Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism
Unfortunately, there are people who identify themselves as animal advocates who claim that the solution to the problem of animal exploitation is violence.
Some of these people have actually engaged in acts of violence against institutional exploiters. Others incite acts of violence by
calling on people to use “intimidation” against animal exploiters or to
make animal exploiters “fearful” of retaliatory violence.
Putting aside the moral/spiritual aspects of violence, those who promote violence are deeply confused about the basic economics of
animal exploitation. Institutional users engage in animal exploitation
because the public demands it. Institutional users are, for the most
part, indifferent to whether they are selling beef or bananas. They
will put their capital wherever they’ll get the best return.
Most people regard animal use as “normal” in the same sense that breathing and drinking water are considered as “normal.” They demand
animal products. If you destroy ten slaughterhouses today, as long as
demand remains, ten more slaughterhouses will be built or ten existing
ones will expand production (and probably make production more
economically efficient). If you shut down a supplier of animals used
for vivisection, and the public continues to support vivisection, which
it clearly does, then another supplier will emerge. So as a purely
practical matter, violence is a strategy that cannot work.
As long as animal use is regarded as normal and as not raising a fundamental moral question, nothing will ever change. But we are not
going to get people to think about animal use through intimidation,
fear, and acts of violence. Education, if it is to be effective, can never be violent; it can never
seek to intimidate or make people fearful. It must open their hearts
and their minds. The non-violent strategy is anything but passive; it
involves our working actively, constantly, and creatively to shift a
fundamental paradigm—the notion that animals are things, resources,
property; that they are exclusively means to human ends.
And it is clear that our efforts to educate are working. There is a dialogue emerging about the use of animals that goes beyond questions
of “humane” treatment. There is a constant stream of stories about how
people are becoming increasingly aware of the moral schizophrenia that
characterizes the human/non-human relationship.
Those who advocate violence are not only confused about basic economic issues, but they are hindering this progress because they
provide an easy target that gives people an excuse to dismiss the issue
of animal exploitation. In this respect, the pro-violence people are
similar to those who promote sexism.
Would Martin Luther King have campaigned for civil rights, claiming “I’d rather go naked than sit in the back of the bus”?
Of course not.
Would King or Gandhi have urged us to “intimidate” others and to make others “fearful” that they were going to become victims of violence?
Of course not.
Sometimes, when I see some of the things that the pro-violence people say or do (or when I see a video with a woman stripping “for the
animals”), I shake my head and wonder what people could do that could
be worse in terms of getting the public to take this issue
seriously. Indeed, it seems that these people are trying to sabotage
For further discussion of these issues, listen to the Commentary I did on this subject, or read A Comment on Violence, More on Violence and Animal Rights, and On Violence and Vivisection, all of which are on this site.
I also discuss the issue of violence in my forthcoming book, which I co-authored with Dr. Robert Garner, The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation?, which will be published by Columbia University Press in May 2010.
Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione
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