By Jon Hochschartner, Species and Class, August 9, 2014
|Jess Spear, Socialist Alternative candidate for Washington State House|
Jess Spear is the Socialist Alternative candidate for the Washington State House in the 43rd district. An ally of Kshama Sawant, who was recently elected to the Seattle City Council on the same party line, Spear exemplifies a new generation of far-left electoralism, the likes of which has not been seen in quite a while. She recently agreed to an interview with Species and Class in which she discussed her views on non-human exploitation.
Species and Class: Why should those concerned by the treatment of animals vote for you?
Jess Spear: We are facing an environmental catastrophe that threatens every animal on this planet, and has already wiped out thousands of species. Politics as usual is working great for these mega-corporations, but it’s not working for working people or non-human animals.
Those concerned by the treatment of animals should vote for me because I stand in solidarity with them and their struggle to end the needless suffering of animals exacerbated under the economic system we live under —capitalism — that sacrifices everything on the altar of profit. Animal exploitation, environmental destruction, and human suffering are the very reasons I am a socialist fighting for a more just, equitable, and sustainable world.
My opponent, Frank Chopp, takes money from corporations destroying our environment, causing human deaths, and instigating a mass extinction —notably BP Oil. He represents corporations, not people. I take no money from corporations.
SC: Does Socialist Alternative have any official position on animal exploitation of any kind? If not, is this something you would like to change?
JS: As socialists, we see the incredible damage that capitalism has caused to our environment as a byproduct of the profit motive. Oil companies pollute with impunity and are the most profitable corporations in the world. Farms exist not to provide high quality food, nutrition, and jobs to society, but to make the maximum profit for private companies and Monsanto.
Socialist Alternative is primarily focused on human liberation. We stand for democratic socialism, which is the organization of society focused on meeting human need and environmental sustainability, not profit. Through the democratic planning of society we can achieve a world where humans and non-humans alike are treated with kindness and respect. Society has the technology, talent, and resources to realize this goal.
To end animal suffering, we must first work to build the power of the working class, fight for better living standards and reforms, and ultimately usher in a more just, equitable, and sustainable world. We stand with animal rights activists who are fighting this system and pointing out the terrible impact the profit motive has on all life on this planet.
SC: What public policy proposals, that you could take action on, would you support for animals if voted to the Washington state house?
JS: I would support legislation that mitigates the suffering of animals. We would call for:
— End the tax breaks and incentives for large factory farms, and bring them into public ownership under democratic control with compensation to the former owners on proven need.
— Invest in community controlled, publicly owned farms, or a network there of, to provide basic nutritious food for low cost or free, run by the city, state, and community.
— End the use of known and suspected poisons and carcinogens in food products, on animals, and humans until proven safe!
— No gag laws to stop whistle blowers!
— Access to high quality food is a right, not a privilege of wealth. Working people should have the right to know, and a say in how our food is grown, the environmental impact of the process, and the treatment of animals and humans involved in the process.
SC: For you, how, if at all, are the fights for socialism and better treatment for animals intertwined?
JS: Socialists see the economic system we live under, capitalism, as dysfunctional and completely unable to meet the needs of humans and the environment that sustains us (including animals). The struggle for more humane treatment of animals arises from the same core of human empathy that stirs one to speak out against, and act to stop, human suffering.
The suffering of animals and humans alike is unnecessary. We now have the technology and resources to provide a high standard of living for all on the planet — quality food, clean water and sanitation, decent housing, education, healthcare, and purposeful occupations — without causing needless animal suffering. But, the application and sharing of scientific innovations and technology necessary to provide this standard of living is held back by capitalism.
Capitalism depends on exploitation of all kinds and of many species, with the few ruling the many for the benefit of the few and to the detriment of the many. We strive to build working-class power through mass movements, whereby working people realize their inherent power as a class and wield that power to overturn this system and replace it with one of equality and cooperation.
A society where the economy is democratically run opens the possibility to enjoy the bounties of the world in a way that does not exploit our non-human brothers and sisters. Under capitalism, exploitation of both of humans and non-humans, is unavoidable. It is the only way to secure increasing profits. It is why we live in the richest country in the world, yet so many abhorrent practices towards animals by corporations like Tyson are protected from scrutiny and carry on their exploitation in secret. They know that peoplewould not approve of what they did, which shows that people fundamentally and overwhelmingly do not want to take part in this exploitation.
Under capitalism, however, most people have no choice. Wages for most people are so low that they are barely scraping by. When you are making poverty wages and trying to keep your family alive, you don’t have the luxury to turn down a 99-cent hamburger, no matter how it was made. People eat at places like McDonalds overwhelmingly for the same reason they shop at Wal-Mart: they have no other choice. Under this system, the ability to shop with a conscience is a luxury that most cannot afford. Until we cast off the tyrannical shackles of economic oppression under capitalism, we cannot make any significant headway to change the way animals are treated. Once the exploited workers of the world are free from exploitation, we will have the liberty to move on to ending animal suffering.