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[animallibpress] X To Whom it may Concern X, By Walter Bond

Posted in animal liberation, animal rights, veganism with tags , , , , , , on December 12, 2010 by carmen4thepets

 

 

 

 

X To Whom it may Concern X
By Walter Bond

 


 

From Golden, Colorado jail
December 10, 2010

I was raised in a household of drug and alcohol abuse. My biological father, Mark Zuehlke, was a Vietnam vet that came back from the war and got heavy into cocaine, amphetamines and outlaw biker gangs. My mother Minerva Marie Montanzo Domench was raised in Ford Apache, Bronx and born in Puerto Rico. Their marriage produced three children, me being the youngest. My biological parents divorced when I was 12 months old. Some years later, Mark was sent to federal prison for his involvement in one of the largest cocaine/meth busts in Iowa history. I met him for the first time with I was a young man. I traveled to Yankton, South Dakota to the federal prison and visited Mark there. It is my opinion to this day that he was a deadbeat dad, a liar and a scumbag.

My two full blooded brothers, Guthrie and Trapper, were raised by our biological father and I was raised by our biological mother. It has always been unclear to me why they split us up this way, as it was arranged by my parents out of court. In any event, my mother remarried the man who became my adopted father. James Bond married my mother in 1984 at which time he adopted me and my last name was legally changed to Bond. I was in diapers when they began dating and he has been the only father I’ve ever known.

He, unlike Mark, was a good man. But he was a good man with a bad problem. My father (James Bond) was terribly addicted to alcohol. My parents soon divorced when I was ten years old and my mother and I moved to Denver, Colorado to be near her family. By the ripe old age of 12, I was smoking weed with my mother and doing drugs with my “friends”. Although I have my G.E.D. (which I received the last time I was in prison), I never made it past the 8th grade. Going to class was far less interesting than getting wasted. I met other kids like me. Friends with broken homes and druggie parents. Biker kids. Punk rock kids. Nerds, geeks and the throwaways.

It was the late 80’s and bands like Agnostic Front and Sick of it All were carving out a new style of music called “Crossover”. It was a combo of punk and metal. I fell in love! The aggression and angst were all accompanied with a message. A message I could relate to.

Then I heard straight-edge music and I was hooked (on the music, and drugs). Here was music that was even tighter, the hooks were more rhythmic and it professed ethics I just knew deep down were right. Bands such as Gorilla Biscuits, Youth of Today and Uniform Choice not only changed my life, they saved my life. By the age of 18, my mom had remarried. While I had an affinity for straight-edge and the drug-free lifestyle, I refused to go to school or do much of anything – besides play drums for my band “Defiance of Authority” and play hacky sack with my friends. My mother’s answer to my behavior was to move away to the Pacific Northwest with husband number 3. At that time, we lived in the mountains of Woodland Park, Colorado. I came home from spending the night at a friend’s house to find nothing but furniture marks on the floor. I did not see my mother again for 7 years.

At 18 years old without an education or job, I went back to Iowa to stay with my father. In Iowa I learned to work and work hard. Not only because my father does not tolerate laziness but also because socially, in Iowa, if you are not a hard worker than you are looked down upon. To excel at your work in the Midwest is part of the fabric of your everyday life.

By this time it was well into the 90’s and two polar extremes were very apparent in my life. On one hand the straight-edge scene was huge. A new sound had hit and hit hard. Bands like Earth Crisis, Strife, and Snapcase were leading the way and it was an amazing time to wear an ‘X’ on your hand. Back then, straight-edge was more than just a “personal choice”. It was seriously attempting to stand against drug culture. On the other hand, I had recently met and started getting to know my brother, Trapper. He was hooked on meth. I had never had a brother before and I loved him with all my heart. I loved him blindly. He would steal from me and I would ignore it. He would lie straight into my face and I would excuse it. My brother was always a master and genius at sensing a person’s emotional vulnerability and using it to his maximum advantage. Along with Trapper, nearly everyone I had known from Elementary School was either hooked on meth, dealing it, or both. I was fed up. At this point in my life I had been through so much because of other people’s (and my own) drug use that I took drastic measures and attacked the source of all this insanity. The dealers themselves. As most know, I attacked with fire the biggest meth dealer in my town.

The four years I spent in prison was without any support from the straight-edge scene or anyone else. For purposes on self-preservation, most people that truly did know me distanced themselves, as expected, not wanting to become a target of persecution as well. I worked in the prison laundry room for $1.10 a day. That was the extent of my funds. I was also vegan at that time and had been for year before my arrest. Luckily the prison system was just beginning to offer a vegan diet albeit reluctantly. I got X’s and V’s tattooed on my hands while incarcerated to pledge myself to the drug free lifestyle forever. As a prisoner, they can take everything from you except what’s in your heart and your tattoos.

When I got out of prison I found that the 90’s were over. The edge kids from the 90’s that I knew had given it up. Everybody was ‘really concerned’ about me and ‘just about to write a letter’. Suffice it to say, I was pissed off. I distanced myself from the people and the music. For years I was bitter. To me, straight-edge was very personal, life-changing and serious. Fighting against drug dealers had landed me in prison with a permanent felony record, not to mention more than one fist fight.

As the years went by, veganism and animal liberation became the focus of my life. I tried reconnecting with the younger generation of straight-edge and teach them the importance of veganism and standing up against drug culture. But with most, apathy is king. Apparently, the bulk of the straight-edge scene is about collecting records and keeping it to yourself. That and politics, politics, politics. Instead of the primary focus being on animal liberation or drug-free living, it seems that half of straight-edge is about being a Christian, Right-wing American Patriot that resemble a bunch of clean-cut cops with tattoos. Bullying people at hardcore shows and staying dedicated to the “boys only” mentality. While the other half are wanna-be Beatnik, Bohemian anarchists that go ten steps out of their way to be offended about everything, but won’t do anything except philosophize and try to squeeze the words “patriarchal” and “heteronormative” into as many conversations as possible.

I would prefer to not be so divisive as to demand that everyone adhere to my checklist of political views and believe me, I have them. But idealism and reality are not always going to meet. For instance, I have already met people in county jail whose company I enjoy. People that make me laugh. People with dynamic personalities. I am not going to deny their camaraderie just because we differ. Just like how most vegans or straight-edge people are not going to disown their parents for drinking milk or smoking cigarettes.

Presently, I am facing the trials of my life, quite literally. This time I am happy to say that many people from around the world write me often, which brings more joy to my heart than I can express. It’s awesome to know that I am not alone. But once again, I feel nothing but scrutiny and unresponsiveness from the straight-edge community. However, this time I am not in the mood. I will live my life drug-free for the rest of my life and will not ‘break edge’ as they say. But I am through with “the scene” because it has become a fashion show and politically pretentious joke. My people, my family, my sphere of concern outside of our Mother Earth and her Animal Nations is primarily for those that are moved by animal liberation and biocentrism. I have sacrificed my freedom every bit as much for the straight-edge as I have for animal rights. Outside of the best band on the planet (Earth Crisis) making a video about me (which isn’t a community supporting me, but the vanguards of it) I have received nothing but bullshit from straight-edge people, then and now.

I regret fighting so hard for a group of posers and pretentious gossip hounds, my trust isn’t free anymore. I will always have respect for those within straight-edge that use it as a foundation for militant and positive change. The rest of you mean nothing to me.

P.S. My father has been a recovering alcoholic and sober for a decade now and my mom lives in the Alaskan wilderness and is as feral and free as she ever was.

——————————————————————————

Write Bond letters of prisoner support at:

Walter Bond  # P01051760
PO Box 16700
Golden, CO 80402-6700

Walter Bond is facing federal arson charges for his alleged role as an ALF operative known as “Lone Wolf”. “Lone Wolf” took credit for three different arsons throughout the Spring and Summer of 2010 in Denver and Salt Lake City: The Skeepskin Factory, a store selling furs and pelts; Tandy Leather Store; and Tiburon, a restaurant serving foie gras.

Walter’s brother alerted the FBI and the ATF about his suspicions that his brother, Walter, was behind the attacks. While Walter was visiting Denver in July 2010, his brother helped participate in a sting operation, allegedly wearing a wire and helping procure audio evidence against Walter. Walter was arrested in Denver and is now being held in the Jefferson County Jail in Golden, Colorado awaiting trial.

Walter has been a dedicated animal rights activist and anarchist for several decades and has struggled for animal liberation and against a deadly and genocidal culture of drug abuse in the United States. Walter was the subject of a song by the vegan straight edge band Earth Crisis. The band’s song “To Ashes” was inspired by Bond’s 1998 prison sentence for arson. Bond was convicted of burning down a meth lab owned by a drug dealer who was selling to his brother.



Contact: (818) 227-5022
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6320 Canoga Avenue #1500
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www.animalliberationpressoffice.org
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Animal Liberation, Human Liberation and the Future of the Left

Posted in animal liberation, holocaust, speciesism with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2010 by carmen4thepets

by Dr.Steve Best

IT SEEMS LOST on most of the global anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist Left that there is a new liberation movement on the planet —animal liberation— that is of immense ethical and political significance. But because animal liberation challenges the anthropocentric, speciesist, and humanist dogmas that are so deeply entrenched in socialist and anarchist thinking and traditions, Leftists are more likely to mock than engage it.

For the last three decades, the animal liberation movement (ALM) has been one of the most dynamic and important political forces on the planet. Where “new social movements” such as Black Liberation, Native American, feminism, chicano/a, and various forms of Green and identity politics have laid dormant or become co-opted, the animal liberation movement has kept radical resistance alive and has steadily grown in numbers and strength.

Unlike animal welfare approaches that lobby for the amelioration of animal suffering, the ALM demands the total abolition of all forms of animal exploitation. Seeking empty cages not bigger cages, the ALM is the major anti-slavery and abolitionist movement of the present day, one with strong parallels to its 19th century predecessor struggling to end the slavery of African-Americans in the US. As a major expression of the worldwide ALM, the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) has cost exploitation industries hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage and has decommissioned numerous animal exploiters through raids and sabotage. The FBI has demonized the ALF (along with the Earth Liberation Front [ELF]) as the top “domestic terrorist” group in the US, and the ALM in general is a principal target of draconian “anti-terrorist” legislation in US and the UK.

Operating on a global level —from the UK, US, and Germany to France, Norway, and Russia— the ALM attacks not only the ideologies of capitalism that promote growth, profit, and commodification, but the property system itself with hammers and Molotov cocktails. Fully aware of the realities of the corporate-state complex, the ALM breaks with the fictions of representative democracy to undertake illegal direct action for animals held captive in fur farms, factory farms, experimental laboratories, and other gruesome hell holes where billions of animals die each year.

Since the fates of all species on this planet are intricately interrelated, the exploitation of animals cannot but have a major impact on the human world itself.[1] When human beings exterminate animals, they devastate habitats and ecosystems necessary for their own lives. When they butcher farmed animals by the billions, they ravage rainforests, turn grasslands into deserts, exacerbate global warming, and spew toxic wastes into the environment. When they construct a global system of factory farming that requires prodigious amounts of land, water, energy, and crops, they squander vital resources and aggravate the problem of world hunger. When humans are violent toward animals, they often are violent toward one another, a tragic truism validated time and time again by serial killers who grow up abusing animals and violent men who beat the women, children, and animals of their home. The connections go far deeper, as evident if one examines the scholarship on the conceptual and technological relations between the domestication of animals at the dawn of agricultural society and the emergence of patriarchy, state power, slavery, and hierarchy and domination of all kinds.

In countless ways, the exploitation of animals rebounds to create crises within the human world itself. The vicious circle of violence and destruction can end only if and when the human species learns to form harmonious relations —non-hierarchical and non-exploitative— with other animal species and the natural world. Human, animal, and earth liberation are interrelated projects that must be fought for as one. .

This essay asserts the need for more expansive visions and politics on both sides of the human/animal liberation equation, as it calls for new forms of dialogue, learning, and strategic alliances. Each movement has much to learn from the other. In addition to gaining new insights into the dynamics of hierarchy, domination, and environmental destruction from animal rights perspectives, Leftists should grasp the gross inconsistency of advocating values such as peace, non-violence, compassion, justice, and equality while exploiting animals in their everyday lives, promoting speciesist ideologies, and ignoring the ongoing holocaust against other species that gravely threatens the entire planet. Conversely, the animal rights community generally (apart from the ALM) is politically naive, single-issue oriented, and devoid of a systemic anti-capitalist theory and politics necessary for the true illumination and elimination of animal exploitation, areas where it can profit great from discussions with the Left.

Thus, I attempt to demonstrate the importance of rethinking human and animal liberation movements in light of each other, suggesting ways this might proceed. The domination of humans, animals, and the earth stem from the same power pathology of hierarchy and instrumentalism, such as can only be fully revealed and transformed by a multiperspectival theory and alliance politics broader and deeper than anything yet created. I begin with some basic historical and sociological background of the AAM, and show how the Left traditionally has responded to animal advocacy issues. I then engage the views of Takis Fotopoulos, the founder of Inclusive Democracy, and conclude with a call for mutual dialogue and learning among animal and human liberationists. .

The Diversity of the Animal Advocacy Movement

The ALM is only part, by far still the smallest part, of a growing social movement for the protection of animals I call the animal advocacy movement (AAM). The AAM has three major different (and sharply conflicting) tendencies: animal welfare, animal rights, and animal liberation. The AAM movement had humble welfarist beginnings in the early 19th century with the founding of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in Britain and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in the US.[2]

Welfare organizations thereafter spread widely throughout these and other Western countries, addressing virtually every form of animal abuse. The goal of welfare organizations, however, has never been eliminating the institutions that exploit animals – be they research laboratories, factory farms, slaughterhouses, fur farms, or circuses and rodeos – but rather reducing or ameliorating animal suffering within such violent and repressive structures. Welfarists acknowledge that animals have interests, but they believe these can be legitimately sacrificed or traded away if there is some overridingly compelling human interest at stake (which invariably is never too trivial to defend against substantive animal interests). Welfarists simply believe that animals should not be caused “unnecessary” pain, and hold that any harm or death inflicted on them must be done “humanely.”[3]

In bold contrast, animal rights advocates reject the utilitarian premises of welfarism that allows the happiness, freedom, and lives of animals to be sacrificed to some alleged greater human need or purpose. The philosophy of animal rights did not emerge in significant form until the publication of Tom Regan’s seminal work, The Case for Animal Rights (1983). According to Regan and other animal rights theorists, a basic moral equality exists among human and nonhuman animals in that they are sentient, and therefore have significant interests and preferences (such as not to feel pain) that should be protected and respected.

Moreover, Regan argues, many animal species (chimpanzees, dolphins, cats, dogs, etc.) are akin to humans by having the type of cognitive characteristics that make them “subjects of a life,” whereby they have complex mental abilities that include memory, self-consciousness, and the ability to conceive of a future. Arguments that only humans have rights because they are the only animals that have reason and language, besides being factually wrong, are completely irrelevant as sentience is a necessary and sufficient condition for having rights.

Sharply opposed to the welfarist philosophies of the mainstream AAM and utilitarian philosophers like Peter Singer, proponents of animal rights argue that the intrinsic value and basic rights of animals cannot be trumped by any appeal to an alleged greater (human) good. Animals’ interests cannot be sacrificed no matter what good consequence may result (such as an alleged advance in medical knowledge). Just as most people believe that it is immoral to sacrifice a human individual to a “greater good” if it improves the overall social welfare, so animal rights proponents persuasively apply the same reasoning to animals. If animals have rights, it is no more valid to use them in medical experimentation than it is to use human beings; for the scientific cause can just as well – in truth, far better – be advanced through human experimentation, but ethics and human rights forbids it.

The position of animal rights is an abolitionist position that demands the end to all instances and institutions of animal exploitation, not merely reducing suffering; like its 19th century predecessor, it demands the eradication of slavery, not better treatment of the slaves. Yet, although opposed to welfarism in its embrace of egalitarianism, rights, and abolitionism, most animal rights advocates are one with welfarists in advocating strictly legal forms of change through education and legislation. Like welfarists, animal rights advocates typically accept the legitimacy of capitalist economic, political, and legal institutions, and rarely possess the larger social/political/economic context required to understand the inherently exploitative logic of capital and the structural relationship between market and state.      The adherence to bourgeois ideology that justice can be achieved by working through the pre-approved channels of the state, which is utterly corrupt and dominated by corporate interests, separates animal liberationists from rights and welfare proponents.[4]

Sometimes grounding their positions in rights philosophy, and sometimes rejecting or avoiding philosophical foundations for emphases on practical action, the ALM nonetheless seeks total liberation of animals through direct attacks on animal exploiters. Unique in its broad, critical vision, the ALM rejects capitalism, imperialism, and oppression and hierarchy of all kinds. Unlike the single-issue focus of the welfare and rights camps, the ALM supports all human struggles for liberation and sees the oppression of humans, animals, and earth as stemming from the same core causes and dynamics.

The ALM is predominantly anarchist in ideology, temperament, and organization. Believing that the state is a tool of corporate interests and that the law is the opiate of the people, the ALM seeks empowerment and results through illegal direct action, such as rescue raids, break-ins, and sabotage. One major form of the ALM is the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), which emerged in England in 1976, spread to the US by 1980, and therefore became a global movement active in over 20 countries. Whereas some elements of the ALM advocate violence against animal exploiters, the ALF adopts a non-violent credo that attacks the property but never causes injury to human life.[5]

Thus, the main division within the AAM is not between welfare and rights, as commonly argued, but rather between statist and non-statist approaches. Only the radical elements in the ALM challenge the myths of representative democracy, as they explore direct action and live in anarchist cultures. Clearly, the ALM is closest to the concerns of ID and other radical Left approaches, although it too has significant political limitations (see below).      But the pluralism of the AAM movement is not only a matter of competing welfare, rights, and liberation perspectives. Its social composition cuts across lines of class, gender, religion, age, and politics. Republicans, Democrats, Leftists, anarchists, feminists, anti-humanists, anarcho-primitivists, Greens, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and others comprise the complexity and diversity of the AAM. Unlike the issue of class struggle and labor justice, one can advocate compassion for animals from any political position, such as is clear from the influential books and articles of Matthew Scully, former speechwriter for George W. Bush.[6] However repugnant one might find Scully’s past or current political stands, his work has had a significant influence on wide range of people, such as republican elites, who otherwise would never had been sensitized to the wide spectrum of appalling cruelties to animals.

Such political diversity is both a virtue and vice. While it maximizes the influence of the AAM within the public realm, and thereby creates new legislative opportunities for animal welfare policies, there is nevertheless a lack of philosophical and political coherence, splintering the “movement” into competing and conflicting fragments. Overwhelmingly reformist and single-issue oriented (in addition to being largely white and middle/upper class), the AAM lacks a systemic social critique that grasps capital logic as a key determining force of animal exploitation and recognizes the state as a corporate-dominated structure resistant to significant social change. While there is no “animal advocacy movement” in the singular that one can build bridges with in the struggle against capitalism, there are nonetheless progressive elements within the ALM camp that understand the nature of capitalism and the state and are open to, and often experienced in, radical alliance politics. The ALM, thereby, is a potentially important force of social change, not only in relation to its struggle against animal exploitation and capitalist industries but also as an element of and catalyst to human and earth liberation struggles.

Toward A Sociology of the ALM

“We’re very dangerous philosophically. Part of the danger is that we don’t buy into the illusion that property is worth more than life … we bring that insane priority into the light, which is something the system cannot survive.”— David Barbarash, former spokesman for the ALF .

“We’re a new breed of activism. We’re not your parents’ Humane Society. We’re not Friends of Animals. We’re not Earthsave. We’re not Greenpeace. We come with a new philosophy. We hold the radical line. We will not compromise. We will not apologize, and we will not relent.”— Kevin Jonas, founder of SHAC USA .

Despite a large volume of literature on animal rights and animal liberation, and its growing political prominence, humanist and Left scholars have ignored the sociological meaning and import of animal rights/liberation struggles.[7] In this section, I seek to rectify this speciesist oversight and gross omission with a broad sociological contextualization of the animal rights/liberation struggles of the last three decades.

In the context of recent social history, one might see the ALM, first, as a “new social movement” with roots in the struggles of the 1960s and 1970s. Often described as “post-class” and “post-materialist,” new social movements seek not higher wages but rather the end of hierarchies and new relations with the natural world.

Once the labor movement was co-opted and contained after World War II, the dynamics of social struggle shifted from the capital-labor relation to broader issues of justice, freedom, and identity politics. People of color, students, feminists, gays and lesbians, peace and anti-nuclear activists, and environmentalists fought for new kinds of issues. The contemporary animal rights/liberation movements were born in the social milieu generated by the movements of the 1960s and 1970s, and form an important part of movements for progressive change. This is a consequence of their critique of hierarchy, instrumentalism, and the domination of nature in the form of nonhuman species, their contribution to environmentalism, and their role in advancing the ethic of nonviolence.

New social movements play out in a postindustrial capitalist society where the primary economic dynamics no longer involve processing of physical materials but rather consumerism, entertainment, mass media, and information. Transnational corporations such as Microsoft, Monsanto, and Novartis demonstrate the importance of science and research for the postindustrial economy. Although not recognized as such, a second way of viewing the ALM is to recognize that it is part of the contemporary anti-capitalist and anti/alter-globalization movement that attacks the corporate-dominated “globalization form above” from democratic visions manifest in the struggle for “globalization from below.”[8]

To the extent that postindustrial capital is anchored in a global science/knowledge complex, and this is driven by animal experimentation, animal liberation challenges global capitalism, in the form of what I will call the Global Vivisection Complex (GVC). More specifically, I will identify this new oppositional force the direct action anti-vivisection movement (DAAVM). This movement has emerged as a serious threat to biomedical research industries.

In the UK, for example, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical research industries are the third largest contributor to the economy; an attack on this science complex is an attack on the UK state and global capital in general. To date, the ALM in the UK and US has shut down numerous animal breeders, stopped construction of a number of major research centers, and forced HLS off the New York Stock Exchange. Clearly, the ALM is a major social force and political force. If the Left does not yet recognize this, transnational research capital and the UK and US governments certainly do, for they have demonized the ALM as a top domestic terrorist threat and are constructing police states to wage war against it.

The GVC is a matrix of power-knowledge reflecting the centrality of science in postindustrial society. It is comprised of pharmaceutical industries, biotechnology industries, medical research industries, universities, and testing laboratories. All these institutions use animals to test and market their drugs; animals are the gas and oil without which corporate science machines cannot function. As corporations like Huntingdon Life Sciences and Chiron are global in scope and have clients throughout the world, animal liberation groups such as the ALF and Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty (SHAC) are also global in their resistance.

A seemingly local group like Stop Newchurch Guinea Pigs (NSGP), which waged aggressive war in an English village against a family who breed guinea pigs for research in England, is also part of the anti-globalization movement because the family they attacked —and ultimately shut down— supplied animals to the GVC. Whatever the political views of anti-vivisectionist —whether libertarian, free market, socialist, or anarchist— they are monkeywrenching globalization from above. The DAAVM disrupts corporate supply chains, thwarts their laboratory procedures, and liberates their captive slaves.

Besides the economic threat of the DAAVM, it also poses a strong philosophical and ideological threat by attacking the ideological legitimacy of animal-based “science.” The powerful, fact-based assault on the legitimacy of vivisection mounted by the DAAVM and animal rights movements is an assault on the authority of Science itself, an attack on the modern Church of Reason. The anti-vivisection movement exposes the fallacies of vivisection and reveals how science serves the interests of corporations such that objectivity is something to be bought and sold (e.g., junk science and falsified data to dispute global warming was funded by energy corporations such as Exxon-Mobil).

Like the Christian church in its hey day, the popes and priests of Science are compelled to defend their authority and power by attacking and discrediting their opponents (in academia and elsewhere). Science exerts a strong influence over government and has the power to create new laws and enforce its interests. Thus, due to intense pressure from Science, the DAAVM in the UK and US has come under fierce attack by the corporate-state complex. Both UK and US governments have placed severe limitations on free speech rights and, ultimately, have criminalized dissent, such as evident in UK laws against “glorification of terrorism” and the repressive measures if the USA PATRIOT Act. Both states have applied draconian “anti-terrorist” laws against animal liberationists and imposed harsh jail sentences for “harassment” or sabotage actions.

Thus, the DAAVM is facing the wrath of the secular church; just as Galileo said that the earth moves around the sun, so anti-vivisectionists say that research performed on one species does not apply to research performed on another, and the ALM as a whole assert that humans belong to the earth, and the earth does not belong to them. As the peace movements exposed the madness of the military-industrial complex, the anti-nuclear movement emphasized the destructive potential of nuclear power; and the environmental movement showed the ecological consequences of a growth economy, so the ARM brings to light the barbarism of enlightenment and fallacies of biomedical research.

If the ALM can be seen as a new social movement, and as an anti-capitalist and alter- globalization movement, it can also be viewed in a third way I have emphasized, namely that it is a contemporary anti-slavery and abolitionist movement.[9] Just as nineteenth century abolitionists sought to awaken people to the greatest moral issue of the day involving the slavery of millions of people in a society created around the notion of universal rights, so the new abolitionists of the 21st century endeavor to enlighten people about the enormity and importance of animal suffering and oppression. As black slavery earlier raised fundamental questions about the meaning of American “democracy” and modern values, so current discussion regarding animal slavery provokes critical examination into a human psyche damaged by violence, arrogance, and alienation, and the urgent need for a new ethics and sensibility rooted in respect for all life.

Animals in experimental laboratories, factory farms, fur farms, leather factories, zoos, circuses, rodeos, and other exploitative institutions are the major slave and proletariat force of contemporary capitalist society. Each year, throughout the globe, they are confined, exploited, and killed —“murdered” is not an inappropriate term— by the billions. The raw materials of the human economy (a far greater and more general domination system than capitalism), animals are exploited for their fur, flesh, and bodily fluids. Stolen from the wild, bred and raised in captivity, held in cages and chains against their will and without their consent, animals literally are slaves, and thereby integral elements of the contemporary capitalist slave economy (which in its starkest form also includes human sweatshops and sex trades).

Abolitionists often view welfarism as a dangerous ruse and roadblock to moral progress, and often ground their position in the philosophy of rights. 19th century abolitionists were not addressing the slave master’s “obligation” to be kind to the slaves, to feed and clothe them well, or to work them with adequate rest. Rather, they demanded the total and unqualified eradication of the master-slave relation, the freeing of the slave from all forms of bondage. Similarly, the new abolitionists reject reforms of the institutions and practices of animal slavery as grossly inadequate and they pursue the complete emancipation of animals from all forms of human exploitation, subjugation, and domination.

Animal Liberation and the Left

“Auschwitz begins whenever someone looks at a slaughterhouse and thinks: they’re only animals.”— Theodor Adorno

“In relation to [animals], all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka.”— Isaac Bashevis Singer

Animal liberation is the next necessary and logical development in moral evolution and political struggle. Animal liberation builds on the most progressive ethical and political advances human beings have made in the last 200 years and carries them to their logical conclusions. It takes the struggle for rights, equality, and nonviolence to the next level, beyond the artificial moral and legal boundaries of humanism, in order to challenge all prejudices and hierarchies including speciesism. Martin Luther King’s paradigmatic humanist vision of a “worldhouse” devoid of violence and divisions, however laudable, remains a blood-soaked slaughterhouse until the values of peace and equality are extended to all animal species.

Animal liberation requires that the Left transcend the comfortable boundaries of humanism in order to make a qualitative leap in ethical consideration, thereby moving the moral bar from reason and language to sentience and subjectivity. Just as the Left once had to confront ecology, and emerged a far superior theory and politics, so it now has to engage animal rights. As the confrontation with ecology infinitely deepened and enriched Leftist theory and politics, so should the encounter with animal rights and liberation.

Speciesism is the belief that nonhuman species exist to serve the needs of the human species, that animals are in various senses inferior to human beings, and therefore that one can favor human over nonhuman interests according to species status alone.7 Like racism or sexism, speciesism creates a false dualistic division between one group and another in order to arrange the differences hierarchically and justify the domination of the “superior” over the “inferior.” Just as society has discerned that it is prejudiced, illogical, and unacceptable for whites to devalue people of color and for men to diminish women, so it is beginning to learn how utterly arbitrary and irrational it is for human animals to position themselves over nonhuman animals because of species differences. Among animals who are all sentient subjects of a life, these differences —humanity’s false and arrogant claim to be the sole bearer of reason and language— are no more ethically relevant than differences of gender or skin color, yet in the unevolved psychology of the human primate they have decisive bearing. The theory —speciesism— informs the practice —unspeakably cruel forms of domination, violence, and killing.

The prejudice and discriminatory attitude of speciesism is as much a part of the Left as the general population and its most regressive elements, calling into question the “radical,” “oppositional,” or “progressive” nature of Left positions and politics. While condemning violence and professing rights for all, the Left fails to take into account the weighty needs and interests of billions of oppressed animals. Although priding themselves on holistic and systemic critiques of global capitalism, Leftists fail to grasp the profound interconnections among human, animal, and earth liberation struggles and the need to conceived and fight for all as one struggle against domination, exploitation, and hierarchy. From the perspective of ecology and animal rights, Marxists and other social “radicals” have been extremely reactionary forces.

In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels lumped animal welfarists into the same petite-bourgeoisie or reactionary category with charity organizers, temperance fanatics, and naïve reformists, failing to see that the animal welfare movement in the US, for instance, was a key politicizing cause for women whose struggle to reduce cruelty to animals was inseparable from their struggle against male violence and the exploitation of children.[10] In works such as his 1844 Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts , Karl Marx advanced a naturalistic theory of human life, but like the dominant Western tradition he posited a sharp dualism between human and nonhuman animals, arguing that only human beings have consciousness and a complex social world.

Denying to animals the emotional, social, and psychological complexity of their actual lives, Marx argued that whereas animals have an immediate and merely instinctual relation to productive activity the earth, human labor is mediated by free will and intelligence. If Marxism and other Left traditions have proudly grounded their theories in science, social radicals need to realize that science – specifically, the discipline of “cognitive ethology” which studies the complexity of animal emotions, thought, and communications – has completely eclipsed their fallacious, regressive, speciesist concepts of nonhuman animals as devoid of complex forms of consciousness and social life.[11]

While there is lively debate over whether or not Marx had an environmental consciousness, there is no question he was a speciesist and the product of an obsolete anthropocentric/dominionist paradigm that continues to mar progressive social theory and politics. The spectacle of Left speciesism is evident in the lack of articles – often due to a blatant refusal to consider animal rights issues —on animal exploitation in progressive journals, magazines, and online sites. In one case, for example, The Nation wrote a scathing essay that condemned the treatment of workers at a factory farm, but amazingly said nothing about the exploitation of thousands of chickens imprisoned in the hell of battery cages. In bold contrast, Gale Eisnitz’s powerful work, Slaughterhouse , documents the exploitation of animals and humans alike on the killing floors of slaughterhouses, as she shows the dehumanization of humans in and through routinized violence to animals.[12]

As symptomatic of the prejudice, ignorance, provincialism, and non-holistic theorizing that is rife through the Left, consider the case of Michael Albert, a noted Marxist theorist and co-founder of Z Magazine and Z Net. In a recent interview with the animal rights and environmental magazine Satya, Albert confessed: “When I talk about social movements to make the world better, animal rights does not come into my mind. I honestly don’t see animal rights in anything like the way I see women’s movements, Latino movements, youth movements, and so on … a large-scale discussion of animal rights and ensuing action is probably more than needed … but it just honestly doesn’t strike me as being remotely as urgent as preventing war in Iraq or winning a 30-hour work week.”

While I do not expect a human supremacist like Albert to see animal and human suffering as even roughly comparable, I cannot fathom privileging a work reduction for humans who live relatively comfortable lives to ameliorating the obscene suffering of tens of billion of animals who are confined, tortured, and killed each year in the most unspeakable ways. But human and animal rights and liberation causes are not a zero-sum game, such that gains for animals require losses for humans. Like most within the Left, Albert lacks the holistic vision to grasp the profound connections between animal abuse and human suffering.

The problem with such myopic Leftism stems not only from Karl Marx himself, but the traditions that spawned him – modern humanism, mechanistic science, industrialism, and the Enlightenment. To be sure, the move from a God-centered to a human-centered world, from the crusades of a bloodthirsty Christianity to the critical thinking and autonomy ethos of the Enlightenment, were massive historical gains, and animal rights builds on them. But modern social theory and science perpetuated one of worst aspects of Christianity (in the standard interpretation that understands dominion as domination), namely the view that animals are mere resources for human use. Indeed, the situation for animals worsened considerably under the impact of modern sciences and technologies that spawned vivisection, genetic engineering, cloning, factory farms, and slaughterhouses. Darwinism was an important influence on Marx and subsequent radical thought, but no one retained Darwin’s emphasis on the intelligence of animal life, the evolutionary continuity from nonhuman to human life, and the basic equality among all species.

Social ecologists and “eco-humanists” such as Murray Bookchin condemn the industrialization of animal abuse and killing but never challenge the alleged right to use animals for human purposes. Oblivious to scientific studies that document reason, language, culture, and technology among various animal species, Bookchin rehearses the Cartesian-Marxist mechanistic view of animals as dumb creatures devoid of reason and language. Animals therefore belong to “first nature,” rather than the effervescently creative “second nature” world of human culture.

Like the Left in general, social ecologists fail to theorize the impact of animal exploitation on the environment and human society and psychology. They ultimately espouse the same welfarist views that permit and sanctify some of the most unspeakable forms of violence against animals within current capitalist social relations, speaking in the same language of “humane treatment” of animal slaves used by vivisectors, managers of factory farms and slaughterhouses operators, fur farmers, and bosses of rodeos and circuses.

The Left traditionally has been behind the curve in its ability to understand and address forms of oppression not directly related to economics. It took decades for the Left to recognize racism, sexism, nationalism, religion, culture and everyday life, ideology and media, ecology, and other issues into its anti-capitalist framework, and did so only under the pressure of various liberation movements. The tendency of the Marxist Left, in particular, has been to relegate issues such as gender, race, and culture to “questions” to be addressed, if at all, only after the goals of the class struggle are achieved. Such exclusionist and reductionist politics prompted Rosa Luxemburg, for one, to defend the importance of culture and everyday life by exclaiming, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be a part of your revolution!”

Neo-Marxists, such as Frankfurt School theorists, grasped the importance of politics, culture, and ideology as important issues related but not reducible to economics and class, and after the 1960s Leftists finally understood ecology as more than a “bourgeois issue” or “diversion” from social struggles. In The Dialectic of Enlightenment, Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno developed important insights into the relationship between the domination of humans over nature and over one another, and sometimes sympathetically evoked images of animals in captivity as important symbols of human arrogance and alienation from nature. Most notably, Herbert Marcuse emphasized the importance of a “new sensibility” grounded in non-exploitative attitudes and relations toward the natural world.

Although since the 1970s the Left has begun to seriously address the “nature question,” they have universally failed to grasp that the “animal question” that lies at the core of social and ecological issues.[13] To make the point about the interrelationships here in a simple but crucial way, consider that no society can achieve ecological sustainability if its dominant mode of food production is factory farming. The industrialized system of confining and fattening animals for human food consumption, pioneered in the US after World War II and exported globally, is a main cause of water pollution (due to fertilizers, chemicals, and massive amounts of animal waste) and a key contributor to rainforest destruction, desertification, global warming, in addition to being a highly inefficient use of water, land, and crops.[14]

Critiques of human arrogance over and alienation from nature, calls for a “re-harmonization” of society with ecology, and emphases on a “new ethics” that focus solely on the physical world apart from the millions of animal species it contains are speciesist, myopic, and inadequate. It’s as if everyone can get on board with respecting rivers and mountains but still want to eat, experiment on, wear, and be entertained by animals. Left ecological concerns stem not from any kind of deep respect for the natural world, but rather from a position of “enlightened anthropocentrism” (a clear oxymoron) that understands how important a sustainable environment is for human existence. It is a more difficult matter to understand the crucial role animals play in sustaining ecosystems and how animal exploitation often has dramatic environmental consequences, let alone more complex issues such as relationships between violence toward animals and violence to other human beings.

Moreover, it is far easier to “respect nature” through recycling, planting trees, or driving hybrid cars than it is to respect animals by becoming a vegan who stops eating and wearing animal bodies and products. Much more so than a shift in how one views the inorganic world, it is far more difficult, complex, and profound —for both philosophical and practical reason— to revolutionize one’s views toward animals and adopt ethical veganism.

In short, the modern “radical” tradition —whether, Marxist, socialist, anarchist, or other “Left” positions that include anti-racism and feminism— stands in continuity with the entire Western heritage of anthropocentrism, and in no way can be seen as a liberating philosophy from the standpoint of the environment and other species on this planet. Current Left thought is merely Stalinism toward animals.

A truly revolutionary social theory and movement will not just emancipate members of one species, but rather all species and the earth itself. A future revolutionary movement worthy of its name will grasp the ancient conceptual roots of hierarchy and domination, such as emerge in the animal husbandry practices of the first agricultural societies, and incorporate a new ethics of nature – environmental ethics and animal rights – that overcomes instrumentalism and hierarchical thinking in every pernicious form.[15] .

ID and Animal Liberation

“As Long as Men Massacre Animals, They will Kill Each Other.”— Pythagoras “Many activists do not understand the revolutionary nature of this movement. We are fighting a major war, defending animals and our very planet from human greed and destruction.”— David Barbarash, former ALF Press Officer

As the AAM is not a monolithic entity, but rather has statist and non-statist branches, conservative and radical dimensions, Left critiques must not be overly general but rather specific to different tendencies. The issue of animal rights/liberation is important for ID and other radical orientations in that it: (1) advances a provocative critique of humanism and speciesism which are core components of Left ideology; (2) demands a broader thinking of “ecology” and “the nature question”; and (3) allows a richer and more holistic analysis of the origins and dynamics of hierarchy and domination.

As I have pointed out, the animal welfare and rights camps seek change in and through the pre-approved channels of the political and legal system, and do so from an unshakeable conviction that representative democracy works and ultimately responds to he voices of reason, compassion, and justice over the roar of vested interests, large corporations, and (even they recognize it) the structural demands of economic growth and profit. These legalist orientations, which comprise the vast bulk of animal advocacy organizations (many of them huge bureaucracies and money making machines), often win gains and “victories” for animals, yet they also legitimate and strengthen statist myths of “democracy.”[16]

Welfare and rights legalists have reduced animal suffering in a myriad of ways, ranging from adopting cats and dogs to good homes and running animal sanctuaries to ameliorating the misery of factory farmed animals. The plight of animals in factory farms and slaughterhouses, in truth, is so severe, that any reduction in the hell they endure is laudable and worthy of support. While irrelevant to an abolitionist purist or a social revolutionary movement, the increase of a battery cage size by a few inches means a lot to the half dozen chickens confined within a torturously small wire prison. At the same time, however, welfare tactics do not challenge the property and commodity status of animals, and enable factory farms and slaughterhouses to put a “humane farming” stamp of approval on their murdered victims. They thereby legitimate animal laughter and alleviate consumer guilt, perhaps even enabling more confinement and killing in the long run.

Welfare and rights approaches in the AAM are largely apolitical beyond their own causes, although ideological orientations can fall anywhere on the scale from far right to far left. In most cases, legalists (1) do not have a grasp of social movement history (with which one can contextualize the significance of animal advocacy); (2) lack critiques of the logic and dynamics of global capitalism and neoliberalism; and (3) fail to see the relation between capitalism and animal exploitation. They thereby proceed without a systemic vision and political critique of the society and global system that exploits animals through industrialized systems of mass production and death.

Holistic and structural critiques of capitalism as an irrational growth system driven to exploitation and environmental destruction are a hallmark of approaches such as social ecology and Inclusive Democracy, and are crucial for the theoretical growth of the AAM. Lacking a sophisticated social and historical analysis, much of the AAM is guilty of all charges leveled above. It is well-deserving of the ID critique that it is a reformist, single issue movement whose demands —which potentially are radical to the extent that animal rights demands and affects an economy rooted to a significant degree in animal slavery— are easily contained within a totalizing global system that exploits all life and the earth for imperatives of profit, accumulation, growth, and domination.

In bold contrast to the limitations of the AAM and all other reformist causes, Takis Fotopoulos advances a broad view of human dynamics and social institutions, their impact on the earth, and the resulting consequences for society itself. Combining anti-capitalist, radical democracy, and ecological concerns in the concept of “ecological democracy,” Fotopoulos defines this notion as “the institutional framework which aims at the elimination of any human attempt to dominate the natural world, in other words, as the system which aims to reintegrate humans and nature. This implies transcending the present ‘instrumentalist’ view of Nature, in which Nature is seen as an instrument for growth, within a process of endless concentration of power.”[17]

Fotopoulos and other ID theorists offer an important analysis and critique of global capitalism and the triumph over social democracy and other political systems other than neoliberalism. As true of social ecology and Left theory in general, however, the dynamics and consequences of human exploitation of animals throughout history is entirely missing from the ID theory of nature and ecology and critique of instrumentalism.

Where the ID critique can take easy aim at the statist orientation of the AAM, the framework has to shift in its approach to the ALM, for here there are some important commonalities. First, the rhetoric and direct action tactics of the ALM show that, like ID, it understands that the state is a political extension of the capitalist economy and therefore “representative democracy” is a myth and smokescreen whereby capitalism mollifies and co-opts its opposition. Bypassing appeals to politicians in the pocket of animal exploitation industries, and disregarding both the pragmatic efficacy and ethical legitimacy of existing laws, the ALM applies direct pressure against animal exploiters to undermine or end their operations and free as many animals as possible. Thus, second, from writings and communiqués, it is clear that the ALM, like ID, is anti-capitalist and has a systematic (or at least holistic) analysis of hierarchy and oppression. Third, the ALM rejects single-issue politics in favor of supporting and often forming alliances with human and environmental movements. Fourth, the anti-capitalist ideology of the ALM is, specifically, anarchist in nature. Not only are animal liberationists anarchist in their social and political outlook, they are also anarchist in their organization and tactics. The small cells that ALF activists, for example, build with one another —such that one cell is unknown to all others and thereby resistant to police penetration— are akin to anarchist affinity groups in their mutual aid, solidarity, and consciousness building.

The project to emancipate animals is integrally related to the struggle to emancipate humans and the battle for a viable natural world. To the extent that animal liberationists grasp the big picture that links animal and human rights struggles as one, and seeks to uncover the roots of oppression and tyranny of the Earth, they can be viewed as a profound new liberation movement that has a crucial place in the planetary struggles against injustice, oppression, exploitation, war, violence, capitalist neo-liberalism, and the destruction of the natural world and biodiversity.[18]

Radical animal rights/liberation activists are also active in online learning communities and information sites, such as Infoshop and Indymedia, whereby radical cultures are forming on a global level. The communities envisioned by Fotopoulos and other past and present anarchists is today largely unfolding online, as well as in events such as the protests communicated to and attended by global communities and “Liberation Fests” that feature militant speakers such as Black panthers, Native Americans, and animal and earth liberation proponents, as well as hard core music that acts as a energizing, unifying, and politicizing force. Many animal liberationists are knowledgeable of social issues, involved in human liberation struggles, politically radical and astute, and supportive of alliance politics. Crucial and novel forms of thinking, struggle, and alliances are unfolding, all without notice of much of the Left.[19]

In conditions where other social movements are institutionalized, disempowered, reformist, or co-opted, animal liberationists are key contemporary forces of resistance. They defy corporate power, state domination, and ideological hegemony. They resist the normalization and roboticization of citizens through disinformation systems (from FOX News to MSNBC), media-induced passivity, and cultural narcotics in weapons of mass distraction and endless forms of spectacle and entertainment. They literally attack institutions of domination and exploitation —not just their ideologies or concepts— with bricks, sledge hammers, and Molotov cocktails. Their militancy and courage deserves recognition, respect, and support. It is worth pointing out that where today’s radicals are mostly engaged in theory and philosophizing, the ALM is taking action against capitalism and in defense of life, often at great risk of their own personal freedom should they be caught for illegal raids or sabotage strikes.

Yet, for whatever parallels we can identify between the ALM and ID, Fotopoulos is critical of the ALM to the degree that it lacks a detailed and concrete systemic critique of global capitalism and its various hierarchical systems of power, and positive and workable strategies for radical social transformation that dismantles the state and market system in favor of direct democracy. As Fotopoulos remarks on the limitations of the ALM from his standpoint, “The development of an alternative consciousness towards animals could only be part of an antisystemic consciousness which has to become hegemonic (at the local/ regional/ national/ transnational level) before new institutions implementing an ecological democracy, as part of an ID, begins to be built. In other words, the strategy for an ecological democracy should be part of the transitional ID strategy in which direct action, although it does play a more significant role than the traditional tactics of the Left (demonstrations, etc.), still it is also in effect a defensive tactics. What we need most, in contrast, is an aggressive tactics of building alternative institutions within the present system (which would include institutions of ecological democracy) that would make the antisystemic consciousness hegemonic.”

Fotopoulos’ statement possibly devalues the importance of single issue causes such as saving species such as whales and chimpanzees from extinction, of defending the earth and struggling to preserve various land and sea animals from total extinction. Whether connected or not, it is important that radical struggles for social justice, animal rights, and ecology all unfold in as many forms as possible in this ominous era of global warming, species extinction, rainforest destruction, and rapid ecological disintegration, all results of increasingly authoritarian and exploitative social systems. Fotopoulos is entirely correct, however, in his main point. Sabotage actions —while important and rare forms of bold resistance today, saving countless thousands of animal lives and shutting down numerous exploitative operations— are rearguard, defensive, and incapable of stopping the larger juggernaut of capitalist domination and omnicide. Many of the ALM would admit as much. Positive visions for radical change, along with the concrete struggles and transitional social forms to put them in place, are urgently needed, although some theorists and activists within the ALM are contributing to this project in notable ways.

Moreover, the general thrust of Fotopoulos’ critique of the reformist tendencies dominating the AAM, such that animal friendly neocons like Matthew Scully are hailed as heroes, is correct: “Unless an antisystemic animal liberation current develops out of the present broad movement soon, the entire movement could easily end up as a kind of “painless” (for the elites) lobby that could even condemn direct action in the future, so that it could gain some “respectability” among the middle classes.” Unfortunately, these words already ring true in the pathetic spectacle of mainstream groups like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) applauding the FBI witchhunt on the ALM and expressing its hope to see “the end of the ALF and ELF forever,” so that the flames of radicalism are extinguished within the vacuum of reformist, compromising, single-issue, touchy-feely, puppy-hugging politics.[20]

But, as I have been arguing, the insights, learning, and changes need to come from both sides, and the animal standpoint can be highly productive for radical social politics. The animal perspective can deepen the ecological component of ID, as well as its understanding of the profound interconnections between domination of animals and domination of humans. The goal of ecological democracy cannot be achieved without working to eliminate the worst forms of animal exploitation such as occur in the global operations of factory farming. It cannot be realized without a profound critique and transformation of instrumentalism, such as which emerged as form of power over animals than over humans.

The best approach to theorizing hierarchy in its origins, development, and multifaceted, overlapping forms is through a multiperspectival, non-reductionist approach that sees what is unique to and common among various modes of domination. There are a plurality of modes and mechanisms of power that have evolved throughout history, and different accounts provide different insights into the workings of power and domination. According to feminist standpoint theory, each oppressed group has an important perspective or insight into the nature of society.[21]

People of color, for instance, can illuminate colonialism and the pathology of racism, while women can reveal the logic of patriarchy that has buttressed so many different modes of social power throughout history. While animals cannot speak about their sufferings, it is only from the animal standpoint —the standpoint of animal exploitation— that one can grasp the nature of speciesism, glean key facets of the pathology of human violence, and illuminate important aspects of misothery (hatred of nature) and the social and environmental crisis society now faces.

The animal perspective offers crucial insights into the nature of power and domination. Any theory such as social ecology or ID that claims to understand the origin, development, and dynamics of hierarchy profits considerably from taking into account the wide body of literature revealing deep connections between the domination of humans over animals and the domination of humans over one another. Any critique of “instrumentalism” as a profound psychological root of hierarchy, domination, and violence must analyze the roots of this in the domination of animals that begins in the transition from hunting and gathering cultures to agricultural society. Instrumentalism emerges as speciesism and forms a key part of anthropocentrism more generally.

In many cases, technological, ideological, and social forms of hierarchy and oppression of human over human began with the domestication, domination, and enslavement of humans over animals. In her compelling book, The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery , Marjorie Spiegel shows that the exploitation of animals provided a model, metaphors, and technologies and practices for the dehumanization and enslavement of blacks.[22]

From castration and chaining to branding and ear cropping, whites drew on a long history of subjugating animals to oppress blacks. Once perceived as beasts, blacks were treated accordingly. In addition, by denigrating people of color as “beasts of burden,” an animal metaphor and exploitative tradition facilitated and legitimated the institution of slavery. The denigration of any people as a type of animal is a prelude to violence and genocide. Many anthropologists believe that the cruel forms of domesticating animals at the dawn of agricultural society ten thousand years ago created the conceptual model for hierarchy, statism, and the exploitation treatment of other human beings, as they implanted violence into the heart of human culture.

From this perspective, slavery and the sexual subjugation of women is but the extension of animal domestication to humans. James Patterson, author of Eternal Treblinka Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust, reveals the common roots of Nazi genocide and the industrialized enslavement and slaughter on non-human animals.” Patterson, Jim Mason, and numerous other writers concur that the exploitation of animals is central to understanding the cause and solution to the crisis haunting the human community and its troubled relationship to the natural world.

The Need for Animal Rights Against Left Welfarist Politics

“The assumption that animals are without rights, and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance, is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality.” —Arthur Shopenhauer

One clear difference between animal rights and ID is that that ID theorists view rights discourse as reformist, statist, and incompatible with ecological democracy. As argued in his article, “Towards a Democratic Liberatory Ethics, ” Fotopoulos holds that all rights (human or animal) are derived from institutions of power antithetical to decentralized democracy. Rights are mostly rights against the state, and have meaning only in social forms where political and economic power is concentrated in the hands of elites. In direct contrast, a non-statist society or inclusive democracy abolishes hierarchies in favor of the equal sharing of power; in such social settings, rights —capitalist, individualist, protective, and largely negative in nature— become meaningless. BELOW: factory farming applied to birds, one more instance of industrialized slavery.

To put it another way, the issue of rights should not arise at all in the case of a non-statist society like that of ID; it is a superfluous vestige of bourgeois institutions and ideologies. To overcome the present ethics of heteronomy, Fotopoulos argues, we need an ethics of autonomy, which can only become articulated along with a politics of autonomy. “There still remains the problem of what are the appropriate institutions and the corresponding values which would lead to the reintegration of society to nature—part of which is the problem of animal liberation. So, for ID, the problem is one of ecological democracy, which is a crucial component of an inclusive democracy … many of the deplorable forms of animal exploitation described by animal advocates are simply the necessary symptoms of a growth economy, seen as the inevitable outcome of the dynamics of the system of the market economy.”

I have no quarrels whatsoever with the position that “rights” are a bourgeois construction appropriate to capitalist market relations and state institutions where rights first and foremost are rights to acquire and accumulate property, where property is more sacred than life and is protected with the full force of the state – such as demonstrated once again in the recent conviction of the “SHAC7.” Rights, in short, are created by the capitalist elite for the capitalist elite. Nonetheless, in the current context, where property relations and state power grow stronger and more repressive every day, and where liberation, emancipation, revolution, democracy, ecology, and autonomy are remote hopes (yet still worth struggling for), at a time when global warming and biological meltdown are rapidly unfolding before our eyes, it would be a strategic error of the highest order to abandon the discourse of rights as a critical tool for animal liberation, as it has ably served the cause of all past human liberation struggles.

Whatever philosophical reservations one can voice against rights —and there are many expressed from the quarters of Marxism, feminism, communitarianism, feminism, ID, and elsewhere— the concept of rights continues to inflame rebellion and the political imagination, continues to provide a critical leverage and internal critique against capitalist exploitation. Rights discourse is embedded in the popular imagination in a way that allows people to identify with and understand the concept of animal rights, whatever straw man arguments and fallacious objections they might mount against it and are cleared up fairly easily.

The concept of rights, moveover, by insisting on the intrinsic value of animal life and providing a firm bulwark against welfarism and utilitarianism, is unambiguously abolitionist in its meaning and implications, thereby providing a conceptual, political, and legal foundation for animal liberation, as currently fought for in the context of advanced global capitalist domination and ecological decline. In a non-statist society, rights can “wither away,” but they are necessary for the animal liberation struggle in the current moment.

To put it simply, in an exploitative society such as ours, rights serve the important function of throwing up a “no trespassing” sign around an individual, prohibiting the use of someone as an unwilling means for another’s ends. Cutting through the deceptive webs spun by speciesist philosophers over centuries of time, rights apply to any being that is sentient, that has preferences and interests, regardless of any rational or linguistic properties speciesists use to circumscribe the meaning of rights with arbitrary conditions. While animals do not require human values such as the right to vote, they do need the same basic protective conditions rights assign for humans, namely the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The concept of animal rights prohibits any and all forms of exploitation, including confining and killing animals as sources of food, clothing, and entertainment. It equally prohibits using animals in experiments, however “humane” and useful to human, such that experimenting on animals against their will is no more ethically legitimate than experimenting on humans. Fotopoulos falls back on welfarist arguments that have failed miserably to reduce animal suffering, let alone bring about animal liberation. Fotopoulos writes, for example, “I would agree with a society respecting animal liberation provided that it means a new ethics will be upheld where any kind of exploitation of animals per se is ruled out. This applies in particular with respect to the use of animals for entertainment purposes, hunting, or even medical research purposes—unless it is `proven’ that no alternative means of research on a particular serious medical problem is available”

From the perspective of animal liberation, and in relation to the dogmatic humanism of the Left, this is a promising start for common ground on the wrongs of speciesism and animal exploitation. Fotopoulos recognizes the lack of justification for major forms of animal exploitation (although meat and dairy consumption go unmentioned) and includes animal liberation as part of the “new ethics” required for ecological democracy. Yet, the glaring problem here is that within the impenetrable walls of scientific dogma, researchers always insist that there are no alternatives, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy if they never seek or use them.

Fotopoulos therefore fails to break with speciesist ideology that justifies extreme injury and death to animals for “medical research” purposes if it potentially serves the dominant and most important species, human beings. Fotopoulos will have to dig deeper to tell us why the same violent procedures used on animals are not equally legitimate if used on human beings. If he appeals to the standard criterion of advanced intelligence, he will have to say why we should not experiment on 4-5 year old children rather than chimpanzees, as such primates as more intelligent than young children. It is precisely this kind of utilitarian exploitation of one being for the interests of another than the concept of rights is intended to block, hence its importance is demonstrated in this very passage by someone who sees it as untenable.

From a promising but problematic start, Fotopoulos then back peddles to support the trivial palette preferences of humans over the substantial interests to life and freedom from confinement and suffering of animals. As he writes, “However, all these issues in a democratic society are decided by the general assemblies and although I could envisage that simple majorities will be sufficient to decide many of the issues similar to the ones I mentioned, this would clearly not be the case with regards to the use of animals for food purposes. Clearly, this could only be left to the individual to decide whether s/he would like to be a vegetarian or not, if we do not wish to end up with a new kind of totalitarian society. Still, even in that case, the rules of rearing animals in accordance with the new ethics should be decided by simple majority rule and it is hoped that paedeia will play a crucial role in turning a new ecological ethics, which would be consistent with an inclusive democracy hegemonic.”

Would it not be as totalitarian to ban racism, genocide, sweatshops, and sexual exploitation of children? Or does an ID society allow the majority vote to legitimate violence, confinement, slavery, and murder if it is so unenlightened? Would Fotopoulos leave it up to individuals to decide if they want to rape and murder, just as they decide what foods to put on their plate and the conditions necessary for animals to meet their death in order to be their object of consumption? If everyone decides they wish to be carnivores, this decision by millions of people in any nation almost requires the conditions of factory farming to meet such high levels of consumer demand, The “rules of rearing animals” will be predetermined by the logic of mass carnivore consumption, despite whatever “humane” impulses they might acquire by means of paedeia and their new enlightenment?

Fotopoulos invokes a standard argument against vegans and AR advocates – that it is somehow totalitarian to tell people how they ought to live, as if the personal is not ethical and political. First, the approach used by the vegetarian/vegan movement is one of persuasive education, not enforcing ethics or dogmas on others, however strongly scientifically and ethically grounded the arguments are.

Second, is it any less “totalitarian” to enforce prohibitions against killing human beings? Why would it be any different for proscribing all forms of animal exploitation, quaint (largely modernized and simulated) “subsistence cultures” aside? Why is the worry here focused on potential “totalitarian” control of consumers – which I interpret as simple conditions of ethics applied universally and without prejudice and arbitrary limitations – while nothing is said of the totalitarian domination of animals required by the carnivorous tastes of millions or billions of flesh-eaters? Despite current myths such as exemplified by in McDonald’s images of “hamburger patches,” animals do not willingly go the factory farm and slaughterhouse to satisfy socially-conditioned human palette preferences. There is no respect for autonomy where there is coercion of complex sentient forms of life, compelling their bodies to deliver fluids and flesh for no good or rational purposes —so that human can dies prematurely of a host of diseases induced by consumption of animal protein, so that rainforests can fall, the ozone layer thin, and rivers become choked with waste.

This is a strangely relativistic argument from a theorist who argues for objectivity. Herbert Marcuse condemned this kind of “repressive tolerance” that entrenched itself in relativist positions and refused to condemn and prohibit exploitation and violence. Any future society worth fighting for will be based on principles of universal democracy that forbids any form of exploitation, regardless of the species. The democratic paedeia project needs to be articulated with humane education programs that teach connectedness with and respect for the earth and all forms of life. If children receive such instruction early in life, there is a good chance that the will of the majority will be enlightened enough to advocate ethical veganism and the philosophy of non-violence to all life.

Fotopoulos mounts another false barrier to animal liberation is his vision of a future non-statist society, ironically conflating the differences between human and nonhuman animals he otherwise is concerned to construct and protect: “I think it is incompatible with democracy itself to talk about an inclusive democracy that would be `representative’ of all sentient species. This is because democracy is inconceivable if it includes the “representative” element. Democracy is the direct expression of the political will of its participants and in this sense it is obviously impossible for non-human species to qualify as citizens, as they cannot directly express their political will. All that is possible in a genuine democracy is delegation —but not representation— of will, so that individual and social autonomy could be secured and I cannot see how this fundamental condition for democracy could be met with respect to non-human species.”

Whatever the political form of future societies, enlightened human beings will always, in some general and metaphorical sense, “represent” the interests of nonhuman species who lack a voice to communicate their needs – needs that in most cases require nothing beyond empathy and common sense to decipher.

Animals cannot participate in direct democracy in any direct way of physical presence and communication, and so advocates of animal rights unavoidably will advocate on their behalf. Thus, whereas humans can construct direct democracy to advocate their needs and interests to one another, this scenario is not possible for animals. This does not imply human superiority, just different and unique natures whereby on a planet dominated by Homo sapiens, animals require humans to speak on their behalf.

Whatever language we use to describe it, enlightened humans must speak for the animals. This is not a totalitarian project as if one human group were to speak for another who can speak for themselves. In a way, in their expressed preferences and cries of pain, the animals do express their voice, wants, needs, and preferences. We only need to listen and pay attention. But since animals are in a different ontological category of not having the capacities of human speech and reason (as we lack many of their fine qualities), we must in some sense “represent” them or serve as delegates, guardians, or ambassadors of their existence of this planet. It is irrelevant whether or not animals can meet our social contract conditions for democracy – be they those of Locke or of ID. We must acknowledge and respect their fundamental difference form us (along with our evolutionary continuities and similarities). To impose our will on them because they cannot meet our unique conditions of social life – in an incredibly arrogant, question-begging, and circular attempt to decide which beings have rights and full moral worth —is arbitrary and imperialist.

Beyond Humanism: Toward Post-Speciesist Identities and a Broader Liberation Movement

“The fate of animals is of greater importance to me than the fear of appearing ridiculous; it is indissolubly connected with the fate of men.” — Emile Zola

“Until he extends the circle of compassion to all living things, Man will not himself find peace.”— Dr. Albert Schweitzer

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”— Mohandas Gandhi

The basic goal of ID is ecological democracy and reintegration of society into nature. Although it is a key theoretical, ethical, and political deficit in ID, clearly a huge part of this problem demands engagement of animal rights/liberation. The challenge of animal rights to ID and other Left movements that decry exploitation, inequality, and injustice; promote ecological sustainability; and advocate holistic models of social analysis is to recognize the deep interrelations between human and animal liberation. The emancipation of one species on the backs of others not only flouts all ethical principles of a liberation movement, it contradicts it in practice. Frameworks that attempt to analyze relationships between society and nature, democracy and ecology, will unavoidably be severely limited to the extent that their concept of “nature” focuses on physical environments and ecosystems without mention of animals. Such views not only set up arbitrary ethical boundaries and moral limitations, they fail on their own grounds which seek to understand ecology. Their ecological lapses are twofold: (1) they fail to understand how factory farming and animal agriculture in general are implicated in the major environmental problems of our time, not the least of which are rainforest destruction and global warming; (2) they do not see that physical ecosystems are not self-maintained independent of organic life, but rather are dependent upon a wide range of animal species.

From the perspective of ID, one could support animal liberation as a dynamic social movement that challenges large sectors of the capitalist growth economy by attacking food and medical research sectors. The ALM is perhaps today the most vocal critic of capitalist logic and economies, drawing strong connections between the pursuit of profit and destruction of the social and natural worlds. It is a leading global, anti-capitalist force. If the ALM could gain wider public support, it could provoke a capitalist monetary crisis, as it works to bring about improved human health and medical care. Most generally, the ALM has the potential to affect a cultural paradigm shift, one that broadens ethical horizons to include nonhuman animals and leads human species identity away from the dominator paradigm so directly implicated in the ecological crisis.

One could argue that animal liberation makes its strongest contributions to the extent that it rejects single-issue politics and becomes part of a broader anti-capitalist movement. This is certainly not the present case for the overall AAM, which might be viewed as a kind of “popular front” organization that seeks unity around basic values on which people from all political orientations —from apolitical, conservative, and liberal persuasions to radical anarchists— could agree. “But, to my mind,” argues Takis Fotopoulous, “this is exactly its fundamental weakness which might make the development of an antisystemic consciousness out of a philosophy of “rights,” etc. almost impossible.”

Animal liberation is by no means a sufficient condition for democracy and ecology, but it is for many reasons a necessary condition of economic, social, cultural, and psychological change. Animal welfare/rights people promote compassionate relations toward animals, but their general politics and worldview can otherwise be capitalist, exploitative, sexist, racist, or captive to any other psychological fallacy. Uncritical of the capitalist economy and state, they hardly promote the broader kinds of critical consciousness that needs to take root far and wide. Just as Leftists rarely acknowledge their own speciesism, so many animal advocates reproduce capitalist and statist ideologies.

It seems clear, however, that all aspects of the AAM – welfare, rights, and liberationist – are contributing to a profound sea-change in human thought and culture, in the countless ways that animal interests are now protected or respected. Just as the civil rights struggles sparked moral progress and moved vast numbers of people to overcome the prejudices and discrimination of racism, so for decades the AAM is persuading increasing numbers of people to transcend the fallacies of speciesism and discard prejudices toward animals. Given the profound relation between the human domination of animals and the crisis – social, ethical, and environmental – in the human world and its relation to the natural world, groups such as the ALF is in a unique position to articulate the importance of new relations between human and human, human and animal, and human and nature.

The fight for animal liberation demands radical transformations in the habits, practices, values, and mindset of all human beings as it also entails a fundamental restructuring of social institutions and economic systems predicated on exploitative practices. The goal of ecological democracy is inconceivable so long as billions of animals remain under the grip of despotic human beings. The philosophy of animal liberation assaults the identities and worldviews that portray humans as conquering Lords and Masters of nature, and it requires entirely new ways of relating to animals and the earth. Animal liberation is a direct attack on the power human beings—whether in pre-modern or modern, non-Western or Western societies— have claimed over animals since Homo sapiens began hunting them over two million years ago and which grew into a pathology of domination with the emergence of agricultural society. The new struggle seeking freedom for other species has the potential to advance rights, democratic consciousness, psychological growth, and awareness of biological interconnectedness to higher levels than previously achieved in history.

The next great step in moral evolution is to abolish the last acceptable form of slavery that subjugates the vast majority of species on this planet to the violent whim of one. Moral advance today involves sending human supremacy to the same refuse bin that society earlier discarded much male supremacy and white supremacy. Animal liberation requires that people transcend the complacent boundaries of humanism in order to make a qualitative leap in ethical consideration, thereby moving the moral bar from reason and language to sentience and subjectivity.

Animal liberation is the culmination of a vast historical learning process whereby human beings gradually realize that arguments justifying hierarchy, inequality, and discrimination of any kind are arbitrary, baseless, and fallacious. Moral progress occurs in the process of demystifying and deconstructing all myths —from ancient patriarchy and the divine right of kings to Social Darwinism and speciesism— that attempt to legitimate the domination of one group over another. Moral progress advances through the dynamic of replacing hierarchical visions with egalitarian visions and developing a broader and more inclusive ethical community.

Having recognized the illogical and unjustifiable rationales used to oppress blacks, women, and other disadvantaged groups, society is beginning to grasp that speciesism is another unsubstantiated form of oppression and discrimination. The gross inconsistency of Leftists who champion democracy and rights while supporting a system that enslaves billions of other sentient and intelligent life forms is on par with the hypocrisy of American colonists protesting British tyranny while enslaving millions of blacks.

The commonalities of oppression help us to narrativize the history of human moral consciousness, and to map the emergence of moral progress in our culture. This trajectory can be traced through the gradual universalization of rights. By grasping the similarities of experience and oppression, we gain insight into the nature of power, we discern the expansive boundaries of the moral community, and we acquire a new vision of progress and civilization, one based upon ecological and non-speciesist principles and universal justice.

Articulating connections among human, animal, and earth liberation movements no doubt will be incredibly difficult, but it is a major task that needs to be undertaken from all sides. Just as Left humanists may never overcome speciesism, grasp the validity and significance of animal liberation, or become ethical vegans, so the animal rights movement at large may never situate the struggle for animal liberation in the larger context of global capitalism.

The human/animal liberation movements have much to learn from one another, although will be profound differences. Just as those in the Inclusive Democracy camp have much to teach many in the animal liberation movement about capital logic and global capitalism domination, so they have much to learn from animal liberation ethics and politics. Whereas Left radicals can help temper antihumanist elements in the ALM, so the ALM can help the Left overcome speciesist prejudices and move toward a more compassionate, cruelty-free, and environmentally sound mode of living. One common ground and point of department can be the critique of instrumentalism and relation between the domination of humans over animals – as an integral part of the domination of nature in general – and the domination of humans over one another. Such a conversation, dialogue, or new politics of alliance, of course, is dependent upon the Left overcoming the shackles of humanism, moving from an attitude of ridicule to a position of respect, and grasping the significance of animal rights/liberation.

Notes.
[1] For a trenchant analysis of how the exploitation of animals rebounds to trouble the human world in innumerable ways, see Jeremy Rifkin, Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture (New York: Dutton, 1993); John Robbins, The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World (Newburyport MA: Conari Press, 2001); Charles Patterson, Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust (New York: Lantern Books 2003); and Jim Mason, An Unnatural Order: Uncovering the Roots of Our Domination of Nature and Each Other (New York: Lantern Books, 2005).+
[2] For histories of the origins and development of the AAM in the UK and US, see James M. Jasper and Dorothy Nelkin, The Animal Rights Crusade: The Growth of a Moral Protest (New York: The Free Press, 1992), and Kelly Wand (ed.), The Animal Rights Movement (San Diego: Thomson-Gale, 2003).
[3] Peter Singer’s groundbreaking 1975 book, Animal Liberation, actually is titled deceptively as it espouses utilitarian-informed welfarist not abolitionist positions.
[4] Not all self-professed “animal liberationists” reject capitalist structures and political ideologies, however, as is evident in the case of Joan Dunayer’s book, Speciesism (Derwood: Maryland: Ryce Publishing, 2004). For my critique of the naïve and bourgeois dimensions of this form of “abolitionism,” see “Beyond Welfarism, Speciesism, and Legalism: Review essay of Joan Dunyaer’s Speciesism, “ in Organization and Environment, 19:2, June 2006.
[5] For the ALF credo, seehttp://www.animalliberationfront.com/ALFront/alf_credo.htm. [6] See Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2002).Note also the difference between an ethics of justice and liberation, and ethic of “mercy.”
[7] The most important exception to this rule has been efforts by numerous feminists to engage the relationship between speciesism and patriarchy. See, for instance, Carol Adams, The Sexual Politics of Meat (New York: Continuum, 1990), Carol Adams and Josephine Donovan (eds.), Beyond Animal Rights: A Feminist Caring Ethic for the Treatment of Animals (New York: Continuum, 1996); and pattrice jones, “Mothers with Monkeywrenches: Feminist Imperatives and the ALF“ in Steven Best and Anthony J. Nocella II (eds.), Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals (New York: Lantern Books, 2004), pp. 137-156
[8] On the theme of the direct action anti-vivisection movement as an anti-capitalist movement, see Steven Best and Richard Kahn, “Trial By Fire: The SHAC7 and the Future of Democracy”.
[9] For more details of my analysis of the ALM as an abolitionist movement, see “The New Abolitionism: Capitalism, Slavery, and Animal Liberation”.
[10] See Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “The Communist Manifesto,” in Robert C. Tucker (ed.), The Marx-Engels Reader (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1978), p. 496.
[11] The body of literature comprising the field of cognitive ethology is incredibly rich and vast. Donald R. Griffin was a pioneer of the scientific study of animal life and intelligence, and wrote important works such as Animal Minds (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992). For more contemporary approaches, see the excellent work of Marc Bekoff, including Minding Animals: Awareness, Emotions, and Heart (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003). :
[12] Gail Eiznitz, Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry (New York: Prometheus Books, 1997).
[13] On the “animal question” as central to the “nature question” and social change in general, see Mason, An Unnatural Order.
[14] On the environmental impact of factory farming, see Rifkin, Beyond Beef, and Robbins, The Food Revolution.
[15] For an analysis of the affinities between animal and human liberation, see Ted Benton, Natural Relations: Ecology, Animal Rights, and Social Justice (London: Verso, 1993). [16] For more details of my critique of reformist policies in the AAM, see my article, “The Iron Cage of Movement Bureaucracy”.
[17] All quotes from Takis Fotopoulos are cited with permission from personal correspondence with the author in December 2005.
[18] For an analysis of new alliance politics movements including animal liberation, see my article, “Common Natures, Shared Fates: Toward an Interspecies Alliance Politics”.
[19] On new forms of alliance politics, see Steven Best and Anthony J. Nocella II (eds.) Igniting a Revolution” Voices in Defense of Mother Earth (Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2006).
[20] For a critique of HSUS’ repugnant sycophancy to the FBI, see my article, “HSUS Crosses the Line”.
[21] On the concept of “standpoint theory,” see Sandra Harding, and my review of her book at–
[22] Marjorie Spiegel, The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery (New York: Mirror Books, 1996).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Award-winning writer, noted speaker, public intellectual, and seasoned activist, Steven Best engages the issues of the day such as animal rights, ecological crisis, biotechnology, liberation politics, terrorism, mass media, globalization, and capitalist domination. Best has published 10 books, over 100 articles and reviews, spoken in over a dozen countries, interviewed with media throughout the world, appeared in numerous documentaries, and was voted by  VegNews  as one of the nations “25 Most Fascinating Vegetarians.” He has come under fire for his uncompromising advocacy of “total liberation” (humans, animals, and the earth) and has been banned from the UK for the power of his thoughts. From the US to Norway, from Sweden to France, from Germany to South Africa, Best shows what philosophy means in a world in crisis.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Veganism

Posted in veganism with tags , , , , , on March 25, 2010 by carmen4thepets

About Animals, Health and Nutrition, Ethics and Religion, and Going Vegan

Animals

Why should we care about animals?

Most people believe that unnecessary suffering is bad. Other animals — particularly vertebrates — suffer physical pain and even emotional stress in much the same way humans do. Because of this, we should take animals’ suffering seriously. Because animal products are not a necessary part of our diet, becoming vegan is one of the most effective ways to reduce animals’ suffering.

For more, see Beyond Might Makes Right and Animal Liberation by Peter Singer.

Why should people sacrifice convenience, cravings, and cost for the sake of an animal?

We claim to be moral beings who do not act merely to satisfy hedonistic impulses. We would not want to live in a society where people were free to satisfy all their cravings freely, where the strongest could cause suffering for the weaker if they wanted to do so. Likewise, how can we justify satisfying all our cravings for animal products, when animals must suffer in order to provide them?

Happily, there is nothing inherently less satisfying or more expensive in a vegan diet. Beans and rice are less expensive than beef or pork; heating up a Boca Burger is less expensive than buying a Big Mac; and most people find vegan food to be as tasty as non-vegan food. Even if this were not the case, most vegans don’t consume animals or animal products because they do not want to be the cause of needless suffering, regardless of the convenience, taste, or cost. Living an ethically consistent life is more important.

Won’t the animals just die anyway? And if we don’t eat the animals, won’t they overrun the world?

We don’t just happen to kill and eat animals to save them from dying a natural death. We breed more than 9 billion farm animals in the U.S. each year because of the consumer demand for animal products. If we stop buying animal products, animal industries will have no incentive to keep breeding these animals.

Why should I concern myself with non-human animal suffering when there are so many people suffering in the world?

We each have limited time, energy, and money to offer. The causes and cures of human suffering are complex, often distant, and difficult to address, especially by an individual. The causes and cures of animal suffering are often simpler and all around us. Making the choice to adopt a vegan diet can have a far-reaching effect on reducing suffering in the world.

Peter Singer writes in Animal Liberation:

Among the factors that make it difficult to arouse public concern about animals, perhaps the hardest to overcome is the assumption that “human beings come first” and that any problem about animals cannot be comparable, as a serious moral or political issue, to the problems about humans. A number of things can be said about this assumption. First, it is in itself an indication of speciesism. How can anyone who has not made a thorough study of the topic possibly know that the problem is less serious than problems of human suffering? One can claim to know this only if on assumes that animals really do not matter, and that however much they suffer, their suffering is less important than the suffering of humans. But pain is pain, and the importance of preventing unnecessary pain and suffering does not diminish because the being that suffers is not a member of our species. What would we think of someone who said that “whites come first” and that therefore poverty in Africa does not pose as serious a problem as poverty in Europe?

It is true that many problems in the world deserve our time and energy. Famine and poverty …all are major issues, and who can say which is the most important? yet once we put aside speciesist biases, we can see that the oppression of nonhumans by humans ranks somewhere along with these issues. The suffering that we inflict on nonhuman beings can be extreme, and the numbers involved are gigantic … [and] should cause at least as much concern, especially since this suffering is so unnecessary and could easily be stopped if we wanted to stop it. Most reasonable people want to prevent war, racial inequality, poverty, and unemployment; the problem is that we have been trying to prevent these things for years, and now we have to admit that, for the most part, we don’t really know how to do it. By comparison, the reduction of the suffering of nonhuman animals at the hands of humans will be relatively easy, once human beings set themselves to do it.

In any case, the idea that “humans come first” is more often used as an excuse for not doing anything about either human or nonhuman animals than as a genuine choice between incompatible alternatives. For the truth is that there is no incompatibility here … there is nothing to stop those who devote their time an energy to human problems from joining the boycott of the products of agribusiness cruelty. It takes no more time to be a vegetarian than to eat animal flesh. In fact … those who claim to care about the well-being of human beings and the preservation of our environment should become vegetarians for that reason alone. They would thereby increase the amount of grain available to feed people everywhere, reduce pollution, save water and energy, and cease contributing to the clearing of forests; moreover, since a vegetarian diet is cheaper than one based on meat dishes, they would have more money available to devote to famine relief, population control, or whatever social or political cause they thought most urgent. … [W]hen nonvegetarians say that “human problems come first,” I cannot help wondering what exactly it is that they are doing for human beings that compels them to continue to support the wasteful, ruthless exploitation of farm animals.” Nobel Laureate, Romain Rolland wrote in Jean Christophe: To one whose mind is free, there is something even more intolerable in the suffering of animals than in the sufferings of humans. For with the latter, it is at least admitted that suffering is evil and that the person who causes it is a criminal. But thousands of animals are uselessly butchered every day without a shadow of remorse. If any person were to refer to it, they would be thought ridiculous. And that is the unpardonable crime. That alone is the justification of all that humans may suffer. It cries vengeance upon all the human race. If God exists and tolerates it, it cries vengeance upon God.

What about free range?

A growing number of people are looking to “free-range” products as an alternative to factory farmed animal products. Eggs (and poultry) may be labeled as “free-range” if they have USDA-certified access to the outdoors. No other criteria, such as environmental quality, size of the outside area, number of birds, or space per bird, are included in this term. Typically, free-range hens are debeaked at the hatchery, have only 1 to 2 square feet of floor space per bird, and — if the hens can go outside — must compete with many other hens for access to a small exit from the shed, leading to a muddy strip saturated with droppings. Although chickens can live up to 12 years, free-range hens are hauled to slaughter the same as battery-caged hens, after a year or two. Free-range male chicks are trashed at birth, just as they are in factory farms. Although free-range conditions may be an improvement over factory-farm conditions, they are by no means free of cruelty.

The Associated Press reported on March 11, 1998:

Free-range chickens conjure up in some consumers minds pictures of contented fowl strolling around the barnyard, but the truth is, all a chicken grower needs to do is give the birds some access to the outdoorswhether the chickens decide to take a gambol or stay inside with hundreds or thousands of other birds, under government rules growers are free to label them free-range.

As all free-range animals are still viewed as objects to be killed for food, they are subject to abusive handling, transport, and slaughter. Free-range animals, like all animals used for their milk and eggs, are still slaughtered at a fraction of their normal life expectancy.

For more information, visit United Poultry Concerns

Do you think it is wrong to keep an animal for a pet?

In terms of reducing suffering, there is nothing inherently wrong in living with another animal. In terms of the specifics, it depends. If you were to take an animal from a shelter, you would be giving that individual a happy home and a good life (assuming you would be good to them). If you were to get an animal from a pet store, you would be supporting and expanding the breeding of animals for pets — which would, most likely, increase the overall suffering in the world.

Vegan Outreach does not take a position on whether dogs and, especially, cats should be vegan. People who have tried vegan diets with their pets have provided us with information indicating that, if appropriately planned, many (and possibly most) dogs and cats may do well on a vegan diet — but some cats do not.

What about animal experimentation?

Two Vegan Outreach philosophy pieces touch on this: Beyond and Theory. You are not required to be anti-vivsection to stop eating meat. Regardless of one’s views on this or any other issue, you can reduce the amount of suffering in the world by ceasing to eat meat.

Health and Nutrition

Is a vegan diet healthy?

As with any diet, a vegan diet requires planning. However, when properly planned, a vegan diet can be considerably healthier than a traditional American diet. In its 1996 position paper on vegetarian diets, the American Dietetic Association reported that vegan and vegetarian diets can significantly reduce one’s risk of contracting heart disease, colon and lung cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, kidney disease, hypertension, obesity, and a number of other debilitating conditions.

Cows’ milk contains ideal amounts of fat and protein for young calves, but far too much for humans. And eggs are higher in cholesterol than any other food, making them a leading contributor to cardiovascular disease.

Vegan foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans, are low in fat, contain no cholesterol, and are rich in fiber and nutrients. Vegans can get all the protein they need from legumes (e.g., beans, tofu, peanuts) and grains (e.g., rice, corn, whole wheat breads and pastas); calcium from broccoli, kale, collard greens, tofu, fortified juices and soymilks; iron from chickpeas, spinach, pinto beans, and soy products; and B12 from fortified foods or supplements. With planning, a vegan diet can provide all the nutrients we were taught as schoolchildren came only from animal products.

For more information, see our Health section; specifically, Staying a Healthy Vegan

Ethics and Religion

Why is it wrong to eat meat?

It’s not a question of being “right” or “wrong.” If one wants fewer animals to suffer and die, then one can stop supporting such practices by not eating animal products.

Does religion play a role in the vegan community?

Some vegans find that their religious views support their ethical commitment. For other vegans, religion has nothing to do with their commitment.

For more, visit the Biospirituality site and the Christian Vegetarian Association

Doesn’t the Bible say we should eat meat?

Nowhere in the Bible does it say that we are required to eat animals. Just because the Bible doesn’t explicitly forbid something doesn’t make it right. For example:

When your brother is reduced to poverty and sells himself to you, you shall not use him to work for you as a slave…. Such slaves as you have, male or female, shall come from the nations round about you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy the children of those who have settled and lodge with you and such of their family as are born in the land. These may become your property, and you may leave them to your sons after you; you may use them as slaves permanently.

Leviticus 25: 39-46

There are many different interpretations of the Bible. Among them is the view that Eden was the state-of-being that God desired for humanity, and in this state, Adam and Eve ate no animal products.

There are plenty of devout Christians and Jews who are vegetarian and vegan, and most theologians would agree that a benevolent God is not going to condemn someone for being compassionate to animals.

For a collection of religious perspectives, visit The Christian Vegetarian Association and Religion and Vegetarianism

Going Vegan

Isn’t it hard to go vegan?

It can be, especially if you hold yourself to too high a standard. But the important thing is to make changes you feel comfortable with, at your own pace. While reducing your consumption of animal products completely may be ideal, any reduction is a step in the right direction. The vegan lifestyle is an ongoing progression. Everyone should go at their own pace and remember that all steps towards veganism are positive. It is most important to focus on avoiding the products for which animals are bred and slaughtered. Animal by-products will exist as long as there is a demand for primary meat and dairy products. When it comes to avoiding items that contain small amounts of by-products, vegans must decide for themselves where to draw the line. Some vegans will adjust their level of abstinence according to the circumstances. For example, as a consumer, you might make sure the bread you buy is not made with whey; but as a dinner guest, you may accept bread without asking to see the ingredients. These types of compromises can actually hasten the spread of veganism, in that they help counter the attitude that it’s very hard to be vegan.

Isn’t being vegan expensive?

There is nothing inherently more expensive about a vegan diet. If a person wants to replicate his/her previous diet with animal analogous, then yes, it can be more expensive to buy veggie burgers, prepared seitan, veganrella, Rice Dream Supreme, etc. But pasta, beans, potatoes, breads, fruits and vegetables are all generally less expensive than the animal products of similar nutritional value.

What about organic?

Although ‘organic’ foods may be preferred for many of the same reasons that vegan foods are (animal welfare, environmental quality, and health), a food is usually considered vegan regardless of whether or not it is organic.

What about honey and silk?

Again, it depends on one’s definition of vegan. Insects are animals, and so insect products, such as honey and silk, are often not considered vegan. Many vegans, however, are not opposed to using insect products, because they do not believe insects are conscious of pain. Moreover, even if insects were conscious of pain, it’s not clear that the production of honey involves any more pain for insects than the production of most vegetables or other sweeteners, since the harvesting and transportation of all crops involves insect deaths. The question remains a matter of scientific debate and personal choice. When cooking or labeling food for vegans — particularly vegans you don’t know — it’s best to be on the safe side and not include honey. As for vegan advocacy, we think it’s best to avoid the issue as a defining one.

Vegan Advocacy & Activism

How can I get involved in vegan advocacy?

99% of the animals killed in the U.S. are farm animals. Each year more than 9 billion animals are raised in factory farms and killed for food in this country. While animal agriculture is certainly not the only form of animal abuse, it is by far the largest. If 5% of Americans were to stop eating animals, far more suffering would be prevented than if we completely abolished every other form of animal exploitation in the U.S. As Gary Francione of the Rutgers Animal Law Clinic has said, “If you can help ten people to go vegetarian in a year, you have done more good than most animal rights organizations.” Moreover, promoting veganism has the additional benefits of reducing human disease and environmental problems.

For more, see Chart depicting number of animals slaughtered for human use

How can I start a group at my college / in my area?

Perhaps the best advice I can offer about starting a group is to give personal examples. When I took over Students for Animal Rights at the University of Illinois (an established group), I did the general advertising — posters around campus, having a table at the activities fair with a sign-up-sheet, calling people who had left their names, etc. I prepared a speech for the first meeting, which was to a packed room. By the third meeting, none of the new people still attended.

Ultimately, how we built a group was through activities on campus. We met people while tabling, while leafletting, at protests, and at Ingrid Newkirk’s talks. What I draw from this is to not worry about organizational aspects, and rather do things — specifically, leaflet and table.

There are some advantages to being a recognized group. At the college level, you might be able to get funding (which can help bring in a speaker and print copies of Why Vegan), and at a higher level, tax-exempt status can be useful after a certain point. But some groups spend an often inordinate amount of time on bureaucratic, fundraising, and membership-building activities.

To a large extent, this parallels our experience with Vegan Outreach. We spent our time scrounging for money to print copies of Why Vegan (which, at the time, we collated, stapled, and folded ourselves), and Jack traveled around the country leafletting. In his travels, he met many interested people. From these meetings grew the network of activists and donors who now comprise Vegan Outreach and help to distribute hundreds of thousands to Why Vegans every year.

So the short answer is, in my opinion, the best way to start a group is to do things — leaflet, table, display Why Vegans at many places (our booklet holder has a space for writing in a “local contact,” etc. The rest can follow from this.

ANIMAL SOLDIERS-A RARE AND EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH RONNIE LEE

Posted in animal liberation, animal rights with tags , , on March 22, 2010 by carmen4thepets

A RARE AND EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH RONNIE LEE
Interviewed by Claudette Vaughan

Abolitionist: Thank you for starting the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). It forced it’s detractors to take animal liberation and animal rights seriously.

Ronnie Lee: The Animal Liberation Front was not just started by me. The reason why I am so well known as the person who started it is because I am still active within the animal rights movement.

At the very beginning there were actually six of us. I remember we had a meeting at a basement café in London. Most of us had been involved in the hunt saboteurs and we agreed that something more hard-hitting had to be done because in those days there were obviously quite a few organisations campaigning against animal persecution but they weren’t really achieving anything. Vivisection and factory farming and all the other areas of animal persecution seemed to be getting worse.

The tactics of the existing organisations were making very little difference and we had all had experience with a form of direct action so we were thinking along the lines of expanding that and taking it further. We decided that the way to do that was through damage to property of animal abusers to actually hinder them from doing what they wanted to do to animals. We discussed this and we didn’t know where it would all go. We knew it might come to nothing. We could be all arrested and put into jail and that would be the end of it or it might help to ignite something. We didn’t know which way it would go but we knew that something had to be done.

Some of us were influenced by other things and by other movements. One of the big influences on me that was around at the time was a group called ‘The Angry Brigade’. It was a time when Franco’s regime was still in power in Spain in the late 60’s/early 70’s. They took a lot of direct action against all forms of oppression and fascism in society. E.g., they blew up a broadcasting van at the Miss World Contest and they attacked the home of the Home Secretary. None of their actions injured anybody. They were influenced by a radical group called the Situationists who were mainly based in France.

You had to do striking things to wake people up and they created what they called ‘situations.’ For instance they did a direct action in a church in Paris. They wanted to get across about how false religion was so what they did was they got into the church, they tied up the priest, one of them dressed up in his vestments and went out in front of the congregation – so all the people in there thought he was a priest – and then he started saying “God is Dead”, “There is no God”. That got loads of publicity and caused a big scandal. They believed in doing that kind of striking action. That influenced me quite a lot and I was thinking how this could this be applied to animals. Can we take these striking actions to wake people up to animal abuse and to what’s going on.

In the beginning the ALF was called the “Band of Mercy”. In the 19th Century not long after the RSPCA was formed, there was actually an RSPCA Youth Group who called themselves the “Band of Mercy.” This group of young people actually took direct action. One of the things they did was damage some guns that were used for shooting animals. That wouldn’t happen in the RSPCA today but we thought yeah, it would be good to re-ignite the spirit of that group.

We started off by going to hunt kennels and causing damage to the vehicles there. Maybe spraying a few slogans around as well. Then we tried to destroy a vivisection laboratory that was being built. We made 2 attempts by getting into the building and starting fires. It wasn’t destroyed but it did cause reasonable amount of damage. It was built in the end but our actions delayed it. We destroyed a boat that was used for seal hunting and one of the results of that direct action was the seal hunt was cancelled. It was a yearly event and it has never taken place since then. There was a big protest movement against the seal hunting and our action was the thing that tipped it over. After that the Government never gave out any more licenses. That kind of success brought seal hunting in that area to a permanent end.

A couple of us were caught, arrested and ended up being sentenced to 3 years in prison. We were only in prison for a year because we had no previous convictions. One of the things that pleased me a lot when I was in prison was there was a guy who actually broke into a ICI Laboratory and rescued some beagles. He was caught but they ended up dropping the charges against him. ICI didn’t want the adverse publicity of the court case so they refused to press charges. I was really pleased because I was worried that the fact we were put in prison would put other people off taking direct action. I didn’t really know what would happen. I was pleasantly surprised when I got out of jail to have animal rights people coming up to me saying, “I want to get involved in that”. Out of the original 6 people, when we were put in prison, a couple of them dropped out, so that number was cut down. A lot of other new people then wanted to get involved and it was at that time we changed the name to Animal Liberation Front because Band Of Mercy sounded like some sort of religious organisation. It didn’t mention animals or say what we were about so we thought Animal Liberation Front was a good name because that’s what it was all about.

I took a short break away from direct action but soon got back into it again. It was the same thing – causing damage to places and at this time people also started to rescue animals. Up until this point we hadn’t done a lot of animal rescue work but there was one particular place where we broke into a shed belonging to a company that was breeding guinea pigs for vivisection. We had gone there to cause damage to their van but for some reason the van wasn’t there, so we broke into the place and we rescued 6 guinea pigs and as a result of that the place closed down. The woman that ran the place was so worried we would return, she actually closed her place of business. That was our first success. We just took these 6 guinea pigs and ended up with the place closing down so that was great.

The name was changed to Animal Liberation Front in 1976 and we were able to rescue animals such as dogs and cats mainly from places that bred animals. The security at breeding places wasn’t as tight as at the laboratories so they were an easier target. From one place we broke into we managed to get a whole list of these breeders and then we began targeting them and because there were more of us we were able to rescue animals more often, because you need more people to manage large numbers of rescued animals. To do damage to a place you only need 2 to 3 people but if you go in to rescue cats or hens from a battery unit you need as many as a dozen people to carry in and transportation etc. It’s much more complicated. What eventually became known as economic sabotage began at this time. In the beginning, the idea was to cause damage to try and prevent them directly abusing animals. For example; damage to vehicles that were used to transport animals to laboratories and physically trying to prevent that transportation. As time went on that changed to trying to cost the company money. You didn’t necessarily have to damage something directly connected to the animal abuse. If something belonged to that company then that was equally valid. The idea became one of economic sabotage and costing them money became the main reason for causing damage. I got arrested and put in jail for another raid when we rescued some mice from a breeding establishment. I got a 12-month sentence for that and I came out from it thinking I can either take a backseat again from direct action or carry on with it. What happened was because I had been in prison and well known to the media, whenever there was a ALF action I’d get the media contacting me asking me to comment on it. I ended up becoming the ALF Press Officer – it was just something that happened because they keep contacting me and that went on for a number of years. I’d give interviews and go around and give talks to animal rights groups, interviews to journalists and that kind of thing. Also at this time, 25 years ago, the ALF Supporters Group was set up. The idea of that was to enable people who couldn’t be active to help the activists and its purpose was two-fold. One was fundraising and the other was to get people to write letters to activists in prison. In those days it was very blatant. The ALF Supporters newsletter would say give money to finance raids and there was even things like sponsor a crowbar and sponsor a balaclava. If you sponsor a crowbar, you’ll get a picture of the crowbar and information on what raid it was used on. (laughter). It was actually as blatant as that (laughter)

To be honest where the money was needed wasn’t in the causing of damage but more in animal rescue because that was the expensive thing. If we got 15 Beagles out of a place some of them went to animal rescue places and we felt obliged to give some money to these places because they were spending a lot of funds looking after these animals. A lot of the money that we raised from the Supporters Group went into the animal rescue side of it rather than into financing damage raids because really it doesn’t cost much money to break into somewhere and cause damage.

At a later stage I took over the publishing of the ALF Supporters Group newsletter as well as being the Press Officer for the ALF. I eventually got arrested in connection with that. How it happened was some people were arrested in Sheffield. A guy had invented an incendiary device to be used against the fur trade. A lot of big stores all over the country had departments for selling fur coats. The idea was that somebody would plant an incendiary device together with a timer, contained in a cigarette packet, in the department store during the day and set it to go off in the middle of the night, not to cause damage by fire, but to set off the sprinkler system, which would cause hundreds of thousands of pounds of water damage to the store. The mistake they actually made was doing it in their own city. These people put one in a department store in Sheffield and so when the police were looking for the people who did it, they eventually caught the group responsible. When this incendiary devise was invented I got invited up to meet these people. They basically wanted to explain to me what they were doing because they knew I would get the media contacting me about it and they wanted to explain what was going on. I knew about it because they wanted to tell me but they ended up getting arrested and I got arrested as well because the flat where they were having their meetings had been bugged by the police. They were having a conversation and I was mentioned by them in this conversation so the police came and arrested myself and Vivien Smith, who was the editor of the Supporters Group newsletter. Some other people, from various parts of the country, were rounded up as well. I was charged with conspiracy to incite other people to cause damage and that was mainly to do with publishing of this Supporters Group newsletter. We used to publish step-by-step guides on how to do a raid because in those early days for a long time we were able to get away with it. Nobody would dare do that today but in those days there had been less police interest in what we were doing. We’d been going like that for years. Blimey, what we got away with! The police had shown no interest and there was complacency with them so we were able to get away with blatantly encouraging people to take action and began to think that nothing was going to happen to us. In the end, it did.

In the court case they gave everybody ranks. They couldn’t, or didn’t want to, understand that people within the ALF worked autonomously. They had to give people different ranks. I was “The General” and some of the other people were “Area Commanders”. Vivien, who was working in the ALF Press/Supporters Group office with me, was classed as my “Lieutenant” and the other people who actually planted the devises were just “Foot Soldiers”. When I was sentenced I was jailed for being “The General” – a 10-year sentence. Of course it wasn’t like that at all but because they portrayed it like that, the Judge was quite happy to look at it in that way. The people that actually planted the devices got 4 years and I was never accused of actually doing anything except inciting people to do things. They maintained that if it wasn’t for me, all these actions wouldn’t have happened, which was plain nonsense but was what the Judge wanted to believe. I ended up serving 6 years and 8 months of my 10 year sentence.

I don’t know what the situation is like in Australia but over here on a long prison sentence (not a life sentence) you normally only serve 2/3rds of the sentence, unless you break prison rules, when they can make you serve longer. I didn’t get parole and had to serve the maximum 2/3rds. It didn’t deter other people from doing things. ALF actions are still going on. The way it’s focused has changed, but I think it’s more effective now than what it was in those days. When we were doing actions we really didn’t think in terms of it being part of a concentrated campaign. We just lashed out at any form of animal abuse that we could lash out at. It’s all got it’s value, but an ALF action is more effective and has more of an impact if it’s tagged onto an existing campaign. Two big campaigns over here are SHAC (against the Huntingdon Life Sciences vivisection lab) and SPEAK (against the construction of a primate lab at Oxford University). ALF actions have been carried out in support of both of these campaigns. The campaign organisers obviously try to operate within the law, but they can’t stop the ALF from supporting their campaigns in its own way and can’t deny that those ALF actions add weight to those campaigns. It’s a whole lot of different things happening with the direct action being part of it. To me that’s a more effective use of direct action than hitting out at everything. It’s not just with regard to vivisection either. For example, last year a local branch of greyhound protection group Greyhound Action were running a campaign to close the dog track at Glastonbury Stadium. This consisted of demos, leafleting, street stalls etc. Then bang, bang, bang, the ALF carried out three damage attacks on the stadium and the guy in charge there decided to close the track. To their credit, Greyhound Action didn’t condemn the ALF, like other similar “peaceful” organisations have done in the past, but accepted that there was “no doubt that the ALF actions contributed significantly” to the closure of the dog track and even went so far as to say that they were “quite sure such activists would be regarded as heroes” by greyhounds persecuted by the dog racing industry.

Let’s go back to the Situationists for a minute because many people have the misconception that you were influenced by the anarchists. The Situationists was fact were influenced by Guy DeBord’s Society of the Spectacle and you Ronnie were more influenced by Raoul Vanigem’s Revolution of Everyday Life. It’s ingenious what the Situationists were attempting to do and that was they tried to penetrate the façade of life where appearance and routine is taken as the only reality operating and animals are caught up in this false reality too. What the Situationists did, first in France and then elsewhere, was create explosions of new energy happening spontaneously into a previous stagnant arena to attempt to tear aside its reality to awaken people. These people were artists not activists, not terrorists.

Absolutely! I often talk nowadays about the film the Matrix. What happens in our society is very much like that in that people live a falsehood particularly if you look at it in relation to animals. The whole of the existence of human beings is lived alongside this horrific holocaust of animals and everyone is going along their everyday life, doing their little things and being friends with each other and appearing pleasant and all of that and everything seems to be running smoothly and nicey, nicey mostly, whereas underneath it all there’s an appalling massacre that’s going on that most people aren’t aware of and don’t want to know about. There’s this horrific holocaust going on and to me it’s like people live a falsehood and they are cut off from that if you see what I mean. Of course it’s wider than that. It’s the human condition as well. It’s about living this false state of existence.

The term “speciesism” is part of the animal rights movement now but the opposite of speciesism is what’s happening within both the human and animal realm simultaneously and that’s the façade that everything is alright with the world while everybody is being slaughtered. Not only animals in vivisection and on intensive farms but specifically certain groups of people are particularly targeted in life such as Muslims, the poor and people of colour – in their multitudes. In the animal rights movement the ALF was a signal to the established order that certain people weren’t going to take it any longer. Are you happy with that interpretation?

Yeah! That was how we felt. We were going to take action and we weren’t prepared to sit back and allow people to get away with what they were doing, but it was more than just physically doing things. There was always this idea of stirring something up, making people think, making people aware where that had really never been done before.

You have been quoted as saying “Animal persecution will not be defeated by petition, peaceful posturing or the holding of hands around a slaughterhouse.” Does that still ring true today?

Yes I agree with that, I said it and it still rings true today although what I would say is it won’t just be defeated by ALF actions either. I think a wide range of different activities need to come together to actually defeat animal abuse and a hell of a lot of it will come through the use of education, because if you look at the greatest area of animal abuse it’s the rearing and slaughter of animals for food. The best way to combat that is to educate people to become vegan and that doesn’t involve direct action at all. I’m not going to criticize anyone who wants to put a brick through a butchers shop window. I’ve done that many times myself, but a more fundamental way is to educate people. An educational effort won’t change everybody, but it can make a difference with many, many people. When I first became active within the animal rights movement, when I first became a vegan, I don’t think there was a vegan for about 30 miles from where I lived. All the vegans around were like crazy people. They weren’t animal rights people, they were weird people. (laughter) because I’m an ordinary guy really, and I became aware of what happened to animals, I wanted to do something about it so I became vegetarian and then I became vegan. There were so few vegans about in those days that when a new person joined the Vegan Society, it was a huge big deal. It was like get the champagne out kind of thing. (laughter) If that happened now you’d just be permanently sozzled because so many people are becoming vegan.

I got invited to a garden party, that the Vegan Society were holding (rather like the Queen!) and I thought to myself, “Oh great! This will be a chance to meet other vegans”. It was really lucky that my vegan beliefs and principles were very strong, because if they hadn’t been I’d have not stayed a vegan because when I went to this Garden Party, many of the people there were just totally weird. There was a guy who had seven overcoats on and there was another person who was hanging upside down because he believed he had to spend a certain number of hours a day in that position. And none of them were really into campaigning against vivisection or anything like that. They were just strange vegans. I didn’t feel at home at all there and I didn’t feel at home with meat-eaters, so what was I going to do? What happened eventually was more animal rights people became vegan and they were more like me. I then became much more comfortable. We had an anti-hunting group where I lived in North London and people would join because they were against hunting and they wanted to go out and save a fox and those people would invariably be meat-eaters, but within a few weeks we had converted them all to vegan. We’d say, “Look. It’s not enough to care about foxes, what about the other animals?” So all the people that joined our group were converted to veganism and I knew this was happening with different animal rights and protection groups at the time. If there are vegans within a group then one thing leads to another, doesn’t it? Over the years more and more people became vegan so these days you are not isolated any more.

It’s so different now. I don’t think in my wildest dreams I would imagine that things would be as they are now. We still live with the holocaust of animals all around us but nevertheless, things now are so much better than what they were. When I started, 35 years ago, you couldn’t get any of the stuff that’s available now. Today soymilk can be brought everywhere. Imitation meats are available and it’s socially widespread. When I first became vegan the only liquid soymilk you could get was appalling stuff and had a green tinge to it. There was another one in powder form that floated on top of your tea, so I ended up drinking tea black. There was only one make of imitation meats, absolutely appalling stuff that was called Meatless Steak. It tasted like you would imagine shoe leather would taste you know (laughter), so I ended up more or less eating lentils, soybeans and basic things like that. When the first vegan sausage mix and textured vegetable protein came out in supermarkets, we thought we were in heaven. I don’t like supermarkets. I wish there weren’t any, but if there are going to exist, then it’s good they’re selling all of these vegan products to make them easily available to people. It’s much easier to covert people today, because if they can get imitation bacon and turkey and all these things then of course it’s going to be much easier for them to go vegan.

I would say that England embraced veganism and vegetarism because of the sheer amount of damage done to the land that mad cows disease caused over there. Enlightened, many didn’t want to go back to eating meat if it was going to kill them and that was a great boom for the animal rights movement although many thousands of cows and farm animals died horrific deaths. I would also say that the “cattle culture” of today is a very big part of keeping the capitalistic façade going, that is, that capitalism works on their terms, and that is why with specific regards to climate change, not the Greens, nor the climate change writers nor the environmentalists are prepared to attack eating meat as a serious cause of climate change by legislating that reality into manifestation, although the science concurs with what vegans have been saying all along as George Monbiot pointed out. What are your views?

The persecution of animals is fundamentally caused by what I would refer to as human supremacism. Like in the past there have been issues of white supremacism and male supremacism and the persecution of blacks or women, or where a certain group of people think they are superior to other races, like the nazis with their aryan supremacism. I think it’s a false sense of superiority to others. Human supremacism within our own species is an irrational and unjustified attitude that we are superior to other animals, which is so deeply entrenched that it even applies to people who are very radical in other ways, to anarchists, socialists, and people that are really good campaigners on other issues. Because speciesim is so deeply entrenched within us it can be very hard for people to throw off, but I think it’s something that has to be challenged at every turn because it is the underlying reason why animals are being abused. I think, for instance, that our capitalist society exacerbates the system of animal abuse, because everything is treated as a commodity, but capitalism isn’t the root cause of animal persecution. It’s caused by this false attitude that we are somehow superior to other animals. If there is ever going to a liberation of animals it’s that view we must change.

Would you please speak to SHAC US directly about the Huntingdon case as you have spent 10 years in jail – a long, long time. You wouldn’t have had a vegan support group happening back then either, would you Ronnie?

The Vegan Society were actually very good at the time with regard to getting animal rights prisoners a decent diet, but that work has now been taken over now by the Vegan Prisoners Support Group, run by a very dedicated woman called Joanne Brown. It’s wonderful all the hard work she’s done to make sure that vegans in prison get a proper diet and are properly looked after. They negotiate with the authorities to get vegan food into prisons for animal rights people. The very first time I was in prison was in 1974 and then again in 1975 and, at that time, you had no right to a vegan diet, only a vegetarian one. So what happened was I was put on a vegetarian diet, but there were a lot of things that I couldn’t, eat so I ended up more or less eating the vegetables and not being able to have the savoury because it had cheese or eggs in it. After a lot of campaigning myself really, and my Member of Parliament helped to some extent, I sent a petition to the Home Office and I managed to get some sort of a vegan diet. I remember one prison (Canterbury), where I was awaiting a court case, and every single day I had the same thing for dinner. They made a burger out of textured vegetable protein and every day I had to eat this for about 3 months. If someone was a vegan in prison in the early days they really had to fight pretty much alone to get their voice heard. Friends and family members might help, but there was no kind of established organization campaigning on behalf of vegans in prison. That eventually changed and by the 80’s proper vegan diets were being served in prisons. On my last prison sentence the vegan diet was very good. They did come up with some very nice vegan dishes. Sometimes they’d get it wrong and produce something horrible but that wasn’t very often. Things are even better now because it’s gone on from there and there’s even more recognition of the rights of vegans in prison. In the past, to get a vegan diet in prison you had to be a card carrying Vegan Society member and you had to be able to show your card to the authorities. It was good for the Vegan Society, but more complicated for vegan prisoners who weren’t members. What you got was a lot of prisoners who weren’t vegans but went on a vegan diet in prison because it was better food, so the Vegan Society got all these people joining, who weren’t really vegans, but they just wanted the card. (laughter) Now you just say you’re a vegan, and you get a vegan diet and that applies if you are a vegetarian, a Muslim or a Jew. There’s actually been that recognition, the rights of vegans.

My own attitude while in prison was just because I was incarcerated didn’t mean I ceased to be an animal liberation campaigner. You can still campaign in prison for animals. For various reasons, communication is more difficult. For a start you can’t go anywhere apart from the prison grounds, but there are always ways you can help and support. My first priority in prison was to get fit. When I was put in prison in 1986 I was a smoker (about 10 a day) and didn’t really keep myself fit, because I was so involved in doing the animal stuff and didn’t think too much about exercise. It’s very short sighted to be like that so I thought since the System had taken part of my life away, if I got fit I could get some of that back by living longer. To me, keeping fit was a large part of paying them back for what they were doing to me. A lot of people take up smoking in prison but, as you only get one chance a week to buy tobacco once a week, if you have enough willpower not to buy it and then change your mind, you have to wait another week to get it. It’s a good way to give it up because you can’t go to a shop to buy tobacco when you want. I think that helped me and I gave up and I took up running and badminton and things like that. I don’t run as much as I did while in prison but I try to do so at least several times a week and I haven’t started smoking again. If I hadn’t had that prison sentence, I might still be a smoker.

Secondly, education was another thing. You have to do some sort of work but you can do education as an alternative. A lot of prisoners don’t like to do it because it’s not that well paid and they want as much money as they can to buy as much tobacco. Of course if you don’t smoke, you don’t get caught in that trap. I thought I’d educate myself in something that would be useful in for fighting for animals. What I did was learnt different languages so I could write to people from other countries that wanted to communicate with me, but who couldn’t speak English. Computer skills are another useful thing for campaigning that you can learn in prison these days. Also there’s writing letters to people but you have to be careful because you don’t want to be saying anything illegal and end up getting into trouble yourself. The point is if you are in prison and you’re strong and you are undefeated in attitude you can give inspiration to people on the outside to carry on fighting for animal liberation.

Now that Barry Horne, Jill Phipps, Gari Allen, Tom Worby, Mike Hill and a host of others have passed away right through to the activists who walked away from the Movement, who ran away, who turned snitch, who copped out, who gave up the fight, to the one’s who had kids never to be heard of again, to the Movement heads who rode on the “animal rights” ticket as did the welfarists to made their millions from it to further sell grassroots activists out by vampirising grassroot activists’ skills, energy and stealing the thunder of their best campaigns for media and money without being answerable to no one, my question to you is this: Is it possible today to control the ideological direction the Movement will take in the future?

No one has power to control it in terms of any kind of coercive ability. You just hope that people take notice of things you say. People can have influence on the way the Movement proceeds, people can say things that others would listen to and that’s about the best any of us can hope for. If we come up with good ideas, we can hope that people will take them up. All Movements have their traitors and their spongers and it’s not just animal rights. I think we have to remember that. People have told me that Martin Luther-King bemoaned the fact that so few people turned up for protests. With the animal rights movement action is more focused on where it has the most effect now and that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it?

What about the forces that are operating in the world today that were once operating covertly but now overtly. It’s easy to see how the Trade Union Movement’s back was broken and I just wonder what happens about people who want to put anything good into the world, instead of portraying animal rights people as the terrorists all of the time. Is this the sole and same formula that brings all Liberation Movements down eventually and can animal liberation be achieved “with rain but without any thunder?”

We are dealing with evil people. I don’t think we should pull any punches on that. What has actually happened in this country is there’s no socialism anymore. It’s a greedy culture that got much worse around the time of Thatcher. I don’t think anything useful will come out of the major political parties, so the Greens are probably the best bet in terms of making things better for animals and obtaining social justice for people too. We now have a political party in England called “The Party for Animals” but they are only single-issue, so, in my opinion, it’s better to support the Greens. I’m no longer an anarchist, like I was in my younger days. I’ve come to the conclusion that, as with all other animals, there’s a very strong pull within most humans to follow leaders. Rather than try to fight this reality, we need to take account of it in our battle for animal liberation. Sadly, those who advocate anarchism allow the bad guy to lead, because they say that not even the good guys should be leaders. Advocates of animal liberation need to seize political power, if we really want to have things our way.

To achieve animal liberation we need to change the way people behave and there are two ways of doing that – education and coercion. Educate those we can educate into behaving properly towards animals and force the others to do so, through legislation etc. Most people will never lift a finger to oppose animal persecution. We have to accept that. They are too busy watching soap operas or Big Brother. However, this public apathy could be advantageous once we seize power, as it would mean that most people would not resist legislation passed by a pro animal liberation government. We need to get active in the political process, in my view through the Green party, with a view to one day forming a government that will pass stringent animal protection legislation. If you succeed in educating people but, at the end of the day, there’s no-one for those people to vote for, half the potential benefit of educating those people is lost.

There is still no protection for non-human animal laboratory victims. They are frequently burned, poisoned, isolated, irradiated, traumatized, shocked and exposed to inhuman cruelties. They are forced to smoke cigarettes, they are deprived of their mother, and they are infected with HIV. They are then killed without fear or favour. Is there life on Earth?

Well, yes it’s a horrific situation but you know there’s a saying it’s better to light one small candle than curse the darkness. I am motivated much more by anger than by compassion. If I see a picture of a person torturing an animal I don’t think, “Oh my God, that poor animal”. I think “That bloody bastard. I want to stop them”. That’s probably the difference between what makes a campaigner and what makes a rescuer. We just want the animals to be left alone.

It’s about changing people’s attitudes and it’s about changing the way that people behave. People only ever change their behaviour for 2 reasons. One reason is because they want to and the other reason is because they are too frightened not to. We have to educate people, so that they want to change, but we also have to make it so they have got to, or else. I know that sounds very stark, but that is the actual reality of what we are up against. We live in the middle of a holocaust for animals. If you begin to think in terms of 1% of what happens to animals, your mind would just explode. You know it’s happening but you can’t go into it because you’d just be destroyed by it but what I think we have to do is concentrate on how to stop it, develop good strategies for stopping it and try to think in terms of what works and not waste time on things that don’t really work. Each area of animal abuse has its weakest link, where we need to exert pressure in order to bring it to an end.

A lot of the ALF’s early focus was on vivisection. At present the figures for vivisection in the UK stand at just above 3 million every year. In the mid 70’s it was 6½ million and you have to ask yourself “what’s changed?” because there haven’t been any new laws made to restrict vivisection. I think it’s the fact that many of those contemplating doing animal experiments feel scared. “I’ll have to find another way to do this experiment otherwise what is going to happen to me?”

It’s all been a voluntary thing by the people doing the experiments. There’s no laws that have compelled them not to do animal tests. That makes me wonder, what has changed? What happened at that time? What happened during that period? And what happened during that period was this radical movement arose of people willing to go in hard against vivisectors and I think that’s what made the difference.

I think what would make a difference now in cutting the figures is to have it stepped up a gear. Obviously it’s reached a plateau where you are down to the hardliners that are harder to stop, but I think personal pressure has to be put on people that carry out experiments and on companies that use animal experimentation – pressure on the company directors, who are the ultimate the decision makers. I think their personal lives should be made uncomfortable. You ask yourself why a company wants to torture animals and at the end of the day it’s because those who run the company want to make money out of it so they can have a nice life. If somebody doesn’t get a nice life out of it, then they’ll start to think “Should I really be doing that?” because the whole reason why they are doing it isn’t working. Despite the draconian legislation that’s been brought in in this country, I still think there are lawful ways of making life difficult for these people. I think people need to explore those avenues. For instance, vivisectors mostly live in secret. They don’t tell their neighbours what they are doing. Campaigners expose those vivisectors for what they are, which, in itself, will put tremendous personal pressure on them.

Obviously I’m happy with how effective the ALF has been, but, if I were back again now at the beginning, I would do things differently. In terms of my input into the ALF there are three things I would do differently today.

This is what I would do personally if I had my time again, not what I would encourage others to do now. I wouldn’t encourage people to do anything now that I wouldn’t do myself. I don’t do direct action anymore because, for personal and tactical reasons, I’m no longer in a position to break the law. Therefore, I don’t advocate that other campaigners should break the law, because I don’t regard it as right to encourage others to take personal risks that I’m not in a position to take myself.

Firstly, if I were back at the beginning now I wouldn’t go to any laboratory, I wouldn’t go to any research place. Where I would go is the homes of the animal abusers and the campaign would be focused on the animal abusers personally, because at the end of the day that is what it comes down to. All these companies are run by people and if I had my time again I would go for those people personally. I’m not talking about killing them, but I wouldn’t rule out a certain level of violence against them. I would use various methods to make their personal lives a misery. Their comfortable home lives are paid for by what they get from vivisection earnings.

So, secondly, the whole non-violent thing associated with the ALF – that would be out of the window. Most animal rights and animal liberation activity needs to be educational, and therefore non-violent, but I don’t see anything morally wrong in using violence against animal abusers.

Thirdly, by and large, I would not take animals out of laboratories. The reason for that is you don’t actually reduce animal suffering unless you do the rescue in a way that causes the laboratory to close down. All that happens is the rescued animals get replaced by others. In addition, those animals you find homes or places in rescue centres for take up spaces that could have gone to other “unwanted” animals. Therefore, by rescuing one animal, you have condemned two others. Also, animal rescue doesn’t normally put anywhere near the financial pressure on these places that is caused by raids that cause property damage.

I have a little bit of a problem with animal rescue anyway. I think it’s praiseworthy in itself and I’m not saying it’s a bad thing (my wife and I have 4 rescued dogs and 10 cats), but it’s got nothing to do with animal liberation. Animal liberation is about changing the way people behave. It’s primarily about people, not animals. What upsets me is when good animal protection campaigners get caught up in rescue and lots of their energy gets taken up by that. Rescue should be left to those who aren’t cut out for campaigning. To make an analogy: Being a heart-surgeon is a useful job and so is being a postal worker. But if a skilled heart surgeon spent all or most of their time delivering mail instead of on heart surgery, we would regard that as a waste of their talents. That’s how I feel about good campaigners who get too much involved in rescue.

The problem with not supporting animal rescue no-kill efforts totally is it gives people like Ingrid Newkirk an open invitation to install a state-of-the-art incinerator and freezer on their property, which they have done so, while still maintaining the illusion to the public and campaigners that they are promoting “animal rights”.

I think that by getting involved in animal rescue, PETA have damaged their ability to campaign effectively. Animal liberation is about campaigning to change the way people behave. Why PETA went into the rescue area is anybody’s guess. It’s appalling that there’s that whole issue about dozens of animals found in a dumpster, which does tremendous harm to any campaigns that are working for animal rights and liberation. It wipes out years and years of campaigning work because people remember things like that. Campaigners should be putting pressure on governments and local authorities to neuter and spay animals, rather than involving themselves in rescue.

In addition, where you have big organisations like PETA having to pay wages, rent for big offices etc., there can be a huge problem in that their priorities change from “what is the most effective way of campaigning” to “how to raise more money” and those two things are not the same. To win an animal liberation campaign you often have to stick at it for a very long period. Some of the campaigns that have been won over here in Britain, like the Newchurch Guinea Pig Farm closing, involved activists working away at it for years. However what brings the most money into organisations is new campaigns. You start a new campaign and let everyone know “This is a new campaign. Give us money”. So what many of the large organisations tend to do is constantly start new campaigns while ending those that have been running for a certain amount of time, even if those original campaigns haven’t achieved their objectives. This is because the main aim isn’t to win campaigns, but to get money. It’s a huge problem, which involves many of the larger national organisations, even some of the better, more radical ones. I’m not fundamentally opposed to people taking wages for animal protection work, but there is a problem with big organisations which have so many staff that they begin to operate like companies.

Finally, though, I would like to state quite firmly that this is a war we are definitely winning. More and more people are becoming vegetarian and vegan, the fur trade has been decimated in the UK and the same is starting to happen in other countries, vivisection is a lot less than it once was, we have a ban on hunting with hounds in Britain (not very effective, but it’s a start), industries that abuse animals for entertainment (in particular, circuses and greyhound racing) are dying, concern about the destruction of the environment is rapidly increasing. We still have a long way to go, but if we are strong, positive, persistent, determined, we will get there in the end.

source:http://www.abolitionist-online.com/_07lee.shtml

First Week of Animal Protection Repression Trial

Posted in AETA with tags on March 12, 2010 by carmen4thepets

It was what the whole NGO scene prayed would never happen: The first day of the trial against 13 animal rights campaigners on suspicion of belonging to a criminal organisation

Despite no evidence linking the five VGT employees to any criminal offence and despite public outcry and demands for the Minister of Justice to stop this case coming to court, the trial opened at 9.30 am on 2nd March.

The “evidence” against the five VGT employees is organising and taking part in demonstrations, distributing leaflets and other fully legal NGO campaign work. Otherwise only opinions expressed in internet debates in the last 2 decades are the primary evidence. Section 278a of the Austrian Criminal Code is being used to argue that these activities, although legal, have influenced other unknown persons to commit offences and therefore those doing legal work are to be made responsible for the actions of people totally unknown to them.

Protests outside the court – Prosecutor ridiculed

Protests began outside the courts well before the case was opened. Around 100 people gathered with balloons, music, vegan food, banners and animal rights literature. Media were present from all major national TV and radio stations.

The judge presiding over the case, Sonja Arleth, opened the trial at 9.30 a.m. establishing the defendants details and requesting that the court not be used to express political statements. The state prosecutor Wolfgang Handler then proceeded to give an 80 minute account of the charges during which chants of “Liar, liar” could plainly be heard inside the court room from the protesters outside. In addition balloons with “smash section 278a” written on them were floated up outside the court room windows.

The prosecutor recited a list of offences carried out with an animal rights motive dating back over the last 40 years and mostly occurring in the UK. This culminated with a description of the SHAC campaign as having a deliberate double strategy of legal and illegal actions. He went on to say that the defendants have had contact with perpetrators from the UK and that in Austria the criminal organisation was born out of the animal rights movement in the late 80s and was made up of at least 10 persons with the aim of fighting for animal rights using illegal direct action.

He detailed how the criminal organisation is supposedly structured with the VGT office as its headquarters with a hierarchical command system using encrypted emails and anonymous mobile phones to orchestrate international campaigns such as the fur campaign against C&A, P&C, Escada and later in Austria against Kleider Bauer. Liberations of pigs and chickens were carried out as part of egg and meat campaigns. Put simply, every illegal action carried out with an animal rights motive is attributed to the criminal organisation.

All defendants are charged with 278a but seven are in addition charged with the following:

    • Sending emails and making telephone calls to retailers calling for them to stop selling fur
    • Damaging a sign for a reptile show
    • Running away from police at an unregistered demonstration
    • Smashing a window at a Nazi meeting
    • Researching the number plate of an employee
    • Letting off one stink bomb
    • Liberating mink
    • Liberating pigs
    • Researching the address of a political opponent

The defendants’ lawyers make their statements

After a lunch break the defendants’ lawyers made their statements. Most of them mocked the state prosecutor for presenting such a weak case and they corrected many of the points he had made such as his listing of offences which have long since been dropped from the charge sheet because they are no longer considered by police to be offences, such as a case of arson which was actually the fault of a hunter incorrectly installing an oven. Another example being the over exaggerated value put on damaged property.

The lawyers agreed that the extensive surveillance of the defendants is ideal testament to and proof of their innocence. They made the point that the prosecution is unable to clarify when a person is to be deemed a member of the criminal organisation, does holding an opinion leave one open to prosecution? The one-sided investigation by the prosecution was also criticised by the lawyers, one claimed that 30 motions to take evidence had been ignored by the prosecution, the arrests and remand custody contravened human rights laws and the defendants had been denied access to prosecution files. In addition, the negative results of surveillance operations have been omitted from the final reports, in other words, the prosecution has ignored exonerating evidence.

Another of the lawyers made the case that encrypting electronic data is completely legitimate, he also pointed to the fact that numerous commentators, including the head of the police special commission himself, have stated that ALF style actions are not carried out in a systematic organised way and as such can’t be attributed to an “organisation”. A further point was that organised crime’s single objective is financial gain and that in the case of the defendants this is obviously not the intention, and further still, the prosecution has failed to present any evidence that can be compared to a Mafia like structure.

The prosecution’s own argument that the supposed criminal organisation uses a double strategy of organised crime on one hand and legitimate campaigns on the other was used by the defence lawyers against the prosecution. They argued that it is a double strategy of the prosecution to make a historical list of illegal animal rights activities and attempt to hang them all on 13 individuals by making indirect links between their legitimate work and criminal offences.

Top news story

The first day of the trial was featured in news headlines on TV and in the papers. The reports were extensive and openly questioned the validity of the use of 278a.

Second day in court – Questioning of Dr Martin Balluch

On the second and third day in court the first defendant Dr Martin Balluch was questioned. Outside protesters gathered once more, one protester had dressed himself up as the prosecutor Wolfgang Handler complete with a mask with a long “liar” nose and a plastic gun, as he is a hunter. A sign on his back read “We have to get animal welfare off the streets”. Again, press swarmed the court and were asked to leave as the judge opened the case.

Accidental fires are not arson

Dr Balluch first spoke about the supposed criminal organisation. The prosecution had listed a series of offences in order to create a false impression that such offences are a serious problem in Austria due to their serious nature and high occurrence. As a matter of fact 99% of the 1500 “actions” in the anti-fur campaign against P&C listed by the prosecution were completely legal demonstrations and from the offences practically all were carried out in Germany or Holland. Similarly with the cases of arson where almost all were either not arson, but rather fires caused by accident, or cases of fires where an animal rights motive was attributed only years later, after the formation of the special commission. Even though these cases were not classified as arson originally, they now appear as such in the prosecution files. In the 25 years that the criminal organisation is claimed to have existed there have been 4 cases of arson; one in 1996, two in May 2000 and one in 2002. In other words, there has been no cases of arson by the “criminal organisation” in the last eight years.

Animal rights motivated crime drops

Balluch quoted from official documents that practically no animal rights motivated crimes were committed in 2005. And in 2007, the year that the special commission was formed, such offences were 50% less than in the previous year, 2006. Where there was a significant increase at that time however, was in legal activities. It can be concluded that the offences were carried out by lone operators rather than centrally planned in a Mafia like structure.

The offences against Kleider Bauer detailed by the prosecution are untypical in two aspects: Firstly there has never been so many offences occurring during a particular campaign and secondly, these offences all happened during 12 months of a 3 ½ year campaign. This also suggests the work of lone operators. In contrast to the alleged crimes of this supposed criminal organisation there have been 35 times more cases of reported animal cruelty crimes than crimes committed against animal abuse. Balluch went on to detail multiple brutal criminal attacks on animal rights protesters carried out by hunters, farmers, circus workers or by paid thugs. These crimes are never taken seriously.

Double Strategy

Commenting on the alleged double strategy Balluch noted that there was no evidence of a double strategy being the case and that, on the contrary, many successful campaigns had been carried out without incidence of any criminal offences. Balluch further undermined the concept of a double strategy quoting Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights which states that what constitutes an illegal act must be so clearly stated in the law books that citizens of a country are able to find out what is a criminal offence and what is not. But one can read section 278a of the Austrian Criminal Code as often as one wants, and it would never become clear that organising an animal rights conference for example, as stated in the charge sheets, is to be considered a crime. If this is the case, anyone can be brought to court. After a recent publication of an article about himself and the trial, Balluch received a death threat. “Surely this is a case of the journalist in question using a double strategy?” argued Balluch.

Work colleagues and sworn enemies

A central allegation from the prosecution is that the 13 accused work together closely to carry out the aims of the criminal organisation. Dr Balluch stated that the 5 VGT employees unsurprisingly do have regular contact to each other and that there is also contact between the also charged Four Paws employee who in turn has had no involvement in the Kleider Bauer campaign. The also charged director of the Austrian Vegan Society has only occasional involvement in VGT work and the rest of those charged are involved with different groups where there is no contact between many of the 13 because the groups have a long history of distancing themselves from each other.

Throughout the morning the judge appeared irritated and constantly interrupted Balluch. On many occasions Balluch’s lawyer stepped in to remind the judge that Balluch had the right to answer in full.

E-mails and animal liberation

Now the judge turned her attention to the content of emails and contact to persons known to have committed animal rights related offences. Asked what he thought about the liberating of a dolphin by an English activist, Balluch commented that it was illegal but that it was also great that it happened. There was loud applause at this from the public. Commenting on the apparent radical content of emails projected on the court room wall by the judge, Balluch said that he writes around 5000 emails a year and many of these mails were written a long time ago and he simply can’t remember them. In addition, all of the emails are taken out of context. Put back in their context, as Balluch proceeded to do with a number of examples, the content could be understood as the opposite to radical. Apart from this, many email discussions can be hypothetical and people often tend to exaggerate opinions in order to illustrate a point.

At this point in the proceedings the judge showed obvious disinterest in the defendant’s answers and was clearly not listening to him. This was proven to be the case when Balluch ended a statement with the utterance “Be Bo Bing, the judge ain’t listening”. There was silence in the court until the judge looked up and asked Balluch why he didn’t continue. At this there was loud laughter throughout the court.

Fur farm research

After the lunch break Balluch’s questioning was resumed. The judge seemed more relaxed and less hectic. She wanted to know about the filming Balluch had done of fur farms in Scandinavia. The prosecution states that Balluch was collecting data to support the criminal organisation. Balluch explained the necessity of documenting the condition on fur farms. He showed the judge a film from a fur farm. She appeared distressed at what she saw and asked in detail how the animals are treated.

The judge went on to ask about the prosecution’s accusation that Balluch allowed VGT equipment to be used by the criminal organisation. Balluch explained that VGT equipment such as mobile phones and two-way radios are used for actions involving civil disobedience and investigations and nothing more.

Media reports immediately appeared with headlines such as “animal liberation – illegal but super!” and “Be Bo Bing – the judge ain’t listening”.

Third day in court

On the following day Dr Balluch’s questioning continued. The prosecutor Handler informed the court that during the night of 2nd March, the first day of the trial, 3 windows had been smashed of a Kleider Bauer shop in Vienna. Asked by the judge what he thought about the smashed windows, Balluch commented that it proves his innocence as, until today, the prosecution had claimed that the absence of any such crimes since the investigations became known had underlined the guilt of the accused.

SOURCE:http://www.vgt.at/presse/news/2010/news20100225m_en.php

Fur Commission USA Releases Hate-Filled Press Release about Recent Self-Immolati

Posted in animal liberation with tags , , on January 31, 2010 by carmen4thepets


Below is the official press release of the Fur Commission USA regarding the recent self immolation of Daniel Shaull. This hate filled rant not only calls Daniel a “terrorist” but accuses the Portland AR community of “violent intolerance” and refers to them as “violent vegans” who carry out “vandalism and theft, bombs and arson, death threats, assault, murder and even political assassination.” The article then has the nerve to insinuate that the animal rights community “encouraged” Daniel to carry out this act.
This press release –for lack of a better word– should be absolutely condemned by the public at large, regardless on where you stand regarding this act (or the AR movement in general), for not only its disgusting fear mongering, political opportunism and blatant disregard for factual accuracy, but its utter lack of compassion towards Daniel
and the community in which he affected. Shame on the Fur Commission USA!

Terrorist Sets Himself Ablaze in Attempt to Torch Shop and Those Inside
(Revised Jan. 29, 2010)

On January 27, the day of President Obama’s “State of the Union” address, a man set himself on fire in Portland, Oregon, a town with an unemployment rate of almost 12%.

While screaming about animals dying and the world ending, the flaming man pushed on the unlocked door of a cold-weather clothing shop that only carries natural fibers. Only that one must “pull to enter” prevented this terrorist from setting the shop ablaze and injuring or killing all those inside.

When he couldn’t get the door open, he ignored a police officer’s direction to “stop, drop and roll” and ran down the street. A bystander threw his coat over him to extinguish the flames, while a Portland police officer mistakenly used pepper spray, instead of a fire extinguisher, on the man.

But the terrorist – who is most likely vegan – suffered serious burns as his synthetic (petrochemical-based) clothing and shoes melted to his skin. He was treated at a local hospital where he died that evening of his injuries. He was identified as 26-year-old Daniel Shaull.

Many have criticized both Portland’s leadership and animal rights groups for not promoting tolerance within the small groups of vegans who violently reject the lifestyle of the majority, omnivores who utilize plants and animals, both wild and domesticated, for food and fiber.

Along with clothing stores, targets of animal rights extremists and violent vegans include medical researchers, farmers, restaurants and more. Their roster of criminal acts includes vandalism and theft, bombs and arson, death threats, assault, murder and even political assassination. Now it seems “attempted arson and murder by self-immolation” will be added to the list.(1)

As vegan groups began praising Shaull as a martyr, the FBI is investigating if others encouraged this obviously mentally disturbed individual to engage in the horrific act that resulted in his painful death. In the meantime, only prayers can be offered for Daniel Shaull’s soul and for the grieving family he leaves behind.

http://furcommission.com/news/newsF11u.htm

http://goo.gl/fb/npYc

B&K Universal Vivisection Breeder Bought Out by Marshall Farms

Posted in animal liberation with tags , on January 30, 2010 by carmen4thepets

ALF Raid Marshall, NY, and free beagles.

Controversial vivisection breeder, Hull-based B&K Universal, has now been bought out by New York based Marshall Farms (also trade as Marshall Bioresources).

The take-over has recently occurred, with B&K management resigning including Gerrald Christopher Bantin and others. It is likely that the company will now be put into administration and re-named as part of the growing Marshall Bioresources Europe, who also have a beagle breeding facility in Paris and Italy.

However, Marshall is more well known in the states for it’s sister company, Marshall Pet Products who breed and sell ferrets to pet shops across the states.

B&K formerly acted as the UK broker of beagles for the New York station, shipping them in through Manchester International Airport as it was cheaper to do so. It is unknown if the beagle breeding side of the company at Grimston, Hull, will be closed down as it is likely to be more expensive than just flying the animals into the UK. For this reason, however, B&K may just become a holding station for larger animals, opposed to the current breeding station it is.

Campaigns have vowed to carry on campaigning at the company until they close their doors, whatever the name.

http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2010/01/445495.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed:+animalliberationfront+(Animal+Liberation+Front)&utm_content=Twitter