It has not gone unnoticed that the ruffians who comprise the various Antifa groups (short for ‘Anti-fascists’) look strikingly like fascists. They turn up at town centres or city squares to scream abuse at pro-lifers, or they physically attack supporters of some ‘hate-speaker’ at a university (who has likely made some shocking remark about men not being able to become women), or they assist their BLM allies in smashing shop windows and vandalising public statues. Members of Antifa wear black paramilitary outfits and balaclavas and are frequently found to carry batons or metal pipes. They are, in all essential things, a sort of militia of largely untraceable thugs who use verbal abuse and violence to terrify into silence anyone with whom they have certain ideological differences—for the purpose of establishing social uniformity. Thus, on closer inspection, it becomes clear that these people don’t merely look like fascists; they are fascists.
The British countryside has its own paramilitary fascists. Like Antifa, they wear black paramilitary clothing and balaclavas and deploy threats and violence to frighten those with whom they disagree. They call themselves ‘hunt saboteurs’ because they oppose hunting with hounds. The way they oppose hunting is simple: they terrorise rural communities that are trying to conserve their way of life and walk the tightrope of managing the countryside in the face of badly written regulations. At the beginning of August of this year, five such thugs were convicted at Loughborough Magistrates Court for verbally abusing and punching a girl, aged 15, and two men aged 61 and 52, who were following a trail hunt in Leicestershire last Season.
The paramilitary gang, always dressed in black with balaclavas, that was involved in this particular incident is especially notorious. Outfitted as terrorists, they have been intimidating rural communities across the North West, North Wales, and the West Midlands for years, resorting both to verbal and physical abuse at the first opportunity. In 2019, the same gang entered the property of a young couple with two children—a family who did not even have any connection with the local hunt. When the mother asked the men to remove their balaclavas and leave her property, they told her to “f*** off.” As the brave mother said to their faces, these thugs are not from the countryside, they have no understanding of countryside life and rural management, and they simply want to cause trouble. In the same year, this gang’s leader had already been convicted for assaulting a huntsman.
The connection between anti-hunting attitudes and fascism may, in fact, be a deep one. The recent prosecution of these roaming thugs reminded me of an argument developed by a fellow philosopher friend of mine that demonstrates, as he put it, the “logical link between ‘moral vegetarianism’ and Nazism.”
The argument begins as follows. Humans are natural omnivores. That is difficult to deny. We have the jaw structure and teeth to masticate meat, we assimilate it well, there is much nutrition that we cannot enjoy otherwise (unless by artificially supplementing), and we—apart from some very rare aberrations—love the taste of it. This is not simply a Western phenomenon. Man, instantiated in his various cultures and communities, universally loves meat.
We are naturally omnivorous. Let’s agree on that. If one chooses not to eat meat, then, it will invariably be for one of three reasons. Either one is a rare case and simply doesn’t like the taste of meat, or one is squeamish and doesn’t like the thought of eating meat, or one deems it immoral to eat animals. Here, we are only concerned with the third sort of person—the ‘moral vegetarian.’ (There is the recent emergence of the vegetarian or vegan who opts for such a diet for environmental reasons but, as we shall see, such a person is in fact covered by the third category). The moral vegetarian does not eat meat despite his omnivorous nature. He thinks that, whilst we might naturally eat meat, a moral principle compels us to do otherwise.
But if humans ought to be vegetarian on moral grounds, despite their omnivorous nature, then presumably all meat-eating animals should also stick to a vegetarian diet—despite their natures. One might reply that whilst humans can choose not to eat meat, that kind of agency, as well as awareness of the moral imperative that compels us to be vegetarian despite our penchant for eating animals, cannot be expected of a lion, for example. But this won’t hold. A lack of awareness of a moral imperative may diminish—or even remove altogether—the culpability of the agent, but those who are aware of the imperative have an obligation to prevent the agent from acting contrary to the imperative. Take, for example, someone who is about to reverse his vehicle over another person whom he doesn’t see because that person is crouching down; the driver may not be culpable for reversing over the person whom he cannot see, but the by-standers who witness the event are gravely culpable if they don’t do all they can to prevent the driver from reversing over the crouching person whom they do see.
Lions may not be blameworthy for eating springbok, then, but we are blameworthy for not preventing lions from eating springbok and for not compelling them to adopt a vegetarian-only diet. Indeed, such a view isn’t completely eccentric, given that large numbers of urban cat-owners compel their captive creatures to join them in their vegan and vegetarian diets—on moral grounds, I should add—and there are many brands on the market offering such foods (if, indeed, it can be called food).
If we bear such guilt, at least by omission, for not spending all our time running around the savannah trying to intervene in the hunt of the pride and steer lions away from springbok and onto some Beyond Meat gloop, by what reasoning may we absolve ourselves?
This is where the ‘nature’s cycle’ account of meat consumption comes in. Whilst in a better, purer world, meat would not be consumed by any animal, it is claimed, as things stand if predators did not eat meat, then the natural culling process would come to an end. The world would then be overrun by prey animals. That, of course, would have a devastating effect on vegetation, which would then lead to the very extinction of those prey animals. Thus, whilst the moral law, as understood by moral vegetarians, would have all animals abandon the consumption of other animals, certain practical considerations require us to permit the killing of animals by animals for the sake of population control.
If, however, animals should be able to kill animals for reasons of population control despite the moral imperative to do otherwise, then surely humans are bound by the same principle. Hence, whilst killing is wrong, and certainly killing for food is very wrong indeed, killing for the sake of population management is—in this less than perfect world—acceptable. Humans, who have no natural predator in the animal kingdom, are surely not exempted from this norm. Humans must, then, be subjected to various population control programmes. These programmes might even necessitate the killing of certain individuals or groups for the ‘flourishing of the species.’ Thus, moral vegetarianism and its more radical offspring, veganism, plausibly lead to something resembling Nazism.
This was, in any case, the argument of my friend. I won’t name him, because moral vegetarians and vegans are not known for their ability to listen dispassionately to an opposing viewpoint—the ramifications could be, ahem, fascistic. Whatever the merits or demerits of my friend’s argument, it has certainly been somewhat strengthened by the opinions of Peter Singer, Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. A very vocal animal-rights campaigner and promoter of veganism, whose sentimentalism towards animals goes so far as to support bestiality, Singer has also argued at length for the killing of children, the disabled, and the elderly.
Now… back to those fascists who prowl the English countryside looking for rural folk to beat up while such persons try quietly to manage the landscape for which they’ve cared for generations. These thugs, in fact, stand in a long and well-established tradition of Nazi vegetarians. Of course, I am fully aware that there is a popular and very lazy habit of calling your ideological opponents ‘Nazis’—the reductio ad Hitlerum—but in this case, it’s actually true.
Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian explicitly on moral grounds, deeming the consumption of animals to be cruel and barbaric. The first country in the world to outlaw hunting with hounds was Nazi Germany in 1934. The Nazi regime proceeded to introduce animal welfare laws which were unparalleled at the time. The Nazi architect, Albert Speer, in his memoirs Inside the Third Reich, describes Hitler’s recourse to vivid and gruesome descriptions of animal suffering and slaughter in attempts to dissuade his colleagues from eating meat. Chief Nazi propogandist, Josef Goebbels, wrote in his diary:
The Führer… believes more than ever that meat-eating is harmful to humanity. Of course, he knows that during the war we cannot completely upset our food system. After the war, however, he intends to tackle this problem also. Maybe he is right. Certainly, the arguments that he adduces in favour of his standpoint are very compelling.
Hitler was keen to promote the self-image of an animal-lover. Neugeist/Die Weisse Fahne, a children’s Nazi magazine that was popular during Hitler’s dictatorship, printed the following:
Do you know that your Führer is a vegetarian, and that he does not eat meat because of his general attitude toward life and his love for the world of animals? Do you know that your Führer is an exemplary friend of animals, and even as a chancellor, he is not separated from the animals he has kept for years?… The Führer is an ardent opponent of any torture of animals, in particular vivisection, and has declared to terminate those conditions… thus fulfilling his role as the saviour of animals, from continuous and nameless torments and pain.
Hitler, an early proponent of ‘animals rights theory,’ a moral theory that I have argued elsewhere is completely untenable (notwithstanding its widespread recognition), frequently and openly expressed his distress at stories or pictures of animal suffering.
This may seem strange to many. How could a man who authorised the murder of millions of people, and sanctioned the most horrendous experiments on human beings, be so sensitive to animal suffering? Well, I don’t find such characteristics contradictory at all.
It was foreseeable that moral vegetarianism would rise in an age of counterfeit virtue, in which we’re all seeking for ways to confirm that we’re really ‘good people’ whilst avoiding the hard work of self-sacrifice for the sake of our neighbour. Sentimentalism directed at animals, creatures that demand no moral growth from you and will never call you to account, is the perfect counterfeit virtue. One can enjoy all the feelings of righteousness and do nothing beyond sticking to greens. Meanwhile, one is emancipated from cultivating any real virtue as one’s misanthropy is a part of one’s counterfeit virtue. Nazism, incidentally, is an entire system of counterfeit virtue.
Sentimentalism towards animals developed together with misanthropy from the moment we began our technological departure from the natural world in the modern age. As another friend of mine put it recently, if you treat animals like humans, you will treat humans like they’re just animals. “Wherever there is animal worship,” G.K. Chesterton noted, “there is human sacrifice.”
Sebastian Morello is a lecturer, public speaker, and columnist. Trained by Sir Roger Scruton, he has published books on philosophy, history, and education. He lives in Bedfordshire, England, with his wife and children. He is essays editor of The European Conservative.