Archive for ALF

[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
Animal Liberation Press Office
6320 Canoga Avenue #1500
Woodland Hills, CA 91367


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.

[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, see [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.



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

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.


A Fire in the Belly of the Beast: The Emergence of Revolutionary Environmentalism (part 3 of 3)

Posted in animal liberation with tags , , , , , , on January 18, 2010 by carmen4thepets

Please see: Part 1 Part 2

A sign bearing the letters ELF was found near the towers of KRKO Radio in Everett, about 25 miles north of Seattle in Washington state.

By Steven Best, PhD

While standpoints such as deep ecology, social ecology, ecofeminism,animal liberation, Black liberation, and the ELF are all important, none can accomplish systemic social transformation by itself. Working together, however, through a diversity of critiques and tactics that mobilize different communities, a flank of militant groups and positions can drive a battering ram into the multifaceted structures of power and domination and open the door to a new future.

Thus, revolutionary environmentalism is not a single group, but rather acollective movement rooted in specific tactics and goals (such as just discussed), organized as multi-issue, multiracial alliances that can mount effective opposition to capitalism and other modes of domination. We do not have in mind here a super-movement that embraces all struggles, but rather numerous alliance networks that may form larger collectives with other groups in fluid and dynamic ways, but that ultimately are as global in vision and reach as is transnational capitalism.[1] Although there is diversity in unity, there must also be unity in diversity. Solidarity can emerge in recognition of the fact that all forms of oppression are directly or indirectly related to the values, institutions, and system of global capitalism and related hierarchical structures. To be unified and effective, however, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist alliances require mutual sharing, respectful learning, and growth, such that, for instance, black liberationists, ecofeminists, and animal liberationists can help one another overcome racism, sexism, and speciesism.

“New social movements” and Greens have failed to realize their radical potential. They have abandoned their original demands for radical social change and become integrated into capitalist structures that have eliminated “existing socialist countries” and social democracies as well in a global triumph of neoliberalism. A new revolutionary force must therefore emerge, one that will build on the achievements of classical democratic, libertarian socialist, and anarchist traditions; incorporate radical green, feminist, and indigenous struggles; synthesize animal, earth, and human liberation politics and standpoints; and build a global social-ecological revolution capable of abolishing transnational capitalism so that just and ecological societies can be constructed in its place.

Using This Book

“Another world is possible.” World Social Forum

Similar to our last effort, Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals (Lantern Books, 2004), we seek in this book to present a rich diversity of voices and perspectives. Thus, we employ a pluralist, multipersectival, interdisciplinary, boundary-transgressing, bridge-building approach, bringing together sundry people and positions that ordinarily never meet. Igniting a Revolution breaks down various walls and boundaries, such as typically exist between academics and activists, scholars and political prisoners (former and current), whites and people of color, men and women, and human and animal rights advocates. This volume features a wide array of critical perspectives on social and environmental issues, ranging from social ecology, deep ecology, Earth First!, ecofeminism, and primitivism to Native Americans, Black liberationists, political prisoners, and animal/Earth liberation movements.

This book was organized according to the principles of radical feminist and anarchist philosophy, in order to give voice to oppressed peoples rather than present yet another selection from the few privileged. In this weighty volume of over forty diverse contributions, we have made a special effort to reach out to and include those activists who still sit in prison for their political “crimes” against the corporate-state complex. Yet because our focus is on people struggling from within the belly of the beast, we do not include those battling corporate ecocide, neo-liberalism, and biopiracy in India, Brazil, Ecuador, Africa, Chiapas, and elsewhere.[2]

An important task of this book – and of revolutionary environmentalism as well – is to decouple environmentalism from white, male, privileged positions; diversify it along class, gender, racial, ethnic, and other lines; and remove it from its single-issue pedestal. Still today, in the u.s. and other western nations, mainstream environmentalism fails to reach out to women, the poor, workers, migrants, and people of color whose immediate problems have more to do with toxic waste and chemical poisoning than a vanishing wilderness, although clearly these are interconnected issues.[3]Yet there are many promising signs in the last three decades and contemporary context whereby the struggles for Earth, animal, and human liberation are being conceived of and fought for as one. From a broad perspective, revolutionary environmentalism is a class, race, gender, and culture war that aims to abolish every system of domination, including that of human beings over nature.

This anthology is divided into seven sections that explore different aspects of the ever-deepening, global social-environmental crisis. Each section begins with a poem by a renowned activist-poet relevant to its general themes, as we close the book with a poetic afterward, and provide an appendix of rarely collected ELF communiqués.

Section I provides historical, philosophical, and political overviews of revolutionary environmentalism, with a focus on deep ecology, social ecology, Earth First!, and the ELF.

Section II reflects on the pathologies of consumerism, the ideologies of mass media, and the politics of everyday life that call into question one’s own complicity in the machines of destruction.

Section III dissects Christianity and orthodox religion from an ecological standpoint, and discusses the importance of spiritual connections among each other and to the Earth from numerous standpoints.

Section IV explores the “anarcho-primitivism” perspective which assails “civilization” as inherently and irredeemably rooted in domination, and thus calls for a return to primal ways of living.

Section V spotlights academics, political prisoners, Black liberationists, and animal liberationists who share personal experiences with state repression and paint a vivid picture of corporate dominated police state such as the u.s., as they also offer hope for continued struggle.

Section VI explores the justifications for sabotage tactics as a much-needed weapon in defense of the Earth, as it also discusses their limitations and advances larger visions for social change.

Section VII examines the commonalities among various oppressed groups and radical struggles, and underscores the need for a broad social/environmental movement for revolutionary change.

Our Goals

Igniting a Revolution is written by and for earth liberationists, animal liberationists, Black liberationists, Native Americans, ecofeminists, political prisoners, primitivists, saboteurs, grassroots activists, and militant academics. It reaches out to exploited workers, indigenous peoples, subsistence farmers, tribes pushed to the brink of extinction, guerilla armies, armed insurgents, disenfranchised youth, and to all others who struggle against the advancing juggernaut of global capitalism, neo-fascism, imperialism, militarism, and phony wars on terrorism that front for attacks on dissent and democracy. This book does not offer analysis or theory for its own sake, it is a political intervention to help spread resistance and change. It is not a haphazard collection of thoughts, but a strategic effort to unite radical struggles in the western world and beyond. It is not a history book, but a book to help make history.

This volume aims to promote thought, provoke anger, stir passion, emphasize commonalities, establish connections, advocate systemic thinking, and, ultimately, to galvanize militant action appropriate to the level of the destruction of the earth and its sundry inhabitants and communities. While the voices in this book speak in different ways on social, political, and environmental issues, together they recognize the insanity, injustice, and unsustainability of the current world order, as they seek profound transformation at many different levels.

Windows of opportunity are closing. The actions that human beings now collectively take or fail to take will determine whether the future is hopeful or bleak. The revolution that this planet desperately needs at this crucial juncture will involve, among other things, a movement to abolish anthropocentrism, speciesism, racism, patriarchy, homophobia, and prejudices and hierarchies of all kinds, while reconstituting social institutions in a form that promotes autonomy, self-determination of nations and peoples, decentralization and democratization of political life, non-market relations, guaranteed rights for humans and animals, an ethics of respect for nature and all life, and the harmonization of the social and natural worlds.

The Earth will survive – indeed, it will regenerate and flourish – without us, but we will not survive without a healthy Earth. Numerous hominid species such as Homo Neanderthalenis have perished because they could not adapt to changing conditions, and countless human civilizations have collapsed for ecological reasons. Clearly, there is no guarantee that Homo sapiens will survive in the near future, as the dystopian visions of films such as Mad Max or Waterworld may actually be realized. Nor is there is any promise that serious forms of revolutionary environmentalism can or will arise, given problems such as the factionalism and egoism that typically tears political groups apart and/or the fierce political repression always directed against resistance movements. Yet as social and ecological situations continue to deteriorate globally, the struggles for ecology and justice may grow ever more radical and intense.

Amidst so many doubts and uncertainties, there is nonetheless no question whatsoever that the quality of the future – if humanity and other imperiled species have one at all – depends on the strength of global resistance movements and the possibilities for revolutionary change.

May this collection of readings help blaze the trail forward and ignite this revolution. We invite you to read, reflect, resist, and revolt.

[1] In 1996, for instance, the Zapatistas organized a global “encuentro” during which over 3,000 grassroots activists and intellectuals from 42 countries assembled to discuss strategies for a worldwide struggle against neoliberalism. In response to the Zapatista’s call for an “intercontinental network of resistance, recognizing differences and acknowledging similarities,” the People’s Global Action Network was formed, a group explicitly committed to anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, and ecological positions (see For more examples of global politics and networks that report on news, actions, and campaigns from around the world, and cover human rights, animal rights, and environmental struggles, see One World (, Protest.Net (, and Indymedia (

[2] For some of the works chronicling the ecological and political battles in other areas of the world, see Carolyn Merchant, Radical Ecology: The Search For a Livable World; Richard Peet and Michael Watts (eds.),Liberation Ecologies: Environment, Development, Social Movements (London: Routledge, 1996); Bron Taylor (ed.), Ecological Resistance Movements: The Global Emergence of Radical and Popular Environmentalism; and Chapter 8 in Rik Scarce, Eco-Warriors: Understanding the Radical Environmental Movement.

[3] For an attempt to forge a grassroots alliance politics that links environmental justice with broad social concerns, developing an anti-racist, anti-imperialist, anti-authoritarian, feminist, queer and trans-liberationist movement against global capitalism, see the “Colours of Resistance” group at Also see the race-based critiques of Shellenberger and Nordhaus in footnote 15 above (footnote 1 Page 2).

Dr. Steven Best is NIO’s Senior Editor of Total Liberation.  Associate professor of philosophy at UTEP, award-winning writer, noted speaker, public intellectual, and seasoned activist, Dr. 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 booksover 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 frequent 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 Russia to South Africa, Best shows what philosophy means in a world in crisis(See Dr. Best’s Complete Biography)


A Fire in the Belly of the Beast: The Emergence of Revolutionary Environmentalism (part 2 of 3)

Posted in animal liberation with tags , , , , on January 18, 2010 by carmen4thepets

Please see:  Part 1 & Part 3

By Steven Best, PhD

At the turn of the decade in 1970, however, the future of the environmental movement seemed bright. Riding the crest of 1960s turmoil and protests that were beginning to wane, environmentalism became a mass concern and new political movement. The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970 drew 20 million people to the streets, lectures, and teach-ins throughout the nation, making it the largest expression of public support for any cause in amerikan history. In this “decade of environmentalism,” the u.s. Congress passed new laws such as the Clean Air Act, and in 1970 President Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency. Some environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club (founded by John Muir in 1892) existed before the new movement, but grew in members, influence, and wealth like never before. The larger groups – known as the “Gang of Ten” — planted roots in Washington, DC, where they clamored for respectability and influence with politicians and polluters.

The movement’s insider/growth-oriented recipe for success, however, quickly turned into a formula for disaster.[1] Many battles were won in treating the symptoms of a worsening ecological crisis, but the war against its causes was lost, or rather never fought in the first place. Potentially a radical force and check on capitalist profit, accumulation, and growth dynamics, the US environmental movement was largely a white, male, middle-class affair, cut off from the populist forces and the street energy that helped spawn it. Co-opted and institutionalized, cozying up with government and industry, mindful of the “taboo against social intervention in the production system” (Commoner), defense of Mother Earth became just another bland, reformist, compromised-based, single-interest lobbying effort.

Increasingly, the Gang of Ten resembled the corporations they criticized and, in fact, evolved into corporations and self-interested money making machines. Within behemoths such as the Wilderness Society, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Sierra Club, decision-making originated from professionals at the top who neither had nor sought citizen input from the grassroots level. The Gang of Ten hired accountants and MBAs over activists, they spent more time on mass mailing campaigns than actual advocacy, and their riches were squandered largely on sustaining bloated budgets and six-figure salaries rather than protecting the environment. They brokered compromise deals to win votes for legislation that was watered-down, constantly revised to strengthen corporate interests, and poorly enforced. They not only did not fund grassroots groups, they even worked against them at times, forming alliances instead with corporate exploiters. Perversely, Gang of Ten organizations often legitimated and profited from greenwashing campaigns that presented corporate enemies of the environment as benevolent stewards and beacons of progress. [2]

Radical Backlash and the Grassroots Revolution

As Gang of Ten type organizations emerging in the u.s. and Europe spread throughout the globe (the World Wildlife Fund, for instance, established bases in over one hundred countries), they created a bureaucratic organization paradigm that shaped the structure of Western environmentalism. Yet, while mainstream environmental machines churned away ineffectively, and the plundering of the Earth expanded in scope and pace, waves of new approaches using militant tactics and seeking radical change surged forward in the u.s., the u.k., and throughout the globe.

These groups were motivated by profound dissatisfaction with mainstream environmentalism that was corporate, careerist, compromising, and – a key issue for many — divorced from the complex of social-environmental issues affecting women, the poor, workers, and people of color. Adopting more confrontational tactics and radical politics, the new orientations repudiated reformist models that sought merely to manage a growing environmental crisis through diluted legislation, illusory technofixes, and market-based “solutions” for market-based problems. Realizing the futility of working through the political and legal structures of corporate-controlled states, many groups adopted direct action tactics whereby they confronted oppressors on their own high-pressure terms through actions ranging from blockades to sabotage. Direct action is not just a tactic, but rather a process whereby activists develop decentralized and egalitarian politics based on cells, affinity groups, consensus decision making models, and use civil disobedience and/or sabotage tactics to empower themselves against corporate-state structures and facilitate social change impossible to achieve through pre-approved political channels.

Throughout the 1970s, the American Indian Movement (AIM) was absorbed in the struggle to defend itself from violent government attacks in order to preserve “Sovereignty, Land and Culture.” In 1971, Greenpeace was born as a new kind of direct action group protesting nuclear testing and protecting whales, but it condemned sabotage and degenerated into a Gang of Ten bureaucracy. In 1972, drawing on a host of spiritual sources including Native wisdom, Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess formulated the biocentric “deep ecology” alternative to the anthropocentric “shallow ecology” of mainstream environmentalism, thereby promoting ecological and Earth-centered perspectives. The same year, Green Parties emerged in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, spread to the u.k. in 1973, surfaced in Germany by the end of the decade, and migrated thereafter to the u.s. and throughout the world. Broad-based and alliance-oriented, the international Green movement is organized around “core values” that include ecology, democracy, peace, feminism, respective for diversity, and social justice. In 1974, French writer Francoise d’ Eaubonne coined the term “ecofeminism” and the new framework was developed worldwide. As evident in groundbreaking analyses such as Carolyn Merchant’s book, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution (1980), ecofeminists demonstrated strong links between the oppression of women and the domination of nature, such that ecology and feminism supported and required one another.

Evicted from Greenpeace in 1975 for the “violent” act of throwing a sealer’s club into the sea, Canadian Paul Watson turned to confrontational and sabotage-oriented actions to defend sea animals from attack, eventually founding the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. From the direct action culture of hunt saboteurs in england, the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) was born in 1976. Freeing animals from captivity, attacking with hammers and fire, the ALF became a transnational underground group that advocated nonviolence, as splinter groups such as the Animal Rights Militia and the Justice Department urged attacking exploiters themselves, not just their property.[3] Beginning in the mid-1970s, anti-nuclear and peace movements mushroomed in the u.s. and throughout Europe, especially in Germany, inspiring millions of people to embrace direct action and radical politics in the struggle for an ecological society. The u.s. Clamshell Alliance, for instance, formed in 1976 to stop the construction of nuclear reactors in the small town of Seabrook, New Hampshire. Despite thousands of members engaged in constant mass civil disobedience the Clamshell Alliance failed to prevent the completion of the Seabrook facility, but it was a key part of a larger movement that thwarted the development of nuclear power in the u.s. It was also an essential component of and contributor to an emerging “cultural revolution” that sought to change economic, political, and social structures in democratic and egalitarian directions, using direct action and anarchist-inspired tactics.[4]

Direct action tactics, grassroots movements, and radical politics continued to proliferate during the 1980s. The ALF migrated to the u.s. and throughout the world, as Earth First! emerged in 1980 and changed the face of environmental struggle with militant civil disobedience and monkeywrenching actions. Earth First! spread from the u.s. to Australia in the early 1980s, and to the u.k. and Europe at large beginning in 1990. In the u.k., Earth First! landed amidst a political culture already radicalized in the 1980s by the Green Anarchist movement and magazine, which helped to promote Earth First! ideas and actions. Both Green Anarchism and Earth First! embraced “anarcho-primitivist” philosophies that repudiated “civilization” (defined as a complex of structures of domination and alienation such as technology, division of labor, and domestication) and advocated a return to hunting and gathering society. Primitivism was becoming more influential in the u.s. as well, developed in its most radical form by John Zerzan. Beginning in 1986, Murray Bookchin launched a fierce assault on deep ecology, Earth First!, and primitivism. On the surface, Bookchin’s blend of anarchism and ecology seemed compatible with other anarchist philosophies, but his emphasis was social, not personal, rational not spiritual, and forward not backward looking. He thereby excoriated these approaches – not always accurately — as mystical, asocial, apolitical, irrational, and atavistic, wholly unsuited for his goal to build a revolutionary social movement that could abolish oppression and transcend a capitalist system rooted ”grow-or-die” imperatives.[5] Many activists understood the value of a social ecology orientation, but rejected Bookchin’s forced option of either social ecology or deep ecology. These people included Earth First! member Judi Bari, who worked in theory and practice to synthesize social ecology, deep ecology, and ecofeminism in a “revolutionary ecology” approach that was immensely influential in the u.k. during the 1990s.[6]

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the u.s. environmental movement broadened in scope and diversity with the proliferation of thousands of grass-roots environmental groups. These were organized by women, people of color, and community members to fight corporate pollution and exploitation. With no patrons, politicians, or corporate sponsors to answer to or offend, grassroots groups – such as spearheaded by Lois Gibbs to protest the 20,000 tons of chemical waste that sickened her community of Love Canal, New York — adopted a confrontational, no compromise approach and won battles the professionalized mainstream would or could not fight.[7] A critical part of the grassroots revolution was the “environmental justice” movement that engaged environment, race, and social justice issues as one complex. Building on a long and sordid u.s. tradition of racism and discrimination, corporations and polluters targeted the poor, disenfranchised, and people of color to produce and discard their lethal substances. Far from the trimmed lawns and picket fences of privileged white neighborhoods, corporations ensconced themselves near people of color, where they built landfills and manufacturing plants, dumped hazardous and nuclear waste, operated incinerators, spewed deadly chemicals, and turned neighborhoods into toxic hazards. To protect their communities from this environmental terrorism, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Blacks, and Hispanics organized and fought back, proving that marginalized did not mean powerless.[8]

Aftermath of state domestic terror attack on the black liberation group MOVE which killed 6 adults and 5 children.

An early expression of environmental justice was the Black revolutionary group, MOVE, founded in 1972 by John Africa and Donald Glassey, that railed against industrial pollution and related social and environmental problems to the exploitative dynamics of capitalism.[9] Cesar Chavez emerged as a key figure in the environmental justice movement. In 1962, Chavez organized grape pickers into the National Farm Workers Association, later to become the United Farm Workers of America. Influenced by the non-violent tactics of Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Chavez fasted and marched to bring public attention to the plight of farm workers and he led national boycotts against grape growers in California. Beginning in the 1980s, Chavez called attention to “the plague of pesticides on our land and our food,” such as was poisoning Americans and had a direct effect on farm workers in the form of high cancer rates and birth defects in their children. The u.s. environmental justice movement reached a high point in October 1991, when the first National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit convened. This conference proved that “it was possible to build a multi-issue, multiracial environmental movement around justice. Environmental activism was shown to be alive and well in African American, Latino American, Asian American, and Native American communities.”[10]

The 1990s in england was a key period when activists broke decisively with mainstream environmentalism. In a country with traditional bonds to a countryside increasingly threatened by development, activists undertook major anti-roads campaigns to protect what precious little wilderness existed, and the number of direct actions rose dramatically.[11] Breaking from the constraints of u.k. Earth First! in order to employ ALF-style sabotage tactics, the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) appeared in the early 1990s, and spread like a brushfire throughout Ireland, Germany, France, Eastern Europe, Australia, the u.s., and elsewhere. In liberation of the Earth, the ELF burned down housing complexes under construction, torched SUVs and ski lodges, and ripped up biotech crops.

As ELF “elves” made their merry way across the u.s. and Europe, transnational corporations such as ExxonMobil, Shell Oil, ChevronTexaco, and Monsanto were advancing deep into the southern hemisphere and other areas ripe for “trade” and “development.” Their predatory advances were supported by new legal treaties and institutions, such as the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), and bolstered by corrupt client states and brutal military forces. The onslaught of hydroelectric dams, commercial foresting, road building, mining, and agribusiness threatened lands, communities, and livelihoods. Indigenous peoples formed new “ecological resistance movements” (Taylor) and fought back in every possible way. The Zapatistas, for instance, announced their presence to the world just after midnight on January 1, 1994, the day that the North American Free Trade Agreement became operative among Mexico, the US, and Canada, crafted as a new imperialist weapon to undermine workers, the environment, and the rights and autonomy of indigenous populations. A stellar example of the new revolutionary politics, one that is alliance-oriented, egalitarian, and global in outlook, the Zapatistas promoted feminist values, consensus decision-making, ecological principles, a respect for all life, and the support and/or use of armed struggle.

As dramatically evident in the 1999 “Battle of Seattle,” “anti-“ or “alter-globalization” groups throughout the world recognized their common interests and fates and formed unprecedented kinds of alliances.[12] The interests of workers, animals, and the environment alike were gravely threatened in a new world order where the WTO could override the laws of any nation state as “barriers to free trade.” Global capitalism was the common enemy recognized by world groups and peoples. Bridging national boundaries, North-South divisions, different political causes, and borders between activists of privilege and non-privileged communities, alter-globalization movements prefigured the future of revolutionary environmentalism as a global, anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist alliance politics, diverse in class, race, and gender composition.

Conceptualizing Revolutionary Environmentalism

“Enough is enough. Ya basta!’ Subcomandante Marcos after the first Chiapas Encuentro

In the last three decades, there has been growing awareness that environmentalism cannot succeed without social justice and social justice cannot be realized without environmentalism.[13] To be sure, defending forests and protecting whales are vital actions to take, for they protect evolutionary processes and ecological systems vital to the planet and all species and peoples within it. Yet at the same time, it is also critical to fight side-by-side with oppressed peoples in order to address all forms of environmental destruction and build a movement far greater in numbers and strength than possible with a single-issue focus. Such a holistic orientation can be seen in the international Green network, the u.s. environmental justice movement, Earth First! efforts (as initiated by Judi Bari) to join with timber workers, alter-globalization channels, Zapatista coalition building, and often in the communiqués and actions of ALF and ELF activists. Such a form of alliance politics is visible also in recent efforts to build bridges among animal, Earth, and Black liberationists and anti-imperialists (as evident in this book). These various dynamics are part and parcel of the emergence of global revolutionary environmentalism.

There are key similarities between what has been called “radical environmentalism” – which include social ecology, deep ecology, ecofeminism, Earth First!, and primitivism – and what we term “revolutionary environmentalism.”[14] Among other things, both approaches reject mainstream environmentalism, attack core ideologies and/or institutions that have caused the ecological crisis, often adopt spiritual outlooks and see nature as sacred, reject the binary opposition separating humans from nature, and in many cases support or adopt illegal tactics such as civil disobedience or monkeywrenching. However, a key distinguishing trait of revolutionary environmentalism is that it supports and/or employs illegal tactics ranging from property destruction for the purpose of economic sabotage to guerilla warfare and armed struggle, recognizing that violent methods of resistance are often appropriate against fascist regimes and right-wing dictatorships. Revolutionary environmentalism counters forces of oppression with equally potent forms of resistance, and uses militant tactics when they are justified, necessary, and effective. With the advance of the global capitalist juggernaut and increasing deterioration of the Earth’s ecological systems, ever more people may realize that no viable future will arise without large-scale social transformation, a process that requires abolishing global capitalism and imperialism, and would thereby embrace revolutionary environmentalism.[15]

As evident in the communiqués of the ALF and ELF, as well as in the views of Black liberationists, anarchists, and anti-imperialists, many activists are explicitly revolutionary in their rhetoric, analysis, vision, and political identities. Revolutionary environmentalists renounce reformist approaches that aim only to manage the symptoms of the global ecological crisis and never dare or think to probe its underlying dynamics and causes. Revolutionary environmentalists seek to end the destruction of nature and peoples, not merely to slow its pace, temper its effects, or plug holes in a dam set to burst. They don’t just aim to “manage” the catastrophic consequences of the project to dominate nature; they seek to abolish the very hierarchy whereby humans think and act as if they were separate from nature and thereby pursue the deluded goal of mastery and control. The objectives revolutionary environmentalists raise as necessary for a viable future cannot be realized within the present world system and require a rupture with it.

Revolutionary environmentalists recognize the need for fundamental changes on many levels, such as with human psychologies (informed by anthropocentric worldviews, values, and identities), interpersonal relations (mediated by racism, sexism, ageism, classism, homophobia, and elitism), social institutions (governed by authoritarian, plutocratic, and corrupt or pseudo-democratic forms), technologies (enforcing labor and exploitation imperatives and driven by fossil-fuels that cause pollution and global warming), and the prevailing economic system (an inherently destructive and unsustainable global capitalism driven by profit, production, and consumption imperatives). Revolutionary environmentalists see “separate” problems as related to the larger system of global capitalism and reject the reformist concept of “green capitalism” as a naïve oxymoron. They repudiate the logics of marketization, economic growth, and industrialization as inherently violent, exploitative, and destructive, and seek ecological, democratic, and egalitarian alternatives.

As the dynamics that brought about global warming, rainforest destruction, species extinction, and poisoning of communities are not reducible to any single factor or cause — be it agricultural society, the rise of states, anthropocentrism, speciesism, patriarchy, racism, colonialism, industrialism, technocracy, or capitalism – all radical groups and orientations that can effectively challenge the ideologies and institutions implicated in domination and ecological destruction have a relevant role to play in the global social-environmental struggle.

[1] For critiques of mainstream environmentalism, see Kirkpatrick Sale, The Green Revolution: The American Environmental Movement 1962-1992. New York: Hill and Wang, 1993; and Mark Dowie, Losing Ground. More recently, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus proclaimed the “death of Environmentalism,” arguing that it rests upon “unexamined assumptions, outdated concepts, and exhausted strategies” (see: Renouncing the mainstream’s single-issue approach, they call for broadening environmentalism into a multi-issue social movement. Many grassroots activists, however, found their vision far too narrow. For multiracial critiques of their analysis, see Ludovic Blain, “Ain’t I an Environmentalist?”; Oscar Aguilar, “Why I Am Not an Environmentalist,”
; and Michel Gelobter, “The Soul of Environmentalism: Rediscovering Transformational Politics in the 21st Century” (

[2] For examples of greenwashing and “environmental” groups serving the cause of corporate propaganda, see Dowie, Losing Ground, pp. 53-59; and Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, Toxic Sludge is Good For You! Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1999.

[3] See Steven Best and Anthony J. Nocella II, Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals. New York: Lantern Books, 2004.

[4] See Barbara Epstein, Political Protest and Cultural Revolution: Non-Violent Direct Action of the 1970s and 1980s. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1991.

[5] By far and away, the harshest critic of deep ecology, Earth First!, and primitivism – reviled as being racist, misanthropic, mystical, irrational, and atavistic — is social ecologist Murray Bookchin (see, for example, Murray Bookchin, Re-Enchanting Humanity: A Defense of the Human Spirit Against Anti-Humanism, Misanthropy, Mysticism, and Primitivism. London: Cassell, 1995). Although Bookchin makes a number of important points against these movements, he often takes statements out of context and fails to account for the diversity and competing divisions within groups, such as existed in Earth First! between the “wilders” (e.g., Dave Foreman and Christopher Manes) and social-oriented “holies” (e.g., Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney). For critiques of Bookchin’s one-dimensional readings of deep ecology and Earth First!, see Bron Taylor, “Earth First! and Global Narratives of Popular Ecological Resistance,” Bron Taylor (ed.), Ecological Resistance Movements: The Global Emergence of Radical and Popular Environmentalism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995); and “The Religion and Politics of Earth First!,” The Ecologist, 21 [66], November-December, 1991.

[6] Judi Bari, “Revolutionary Ecology: Biocentrism and Deep Ecology,”

[7] In her transformation from housewife to environmentalist, emblematic of the politicization of citizens at the grassroots level in the 1980s and 1990s, Gibbs organized her neighborhood against Hooker Chemical Company, created the Love Canal Homeowners Association, sparked President Carter’s approval of a paid evacuation for the 900 families stranded in Love Canal, and was a force behind the creation of the Superfund – all without membership in the Gang of Ten. In 1981 she created the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (, and subsequently won numerous honors.

[8] A good introduction to the environmental justice movement is Robert D. Bullard (ed.), Unequal Protection: Environmental Justice & Communities of Color. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1994. In an interview with Earth First! Journal, Bullard clarifies the environmental justice position by emphasizing that it does not favor human environments over wilderness and other species, but rather includes those issues in a broader framework. As he puts it, “environmental justice incorporates the idea that we are just as much concerned about wetlands, birds and wilderness areas, but we’re also concerned with urban habitats, where people live in cities, about reservations, about things that are happening along the US-Mexican border, about children that are being poisoned by lead in housing and kids playing outside in contaminated playgrounds” ( Also see Daniel Fisk (ed.), The Struggle for Ecological Democracy: Environmental Justice Movements in the United States (New York: Guilford Press, 1998), and Aaron Sachs, Eco-Justice: Linking Human Rights and the Environment (Worldwatch Institute Paper #127, December 1995). A helpful online resource for environmental justice can be found at: For critiques of the environmental movement as dominated by white, privileged interests and calls for a multiracial environmental movement, see Michel Gelobter, “The Soul of Environmentalism: Rediscovering Transformational Politics in the 21st Century”; Ludovic Blain, “Ain’t I an Environmentalist?” (
); Adrienne Maree Brown, “Rainbow Warrior” (; Eliza Strikland, “The New Face of Environmentalism” (; and Ewuare Osayande, “Choking Back Black Liberation: Revisioning Environmentalism” (

[9] “MOVE’s work is to stop industry from poisoning the air, the water, the soil, and to put an end to the enslavement of life — people, animals, any form of life” (cited at MOVE’s subversive presence in Philadelphia ended dramatically when police dropped a bomb on their house, killing 6 adults and 5 children. While MOVE is widely recognized as a radical and innovative movement, many members of the feminist and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) communities believe that MOVE founders adopted regressive views toward women and homosexuals based on a dogmatic, patriarchal, and homophobic interpretation of “natural law.”

[10] Robert D. Bullard, “Environmental Justice For All,” in Bullard (ed.),Unequal Protection: Environmental Justice & Communities of Color, p. 7.

[11] On the history of environmentalism in england, see Derek Wall, Green History: Reader in Environmental Literature, Philosophy, and Politics. London: Routledge, 2003. For more recent histories of sabotage and direct action tactics, see Wall’s earlier book, Earth First and the Anti-Roads Movement: Radical Environmentalism and Comparative Social Movements. London: Routledge, 1999; and also Benjamin SeelMatthew Paterson, and Brian Doherty (eds.), Direct Action in British Environmentalism. London: Routledge, 2000. For an excellent example of the broad sense of revolutionary environmentalism that we are articulating here – an uncompromising, anti-hierarchy, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist social-ecological movement in solidarity with all oppressed world peoples – see the u.k. journal, Do or Die: Voices from the Ecological Resistance.

[12] On the resistance movements against global capitalism, see Jeremy Brecher, Tim, Costello, and Brendan Smith, Globalization From Below: The Power of Solidarity. Cambridge, Massachusetts: South End Press, 2000; and Richard Kahn and Douglas Kellner, “Resisting Globalization,” in G. Ritzer (ed.), The Blackwell Companion to Globalization. Malden MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2006.

[13] For a thorough exploration of the social-environmental relationship from a radical anarchist perspective that builds on social ecology and offers concrete proposals for a revolutionary remaking of the world, see Takis Fotopolous, Towards An Inclusive Democracy: The Crisis of the Growth Economy and the Need for a New Liberatory Project (London/New York: Cassell/ Continuum, 1997), as well as essays in the journal Democracy and Nature (

[14] For significant works on “radical environmentalism,” see Christopher Manes, Green Rage: Radical Environmentalism and the Unmaking of Civilization. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1990; Rik Scarce, Eco-Warriors: Understanding the Radical Environmental Movement. Chicago: The Noble Press, Inc., 1990; and Carolyn Merchant, Radical Ecology: The Search For a Livable World. New York: Routledge, 1992. Bron Taylor provides a useful overview of “Radical Environmentalism” and “Earth First! and the Earth Liberation Front” in the Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. London: Thoemmes, 2005, and also available online at Another useful article, from an eco-socialist and revolutionary perspective, is John Bellamy Foster, “Organizing Ecological Revolution,” Monthly Review, Volume 7 Number 5, online at:

[15] It is critical to point out that contributors to this volume use different terms to talk about similar or the same things; thus, in addition to “revolutionary environmentalism,” one will also see references to “radical environmentalism,” “radical ecology,” or “revolutionary ecology.” It is natural that different people discussing new ecological resistance movements will use different terminology, and we did not attempt to impose our own discourse of “revolutionary environmentalism” on any of the authors, although some do use the term “revolutionary environmentalism.” While there is a general consensus in the need for a militant resistance movement and social transformation, we leave it to the reader to interpret and compare the different philosophical and political perspectives.


A Fire in the Belly of the Beast: The Emergence of Revolutionary Environmentalism (part 1 of 3)

Posted in animal liberation with tags , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2010 by carmen4thepets

Editor’s Note:  Following is Part 1 of the Introduction to Igniting a Revolution: Voices in Defense of the Earth, edited by Steven Best and Anthony Nocella (2004). I encourage everyone to read each part carefully, understand the evolution of  “revolutionary environmentalism,” and the potential that alliance politics holds. Our planet is dying and reformation is not an option.  This essay will establish the relationship between the systems of domination that oppress different groups and the consequent destruction wrought on the environment.  But, far beyond theory, this book provides a working model of alliance politics and total liberation.  The activists in these pages represent diverse people — animal liberationists, earth liberationists, political prisoners, academics, feminists, black liberationists, native americans, primativists — all engaged in one aspect of the same social struggle.  None of us can win this war alone.  The essence of alliance politics and total liberation is captured in this quote from the following essay:  “A flank of militant groups and positions can drive a battering ram into the structures of power and domination and open a door to a new future.”

Please see: Part 2 & Part 3

By Steven Best, PhD

Barely out of the starting gates, on the heels of the bloody and genocidal century that preceded it, the 21st century already is a time of war, violence, environmental disasters, and terrorism against human populations, animals, and the Earth as a whole. This omnicidal assault on life is waged by powerful and greedy forces, above all, by transnational corporations, national and international banks, and G8 alliances that hire nation states as their cops, juntas, hit men, dictators, and loan sharks to extract natural resources, enforce regimes of total exploitation, and snuff out all resistance. These menacing forces are part of a coherent systemrooted in the global capitalist market and “representative democracy” currently in the final stages of the privatization and commodification of the natural and social worlds.

The net result of millennia of western culture, and roughly two hundred thousand years of the reign of Homo sapiens as a whole, is hideously visible in the current ecological crisis involving dynamics such as air and water pollution, acid rain, genetic crop pollution, chemical poisoning, species extinction, rainforest destruction, coral reef deterioration, disappearance of wetlands, desertification, and global warming.[1] This planetary crisis is caused by forces that include human overpopulation, hyperdevelopment, mass production, overconsumption, agribusiness, militarism, and a cancerous greed for power and profit that consumes, entraps, or kills everything in its path.

With the exception of a few sparkles of democracy, egalitarianism, and enlightenment, western cultural development is a dark stretch of hierarchy, domination, and destruction, all predicated on the pernicious ideologies and institutions of statism, classism, sexism, racism, speciesism, and anthropocentrism. Despite great works of philosophy, music, art, and architecture, regardless of brilliant advances in science and technology – much of which was built on the backs of the enslaved and exploited — the western world (which claims superiority over all other cultures) has created few social forms deserving the name “civilization.” Rather, it spirals headlong toward barbarism, self-destruction, and oblivion. Indeed, the very concept of “civilization” is problematic as the western world has defined it in antithesis to everything wild, non-domestic, animalic, primal, emotional, instinctual, and female, all forces to be subdued and conquered.

As the global temperatures climb, icecaps and glaciers melt, sea-levels rise, and forests fall, the short-lived human empire has begun to devour itself and implode like a collapsing white dwarf star. The Earth itself – the bulk of which has been domesticated, colonized, commodified, bred and cross-bred, genetically engineered, cloned, and transformed into forces of mass destruction — is refuting the myths and fallacies of Progress, Development, Science, Technology, the Free Market, and Neo-Liberalism, while demonstrating the inherent contradiction between capitalism and ecology.

This book is a rebel yell. It is a manifesto for a new social movement that we call “revolutionary environmentalism.” It stands in solidarity with all struggles outside the western world and northern hemispheres, but it calls for a revolution within. As the Earth Liberation Front once stated in a communiqué, “Welcome to the struggle of all species to be free. We are the burning rage of a dying planet.” Fed up with apathy, lies, and excuses; driven by passion and anger; moving through the night in black clothes and balaclavas; armed with the healing fire of resistance; the Earth Liberation Front is just one of many radical groups attacking exploiters and monkeywrenching nihilists who would trade in cultural and biological diversity for another mansion or yacht.[2] These guerilla warriors are joined by people of color protesting chemical poisoning of their communities, Chipko activists protecting forests in India, the Ogoni people fighting Shell Oil in Nigeria, and countless other indigenous peoples — from Central Africa and the Amazon Basin to the Canadian subarctic and the tropical forests of Asia and — fighting pollution, mining, deforestation, biopiracy, oil and gas drilling, agribusiness, and other forms of exploiting humans, animals, and the Earth.

Global in its vision, Igniting a Revolution nonetheless arises from the belly of the beast, from the “core” states that control their “satellites,” from the corporate command centers – above all, the u.s. — of the great imperialist powers.[3] This book is shaped by the era of “global terrorism,” the so-called “clash of civilizations,” struggles over dwindling natural resources, and the intensification of state repression against “eco-terrorism,” liberation movements, and dissent of any kind. Igniting a Revolution was conceived amidst the smoke and rubble of 9/11; it was written during the blasts of 3/11 (Madrid, 2004) and 7/7 (London, 2005), assembled throughout the u.s. terrorist war against Iraq and the encroaching fascism of phenomena such as the u.s.a. PATRIOT Act and u.k. “rules of unacceptable behaviors,” and finalized under the spectral shadow of ecological disintegration, biological meltdown, and impending global chaos.

Increasingly, calls for moderation, compromise, and the slow march through institutions can be seen as treacherous and grotesquely inadequate. With the planet in the throes of dramatic climate change, ecological destabilization, and the sixth great extinction crisis in its history (this one having human not natural causes), “reasonableness” and “moderation” seem to be entirely unreasonable and immoderate, as “extreme” and “radical” actions appear simply as necessary and appropriate. After decades of environmental struggles in the west, we are nevertheless “losing ground” in the battle to preserve species, ecosystems, wilderness, and human communities. Politics as usual just won’t cut it anymore.[4]

Origins of Western Environmentalism

“Environmentalism,” a term developed in the modern western world, is an articulated philosophical and political concern human beings have with the destructive impact of their societies and lifeways on their surroundings and the natural world that sustains them. Most improbable in societies that respect and live in harmony with nature, environmentalism is a symptom of a disease. It is a manifestation of a dualistic outlook whereby human beings see themselves as apart from nature, view it as mere resources for their use, and seek to bend it to their will. Ecological lifeways in harmony with nature are primal, but environmentalism is a modern development.[5]Environmentalism is a necessary step toward healing the pathologies of a destructive and domineering society, but some forms of environmentalism, as we will show, only treat the symptoms of disease while others seek to eliminate its cause.

There are many histories of environmentalism appropriate to various national, geographical, or cultural settings, such as may be found in Australia, Asia, england, Finland, Germany, or the u.s. Our brief narrative here only touches on a few points relevant to traditions in north Amerika and Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries, but verges toward a broader international (though mostly western) narrative.[6] Ideas, tactics, groups, and movements often flow from one nation to another, such that by the 1990s western environmentalism – which is simultaneously a general name and multiple tendencies – becomes an international movement that connects with indigenous struggles in the southern hemispheres and expands on a planetary scale.[7]

While one can always find antecedents to any “beginning,” environmentalism emerged as a prominent new social concern in the u.k. and u.s. during the first half of the 19th century, largely in reaction to the social and environmental destruction wrought by capitalist industrialization processes. With the onset of the Industrial Revolution in London, the urban setting became a grim, overcrowded, polluted, smog-choked, disease-ridden prisonhouse of squalor and ugliness. In his poem, “Jerusalem” (1804), William Blake decried the city’s “dark satanic mills,” and in novels such as Hard Times (1854) Charles Dickens vividly portrayed the hellish lives of the urban poor. In protest against encroaching industrialization, groups of English weavers known as Luddites took up their sledgehammers in 1811 and attacked the machines that mass produced inferior products, eliminated their jobs, and destroyed their communities. The state crushed the burgeoning social movement, handing out death sentences for sabotage, and industrialization rolled right along under the banner of Progress, Democracy, and Freedom.[8]

As various radials and social reformers organized against the destructive effects of industrialization on working classes in cities such as London and Manchester, a new sensibility emerged in the late 18th century, championed by Romantic poets, artists, and thinkers who were concerned with the impact of capitalism on the beloved countryside and forests of england. Within the belly of the industrial beast, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, and others observed with alarm how both outer and inner worlds were threatened by mechanistic science, the technological onslaught, and the ruthless commodification of nature and human relations. Following the lead of Rousseau who declared everything natural free and good (before corrupted by society), they praised nature as the antithesis to all that was rotten in modern life, and extolled the beauty and divinity of the wild.

In the early 19th century, Romanticism spread from england to amerika where it took on similar form in the guise of “Transcendentalism.” Millennia after Native Americans lived with reverence for the Earth, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and John Muir embraced a similar pantheistic outlook. They rejected the prevailing Puritan ideology that saw nature as evil and repulsive, as something to be conquered not contemplated, and they spoke rapturously of the divine spirit manifest in all things. They extolled mountains, rivers, and forests as sacred and essential to authentic life, unlike the existence corrupted by the teeming crowds, breathless pace, and gross commercial values of cities. They understood that the “temple destroyers, devotees of raging commercialism” (Muir), such as represented by railroad, lumber, mining, land, and farming interests, were rapidly colonizing the wild and exploiting the Earth. In their writings and speeches, Transcendentalists encouraged aesthetic and spiritual appreciation of nature, sparked public awareness about the widespread “war against wilderness” (Thoreau), and launched an American tradition of environmental legislation and protection.

The evolution of “environmentalism” in the u.s. provides an instructive case study of the complexities and politics of the discourse and movement. According to a standard narrative, amerikan environmentalism emerged in the 19th century when privileged white males such as Emerson, Thoreau, Muir, and various conservationists became active in education and legislation efforts.[9] The story continues by relating how later figures, such as Aldo Leopold carried the baton of a budding new movement, emphasizes the importance of Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring (1963), then finally brings the tale to a climax by describing the sea of white faces demonstrating in the streets on the first Earth Day in 1970.

Although we have certainly oversimplified, the basic outlines of this history have been told often, and it is important to note that this narrative leaves out two important facts. First, many of the founders and pioneers of amerikan environmentalism were classist, racist, and sexist, such that their spiritual attunement to nature did not free them from pernicious prejudices of the time.[10] Early environmentalists, prosperous white men, contrasted a “vigorous manliness” ethic in the pursuit of wilderness to the “effeminate” weakness” of city life. Romantics, primitivists, and anti-modernists, they celebrated the “savage virtues” that the man of leisure cultivates in the canyons and forests of wild amerika. Their emphasis on rugged individualism and solitary journeys into wilderness hardly encouraged social awareness or activism. During heady political times of slavery, civil war, and genocide against Native Americans, some naturalists, such as Muir, remained apolitical and even misanthropic. Thoreau, in contrast, participated in the Underground Railroad, protested against the Fugitive Slave Law, supported John Brown and his party, and encouraged tax resistance and civil disobedience in general. He thereby stands out as an early eco-radical, one with a holistic outlook that encompassed both wilderness and social justice issues, and who exerted a great influence on the politics of civil disobedience and direct action associated with radical environmentalism.

Amidst the struggles of oppressed groups and the Dickensian horrors of industrialization, the nineteenth century understanding of “environment” in the u.s. was that of a pristine wilderness, such as could be enjoyed exclusively by people of privilege and leisure. Unfortunately, this elitist and myopic definition discounted the urban environment that plagued working classes, and it set a regressive historical standard that has come under fire but still stands.

The nature/urban dualism was far less rigid in england, however, where many 19th century champions of wilderness protection and nature were also vigorous social reformers. William Blake deified wilderness but also repudiated slavery and championed racial and sexual equality. Octavia Hill (1838-1912) founded the National Trust, an influential nature preservation society, as she worked to improve housing and increase public spaces for the poor. Radical prophet, poet, pacifist, and labor activist Edward Carpenter (1844-1929) advocated vegetarianism, anti-vivisection, women’s liberation, and gay sexuality, as he organized campaigns against air pollution and echoed Thoreau’s call for the “simplification of life.” Similarly, Henry Salt (1851-1939) was a socialist, pacifist, and champion of social reform in schools, prisons, and other institutions. He was also a naturalist, vegetarian, proponent of animal rights, and early animal liberationist. In 1891, he formed the Humanitarian League, which set out to ban hunting as a sport. This organization was a forerunner of the League against Cruel Sports (founded in 1924), as well as modern hunt-saboteur groups from which emerged the Animal Liberation Front (see below).[11]

Clearly, the understanding of “revolutionary environmentalism” will vary according to one’s definition of “environment.” If the definition focuses on “wilderness” apart from cities, communities, and health issues, then it will exclude the plight and struggles of women, people of color, workers, children, and other victims of oppression who work, live, play and attend school in toxic surroundings that sicken, deform, and kill. If, however, the definition of revolutionary environmentalism is broadened to include environmental justice (see below) and indigenous struggles against corporate exploitation and imperialism — which bring to the table key issues of race and class — then the contributions of Native Americans, Black liberationists, Latino/as, non-western peoples, and others can be duly recognized and integrated into a broader and more powerful resistance movement.

One must look to the 19th century roots of modern environmentalism to understand why in the u.s. and elsewhere the environmental movement is still comprised predominantly of middle class or elite white people. Tragically, narrow definitions of the “environment” and ideologies such as elitism, racism, sexism, and misanthropy persisted throughout the 20th century and surfaced in movements such as deep ecology and Earth First! Such attitudes – while not endorsed by all deep ecologists or Earth First!ers and which by no means capture the complexity of their positions and politics — were not exactly welcome mats for women, workers, and people of color, who regardless were preoccupied with their own forms of oppression and survival needs.

A second problem with the standard historical narrative of amerikan environmentalism is that it leaves out the important roles played by oppressed and marginalized groups. Far before Rachel Carson, African-American abolitionists opposed the use of chemicals such as arsenic being used to grow crops. Women’s chapters in the Sierra Club and Audubon societies played a significant role in furthering the aesthetic appreciation of nature. Women were not only wilderness advocates but also urban environmentalists. These activists included the “sewer socialists” of the late 19th century who militated for better sanitation conditions in cities; Alice Hamilton (1869-1970), a pioneer of occupational health and safety; and Jane Addams (1860-1935), whose activism on behalf of women, children, workers, and people of color was inseparable from her push for better housing, working, and sanitation conditions.[12] Anticipating by six decades the environmental justice movements that emerged in the 1980s (see below), Grace Fryer and other “Radium girls” sickened from radium poisoning sued the company responsible and raised awareness about the dangers of this deadly substance.

Modern radical groups have roots in forgotten social histories, such as we see in today’s environmental justice movement. Similarly, well before the sabotage and monkeywrenching actions of the Animal and Earth Liberation Fronts, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Earth First!, Native nations, rebellious slaves, abolitionists, Luddites, suffragettes, and others damaged machinery, destroyed property, and set buildings ablaze. Contemporary direct action and civil disobedience tactics, moreover, have immediate roots in the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s, and of course reach back to militants such as Gandhi, Thoreau, and Tolstoy. Thus, the modern environmental movement hardly emerged in a vacuum, nor did it evolve without deep imprints from intense struggles over class, race, and gender.

The Ferment of the 1960s

Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring (1963), is often credited with sparking the modern environmental movement. It captured the attention of the nation with its vivid prose and dire warning of the systemic poisoning effects of newly invented pesticides, especially DDT. In an era that promoted “better living through chemicals,” DDT and other deadly substances were spread liberally across the land, from the suburban lawns of New Jersey to the agricultural fields of California where migrant workers toiled and had first hand knowledge of their deadly effects. Carson’s book prompted President John F. Kennedy to order the President’s Science Advisory Committee to examine her claims against pesticides, and, despite ferocious opposition from the chemical industries, her research was vindicated and DDT was eventually banned – although the use of countless other deadly chemicals thereafter increased and continued to poison soil, crops, animals, rivers, and human communities and bodies.

Exclusive focus on Carson’s great achievements tends to cloud the importance of other contemporaries. In the 1950s, for instance, Murray Bookchin wrote numerous articles and books on the poisoning of the environment and food supply by nuclear testing, pesticides and herbicides, and various additives and preservatives.[13] During the same period, he also merged anarchism and ecology in a new revolutionary framework he later called social ecology, which argued that all environmental problems are deep-rooted social problems and therefore demand far-reaching social solutions. Biologist Barry Commoner also protested against nuclear testing in the 1950s, warning of the dangers of radioactive fallout, and he helped bring about the 1963 nuclear test ban treaty. A national figure, Commoner wrote on a wide range of issues including pollution, the dangers of fossil fuels, and alternative technologies. His books, such as The Closing Circle: Nature, Man, and Technology (1971), provided clear understandings of the “laws of ecology” and how modern society recklessly violated them. Populist and progressive, Commoner provided another early attempt to connect environmentalism to left-wing politics and broad social agendas.

Yet it is clear that the modern environmental movement did not arise because of Rachel Carson, or a few other key individuals (including David Brower). It emerged and sustained itself in the larger social context of the 1960s, as shaped by the struggles of the “new social movements” (radical students, countercultural youth, Black liberation, feminism, Chicano/Mexican-American, peace, anti-nuclear, and gay/lesbian/bisexual/transsexual).[14] These movements, in turn, arose amidst the turmoil spawned by the civil rights struggles of the 1950s. During the 1960s, however, Blacks and a number of white radicals rejected environmentalism as a bourgeois concern, elitist and racist cause, reactionary primitivism, and even dangerous diversion from the hard-won focus on civil rights and the Vietnam War. The political mindset was dominated by humanist and anthropocentric concerns, and even “progressive” figures and groups were unprepared to embrace an emerging new ethic that challenged human species identity as the Lord and Master of the wild. As they began to take shape in the 1960s, environmental concerns were – and mostly remain – “enlightened anthropocentric” worries that if people do not better protect “their” environment, human existence will be gravely threatened.

[1] The claim that we currently are witnessing an advanced ecological “crisis,” upon which the argument for revolutionary struggle rests, means that there is an emergency situation in the ecology of the Earth as a whole that needs urgent attention. If we do not address ecological problems immediately and with radical measures that target causes not symptoms, severe, world-altering consequences will play out over a long-term period. Signs of major stress of the world’s eco-systems are everywhere, from denuded forests and depleted fisheries to vanishing wilderness and global climate change. As one indicator of massive disruption, the proportion of species human beings are driving to extinction “might easily reach 20 percent by 2022 and rise as high as 50 percent or more thereafter” (Edward O. Wilson, The Future of Life. New York: Knopf, 2002). Given the proliferating amount of solid, internationally assembled scientific data supporting the ecological crisis claim, it can no longer be dismissed as “alarmist”; the burden of proof, rather has shifted to those “skeptics,” “realists,” and “optimists” in radical denial of the crisis to prove why complacency is not blindness and insanity. Science itself is calling for radical change. For reliable data on the crisis, see the various reports, papers, and annual Vital Signs and State of the World publications by the Worldwatch Institute. On the impact of Homo sapiens over time, see “The Pleistocene-Holocene Event” at: On the serious environmental effects of agribusiness and global meat and dairy production/consumption systems (which include deforestation, desertification, water pollution, species extinction, resource waste, and global warming), see John Robbins, The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World. Berkeley CA: Conari Press, 2001. The environmental impact of militarism and war is another often overlooked, but critical factor, as militaries and warfare are major contributors to air pollution, ozone depletion, polluted rivers, contaminated soil, use of land mass, consumption of energy and resources, release of toxic, radioactive, and chemical waste, and of course the threat of nuclear holocaust. See Rosalie Bertell, Planet Earth: The Newest Weapon of War. Montreal: Black Rose Books, 2001.

[2] See, for instance, how ExxonMobil has aggressively lobbied the Bush administration to block alternative energy approaches and maintain fossil fuels as the dominant energy source for the future, “The Hydrogen Hypocrites,”

[3] In solidarity with the language of resistance used by many Black liberationists and anti-imperialists, throughout this introduction we substitute “u.s.,” “Amerika,” “england,” and “u.k.” for “US,” “America,” “England,” and “UK,” and graffiti the names only of these two major imperialist powers.

[4] See Mark Dowie, Losing Ground: American Environmentalism at the Close of the Twentieth Century. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1995; and James Gustave Speth, Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004.

[5] Whereas some indulge in mythologizing and romanticizing past cultures, it is a well-known fact that massive environmental destruction is not caused by modern western societies alone, but rather was characteristic of numerous earlier societies that hunted animals to extinction and laid waste to their surroundings to the extent their technologies allowed. See Jared Diamond, Collapse How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed Viking, 2004; Charles L. Redman, Human Impact on Ancient Environments. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1999; and Vernon Carter and Tom Dale, Topsoil and Civilization. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1975.

[6] Needless to say, in our limited space here, we cannot possibly discuss in detail key individuals, groups, and concepts important to the history of western environmentalism. We are tracing some of the streams that feed into the river of revolutionary environmentalism as we define it, and many other histories and perspectives are needed for a fuller picture. This focus means that we are more concerned with providing a broad sketch and conceptual framework rather than a critical assessment of every figure and development we mention.

[7] On the topic of global environmentalism, see Ramachandra Guha,Environmentalism: A Global History. Cartersville, GA:Longman, 1999. The differences between Northern and Southern forms of environmentalism is discussed by Ramachandra Guha, Juan Martinez-Alier, and Juan Martinez inVarieties of Environmentalism: Essays North and South. London: Earthscan Publications, 1997.

[8] As they are so often misunderstood, it is important to emphasize that Luddites were not about mindless attacks on machinery or reactionary fears of “progress,” but rather rejection of a mechanistic approach to life, care for craftsmanship, and concern over threats to core values such as freedom and dignity. For an illuminating account of Luddites past and present, see Kirkpatrick Sale, Rebels Against the Future: The Luddites and Their War on the Industrial Revolution. Cambridge: Massachusetts: Perseus Publishing, 1995.

[9] For an example of a standard, single-focus narratives on the history of u.s. environmentalism, see Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967. To read an alternative, far broader account that links environmental and social history by including the fight for safe working and living conditions and the struggles of women, labor, and others, see Robert Gottlieb, Forcing the Spring: The Transformation of the American Environmental Movement. Washington, DC: Island Press, 1993. Marcy Darnovsky provides an excellent social history of environmentalism in her essay, “Stories Less Told: Histories of US Environmentalism,” Socialist Review, Vol. 22, No. 4, October-December, 1992, pp. 11-54. Darnovsky notes that “Too sharp a a focus on wilderness blurs the environmental significance of everyday life … In limiting their scope as they do, the standard [environmental] histories contribute to still-widespread associations of the environment as a place separate from daily life and innocent of social relations” (28).

[10] See Dowie, Losing Ground.

[11] Salt’s book, Animal Rights: Considered in Relation to Social Progress(1892), was pioneering both in its use of the term “rights” (in an english culture dominated by utilitarianism no less), and its holistic vision that presents human and animal rights as inseparable elements of moral progress. Salt also was a key influence on Gandhi, and thereby on subsequent history, in two key ways: his book, A Plea for Vegetarianism(1886), prompted Gandhi to return to vegetarianism (this time to honor ethical reasons not religious tradition) and thereby formulate a wider ethic of life; and he introduced Gandhi to the works of Thoreau, thus spreading the tradition of civil disobedience.

[12] On the early role of women in the emerging environmental movement, see Stephen Fox, The American Conservation Movement: John Muir and His Legacy. Madison: The University of Wisconsin, 1991.

[13] See, for instance, Murray Bookchin, Our Synthetic Environment. New York: Knopf, 1962 (published under the pseudonym of “Lewis Herber”).

[14] For a historical and critical analysis of new social movements, see Carl Boggs, Social Movements and Political Power: Emerging Forms of Radicalism in the West. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1987.


The Fresno Frenzy: Invasion of the Animal and Earth Liberation Fronts

Posted in animal liberation with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 9, 2010 by carmen4thepets

by Steven Best

Flying over Fresno, I looked out the window of the airplane and saw a landscape littered with factory farm buildings that housed thousands of animals in complete misery, confined in cramped cages and pens until they were ready for slaughter. I got a foreboding feeling about the setting in which I was about to land.

I was en route to an unprecedented conference called “Revolutionary Environmentalism,” held at the California State University, Fresno (CSU). It brought together notorious animal rights and environmental activists that, at one time or another, had been arrested for direct action and acts of animal liberation and property destruction, along with noted academics who write about and support this controversial aspect of the animal rights and environmental movements.

The implicit understanding of “revolutionary” involved (1) a critique of the capitalist system and its privileging of profit over all other values; (2) opposition to the Western worldview of anthropocentrism which disconnects human beings from nature and views the natural world as resources for human consumption; (3) direct action tactics that bypass the political process as an ineffectual means of change, that practice civil disobedience and lawbreaking, and that sometimes destroy the property of individuals or industries that harm animals or degrade nature.

Organized by political science professor Mark Somma,CSU approved hosting this provocative and singular conference. Rarely do universities support such controversial topics, but CSU approval was all the more remarkable as animal rights and environmental activists have declared war against interests such as agribusiness that are among its key financial contributors.

In attendance were former Animal Liberation Front (ALF) activists Rod Coronado and Gary Yourofsky; Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepard Conservation Society; former Earth Liberation Front (ELF) spokespersons Craig Rosebaugh and James Leslie Pickering; Dr. Bron Taylor, chair of the Religion Department at the University of Florida; Dr. Rik Scarce from the Science and Technology Studies Department at Michigan State University; faculty members from various departments at CSU; and myself.

During a time when the Bush administration put the nation on “high” alert for terrorist attacks, the conference brought together representatives from the FBI’s most wanted “domestic terrorist” groups–the ALF and ELF–and many others to discuss radical environmentalism and direct action. The stage was set for high drama.


Interviews with Rod Coronado and Captain Paul Watson

An Irate Industry

The passion play started in December 2001 when the Center For Consumer Freedom (CCF), a conservative group representing restaurant and tavern owners, got wind of the conference and put notice of it on the group’s website with an article entitled “Legitimizing the Lunatics.” Setting the precedent for conservative reaction, the CCF vilified the conference participants and condemned CSU for allowing “criminals” and “eco-terrorists” on its campus, thereby allegedly justifying their cause. In a case study of how industry propaganda and disinformation machines operate, CCF whipped up a climate of fear and hysteria by alerting other interest groups around the country about the event. CCF misrepresented university motives, absurdly exaggerated the danger of violence, and caricatured conference participants in crude terms while never questioning the impact of industry on animals and the earth.

Needless to say, the Fresno agribusiness community was outraged that the university it contributed money to would host a cadre of people militantly opposed to its business and values. Weeks before it happened, the conference dominated Fresno media and talk radio stations. People throughout the university and community debated it with great intensity, although with precious little information about direct action movements. Symptomatic of the paranoia hovering over Fresno as thick as its deadly fog of air pollution, car dealers hired extra security out of fear that hoards of black-clothed, balaclava-wearing thugs would pounce on their SUV lots in pre-dawn raids, as in fact the ELF has done in other states.

Prominent among the mob of detractors was John Harris, owner of one of the largest beef ranches in the San Joaquin Valley. Harris penned an op-ed in the Fresno Bee calling the conference participants “terrorists.” Many backers of CSU threatened to withdraw financial support in the belief that the university “sponsored” or “supported” eco-terrorism. Republican California state Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth joined the chorus of those decrying the “waste” of taxpayer money and demanding reducing state funds to the university proportionately.

The university issued press releases and statements on its website that rejected these charges and insisted it was only hosting a timely debate about issues that clearly relate to the critics. Wisely, the university acknowledged that animal and earth liberation movements were part of a new political culture and it is better to try to understand rather than ignore them. Many critics were not convinced, and felt that the university was unavoidably validating repugnant radical viewpoints. These same people insisted that they are not opponents of free speech rights, while they made a convenient exception to the rule. Symptomatic of the level of bias, a CSU student interviewed in the Los Angeles Times compared the conference members to the Ku Klux Klan, as CSU classics and humanities professor Bruce Thorton argued the university should no more sponsor this group of radicals than it should child molesters.

Other critics proclaimed the conference was rigged unfairly to advance a one-sided agenda without opposing voices. In fact, agribusiness interests were invited to speak but declined the offer. Moreover, the charge of bias is absurd because the conference was the one time university and community members could hear alternative viewpoints rather than the agribusiness propaganda that dominates Fresno. The conference, in other words, was the balance critics claimed was lacking.


Free Speech  Except For You

Putting aside invidious comparisons with activists who espouse compassion, non-violence, and anti-discriminatory views of any kind, does not even the KKK have a right to speak? Is not the university the most appropriate forum for debating controversial issues? Does truth not emerge through the clash of opposing positions? Are direct action tactics and the new liberation movements not among the urgent issues of the day that deserve a public airing? Is it wrong to discuss what is happening to animals and the environment in an era of intense development of the natural world and mass mechanization? Should students be “protected” from controversial views or do they need to hear them? Can they not make up their own minds, or do they need the paternalism of the state patriarchs?

The greater harm is not in having the debate, but in silencing it. The representatives of the agricultural industry and their conspirators showed themselves to be cowards, morally bankrupt, devoid of respect for truth and democracy, and shameless peddlers of propaganda. The university, conversely, was courageous as it withstood attacks from ardent supporters, from other members of the faculty and the community, and from the state government. If nothing else, the university gave local business interests the opportunity to meet and better understand their enemy.

Most of the conference was closed to the non-university community in order to prevent disruption and guarantee the kind of sober dialogue the organizers and participants sought. Thus, conference participants spoke to students and faculty in classes, seminars, and panel discussions. The main event, an evening panel open to anyone in the community with a ticket, drew 800 people. Like the classroom visits and the day panels, the audience response was overwhelmingly positive.

Instead of being bombarded with one-sided opinions, vilifications, slander, and distortion of the highest order–as they were in the weeks before the conference–thousands of members of the university and community had their first opportunity to hear radical activists and academics represent their views in their own words and in a full context. As the conference participants spoke to classes throughout the university and presented their views in numerous panels and a huge public forum, they had the opportunity to explain the legitimacy and need for direct action tactics, and to discuss the origins, motivations, and goals of the new liberation movements.

Whatever audience members concluded, it was obvious that these “lunatics” are intelligent, aware, and compassionate people who lost their government trust blinders for good reason. They are people committed to the defense of the natural and social worlds against the ever-escalating assault of industries on the forests, rivers, wilderness, and animals, and their radicalism emerged organically out of their political experience. In effect, radicals are products of the state that condemns them, for if government enforced laws and protected citizens, and if industries were not allowed “ownership” rights over animals and the environment, there would be no need for an ALF, ELF, and their academic supporters.


Interview with Dr. Steve Best

Will Monkeywrench For Nature

Throughout the event, the activists and academics challenged the charge that destroying property is violence by insisting that violence can only be committed against sentient beings and not objects. The ALF and ELF are deeply committed to principles of nonviolence and see themselves as adhering to the peaceful direct action traditions of Gandhi and King. In the history of ALF and ELF actions, no human being has ever been injured or killed, whereas activists have been assaulted and killed by industry goons and the state. Subsequently, panelists rejected the charge that they are “terrorists” as an Orwellian reversal of the truth. ALF and ELF activists harm no one and protect animals and the environment from severe harm; conversely, industries torture and kill billions of animals as they devastate ecosystems throughout the planet. Thus, who are the real terrorists?

Key questions emerged throughout the conference: who are the ALF and ELF and why do they exist? Do these groups play a positive or negative role in the struggles to protect the natural world? Why do they feel it is necessary to break laws? Can no real and enduring progress be gained through legislation? Are property destruction and arson acceptable tactics? What role do radical academics play in the new liberation movement and how should activists and academics relate?

The new liberation movements are relatively young, having emerged in the late 1970s (the ALF), the early 1980s (Earth First!), and the 1990s (the ELF). In strong terms, activists explained that they have found it necessary to work outside the legal system and flout its laws, because the U.S. government is thoroughly corrupt in its representation of powerful corporate interests over the people. Activists have no trust in the state, and they described how, in cases such as the Animal Welfare Act, laws serve only to regulate exploitation and violence, or to distract attention from the fact that the state serves the interests of industries. Known for sinking and ramming whaling ships, Paul Watson explained that he does not break laws; rather he upholds international treaties supposed to protect whales and other animals but which in fact are not enforced.

Activists did not block the possibility of others making useful reforms within the state. The Humane Society of the United States, for example, has been the driving force behind creating special elections that bypass the influence of industries on governments and allow citizens themselves to pass laws against various forms of animal cruelty. But the direct action activists emphasized how difficult it is to make progressive laws, how poorly they are enforced, and how they are constantly rewritten and watered down through industry pressure on government. In an extreme situation where after decades of hard work by animal rights and environmental groups ever more animals are being killed and abused and the destruction of the earth advances rapidly, activists feel that “extreme” measures are needed to defend the earth and its animal species from attack.

Liberation: Coming to a Town Near You

While the country feared another attack from the Al Qaeda and remained on high alert status, activists and academics gathered peacefully to talk about the crisis in the natural world. Although they provoked anger with many, the conference members had a deep and lasting impact on many students who for the first time heard radical viewpoints instead of industry propaganda. Along with the outrage, there was also appreciation for alternative perspectives and challenges to the state, capitalism, and the Western anthropocentric mindset that views the natural world as nothing but resources for human beings to use as they see fit.

Clearly, this band of “eco-terrorists” is no threat to national security, although the movements they represent or defend do pose serious threats to industries that exploit animals and the earth. The new liberation movements can be compared to the Black Panthers of the 1960s to the degree that mainstream thinking frames them as radical, extreme, and violent. Or, they can be likened to the abolitionist movement of the nineteenth century insofar as they seek to liberate and protect a living world from those who illegitimately claim rights of property ownership over it. Along with globalization and genetic engineering, animal rights and radical environmentalism are among the most urgent and heated topics of the day.

Flushed with excitement over a successful and historically significant education forum, I wondered about its long-term impact. Would there be more or less free speech at Fresno in the future? Can the spark of the conference ignite activity among an otherwise passive student body and dormant campus? Was the door opened to other radical viewpoints, or would there be a strong reaction and efforts to reindoctrinate the community with agribusiness propaganda? Can there be more conferences like this, or was it a singular event, both in terms of bringing together a unique combination of individuals and getting a university to host and fund it? (In fact, since the Fresno conference, a conference of radical environmental activists was featured at Rice University in Houston, Texas, and provoked similar ire against the university for using tax dollars to sponsor “eco-terrorists.”

Moreover, another university-sponsored conference of radical activists and academics is being planned for spring 2004 around the publication of the forthcoming book, Terrorists or Freedom Fighters: Reflections on the Liberation of Animals, co-edited by Tony Nocella and myself.)

Unfortunately, one of the main issues of the conference, the relation between radical academics and activists, was never engaged. Academics certainly appreciate the activists, but I heard anti-theory/academic biases voiced on occasion by some activists. Whether appreciated by all or not, it was important that academics were present to speak a different discourse informed by their study of history, sociology, and philosophy. There is a need for the new liberation movements to be taught in university courses; to be studied and debated at an academic level by sociologists, philosophers, political scientists, and others; and to be involved in public debates. While many radical academics are deeply involved in activist causes, teaching and writing can be important modes of activism. Educating students and the public about the history, ethics, and politics of militant direct action movements is an important service academics can perform as they help to legitimate animal and earth liberation as serious and important topics of discussion.

Despite the new attack on activism and constitutional rights in the era of the “PATRIOT Act,” animal and earth liberation movements continue to wage war against the destructive planetary machine of capitalism. As capitalist industries destroy ever more human and animal life and devour the earth, opposition movements to this genocide and ecocide will and must escalate. As they do, and become ever more serious threats to industries, the state will fight back with ferocity, as it is doing currently through the Patriot Act and its even more repressive sequel soon to debut in our land, “PATRIOT Act 2,” or the “Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003.”

One can only hope that the coming struggles will not be violent, but history shows that when the stakes are this high, moderation is not always exercised. •

Dr. Steven Best is NIO’s Senior Editor of Total Liberation.  Associate professor of philosophy at UTEP, award-winning writer, noted speaker, public intellectual, and seasoned activist, Dr. 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 booksover 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 frequent 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 Russia to South Africa, Best shows what philosophy means in a world in crisis(See Dr. Best’s Complete Biography)