"A most insidious form of fear is that which masquerades as
common sense or even wisdom, condemning as foolish, reckless,
insignificant or futile the small, daily acts of courage which help to
preserve [one's] self-respect and inherent human dignity."--Aung San Suu
Because noncooperation inevitably results in repression, we must
nurture our fearlessness so we never let repression make us subservient to
the demands of the opposition, their courts, or their police forces.
In May of
1963, segregationists bombed Reverend A. D. King's house in
Birmingham, Alabama to intimidate civil rights
Fearlessness is our willingness to accept and to endure any and all
consequences of our actions. Once we are psychologically ready to bear
these consequences, we have nothing left to fear. Such fearlessness in our
troops creates true strength for the movement. As Gandhi explained,
"Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an
indomitable will. No power on earth can make a person do a thing against
his will. [Nonviolence] is a direct result of the recognition of this
The more fearless we are, the more we can implement noncooperation and
continue the struggle despite threats and violence from the opposition.
Abolitionist and suffragette Susan B. Anthony was an effective voice
for black freedom and votes for women because of the courage she had
fostered within herself. On her speaking tours, she endured numerous riots
and threats of violence. Effigies of her were burned by angry mobs who
would brandish guns and knives in an attempt to intimidate her, but she
always remained calm, stood her ground, and never succumbed to pro-slavery
As animal activists, we must model the courage of Susan B. Anthony so
we never betray the animals or the earth out of fear. Open defiance is one
way to empower ourselves and bolster our courage.
OPEN DEFIANCE AND HONESTY
"So long as the [oppressor] is not convinced of [the
activists'] nonviolent attitude, he will be inclined to strengthen his
own position. Only an open resistance organization can convince the
oppressor that its professed belief and the demands which arise from it
correspond to the true aims of the campaign."--Theodor Ebert, author of
Theory and Practice of Nonviolent Resistance.
Openness is another component of strategic nonviolence that helps us
decrease our fear, empower ourselves, maintain nonviolent discipline, and
expose the violence and scandals of the opposition. Openness means we have
no secrets and conduct all of our actions in full view of the public,
media, police, and opposition. Openness also means we will not deceive
people with lies, exaggerations, or misinformation.
Actions that require secrecy create the need for security precautions.
These very secrets and security precautions instill fear in
activists--fear that the opposition will discover their plan, fear that
other activists are informers, fear that they will be caught and punished,
fear that any scandalous actions will be exposed, and so on. The fear
created by these secrets can lead activists to become paralyzed by
paranoia. The need for security precautions also spreads mistrust,
suspicion, and rumors within the movement as paranoid activists try to
expose suspected informers. This serves to destroy solidarity and our
ability for cooperative action.
By conducting all actions openly, we have no secrets to hide and we rid
ourselves of any security-induced fears, thus making us stronger. And,
since we have no secrets, we foil the effectiveness of any informers. Is
someone is an informer? Who cares? We are not ashamed or secretive about
anything we do, so there is no information they can collect that could
Openness not only reduces fear; it also empowers us. When we are openly
defiant, it means we can look our opponents in the eye and tell them in a
nonhostile manner exactly how we feel and what we think. Such open
defiance empowers us, inspires onlookers, and unnerves the opposition.
Power-holders expect their threats of force and repression to create
submission and subservience, and when we remain openly defiant while
facing those threats, they are taken aback by our commitment and
Jawaharal Nehru, a comrade of Gandhi during the struggle to free India,
expressed the empowerment he gained by using openness when he wrote:
"Above all, we had a sense of freedom and pride in that freedom. The
old feeling of oppression and frustration was completely gone. There was
no more whispering, no round-about legal phraseology to avoid getting into
trouble with the authorities. We said what we felt and shouted it out from
the house-tops. What did we care for the consequences? Prison? We looked
forward to it; that would help our cause still further. The innumerable
spies and secret-service men who used to surround us and follow us about
became rather pitiable individuals as there was nothing secret for them to
discover. All of our cards were always on the table."
Being open and honest also helps us maintain nonviolent discipline.
When we know our actions are exposed for the world to see, we are less
inclined to engage in scandalous activities. Furthermore, movements that
engage in guerrilla operations which require secrecy, need to enforce
security among its troops by punishing those who betray other activists.
Unfortunately, groups committed to nonviolent sabotage, sometimes slip
into using violence and hostility to punish "traitors." This violates
nonviolent discipline and causes all of the counterproductive harms
Our openness and honesty further benefits the animals by accentuating
the differences between us and the opponent in a way which makes them look
as bad as possible and us as good as possible: We are totally open about
our activities and plans; the opposition hide their atrocities behind
locked doors. We confront them publicly; they decline our attempts to
engage us in public debates. We speak for ourselves; they hide behind
public relation firms. We speak the truth, and, if we make a mistake, we
admit it; they try to cover-up their scandals with more lies. We are
committed to nonviolent action; they are willing to imprison and injure us
to maintain their power. We are willing to endure sacrifices for the
animals; they are willing to sacrifice animals for personal gain. These
distinctions help create a powerful and consistent message which shows
that we control the moral high ground and helps us gain public sympathy
Besides openness, solidarity is another component of strategic
nonviolence that helps us increase our fearlessness and endure the
inevitable repression that results from our noncooperation.
"The gains we made came about because blacks realized that
it takes cooperation and determination to make progress in their
struggle towards equality. No one can fight effectively for justice
Solidarity is the support, mutual respect, and trust between activists.
Solidarity is crucial to maintaining high morale and empowering activists
to endure greater amounts of suffering.
activists continued their campaigns despite the bombing of this
Birmingham Baptist Church which killed four blacks and wounded over
a dozen more.
Solidarity, when applied to the entire struggle, means we maintain
nonviolent discipline towards each other. We unconditionally respect all
people for the fact that all animals have inherent value--even though we
might disagree with them on tactics, appropriate behaviors, or even the
specifics of the issues we champion. What does this mean for nonviolent
animal liberationists? It means we treat every animal advocate with
respect--even if he or she supports violent revolution, economic sabotage,
or eating animals--while still being true to ourselves by not respecting
their hostile and/or violent actions. Gandhi put it best when he said, "My
noncooperation is noncooperation with evil, not with the evil-doer." That
is the essence of struggle-wide-solidarity.
Our differences of opinion and behavior should not factionalize us.
Instead, these differences should create a diversity of ideas within our
movement that help our continual evolution into a stronger, adaptable, and
more powerful struggle. Such an atmosphere of trust and unconditional
respect allows for the free-flow of ideas (as activists don't fear other
activists attacking them for their opinions), greatly increases an
activists' intellectual growth since they will encounter a variety of
opinions that will stimulate thought, and helps us collectively select the
best weapon systems, strategies, and tactics available to gain victories
for the animals.
Although our differences should not disunite us, we must also respect
and honor our personal beliefs by not engaging in activities we see as
counterproductive or immoral. This means we need to form smaller affinity
groups--groups of activists who take cooperative action with each other.
Affinity-group-solidarity means the unanimous agreement between the
group members regarding what action will be taken, what each activist's
responsibilities are, and how activists will respond to possible
situations that arise during the action. Affinity group solidarity could
be described as a contractual agreement between the members of that group.
Trust and mutual respect are again major components of making the affinity
group work well.
The better our solidarity within both the movement and our affinity
groups, the more fearless we will be. This is because many activists will
refuse to engage in risky actions of noncooperation unless they know other
activists who they trust will provide sufficient support to make their
sacrifice as effective as possible. Furthermore, people are more inclined
to take risky actions when others are acting with them, than when they are
acting alone. For these reasons, we must maintain both movement and
affinity group solidarity.
Solidarity and open defiance help strengthen our fearlessness and
ability to bear repression so we never become submissive. If we submit to
the abuse, we violate the last component of strategic nonviolence:
"I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a
butchery of my conscience."--John Bunyan , a seventeenth century
religious reformer and English preacher who spent nearly 12 years of his
life in jail for repeatedly preaching without a license.
Despite the brutality, set-backs, and demoralization we face, we must
continue the struggle if we want to win. As long as we remain fighting,
the animals have a chance. Once we stop, all hope of victory is lost.
Persistence means we never give up.
Persistence paid off for the civil rights movement. During the struggle
for desegregation in the U.S. led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.--leader
of the nonviolent revolution for civil rights and winner of the Nobel
Peace Prize--numerous nonviolent civil rights activists were wounded and
killed by segregationists. Police forces brutalized nonviolent activists
by spraying them with high-powered fire hoses, setting dogs on them, or
beating them with clubs. From 1957 to 1963, there were 17 bomb attacks
against black churches and the homes of civil rights leaders in
Birmingham, Alabama. Despite enduring these brutal acts and having a
letter opener stabbed into his chest by an opponent, King and his
followers continued the campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience and
eventually achieved their goal of integration.
The need for persistence is obvious. Unfortunately, most nonviolent
struggles fail miserably because they lack persistence. If we commit to an
action, we violate the persistence principle if we do not make good on our
commitment. If we set campaign demands, we violate the persistence
principle when we abandon the campaign before our demands are met.
Thankfully, by narrowing our focus, we have the power to maintain
persistence. We must resist the temptation to proclaim we will conduct an
action or a campaign which we lack the strength or resources to
For example, if an activist arrested for civil disobedience valiantly
proclaims she refuses to pay bail to a judicial system that imprisons
nonviolent protesters, then she must fulfill her claim or violate the
persistence principle. If she does not fulfill her self-imposed
obligation, she appears weak and dishonest, reinforces the opposition's
beliefs that repression will keep us controlled, disempowers those
activists who believed in her, and also hurts her solidarity with other
activists who will be less likely to trust her claims in the future.
If however, she hadn't expanded her focus by claiming to be morally
opposed to paying bail, she could have paid bail without violating the
persistence principle. As activists, we need to have the strength to
honestly evaluate the suffering we are willing to endure along with our
personal situations so we do not create our own failure. By maintaining
persistence, we empower each other and gain respect from onlookers.
Another way we can violate the persistence principle is by not
responding to the opponent's repression. For example, if security guards
assault nonviolent fur protesters, we need to respond quickly and
courageously to let the opposition know that such violence will not
intimidate us or make us submissive. We could respond by reaffirming our
resolve to continue the campaign at a news conference, or by holding a
follow-up protest done as soon after the incident as possible. After
receiving repression, our actions against the target must not diminish in
intensity or frequency, lest we violate the persistence principle and
reinforce the opposition's belief that their repressive measures allow
them to control us.
"We no longer petition legislature or Congress to give us
the right to vote, but appeal to women everywhere to exercise their too
long neglected 'citizen's rights'."--Susan B. Anthony referring to her
efforts to get women to register to vote and vote before women were
legally able to do so in the U.S.
Civil disobedience--violating unjust laws openly, respectfully, and
with a willingness to accept the consequences--is a major tactic utilized
by strategic nonviolence proponents. Civil disobedience highlights the
issue, directly challenges the opposition, exposes their violence, and
shows our courage, determination, and sincerity. It also helps create the
voluntary suffering needed to utilize political jiu-jitsu (which will be
explained later) so we can win massive support and accelerate the
[oppression] is of such a nature that it requires you to be the
agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your
life be a counterfriction to stop the machine." --Henry David
So what is an unjust law? According to Dr. Martin Luther King,
Jr.--leader of the nonviolent revolution for civil rights in America and
winner of the Nobel Peace Prize--"An unjust law is a code that a numerical
or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make
binding on itself." Therefore, laws which reduce animals to slaves,
targets, medical tools, and dinner (which would include any law that
considers hunting and fishing, animal research, animal agriculture,
animals in entertainment, trapping and fur farming to be legitimate
activities) are unjust, because humans--the power majority--do not make
such laws binding on themselves.
King also recognized another kind of unjust law: "Sometimes a law is
just on its face and unjust in application. For instance, I have been
arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing
wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But
such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation
and to deny citizens the First Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly
and protest." A modern day example of a just law that is often unjust in
application is the trespass laws. On their face, these laws are just and
serve to protect people's privacy and property. However, when they are
used to prevent us from rescuing wrongly imprisoned animals in
laboratories, fur farms, and factory farms, they perpetuate human tyranny
and animal oppression.
King further states, "One has not only a legal, but a moral
responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral
responsibility to disobey unjust laws." And, also, "law and order exist
for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose
they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social
progress." He also reminds us, "We should never forget that everything
Adolf Hitler did in Germany was 'legal' and everything the Hungarian
freedom fighters did in Hungary was 'illegal.' It was 'illegal' to aid and
comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany." In the U.S., the animals are
warehoused in concentration camps awaiting their death. It is illegal to
aid and comfort them, but that is the right thing to do, and we must all
strive to do the right thing.
As animal activists, we must foster our fearlessness, solidarity, and
willingness to endure sacrifice so we can break these unjust laws
effectively and bear the opposition's repression without backing down.
"Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and
establish such a creative tension that a community that has constantly
refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to
dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored."--Martin Luther
To maintain the openness component, we risk almost certain arrest when
we disobey unjust laws. To maintain the persistence component, we must
endure jail, make numerous court appearances, and serve our sentence while
never compromising our position. At our trial, we must honestly state our
actions and why we did them--even if that proves our guilt! We should do
this because our goal is not to avoid punishment, but to speak the truth
and demand justice for animals while maintaining the required components
of strategic nonviolence. Furthermore, our punishment further benefits the
animals, as will become clear when we discuss political jiu-jitsu.
Enduring arrest, court trial, and punishment, while maintaining
nonviolent discipline, openness, and persistence, is the minimal
requirement for those strategic nonviolent activists to uphold when they
break an unjust law. Although this is a minimal requirement, it is still
quite a sacrifice. Therefore, it must be stressed again that no one should
engage in civil disobedience unless they are ready to endure days in jail,
paying a possible bail, spending days in court, paying fines, performing
community service, and/or spending weeks or--depending on what type of
noncooperation you conducted--years in prison after being sentenced.
Before engaging in civil disobedience, determine if you will be able to
bear the repression without surrendering to it by thinking about how the
above consequences will impact your companion animals, work, school,
finances, family, and any of your other responsibilities. If you have such
responsibilities, but still want to partake in civil disobedience, then
you must organize the needed support to fulfill those responsibilities
while you see your civil disobedience action through to the end. And,
again, this should be done before violating the unjust law.
If, however, your responsibilities are such that you would be unable to
engage in civil disobedience, then don't do it. It is extremely important
that people who do civil disobedience conduct it through to the end. It
shows the courts, the public, and the abusers how determined we are to
gain our objectives, how sincere we are, and that we control the moral
high ground. These courageous acts also serve to inspire the rest of the
troops and win the respect of our opposition and the public, who--at the
very least--give us credit for our bravery and convictions.
On the other hand, when we submit to their repression, it demoralizes
our troops, makes us appear weak and uncommitted, reaffirms the
government's beliefs that their repression can control us, destroys
solidarity and trust between affinity group members, and disempowers the
activist who submits. Because of these destructive results of submitting
to repression, it is vital that activists do not engage in civil
disobedience unless they can endure the above stated minimal requirements.
Furthermore, animal activists should never try to coerce or mislead
other activists into an arrest scenario. If an activist can't risk arrest
because of his or her responsibilities, or simply because of fear, they
should never be made to feel ashamed of that. Instead, we must respect the
activist's honesty and trust in us, and not condemn or criticize them for
what may be interpreted as a lack of commitment. Instead, we should be
respectful, supportive, and nurturing to help foster his or her inner
strength, commitment, and willingness to make sacrifices. But--even if the
activist never engages in civil disobedience--we must continue to respect
and appreciate all the selfless activities which he or she does for the
animals. Besides, considering all of the harms caused by a civil
disobedience action that lacks follow-through, we honestly should not want
people to get involved who are not ready to handle the repression.
However, some activists may be fearless enough to further increase
their noncooperation with the courts and jails by doing such things as
refusing to pay bail, conducting fasts or hunger strikes while in jail,
refusing to accept probation, and refusing to pay fines. The extent of
noncooperation expected by each member of the affinity group must be
determined before the action. Most importantly, once all members of the
affinity group reach an agreement, every activist must keep their promises
and follow through with the plan. But remember, if you increase your
noncooperation, repression will also increase, and you must be ready to
handle the consequences. Avoid biting off more than you can chew.
Because of strategic nonviolence's strict requirements for those
involved with civil disobedience, it may decrease the number of people
willing to get arrested, and some activists may fear that the struggle
will end because we will all be in jail. However, civil disobedience
campaigns require good leadership. Leaders must maximize an arrest's
positive impact while ensuring it does not deplete so many human and
material resources that the group cannot sustain the struggle. Of course
leadership has far more importance which will be discussed later.
But now, we will look to see how to redirect our opponent's best
weapon--their repression--against themselves. This technique is known as