Redefining Justice

activist, author, former political prisoner

July 27, 2017

Mirriam-Webster defines “justice” as “the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments.” In fact, I couldn’t find a single definition that did not refer to the root word itself. It seems that this word should imply fairness; in the US, we use the scales of justice to to symbolize the weighing of two sides, presumably to give the illusion of equity or balance.

The criminal justice system is an adversarial one, analogous to a game of poker where the object is to play strategically to win. It has absolutely nothing to do with fairness. And like any other casino, the odds are always stacked in favor of the house. A win means a conviction. A conviction is political capital — it allows prosecutors and judges to use their conviction rate as a platform to tell a largely uninformed mainstream that they are “tough on crime,” implying safer communities. And don’t we all feel safer with the tough-on-crime orange cartoon fascist in the White House?! Another of life’s absurdities. If the state wins, by definition, the defendant loses unless, and only if, s/he has the financial resources to hire an attorney who is able to take the available facts and present them in a more persuasive manner. Never mistake this system for anything remotely resembling a search for truth; it is an arena where right will be determined by the state to satisfy everyone’s political agenda.

So, then, how do we understand the plight of animals in this paradigm? I frequently see petitions circulating screaming “GET JUSTICE” for another nonhuman who was tortured or murdered in some unspeakable manner. Animal abuse, if it is even prosecuted, is not a political hot button issue like the war on drugs. In fact, under the political guise of terrorism, an activist who protects animals is likely to be dealt with far more harshly than an abuser. And even if a conviction is achieved, 6 months probation or 30 days in jail is definitely not justice — there is nothing fair or equitable — for a deviant who carves up the innocent — whether it be an individual who chains up a dog in a backyard, an industrial abuser who puts a monkey in a cage, or a deviant hunter who stalks wild animals in their home.

Before we turn to a third party — some unseen arbiter — and grovel to them for justice, maybe we each need to define this word for ourselves. On a very objective level, fairness would seem to dictate that if one chooses to blind a cat in a laboratory, that cat’s defenders would be correct in taking that vivisector, putting him or her in a cage, and slowly and methodically carving out the offender’s eyeballs. It would appear that justice would be served by stalking Ted Nugent in his home and bringing home his trophy head to mount in your living room. It would appear that someone who chains an animal in their yard in searing heat and freezing cold is begging for justice, maybe being blown up in their bed to simply end their reign of tyranny and win liberation for their victims.

So, if we agree that justice should imply fairness, it is obvious that our criminal system is one of injustice — one that exists to protect animal abusers and prosecute anyone who seeks real justice for their victims. When we realize this, we will understand why some Animal Liberationists feel it is incumbent upon them to break unjust laws. We fight in a paradigm where ineffective feel-good action is encouraged — signing petitions, leafleting, debating — anything to waste our time and allow abusers to perpetuate their atrocities with impunity. The state has done it’s job so effectively that we have taken over where they left off, congratulating one another for our feel-good exercises; our social club where we wave signs at greyhound races one day and protest a rodeo the next. No focus, no commitment, no vision of creating actual change. I refuse to conform and resign myself to a safe model of ineffectiveness.

Let’s just consider that industrial abuse is a business enterprise. We are not going to affect anyone’s bottom line by debating the ethics of torturing animals.They already know they’re sadistic psychopaths and they know they have the full protection of the law. We are only going to change an abuser’s mind when we are willing to create the detriments that make it a liability for him or her to continue. This takes dedication. It takes an almost-obsessive focus to know the abuser, where they work, play, and worship. It takes dedication to not allow yourself to be distracted. Above all, it means that if we are honest in the pursuit of Animal Liberation, we must also be willing to focus every available internal resource on achieving this objective.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *