I share the following two thoughts concerning the ALF:

First, defenders of the ALF consistently point out its adherence to nonviolence and its remarkable success in avoiding physical harm to humans and other animals. It is said to be a near flawless track record. And yet, it is somewhat difficult to assess this claim. Activists acting under the banner of the ALF generally only claim responsibility for an action after it is completed. Activists can assess its success prior to sending out a communique claiming responsibility. Might activists who botched an action opt not to take responsibility (in this case, blame)? A flawless track record might inevitably result when one has the opportunity to claim the successes and not the failures. In fact, the flawless track record might be nothing but a matter of semantics given that the ALF Credo says:

Any group of people who are vegetarians or vegans and who carry out actions according to ALF guidelines have the right to regard themselves as part of the ALF.

and ALF guidelines include:

TO take all necessary precautions against harming any animal, human and non-human

It may be the case that poorly executed actions are not ALF actions purely as a matter of definition. If one failed to take “necessary precautions” then that person does not have a legitimate claim to the ALF name.

Second, support for the ALF and ALF-style actions cannot plausibly hinge on the success of any particular action or how well it is executed. It makes no sense to support a tactic provided only that it is always executed flawlessly and that mistakes are never made. To attach such a caveat is to essentially oppose the use of a given tactic.

If we would like to see a large number of actions carried out against those who harm, exploit, torture, and kill animals, then we must be open to the inevitability that mistakes will be made. Humans and nonhumans may be physically harmed. Even in instances when every consideration is taken, every safeguard is put in place things may not go well through no fault of those carrying out the action. We must also be open to the fact that some people will naturally possess a greater level of skill than others. One virtue of ALF actions is that they are accessible to a wide range of people, can be done individually or in small groups, and may be relatively inexpensive. In short, these tactics are not the exclusive province of experts.

Individual actions should be assessed but only for the purpose of making future actions more effective. When individuals are caught, the mistakes they made (i.e. how they got caught) should be assessed but only for the purpose of providing lessons to others who can then avoid repeating such mistakes.

If we have zero tolerance for risk, then we take such tactics off the table. I believe that would be a drastic mistake.

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