“For me, nonviolence was not a moral principle but a strategy; there is no moral goodness in using an ineffective weapon.” -Nelson Mandela
Camille A. Marino
April 24, 2018
Not surprisingly, as ethical vegans we are largely guided by our ethics; almost imprisoned in our own little box of moralizing while strategy and effectiveness pound breathlessly at the door, desperately trying to penetrate the inner sanctum. Although the subject of animal exploitation is black and white, right and wrong, engaging in the struggle, any struggle, is anything but. And it seems to me that the only people with clean hands are those who’ve never backed up their words or paid a price; those who revel in their privilege from the safety of a Laz-E-Boy. Let’s glance over at the Middle East.
The entirety of my reading suggests that Daesh is the common threat most feared by the people of those nations. And, of course, our own little cottage industry at home, our war on terror, demands that this country focus on the shiny object, ISIS, while our own bill of rights is obliterated in some feat of prestidigitation. Do most even understand what’s happening? When the United Police States decides to interfere with Assad’s regime in Syria for human rights violations (as if our own country is pristine), we are only strengthening the common enemy. Chris Hedges observes, “In war, when you attack one force you implicitly aid another. And the forces we assist by striking the Assad regime are the forces we ironically are determined to eradicate—Nusra Front, al-Qaida and other Islamic radical groups.”
The little detour into foreign policy will hopefully demonstrate that war is messy. It’s violent, it’s bloody, and people die. It’s not as easy as choosing one side and remaining pure in all of our future engagements. With this deeper understanding, let’s refocus on the industrial holocaust in which nonhuman animals are under siege. We must decide that ethical debates are a luxury for which we can make time later; now is the time for a lot more coherent and decisive action. There is no one tactic that will subvert the infrastructure. If there was, we would have found it by now. We need to put everything on the table. And I do mean everything.
If we are going to destabilize industrial agriculture, we need to do a lot more than eating our way to victory. The other night, I saw several posts on Facebook sharing an article that said “70% of the World’s Population is Ditching Meat.” Seriously? I guess we did it! Does that mean we can pick up our toys and go home? I will not allow my own community to remain deluded at the expense of the victims because of whom we’re all allegedly here in the first place. This vegan propaganda site called “Live Kindly” is a nice enough idea, but not exactly where you want to hang your hat in terms of facts. The feel-good article is based on a report in Forbes which proposes that millennials are, indeed, driving the world shift away from meat. This is very hopeful. In fact, I posted it on my Facebook profile in an unsuccessful attempt to elicit some thoughts. It seems that racism, homophobia, and all the other isms are further diluted with each more-enlightened generation that comes of age. I’d like to add speciesism to that list. But let’s not start blowing our party horns just yet.
The environmental watchdog group, Worldwatch Institute, just updated their market analysis this morning to demonstrate that global meat production and consumption continue to rise; meat production has tripled over the last 40 years and increased 20 percent from 2000 to 2010. If we want to begin to even make a dent in this business, then it’s time to take our vegan purity and put it under our pillows for a while. Our sanctimony will only ensure that we remain inefficient and ineffective in stopping abusers, although I’m sure we’ll never run out of new ways to keep applauding ourselves for the latest spin on the black bean burger.
It confounds me that there is even a discussion in the vegan community over such things as:
- cultured meat (grown in a laboratory after the initial cells are taken from enslaved animals);
- Impossible Foods (plant-based options that mimic the texture, aroma, and taste of flesh, but they only get to market after initial animal experiments);
- or many other plant-based alternatives that use hexane and gasoline in some process to extract vegetable isolates.
Are these things vegan? That’s for the individual vegan to decide. And I couldn’t care less where anyone falls on the personal-use issue. But all of these products have the potential to damage factory farm profits. I disagree with Forbes when they say that “a global reduction in meat consumption between 2016 and 2050 could save up to eight million lives per year and $31 trillion in reduced costs from health care and climate change” only because it is not the change in consumption that will save lives; lives are only saved when production decreases. And even their economists agree that only when cultured meat and like products are competitively priced will it begin to affect industrial profits and, thus, production. So if vegans don’t want to eat these products, don’t! They’re not vegan? Okay. But we need to win relief for billions of animals entombed in hell. And signing nice, safe, non-controversial internet petitions just ain’t gonna do it, my friends.
Next, let’s consider the Syrian conundrum noted above. Sometimes the enemies of our enemies are our allies. It is just obvious that we need to do whatever we can to overthrow the behemoth before we turn our attention to the trolls. I would love to see an excise tax placed on animal products to compensate for the drain on the health care system as well the economic devastation wreaked. This is the precise model employed against cigarette manufacturers, making their prices skyrocket and substantially affecting their profits as more and more people quit smoking. But taxes alone didn’t put them out of business and certainly won’t end factory farming. It is logical that we should ally ourselves with small farms that are being driven out of business by the industrial abusers. Does this mean that we’re advocating slavery as long as it’s done on a small sale. No, it means we’re thinking strategically. I can hear it now. “Just because it’s a family farm doesn’t make it okay.” Of course it doesn’t. But let’s figure out how to eliminate the monster — how to eradicate industrial agriculture — and then turn our attention to the smaller family-run concentration camps.
None of this is pretty. And none of it gives you that feel-good, warm-and-fuzzy, yay-vegan kind of feeling. But the animals need results a lot more than any of us need to congratulate ourselves for our monumental life choice to do no harm. Seriously, folks, just because we live in a culture of death in which 99% of the population participates doesn’t mean that not being one of them is any profound achievement. It only means that we’ve removed ourselves from the fiendish horror show called civilization; and now that we’ve removed ourselves from that paradigm, let’s re-install ourselves as the revolutionaries who are here to disrupt it.
What about the concept of violence? Anyone who works in rescue can attest to the violence that is visited upon disenfranchised animals daily. Any laboratory protocol or image confirms the unfathomable and deliberate violence inflicted upon those victims without mercy. And anyone who’s ever locked down or simply peeked inside an animal agricultural facility knows what violence looks like. It seems that the only people who don’t recognize violence are those who actively participate by eating the flesh and secretions of those victims. The actual blood-dripping-from-their-greasy-fingers mercenaries are framed as nothing more than business people, researchers, and professionals for the gullible public. Nonhuman murder is all nicely wrapped with a pretty white bow for mass consumption. If we are to believe media propaganda, it’s those irrational extremists who would disrupt the death machines that are the violent ones!
A friend recently noted that “there is no such thing as non-violence.” Being born is a bloody and violent event. The animal flesh served on tables around the world three times a day was not gently removed with the victims’ permission. It is violence on a plate. When the state drops carpet bombs in foreign lands murdering thousands of people, it’s violence. And when innocent people are handcuffed, taken against their will, and thrown into filthy, locked cells, it’s violence. In what world do the pacifists live? It’s clearly not the one I’ve been observing. But let’s be fair. Nonviolent resistance is not only admirable, it is a moral obligation to take a stand against injustice through whatever means we have available. It saddens me that some have co-opted the theory of taking direct action around the globe and turned it into a business. But, hey, if we want to get rich from donations, we need to embrace unoffensive “non-violence” and peaceful protest. Fine.
But let’s also embrace confrontation and, potentially, tactical violence in response; at the very least we must never discount or reject it. In addition to the strategies discussed above aimed at weakening the foundation, we can’t lose sight of the fact that any institution is composed of individuals — regular flesh-and-blood beings who’ve chosen genocide as a profession. These uman beings do not want exposure, they do not want confrontation, they do not want their bloody lab coats to drip onto little Johnny, and they certainly don’t want to open the door one day and be greeted with a bullet. Maybe when a comprehensive approach begins to take shape, one in which every single activist’s talents and abilities are fully exploited, we will begin to progress.
I’ve been wondering lately how we have not yet had a high-profile industrial abuser struck down. Their crimes against nature and ingrained sadism defy sanity. And, yet… nothing. I think I know why. Animal Liberationists tend to be compassionate and thoughtful people. And, if you’re like me, you take the palpable anger you feel at times and channel it into doing something productive for the animals. But it seems that many ideological shooters are driven by Christianity. Excluding fringe Islamic sects who commit violent acts in the name of jihad, there appears to be a fervent belief in god and an inability to accept injustice that guided John Brown, Scott Roeder, Eric Rudolph, or many others. (I regret listing John Brown with the other two, but it’s for form, not the substance of their actions). My own atheism may have caused me to be remiss in reaching that Christian listener somewhere who will hear my message and be celestially driven to act.
“Oh my god, did she really just say that?” Yeah, she absolutely did. While we remain distracted, navigating our own vegan ideals and striving for a purity that does not even exist, billions of animals continue to die horrific deaths. Two very recent innovations in the world of animal exploitation are more than a little disturbing. Those who would denounce cultured meat, alliances with smaller farms, just shooting the fuckers in the head, or any other tactic that can compromise the infrastructure are actively betraying the animals and the struggle with a tacit approval of industrial animal abuse.
1) While we weren’t looking, agricultural propagandist and “respectful harvest” mercenary Trent Loos was just installed as an agricultural advisor to Trump. In a recent Facebook post, he reports that with the help of strong lobbying, the US reached an agreement to export pork to Argentina. The anticipated economic windfall for the profiteers portends the horrific fate awaiting pigs:
“fresh pork consumption in the country has increased from about 2 lbs. in 2005 to 22 to 26 lbs. today. The Argentine pork industry estimates that by 2020 consumption will increase to 35 to 44 lbs.”
2) Genetically-Modified Factory Farm Animals — Abusers are not overly concerned about how our vegan diets may impact their animal enterprises. In fact, in this chilling article, Could Engineering Animals to Enjoy Pain End Animal Suffering?, researchers are playing with the idea of taking the brains out of hens and just using their bodies to produce eggs. And why not create an animal that enjoys pain — the S&M pig — to end animal suffering?
No one is going to stop industrial animal abuse if we fail. Animal Liberation is not a game. It’s not a hobby. It’s not something you do with friends on a sunny Saturday afternoon. The struggle requires focus, commitment, dedication, and a willingness to get dirty doing what needs to be done. As far as I am concerned, the means will always justify the ends.
And to end with just a few words of wisdom, having scruples against an enemy that has none is a liability.
Camille Marino is an activist, author, and former political prisoner. Her jailhouse diary, Danger to Society, and her memoir, #uncensored: inside the animal liberation movement, are tell-all books that document her decade in the struggle. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.