The Roadmap to Animal Liberation (Part I: Plant the Flag)

The Roadmap to Animal Liberation (Part I: Plant the Flag)

The last slaughterhouse on Earth will close its doors in 40 years. Here's how. 

by Wayne Hsiung

Facilities like this one, where DxE saved a piglet named Miley, will soon be a distant memory. 

It starts as a faint high-pitched whistling, a whisper in the wind. But as the DxE Open Rescue Team moves closer, we can make out a rise and fall to the sound, a disturbing rhythm in the darkness. When we are about a mile away, we stop in our tracks. We realize what we’re hearing: the screams of a thousand animals who are about to die.

“We have two hours before the slaughter begins,” I say. “Let’s move.”

When we arrive and enter the slaughterhouse, it’s as if we’ve gone through a dimensional portal into hell. Baby pigs are sick and dying everywhere. I see one who is being eaten alive. Another has been smashed into a metal grate by a mob of animals and is trapped and starving. The stench is so overwhelming that one of our team members rushes outside to vomit.  

We hear a noise across the metal aisle. A light turns on, and three men with grim faces appear. They stare at us, shocked by our presence.

“How did you get here?” one shouts.

This is the point that we’ve been dreading. A direct confrontation between the animal abusers and animal rescuers at the very site of the violence.  

But then something surprising happens: the men with grim faces flee. One jumps over a gate and crashes through a window. Another pulls open a latrine cover and crawls through. The third leaps, grabs onto a railing above him, swings up, and squeezes through a hole in the roof.

“Stop!” I yell, as I bolt across the metal aisle. I dive through the window, tumble, and run after them. But they’ve all disappeared in the night. I shake my head and run back to the slaughterhouse.

“Call it in.”

Within an hour, hundreds of emergency trucks stream in, and medical professionals rush into the facility. One young EMT weeps uncontrollably.

“I can’t believe they did this. What kind of a sick people would torture such gentle beings? They were going to kill and eat those babies!”

The pigs are gently coaxed, two at a time, into the back of spacious trailers with bedding, food, and water. The babies are placed in special heated trucks; trained staff stay with them, offering infant formula to help them recover from trauma. Helicopters airlift a few to a local hospital to receive emergency surgery. Within 4 hours, all the animals have been saved.

The year is 2060. Four years ago, a constitutional amendment was passed enshrining animal rights in the US Constitution. And today, we are shutting down the last slaughterhouse on Earth.


Animal liberation – a world where every animal is safe, happy, and free – is often seen as a distant and murky dream, thousands of years away. With violence against animals raging everywhere, we can’t even conceive of a world where animals are protected rather than tortured.

But this is a problem. If we seek to change the world, we must have a bold vision of the world we want and a clear plan to get there. Evan Wolfson, the pioneering gay rights activist, calls the combination of bold vision and clear strategy a ladder of clarity. When I sat down with him a few months ago, he explained why the ladder is so important.

In difficult or complex terrain, flags are vital to give us confidence and direction in our path. 

“The first and most important point is you have to plant a flag, or no one will have anything to rally behind. You can’t motivate people to fight for an abstraction or a watered-down goal. They need to see -- literally be able to see in their mind’s eye -- the bold, inspirational world they can achieve.”

“But the second point is that if you don’t have a flag, no one knows how to fight. They pant and puff and run around the same place, pretending they’ve made some progress. But if you have a flag, you can see where you need to go. It shows you what steps you need to take.”

Evan is not just an armchair activist, moreover. Forty years ago, he wrote a groundbreaking paper predicting a constitutional right to same-sex marriage within one generation. Decried as extreme or ridiculed as foolish at the time -- after all, he was writing in an era where people were regularly fired, imprisoned, or even killed simply for being gay -- his prediction came true last year, when the Supreme Court enshrined marriage equality.

The animal rights movement must learn from Evan’s success.

Instead of bouncing from one half-measure to the next, reforming the system in small and sometimes counter-productive ways, we must have a bold, inspirational vision of change.

Instead of focusing on short term victories without understanding how they might (or might not) contribute to sustainable long term progress, we must have a clear strategy that takes us to our vision.

Today, we will do just that.

Because today, we are planting our flag: a constitutional amendment for animals. Changing the constitution has been the method used by activists to expand the moral franchise for 200 years, from the 13th Amendment (which abolished chattel slavery) to the 19th Amendment (which gave women the right to vote). And with so many dimensions to the oppression of animals -- from our food to our clothing to our science - only a constitutional amendment will create the sustained political momentum we need to change the world for all animals. Once such an amendment is in place, every political decision-maker, from the local city council member to the Supreme Court, will be beholden to its power. And since constitutional principles evolve over time, an amendment could adapt to the new challenges we face as we unpack the many brutal layers of speciesism.

But planting the flag is not enough. We need to make a map to it.

The Liberation Pledge creates powerful social norms that spread animal rights beliefs and behavior throughout a community. 

The Liberation Pledge creates powerful social norms that spread animal rights beliefs and behavior throughout a community. 

And that is why we at DxE are setting down The Roadmap to Animal Liberation. Based on over a decade of research, experience, and discussion with the best activists and social movement scholars in history, our roadmap lays down a step-by-step plan for animal liberation. Starting with laser-focus on a few seed cities -- notably, Berkeley, CA -- we will build the activist network, organizational skill, community, coalitions, and political power we need to Liberate Berkeley from the oppression of animals. Veganism will become the norm, block by block, as the Liberation Pledge causes chain reactions that cascade throughout the Bay Area. More and more animal rights supporters will flock to Berkeley, with a Berkeley Animal Rights Center -- in the heart of the city’s historic Telegraph district -- as our hub. Within a few years, no one will be able to walk the streets of Berkeley without seeing animal rights posters, vegan businesses, and, yes, nonviolent direct action happening on every street corner.

Within 10 years, Berkeley will be utterly transformed -- the first city in the United States to pass a bill of rights for animals, abolish their enslavement, and make veganism the legal and moral baseline.

And within one generation, we will go from liberating Berkeley to liberating the world. We will take the methods, the strategy, the people, and the power we are cultivating in Berkeley and deploy it in cities and states across the world until we’ve built an unstoppable global engine for animal liberation.

For half a century, Berkeley has been at the forefront of every social revolution, from free speech to anti-imperialism. And it is already at the forefront of animal liberation. Berkeley commissions are being staffed with DxE members and animal liberationists. Our local city council member, one of the 9 most powerful people in the city, has been an enthusiastic supporter of DxE’s work and has even joined a DxE disruption. And the Berkeley Animal Rights Center just went from vision to reality, as its doors will open to the public in a matter of days.

And fueling it all will be open rescue. While the rest of the world waits for animal liberation, in Berkeley, our motto will be “Liberation in Action.” We will rescue the animals, no matter what it takes. We will bring the victims back into our newly-anointed safe haven city. And we will dare the animal abusing corporations of this world to try us in the court of law or the court of public opinion. The stories we tell of animals rescued from hell will shake the world -- Liberation Pledgers will pledge, mothers will cry, sisters will rage, friends and allies will protest -- and trigger a fierce backlash by Big Ag that will force the nation and world, for the first time in history, to make a choice:

"Do you wish to stand with those who rescue animals? Or those who torture them?"

And when we put that choice on the table, the world will choose liberation. The world will choose to join us in closing down the abattoirs and replacing them with sanctuaries. And in just one human generation, we will shut down the last slaughterhouse on Earth.


Want to read more about DxE's strategic vision? Stay tuned for Part II of this three part series: Rally to the Flag.  

Want more details on the Roadmap? Check out the full version of our Forty Year Strategic Roadmap to Animal Liberation. We want your comments! 

Want to get involved? DxE is a grassroots network focused on empowering you to be the best activist you can be. Here are some steps you can take. 

  1. Sign up to our mailing list and share our content on social media. 
  2. Join a local DxE community (or, better yet, come visit us in Berkeley).
  3. Take the Liberation Pledge. And join us in building a true social movement for animals.