Australia Day shows up in most people’s calendar as a public holiday, so the tendency to celebrate the day with friends and fun is understandable. However, 26 January marks the anniversary of the First Fleet’s arrival in Sydney Cove and the beginning of the dispossession of Indigenous people from their land, along with violence, invasion, genocide, and massacres.
As activists fighting against speciesism, we believe in empathy and compassion for all living, feeling beings – including humans. As such, 26 January is a time to show our support for Australia’s First Nations.
A System of Injustice
Along with campaigning to change the insensitive date chosen for our country’s national day, activists are also fighting the systemic problems rooted in the Australian justice system.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men are 14.7 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous men. For women, the statistic is 21.2 times more likely. Indigenous Australians form 38% of Australia’s prison population but are less than 4% of Australia’s total population. They are six times more likely to die in custody than non-Indigenous people.
Clearly, the Black Lives Matter movement is as much an issue here as it is in America. The Black Lives Matter movement calls for “an end to the systemic racism that allows this culture of corruption to go unchecked and our lives to be taken.”
This call for an end to unjust oppression is a message that should resonate with every single person pushing for animal rights.
Cause for Consideration, Not Celebration
Those involved in the animal rights movement know all too well how frustrating it is when people scoff at our message, even though we’re armed with evidence of blatant injustice. Imagine if, instead of listening to you, your friends took off and threw a party.
Think how infuriating it is when videos of mother cows crying out for their stolen calves fall on deaf ears. Consider the frustration we feel when individuals try to justify the abuse by workers who punch and mutilate sheep for wool or when vile commenters laugh at our Facebook posts calling for action, help, and compassion.
We Know the Unfair Justice System Well
How many times have we seen obvious cruelty go unpunished in the animal rights movement? Let’s remember that hurt – that grief over the failure of the judicial system – and relate to the way First Nations people must feel when those in power try to avoid or twist the narrative around Australia’s history, the killing of Indigenous people, and the stealing of their land.
And please, resist detracting from the thrust of any Black Lives Matter demonstrations with an “all lives matter” perspective.
The idea may come from a compassionate heart – and the idea is true – but this phrase has been weaponised to delegitimise the Black Lives Matter movement.
As an animal rights supporter, you know how frustrating it is when someone asks, “How can you care about animals when children are going hungry?” It is not either/or. But when you’re demonstrating against acts like mulesing in the wool industry or slaughtering crocodiles for handbags, you’re talking about very specific lives. That focus needs to be maintained in this case as well.
Fellow animal liberators, we know the power of standing up for what’s right. Everyone has a moral responsibly to stand against hate and violence – no matter who the victims may be.