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Anthony Nocella, Institute For Critical Animal Studies
Anthony J. Nocella II, earned his Ph.D. from Syracuse University, Maxwell School. Nocella a professor and an intersectional scholar-community organizer, has published more than 50 scholarly articles or book chapters. He is the editor of Peace Studies Journal, Senior Fellow with the Dispute Resolution Institute at Hamline Law School, and co-founded and is Director of the Institute for Critical Animal Studies. He has published more than twenty books, including Earth, Animal and Disability Liberation: The Rise of the Eco-ability Movement (2012), Global Industrial Complex: Systems of Domination (2011), Defining Critical Animal Studies: An Intersectional Social Justice Approach to Liberation (2014), and The End of Prisons: Reflections from the Decarceration Movement (2013). In 2009 he co-founded with others, including four youth incarcerated in New York, Save the Kids — a leading national grass-roots organization working to dismantle the school to prison pipeline and the end of the incarceration of youth. His areas of interest include environmental studies, disability studies, justice studies, and peace and conflict studies. His website is www.anthonynocella.org.
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody! I’m Caryn Hartglass. You’re listening to It’s All About Food. It’s June 3, 2014. A beautiful, beautiful day here in New York City—finally! Why don’t these things last forever? If it was beautiful outside every day, would we appreciate it? I would. I really would. It feels so good today, and it continues to be good and I hope it’s good wherever you are and whenever you are listening, because I know some of you listen later than live, right? Let’s move forward. We’ve got a very interesting program today. I want to bring on my first guest, Anthony Nocella. He earned his PhD from Syracuse University, Maxwell School. He’s a professor and an intersectional scholar-community organizer who has published more than fifty scholarly articles or book chapters. He is the editor of Peace Studies Journal, Senior Fellow with the Dispute Resolution Institute at Hamline Law School, and co-founded and is director of the Institute for Critical Animal Studies (ICAS). He has published more than twenty books, including Earth, Animal and Disability Liberation: The Rise of the Eco-ability Movement, Global Industrial Complex: Systems of Domination, Defining Critical Animal Studies: An Intersectional Social Justice Approach to Liberation, and The End of Prisons: Reflections from the Decarceration Movement. In 2009, he co-founded with others, including four youth incarcerated in New York City, Save the Kids, a leading national grassroots organization working to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline and the end of the incarceration of youth. His areas of interest include environmental studies, disability studies, justice studies, and peace and conflict studies. If this isn’t amazing and you haven’t heard enough, go to his website, anthonynocella.org. Welcome to It’s All About Food—Anthony.
Anthony Nocella: Hi. Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure being here. You were just noting the weather. It is great here in the Twin Cities as well. I took a little walk today to a meeting rather than taking public transit, so that was really fun.
Caryn Hartglass: You’re in the Twin Cities.
Anthony Nocella: Yes, I am. We have a lot of lakes and the big river, and a lot of universities, and a lot of wonderful parks as well. It’s a smaller city, our Twin Cities, but it’s really nice out here and there are a lot of progressive conversations and actions and organizing going on throughout different movements as well as within the animal advocacy and vegan communities. That’s really nice to see. The Twin Cities has a long history of animal advocacy. If people don’t know their U.S. animal advocacy history, the Twin Cities has one of the oldest grassroots movements and has the oldest—I hear from a number of people—grassroots active organizations going on right now, the Animal Rights Coalition, which does some really great work. There’s a number of other organizations as well—Compassionate Action for Animals and some other local animal rights groups within colleges and high schools. There’s a lot going on.
Caryn Hartglass: I’ve been there a few times, back in the day when I was Executive Director of EarthSave International. We had a Twin Cities chapter.
Anthony Nocella: Oh, wonderful.
Caryn Hartglass: It was really good to go there. A lovely place and you’re right, a lot going on. There were some companies like—isn’t Seventh Generation from that area?
Anthony Nocella: When it comes to companies, I do not know. You’d be an expert on that maybe. I can’t tell you. But I do know that Target and Best Buy and 3M, which are not the most vegan-friendly companies, are there. I know that University of Minnesota does animal research. I know all the bad things.
Caryn Hartglass: There’s the good and the bad.
Anthony Nocella: Exactly.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. But you’ve got a lot of good food, too. I ate well when I was there. Alright now, let’s get to talking about you. You are pretty amazing. You’ve written so many books, you’re doing such incredible work. So, where do we begin? Can we talk a little bit about the Institute for Critical Animal Studies? What is it, what do you do, what are you doing right now, and why are you doing it?
Anthony Nocella: Exactly. It’s a fully-volunteer organization. It started in 2001 titled the Center on Animal Liberation Affairs (CALA). Then in 2006 to 2007, we changed the name and developed the field of Critical Animal Studies. If anybody knows anything about oppression, they know that if you provide space, which is the actual conversating about a topic, so if we talk about animal advocacy and we’re not allowed to speak about animal advocacy, let’s say in the United States, then we don’t have space. Then also, place is actually the physical organizing. When we put on events and conferences and rallies and teach-ins and film screenings, that’s the place. Critical Animal Studies provides space and place for animal advocacy and intersectional animal advocacy to take place within higher education. People say, “What’s so important about that?” Well, with almost every single conference that we do—and this scares people off, but it shouldn’t—if you want to create social change, you will threaten people because you’re threatening them with new ideas, like “the world is round” or a variety of other issues.
Caryn Hartglass: Animal activists are considered terrorists today with our government.
Anthony Nocella: Exactly. With the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) almost at every single conference that we did since 2001, we’ve had the presence of law enforcement or security heightened just to speak about these issues. Some people say, “No, this doesn’t exist.” I’ve gone to political science association conferences, sociology, social science, education, et cetera, all throughout the whole country and the continent on different academic fields, and I’ve never seen—it would be kind of ridiculous to even assume that there would be police presence or heightened security around research labs on particular campuses, right? At Vassar, when we had the Students for Critical Animal Studies, the first one take place, Vassar College asked the students to pay for the security for the research labs. They said, “What? We have to pay for your security because you all are fearful of us?” That was, again, the case at many other institutions where we’ve done these conferences. To date, nothing bad has ever happened, meaning illegal or direct action or even protesting. Because we understand that when we’re in a space of conversation, you can’t do too much or you get overwhelmed and you get exhausted. We do these conferences maybe a day long or two days long, so we don’t want to throw too many things in the mix. When we do rallies or something, they’re typically off-campus, down the street or something of that sort, and they’re not targeting the actual university. We’re talking about candlelight vigils because of non-human animals being researched on and vivisection occurring. Again, just having these conversations, having that space and place and arguing for that, is threatening the largest—besides sports—the largest funding opportunities in higher education. We know that higher education is becoming corporatized. They’re very much interested in the largest amount of profit, right? The administrators are now making up to the millions, while the professors, if they are even professors at many universities; most of them are adjuncts, right?
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right. Keeping the costs down. Pay them as little as you can.
Anthony Nocella: Yes. There’s this development of this corporate university mentality. And the two largest funders besides sports are the hard sciences, right, then the other—besides donors and trustees, which I’m not even taking into consideration, and tuition of course—is also agriculture. Look at for example, Texas A&M or Florida A&M, a variety of agriculture-based institutions that would never see the light of day of Critical Animal Studies on their campuses. Because the actual—as Bacon says, knowledge is power, that’s what we’re trying to develop within the Institute for Critical Animal Studies: spaces and places for people to challenge the dominant co-paradigm that exists. If we do that, which this is no top secret, if we do that we’re going to change how the future exists. For example, if we don’t have anybody in higher education teaching vivisection, we will not have any vivisection companies like Huntingdon Life Sciences in the future. It’s not protesting Huntingdon Life Sciences, which we should do, that will end all vivisection, it’s actually protesting universities and colleges. We have to figure out who’s educating these people about agriculture, cutting a hole into cows to feed them so they can just be in a cage their whole life rather than grazing, the mass factory farming that occurs. That’s what the Institute for Critical Animal Studies has done and is doing. We do it in a somewhat, I believe, effective way. We are now global in Australia, South America, Africa, Europe, Middle East, and Asia. We have annual conferences in all of these regions and now a Students for Critical Animal Studies conference. We’re pretty excited about the development of all these volunteers, students, graduate students, and faculty that are caring about this issue. While there is so many wonderful activist groups that are protesting McDonalds and KFC and Proctor & Gamble, we also need to shift the idea of what education that these undergraduates and graduates are getting and are forced to get in their core courses. You have to take biology, you have to do dissection. We want to transform that. That’s what ICAS spends most of our time doing, is having those conversations and asking those very difficult questions.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow. You can take a breath now. I’m taking a breath just listening. I held my breath the whole time. This is something I never even thought about, and it’s so important to have a space and a place to have these conversations. It seems like so many of the right things are not moving forward because we don’t have control anymore. We’ve given up so much control in our culture, and I certainly hope we can get it back. I was just talking about this earlier with a friend of mine about how we’ve gotten to this place of convenience and specialization and we’ve allowed people, different industries, to do very specific things, and one of them is to make our food. We’ve given up the control of making our food. We don’t know how to prepare it, we don’t know how to cook it, we don’t know how to grow it. As a result, it’s tampered in ways that many of us wouldn’t support. But we’ve lost control and we’ve lost control in so many different arenas, I think from specialization and for convenience, and we really need to get it back. Definitely we’ve lost control in the education arena. This is good news, that there’s space where people can speak.
Anthony Nocella: Yes. I think that one of the things that Critical Animal Studies does also, is really values activism and community organizing from an intersectional approach. All of our programs and websites and Journal for Critical Animal Studies (JCAS). Yesterday we just developed another project, the Journal for Critical Animal Studies in German. We’ll be publishing articles and essays from the Journal for Critical Animal Studies as well as original articles in German to develop. It’s not just a U.S.-centric, European, English-based movement. There’s a lot of people that are trying to do that. We just assume that the world knows what about animal rights and has read, for example, Tom Regan, but not everybody has because not all the books are accessible. Sending a book from the U.S. to Brazil costs $150. Just one book. We have to understand the complexities of capitalism and trade in developing a movement. Some of these books need to be open access, which our journal is. People can download it as a PDF anywhere and it’s free. That’s some conversations that we have. We talk about issues of disability, which is a very important issue in my life, and how animals and disability and the conversations within our movement are sometimes ableist. We use language like “idiot” or “crazy” or “freak” or “moron” to talk about vivisectors or each other sometimes. We need to, if we want to broaden this movement, which we always do. You’re about to have another wonderful interview with somebody with the Food Empowerment Project, and they talk a lot about class and race issues. So does the Institute for Critical Animal Studies, talking about how does education, how does access, address being vegan? What does vegan look like to you? It might not be what vegan looks like to me. A packaged, processed tofu burger that was—the soy came from Brazil, clear-cut in Brazil, displaced people. These are the conversations that we have, complicating what it means to be an animal advocate and what it means from an intersectional perspective and what it means to be vegan. That it’s, how does being vegan aid or not aid in eliminating economic oppression and support economic justice, on the other hand. Those are the daily conversations that we have on Facebook, and on our blogs, and at our events. If people are listening in, those are the people that are, “Why would I want to get involved in Critical Animal Studies? I’m not a professor.” A lot of the people that come to our conferences aren’t professors, but they’re activists, community organizers wanting to get a breath of fresh air and not to be just about animals, but about a lot of other social justice issues.
Caryn Hartglass: You’ve probably heard this, but people often think that those of us who care about animals and are concerned about animal exploitation don’t care about people.
Anthony Nocella: Yes, and sad to say there is some work, damage control one might say, to address this issue. Peter Singer, who wrote a pivotal book, and as a person that does eco-ability, which is the connection between disability and animals, he’s protested almost everywhere he goes from a disability community because he said, from a utilitarian perspective, if we can test on an infant or a baby, a person with disabilities, and that testing will help the larger community then we should from a utilitarian perspective. It’s like, aw, did you really have to say that, Peter? You have such a good point when it comes to animals, and then you had to open your mouth and speak about this issue. We do this repetitively around issues of race and gender and transgendered issues and sexuality as well. Yes, Peter had some great conversations and points about animal advocacy There are people within the movement that really don’t like people and I can understand that sentiment because they have been hurt or they see slaughterhouses and they say, “Is there any humanity?” I think, after being in the movement for about twenty years and starting when I was sixteen and being vegan a little after that, I really do see that. I don’t know if I’m going to win a campaign, which I do community organizing on a daily basis around youth justice and school-to-prison pipeline and prison abolition work as well. I don’t know if I’m going to win, but it’s what’s right and I have hope in people. I think that’s what we have to develop again within our movement, hope. Not everybody knows the right answer. I wasn’t taught to be a vegan. I wasn’t taught to be an anti-racist. I wasn’t taught at a very, very young age to know about disabilities or know about issues of sexism. I think within our movement we’re very critical of ourselves, but we still have to know that we’re teaching ourselves as well, that we’re developing as a group, if that makes sense.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s a very important concept and very, very hard to do all the time because there’s so many things out there that are just so horrific and we ask ourselves, “How could anyone who feels do these things?” It’s just a constant reminder that many of us, myself included—I wasn’t always vegan, although I have been for most of my life, but at one point I wasn’t—to have that hope and that belief that there’s good in all of us, it takes a lot.
Anthony Nocella: Yes, because we get beaten down by one another, myself included. I do the beating sometimes, not on purpose, but that’s not the point. We have to really understand that we have to learn how to communicate with each other. I think that’s why I laid a lot on transformative justice and healing and taking accountability. We do come from different perspectives, myself with disabilities and other people in the movement that have disabilities, we have to take some time to work on ourselves rather than just always working on the issue, because we are being beaten down by the systems that be. The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which I have a book coming out called The Terrorization of Dissent, and it has a lot of people in the movement talking about the AETA from a legal perspective, a philosophy, a sociological activist perspective, and that should be out by Lantern Books in a few months.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, great.
Anthony Nocella: That should be really exciting. Hopefully that will be a text that will really beat down the AETA. You have all these laws that are ridiculous. If that law was really put into effect, and I don’t think a lot of people have read that whole law, but it is so damaging. It’s constitutionally against the law. It doesn’t allow the First Amendment, whatsoever, towards animal advocates. In simple terms, if you’re an effective animal advocate toward a corporation, you’re a terrorist. If you make any economic hardships towards any corporation, they can find you as a terrorist under the AETA. You have to protest these companies and still pay them to keep growing and make sure that their bottom line doesn’t decrease, if that makes sense.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s crazy, but that’s what comes out of fear. Fear and misunderstanding. I know that law in particular came out of a few unfortunate acts, and people were afraid. The act is clearly much more extreme than it should be, if it should be there at all. I’m curious about these conferences that you have and the people that are wary of what you’re doing. Have you had some people attend that were turned around and realized you had some valuable information?
Anthony Nocella: For sure. We typically get a lot of the deans and the chairs. I am a professor as well. Many of the people that present at these conferences are professors and chairs. Yes. We get a lot of humanistic people that don’t care about, or are not aware—I wouldn’t say don’t care—are not aware of veganism or animal advocacy, or they’re just turned off because of some acts that they’ve seen by activists. We influence students who–we always have our conferences so they’re very affordable at colleges because we want to get the students at these colleges to come for free to listen and to learn and to challenge and to have that dialogue about animal advocacy because they’re not getting it in the classes. We also invite faculty and professors and deans and chancellors to do welcomings and do presentations as well. We don’t have our conferences at the Sheraton or the Holiday Inn on purpose. We just can’t afford it. We get all of our spaces for free. But we also strategically want to be where the people are, so we are influencing people about veganism and things. There are times that some people come in from Australia to a conference and they say, “Wow, we’ve never thought about this or this before,” and then they go back to their country and they help develop new ideas and things. The conferences are really a great place to build friendships as well as networks and challenge each other on ideas and learn new ideas.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, we just have a few minutes and I wanted to talk about your Save the Kids project. It’s human animals now we’re talking about.
Anthony Nocella: Yes. I’ve been doing that for a long time. I do a lot of prison work, and I really try to address youth justice, racial justice, and animal advocacy, and try to interconnect the struggles together. With Save the Kids, named for youth that were incarcerated in New York, I try to challenge that the school-to-prison pipeline, where it’s that youth are being pushed out of the system of schools, specifically LGBT kids, kids with disabilities, youth of color, and youth that are economically advantaged, into the streets and then of course into the hands of police many of the times. Last week, or a week and a half ago, we did the National Week of Action Against Incarcerating Youth. We had about a hundred events, thirty cities, and maybe 500+ sponsors, and it was all, of course, volunteer-based. Some of these conversations that we have on a daily basis with youth are around food justice. I think we need to understand that not everyone has a Whole Foods or a Trader Joe’s around the corner. Some people don’t have grocery stores around the corner. When we do workshops, we talk about food justice. One thing that I’m learning as well from other people, people of color that do food justice work, is the whole concept of a food desert. A food desert is a problematic corporate term to say that there’s nothing here, so we can create a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods or a co-op. Not to say that there is something beautiful here. What we have here is a park or a space that can be turned into and be owned by the local people. This idea of food justice is really developing and becoming very complicated, and it’s really nice because there is spaces to talk about veganism around racial justice and economic justice. I talk to people all over the country and I do tours and stuff. When I do, I talk to them about youth justice and food justice. This is where I’ll wrap up. I do workshops in detention centers. The whole eight-hour youth justice workshop, and it’s really exciting and we do all these things, and at the very end, the kids get to choose the food that they want. They can choose anything they want. They get to have some freedom, being locked up. Some of them are going to be locked up for the rest of their lives. Some of them are going to do ten years or a year. If I can give them that opportunity of freedom, right? So then what do I do? I have the choice to be the very strict vegan and say, “You only are going to have tofu pizza,” which they probably won’t eat. Or do I say, “Choose what you want,” and then later, when I’m eating my salad, they get to say, “Why are you eating salad?” and then I ordered pizza and pepperoni for them. It’s a very difficult conversation, but it’s a conversation to talk about injustices and oppression. But while I’m on the outside, when we do picnics and gatherings in the community at local parks, which we do a few times a month, of course most of the food there and all the food that I bring is vegan. Why, because the youth that come from the outside are there on their own voluntary will and they don’t have to eat this because they can go home ten seconds later and eat whatever they want.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. It’s very compassionate of you and clever, at the same time.
Anthony Nocella: I do get that, just to notice that it’s a complicated issue that I get a lot of pushback on within this particular animal advocacy movement, if that makes sense. I’m sure you understand.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, I do. Well Anthony, we could talk about this all day. I just want to point my listeners to your website. There’s criticalanimalstudies.org, your personal website anthonynocella.org, and I’ve got to start reading some of your books. Look forward to the new one coming out.
Anthony Nocella: Keep up the great project. Of course, you’re having a wonderful next interview with a great person from the Food Empowerment Network.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, thank you. Okay, take care, Anthony.
Anthony Nocella: Take care, bye-bye.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, before we take a quick break, I just wanted to mention at my nonprofit, responsibleeatingandliving.org, we just put up a new trailer for our documentary that’s coming out in a week, The Lone Vegan: Preaching to the Fire. If you can go to the website, it’s just forty seconds, and you can watch it, I hope you will and let me know what you think. Okay, let’s take a quick break.
Transcribed by JC, 6/25/2014; edited by Johanna Bronner, 7/10/2014