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WHAT ARE OUR OPTIONS?

"[Nonviolence] is the safe ground on which, unarmed ourselves, we can hold our own against armed forces."--Francis De'k, Hungarian leader in the struggle against Austrian rule during 1861.

Some activists disagree with treating the opposition respectfully. They claim the opposition cannot be converted and will stop abusing animals only when we make their lives so miserable that they would rather stop their practices than deal with our wrath. Therefore, we must "make their lives hell" by screaming derogatory epithets at them, harassing them with hostile phone calls, damaging their property, destroying their industry's profits through economic sabotage, and engaging in other acts which induce fear and terror into the opposition or increase their expenses until their business becomes unprofitable.

These tactics stress accommodation and coercion as their primary mechanism for achieving victory, but their hostility prevents them from being strategic nonviolence actions, and their violation of nonviolent discipline would suggest these actions may be counterproductive to achieving animal liberation. Let's examine how these tactics affect the roots of our power and that of the opposition's to determine if they are effective or not.

Our hostility can certainly make the targeted individuals uncomfortable and fearful. Some opponents may even adopt a less controversial career, and younger people may avoid going into animal abuse careers to avoid such hostility. So according to our sources of power, the opposition will lose some of their human resources and the corresponding skills and knowledge of those people. From this perspective, it appears some form of success can be achieved through hostility.

Economic sabotage is also promoted as a way to make significant and immediate gains for the animals. Like hostility, economic sabotage can also have some success. A fur store destroyed by fire cannot sell furs, and it costs money to rebuild. More money will be spent on security precautions, and insurance premiums will increase as repeated attacks make fur retail a high-risk venture. All of this makes the industry less profitable for individual furriers, and some attacked stores might permanently go out of business. Therefore, economic sabotage decreases an opponent's material resources, although any security they add increases their sanctioning power by improving their chances of apprehending future saboteurs.

Certainly, benefits can be found in all tactics. However, evaluating a tactic by only looking at its positive aspects, will never give us a complete picture. We must strive to see all of its ramifications--both good and bad--before we can truly evaluate its effectiveness. We now look at the negative consequences of hostility and economic sabotage.

HOW HOSTILITY HURTS US

"To produce change, nonviolent action operates on much more fundamental psychological, social and political levels than other techniques of action. These more fundamental levels of operation in nonviolent action, which may produce shifts of loyalties and invisibly undermine the power of a hostile regime, often operate more quickly than dramatic acts which might only be possible by secrecy. Therefore, it is highly dangerous to threaten the operation of those sometimes less obvious but much stronger forces by a secret effort to produce a quick, temporary victory on some subordinate point."-Gene Sharp, author of The Politics of Nonviolent Action--the most comprehensive work on strategic nonviolence to date.

Hostility and acts of economic sabotage--another form of hostility--do not act in a void. They produce many negative consequences which supersede their perceived benefits. Hostility hinders the conversion process in both the undecided public and the opposition, it decreases support for our cause, it can alienate our troops and supporters, it encourages loyalty within the opposition camp to their superiors, it strengthens the opposition's determination to fight us, and it justifies the disproportionately severe repression against activists. Let's look at these psychological results more closely.


The 1963 civil rights March on Washington drew over two hundred thousand people. Struggles committed to disciplined, nonviolent action attract more support than their hostile counterparts.

 

 

Hostility hinders conversion of both the opposition and the public. Think about what influences helped you gain the awareness you now have. Was it an arrogant person yelling at you, demeaning you, or calling you names that made you reconsider your position? Or was it a book you read, a vegan friend, or the lyrics of a band you liked which helped you become an animal liberationist? Most likely you learned about animal rights in a non-threatening manner that did not make you feel personally attacked. If animal rights activists did treat you badly, you probably became an animal rights supporter in spite of their activities, not because of them. By blocking people from hearing our message, hostility weakens our authority and stifles the growth of our human resources and the proportional growth in our skills and knowledge, and material resources that accompany the addition of people to our ranks. And, as we have fewer people, our ability to sanction the opposition through boycotts and other actions decreases.

If we verbally attack the opposition at protests or physically attack their property, members of the public give their sympathy to them. They see the opposition--not the animals--as the victims. None of us want to be treated disrespectfully or have our property destroyed. When we see others commit these acts for a political objective we don't already endorse, we discourage their hostile behavior by not supporting the individuals or their cause. Likewise, when the undecided public see our hostile and destructive behavior, they support the animal exploiters and not us, which bolster our opposition's authority, while further weakening our own.

Furthermore, our hostility can alienate our own troops, decreasing our human resources and the corresponding skills and knowledge and material resources those activists had to add. Many people join our struggle because of their sensitive and compassionate nature. When they see other activists engage in activity they consider hostile or destructive, some become uncomfortable and less willing to work with the hostile activists. All of us have a different hostility threshold--the extent of hostility needed for us to consider an action inappropriate. Because every individual has a different hostility threshold, strategic nonviolence eliminates all hostility--thereby ensuring we don't lose any animal liberationists because our actions exceeded another's hostility threshold.

Our hostility also causes the opposition to remain loyal to their leaders. When a group of people are threatened with physical violence, verbal harassment, emotional abuse, or hostility, they are less likely to reconsider their position or question and criticize the ideas of their group. Instead, their desire for self-protection encourages them to set aside any disagreements, follow their leaders, and act in solidarity with their peers. This further increases our opposition's authority while weakening our own.

Moreover, when the opposition feels personally attacked, many of them become more determined to fight back. For them, battling us now becomes an issue of personal pride and defending their honor. The persecution they endured at our hands strengthens their resolve to continue their offending actions and to undermine our efforts for animal liberation.

Many activists are familiar with activists whose imprisonment for the cause have made them stronger and more determined to fight than ever. This phenomenon also happens to our opposition when we are hostile towards them. Most will not succumb to our hostility and threats, but, instead, strengthen their efforts to fight the violence and hostility that we represent. Their increased will to fight us strengthens the opposition's intangible factors.

Finally, our hostility and acts of economic sabotage only serve to justify disproportionately severe repression against us. For example, activists who swear at the police, call them derogatory names, and shout in their faces are more likely to be arrested. Even though free speech is a constitutional right in our country, the activist's hostile behavior justifies--to the police and most of the public--his or her arrest and jailing.

As our acts of hostility increase, even greater forms of repression become justifiable against us. This explains why the FBI always try to label us as violent terrorists. If the public perceive us as violent terrorists then they will not be outraged when we are arrested, sentenced to long prison sentences, and have our rights violated through illegal wire-taps, harassing surveillance, and subpoenas to grand juries. The more the public perceives us to be a threat to another's safety, the more willing it will be to see our individual civil liberties violated for the benefit of the greater public good.

If this were not true, why would the Federal Bureau of Investigations, under their counter-intelligence operations, place agent provocateurs within social movements to encourage acts of violence and sabotage? Sometimes they do this to entrap activists, but mainly they do this to justify their use of force and violence against members of the cause. When opposing forces fight with violence, the playing ground is equal and the public consider it a fair fight. The police, the animal abusers, and the FBI are skilled in violence and prefer to use that weapon. But when we choose strategic nonviolence as our weapon system, it hinders their ability to effectively utilize violence--their favorite weapon--against us. Using violence against loving, respectful people looks monstrous and cruel, and public opinion shifts against them in favor of a nonviolent group. Acts of violence or hostility, perpetuated by agent provocateurs, helps level the playing field by justifying the opposition's brutal treatment of activists.

Of course, animal liberationists perpetuate almost all acts of sabotage against animal exploitation. However, these actions create the same outcome. They justify our violent repression, thereby increasing our opponents' sanctioning power. As animal activists, we want to use the opponent's repression against themselves so that every time they abuse us, they lose support and power. Later on we will discuss how maintaining nonviolent discipline will set the stage to do just that.

In terms of our sources of power then, hostility and economic sabotage undermine our authority, human resources, skills and knowledge, material resources, and sanctioning power. Meanwhile, it fortifies our opponent's authority, human resources, sanctions, and intangible factors. With this broader view of how hostility and economic sabotage impact our sources of power and that of our opposition's, we see that the minimal gains mentioned above do not serve to compensate for the ground we lose.

Besides being ineffective, violence and hostility executed on behalf of the animals perpetuate the root source of animal exploitation and all societal evils.

REMOVING THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL

"Wars will never cease while men still kill other animals for food, since to turn any living creature into a roast, a steak, a chop, or any other type of 'meat' takes the same kind of violence, the same kind of bloodshed, and the same kind of mental processes required to change a living man into a dead soldier."--Feminist vegetarian, Agnes Ryan, wrote this in March of 1943 for the publication, For the Church Door.

Feelings of superiority are the root of all evil. Warfare, racism, speciesism, heterosexism, environmental destruction, violence, murder, and hostility can all be traced back to an individual or group who feels superior in some way to another. These groups use their beliefs in superiority to justify the brutality they inflict. Some of the reasons why people develop an attitude of superiority can be traced to a belief in a certain ideology or religion, because they have amassed a good education or wealth, or--ironically enough--because they fight violence and oppression or even because they support strategic nonviolence!

As animal activists, we must maintain constant vigilance to ensure that animal rights never becomes a force for evil. We must never let ourselves feel superior to others because of our beliefs so as to justify our hostility towards them. This only perpetuates the harmful belief that "superiority" justifies brutality--the root philosophy behind all violence and exploitation. Because of strategic nonviolence's commitment to nonviolent and nonhostile action, it allows us to fight exploitation effectively, without creating a new form of oppression to replace the old one (for example, the animal rights dictatorship described earlier).


"Nothing is more irritating and, in the final analysis, harmful to a government than to have to deal with people who will not bend to its will, whatever the consequences." --Jawaharal Nehru

 

The most ironic situation is when nonviolent activists exhibit hostility towards other activists who do not share their beliefs in nonviolent action. They allow their "superior" belief in nonviolence to justify directing hostility at "unbelievers" in an attempt to control their "undesirable" behavior. We--the nonviolent activists--must strive to maintain humility, an open mind, patience, and the discipline needed to respectfully share our views with those activists who see things differently from us. Furthermore, when consensus is not reached by these discussions, we need to respect their beliefs and allow them to act in accordance with their nature. To do otherwise would only violate nonviolent discipline, prevent the conversion process of the hostile activist, and undermine our own authority. After all, if nonviolent activists don't have enough faith in strategic nonviolence for it to work with small interpersonal conflicts, why should anyone else believe this weapon system can effectively solve widespread international social and political problems such as animal exploitation?

By removing our violence and hostility, we prevent the public from changing the focus so as to ignore the issue. But this does not force them to confront the issue or to motivate them to take action on its behalf. That is why strategic nonviolence also utilizes the strategy of noncooperation and the tactics of civil disobedience and political jiu-jitsu.

NONCOOPERATION

"All [people] recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its efficiency are great and unendurable." -Henry David Thoreau, an abolitionist and anti-war activist.

Understanding the sources of power leads us to the uncomfortable realization that all of us--vegan though we may be--are partly responsible for animal abuse. It is our government and our laws that imprison animals. It is our taxes that fund vivisection, subsidize the meat and dairy industry, fund the Animal Damage Control programs, and the police and FBI who protect animal abuse establishments and arrest direct action activists. It is our participation in a system of working 9 to 5 to pay the bills that prevents us from taking serious and persistent action against the abusers. It is our use of ineffective or counterproductive tactics that enables the abusers to perpetuate their atrocity.

Unfortunately, many activists refuse to recognize their role in perpetuating animal abuse. Instead, they blame others for the problem and make excuses for why their actions are ineffective: "The public is apathetic," "Animal exploiters are evil and can never change," "The media is biased against us," "Animal liberation is an impossibility," "I'm the only one who cares." These excuses, and others like them, protect ourselves from the emotional pain experienced when we recognize our role in animal exploitation, but they become self-fulfilling prophesies that disempower us. Instead, we should recognize that animal liberation is a compelling philosophy grounded in truth and justice, and if the public, opposition, or media don't see that, then we must not be approaching them in the right manner. By owning our ineffective strategies, we empower ourselves to adopt new, more effective ones.

Similarly, by realizing our responsibility in perpetuating animal exploitation,we also acknowledge our power to stop it! This is why noncooperation is a major strategy of strategic nonviolence. Noncooperation is when we do what our opponent does not want us to do, and we don't do what they want us to do. By removing our cooperation in the abuse we weaken the opposition's power base. If enough people engage in noncooperation, the opposition's "legs" will collapse and their table top will tumble.

REPRESSION

"Without willingness to face repression as the price of the struggle, the nonviolent action movement cannot hope to succeed." -Gene Sharp

Resistance always encounters repression. On May 4, 1970 the Ohio National Guard opened fire on unarmed anti- war protesters at Kent State University in Ohio. Four people were killed and nine were wounded.

 

As with all components of strategic nonviolence, noncooperation lies on a spectrum. The greater the act of noncooperation, the greater the impact on the opposition, and the greater repression the noncooperator receives. Legal forms of noncooperation (such as refusing to eat animal products) will only receive small amounts of repression (such as people making jokes about your diet or meat-eating relatives refusing to attend your vegan Thanksgiving). More serious acts of noncooperation (such as removing imprisoned animals from factory farms) will result in more serious forms of repression (such as criminal charges and possible prison sentences).

History is full of situations where activists have suffered barbaric and lethal repression for their acts of protest and noncooperation. On the afternoon of May 4, 1970, student anti-war demonstrators at Kent State University were protesting the presence of two platoons of the Ohio National Guard on their campus. The guardsmen shot an estimated 67 rounds at the unarmed crowds of students, resulting in the deaths of 4 protesters and the wounding of 9.

Certainly the Kent State killings are an extreme case of repression, as most protests happen without incident. But, this supports the fact that noncooperation can--and does--result in some form of repression.

So how should we, as animal liberationists, respond to this repression? The answer is with courage, bravery, and by reasserting our demands while refusing to become submissive to our opponent's wishes. If we acquiesce to the repression, we only reaffirm our opponent's beliefs that physical force can control us. This encourages them to become more and more brutal towards us in an attempt to get us to obey and stop our acts of noncooperation. Therefore, we must not submit to their repression, and we must hold true to our values, come what may.

Rosa Parks--the black civil rights activist who refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955--recognized how the black peoples' submissiveness and cooperation with segregation only reinforced the white segregationist's ideas that black people were a lower life-form who deserved what they got. Before she was arrested, she distinctly remembered thinking, "Our mistreatment was just not right, and I was tired of it. The more we gave in, the worse they treated us."

We need to let our opposition know that no amount of threats, violence, and jail time will ever make us compromise our belief in animal rights. Vegetarian and master strategist Mohandas Gandhi led the successful nonviolent revolution that resulted in India freeing itself from British rule. Gandhi said this about how nonviolent activists should respond to repression: "In the code of [nonviolence], there is no such thing as surrender to brute force."

Gandhi and his fellow nonviolent warriors practiced what they preached. During their revolution, British troops killed nearly 8,000 activists, permanently injured 500, and imprisoned more than 100,000 in response to the activists acts of noncooperation. But, despite this repression, Gandhi and his troops remained firm in their convictions and demands for an independent India. And, although they did not injure or kill even one British soldier, India won its independence in 1946. Gandhi himself was arrested and jailed numerous times during the struggle, and after India's independence was won, he continued to struggle for peace and justice despite death threats. On January 30, 1948, Gandhi died for his beliefs when an opponent assassinated him. Gandhi never surrendered.

Like Gandhi, none of us should surrender. However, not all of us are ready to go to jail, endure beatings, or die for the animals. Because of this, each of us as individuals need to honestly evaluate what sacrifices we are willing to make for the animals, and then refrain from engaging in acts of noncooperation or civil disobedience that will result in more repression than we can handle.

Furthermore, we need to respect other activists. If someone is afraid of jail or unwilling to attend protests, we must appreciate their honesty and respect their boundaries--not condemn them for an assumed "lack of commitment." Nonviolent activists should never be coerced or urged to engage in acts of noncooperation which will result in repression they are not ready to courageously endure.

However, our willingness to bear repression is not a fixed position. Animal liberationists can help increase the levels of repression that we as a movement are willing to endure by encouraging fearlessness, open defiance, solidarity, and an understanding of how voluntary and courageous sacrifice will make us victorious in our struggle for animal liberation.

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