STRATEGIC NONVIOLENCE FOR ANIMAL LIBERATION
Plan 2 Tactics -- Translating Policy and Plan
Our Options -- What are our Options?
Implementing SNV -- Implementation
Politics -- Political Jiu-Jitsu
Fearlessness -- How to
Social Movements and Strategic Nonviolence
by G. William Domhoff (recommended by Mike Lane)
Response to Perz's
"Exclusive Non-Violent Action"
by Freeman Wicklund
What if we aimed our opposition's best weapon against themselves, so
that every time they used it, it hurt them? What if we maximized our
recruitment of animal liberationists? What if we divided our opponents?
What if we undermined our opposition's authority? And, what if we
accomplished these objectives simultaneously? Now that would be power!
Power to significantly accelerate obtaining total animal liberation.
By implementing strategic nonviolence, we can utilize that power.
This booklet was created to explain strategic nonviolence, encourage
movement unity, advocate the adoption of strategic nonviolence by animal
liberationists, empower activists to become their own leaders, and propose
a plan for achieving total animal liberation.
civil disobedience -- like this 1960 sit-down strike in Greensboro,
North Carolina protesting segregated lunch counters -- challenges
unjust laws, exposes tyranny, and revels the activists' courage,
sincerity, and determination to acheive their
This booklet is far from the final word on strategy, but merely the
Animal Liberation League's contribution to the animal liberation
community's ongoing discussion regarding the best way to achieve total
animal liberation as quickly as possible. The Animal Liberation League
sees strategic nonviolence as the animals' best hope for complete and
lasting animal liberation. We conduct our campaigns accordingly and
actively promote the use of strategic nonviolence by all animal
To those activists who disagree with strategic nonviolence, we share
your frustration, desire for immediate victories, and an end to the
intolerable oppression animals face, and we offer you our unconditional
respect and moral support. We further invite you to read this booklet with
an open heart, open mind, and a desire for understanding, that together we
may find peace for all animals.
WHAT IS STRATEGIC NONVIOLENCE?
"It is not enough to call for freedom, democracy and human
rights. There has to be a united determination to persevere in the
struggle, to make sacrifices in the name of enduring truths, to resist
the corrupting influences of desire, ill will, ignorance and
fear."--Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and leader of the
nonviolent democracy movement in Burma.
Strategic nonviolence, as explained in Gene Sharp's trilogy The
Politics of Nonviolent Action, is a "weapon system" that derives its force
from fundamental human psychological, social, and political tendencies.
Provided we adhere to nonviolent discipline, noncooperation, persistence,
fearlessness, and openness, strategic nonviolence will doom our opponent
to failure regardless of how they respond to our actions.
Historically, strategic nonviolence resisters have overthrown
dictators, freed colonies, defended countries from occupying forces, and
advanced social justice in a variety of circumstances and countries. Its
adaptability makes it a powerful and relevant force for eco-animal
To gain a full understanding of strategic nonviolence, we first need to
understand some foundational information such as: how conflicts can be
won, what our objective is, and how political power works. To start, we
explain the mechanisms for successfully resolving a conflict.
THE ROADS TO VICTORY
"A major fault of nonviolent struggles, historically, is
that they make little or no provision for actually winning. They expect
that actions will happen on the subordinate levels of strategy and
tactics, and that following these actions, the opponents will
capitulate. But why should they? What is the mechanism of their defeat?
Will they be persuaded to view the contentious issues differently, or
strike an opportunistic deal, or ultimately be coerced, in the sense
that their peoples, armies, and resources will no longer perform well
enough to keep them in power?"--Peter Ackerman and Christopher Kruegler,
authors of Strategic Nonviolent Conflict: The Dynamics of People Power
in the Twentieth Century.
According to Sharp, conflicts are won by three possible mechanisms:
conversion, accommodation, and coercion. Conversion is where the opponent
adopts our belief in animal rights and therefore stops their abusive
practices. True life examples of conversion include former vivisectors
Jerry Vlasak, M.D., Don Barnes, Ray Greek, M.D., and Neal Barnard, M.D.,
who now actively fight animal research; former cattle rancher Howard Lyman
who now vocally promotes veganism; and former hunters Jonathan Paul and
Steve Hindi who now sabotage hunts.
Accommodation is where the opposition disagrees with our beliefs and
has the resources to fight us, but grants our demands because another
issue takes precedence. For example, a department store discontinues
selling fur after a boycott campaign results in them losing more money
than their fur sales make. We achieve our objective because making money
is more important to the store than denying us our demands.
Coercion is where the opposition's sources of power are so decimated
they cannot fight us, even though they want to. An example of nonviolent
coercion would be the collapse of the meat industry through the world-wide
adoption of veganism. This forces our rivals in the meat industry to stop
their operations as they lack the financial support to continue.
All struggles, including nonviolent ones, achieve victory by using a
combination of these mechanisms. However, to maintain our focus and
effectively strategize, we must choose which mechanism is best suited for
achieving our objectives. Yet before we pick a primary mechanism for
achieving victory, we must first understand our objectives.
TOTAL ANIMAL LIBERATION
"All competent strategy derives from objectives that are
well chosen, defined, and understood. Yet it is surprising how many
groups in conflict fail to articulate their objectives in anything but
the most abstract terms. In each conflict there is an ultimate goal
that, once attained, will constitute victory. That goal should be seen
as the dependent variable toward which all levels of decision making are
directed."--Peter Ackerman and Christopher Kruegler.
Total animal liberation is our ultimate goal. This means humans will
not eat animal products, wear animal products, hunt or fish, vivisect, or
otherwise exploit and abuse animals. This is what we must strive for, but
how will we achieve it?
profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are [people]
who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without
thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar
of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a
physical one; or it may be both moral and physical. But it must be a
struggle. Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it
never will." --Fredrick Douglass, nineteenth century abolitionist
who escaped from slavery.
Among conversion, accommodation, and coercion, conversion should be our
primary mechanism at the present time. Why? Because unless the majority of
people voluntarily adopt a vegan lifestyle we will never successfully
create total animal liberation as the demand for animal exploitation will
still exist. Furthermore, in order to create lasting change with
accommodation and nonviolent coercion, we need more troops (which we get
by converting people).
Converting others may sound overwhelmingly tedious and tragically slow,
but, as we shall see later, strategic nonviolence accelerates the
conversion process. Some may also argue that conversion is idealistic and
impractical, but what are our options?
If total animal liberation were achieved through accommodation or
coercion, we would have to force a vegan lifestyle on an unwilling public.
Martial law would be needed. Privacy rights would be abolished. Police
would monitor the public all the time. Camping and canoeing expeditions by
"unbelievers" would require police escorts to prevent them from hunting,
trapping, or fishing. A special task force would be responsible for
finding and eliminating the inevitable black market trade in animal
products, raiding the homes of "unbelievers" in search of "contraband,"
and busting the "speak-easy" hamburger houses. Such a world is not only
unpractical--as we lack the finances, people, skills, and authority to
implement it--but also totally undesirable.
Currently, we are a tiny minority. We lack the strength to effectively
apply accommodation or coercion. But each new animal liberationist
represents a permanent short term victory that simultaneously improves our
power position so we can achieve more substantial victories in the future.
Therefore, what we need now--and in the foreseeable future--is to increase
our numbers. Choosing conversion as our primary mechanism will help us
keep that focus.
Now we will examine the six sources of power to show how converting
people not only builds our strength, but also undermines our rival's
power. Understanding the six sources of power will help us evaluate our
tactics, determine intermediate goals, and guide us in planning campaigns.
"The tyrant and his subjects are in somewhat symmetrical
positions. They can deny him most of what he wants--they can, that is,
if they have the disciplined organization to refuse collaboration. And
he can deny them just about everything they want--he can deny it by
using the force at his command. It is a bargaining situation in which
either side, if adequately disciplined and organized, can deny most of
what the other wants; and it remains to see who wins."--Thomas C.
Schelling, military strategist.
According to Sharp, every power-holder--be it an animal abuse industry
or an animal rights group--has six sources of power (in the parenthesis
following each definition are examples of that source of power if the
power-holder was the meat industry):
Authority: The willingness of people to voluntarily obey.
(People who eat meat, farmers, meat-industry workers, and anyone else
who voluntarily supports or assists the industry)
Human Resources: The number of people who will obey,
cooperate, and assist the power-holder. (People who eat meat, hired
workers, business associates, media outlets they advertise with,
governmental agencies they work with, etc.)
Skills and Knowledge: The abilities, skills, and knowledge
available to the power-holder and how well they meet her or his needs.
(Skills in advertising, marketing, financial accounting, management,
public relations, scientific research, raising animals, etc.)
Intangible Factors: Psychological or ideological factors
which help encourage obedience and submissiveness--such as a common
faith, ideology, or sense of mission. (The belief in human dominance
over animals, pride that encourages them to resist threats and
intimidation by animal activists, etc.)
Material Resources: The amount of property, finances, and
natural resources available to the power-holder. (Farms, stockyards,
slaughterhouses, money, stocks, cattle transport trucks, etc.)
Sanctions: The power-holder's ability to enforce his or her
wishes and punish those who disobey. (Government surveillance, beatings,
imprisonment, ridicule, and harassment carried out by opposition
members, police, hired security, FBI, ATF, etc.)
These six sources of power can be thought of in this way: imagine a
table with six legs where the table top represents the power-holder and
each of the legs represents one of their sources of power. As activists,
we must significantly weaken or remove the legs of our opposition to
topple the table top and achieve victory.
So how do we remove our adversary's sources of power?
Well, re-examining the sources of power reveals that they all depend
ultimately on people: authority is people obeying orders, human resources
are people, skills and knowledge are provided by people, the intangible
factors are created and advocated by people, material resources are
provided by people who invest in the industry or buy their products, and
sanctions are executed by people. With this understood, the answer to our
question become apparent: we remove our opponent's sources of power by
"removing" their people--they are the root source of our rival's power.
And how do we "remove" them? Through conversion. As people adopt a
vegan lifestyle, they deny our rival the support and cooperation they
need, thus weakening their "legs."
Of course, there are other ways to remove people. Some
ideological-advocates kill them. Terrorism, guerilla warfare, and
conventional warfare are weapon systems that use lethal force to remove
their antagonist's sources of power. Thankfully, the animal rights
movement almost unanimously opposes violence to promote our cause.
But some animal liberationists support economic sabotage--destroying
the exploiter's property to make animal exploitation less profitable.
However, this weapon system fails to address our rival's root sources of
power: people. It primarily attacks only one aspect of the opponent's
material resources: property. Economic sabotage fails to adequately
address the people (customers and investors) who supply the money, or the
opposition's five other sources of power. Gains made through economic
sabotage are unstable and often temporary because our adversary's root
sources of power remain intact.
In fact, given our present situation, most gains made through
accommodation and coercion result in only temporary victories. The
Nordstrom's department store in Seattle, Washington, stopped selling fur
when protest campaigns threatened business (accommodation), but resumed
the practice at their customers' request. The European Union passed
legislation (coercion) to ban the importation of all wild caught fur, but,
before the law went into effect, changes were made to ensure that the
U.S., Canada, and Russia--the three major wild fur trapping countries--may
continue to import wild caught fur. In Europe, enough people oppose the
steel-jaw trap to pass such legislation, but the unconverted countries
were able to exert their own pressure and weaken the legislation.
"If you want
to be beyond reproach...This is how you gain the respect of others.
If our lives demonstrate that we are peaceful, humble, and trusted,
this is recognized by others. If our lives demonstrate something
else, that will be noticed too." --Rosa
Victories achieved via accommodation or coercion will only last when we
have the converts needed to enforce them. For example, in Colorado and
Massachusetts, where voter referendums banned the use of steel-jaw
leg-hold traps--the majority of people believed (conversion) that
steel-jaw leg-hold traps were undesirable and--more importantly--believed
they were so undesirable that it was necessary to take action against
them. These laws which were voted into existence by the people will most
likely be permanent because the politicians know their constituents
support the law and are willing to take action on its behalf. Attempting
to overturn such a law would put the politicians at risk of losing votes,
so the law stays. Unfortunately, we lack the people power necessary to
enforce most victories achieved through accommodation and
coercion--especially on non-fur issues--which only reinforces the need for
us to focus on conversion.
As these examples show, the animal liberation movement is also a
power-holder, and, as such, we derive our force from the six sources of
power. When we convert others, those converts not only withdraw their
support from the opposition, but bolster our own power position by giving
us their support and/or assistance. As our numbers increase, our power
increases, and our ability to effectively utilize accommodation and
nonviolent coercion increases--once again stressing the need for us to
focus our limited resources on conversion tactics.
Finally, understanding our opposition's and our own sources of power
allows us to evaluate our action's effectiveness. By determining how an
action impacts our opposition's and our own sources of power, we can
estimate the action's effectiveness and determine whether it is beneficial
or counterproductive. We will use this method to see how our own hostility
negatively impacts our power position. But, first, we will define
WHAT IS NONVIOLENT DISCIPLINE?
"Undisciplined strength or strength which is not in keeping
with right principles can never lead to a beneficial fruition. It could
lead to danger for many."--Aung San Suu Kyi
4, 1957, fifteen year old Elizabeth Eckford tries to enter the newly
integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas while angry
white students yell racial slurs and threaten to lynch her.
Eckford's bravery and nonviolent discipline helps expose the violent
and unjust people in this picture.
Regardless of whether conversion, accommodation, or nonviolent coercion
is chosen as the primary mechanism for gaining total animal liberation,
nonviolent discipline must always be followed in a strategic nonviolence
campaign. So what is "nonviolent discipline"?
Nonviolent discipline is the self-discipline we must foster to
implement five necessary components of strategic nonviolence:
Fearlessness: Courage prevents us from compromising our
beliefs, even when faced with personal danger and suffering.
Fearlessness is a vital component of strategic nonviolence and will be
discussed more later.
Persistence: Persistence allows us to continue to fight even
when morale is low or the situation looks hopeless. Setbacks should be
expected, but, as long as we don't quit, victory is still possible. The
only way we can truly fail is by giving up. Therefore activists need the
inner strength necessary to continue the struggle during hard times.
Selflessness: We must put the animals before ourselves, so we
do what is best for them--not what makes us feel good. Activists need to
be selfless enough to do the boring, unglamorous, and personally
unrewarding tasks our struggle requires. As our struggle intensifies,
some of us will face imprisonment and violent opposition. We will need
to be selfless enough to endure pain, discomfort, and the loss of our
freedom for the animals.
Nonviolence: As will be explained later, for strategic
nonviolence to be as effective as possible, we must never use violence
or threats of violence in any situation--even to protect ourselves or
Nonhostility: We need the discipline to treat
everyone--animal exploiters, ignorant or hostile members of the public,
activists we disagree with, etc.--with respect. We must maintain a
dignified and calm composure during all of our interactions with others,
while also being truthful, humble, non-judgmental, nurturing, and
Nonviolent discipline is the self-discipline and inner strength
activists need to be fearless, persistent, selfless, nonviolent, and
nonhostile. The need for these components will be explained in more detail
later, but first we will explain the need for nonviolence and
"In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In
your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that
cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because
they have nothing bad to say about us."--Titus 2:7-8 (New International
According to Sharp, behaving in a nonviolent and nonhostile manner is
vital to strategic nonviolence for three major reasons: it increases the
sympathy and support we receive, it helps induce mutiny among the
opposition, and it attracts maximum participation in the struggle.
People tend to ignore and ridicule the ideas of arrogant and hostile
people--especially when those ideas are different from their own. If our
behaviors express ill will, self-righteousness, or arrogance, then our
ideas will not be taken seriously. Instead, people assume we advocate
animal rights for personal gain. For example, many may think we only
believe in animal rights so we can feel superior to other people or to
justify our hostile nature or lawless behavior. By questioning our
behaviors and the motives behind these actions, the public can ignore our
message and even develop animosity for our cause. By only engaging in
nonviolent and nonhostile action, we effectively remove most of our
offending behaviors which prevents people from receiving our message.
"We need to
be extremely careful that our attitudes are proper and just. The
people must also develop courage, but this courage they must strive
to keep controlled by ideas of good and right. If we can't control
our courage with such ideas, then there may be danger for others and
ourselves." -- Aung San Suu Kyi
Furthermore, nonviolent and nonhostile action maximizes the sympathy
and support we receive. By promoting our issues in a non-judgmental,
humble, truthful, respectful, calm, and dignified manner, we remove the
distractions of arrogance and hostility, focusing more attention on the
issue. Our honorable behavior gains us the public's respect and makes them
more open-minded and sympathetic towards our ideas.
Nonviolent and nonhostile behavior also helps induce mutiny in the
opposition's camp. Our commitment to nonhostile behavior prevents the
opposition from feeling physically or emotionally threatened by us, and
makes them more willing to consider our ideas and question their own
behavior. Our collective integrity reveals the opposition's own hostility,
violence, and lies to themselves. Some opposition members will not be
influenced by these realizations, but others will feel ashamed and be
alienated by the immoral conduct of their more brazen peers. Therefore, by
showing goodwill and friendliness towards the opposition while remaining
assertive (fearless) and persistent, we undermine some opponent members'
loyalty to their industries. Some will even defect from the opposition and
join our struggle for animal rights--as many already have.
That said, we must avoid unrealistic expectations for converting our
opponents as they have a strong financial self-interest for continuing to
exploit animals. But the varying degrees of animal exploitation rest on a
continuum, and, as animal activists, it is our responsibility to nurture
our opposition towards the vegan end of that continuum. Opposition members
who take partial steps in that direction help foster dissent and division
within the opposition's ranks. The more rigorously we practice nonviolent
discipline, the more effectively we will be able to foster the
opposition's step-wise conversion and internal conflict.
Besides inducing mutiny, nonviolent discipline helps attract maximum
participation within our struggle. Many activists who join hostile groups
drop out because they disagree with the group's tactics. Most people
perceive nonhostile actions as more legitimate than violent or hostile
ones, and therefore are more willing to support and participate in them.
Furthermore, animal groups that show hostility towards the opposition
are more likely to show the same hostility to group members who do not
meet their standards. Such inter-movement hostility creates an oppressive
and stifling environment that disempowers activists and leads many to exit
the struggle. We must maintain nonviolent discipline not only towards our
opposition, but also towards our own comrades, so that we foster a
supportive movement based on mutual respect, trust, and understanding.
Such an appealing environment maintains morale, empowers activists, and
encourages activists to remain in the struggle.
And, unlike a military struggle which requires its troops to be
physically strong and agile--thus excluding many from getting
involved--nonviolent struggles can utilize everyone regardless of whether
they are strong or weak, able-bodied or crippled, young or old, educated
or uneducated. Nonviolent struggles can recruit from all sectors of
society, thereby giving us an advantage over violent struggles whose
strict requirements limit those who can participate.