Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni
Premium Journalist
3 minute read
7 Jun 2018
8:30 am

When activists display their bigotry

Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni

One peculiarity is the proponents of animal activism who vary from die-hard animal lovers who just want to lend a hand, to outright racists.

It is easy to hide your prejudices behind a virtuous and noble cause – and examples of this in modern SA are a microcosm of a phenomenon seen across the world. In the same way that a feminist can use a real struggle to spew hatred and bigotry on social media under the guise of activism, there are people whose “social justice warrior” personas need closer inspection – and it really isn’t that hard to figure out.

One peculiar kind of activism that needs a magnifying glass is animal activism and how its proponents vary from die-hard animal lovers who just want to lend a hand, to outright racists. Many are hiding behind their “do-gooder” guise to impose their prejudiced dogma on people whose confirmation bias precludes them from seeing the real message behind such slogans as “rescue a township dog today”.

The idea that any township, where the bulk of black people in urban areas live, is automatically a hotbed of animal abuse incomparable to that of the suburbs, is a completely baseless one.

It is as fictional as AfriForum’s yearly cryfest over “pandemic’ levels of attacks on white farmers, or, as Fox News says, “white genocide”.

Dog fighting, random attacks and abuse of family pets or the abusive use of dogs as guard dogs in businesses that close overnight is as prevalent in former “white” areas such as Krugersdorp, Benoni, Meyerton and parts of the south of Johannesburg as it is in townships – if not more so in some instances.

The other effect of demonising townships as places where animals are less safe than anywhere else, is that it demonises the people who live in townships – people who these animal activists happily dehumanise to further their cause.

Some of you might be shocked, but just in the sea of black nameless faces you call Soweto, there are hundreds of people who go out of their way to care for animals. Some take money out of their own pocket to help other animal owners take care of them.

That the narrative you are most accustomed to is a white saviour swooping in to rescue abandoned dogs and cats in squatter camps is no accident, I believe.

“Save a dog locked up in a white-owned factory in Industria” does not sound as sexy on a poster.

Animal activists are using poor black people as their villains in their saviour-complex fuelled story. Much like black poachers are the satisfyingly evil villains in the rhino poaching saga – but that is a story for another day.

In the past two weeks, I have encountered at least two animal shelters that do not allow people who live in a township, whether their property meets the criteria or not, to adopt a pet.

That is simply because stereotypes in this activist community are accepted as facts and, I suspect, it is an extremely convenient way to practice your racism in peace.

They have taken away hate speech and many forms of discrimination, and this corner of society is grasping onto its last hope for sticking it to the blacks.

I am not saying this should be policed, because racists love nothing more than an opportunity to become a victim.

I just want people to start seeing some of these usurpers for who they are.

There are good people in this field and there are a powerful few who are ruining animal activism with their bigotry.

Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni.

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