The two most powerful forces in American politics over the past 10 years have, without question, been the Tea Party and Occupy. Both were strong, confident movements that were not afraid to take (initially) unpopular stands and to use (initially) unpopular tactics to bring attention to their cause. Both framed their issues in stark moral terms, and told powerful stories to move people to action.
Animal rights can and must learn from these successful campaigns. But to do so, we have to be willing to, like the Tea Party and Occupy, to face scrutiny and even hostility.
This is one of the biggest reasons I am proud of the organizers all over the country at Direct Action Everywhere. We have not only some of the smartest people on the planet -- people who are learning from the brightest scholars on the planet, and looking to the most compelling and recent evidence on social change. But also some of the bravest -- people willing to stand up for what is right, not popular, and continue to stand not only in the face of personal attacks and hate from outside of this movement, but (even more painfully) from allies within.
The recent PETA protest against Whole Foods, and its absurd "Animal Compassion" marketing, is just another indication that we are at the frontier of animal rights. As Frank Bruni of the New York Times recently wrote, the era of animal welfare is over. It's time for us, as animal rights activists, to start treating animal rights as seriously as human rights, and to start respecting each individual animal -- whether murdered by McDonald's to go with french fries, or murdered by Chipotle next to a vegan burrito -- with the dignity and respect that she, as a unique person, always deserved. That means speaking honestly to the public about what companies such as Whole Foods and Chipotle truly are: not bastions of animal compassion, but engines of misery, violence, and death.
And our campaign is doing just that. We are pushing the envelope and changing discourse, even among the giants of animal rights. I am so proud of every one of you who spoke with us in February. I hope even more of you can join us in March.