Animal Rights Zone

Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism

Transcript of Dr. Jerry Vlasak's Live ARZone Guest Chat

Transcript of Dr. Jerry Vlasak's Live ARZone Chat

10 September 2011

6pm US Eastern Time

11pm UK Time

11 September 2011 

8am Australian Eastern Standard Time

 

 

Carolyn Bailey:

ARZone would like to welcome Dr. Jerry Vlasak as our Live Chat Guest today.

Jerry is an American trauma surgeon and animal rights activist. He is press officer for the North American Animal Liberation Press Office, a former director of the Animal Defense League of Los Angeles and an Advisor for SPEAK, the Voice for the Animals.

 

 He is a former vivisector who has seen the agony of animals in laboratories. He debates the scientific invalidity of animal experimentation around the world, speaks out about the benefits of a vegan diet and offers lectures on the right of all sentient beings to live free from pain and suffering.

 

Jerry became an active animal advocate in 1993. He became a spokesperson for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, although he is no longer a member, and was a board member of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

 

Jerry welcomes the opportunity to engage ARZone members today. Would you please join with me in welcoming him to ARZone?

 

Welcome, Jerry!

 

Sharni Buckley:

Hi Jerry!

 

Jerry Vlasak:

Hello everyone.

 

Sadia:

Hello Dr.Vlasak! Thank you for being here. And welcome!

 

Jason Ward:

Hello Dr Vlasak

 

Brooke Cameron:

Hello, Jerry

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Welcome Jerry!

 

Tim Gier:

Hi Jerry!

 

Stacey Rakic:

Hi, Jerry.

 

Louie Gedo:

It's an honor to have you chat Dr Vlasak

 

Mangus O'Shales:

hi doctor

 

Jesse Newman:

Hello Dr. Vlasak!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Jerry will be responding to his pre-registered questions first, and then we’ll open the chat up for all members to engage him.

 

Please refrain from interrupting Jerry during his first session, and feel free to send a private message to an admin if you wish to address Jerry at any time. This can be done by clicking on their names and selecting “Private Chat”.

I’d now like to ask Sharni Buckley to ask Jerry his first question, thanks, Sharni.

 

Sharni Buckley:

Hi Jerry, and welcome to ARZone! You are a press officer for the North American Animal Liberation Press Office. Could you please explain what that entails, and in which ways the current US ALF differs from the ALF of the UK in the 80’s, if at all.

 

Jerry Vlasak:

The North American Animal Liberation Press Office (NAALPO) was formed in 2004 to respond to the mainstream media's uncritical reporting on animal liberation activities. The Press Office takes a proactive stance to communicate the actions, strategies, and philosophy of the animal liberation movement to the media and the public.

 

Many of these actions are illegal under a current societal structure that fails to recognize the rights of non-human animals to live free of suffering, but validates and promotes the "right" of industries to do whatever they want to animals for profit or research. Within these conditions, those in the underground working for animal liberation often cannot speak out directly.

 

Nevertheless, their actions and message is urgent and deserve to be heard and understood. No one else was performing this function in North America. Different from other press offices in the past, both here and abroad, we also communicate actions from underground groups other than the ALF, such as the Justice department, Animal Liberation brigade, and others. Did you mean to ask how the ALF is different now?

 

Sharni Buckley:

I was just curious as to any differences in frequency of actions or policies that might have changed over the years.

 

Jerry Vlasak:

The ALF has been active on this side of the pond since at least the late 1970's. Since we have been tracking their activities, there appears to be more reported actions almost every year, although the actions seem to be smaller. Also, actions in Mexico have recently come to bear, arguing against the movement as one of privileged white people.

 

Sharni Buckley:

Thank you

 

Tim Gier:

Thank you for your time tonight Dr. Vlasak. The next question is from Brooke Cameron. Brooke, please go ahead...

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thanks, Tim. Hi, Jerry, in your early career you participated in animal experimentation. You’re now an outspoken advocate for the liberation of other animals from laboratories. Would you please share with us the catalyst, if there was one, for your change of heart. Thanks.

 

Jerry Vlasak:

After doing animal research in the late 1980's, I saw little impact occurring on behalf of patients like the ones I was treating at the hospital. That was the first crack in the facade.

 

A year or two later, my wife stumbled upon a demo at the Federal building in Los Angeles on behalf of Alaskan wolves being snared; met some people, got involved and educated, and in turn, educated me. I read "Diet for a New America" then at her urging, immediately became vegan, and started trying to make up for the cruelty I had been a part of in my pre-awakening life.

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thanks, Jerry. May I ask a follow up, please?

 

Jerry Vlasak:

Sure.

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thanks! Having been a participant in vivisection at one point, do you think that allows you an insight into the minds of those who continue to exploit other animals in this way, and, if so, does it give you some ideas on how to educate these people about the unnecessary horrors they’re inflicting on others?

 

Jerry Vlasak:

I think it helps to be able to say I have been there, and being a physician does provide some credibility, deserved or not. Most vivisectors start out like me, taking the path of least resistance to the most publications, grant money, prestige and salary. That’s pretty easy to change, btw. No one really gets started in animal research because they think its the best way to help people patients.

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thanks, Jerry.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Jerry. Up next is Jesse Newman, thanks, Jesse …

 

Jesse Newman:

What do you think of the use of the words “terrorist” and “terrorism” to describe activists and the tactics they use in defense of other animals?

 

Jerry Vlasak:

Always aimed at stopping the suffering of non-human animals, its hard to see how anyone could characterize animal activists as "terrorists". Terror is a word more appropriately applied to the experience of animals being tortured to death in laboratories, imprisoned in battery cages or raped, imprisoned and deprived of their young on factory farms. The word "terrorist" is just the local buzzword of the times; it has been applied so broadly to become meaningless, and I never worry about the label.

 

Jesse Newman:

Thank you.

 

Jason Ward:

Thanks Jerry, Tim Gier has the next question- when you are ready Tim man

 

Tim Gier:

There are people who adamantly maintain that “vegan education” is the best, and perhaps the only, effective way to bring about the liberation of other animals. I suppose that by vegan education they mean giving speeches, writing books and handing out leaflets. Is that how you’d define vegan education?

 

Jerry Vlasak:

Vegan education is all well and good; I've spent many hours handing out "Why Vegan?" pamphlets on college campuses, talking to gatherings and individuals about why a vegan diet is so important, for the animals, the future of the planet, and our own health. It’s a necessary and important part of animal activism. But it is only one tactic among the many necessary to combat animal exploitation by humans. If it was the only, and EFFECTIVE way then fewer and fewer animals would be suffering and dying. Unfortunately, that is not true. I wish it were.

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks!

Jason Ward has the next question-- please go ahead Jason...

 

Jason Ward:

Jerry, you stated in a December 2008 interview:  http://www.animalliberationfront.com/ALFront/Interviews/Vlasak-greenmuze.htm  that there are two main goals of the ALF, you said “The first is obviously to remove as many animals as possible from fur farms, vivisection labs, and other areas of abuse. The second is to cause as much economic damage to these industries and persons as possible.” Is there a line you draw in causing damage to persons who you regard as “exploiters”, and could you please define who you would regard as an “exploiter” and why?

 

Jerry Vlasak:

I think its pretty clear that any one who profits or benefits in some way by the oppression, "use" or other exploitation of a non-human animal should be required to stop doing so. Just like if they were enslaving, or exploiting, or imprisoning another human of, say, another race or belief system.

 

Choosing the best tactic in any particular situation is our mission; what works at a family gathering of flesh eaters is not likely to be the best strategy against hardened vivisectors that have been repeatedly asked to stop hurting animals.

 

The method we judge most likely to succeed should be utilized- often one is tried, then another and another until something is shown to be effective. The least violent method that works, the better, I think. Any one fighting oppression, whether against animals, against humans like previously in South Africa or here in the civil rights struggle, must constantly evaluate and adjust their strategy to be as effective as possible. Otherwise, lives are being wasted.

 

Jason Ward:

Thank you. Barbara DeGrande has the next question

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Thanks Jason. Both you and Steve Best have been banned from entering the UK, and both have ties to Texas. Could you speak to how living in a state notorious for commodifying animals and executing humans might give rise to an animal rights activist? (Disclosure: I live in Texas and am involved wth an animal rights group here.)

 

Jerry Vlasak:

I think most states are close to the same in the way they allow animals to be treated. While I was born and raised in Texas, Steve was not. Perhaps just a coincidence. I have lived and worked in southern California for the last 25 years or so; there are people everywhere aware of animal suffering, and some have committed themselves to trying to do something about it. Steve and I are just two of those people.

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Thank you! Next up is our own Carolyn Bailey....Carolyn, when you are ready!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Barb. Hi Jerry! In his article “Who’s Afraid of Jerry Vlasak” (http://www.opednews.com/articles/1/Who-s-Afraid-of-Jerry-Vlas-by-Steve-Best-090503-913.html), Steve Best writes that, as far as he knows, the only time you appear to have actually advocated for violence is once, in a television interview on Australian TV in October 2004. Dr. Best quotes you as having then said “Would I advocate taking five guilty vivisectors’ lives to save hundreds of millions of innocent animal lives? Yes, I would.” Understanding the sentiment expressed, do you have any regrets over having used those actual words?

 

Jerry Vlasak:

I have always stood by my comments, initially made at a closed discussion, that the use of force in defense of animals being tortured and killed was morally justifiable, what Steve Best calls extensional self-defense.

 

No different, for a non-speciesist, than defending a child who is being attacked by a molester. I also suggested this MIGHT be an effective strategy in certain instances, such as on behalf of animals being tortured to death by vivisectors, in cases where other tactics have failed. Humans have been fighting against vivisection for more than 100 years, yet more animals, more primates, more you-name-the-species are being tortured and murdered every year in laboratories. The strategies that HAVE been tried do not seem to be working. How long do we keep using the same ineffective strategy.

 

To paraphrase Nelson Mandela, "there is no moral goodness in using an ineffective strategy." If you were locked in a steel cage somewhere, waiting for your turn to be yanked out, strapped to a restraining device, get electrodes stuck into your brain, and then be killed and dissected, what would you want done on your behalf?

 

Carolyn Bailey:

I understand your position, Jerry. I find it difficult to accept that advocating for violence is the best way to end violence though, under any circumstances.  Thank you though.

 

Jerry Vlasak:

By standing by and allowing the massive violence to occur, to innocent beings, that IS violence.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

I agree with you, I wasn't suggesting anyone stand by and allow the violence to continue. That's my point, I ask that all violence end.

 

Jerry Vlasak:

If one has the power, via the use of force, to stop violence against an innocent being, I feel they are morally justified, even obligated to do so.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Jerry. Next up is a question from Brandon Becker, which will be asked in his absence by Tim Gier, thanks, Tim!

 

Tim Gier:

At a time when many large U.S. animal advocacy groups are afraid to support militant direct action, or even sometimes condemn such actions, the NAALPO is fulfilling important role for the underground animal liberation movement. What can we do to radicalize the aboveground movement and get others to see the value of diversity of tactics and solidarity in the struggle for animal liberation?

 

Jerry Vlasak:

I wish I knew. By reporting on militant actions, making people aware that such action is not only acceptable, but neccessary and supported by the animal liberation community, by providing support to those (very) few activists that end up as prisoners of the state. In a word- support. Support for the ideology, support for the tactics, support for individuals that need it.

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Tim has the next question, his own this time. Tim, please continue on...

 

Tim Gier:

An article in the LA Times dated September 5, 2006(http://articles.latimes.com/2006/sep/05/local/me-alf5/2) says: “Nationwide, the FBI says animal rights and related environmental extremist groups such as the Earth Liberation Front have escalated the number and severity of criminal incidents in recent years, although they have not succeeded in carrying out their threats of direct violence against people.” This raises two questions. First, to your knowledge, would the LA Times be accurate now, five years later, if they were to make the same statement regarding no direct violence having been done to people? Second, in that the quote seems to suggest that these so-called “extremist” groups have aimed to do direct violence against people, but have been unsuccessful, is that even the case? Has direct violence against people ever been the actual goal?

 

Jerry Vlasak:

I spend a lot of time comparing the animal liberation struggle to other struggles against oppression. People seem to have an easier time thinking about human struggles and the tactics, including violence, utilized in those struggles.

 

Re violence:

 

1. Billions of animals are subjected to extreme violence every year, resulting in their immediate and painful deaths.

 

2. A number of animal rights activists have been killed fighting on behalf of animals.

 

3. Maybe a couple of humans have ever been harmed by animal liberationists. Brian Cass of HLS comes to mind, and it wasn't that much harm. I am unaware of unsuccessful attempts to purposefully harm humans to help animals. BTW, US armed forces killed AT LEAST 500,000 unarmed Iraqui non-combatants during the last 8 years. But wait, animal rights activists are prone to violence?

 

Tim Gier:
Thanks Jerry, so would you say that the escalating of tactics isn't meant to harm but to threaten?

 

Jerry Vlasak:

Ideologically, there's not much difference. For a threat to be effective, it has to be credible. I think some people will only stop hurting animals when they are physically forced to do so. Would we be having this discussion if it was innocent humans (children?) that were being imprisoned and murdered?

 

Tim Gier:
Thanks again. I have the last of the preregistered questions to ask next, after which we'll open the chat for member questions. Anyone wishing to ask Dr. Vlasak a question please let Carolyn know.

 

The same LA Times article claims that “After several years of harassment and threats to his family, neurobiology professor Dario Ringach announced he would stop his primate research” and quotes you as saying that “I think Dario Ringach is a poster boy for the concept that the use of force or the threat of force is an effective means to stop people who abuse animals.” I am sure that many people who are sympathetic to your cause might wonder over whether threats to the families of vivisectionists are appropriate. Is the description provided by the Times accurate and, if so, how do you respond to those who disagree about those tactics?

 

Thanks again. Isn't that basically the same strategy MLK Jr. advocated? Start with peaceful negotiations and escalate in order to have the demands met?

 

Jerry Vlasak:

There are lots of analogies with other liberation struggles. Agreed.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks very much for your responses to these 10 great pre-registered questions, Jerry. We sincerely appreciate it. I’d like now to open the chat up to all members who wish to speak with Jerry, but ask that you contact me by private chat if you wish to do so, in order to keep the chat running smoothly. I’d like to ask Louie Gedo to ask Jerry his first question in this open session for today. When you’re ready, thanks, Louie.

 

Louie Gedo:

Hi Dr Vlasak, Thank you for carrying out the important service that you do at NAALPO. I am a subscriber and the alerts allow me to know that the spirit of direct action is still alive. It's an honor to know that you and others are not intimidated to just close up shop and let the abusers do as they will.

 

I have an additional honor of being steel-piped next to you during a Fur Free Friday direct action protest in NYC (1997 I believe). You and Ben White (may he rest in peace) were large in inspiration, taking part in several direct actions over the years. Two questions if you'd be willing to answer:

 

1)  in your view, is the use of violent and illegal tactics effective today (if not when would it be)?   And

 

2) is it wrong and divisive, as is so often said by some of the national animal org leaders, for anyone in the movement to question or criticize the campaigns or tactics that these leaders choose to engage in?  Thank you.

 

Jerry Vlasak:

Certainly animal liberations and economic sabotage have been effective tactics in the past. Fur farms and slaughterhouses closing permanently, and many other examples. If the current tactics were effective, then I could see an argument for continuing their use. They largely are not, and other strategies should and must be considered. Just because some (often highly paid) so-called leaders think they know what is right is no reason to follow them into the future, a future where more and more animals are exploited, abused and killed.

 

Anna Zes:

I agree, violent local acts everywhere in the world seem like a drop in the ocean.

 

Louie Gedo:

Thank you.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks for that, Jerry. Next up is Holise Cleveland, thanks, Holise.

 

Holise E. Cleveland III:

Thanks, Carolyn. As you know, scientists have determined that all sea life may be depleated by the year 2048 or sooner. With the oceans providing 80% of our oxygen, it will eventually be impossible for the governments to hide the impending global catastrophe. I believe there will be a worldwide awakening and it will be understood that all animal suffering is linked. Do you believe, as I do, that there will be an internal international civil war, wherein people will defend themselves and their offspring by eliminating those who would persist at being anything but vegan?

 

Jerry Vlasak:

I think its more likely large numbers of humans will perish as a result of the planet's inability to support them. There will be increasing wars over increasingly scarce resourses, in all likelihood. Its impossible to predict how it will all end, but unless there is an immediate and drastic reversal of the way humans live, there won't be too many humans around for too much longer.

 

Holise E. Cleveland III:

Thank you.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Jerry. Sky would like to ask the next question. Thanks, Sky.

 

Sky:

Hi Dr. Jerry. Given that PETA kill more other animals than vivisector Colin Blakemore has in an entire career, are you surprised that the ALF have not raided or attacked these sexist animal-killing freaks?

 

Jerry Vlasak:

Agreed; not a big fan of PeTA. That said, there are far worse exploiters, and gotta start somewhere. I wouldn't be too sad if someone did raid PeTA HQ and save some of the animals they are likely still killing.

 

Anna Zes:

Peta works on the premise that ''the consumer's will make the wise choice'', that failed and already fails and will fail.

 

Jerry Vlasak:

They are very good at outreach to young people; I'm not excusing their other behavior, but they gets lots of vegan literature in the hands of teenagers.

 

Sky:

Go ALF - next target, those PETA idiots who do so much damage to the movement! thanks Dr.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Jerry. Tim Gier has another question, thanks Tim

 

Tim Gier:

In your opinion, are people generally naive when it comes to their understanding of what violence is and how prevalent it is in the world?

 

Jerry Vlasak:

Yes. What's non-violent about 25,000 children dying every week because they don't have access to clean water, while our US governement spends billions of dollars occupying other countries that present no threat to us?

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks. I think we ought to find nonviolent solutions to the problems as mush as is humanly possible, but I recognize that in desperate situations, violence often erupts. Brooke has a question for you now....

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thanks, Tim. Having been someone who was not always receptive to the message of other animals being deserved of their individual rights to their lives, freedom and bodies, can you define what, if anything, changed your life? Why does a vegan message work for some and not others? Why are some tactics successful in educating some but not others? If some who insist, almost religiously, on vegan education being the only form of advocacy, can’t even convince their own family to become vegan, how do we know what tactics work as a general matter?

 

Jerry Vlasak:

I think maybe 15% of humans are capable of changing the way they view animals, the environment, etc when presented with facts and raw data. The rest will never change, unless they are afraid not to. So educate and hope to change the 15%, more will hopefully follow the trend, and find ways to scare the rest of them into stopping their abuse of animals. Got it?:-)

 

Brooke Cameron:

I don't really get it, no. Sorry. Are you suggesting that only 15% of humans are capable of learning what we have ourselves learnt about the respect we should be giving others?

 

Jerry Vlasak:

Exactly. And 15% is being generous.

 

Thank you all for your thoughtful and interesting questions, and for listening to my thoughts and opinions. Its been a pleasure.


Brooke Cameron:

Thanks for your opinions.

 

Tim Gier:

Thank you!

 

Jason Ward:

Thanks Jerry for your time here today

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Thank you for your time, Dr. Vlasak!

 

Sadia:

Thank you very much for being here and for your time.

 

Jesse Newman:

Yes, thank you.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thank you, Jerry. ARZone appreciate your time, sincerely.

 

Mangus O’Shales:

yup, this was another good one

 

vegendeb:

Good luck Jerry and all that fight for the innocent

 

Roger Yates:

Thanks Jerry.

 

Geoff Chapman:

Thank you

 

Maynard S. Clark:

Thank you, Dr. Vlasak!

 

Sharni Buckley:

Thanks for being here

 

 

ARZone exists to promote rational discussion about our relations with other animals and about issues within the animal advocacy movement. Please continue the debate after “chats” by starting a forum discussion or making a point under a transcript.

 

 


 

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Comment by Anna Zinonos on October 6, 2011 at 6:38

Thanks ARzone for posting the chat (I had to leave it at the middle of it) and Dr.Vlassac for the participation as everyone else who attended and put very interesting questions forth.

 

I have a comment on that small percentage Dr.Vlassac hopes that it will 'reach' our own (vegans/vegetarians/abolitionists) viewpoints on Animal Rights.

 

I suspect that a big percentage within the small percentage of overall population's " 15% of ppl"  who can easily turn to vegan on animal rights grounds alone, must be those who already have a pet. They are more likely to see a pig as a dog and hence instantly make the connection. This btw how I turned from almost daily meat eater into vegetarian and now im working with education (books on cooking etc) through my way to veganism. Its not easy cause a diet is a human's most basic need and pleasure. 

 

Thank you, Anna Zenonos

Comment by Shaynie Aero on September 18, 2011 at 17:03

Thanks Jerry for the most marvelous interview!I feel Jerry would give his life to save animals...that is

how we all should feel,in my opinion.That is what will help free the animals.

Comment by Carolyn Bailey on September 17, 2011 at 6:45

Thanks, red dog!

I think it's so important to allow people like Jerry an opportunity to define his position and explain what he really thinks and feels on topics. He surprised me with some of his responses. I had hoped to be able to challenge him on a number of his responses to the pre-registered questions, but his replies really left little room for that to happen. 
I think people like Jerry should be applauded for being willing to be ARZone guests. It's great that they're willing to be challenged and explain their positions to us. I'm really very grateful for that, because I think it's so important to be able to hear from a diversity of positions.

Comment by red dog on September 16, 2011 at 18:19
Thanks ARZone for not being afraid to have this chat and address these topics. I'm glad everyone was friendly and civil and that we all had a chance to learn about Dr. Vlasak's real, current views and not just what he's reported to have said years ago in some sensationalized media report. These are tough issues, they're worth talking about, and I'll have to read through the George Lakey essay some time soon. Thanks for the link, Billy.
Comment by Billy L on September 13, 2011 at 16:52

Nonviolent Action as the Sword that Heals

Challenging Ward Churchill's "Pacifism As Pathology"

By George Lakey

http://www.trainingforchange.org/nonviolent_action_sword_that_heals

Comment by Cindy Pegram on September 12, 2011 at 2:18
Hi Jerry!!!

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