A Fractured Movement?
It is easy to believe that the animal rights movement is one giant bloc, working together to abolish animal research using tactics which range from the legal, to the dubious, to the outright criminal. However it is these range of tactics which prove to be the most divisive point for activists, and is causing large fractures and infighting between groups. Recently the Thomas Paine’s Corner blog (TPC) (Warning: AR Extremist Website) has been attacking those parts of the animal rights movement who reject the use of “militant direct action”. The editors of this website include two Animal Liberation Front Press Officers (Jerry Vlasak and Jason Miller – see links for more details on them) and numerous other pro-violence extremists such as Camille Marino and Gary Yourofsky.
Emotion & passion drive action; not sterile debate. Attitudes change when people engage and feel. BE DISRUPTIVE. UNRAVEL COMPLACENCY. IT’S OUR JOB. We need to obliterate the status quo — not tolerate it; not become a part of it. Be loud! Be unafraid! Be Militant!
– Camille Marino – “Negotiation is Over” blog (Warning AR website)
“Do not be afraid to condone arsons at places of animal torture,” [Yourofsky] has written to supporters.
Matter of fact, if an “animal abuser” were to get killed in the process of burning down a research lab, “I would unequivocally support that, too.”
– The Toledo Blade, Sunday, June 24, 2001 (copy of article on AR website here)
TPC’s pro-violence rants have reached epic proportions, as this recent piece by Jason Miller (ALF Spokesman) on the TPC blog shows:
Call it [attacks on vivisectionists] extensional self defense. Call it justifiable homicide. Call it vigilante justice. A rose is a rose by any other name and it’s time for that flower to blossom in the AR movement. One of the master’s principal tools to maintain power, domination, and affluence is violence or the threat of violence—be it physical, psychological, social, political, or economic.
Consider this. Hideous as their agenda may be to some of us, anti-abortionist activists love embryos and fetuses enough to utilize violence as a form of extensional self-defense on their behalf. The question isn’t, “Do we agree with their agenda?” The question is, “Have they been effective?” Their record speaks for itself. Assassinations of doctors who performed abortions have nearly eliminated the practice of late-term abortions in the US. Food for thought.
Essentially Miller argues that any tactic that works – no matter how disgusting or morally reprehensible – should given consideration by his fellow activists. This kind of pro-violence rant, and the violence it encourages, has brought comment from non-violent AR activist Gary Francione. I’m no supporter of Francione, but I applaud his condemnation of the violent fringes of the AR movement:
Those who claim that there is such a thing as destroying a building or engaging in a break-in that does not result in harm or the risk of harm to sentient beings (humans and nonhumans alike) are simply deluding themselves.
– Francione’s blog “The Abolitionist Approach”
Sadly, other parts of Francione’s blog contain questionable pseudoscience (often thrown these in as “extras” to his arguments) and an even more questionable justification of anti-vivisection through arguments of sentience (see the AR belief section for a counter-argument).
Nonetheless, the fury of TPC against Gary Francione has been disgusting. His position of non-violence pro-veganism has apparently (according to Francione) resulted in him and his supporters receiving death threats. The TPC and “Negotiation is Over” blogs attacks have brought many other groups, such as HSUS, into the crossfire, as the fractures in the AR movement become more and more public:
[Francione’s] amoral and unconscionable actions became so regressive and dangerous, we have penned this response to denounce him unequivocally not only as a fraud, charlatan, opportunist, and megalomaniac, but also as a traitor and enemy to the animal liberation movement and as a major impediment to social transformation. Just as Wayne Pacelle of HSUS recently demonstrated that he is a collaborator with systems of oppression, so too Francione has now degenerated into an agent of state repression. He and Pacelle have now both attempted to defame and falsely accuse the radical wing of the animal liberation movement of terrorist actions and have sought to enlist and join forces with the state, the police and the FBI to break the back of militant forces in the movement.
– Camille Marino on TPC and Negotiation is Over blogs (Warning: AR wesbite)
Violence vs Non-Violence?
I will briefly end with my own assessment of the violence question. AR extremist groups frequently defend their actions by comparing themselves with other violent liberation movement in history e.g. The French Resistance who fought the Nazi’s in Vichy France.
The problem is that the entire argument fundamentally relies on the movement being morally justifiable. If you are willing to murder for your cause then you do so in the belief that you are in the right, that does not make it right. History is littered with examples of reistance/liberation movements who committed murder in the belief it would further their liberation cause – The Red Army Faction (Bader-Meinhof Group) killed many trying to liberate Germany from capitalist oppression, the Black September massacre at the 1972 Munich olympics was an action committed for liberation, recently Russia helped “liberate” South Ossetia from the Georgian Government and in 1945 the Soviet Russian forces liberating Germany raped and killed tens of thousands of unarmed German civillians.
The problem is that those animal rights extremists willing to commit arson, grave robbings and other attacks, do so in the belief that they are one of the “good” liberation/resistance movements – the fact that they are a tiny minority of people does not effect them if they believe they have billions of animals on their side (especially if they grant these animals moral equivalence) . There is little we can do to convince these extremists that their actions are wrong and immoral – many of these individuals have given years of their life to the liberation movement – for them to change their mind would be to say that the prime of their life has been wasted – something few people would be willing to accept.
Sadly there are a small number of people for whom jail will be the only deterrent – however our efforts in debating them can serve to stop them creating the next generation of animal rights extremists.