A blueprint for effective activism and winning
There are two big issues that are preventing us, animal liberation activists, from being as effective as we can be right now.
First, we lack coordination, especially here in the United States. We go and protest a restaurant once and never go back. We go and leaflet outside a target and never go back. We smash windows at a fur store and never return. We take down a hunting tower but do nothing when it is rebuilt. This accomplishes very little. It costs the target a few hundred dollars. That is nothing to them. They (or their insurance company) pay for the repairs and continue on killing as if nothing happened. It makes people who see the protest consider what we are protesting for a minute then move on with their lives and forget about it when they never see us again.
We need to change this. Activists in the UK are already doing a pretty good job of this, and even a few places in the United States. Especially of note are the SHAC (Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty) movement and Negotiation Is Over’s campaign against the University of Florida. But that’s not enough. Most activists still lack coordination, focus, strategy, and long-term goals. Instead of hitting a target once and being forgotten, we need to pick a single target and hit them with every tactic available, and continue to do this until we defeat them, and then pick a new target, and keep doing this until we win. We need to have activists protesting weekly, or better yet daily, outside of our chosen target. We need to have activists handing out leaflets and putting up posters in the target’s neighborhood to raise awareness, make the target lose public support, and bring people to our cause. At the same time as protesting and public outreach, we need underground activists hitting that same target with direct action. A target can shrug off a single broken window. A target cannot shrug off daily protests, a significant drop in public support, broken windows every week, slashed tires every night, glued locks every day, a burned down building, and bi-weekly protests and property destruction at the home of the owner or CEO.
As much as we need to focus on specific targets one at a time, we cannot let everyone else think they are safe because we are distracted. We, as a whole, the entire animal liberation movement, need to have several specific targets at a time. We need one or two big targets at a time, such as HLS and the University of Florida, and several small targets such as privately owned non-chain slaughterhouses and farms. We need to focus a very large part of our movement’s resources, those resources primarily being us the activists, on those specific targets. When one is defeated, we pick another.
While we are focusing on these specific targets, we also need to remind other killers that they are not safe just because they have not been targeted. Although a sustained campaign is often the best method of attack, activists who do not have the means to participate in an existing campaign (such as not having a target nearby) and do not have the means to start a campaign (such as not having any activists nearby to work with) should remind killers everywhere that although they are not currently the focus of a sustained campaign, they are being targetted too. These individual activists need to be especially strategic since they do not have a large group of activists or an ongoing battle to be a part of. They are, to some extent, on their own. This means weighing risks carefully and being very strategic about courses of action. For example, smashing a window would be a bad idea. It carries the risk of being caught and jailed, and put under surveillance upon release and therefore unable to continue direct action. Unlike in a sustained campaign where this risk is worthwhile and it is beneficial to smash windows night after night (while being careful and taking necessary security precautions), smashing a window one time will be shrugged off because a target can easily pay for the repairs. Instead, a lone activist should do something that will actually count, such as opening every single cage at a fur farm. This will not only directly save hundreds or even thousands of lives, but it also has a significant chance of shutting down the fur farm despite the lack of an ongoing campaign.
In summary, we need a very large portion of our movement dedicated to starting campaigns–some local and some international–that pick one specific target and fight that target until it is defeated. We also need lone activists to take strategic actions against vulnerable targets.
The other big issue that prevents us from being a successful movement, aside from lack of coordination and sustained campaigns, is infighting. This is probably the single biggest threat to our movement, and to activist movements in general. We have to put aside our differences and stand together if we want to free the animals who are imprisoned and murdered by humans.
One big source of infighting is “welfare” versus “abolition” or “liberation”. Welfare generally refers to “improved conditions”, such as bigger cages or free range. Abolition and liberation refer to the total liberation of animals, meaning that there are no cages, no fences, no breeding, no killing, no infringement on the freedom of animals. Of course we, animal liberationists, are fighting for the total liberation of animals. A bigger cage or “free range” is insignificant when the animals are still being imprisoned and killed. However, people who fight for and advocate “animal welfare” are still doing it with the intention of helping animals. Fighting these people does no good to the animal liberation movement. We should do what we can to convince welfarists to fight for the total liberation of animals, but if we want them to side with us, we have to treat them as allies, not enemies, or they will ignore what we have to say and fighting between us will escalate. If a welfarist is not interested in joining the animal liberation movement, let them go. It is a waste of time and effort to fight them when our real enemies are the ones imprisoning and killing animals. We need to remain focused on our movement: animal liberation, and our goal: total liberation of animals.
Even within the animal liberation movement, there is infighting. One big source of infighting is whether or not underground direct action is justified or beneficial to our movement. A life is obviously more important than a lock or a window or a building, and that is what our movement is based on: That life is more valuable than property, that it is wrong to imprison and kill animals for material wealth (or any other reason). There is still, however, the argument as to whether or not underground direct action is effective. Some people think that it will just turn the public against us. It is true that, in some cases, it can, so the real question is whether or not the benefits of underground direct action outweigh that. If we look at historical liberation movements, activist movements, few if any refrained from all “illegal” actions. The rules are put in place by the people who have a vested interest in the status quo, we cannot beat them by playing by their rules. The people who once were looked at as terrorists and criminals because they broke the rules are the same people who were successful, who caused their movements to be successful, and who are now seen as heroes.
We just need to be strategic with our actions. Pouring red paint on someone for wearing a jacket with fur trim on the hood would probably make most people think we are crazy. It would work to discredit our movement. But if we take effective, strategic, decisive actions, direct action is very effective. If we open cages at a fur farm, or break into a lab and free the animals, it is very clear to the public that we are saving lives, that we are not just “crazy jerks” but are fighting for a cause and saving lives. Not only that, but it directly saves many lives and can shut down the farm or lab, and at that point it doesn’t really matter if the public agress with us. If a slaughterhouse is burned down, it is again clear that we are doing something to prevent killing, not just “lashing out at people we don’t like or disagree with.” And of course burning down a slaughterhouse costs the killers a lot of money and potentially shuts them down permanently, whereas throwing paint on a person’s jacket accomplishes very little.
There is, of course, a time and place for smaller actions. For example, gluing locks and smashing windows at the target of an ongoing campaign. That, like opening cages or burning down a slaughterhouse, is effective because it involves sustained pressure on the target until they shut down. This effectiveness will outweigh any negative public opinion.
While direct action can be very effective, infighting only weakens us, so while some activists are opposed to direct action as a whole, we still have to treat them as allies, we have to make them feel welcome when taking part in the aboveground part of our campaigns, and we have to help them with their campaigns. It is not “us” and “them”. They are us, we are them, it is only “us”. Animal liberationists. We disagree on some issues but we are all fighting for animal liberation, and it is good that they are committed to doing what they believe to be the most effective. It is better to accept that some people want an entirely aboveground movement, and still fight beside them for animal liberation, than to fight against them. We need to stay focused on fighting our enemies, and standing with our allies, not the other way around.
It is also important to consider how we can win long-term, how we can liberate all animals, not just shut down a few targets. There are seven billion humans on this planet. Most eat meat. We cannot win in anything short of centuries by simply handing out leaflets and pleading with people to change their ways. Some will listen, some will do the right thing, but most simply don’t care, or at least not enough. Of course, for every person who becomes vegan, many lives are spared, so handing out leaflets and other forms of outreach do save lives, but that alone will not liberate all animals. Signing petitions accomplishes nothing, the people we fight know that we disagree with them, handing them a list of names that disagree with them will not make them change. Trying to change laws accomplishes nothing because the rules are put into place by the system we are fighting against. Protests can be an annoyance, but our movement is far too small to simply annoy our adversaries into submission. Even underground direct action like smashing windows and gluing locks will be little more than an annoyance. When we combine many tactics against a few specific targets we can have some individual victories, and those victories will strengthen our movement and push us closer to victory, but our movement is too small, and our targets too many, to win through that alone.
Since our enemies, those who imprison and kill the innocent, will not listen to our pleas and will shrug off our traditional means of activism, we need a new, stronger approach. No liberation movement has ever been won by simply handing out leaflets, holding up signs, and shouting. They have been won through civil disobedience, through direct action, and through armed revolution. The reason for that is because the killers do not care what we think or what we want, they care what they can get away with. When we stop pleading for change and instead refuse to cooperate, that makes change. When we stop pleading for change and force them to change their evil ways, THAT makes change.The only things the killers will listen to are their businesses ceasing to be profitable, and risk to the life and safety of themselves and their family and friends–or, as one great activist put it, when the detriments of animal abuse outweigh the benefits of animal abuse. Of course the family and friends of the killers are rarely responsible for the actions of the killers, so it would be wrong to let any serious harm come to their family and friends. However, the killers themselves are a different story. They knowingly and intentionally cause death and destruction, they imprison the innocent, they stop at nothing to get more wealth and power. We can try to cause their businesses to become unprofitable, but against such a large enemy, that alone will not be enough.
That is where the other big source of infighting comes into our movement: How far should we go? How far is too far? The simple truth is that a few million bad people are responsibile for the deaths of trillions of innocents. There is no reason that innocent, sentient beings should be forced to suffer and die just for the sake of pacifism, just so a few genocidal murderers can go on living. We will liberate all animals by any means necessary. We have to. They have no one but us.
Our movement is small, divided, and weak. But we are not the only ones fighting for liberation. There are many activist movements. There are environmental activists, there are anarchists, there are activists fighting against central banks, there are anti-war activists, there are freedom of information activists. Although many of these activists are not particularly interested in animal liberation, although many of them eat meat, we still have to stand together, in the same way that we have to stand with animal liberationists who oppose any means necessary, violence, and direct action, and with animal welfarists who are not fighting for total liberation. Although we have different priorities, although we have different values, we are all fighting some aspect of the system that controls this planet. We are all fighting for liberation. Although many activists in these other movements eat meat, although they might seem to be the very people we are fighting, it is ultimately the big corporations, and the governments, and the banks, that stand in our way of winning. If there are no more banks controlling corporations and governments, if there are no more governments, if there are no more big corporations, then all of the big corporate animal testing labs, factory farms, and other institutions that exist to kill will cease to exist, and without governments and larger corporations standing in our way, we will be free to simply walk into the farms and labs and free the animals with far less risk of being identified or captured. We will be free to do whatever it takes to stand in defense of the innocent, without fear of being captured and imprisoned or killed by governments. Not only this, but by standing with others to defeat the system controlling the planet, we will put an end to deforestation, to environmental destruction, to wars, to all of these other issues that directly result in many innocent animals (both humans and other animals) dying. And most importantly, we cannot win alone. We need to stand with ALL liberationists. We need a global revolution to defeat the people in control of the planet and destroy their system, by any means necessary. It is this system that strengthens and protects industries that revolve around killing animals, and when this system crumbles, ALL of our movements–animal liberation, earth liberation, human rights, anti-war, freedom of information, EVERYTHING–we will ALL be so much closer to victory. We have to put aside our differences and stand together, as one, for total liberation. After all, it will take more than just us animal liberationists to wage a successful revolution against speciesism and the system that sustains the killing of animals. We need all of the allies we can get. Earth liberationists, we stand with you. Anarchists, we stand with you. Libertarians, we stand with you. Anti-war activists, we stand with you. Anonymous, we stand with you. Freedom of information activists, we stand with you. When we put aside our differences and stand together, it will take but a single spark, a single brave warrior, to start the revolution that will liberate all of us, all life on earth.
To the imprisoned innocent, to the political prisoners, to all who suffer at the hands of the global system of control, you will soon be free. To the killers in control of this planet, your rule has come to an end. Revolution is coming.
Solidarity with Walter Bond and all of our other imprisoned brothers and sisters. Thank you for your sacrifice. We love you.
LIBERATION BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY!