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What Ringling Bros. Can Teach Us About Protest (Hint: It Works)

Ringling Bros. today announced the phasing out of its elephant shows. What can this tell us about effecting corporate change?

Ringling Bros. today announced the phasing out of its elephant shows. What can this tell us about effecting corporate change?

Nonviolent protest has an astounding track record of success. Recent movements such as #BlackLivesMatter, Occupy Wall Street, and the Arab Spring have used protest to force discussion when previously there was silence, pressure politicians into passing legislation, and even topple governments. Moreovoer, the renowned political scientist Erica Chenoweth has shown that movements only need 1-2% of the population participating to effect massive and systemic change.

But despite this overwhelming evidence, some say that protest does not have a place in the animal rights movement. Emphasizing the sheer scale of violence against animals, the entire human race’s complicity in this violence, or the currently low support for animal liberation in the public, some decry protesting as woefully ineffective.  In the "three-year-old theory" of corporate behavior, the movement is too weak, and corporations so capricious, that activists must run their campaigns as if they were dealing with an antsy toddler: speak slowly and kindly, since if you stop being nice you risk inciting a temper tantrum. In face of consensus that corporate progress is forced by "fear and loathing", some fear the only option is through voluntary coaxing of corporations.

The good news? They’re wrong, and evidence abounds. Just today, Ringling Bros. announced the phasing out of using elephants in their circuses, self-admittedly due to animal rights protests. SeaWorld stock is worth half of what it was a year ago, and is attempting desperately to placate its outraged customers while silencing protesters. Finally, Whole Foods has announced the development of previously absent egg-laying standards in its GAP animal welfare program, in light of DxE’s investigation and open rescue of one of its largest Certified Humane egg suppliers. Protests, not pleading, have seemed to work.

Of course, none of this is close to enough for animals. Ringling Bros. will continue to exploit horses, tigers, and lions among other living creatures, SeaWorld is far from dead yet, and Whole Foods still profits in the billions by killing fellow earthlings. Moreover, changing companies is only a small part of the path we must take towards animal liberation - much more important than incremental institutional changes are fundamental shifts in social norms about animals, which is the main focus of DxE's activism. 

But even with this in mind, these moves by are indicators of a growing and powerful social movement for animals. They also serve as evidence that protest is effective - even, and perhaps especially, in the animal rights movement. And finally, they refute the popular "three-year-old" theory of corporate behavior. We know that protest works, and a growing, international movement is putting that knowledge to practice. Join us this March in saying what animals, not corporations, would like to hear.

What if Everything We Think We Know about Social Change Is Wrong?

What if Everything We Think We Know about Social Change Is Wrong? (VIDEO)

by Brian Burns

Despite the explosive growth of grassroots movements in recent years ( #BlackLivesMatter, Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring, to name a few) and their extraordinary effects - in the last case, literally toppling governments - many in the animal rights movement ardently oppose protests of any kind. Citing dubious studies or anecdotal evidence, three assumptions have come to dominate modern thinking on animal advocacy:

  1. Change individuals. Focus on creating vegans one by one.
  2. Change behavior. Peoples' behavioral and economic choices, especially their dietary ones, should be the main goal of advocacy, not their beliefs.
  3. Be nice. In order to effectively create these changes, we should not provoke or disrupt, but rather lead by example and appeal to peoples' already-held beliefs.

But what if everything we think we know about social change... is wrong? In a recent talk at Northwestern Law School where he was previously a professor, DxE organizer Wayne Hsiung presented the work of some of the greatest thinkers in behavioral economics, sociology, and social justice to present a very different model of social change. Citing mathematical sociologist Duncan Watts on network science and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the power of nonviolent direct action, Wayne outlines why DxE's approach differs from the mainstream:

  1. Create activists. Activists, unlike isolated vegans, unite to form powerful coalitions to broadcast the message of animal rights, and in turn inspire more activists in cascades for change. Case study: Duncan Watts' experiments with online networks.
  2. Change beliefs, especially social norms. "Morality is higher than economics," in the words of economics Nobel laureate Robert Fogel, and peoples' beliefs have powerful effects on their behavior, and the beahvior of others. Case study: Robert Fogel's analysis showing that antebellum slavery was challenged and defeated by a powerful political movement in spite of its growing economic power.
  3. Challenge and provoke. Protest disrupts violent routines, demonstrates activists' determination, and broadens the circle of debate. Case study: the work of Cornell sociologist political scientist Sidney Tarrow, who says that protest is "the strongest weapon of social movements".

In the second half of the presentation, I explain how DxE puts these insights into action in our flagship campaign, It's Not Food, It's Violence. Each result has a practical analogue that DxE puts into practice.

  1. Build a network for activism. We create strong, empowered communities for animal rights. This includes DxE Connections (a peer to peer activist support network) DxE Meetups (weekly meetings where community members share experiences, skills, and insight), and an international support network (including a new organizer mentorship program) for communities around the world to unite for animals.
  2. Challenge ideas. We focus on changing culture and social norms by challenging deep seated beliefs about speciesism and the humane myth - ideas often lost in meatless-mondays gradualism.
  3. Take nonviolent direct action. We go inside the very places where animals' bodies are mutilated and sold, and deliver the strong message that the animals deserved. While difficult and subject to ridicule, the evidence is clear that provocation is powerful.

All this information is presented with much more detail (and even some humor!) in the talk hosted by Northwestern Law and sponsored by Vegan Chicago. Give it a watch!

Activism and Anxiety

Activism and Anxiety

By Erika Jensen


Erika Jensen speaking boldly for the animals in spite of her anxiety.

Erika Jensen speaking boldly for the animals in spite of her anxiety.

One constant in my life is anxiety. For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with this invisible monster. My childhood environment was not a healthy one, and for a long time I was ashamed of the things I went through and the anxiety they created in me; but not anymore.

I never really had the support I needed to believe I was good enough or capable of accomplishing anything. I grew up in a home in which I didn’t always feel comfortable or safe. I was talked down to, ignored and forgotten at times, often mocked, and made to feel like everything was my fault and that there was something wrong with me. I endured both physical and emotional abuse in my home, and sexual abuse outside of it. It took me a very long time to even begin the process of attempting to love and accept myself. Fortunately, despite a lot of negatives, I was able to take everything I felt and turn it into something positive. Because I knew what it was like to suffer, I was always full of compassion for others, and I never wanted anyone else to suffer. That desire and passion in me to stop the suffering of others was a big part of why I was able to survive and to stay strong.

When I describe my anxiety, I tend to call it debilitating. It affects every aspect of my life. What are everyday tasks for others might as well be climbing Mt. Everest for me. Even just writing this, my heart is racing, my palms are sweaty, and all I can think is, “Am I good enough to write this? Would my words even help anyone? Isn’t there someone more qualified to do this? Will people question my anxiety because of the things I have been able to accomplish?” I can’t seem to ever escape my own mind’s endless questioning and self-doubt. The physical symptoms, while different depending on the situation and the level of anxiety felt, are just as unpleasant. They typically manifest themselves as a racing heart, sweating, shaking, breathing rapidly, feeling weak, chest pain, nausea, and a general out-of-control sensation that is hard to put into words.

I experience all of those things before a DxE action. I am also stuck in my head wondering, “Is this it? Will this be the time I fail?” When I am out there speaking for the animals, I am not doing it because I love speaking in front of people, talking to people I don’t know, or having any sort of attention on me (all things that cause a great deal of panic in me), but because the stakes are too high not to speak. Every moment counts; every moment could potentially make a difference.

I have done so many things in the last few months that are completely out of my comfort zone. Traveling alone, participating in public disruptions at restaurants, several solo speak outs—including a half-hour of just speaking by myself in front of Whole Foods—among others.

There are two specific moments that stick out in my memory— moments in which it became clear to me that I was going to start my own DxE chapter in Cleveland. One mid-November evening in 2014, after a trip to Chicago to meet its amazing DxE team, I walked into two very different restaurants in my neighborhood. One was an upscale Italian restaurant, and the other was a bar/grill. I spoke out at both—my very first (and second) time doing it. My voice came out loud and coherent—which, to be honest, surprised me, as I am very soft spoken and don’t typically articulate very well.

DxE Cleveland's first action, January 10, 2015.

DxE Cleveland's first action, January 10, 2015.

The second moment was in early December 2014, when I participated in another disruption with the amazing Chicago folks. We needed to go upstairs to Trader Joe’s on a different floor, but there was only an elevator and no stairs to be seen. Part of my anxiety is that I have a lot of different phobias, a big one being elevators. I will walk up twenty flights of stairs if necessary before ever getting on one. So, in situations like this, normally I would panic and search for stairs while unintentionally inconveniencing everyone with me; instead, I told myself to just get on because I had to go fight for the animals—and I did.

Author Erika Jensen.

Author Erika Jensen.

To this day, it’s rare that I feel comfortable in my own skin or believe that I am capable of doing anything. It is a work in progress; but I'm speaking up for those who need my voice, and that is the one and only reason for everything I am doing. I am not thinking about myself when I speak for the animals; I am only thinking about them and their suffering.

Can you imagine what we could accomplish if people would stop thinking about themselves?

There is one, and only one, reason to do what we do; and if you are focused on that, all the other stuff just isn’t important. Suddenly you become this person doing all of these things you never thought in a million years that you would be doing. I feel like, if this is something I can do, then it is something anyone can do. I’ve realized that being an activist— being their voice—is someone I’m meant to be.

Motion to Introduce Bullhook Ban Passes After Seven-Hour Wait

Motion to Introduce Bullhook Ban Passes After Seven-Hour Wait

By Saryta Rodriguez


I attended my first city council meeting as an Oakland resident last night (December 9th). It was a session of farewells, discussion of nonviolent direct action, a 1,000-person demonstration, an accusation of illegality, and a hard-won victory for circus elephants.  It was also the longest meeting I had ever attended, breaking my previous record of five hours (with a break) and still in session when I left roughly seven hours after it started at 5:30pm.

The session began with something of an Oakland Government Oscar Night. This turned out to be both soon-to-be-former Mayor Jean Quan’s and Council President Patricia Kernighan’s last meeting, while retiring Director of Emergency Services and Homeland Security at Oakland Fire Department Renee Domingo was honored for her twenty-five years of service to the City of Oakland.  Volunteer leaders of Council District 2, including Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce Foundation President and unofficial “Mayor of Chinatown” Carl Chan, were also recognized.

Left to right: Mayor Jean Quan, City Council President Patricia Kernighan, Director of Emergency Services and Homeland Security Renee Domingo, and unofficial Mayor of Chinatown Carl Chan.

Left to right: Mayor Jean Quan, City Council President Patricia Kernighan, Director of Emergency Services and Homeland Security Renee Domingo, and unofficial Mayor of Chinatown Carl Chan.

Councilwoman Desley Brooks.

Councilwoman Desley Brooks.

Finally, it was time to address the issues.  The first item was the Ferguson Resolution, a motion “Calling for Changes to be Filed and Recognizing Our Collective Responsibility to Advance Racial Equity.” Councilwoman Desley Brooks did not mince words on the subject: “Racism is alive and well in Oakland.”  She spoke brilliantly on the importance of nonviolent direct action, and reminded us that the work of Dr. Martin Luther King and others is far from over.

Speaking specifically of the actions that led to BART service disruptions on November 28th of this year, Councilwoman Brooks offered the following words of wisdom:

Sometimes civil disobedience is uncomfortable, and sometimes it is inconvenient; but it is still NECESSARY.

While the passage of this resolution was critical, it was far less controversial than the bullhook debate that would follow hours later.  Almost all of the fifteen citizens who spoke prior to the vote spoke in favor of the resolution, with only one citizen stating his objection on the grounds that so many black people have been killed right here in Oakland without the parties responsible being held accountable in any way that any resolution passed by our city council should include them as well—not just the Michael Brown case. This battle was swiftly and unsurprisingly won; but there is still a long way to go with respect to rebuilding trust between the police and the community, as events unfolding later in the evening would demonstrate.

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   Bullhooks are used not only to inflict pain upon elephants but also to instill fear. Circus-raised elephants are taught as babies that the bullhook means pain.  Never forgetting this early trauma, elephants are controlled during training sessions via use of the bullhook and on stage via fear of it.  S  ome testified last night that handlers keep bullhooks up their sleeves during performances, hidden from the public but in view of the elephant— a constant reminder of the consequences of disobedience.

Bullhooks are used not only to inflict pain upon elephants but also to instill fear. Circus-raised elephants are taught as babies that the bullhook means pain.  Never forgetting this early trauma, elephants are controlled during training sessions via use of the bullhook and on stage via fear of it.  Some testified last night that handlers keep bullhooks up their sleeves during performances, hidden from the public but in view of the elephant— a constant reminder of the consequences of disobedience.

Initially, the bullhook ban was the first non-consent item on the meeting’s agenda. The items were quickly reordered, however, after it was determined that an overwhelming 110 people had signed up to speak their piece about the bullhook ban.

Discussion of the bullhook ban was delayed until roughly 10pm.  Right from the start, it was evident that this was not to be a traditional meeting.  Citizens who have signed up to do so are typically given roughly one minute each to speak at city council meetings.  At last night's meeting, the discussion of bullhooks instead began with a formal ten-minute presentation by those in favor of the ban—which had been approved prior to the session by Councilman Noel Gallo, one of the two who brought the issue to the fore (the other being Councilman Dan Kalb); but of which no one thought to request the prior approval of President Kernighan.

In her momentary absence from the chamber, a video began, showing Ringling Brothers employees abusing elephants with bullhooks in 2009.

Needless to say, Madam President was not pleased.

Councilman Kalb (left) and Councilman Gallo (right), being sworn in.

Councilman Kalb (left) and Councilman Gallo (right), being sworn in.

Councilman Larry Reid.

Councilman Larry Reid.

Roughly an hour into the discussion, it was announced that a group of protesters estimated at about 1,000 were gathered on the steps of City Hall, demonstrating against the Michael Brown and Eric Garner decisions.  Council members debated as to whether or not to shut down the meeting; while Councilman Larry Reid maintained that there were public safety issues to consider, and that the protesters should not be allowed into council chambers as to do so would create a fire hazard, Councilwomen Brooks and Lynette McElhaney insisted that not only should the session continue but that it was the council’s sworn duty to admit all citizens to the public meeting. 

As it turned out, the protesters stayed outside—though one citizen previously at the meeting rushed back into the chambers, having stepped outside to check out the action, and declared:

Councilwoman Lynette McElhaney.

Councilwoman Lynette McElhaney.

“Point of order: The doors are locked and people can’t get in.  If this meeting continues, it is hereby illegal under the Brown Act.”

The doors were then unlocked—at least at the side entrance.

The meeting continued.  Predictably, several concerned citizens spoke about the threat this ban posed to their jobs—seemingly unaware that it was neither City Council nor the citizens of Oakland but rather Feld Entertainment, Ringling Brothers’s parent company, who threatened their jobs (and, consequential, their access to health care).  The ban, mind you, had nothing whatsoever to do with banning circuses from Oakland or even banning the use of elephants in circuses in Oakland; it simply sought to ban the use of an abusive, dangerous instrument in the training of elephants.

Councilman Kalb was compelled to remind the chamber of this fact after testimony from the opposition repeatedly framed the argument as one of “humans vs. animals,” implying that job losses would immediately and inevitably result from the bullhook ban and that, consequently, anyone voting in favor of the elephants tonight would inherently be voting against humanity.

Sensing that the situation was about to get bloody, Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan—who had charmingly announced at the start of the meeting that she was wearing a sports cap in celebration of the Warriors’ recent victory over the Lakers—proposed a compromise: following the lead of Los Angeles and other cities, she proposed that the ban be passed but that it not go into effect until September 2017.  The compromise replaced the original motion to institute a ban effective immediately.

Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan.

Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan.

Elephant trainers on both sides of the debate spoke, some insisting on calling the bullhook a “guide” and claiming that they used it regularly and humanely, while others revealed that they had been training elephants for over a decade without the use of bullhooks. Feld Entertainment’s threat to stop bringing circuses and other shows under its umbrella, such as Disney on Ice, to Oakland was the company’s way of bullying City Council in the same way that it bullies elephants—implying that there is no choice in the matter, and that if it doesn’t get what it wants, anyone standing in the way will suffer.

The numbers bandied about surrounding the issue were equally absurd.  Everything from $200,000 to $700,000 to $1.4 million was cited as possible losses to our city without Feld’s patronage; yet not one of the three people who spat out these numbers was able to explain concretely how they had arrived as such a number.  One woman, who supported the $700,000 estimate, said she came to this conclusion by considering that some people who go to circuses might stay at Oakland’s hotels or use Oakland’s gas stations.  When was the last time anyone you know took a trip to a city in which they knew no one, and therefore were obligated to stay in a hotel, just to see the circus? Or filled a car with gas strictly for that purpose?

After nearly two hours of debate, Councilwoman Kaplan’s amendment to the ban was passed.  Aside from this single-issue victory, however hard-won, I have to say that perhaps the most inspiring part of the meeting for me was hearing Mayor Quan’s words prior to casting her vote in favor of the ban:

Honestly, I am certain that the day will soon come when we will see a ban on elephants being used in circuses altogether; but we made some moves tonight, and with this ban we will keep moving forward.

Here we arrive at the heart of the matter—total animal liberation.  Coming on the heels of my December 5, 2014 article, Low-Hanging Fruit,” the timing of her words could not have been better for me.  While banning circuses was not the issue of the evening, it was evident that many of the Oakland residents present would support such a ban; but there needs to be a starting point, a nexus.  Oakland has now joined Los Angeles and other cities in adopting a bullhook ban; it is my sincere hope that soon, Oakland will join Mexico City, Bolivia, Peru, Greece, and the many others who have banned the use of wild animals in circuses altogether.

The next city council meeting, at which the proposed ban will be finalized, with take place January 6, 2015.  I strongly encourage liberationist Oakland residents to attend.


Three Emotional Approaches

Three Emotional Approaches

By Saryta Rodriguez

The extent to which emotionality is effective and appropriate in nonviolent direct actions is a subject of many heated debates within the animal liberation community.  Conventional wisdom has long held the position that as activists, in order to be taken seriously and not to offend our audience to the extent that it will no longer heed our words, we must control our negative emotions when engaging in nonviolent direct action and only demonstrate those emotions which are positive and welcoming.  However, pioneering research in the social sciences tells us quite a different story, indicating that there is not only a place for negative emotions in the animal liberation movement but that negative emotions are of the utmost importance if we hope to truly enact change in the world.

Here, I would like to focus on three prominent emotions and the results they stand to yield in the animal liberation movement: happiness, anger, and sadness.

The beloved house elf, Dobby, from the  Harry Potter  series.

The beloved house elf, Dobby, from the Harry Potter series.

The Dobby Approach: Have some free cookies and magazines!

On November 10, 2014, Direct Action Everywhere organizers Wayne Hsiung and Brian Burns gave a talk at the University of California at Berkeley entitled, “What if Everything We Think We Know about Social Change is Wrong?”  Early in this lecture, Wayne shared his experience as a student at the University of Chicago engaging in vegan outreach, years prior to moving to the Bay Area and founding Direct Action Everywhere.

Wayne began by sharing with us what he referred to as the “1-2% story”—a popular myth perpetuated within animal advocacy groups claiming that for all of the people to whom such groups reach out with the vegan message, 1-2% of these people will adopt a vegan way of life.  As his experience—and doubtlessly those of many other activists as well—illustrates, this is simply not the case.  Over the course of three years at the University of Chicago, Wayne and others offered free vegan cookies and magazines about veganism on campus to anyone willing to watch the gruesome five-minute documentary entitled “Meet Your Meat.”  Based on the sheer volume of cookies and magazines distributed over this time, hundreds of students should have gone vegan over that three-year period; however, when Wayne’s group reached out to people via email in the weeks following each campaign asking if they had committed to the vegan lifestyle, the group was met with…silence.

Understandably, Wayne asked the question: Where are all the missing vegans?

He and his group acted according to conventional wisdom.  They were not aggressive.  They were not disruptive.  Their demeanor was polite, and their offerings were 100% free of charge.  Still, the numbers simply did not add up.  Why?

One explanation I can readily offer is that, when it comes to free food, college kids will do just about anything.  I am confident, though disappointed, that many of the students who consented to watching “Meet Your Meat” couldn’t have cared less about animal liberation, and simply preferred to give five minutes of their time in exchange for food than money—which, for college kids, seems perpetually to be in short supply.  The combination of a minimal budget and a growing appetite often compels students to engage in all kinds of campus activities without really absorbing the intended messages of said activities.

Another explanation is that those who may have been truly moved by the video lacked the necessary community support with which to maintain their commitment to an admittedly challenging new way of life.  After watching the video, they were sent back into the world from which they had come—a world of parties, midterm exams, spring break, etc.  They were no longer compelled to engage in dialogues about animal liberation; and, as time wore on, their initial passion for the subject waned.

Finally, while watching this video may have opened many eyes to the atrocities committed by the meat and dairy industries, neither it nor the vegan literature dispensed after viewing it provided any instruction as to how to put an end to this once and for all.  The message delivered here was not one of true animal liberation—empowering activists to take the message to the streets—but one of simply, “Go Vegan”—i.e., change your personal lifestyle so that you can feel better about yourself, knowing that you personally are not participating in animal cruelty, while the rest of the world around you continues to do so, uninterrupted.

Brian later shared with us his personal experience as a member of this broken model: the “Go Vegan” model.  As a self-proclaimed math nerd, he was very antisocial in his youth and preferred reading math textbooks to socializing and engaging in dialogue.  The “Go Vegan” approach worked on him personally, as it had on Wayne (as well as myself); he saw something, read something, was repulsed, and radically changed his lifestyle.  However, what he saw and read did not empower him to enact any form of social change.  He continued to be isolated for a long time, living an animal-friendly lifestyle without encouraging others to do so.  It wasn’t until he encountered a strong liberationist community—Direct Action Everywhere— that he became increasingly comfortable discussing his views and the reasons behind them in public.  He is now a passionate and engaging speaker, giving talks not only to members of the DxE community but also at major universities such as UC Berkeley.

Conventional wisdom teaches us that what I’m calling The Dobby Approach (inspired by an image of Dobby from the Harry Potter series that Wayne included on a slide about vegan outreach) is the most effective way to save animals.  Wayne’s experience at U-Chicago, Brian’s experience as a young vegan and my own experience of having been vegan for many years prior to becoming an activist illustrate that this model simply doesn’t work.  Yes, it changes individual minds; but the goal of our movement is not to create individual vegans but to create communities of activists who can support each other (thus ensuring that people stay committed to the cause and don’t abandon it) while spreading the message, inspiring a domino effect.

The Angry Approach: I’m so angry I made a sign!

Conventional wisdom offers us one, and only one, counterpoint to the Dobby Approach: that of the Radical Angry Vegan.  The general consensus among mainstream animal advocate communities is that “Being aggressive, disruptive or confrontational makes us look crazy and unreasonable, and can only hurt our movement.  It damages our credibility while offending the very people we hope to reach!”

Bert Klandermans (a professor of Applied Social Psychology at the VU-University of Amsterdam), Jacquelien van Stekelenburg (head of the Department of Sociology at the VU-University of Amsterdam), and Jojanneke van der Toorn (an assistant professor of Social and Organizational Psychology at Leiden University) assert in their article, “Embeddedness and Identity: How Immigrants Turn Grievances into Action” that:

“It is not enough to assess that one is treated unfairly; it is also important to have an affective reaction–specifically anger–to translate that assessment into action.”

Their argument is based on the understanding that it is negative emotions—most commonly, feelings of outrage and offense—that motivate people to engage in direct action.  Think about this in the context of your own life.  How often do you take the time to write positive reviews on Yelp after going to a good restaurant or store? How does that number compare to the number of times you have rushed to your computer to rant after an infuriating experience at such an establishment?

When someone says something with which you agree on social media, you may take the split-second required to “Like” the comment; but in all likelihood, you will not compose a lengthy reply.  By contrast, when someone says something with which you strongly disagree via these same mediums, you may feel compelled to compose a long, aggressive reply in which you rip apart the offending statement point by point, citing multiple examples to the contrary and including links to articles and videos that support your position.

While I understand and value the insights provided by the above team of Dutch social scientists, I have to admit that my personal experience as an animal activist simply does not correlate with these findings.  Ample individuals have told me that, while they care immensely about non-human animals and want to contribute to the cause, they shy away from it specifically because they have been confronted in the past by the stereotypical Radical Angry Vegan.  Their personal, negative experience with this one Radical Angry Vegan has since led them to the misconception that all animal liberationists are angry, judgmental, vicious people—not the kind, compassionate individuals we often claim to be.

So, how do we reconcile these findings?  We know that, statistically, the Dobby Approach doesn’t work; and while we know that there is some value to being open about our anger concerning the atrocities committed against non-humans, I for one am not fully convinced that The Angry Approach is the best way to inspire social change of this magnitude.  Might there be a third option?

The Somber Approach: The slaughter of non-humans is a true tragedy, and we must mourn the victims while advocating for the end of non-human massacre.

DxE's October 2014 International Day of Action:  Ghosts in the Machine , Berkeley Bowl, Berkeley, CA. Photo by Pax Ahimsa Gethen.

DxE's October 2014 International Day of Action: Ghosts in the Machine, Berkeley Bowl, Berkeley, CA. Photo by Pax Ahimsa Gethen.

My two favorite Direct Action Everywhere International Days of Action in 2014 so far have been Silenced Voices (July 2014) and Ghosts in the Machine (October 2014).  For our Silenced Voices demonstration, we entered restaurants around the world where meat and dairy are served (in the US and some other countries, the focus was on Chipotle; in countries where Chipotle has little or no presence, DxE branches visited establishments such as McDonald’s and Burger King), with recordings on our phones, laptops and other electronic devices.  Entering in silence, we then coordinated the start of our recordings, so that they would all play simultaneously and increase in volume as time wore on.

The recording included the real-life sounds of:

  • A hen crying for her life as she was turned upside-down and her throat was slit.
  • A piglet being castrated.
  • A cow having her horns seared off with a hot iron.
  • A pig, squealing, surrounded by the corpses of his friends and relatives, moments before being murdered with a stun gun.

The sounds first played individually, for about 20-30 seconds each; then, for about a minute, all of the sounds played at once.  Following this, one activist at each location gave a brief speech explaining to consumers what they had just heard, and imploring them to no longer support such atrocities.

At the Bay Area demonstration that I attended, for the first time since I moved to the Bay Area in March and started engaging in direct action here, not a single customer antagonized us.  Also for the first time (to the best of my knowledge) since my arrival in the Bay, one customer was so moved by our demonstration that she stopped eating and began to cry.

For our Ghosts in the Machine demonstration, we targeted grocery stores around the world (Bay Area activists engaged at Berkeley Bowl’s larger location).  We entered the grocery stores in funeral attire, carrying a black, cardboard coffin.  We then placed the body of a victim of violence—in the case of Berkeley Bowl, the corpse of a hen—into the casket and held a memorial service for her, as well as all of the victims on display in the meat and seafood counters behind us.  Various activists delivered brief eulogies for the departed, and we solemnly exited the store in an organized funeral procession.  (We regrettably had to place the body of the hen near the door as we exited, so as not to be criminalized as thieves.)

While the employees at the meat counter behind us were incredibly hostile and aggressive throughout our demonstration, the customers were not.  Whereas at past demonstrations customers have violently pushed past us, varying in vocalization from muttering insults under their breath to shouting into our faces or ears, in this case I felt that a path was cleared for us as we left.  I did not find myself having to squeeze around anyone; and in briefly glancing at some of the faces around me both during the memorial service and upon our exit, the majority of the faces I encountered wore expressions of genuine interest and even sadness—rarely hostility, and perhaps only once amusement.

What these demonstrations have taught me is that, more effective than the Dobby Approach and the Angry Approach combined, is the Somber Approach: Focusing on the tragedy being inflicted upon the victims, rather than trying to sway the public via cheerful consumerism or condemning the choices of those who simply don’t understand what they’re doing (yet).  Both Silenced Voices and Ghosts in the Machine, perhaps more evidently than any other demonstration DxE organized in 2014, truly focused one hundred percent on the victims—not on us, and not on commercial veganism.  These demonstrations forced people to view the bodies on display in a new light: not as dinner options but as corpses of individuals who neither wanted to nor deserved to die.  Victims whose only crime was to be born of a species other than homo sapiens.  I am convinced that the spectators at these two demonstrations were considerably more moved, and thought about what they had seen for a significantly longer amount of time, than the spectators at any of our other demonstrations—many of which include chanting on street corners, which some perceive as aggressive and hostile.

This is not to say we should not be disruptive; in both of these demonstrations, as with all DxE demonstrations, we did disrupt the status quo.  Disruption and confrontation are paramount to our success.  We cannot let business go on as usual. We cannot allow people to continue ignoring the problem; but these two demonstrations in particular illustrate how to be both disruptive and confrontational without perpetuating the stereotype of the Radical Angry Vegan.

On a more personal level, all movement-building aside, these types of demonstrations resonate most powerfully within me.  I am not nearly as angry with meat- and dairy-consumers as I am pitying of them, for I strongly believe that these industries hurt humans almost as much as they hurt non-humans.  When I think about these industries, my gut reaction is not one of rage but one of overwhelming sadness.  So, in my case, it is far more emotionally authentic to engage in a funeral procession or to encourage folks to hear the voices of the victims crying out in pain than it is to shout from the rooftops, “GO TO HELL, MEAT-EATERS!” 

In closing, I should note that the Somber Approach is not without anger; but rather than the Radical Angry Vegan brand of anger that lashes out at people and makes them uncomfortable, this anger serves as fuel for enacting positive social change (and, yes, still makes people uncomfortable—but for different reasons).  The anger bubbles beneath the surface and pushes us as activists forward, just as an instigating comment on the Internet fuels us to write a reply—sometimes aggressively and offensively (Radical Angry Vegan-style) but, in some cases, in an intelligent and well-thought-out manner (Constructive Anger-style).  Thus, this model does not directly contradict our Dutch social scientists so much as it pushes their declaration one step further, distinguishing between constructive and destructive modes of anger.

Not all responses or actions fueled by anger are themselves angry, and what the Somber Approach enables us to do is put our anger to good use while maintaining one-hundred-percent focus on the victim.  The kind of anger inherent in the Somber Approach does not create an Us vs. Them dynamic—that is, us wonderful, perfect vegans versus the heinous and immoral Everybody Else—but rather emphasizes the Us with Them dynamic: we humans standing boldly before our fallen non-human brothers and sisters, unabashedly mourning them in the same way that many Americans would mourn their dogs and cats at home.

I believe that, ultimately, we are all most effective when we remain true to ourselves; and the Somber Approach is what rings most true to me.

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!

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.

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.  

Dramatize the Issue

Dramatize the Issue (by Kelly)

UPDATE: Glenn Beck personally spent twelve minutes on his talk show talking about the disruption (hatefully, in perfect human supremacist fashion, though with an interesting acknowledgement of how he was taught speciesism).

I have adopted three little girls. One is a dog. Two are chickens. All are family.

You know how that is. Heck, most of America knows how that is where their dog or cat is concerned. The trouble is, we've learned to be so speciesist that we have a hard time seeing a chicken for the social, gentle, loving, clever little girl she is, because we're taught that only animals like "dog" and "cat" are "friend" but other animals like "cow" and "chicken" are called "food" instead -- without ever bothering to listen to what that animal has to say about it, when she cries out in a very clear call for help before a human kills her for his pleasure.

Well, last weekend, with other liberationists at my back, I went into a space that normalizes violence against animals who are not named "human" or "dog" or "cat" and I told the people there (and the people to view the video on the Internet) the story of one of my little girls.

Today it was widely publicized through a conservative web publication, namely by bullies eager to demonstrate their human supremacism, in tandem with threats of violence ("get between me and cooked meat, and i'll show you some violence" and "go away, woman, before we barbeque you") as well as a dash of misogyny ("sorry, but I don't trust females with little boy haircuts" and "crazed woman"), of course. (The publication's Facebook post is here.)

Other leftists, take note: If Glenn Beck's camp hates us this much, we're probably doing something extremely progressive. Leftist politics have everything to do with not treating others badly just because we can -- being against discrimination and violence is core to our position. And it's quite apparently antithetical to theirs, which is why they hate the threat of empathy that we embody. They believe that violence is a joke.

And to the #FirstWorldProblems comment, while I personally have that privilege, it is not hard to find animal rights activists and ethical vegans and anti-speciesist sentiment in any human society, and no actually, the hashtag doesn't justify dismissing the issue and the voices of those who are crying out for help just because they aren't humans. All oppression has the same ideological roots, we can't just fix the "human" problems first and then move on to the other animals. And we certainly shouldn't continue actively harming other animals just because other human animals are still being oppressed, there is no logic to that, unless it's okay to beat and rape and kill me because there are still men who experience oppression at the hands of some other logic of domination and they're just that much more important than me. And we should not judge that one person's suffering is more important than the suffering of any one or one billion others just because that person occupies a privileged class that the others do not.

The #FirstWorldProblems hashtag is used by people complaining about something that happened to them that they acknowledge is trivial. Nothing has happened to me. I have the privileges of being a human in a human supremacist society. The grievance here is from someone who is crying out for help as she desperately tries to escape being murdered. (And currently humans are not listening to her -- rather, we're silencing her -- so I am trying to use my voice to make space for hers.) That's not a triviality. She wants to live, she wants freedom, she wants to be loved, just like you and I and our dog friends. Really, the Blaze article itself should be hastagged #humanproblems, because it's just humans complaining about other humans trying to stop them from engaging in gratuitous acts of violence that they only can participate in because they are humans in a human supremacist society.

Basically all the other comments I've seen are straw humans and attempts at diversion and other obvious fallacies or just plain trolling.

While the speciesist hate speech in the comments may be enraging and disheartening, it is important to remember that confrontations like these and the others we do function to force the issue onto the table. And clearly, people are talking about it, it's not a non-issue that they're dismissing anymore. Instead, they're feeling pressure and retaliating. The animal rights movement is growing and everyone can see that happening.

(I'd like to note too that we should consider it an indication that our message is strong when the opposition themselves reiterates in our terms our attitude that Snow is a "somebody" rather than a something.)

As activists who engage in nonviolent direct action like the activists of the anti-oppression movements before us, we are here to get the dialogue moving, to get the animals' voices on the tables beside their bodies. And it's working. We're here to polarize the debate so people have to take a side and fight for it, and look at how the human supremacists are letting their colours show -- the animals' opponents are making it very clear that they are just violent, oppressive, hateful bullies who aren't particularly interested in empathy, rational conversation, or new ways of thinking. They're very actively and proudly in favor of hurting defenseless animals who just want to live, and they're aggressive towards humans who peacefully speak of a world without cruelty to animals. They're bullies, to the nonhumans and to their human allies. Seriously, whether you read our history books or just watch the movies we make, I think we are all equipped to determine who the bad guy in this story is.

No, this won't be easy. What movement against violent oppression ever was?

Yes, there is hope. Oh, so much of it. Why?

"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." (Martin Luther King, Jr, Letter From a Birmingham Jail)

They're not exactly ignoring it.

(PS: The original video is on Facebook and YouTube.)



#disruptspeciesism (by Kelly)

Not to knock the "Ice Bucket Challenge" (too much, at least), but when I saw how viral that was going, I figured what we should really be doing if we want to improve the world is "challenging" ourselves to take actions that have a few elements missing from that campaign.

We should be doing actions that do not overvalue money by framing donations as the answer to our problems; that are relevant to the problems we have, rather than just being gimmicks that attract attention to themselves (as opposed to inspiring greater interest in the cause); that do not make people feel so good about doing pretty much nothing that they have even less incentive than normal to actually get up and do something impactful; that do not fund the exploitation of our nonhuman sisters and brothers, of course; and, well, that are actually some measure of "challenge" to the participants, because no real change comes without a struggle.

So we decided to challenge everyone to go solo or with other activists (in addition to a cameraperson) into a space that normalizes speciesist violence and oppression, and disrupt it.

(This will also be the theme of our next International Day of Action in September.)

Many of us have been going to higher-end restaurants, as they tend to come with the most drama. People with all the privileges in the book tend to be really protective of those privileges, and it makes for videos with high sharing potential, expanding the reach of our message of liberation for all. (And people who want to participate in the challenge but are less comfortable with that level of confrontation can still do -- as others have done! -- a disruption in a less dramatic, more casual take-out restaurant like -- you guessed it -- Chipotle.)

As MLK 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."

A peek at some of the disruptions:

Priya (Oakland)
Missy and Lola (San Luis Obispo)
Nick (Inland Empire)
Diane (San Francisco)
Wayne (Baltimore)
Glenn (Los Angeles)
Adrienne (Sacramento)

Follow the hashtag #disruptspeciesism on Facebook to see more disruptions: