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Direct Action

The Right Target

The Right Target

A flashy protest campaign was launched in the Bay Area a few weeks ago, and, immediately, it was hit by a torrent of criticism for its choice of target. "This is a 'good company.' The protesters are alienating potential allies!" But the jury is now out, and the critics were wrong. Targeting a so-called "good company" was not just the right move. It was instrumental to the campaign's success. 

A Jolt to the System

There are animal rights activists everywhere, waiting for our movement to find them. 

There are animal rights activists everywhere, waiting for our movement to find them. 

It's said, by social scientists, that it takes a jolt to the system to trigger fundamental change. But it's not too often that you literally slam into someone, and cause them to change. But that's exactly what happened to me, and one of the customers at Chipotle at our last day of action. 

I slam into Jude, as I'm being pushed out of the restaurant. 

Jude is an animal lover. He was also, until just a few weeks ago, an animal eater, and a former animal farmer, to boot. As I was being shoved out of the store, at our last day of action (Someone, Not Something), I slammed into Jude. What at first seemed like one crazy man, however, suddenly turned into a throng of protesters. Jude was stunned and stared at our signs, with beautiful animal images saying, "Someone, Not Something." and "It's Not Food. It's Violence." 

And something in him changed. He found our group online. He came to our next community event. And, after a long and involved discussion, he's now planning to attend our next day of action. Here's the story, in his own words:

The first time I witnessed DxE's protest, I was waiting in line just outside the door of Chipotles on Telegraph Ave in Berkeley. Not normally a chatter by any means, I allowed myself an exception, for I kind of nudged the dude in front of me and said, NOT in a whisper, 'DID YOU SEE THAT?! Like, a hundred people just sneaked by us. Are they ALL cutting in line?' I wanted my lunch. Then they popped up all around me, with animal pictures saying 'We are somebody, not something'. Like I cared. I mean, I have only been farming at the most forsaken locales in the past two-plus years. I lived with animals, fed, watered, washed, birthed, poop-shoveled, corpse-buried, 22mm-executed, skinned, butchered, skilleted, devoured, loved, played-with, into-deliverance-carried. What do those hipsters know about death and resurrection, besides what one or two of them might glean from an occasional random copy of Tolstoy? Amused, I watched the Tai-chi dance between the speaker dude and one then a second chipotles employee. When it was my turn to order, I asked for a veggie bowl, ignoring the server's rather annoying disbelief. And my own. Ever since then, the smell of meat starts to turn, as something starts to turn inside me, disquietingly, between the molars of my heart. To the grudging I listen.

Customers, including Jude, turn and stare, as activists reveal themselves with the message: Someone, Not Something. 

His story reminds me of my first experience with direct action around ten years ago. My friend Josh, a quiet and brilliant computer science student who was active in the University of Chicago Vegan Society, revealed to me that he had served a year in New York prison for activism he did on the SHAC campaign. (The principal offense: throwing a brick through a window.) I was stunned. How could someone I know be an ex-con and felon? How could someone I know have done something so rash, and so crazy? Up until that point, I had always taken what I now consider a dishonest approach to activism. "People aren't ready for the truth," I told myself. "So I have to convince them in little bites. These ideas are seen as radical, so even if they're true, it's best to leave them unspoken in public. Small steps work best." 

But the shock of meeting Josh triggered thinking. Someone I knew well -- someone in my personal circle -- was so outraged by animal abuse that he was willing to sacrifice his own freedom to push for change. A movement that I had always conceived of as a consumer marketing problem that would take thousands of years to succeed, suddenly began to seem like something different: an immediate movement for liberation. (Years later, I read about the same shift that happened when William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass jolted the then moribund antislavery movement into exponential growth. While historians call them abolitionists, they had a different name for themselves: immediatists, because they were not afraid to demand the immediate emancipation of slaves, no matter how crazy it sounded to the world.) 

Josh unintentionally posed a personal challenge. I had decided years ago that my life would be devoted to helping animals. I was a sad and lonely boy growing up, and animals -- especially my dog -- had been my one lifeline to a happier world. There was nothing more important to me in the world than saving those who I considered (and still consider) my close friends... my sisters and brothers... my saviors from a life of desolation and rage... to save these perfect and innocent beings from unspeakable torment and violence. But how devoted was I, really, when I could not even say the words "animal liberation" in public? How could I honestly say that I was affirming the notion that all animals are equal, when I was not acting against animal abuse with the same urgency and directness and honesty that I would act, or ask others to act, to save my sister, my cousin, or even my dog? 

The lesson I learned was an important one, both for me personally and for the movement. Sometimes, a jolt is necessary. Because without a jolt, complacency reigns. And as Martin Luther King, Jr. once 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." 

Let's jolt the system together, my friends. And start making real and permanent change. 

Note: the original article described Jude as a former slaughterhouse worker. In fact, while Jude worked on the slaughter of pasture-raised animals, he did not work in a slaughterhouse. 

Chipotle Leaflet: It's not Food. It's Violence.

Our new leaflet on Chipotle's violent and deceptive practices is out. Check out the images below. Download and print the pdf by clicking here. 

Someone, Not Something (Moscow)

Someone, Not Something (Moscow)

Activists all over the world joined in our last day of action: Someone, Not Something. In Russia and Eastern Europe, anonymous activists took things into their own hands, and shut down dozens of animal killing establishments in the dark of night, and left, in their stead, images of a better world. 

The Faces of Change

The Faces of Change

The Roman god of transitions, Janus, had many faces. The Romans understood that all transitions have multiple dimensions: beginning and end, peace and conflict, tension and relief, resistance and change. 

The same, of course, is true of social transitions: diverse (and, sometimes, even conflicting) perspectives and people are necessary to understanding, and solving, complex social problems.

Leaving a Mark

Leaving a Mark

The power of a strong, direct, and honest message is that it forces the issue onto the table. Four witnesses of our Someone, Not Something action -- the Nervous Passerby, the Dissident, the Excited Gawker, and the Latent Activist -- demonstrate this powerful effect. 

Effective Meme Spreading (Video)

Effective Meme Spreading (Video)

In disciplines ranging from economics to history, the cognitive revolution has shown that ideas that spread -- so-called "memes" -- are perhaps the most important forces in social change. But what causes some ideas to spread more effectively than others?

In this talk, activist, lawyer, and trained behavioral scientist Wayne Hsiung discusses three principles of "Effective Meme Spreading." Among other things, you will learn:

- why generating conflict and controversy (such as that created in the Civil Rights Movement, Occupy Wall Street, and the Arab Spring) might be vital to an effective meme; 
- why convincing a person's friends might be more important than convincing the person herself, if you want the idea you're spreading to stick; and
- how strong and supportive communities provide the necessary "fertile ground" for memes to grow, survive, and reproductively flourish. 

Slides for the presentation can be found here.  

About the Speaker

Wayne Hsiung is a lawyer, writer, and organizer for DxE in the Bay Area. Prior to entering the practice of law, Mr. Hsiung was a National Science Graduate Fellow researching behavioral economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Harry N. Wyatt Scholar and Olin Law and Economics Fellow at the University of Chicago Law School. He served on the faculty at Northwestern School of Law, as a Searle Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor of Law, from 2006-2007, where he focused on behavioral law and economics, free speech, and environmental law.

Mr. Hsiung has worked on social justice campaigns since 1999, including campaigns against capital punishment and on behalf of low-income youth, and has been a grassroots organizer in the animal rights movement since 2001. In his free time, he enjoys playing with his two dogs (Lisa and Natalie) and two cats (Joan and Flash).

 

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More from the Die-In (Chicago, Philly, Phoenix, and SF)

More from the Die-In (Chicago, Philly, Phoenix, and SF)

Check out additional photos and videos from Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and SF. 

The New Frontier

The New Frontier

Chipotle is one of the largest and fastest-growing restaurant chains in the world. Its market capitalization is over $15 billion. (A single share of the company’s stock, as of today, is a whopping $511.) And in its most recent 3-month quarter, it took in an incredible $827 million (18% growth from the year before), at a time when comparable restaurants are struggling (e.g. Ruby Tuesday’s comparable store sales declined by 11.4%). In the words of the prominent investment report, The Motley Fool, it was a “killer quarter” for Chipotle.

The investing community is right to describe Chipotle as “killer” – but in a decidedly less metaphorical way.

Here is the truth. Chipotle, despite its professed concern for animals, is on a genocidal mass murder spree

This weekend at Chipotle, we had six cities across the country participating in a dramatic and provocative “die-in” against violence. We need many more cities and activists, however, to create the national dialogue that the animals so desperately need. The humane myth can be popped. But only if we come together, in a strong, confident, and uncompromising message for animal liberation.

Hold Tight

Hold Tight

When I hear about an animal liberation, especially of dogs, I can't help but look for my two little girls, and think about the ordeals they have survived. Lisa, who was taken from a dog fighter, is my youngest. When she first came into my home, she had never been outside of a cage. She crawled around fearfully, belly close to the ground, and shrieked in terror at every moving thing that was not a dog (and many non-moving things, such as plants, tables, and umbrellas).