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On the Shoulders of Giants

On the Shoulders of Giants

by Wayne Hsiung

Patty Mark and Animal Liberation Victoria performing an open rescue. 

During the past 30 years, I have been stepping across the line that humans draw to separate us from other animals. I hear their screams and witness their fear and suffering in hundreds of places, including slaughterhouses, industrialized farms, darkened sheds, open paddocks, feedlots and inside transport trucks/ships on four continents. There was nothing humane on their side of the line.

- Patty Mark, Founder, Animal Liberation Victoria

I don’t remember when I first read about open rescue and Patty Mark. From the first story I heard, I knew she was on to something powerful.

But the events of the past ten years the rise of animal welfare, the decline in US grassroots activism, the industry’s push for ag-gag laws across the country, and above all, the skyrocketing growth of so-called “humane” animal farms have changed what was just an effective tactic into an absolute necessity for our movement. The corporations that have the most to lose also have the most to hide, and they have put incredible effort into preventing us from getting a (gruesome) window into their world. Fear of scrutiny from animal activists has made jobs at so-called humane farms some of the hardest minimum-wage jobs to get in the world. (If you don’t meet demographic expectations and have a connection to a current employee, you can forget about it.) Farms are generally in remote areas of the country, far from the urban foodies who ravenously buy their “humane” products.  

Open investigation and rescue undermine the industry’s strongest weapons– ignorance and complacency– and bring the horrendous oppression of animals to the fore. Undercover investigations that take millions of dollars and many years of trial and error with concealed cameras can suddenly be undertaken by anyone with a big heart and a smart phone. And most importantly, instead of the nameless hordes we typically see in investigatory footage, with open rescue activists can narrow their focus down to the individual and tell stories of not just horror and violence, but of happiness and liberation.

There are two crucial points here. First, the work that we do is built on the shoulders of giants. We never could have undertaken this project without inspiration from legendary figures in the movement, such as Patty Mark. Her example provided not just the motivation, but the strategic blueprint for what was done.

Second, nonviolent direct action in all its forms is a product of empowered communities, not courageous individuals.  I know this from personal experience. Inspired by Patty, I too have walked in places of violence for nearly ten years; but one quickly realizes that footage alone can only take one so far. Without a community behind you, the story you tell will quickly wither away. Worse yet, with no support or attention, you and your friends may be punished severely for your acts.

The difference this time around is… you. We have you to inspire us. To support us. And most importantly, to share the story of these animals to the world. There will be much more to come in the coming weeks. The multinational giant that lies at the heart of this empire of lies will be exposed. You’ll meet some of the beautiful girls who made it out of this corporation’s engine of violence alive; but, above all, what we want you to take from this is that direct action is everywhere. It’s in the difficult personal conversation you have with a close friend about how much it hurts you and the animals when he eats meat. It’s in the gentle tears of a grandmother who, remembering her beloved dog, weeps after seeing a frightened cow with the same look she remembers on her long-lost companion. It’s in the powerful waves of nonviolent protest that have animated social justice movements for hundreds of years. And it’s in the act of civil disobedience when someone decides, with a community’s support, to rescue a terrified animal from sickness and pain.

To bridge the violent line that we have set between humans and our fellow animals the speciesist divide will require the work of giants. And while the giants we know and love are important Patty Mark, for example, has changed the face of our movement the giants we don’t recognize are even more important. They are the giants that we build together. Patty would be the first to say that her work and the open rescue movement would not have been possible without the support of countless ordinary people across the world. The same is true of the work we do. We stand on the shoulders of giants; but the giants who matter most cannot be slain by a single swing of a blade. They are the giants that are born from a people who are no longer willing to be bystanders to violence and oppression. They are the giants that start with you. 

The Biggest Injustice

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.

  Kirstine Hoj, DxE Copenhagen.

Kirstine Hoj, DxE Copenhagen.

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!

Is there a place in animal rights for a kid from China? Part II: Orphans of the Left

Is there a place in animal rights for a kid from China?  
Part II: Orphans of the Left

by Wayne Hsiung

(Check out Part I and Part III of the series as well.) 
 

When I was growing up in central Indiana, my family, like many immigrant families, was alienated from the white communities that surrounded us. My parents have never had a white friend. Heck, they have never, as far as I know, been invited to a white social gathering. Worse yet, living in central Indiana, where people of color were basically nonexistent, there was not even a ghetto for us to retreat to. We lived, for all intents and purposes, in isolation.

Alienated from the surrounding community, my family sought support from within. 

Isolation breeds fear. Fear of the uncertain. Fear of the unknown. Fear of those tall, sun-splashed, statuesque white people who seemed to effortlessly walk through a world that, to us, was terrifying and foreign. From our broken English to our sloppy immigrant clothes, we stuck out like sore thumbs. So it was with great trepidation that I made my first entrance into the white world: first grade.

It did not go well. On the first day, the kids looked at me with curiosity. I could see their strange glances, and hear their whispers. And it did not take long for one of them to finally pop the question.

“What’s with your eyes?” a girl asked me at lunch.

“My eyes?” I mumbled in broken English.

“I mean, what’s with your eyes?” the girl asked again, this time with a slightly mocking smile.

Fighting tears, I looked away from her and tried to focus back on my food. But the chatter continued. I noticed the girl and her friends using their fingers to bend their eyes upward, to mimic the slanty shape of the stereotypical Chinese eye. They later pulled me over to perform the infamous limerick -- “Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees” (with eyes pulled up, then down, then hands placed on the knees) – that to this day makes no sense to me at all.

Except that it sort of did make sense because, from that day, the pattern was set: I was expected to perform whiteness, i.e. to normalize and privilege Western attributes and perspectives above all others. 

It would take a book to describe the humiliations I faced over the next 10 years. But though I suffered many episodes of physical violence, the worst incidents – the incidents that remain deeply engraved in my mind and that still wake me up screaming in the night – always involved the way I looked. Eyes were only the beginning. Kids asking why I dressed the way I did. Why my hair was so “geeky” (i.e. stiff, straight, and un-stylish). And whether my “cum was yellow, too” – an insult that, being a naïve Asian kid, I did not even understand until I went off to college. It got so bad that, for years, I would hide in the stalls of the bathroom. There, I would sit on the toilet, trembling, and tear at my own hair and skin (sometimes to the point of bleeding). I would sit, trembling and crying, and plead to myself, “Why can’t I just be white?”

In the 2000 presidential election, candidate John McCain explained that he "hates gooks" - a racial slur used against Asian people. The mainstream media yawned. 

The strange thing about all of this was that the town I grew up in, Carmel, had a reputation for being less ignorant than the surrounding areas. It was where the “educated” people lived. Indeed, that was precisely why my parents chose to make Carmel their home. But while discussions of racism did enter into our curriculum – even in conservative, white Indiana, Martin Luther King, Jr. was lionized as a hero – it was something that was remote, abstract, and almost mythological. It was never something that students, particularly of Asian descent, could actually be hindered by.

And so, even when a bully was battering my face and screaming that I was an ugly chink – which happened on more than one occasion – it never occurred to me that the problem was racial.

“It’s just me,” I told myself. “If only I weren’t so stupid, so ugly, so clueless.” If only I could properly play white.

And my experience is not unique. Millions of Asians across the country face the same struggle. The mainstream media loves to promote the myth of the model minority. We are the chosen colored people. The people who have assimilated, adopted Western norms and habits, achieved social and economic power, and succeeded beyond our wildest dreams! Bill O’Reilly blabbed to Jon Stewart recently about so-called “Asian privilege,” and even some progressive writers have begun talking about “Asian as the new white.”

There’s just one little problem: the facts.  

Consider:

-  A frightening 68% of the American public has “very negative” or “somewhat negative” views of Chinese Americans, and those views extend to Chinese in leadership positions (with over 50% more people saying they would be uncomfortable with a Chinese president than a black president).

- Asians are represented at lower rates in positions of power despite having higher educational status. Asians comprise 0.3% of corporate officers relative to 5% of the population – a 17x difference. (The comparable rate for women, who are also discriminated against, is 14.6%, relative to 50.9% of the population -- a 3x difference.)

- Asians are paid lower wages for equal work, even in industries such as Tech (where Asians make $8,146 less than white workers, compared to a $3,656 gap for Black employees, a $6,907 gap for those whose race is "other,” and a $6,358 gap for women).

- Asians have far lower representation in the mainstream media and other public roles than other races. (One prototypical example: in its four-season run, the popular television show The OC did not have a single Asian face, despite depicting a region of California, Orange County, filled with over half a million Asian people. The Asians literally just disappeared.)


- Victims of bullying in schools are “disproportionately Asian.” Those of us who grew up in white schools know this very well: we are perceived as weak, and the first targets on every violent bully’s list.

- Asians (particularly men) suffer from the strongest bias in measures of attraction. ("[O]ur main finding is that Asians generally receive lower ratings than men of other races. In fact, when we run the regressions separately for each race, we find that even Asian women find white, black, and Hispanic men to be more attractive than Asian men.") 

- Asians are socially excluded at higher rates than any other race in simple tests of implicit bias, even in the ivory tower. I saw this when I was in graduate school. Asians had to work twice as hard as white kids to get attention from star professors, and even then, we were invariably perceived as robotic drones.

And then there is, of course, what happens in, well, Asia. Nearly one billion people in my home continent (70% of the world’s total) live in extreme poverty, defined as less than $1.25 a day in income. That is just the tip of the iceberg because millions more don’t meet the criteria for “extreme poverty” but nonetheless suffer under the crushing weight of Western hegemony.

Some recent examples:  Twelve hundred people are killed in the collapse of a dilapidated garment factory for huge American corporations such as Sears and Walmart (who don’t even bother to compensate the grieving families for their loss). Employees at an Apple factory toss themselves off the roof of their workplace, in a desperate attempt to escape slave-labor working conditions. (Apple CEO Steve Jobs responds by saying, “For a factory, it’s pretty nice.”) Hundreds of workers are locked into a factory making American handbags, for all but 60 minutes a day, and face beatings if they dare challenge their confinement.

Every now and then, ever so briefly, the suffering of Asia blinks into American view. But it is just as quickly forgotten.

We tell ourselves that what happens in Asia is a product of Asia. But it’s not. In fact, the abuses in Asia are the direct result of, not just corporate practices, but widespread indifference to the plight of people who are seen as “perpetual foreigners” even in our own country. It’s a result, in short, of the global pull of performing whiteness. Consider some perspectives from Asians in America.

“The West has taken our best and our brightest – the leaders of Asia – and turned them into servants to white people.”

- A friend of my father’s contrasting life in Asia with life in the West. Like so many Asians, and despite exceptional performance, my father and his friends were relegated to non-leadership roles throughout their careers.

“I have no idea where we can live if we have to leave here. We're hoping not to sleep in the street.”  

- Poon Heung Lee, an 80-year-old retired hotel housekeeper, after being evicted from his San Francisco apartment along with his 48-year-old mentally disabled daughter. Countless other families in historically Chinese neighborhoods have been physically forced out of their homes due to the Ellis Act. (Yes, the very neighborhoods that the racist tour guide last week told to “F--k off.” She, and many other people, are getting their wish.)

“I’m in pain, but they don’t believe me. They tell me, stop faking.”

- Hiu Lui Ng, undocumented immigrant who was shockingly seized after 17 years in this country at his final green card interview, taken from his wife and two young children, and thrown into a grim detention center. After nearly a year languishing in the facility, and despite his cries of excruciating pain, Ng was dragged from his cell because he could not stand on his own power. Shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with a broken spine and liver cancer, which killed him five days after the diagnosis. As with the Vincent Chin beating and death, the government responded with a collective, “Who cares?"

In short, Asia and Asians have been forced into the most humiliating positions, used to serve Western capitalism, confined in spaces no living being should be forced to endure, kicked out of our homes when the land is needed for more powerful peoples, and even murdered in cold blood. And yet the American Left is unmoved. Indeed, the American Left hardly even remembers that we exist.

Sound familiar? It should. Because there’s another group that suffers from the same problem to a much more severe and horrific degree.

Animals.


Invisible Oppression

Readers of this blog do not need me to recount the horrific details. 10 billion land animals killed in the United States. Hundreds of millions more for fur, experimentation, and entertainment. Even dogs and cats, our beloved family members, are murdered by the millions every year – all for the crime of being born to a different species. But the most heartbreaking stories are always those of individuals. Two are particularly salient.

A poor cow is forced to witness the violent end of her friend. And she's next in line. 

In a recent video, a poor cow is forced to witness violent men murder her friend. She struggles to escape the slaughter line, to stay as far away from the room where death awaits. But she is eventually shocked with an electric prod into the chamber where she will meet her end.  You see the fear in her eyes, as she desperately tries to turn and escape. 

The second is the story of the so-called last pig. A baby pig, surrounded by the dead bodies of her friends, screams and scrambles desperately as men approach to take her body and flesh. These are not screams of physical pain. They are screams of terror and fear… the screams of a gentle soul who cannot bear to face her oppressors alone…. the cries of someone who desperately needs a friend with her as she faces an unspeakable end.

When I see the world through these animals’ eyes, I can barely maintain my composure. I think back to the moments in life where I have lived in fear, in isolation, in terror of imminent violence, and I can barely stop myself from screaming out, at the top of my lungs, “JESUS CHRIST! WHAT THE F--K IS GOING ON? SOMEONE STOP THIS NOW!” 

My friend Lisa put it very well, when I talked to her recently about her evolution towards animal rights consciousness. When she first saw what happened in a slaughterhouse, she cried out in her head, "Nothing could be more evil in the world!" I wholeheartedly agree.

And yet, despite the horrific evil that  surrounds us, oppression of animals, like discrimination against Asians, is largely ignored. Approximately 2% of the American population has taken the small step of declining to consume the bodies of animals. Even in that small sliver, only a small percentage endorse true animal rights or species equality. And finally, there is the sliver of the sliver: those proud few who have committed to take a stand

Abandoned by the Left, you might think that Asians and animal rights activists would be allies. But instead, we have the opposite.

In fact, a list of the most hate-filled animal rights campaigns almost invariably includes a long line of Asian targets. The slaughter of elephants and rhinos for "trinkets." The deforestation of orangutan habitat for palm oil. The primate trade in China. The list of Asian targets is like the animal rights movement’s Most Wanted. And even when the organizers of such campaigns expressly disavow racism, hateful sentiments always bubble up.

Take dog meat. Perhaps the most prominent international animal rights organization on the planet, with a reputation for being effective, ethical, and thoughtful, took on the issue last year. And they did so with the highest and most ethical purpose in mind – to extend consideration and equality to all animals, not just the dogs and cats that Westerners traditionally have loved.

And yet a brief perusal of responses to their campaign media shows a torrent of violent and racist rhetoric. A commenter (approved by 225 people) calls the Chinese “weak cowards” and asks “Why are they allowing these scum bags to exist?” (One wonders if Americans are cowards, too, for killing and eating over 100% more animals than the average Chinese.) Another comment with the text “Go to hell, China!” and “Hang them all, devils” is approved by an astonishing 131 people on the page. (Ironic, given the hanging dog in the image.) And perhaps most perversely of all, “I always wanted to go to China, I will not set foot in that place! They are a disgrace to humankind and in fact don't deserve to even to referred to as human!” (A strange thing for an activist for non-human animals to say. After all, while we Chinese are, in fact, human, what’s wrong with being non-human?)

And this, of course, is by an organization that is doing a “foreign” campaign as ethically as it can possibly be done. For example, the campaign included Chinese activists and voices in its materials, emphasized that Western countries also engage in violent practices toward animals, and expressly disavowed any sort of racist rhetoric or messaging.

But if you have been following this blog, you should not be surprised. After all, when 68% of the public un-apologetically holds negative views of Asians, when many more who disavow conscious prejudice nonetheless show dramatic evidence of implicit bias (e.g. refusing to even talk to someone simply because of their ethnic face or name), and when an entire continent remains under the heel of the Western powers that have ruled the world for hundreds of years, should we be surprised when campaigns that target foreigners... trigger anti-foreigner hatred or even violence?

It should also be no surprise when Asians, and other minority communities targeted by the animal rights movement’s ire, don’t take well to these campaigns. Indeed, one begins to wonder what self-respecting person of color would even consider becoming an animal rights activist in the first place. My cousins asked me if I was performing whiteness. But perhaps they should have been harsher on me: Am I betraying my own heritage, culture and people… betraying my own non-whiteness…. by fighting for animal rights?

 

Next: Part III: The Path Forward.


What's Stopping You From Speaking Out?

 

What's Stopping You From Speaking Out? 

By Laura Bellefontaine 

 

 

"The moral evils of a flesh diet are not less marked than are the physical ills. Flesh food is injurious to health, and whatever affect the body has a corresponding effect on the mind and the soul. Think of the cruelty to animals that meat eating involves, and its effect on those who inflict and those who behold it. How it destroys the tenderness with which we should regard these creatures of God!" - The Ministry of Healing [Pg 314-316].

  Direct Action Everywhere's protest in Salt Lake City, Utah. Protesting against the "humane" advertising slogan placed on meats at various upscale grocery stores. Exactly what is their definition of humane slaughter?

Direct Action Everywhere's protest in Salt Lake City, Utah. Protesting against the "humane" advertising slogan placed on meats at various upscale grocery stores. Exactly what is their definition of humane slaughter?

Direct Action Everywhere’s (DxE's) mission, stated simply, is to create peace for all earthly beings. The recipe for social change is fairly simple: Create activists, Connect activists and Inspire activists. Priya Sawhney, DxE’s community organizer, states, “Committing ourselves to making the world a better place is one step in finding deep peace within ourselves, but more importantly, a step closer in creating a peaceful world for all inhabitants of this planet.” The people involved with DxE convey the passion they feel about animals. However, many people argue that DxE’s approach is harsh and preachy. Nobody likes a preachy vegan. Right? Well, except for the animals. Instead of judgment, read this article and admire their convictions and commitment. Avoid the social stigma that to be assertive is pushy.

  Protest in Salt Lake City, Utah

Protest in Salt Lake City, Utah

Some vegans try hard to keep the conversations light, to avoid the social shame that animal right activists have stamped upon their foreheads. Are vegans preachy? Where does the negative association of the word “preach” come from? Since millions attend churches, one would assume people enjoy hearing a sermon derived upon various religious notions and beliefs. When I asked Priya whether protesting produced any benefits, she answered, “In his letter from a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.' The world needs emerging leaders who display an outspoken understanding of the cruelty taking place. Indeed, if outspoken activists did not campaign for social justice throughout history, would slavery still exist today? Furthermore, what is your definition of slavery? Is it only confined to human-beings or rather all innocent beings?"

  Protest in Salt Lake City, Utah. "This is a somebody, not a something!"

Protest in Salt Lake City, Utah. "This is a somebody, not a something!"

I was moved, as I began to understand why people choose to protest. These activists protest despite the public opposition. They continue to speak against the injustice being done to animals. Do they not deserve a voice? Do they not have an equal right to be safe, happy, and free? Is this not honorable? DxE hopes for change focusing on farm animals, noting that violence is not food. This campaign directly impacts Ching Farm Sanctuary. These organizers and protesters help give a voice to the animals that reside on our farm; animals that society sees as food. If you wouldn't harm a cat, why are other animals so different? Animals big and small, they all deserve a voice. They all deserve love and compassion. What’s stopping you from speaking out?

  Post action activist dinner with some awesome people.

Post action activist dinner with some awesome people.

What D.E.A.F Taught Us About DxE's Create, Connect, Inspire Model

What D.E.A.F Taught Us About DxE's Create, Connect, Inspire Model 

By Missy Freeland 

Sometimes when we seek to inspire others, we end up being inspired instead. While on our journey to teach others, we end up being reminded of the importance of our own model (create, connect, and inspire). We learn why it’s so absolutely essential not only to create activists but also to connect activists, who will in turn inspire others in their communities to take action in profound ways.

During our presentation in Los Angeles, individuals from a group-- Deaf Empowerment for Animal Freedom (D.E.A.F)-- attended our presentation and participated in an action. Priya, Lola, and myself had the opportunity to get to know Roy Abueg, Christine Garcia, Gabriel Lindeman, and Nancy Prudehomme, all of whom communicate in complex visual spatial language and have dedicated themselves to fighting for the animals through advocacy in American Sign Language.

Roy shared his experiences as deaf person and emphasized the importance of the intersections between struggles of the deaf community and animal rights. Roy talked about the hardships faced by the deaf community: “Growing up, we were forced to speak.” The practice of teaching deaf people to communicate by the use of speech and lip-reading rather than sign language is oralism-- an active form of discrimination.  

The group also spoke about the rejection it faced within the animal rights community when trying to get involved: “[W]e care for animals, but they don’t want to include us.” Hearing these words almost brought tears to our eyes. 

Here is this dedicated group who has been seeking a space within the movement to help them mobilize their own community for the animals; and in twenty years, they have received no support. Despite the rejection it has faced from within the movement, its persistence is hard to overlook. The group's passion and enthusiasm for collaboration with other groups remains strong.

We cannot focus enough on the importance of supporting activists who are already working within their communities to create change. Having D.E.A.F present at our event was not only illustrative of what DxE’s Create, Connect, and Inspire model is all about but also a personal inspiration to me.

How to Get Glenn Beck to Put Your Issue on the Table

 Perhaps the most famous conservative voice in America attacked animal rights this week. Here's why that's a good thing.

Perhaps the most famous conservative voice in America attacked animal rights this week. Here's why that's a good thing.

How to Get Glenn Beck to Put Your Issue on the Table

by Wayne Hsiung

Over the past two weeks, with three major press hits, millions of people across the world have been exposed to the debate over animal rights -- and DxE's #ItsNotFoodItsViolence campaign -- in a significant, serious, and meaningful way. 

The LA Times, the largest paper in the second largest media market in the country, posted a piece discussing our campaigns and the meaning of "speciesism." (Our response here.) TheBlaze and Glenn Beck's influential TV and radio show both published angry rants about liberal animal rights activists going too far. (Our response here.) And, just this morning, Truthout published a powerful piece by my co-organizer Priya Sawhney on the intersections between racism, sexism, and speciesism. How did we get our issue on the table? 

In one word: disruption. 

I've written and spoken previously about how disruption has been a necessary element to every successful social movement . It has been described by distinguished political scientist Sidney Tarrow as "the strongest weapon" of social justice. It was the original form of direct action, going back all the way to Socrates, who was killed for speaking in places where his words were unwelcome, and defined most powerfully in America by Martin Luther King, Jr. And it works through three primary mechanisms: inspiring activists; provoking the public; and broadening the circle of debate.

That is exactly what our campaign of nonviolent direct action has achieved in the past year. We have jumped from 1 to 66 cities, mobilizing an inspiring and diverse array of activists across the world. We have provoked public attention and dialogue by some of the biggest names in media. And we have pushed the debate over animal rights into circles where it had previously been unheard.

And it is only by pushing our words and actions beyond social convention and comfort -- yes, to the point of disruption -- that we were able to make this incredible progress. 

Consider: if we had adopted less disruptive or emotionally wrought tactics, would anyone have cared? Almost certainly not. We are a grassroots operation with no money, no history, and no famous names. The LA Times' of the world could not have cared less if we had picked a less provocative target, or adopted less disruptive tactics. Educating calmly outside of a McDonald's for bigger cages is not just ethically problematic; it's a story that's stale and old. "Protesters stream into 'humane meat' restaurant," on the other hand, is a headline well worth writing. 

"But it makes us look extreme and crazy!"

And yet, at the same time, and despite our campaign's rapid growth and many successes, we've faced fierce internal criticism.  It's worth emphasizing that this is nothing new. In every movement, disruption has been met by fierce critics from within movements for change. (Indeed, criticisms from within the movement caused King to write perhaps the most famous letter in the history of activism.

One powerful example came up as I was examining the early documents of one of the most successful and famous activist networks in history: the SCLC (which, like DxE, had a central objective of inspiring networks of nonviolent direct action across the country). An early pamphlet defending the waves of sit-ins by students in suits and ties -- essentially, disruptive street theater -- had an interesting description of the reaction to the actions in the community. "It has electrified the Negro adult community with the exception of the usual Uncle Toms and Nervous Nellies."

The pamphlet was perhaps unfair to early opponents of the sit-ins. After all, there unquestionably was an intense backlash to the early waves of nonviolent direct action that swept across the country in the early 1960s. Common sense might have predicted that triggering this sort of reaction was a bad thing. After all, who among us wants to be seen as shrill, weird, or insane? (All words, incidentally, that were also used to describe William Lloyd Garrison.) 

But common sense routinely fails us when it comes to social change. And what works on changing individuals often has no relevance at all on changing society. It turns out that the backlash, far from being counter-productive, triggered massive growth and sympathy for activists -- first and foremost, by finally getting their issue on the table for serious public discussion. The old adage often attributed (perhaps falsely) to Gandhi -- "First, they laugh at you. Then, they fight you. Then, you win." -- turns out to be true. 

Direct Action is a Value, not just a Tactic

There's so much more to say, but let me end my point with this. In Glenn Beck's surprisingly thoughtful discussion of DxE's recent #DisruptSpeciesism action (in which he says, among other things, that he won't eat veal because of the cruelty), he mentions that, in listening to Kelly's heartfelt speakout, he was at first mobilized to outrage by the story because he believes it is about a human victim. Indeed, he has so much outrage that he wants to join the protest! "I'm thinking, this is horrifying! I'm taking my napkin and tossing it angrily on the table right now. My gosh, how can I help you?"

Then he learns the victim is a chicken. And he just laughs. 

This, of course, is the definition of speciesism. A violent act that, at first, is a horror and outrage becomes.... a joke simply because the victim is a member of a different species. But before we leap forward to condemn Glenn Beck, we should ask ourselves, "Am I doing any better? If these were human children on the plates, how would I respond? And if I don't respond the way Beck suggests that we should respond -- by getting angry, by speaking out, and yes, even by disrupting the status quo -- am I really living up to what I say I believe?" 

We live in a world where violence is routinely made normal. Where the bodies of gentle creatures who meant us no harm are routinely objectified, violated, and then even consumed in ways that would be widely perceived as nightmarish, if such things were to happen to a human being. We are constantly told that we have to accept these horrific practices, as if they were no different than personal choices as to what to wear.

But nonviolent direct action rejects that abhorrent value system. True, direct action comes in many different flavors and forms. ACT UP made clear that even a personal conversation, if coming from a strong spirit of dissent, was a powerful form of direct action. But direct action is, fundamentally, not just a tactic or strategy but a value... a belief that all is not well... and a disruption of the way things are. And when we take direct action, we are not just tactically leveraging our limited resources to make huge waves (as important as that is), we are living up to our deepest and most heartfelt values, speaking as the animals would if they could, and building our dream of a better and more beautiful world -- one disruption at a time.  

Bridges and Walls

 Bob Linden, once one of DxE's most vocal supporters, has now become its fiercest critic. What can this teach us about building bridges and walls? 

Bob Linden, once one of DxE's most vocal supporters, has now become its fiercest critic. What can this teach us about building bridges and walls? 

Bridges and Walls

by Wayne Hsiung

One of the first times I spoke with Bob Linden, we were driving to a circus protest organized by Pat Cuviello’s group, Humanity through Education. We had just finished up our biggest mobilization to date, the Earthlings March, in which 41 cities, 17 countries, and thousands of activists participated. And we were on a high about the possibilities for bridge building in animal rights activism.

As we drove to the circus protest, with my friend Kara from LA in tow, I spoke to Kara and Bob about DxE’s role in the movement -- to build a unified network on behalf of a strong and uncompromising message; to tap into the latent potential of animal lovers everywhere to create a powerful movement for change; to adapt best practices and insights from some of the greatest scholars and activists in history to strike at the foundations of animal exploitation; and perhaps most important, to empower animal rights activists, especially from underrepresented or unexpected communities, to speak confidently for what they truly believe: the right of every animal to be safe and happy and free.

Thousands of activists across the world took to the streets as part of DxE's Earthlings March in August 2013. 

One of the things that struck me most about this conversation was that the three of us, though from completely different backgrounds, cultures, and areas of the world, all felt so strongly about these basic ideas. Kara was a younger activist from the Los Angeles scene, where there were a number of promising pressure campaigns thriving in the face of legal repression. Bob was an older activist based in the Bay Area, whose unrelenting focus on vegan education has served as a moral compass for our movement. I, in turn, was a long-time Chicago activist from an immigrant family who had been a part of virtually every animal rights campaign available for over a decade, from vegan outreach to SHAC, before settling on DxE’s current path: creating empowered networks for change. The bridges that were built on that day, across the world, and within a single car, were inspiring and powerful. And I had high hopes that they would sustain themselves over the long run.

But bridges are hard to maintain, and they sometimes fail. Even worse, the collapse of a bridge often leaves such a mess of debris that what was once a bridge is now replaced by something more intimidating than empty space: a wall. And while bridges allow us to connect, to unify, to strengthen ourselves and our entire movement through solidarity, walls do the exact opposite. They block us from, not only working together, but from even accurately perceiving what is happening on the other side.

I think that is sadly what has happened between myself and Bob, with his recent criticisms of DxE (and the similar criticisms raised of DxE by Gary Francione). A bridge has collapsed and turned into a wall. I like and respect Bob. He is brave and passionate, and he dedicates virtually every moment of his life to working for animals. We have had countless conversations about the problems the animal rights movement faces -- the constant pull of the “mainstream” to suppress not just our sadness and outrage over atrocities, but even the content of our beliefs; the intoxicating allure of money and power in subtly reshaping the activism of even the most principled individual activists; the cynicism and hopelessness that leaves activists uninspired and burned out. I still agree 100% with all of these criticisms. I still agree nearly 100% with Bob. Where I disagree is in how to change that.

California's Prop 2 in action. According to the New York Times, the hens are "living the good life."

Bob believes that working with industry is undermining our movement. Bob is right about this, not just on moral grounds, but because the history of welfare reforms is a terrible one, and because there’s no clear evidence that welfare reforms have, well, actually reformed welfare. The colony cages that are set to be introduced in California, to replace the battery cages that were used before, are one such example. Cages of wire have been replaced by cages of flesh.

But there is a much broader literature in moral and social psychology on the issue of “moral credentialing” -- how institutions such as Chipotle (and others before it, such as Enron or BP), which offer up meaningless badges of their so-called integrity, use their new-found moral credentials to engage in even more brutal acts of violence. I have seen these with my own eyes in working on rescues from genuinely pasture-raised farms. New forms of brutality and violence pop up to replace the old, as industry adapts to reform to ensure their astonishingly low costs are maintained. And even where reforms are not evaded or undermined, animals still live such atrociously horrible lives that it’s not clear if there are any genuine benefits. (A similar point is made in the research on human poverty alleviation. If a poor child is oppressed ultimately by institutional causes -- discrimination, inequality, and corruption -- then addressing one minor symptom, such as lack of malaria nets, might not do much to solve the problem.)

Bob also believes, however, that animal advocates who take the “welfarist” path, despite the moral and factual reasons to think it is a wrong turn, are traitors to the cause, and as bad as animal abusers themselves. And I understand this position. William Lloyd Garrison, after all, set out to undermine the mainstream “antislavery” group of his day, the ACS, because of its false compromise with slaveholders. Emmeline Pankhurst unrelentingly attacked not just the institutions of power that denied women the right to vote -- but also those women who rejected her militant tactics to force the issue with the public at large. And even Martin Luther King, Jr. decried “moderates” (who rejected the disruption of mass nonviolent direct action because it made civil rights activists seem extreme and crazy) as the great stumbling block in the nation’s stride toward freedom. There is, in short, room for harsh criticism … and, indeed, we should encourage such criticism because, as with every social justice movement before us, the debate will illuminate the path to liberation.

But that is the key -- winning the moderates over through debate, rather than destroying them. William Lloyd Garrison’s Antislavery Society was filled by one-time supporters of the ACS. Emmeline Pankhurt believed that her dream of a world where even women were free to vote was so powerful and compelling that even conservatives would eventually understand the need for direct action. And Martin Luther King, Jr., even as he angrily criticized moderates, was always animated by love and hope, rather than hostility and hate. He was humble enough to entertain criticism, and optimistic enough to believe that even the staunchest conservatives could be changed.

The danger of corporate capture of our movement is a real one, as demonstrated by this hen's bloody, deformed leg. 

And in this hope, he was correct. The infamous racist and segregationist George Wallace, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement’s tumult in 1963, hatefully ranted, “Segregation now. Segregation tomorrow. Segregation forever.” And yet, within a few years, after it became clear that the cultural waves had turned against him, Wallace went on a speaking tour throughout the state of Alabama… but this time to beg forgiveness of the black families that he had so violently antagonized as a candidate for President. Wallace's story should give us hope.

And this hope, more than anything else, is perhaps where Bob and I truly disagree. Bob believes that groups such as MFA, HSUS, and Farm Sanctuary have shown us their true colors… that they are unrepentant animal killers who serve only their self-interest and bottom line. Whether accurate or not, this is a cynical view that, if not complemented by an attempt to build bridges, will only serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy. If the moderates and conservatives in animal advocacy see our grassroots movement for animal liberation as motivated by cynicism, they will have no reason to heed our calls for change. If, in contrast, they see in our criticisms a genuine and heartfelt and even desperate call to rethink our most basic strategic and moral assumptions (and an equally genuine interest in listening to criticism ourselves), then we can begin to build bridges rather than walls.

To be sure, fierce voices such as Bob’s help drive all of us to greater understanding. They push us to have dialogue -- whether within the community of radicals or between radicals and moderates. They help us identify that a gap exists, that a problem is unacknowledged, that a bridge must be built. But the fiercest critics, to be effective, must be complemented by activists just as fiercely committed to generosity, humility, and hope.

It has been said that Martin Luther King, Jr. believed that twenty percent of his work was activism. Eighty percent was dealing with internal divisions within the movement. While this is the reality of dealing with passionate people in a desperate cause, those divisions can only be healed and addressed if we talk. I hope that Bruce Friedrich and I continue to talk, despite our disagreements. I hope that Bob and I continue to talk, despite his feelings of betrayal.

But above all, I hope that all of us (including Bob) continue to speak strongly and confidently for animals, even where our voices may be unwelcome… to build bridges with even animal eaters within our communities, not to compromise our vision of a better world, but to spread our vision of a better world, with strong and committed allies, to every corner of this planet.  

Because without such bridges, those who oppose us, whether in the halls of power or in a Chipotle down the street, will never find the path to the other side... the path to liberation.

 

Fertile Ground (East Coast Tour - Part 5)

Fertile Ground

by Wayne Hsiung

(This is the fifth post in a multi-part series about DxE's East Coast Speaking Tour. Read all the blog posts from the tour here.)

Ronnie and I are waiting at the airport to head home, after a whirlwind 18 day tour of 6 cities. We have met some of the smartest and most enthusiastic activists in the animal rights world -- and beyond. We have been challenged, at times, but we have also received incredible support. And we have spread the idea of a beautiful network for change -- create, connect, inspire -- to dozens of the most committed activists on the East Coast.

But as we return to the Bay Area, one idea is stuck in my mind: the importance of community.

Wherever the animal rights movement is strong, community forms the fertile ground upon which activists can develop and grow.

 Sherrie speaking up for animals. 

Sherrie speaking up for animals. 

This was perhaps most personified by Sherrie in Providence. Sherrie is an indigenous woman who is embedded in radical environmental and feminist activist communities. She has participated in civil disobedience and has a fierceness that is obvious to anyone who spends a moment talking to her. She believes passionately -- powerfully -- in making the world a better place. And yet she has a warm and welcoming touch that is hard to believe until you see it in action. A woman 40 years older than her -- and not even vegetarian -- confides in her, tearfully, after watching our video, as if Sherrie is a decades old friend. An activist from Connecticut, Anthony, comes to stay and do activism with her, and feels as comfortable as if they were siblings. And the environmental network Sherrie has become a part of -- Fighting Against Natural Gas -- has inspired commitments from activists across the world, including the rural, front-line communities most affected by environmental devastation. The personal touch makes a world of difference. Offering to make someone food. Giving so generously that it seems that her home is yours. And listening with such engagement that she makes your words take on a power that you never knew they had. Sherrie is the sort of person, I think, upon whom great communities are built -- and through those communities, great activist networks.

There were many other people we met in Providence who inspired us to be more empathic, more gracious, and more brave. Nick, Sherrie’s partner, was featured in a recent article in the Providence paper, as an unexpected leader in a radical movement for change, and has a heart as big as Sherrie’s. And it gives me great optimism for what they can build. Providence has a unique blend of heart, and will, and mind.

 Boston activists disrupt a space of violence. 

Boston activists disrupt a space of violence. 

In Boston, we met a small group of committed activists, including Laura (who leads many of the demonstrations in her city) and Robert, who were just starting to think about the importance of movement building to achieving our ultimate ends. Others, including Elizabeth and Marcia, were excited by the prospect of joining the DxE Network -- and a blooming international community. A city filled with transients -- students move in and out all the time -- is a hard one to build a sustaining community. But I can see leaders stepping forward and solidifying a city with great potential for animals.

In New York City, the folks at New York Farm Animal Save have formed a vibrant community around weekly vigils for farm animals. Robert Jensen, one of our main organizers in the region, is a computer engineer with a humble demeanor and a heart of gold. When a homeless man came to ask us for food, Robert leapt forward to help him -- and even gave him guidance and support in his struggles with substance abuse. Miriam, Tony, Tomoko, Shafali, and others -- all dedicated activists who try to help every animal rights group in the region, no matter the campaign, were equally good hearted and supportive, sharing food, advice, and sometimes just kind words of support, to ensure that everyone who came to our talk, demo, and even social gatherings felt welcomed into the local animal rights community. Finally, Dana, who was DxE’s initial organizer on the It’s not Food, It’s Violence campaign, came out to join us despite the incredible pressure of a new job, an imminent move across the country (to San Diego -- hello Ellen Ericksen!), and an important exam just a few days later.

 New York City had a great turnout, thanks to both the NY Farm Animal Save crew, and the SALDF at NYU Law. 

New York City had a great turnout, thanks to both the NY Farm Animal Save crew, and the SALDF at NYU Law. 

Even more surprisingly, to me, some prominent names in the vegan world -- the imposing Jamison Scala (whose incredible facebook page always gets hundreds of likes per post) and the fiery Eddie Lama (hero of the documentary, The Witness) -- came to both our talk and the demo the next day. And a brilliant young law student at NYU, Jay Shooster -- who sponsored our talk -- joined a DxE demo for the first time, showing that there are supporters of nonviolent direct action for animals even in the halls of power and prestige. In total, we had over two dozen people perform an in-store disruption. Their words were so moving and powerful and unified that my voice broke, and I was brought to tears. I know that the momentum they are building will only grow.

Philly was perhaps the most surprising city. I had been told, prior to arriving, that the city of brotherly love did not have the most vibrant of vegan/AR communities. But we were met immediately by my old friends Rachel and Tim. Rachel is a math professor at the prestigious Swarthmore College, where they’ve made a beautiful home for themselves in a forested suburban community just 25 minutes from Philly. She (and Tim by extension) was key to my development as an activist -- and person -- since I really did not have a close friendship circle before meeting Rachel in Chicago and starting a small local vegan board game circle that ended up spiraling in all sorts of unexpected directions  -- from karaoke to cooking competitions to ultimate frisbee. And yet while the Philly community was small, there were still passionate voices that joined us for our talk and demo.

George, a veteran Earth Firster, drove all the way from Redding, PA to see our talk and join our demo. An animal liberationist in the 1990s, he had since dropped out of the movement due to its failures in developing leaders in the grassroots. Too often, George said, animal rights activists were both rudderless and directionless. Activists were not given the opportunities they need to grow. And the movement’s vitality was sapped as a result.

George is someone that animal rights movement needs to learn from. In addition to decades of experience as an environmental activist, and a rural background so different from many young activists today, he has an appreciation for the importance of new ideas and people that makes him unusual among veteran activists. Too often, those of us who have been at this for a long time become wedded to particular ideas, strategies, and even people. We close ourselves off to new paths, and the movement loses as a result. But notwithstanding George’s extensive received wisdom, he came out to a talk by a new group that he had never heard of. And he took a lead role in our resulting action -- speaking strongly for animals, in a movement that he had so long ago moved away from, as ineffective and obsolete.

DC, I previously blogged about -- in particular, our wonderful stay with Farm Sanctuary’s Bruce Friedrich. But just as important as Bruce, Dawn Moncrief, and the other big names we had the honor to speak to while in town, there were also some new faces who inspired us. In particular, Katherine, the sister of one of our most dedicated and intelligent activists in the Bay Area (Lisa), came out to her first demonstration, ever… and spoke out at an in-store disruption. While the grassroots community in DC does not seem strong, we hope we can continue to provide Kat and others the support they need from afar. As I emphasized to Kat, it is often the small acts of dissent, by brave people who do NOT have as much support as they should, who rouse the public into action on an issue that has long been forgotten.

And finally, there is Baltimore. There is so much more that should be written and said about our stay in Baltimore than can be done in a single blog post. Suffice it to say, we had conversations that truly blew our minds. I learned about the struggles of an inspiring leader fighting for animals in urban communities, the struggles of a convicted felon making the connections between human and non-human captivity, and the insights of a veteran feminist and LGBTQ rights activist on the perils of corporatization, and the vital importance of calling out human abuse of animals for what it is -- not just a minor cruelty, not just institutional discrimination, but a violent and domineering form of human supremacy -- that shook my thinking to its core. But on these last few subjects, I will have to say more later. For now, we have to board a plane.

But even as we leave, our connections -- and the international community we are building -- will remain. Thank you to all the activists we met. Thank you for your generosity, your open-mindedness, your passion, and your integrity.

Next stop? Chicago. The city that made me the activist I am today. 

Cultivating Relationships and Building a Strong Movement

Cultivating Relationships and Building a Strong Movement 

by Priya Sawhney

 

Movement building is the most promising tool we activists have in order to achieve our goals. Strong movements need strong leaders, and strong leaders come into being when ordinary people with high character dedicate themselves to doing good. In Direct Action Everywhere’s growing network, we have had the opportunity to work with some of these dedicated leaders who have the vision of creating a strong movement, a movement that will ultimately lead to Animal Liberation.

Last weekend, activists with DxE in Southern California-- Missy Freeland, Nicholas Shaw-mcminn, and Lola Kay visited us. Besides the glowing warmth and high energy they bring, Missy, Nick, and Lola all came with stories to share and a curiosity with which to listen and learn. In my first conversation with Missy and Nick—a loving couple who work together in running a small property management business—I told them, “You both have such a strong work ethic.” They must work to do right by their clients who are often undermined by others in the business.

In a very short time period, Missy and Nick have started to build a promising community in their hometown of Riverside, California. “We have to make people feel welcome. Building a strong community is the most important aspect of activism,” Nick told me.” During a busy weekend with many newcomers, I saw Nick and Missy welcome people into a home where they themselves were supposed to be guests. Their welcoming spirits inspired me to become a better community member myself.

Besides being a dear friend of mine, Lola Kay is someone whose perseverance and resilience have personally encouraged me to move past difficult situations and carry on in organizing protests and speaking up for the animals. No matter how difficult the situation may be, Lola always has the faith, confidence, and humility required to move past challenges and troubles we are bound to come across. Lola has come across many hurdles while organizing in L.A. However, she has always dealt with situations constructively.

The most inspiring part about Lola, Nick, and Missy’s visit was seeing their enthusiasm and willingness for doing actions. On their way back home, three of them stopped by a grocery store and did a disruption at its dairy aisle, accepting the #disruptspeciesism challenge. For the first time, both Missy and Lola had their banners ripped from them, but they maintained their composure, shared their truth, and left.

The power of creating a global network of Animal Rights Activists is strongest when we can learn from one another, exchange feedback, share ideas, collaborate on how to problem solve, and inspire one another. Perhaps most importantly, the way we can most benefit from cultivating such relationships is when we can inspire and remind one another that, though the path to creating a strong movement may be tough at times, it’s absolutely worth it to push harder and keep moving forward. 

"You're too militant," the broken record plays.

"You're too militant," the broken record plays. (by Kelly)

Men tried to shame Emmeline Pankhurst into less confrontational approaches, but she recognized anything short of her "militancy" as acquiescence that allowed the suffragette's cause to remain unaddressed. Who does history remember, her, or the ladies who politely asked men to hear their voices while those men made patronizing jokes about them?

When the Greensboro Four defiantly sat at the "Whites Only" counter of the cafeteria, a black waitress said to them, "Fellows like you make our race look bad." But who got that cafeteria desegregated? Who sprung up a movement of civil disobediences that forced the issue of white supremacist tyranny onto the front page of newspapers everywhere and into the public discussion that is necessary for public change?

The activists with ACT UP who disrupted the mass at a homophobic cathedral were condemned by other members of the LGBT community for being “disrespectful” and “militant” (with the negative connotations that term only has for those inclined to give oppressive authorities the subservience they demand). Who brought the gay rights movement to where it is today? Do we really believe it wasn't the people who took the risk of pushing open that closet door and slamming it in the faces of the heterosexists holding it down on them?*

Enough with the "you're too militant" nonsense. People have said it every time, and every time they've been wrong. The oppressors have always tried to use that "warning" (that the rebel's message won't be received if they aren't nice and quiet??) to subdue the allies of the oppressed, and too many allies let it deter them from doing exactly what it turned out they should have. Look at history. Confrontation needs to happen. Dramatizing the issue is what gets people moving. Maybe you personally do not feel comfortable raising your voice for the silenced and if so, I hope we can empower you to choose justice over comfort, but if not, and if you will insist that some forms and levels of accommodation are important (though I question how influenced that position is by both risk-aversiveness and speciesism), then fine, if that's how it is that's how it is. But stop trying to gag those who push harder, unless you can demonstrate that major social upheaval has ever happened through saying nothing but "please." We're just trying to make our cousins' voices heard. Stop helping the oppressors silence the oppressed.

*I'm going to point out here both that the above-ground disruptions that DxE does are hardly "militant" given the reaches activism can go to, and, more significantly, we humans are not even in the oppressed class of the animal liberation fight - opening that door, sitting at that counter and leading that march are actions of essentially no risk for us (and look like nothing at all next to what the animals will go through if we don't take these "risks"), with (as we can gather from the history of direct action) huge potential gains for nonhumans.