The Controversial Basics of Changing Human Behavior

activist, author, former political prisoner

An adorable meme making it’s way around social media

Camille A. Marino
October 24, 2018

Animal Liberation is the only social justice movement in which the oppressed have no voice in its trajectory. This condition needs to be embraced if we ever hope to secure any degree of the ultimate objective. I can’t know with certainty what any nonhuman feels, but I am confident that they would have little use for our politics, theories, and debates. If I were in a cage having toxins injected into my veins to gauge my neural responses, I would want one thing and one thing alone — relief. Whether that would mean breaking the cage and being rescued or subduing my abuser, I think I’d leave the logistics to my savior.

After having come full circle as an activist, I find myself back to being grounded in basics. It’s somewhat intoxicating to see our names in the media everyday, to see our social media followings grow, and to be the beneficiary of accolades when our peers connect with our ideas. But all of those things are about us, not the animals. When we protest, organize offensives, or stage spectacles to raise awareness, these exercises are about us. That’s not to say there is no value in every action that raises awareness or supports an evolution of thought, but changing hearts and minds one at a time will never change the world.g

The very basic rule for me is that there needs to be some looming detriment if we expect to change people’s behavior. I’m less concerned with changing ideas than I am about changing actions. This Thanksgiving, millions of families will celebrate while carving up the body of a murdered pig or turkey.  The only consequence they can generally expect is having to loosen their belts a notch or two. Not much incentive to grow a compassion gene. But what if 10 minutes after celebrating, we had families writhing on the floor together as the cyanide coursed through their bodies. The freedom fighter responsible would likely have already calculated their own apprehension and state-sanctioned execution into the equation. But what if that activist could rest assured that a series of like-minded actors would continue what they started. Humans who care nothing about Animal Liberation would suddenly conform to plant-based diets when they found themselves in peril. Maybe we should focus less on changing the ideas of the masses and focus on changing our own ideas about what effectiveness means to each of us.

In the interest of full disclosure, most of the people I love or about whom I care deeply are also guilty of participating in the global nonhuman genocide. As a person, I would fight to my death to defend and protect them. But as an objective activist with a job to do, the billions of beings whose blood will be shed today outweigh any personal interests I might have. And if I were more effective at re-educating the people in my life, I could rest assured of their safety.

The end result is the only thing with which I am concerned. I’ve written fictional stories about taking vivisectors’ children hostage until the abusers would release their victims and retire from the death industry. I never understood why this idea is controversial. It is simply an objective approach to an otherwise unwinnable predicament for the caged victims. I doubt the tormented animal would find any controversy in disarming their tormentor; then again, they live without the benefit of human privilege that affords us the luxury of debating ethics, morality, and politics — all human constructs that perpetuate the genocide.

The epidemic of discarded and abused domesticated animals is different than industrial exploitation. The dogs, cats, and other animals receiving a death sentence every day is maybe the iconic emblem of human selfishness and depravity. In my world, every time someone surrendered a family pet to a shelter, I’d like them to have to surrender one of their human children as well. Or maybe, instead of dropping their family member off and walking away with a clear conscience, those individuals should be held financially responsible for their care and personally responsible for administering the final solution when that individual is murdered.

In 2008, I couldn’t understand why people seemed oblivious when they learned of the animal holocaust in which they participate daily. I gained that unwanted knowledge and it changed my life profoundly. And now, 10 years later, I don’t really care about the whys — whether it’s privilege, self-interest, apathy, sadism, or any combination of human attributes. I care about the hows. And I find myself having relinquished all of the political frivolities with which I adorned myself over the decade.

At the end of the day, if it was me, you, or our loved ones at risk of being tortured or eaten today, what would any of us be willing to do to stop it? Are the animals not worth as much? Of course they are. It seems to me that the prevalent mainstream ideas about moderation are indicative of our own latent speciesism and the human privilege in which we all revel.


2 Responses

  1. Louis Eagle Warrior says:

    Interestingly, and you know what they say about great minds, I was recently thinking about how wonderful if noxious, toxic substances were to be injected into animal products sold for consumption.

    • admin says:

      indeed, my friend. great minds think alike. 😉

      it seems to me like such a basic concept. one of the first tactical options i discussed with my newest colleagues a decade ago.

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