A Note to Animal Rights Activists

By Chris Van Breen

Imagine that you took someone into your arms, then into your home, and into your family. Imagine other people telling you that the institutions that deliberately tortured, maimed, and left her for dead are doing a good thing for her and her sisters .  .  .  Then imagine that you have difficulty talking about it because she died recently, and someone tells you that "Whole Foods is good for animals".

I found myself in this very position at the animal rights conference this year. It was the middle of a fairly normal, informal debate -- we had things we agreed on, and things we disagreed on. One point I convinced her of was that no matter our differences, we should like that other people care about animals and are doing what they think is right for them. After that, she said, "Whole Foods is doing a good thing for animals."

Immediately, I felt like I had been hit in the gut. I teared up a bit, I took a step back. I took a few breaths. I told her about Mei Hua and the other animals I had seen at Whole Foods facilities. Mei Hua had recently died, and I still have not really talked about it. She died young because of the way she was bred by humans and the way she was treated by Whole Foods. A few of us gave her a second chance at life, and I'm glad she had a year to play in the sun with us. But it still hurts to think of her.

Chris helping with health checks at Animal Place

Chris helping with health checks at Animal Place

In the end, neither of us budged on this issue.

At the end of the conversation we both said, I think you’re wrong, but I love that you care about animals. And we shared a hug.

It is good for us to give constructive criticism to each other. It's vitally important for the growth of the movement that we disagree with each other and try different things. It is just as important that when people are trying to tear activists down, using personal attacks and abuse, that we stick together and support each other. We have a lot to learn from activists like Bruce Friedrich, who can disagree with people and still respect them, who can even give advice and assistance to those he thinks are going about things the wrong way.

It is time for the animal rights movement to come together and work with each other whenever we can, disagree and constructively dissent when we can't work together. And no matter what, support each other as allies and say, I love that you care about animals, and I’m glad that you are doing what you think is best.

5 Comments