The Biggest Injustice
Speech delivered by Kirstine Høj of Direct Action Everywhere’s Danish chapter, on our August 2014 Day of Action, at a dairy “food” festival.
We are witnessing the biggest injustice ever. Humanity’s exploitation of non-human animals trumps in scope, duration and number of victims every other social injustice in our history. No other group of sentient beings has been so marginalized and ill-treated for so long as the non-human animals.
We are here today to speak for those whose voices—daily, every hour, every minute, and every second—are ignored. We are here to convey the message behind the desperate cries for mercy that, day in and day out, sound from exploited animals worldwide. The message behind the screams is: "Let us live freely, with our families. Allow us a life of peace, without fear of torture.”
Other animals are much like humans: sentient, conscious beings who lust for life. They are someone, not something. They breathe; they have emotions, and can experience everything from sorrow to joy to anger—and yes, even love.
They are here with us, not for us.
For too long, people have ignored other animals’ pain and fear at the slaughterhouse; the howling and whimpering on “fur farms;” the frustration of trapped elephants in circuses, and the desperate, sorrowful moan of a mama cow calling to her calf as a human takes her baby away from her. Man's violence against other animals has been thoroughly institutionalized. It is carried out entirely legally; but legality does not make right. We have seen this before: in the oppression of black people as slaves; oppression of women in the home, in the workplace and in the political arena; discrimination based on skin color, gender, religion, sexuality, nationality and so on.
Speciesism—discrimination based on an animal’s species—is just as corrupt as racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination, whereby a group of individuals is not taken into account due to irrelevant criteria. Speciesism is a form of discrimination that is widespread and widely accepted in society—even as resistance to other forms of discrimination builds. We are here today because we do not accept speciesism. We will accept nothing less than total animal liberation: respect and empathy for all animals, human and non-human, and their fundamental right to live their lives in peace and freedom.
All places where humans keep non-human animals as slaves hide unbearable pain behind their walls, their gates. Whether in zoos, on fur farms, in circuses, on “food-farms” or in laboratories, the suffering cannot be ignored. Everyone has the right to live: whether you are a pig, a Palestinian, a dog, a homosexual, a rat, a Dane, a cow, a rabbit, a transsexual or Chinese. We are all Earthlings living on this planet. We will repeat our message until the greatest social injustice is over; we will continue to speak on behalf of our non-human brothers and sisters until every animal is free.
I am a softhearted, not a hardcore, animal rights activist.
The expression "hardcore animal rights activist" is a false cliché. There is nothing hardcore about defending other animals. In fact, it takes a soft heart to insist on animal liberation, love, compassion, and rights for other animals.
It demands a soft heart not to be able to sit at a table full of violently acquired "food" a.k.a. dead animals and their secretions. In other words, it would feel about the same way as if those at table had eaten your aunt. If you don't have a soft heart beating for animal rights, you would not join DxE, go into stores and restaurants and stand on sidewalks to speak up for innocent animals. If you kept your heart closed to non-human animals’ suffering, you would not think about them every day and dream about a world without animal abuse.
It’s all about denial.
When we compare AR activists to other activists who have worked, and continue to work, for equality (such as abolitionists or feminist activists), it becomes very clear that the hardcore ones are never those who fight for freedom. The hardcore are always the ones who deliberately speak for status quo—for continuing the oppression of different groups in society.
Why are we—the animal rights activists—called extreme? The answer is obvious: If we were seen as the reasonable and compassionate people, there would no longer be so much as an attempt at an excuse for not being vegan. To my fellow animal rights activists: Whenever someone claims you’re “too extreme,” “pathetic,” “self-righteous” or any other negative adjectives, let it be a reminder that you are on the right side of justice, and that people are saying these things so as to avoid listening to their own consciences.
I am sure we’ve all heard thoughtless comments like these before, because we insist that every animal have the right to be safe, free, and happy without fearing exploitation from humans. Just take their words as a reminder that you’re doing the right thing and simultaneously are poking to their fragile speciesist worldview. That is exactly what Direct Action Everywhere does by bringing in the message of animal liberation in places where violence against other animals is normalized, such as restaurants and supermarkets.
An open heart.
So to sum it up: Animal rights activist are not hardcore. At all. We are softhearted, and we want animal liberation NOW. Therefore, we will be a voice for the animals, until they have received their freedom—until every animal is free.
If you are reading this and are not vegan yet, I encourage you to stop putting up excuses for exploiting other animals, open your heart to them and stop funding the atrocity. Animal liberation is a social justice issue. Like you and I they just want to live a happy life. They need to have the basic right to be free and safe, whether it’s:
- A cow, pig, chicken, turkey etcetera at a factory or “free-range farm:” It's not food, it's violence!
- A mink or a fox in a cage, a goose ripped for down, a cow killed for skin, a sheep exploited for wool or a butterfly used for silk: It's not fashion, it's violence!
- An elephant chained at a circus, a polar bear at a zoo, a horse in a race course, a bull at a rodeo, a captive dolphin doing tricks in a little pool, a puppy at a puppy mill: It's not entertainment, it's violence!
- A rat, rabbit, dog, cat etcetera in a laboratory: It's not science, it's violence!
All animals, without exception, deserve the basic right to be free and safe. Be a voice for the animals, until every animal is free. Trust what your soft heart already knows: Animal liberation is becoming a reality!