Activists boycott a bank, but all money is dirty
Members of a South Florida animal activism group have called for a boycott against a bank who has loaned heaps of money to fund primate importers. Their outrage is understood, but their activism efforts are misplaced.
Broward Palm Beach New Times reports on Smash HLS, a group known for highlighting single issue campaigns and using controversial demonstrations to combat animal exploiters, is mad at Landmark Bank. The Fort Lauderdale-banking company has thrown their support behind Worldwide Primates to the tune of 4 million dollars. Worldwide Primate might sound like a friendly bunch, but they are responsible for supplying monkeys to government, university and pharmaceutical facilities. I agree completely that what they’re doing is wrong and that the banks donations are as good as direct participation in the exploitation of these animals. But I don’t agree that this exploitation is worse than others, or that a boycott will help.
This isn’t the first time Smash HLS has attempted to take down Worldwide Primates, they’ve proudly held protests at the home of it’s founder, his girlfriend, and his elderly mum. By successfully challenging Amerijet and Monarch Air Group in 2011 and getting them to stop transporting monkeys, I’m not surprised they’ve continued on this misguided path.
Here’s what I feel the people of Smash HLS are missing; banks have a hand in loans and subsidies that harm countless animals. Private sector businesses, government business enterprises, and consumers are all to blame for animal exploitation thanks to the dollars that banks provide them. What about grants and financing to businesses that aren’t vegan? What about the government’s subsidies to the dairy and meat industries that our taxes allow? We’re busy looking at the people who provide the service and not those demanding it. Boycotting a bank will hurt that bank, but exploiters will be able to continue what they’re doing with the help of others. And the system of exploitation remains in place, unchanged at large.
Apart from renouncing the modern North American system of money (and perhaps introducing a vegan cookie currency), the most logical and effective way to impart change is not with boycotts, it’s with vegan education. Smash HLS is like many animal rights organizations in highlighting donations over education, but I think they need to change to advocate that going vegan is the first thing people who care for animals can do. Yup, even if the only animal they care about is monkeys. Vegans don’t want monkey’s in their classrooms or labs, and enough vegans would mean Worldwide Primate won’t have customers. That’s more important than who helps fund them because if it’s not Landmark Bank, it’ll be someone else.
Further, when we share outrage over these monkeys and not the billions spent on other exploitive animal agriculture, the message is that some animals matter more morally than others, or are more deserving of our action. That’s not true, and more effective than storing all of our money in boxes under our beds is going vegan and using our voices to help others go vegan, too.