Animal Rights Zone

Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism

Transcript of Peter Young's Live ARZone Guest Chat

Transcript of Peter Young's ARZone Live Guest Chat 

13 August 2011

6pm US Eastern Time

11pm UK time

14 August 2011

8am Australian Eastern Standard Time

 

Carolyn Bailey:

ARZone would like to welcome Peter Young as today’s live chat guest.

 

Peter is a veteran animal liberation activist and former political prisoner convicted for his role in liberating thousands of animals from fur farms across the United States.

 

Peter is the creator of Voice Of The Voiceless, a website that offers news on the Animal Liberation Front (A.L.F.), and which publishes analysis on the ALF and the direct action animal movement in order to bring about a better understanding of the motivations and objectives of MDA groups.

 

In September 1998, a grand jury indicted Peter on four charges of "Extortion by Interfering with Interstate Commerce", and two charges of "Animal Enterprise Terrorism". He was sentenced to two years in federal prison; 360 hours of community service at a charity "to benefit humans and no other species"; $254,000 restitution; and one year probation. He was released from prison in 2007. Before being sentenced, he told the court, addressing fur farmers, that he would "forever mark those nights on your property as the most rewarding experience of my life."

 

After nearly 15 years in the animal liberation movement; today Peter is currently an activist, lecturer at universities and events, writer on liberation movements, and still supports those who work outside the law to achieve human, earth, and animal liberation.

 

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

 

Welcome, Peter!

 

Peter Young:

Thank you.

 

Will:

Hiya

 

Jason Ward:

HELLO PETER!!!

 

Ben Hornby:

Hi Peter!

 

Sky:

Hello

 

Tim Gier:

Hello Peter!

 

Roger Yates:

Welcome to ARZone Peter

 

Peter Young:

Thank you.

 

Brooke Cameron:

Nice to welcome you today, Peter!

 

sXe Vegan:

Hi Peter

 

Mangus O’Shales:

hi Peter

 

Sadia:

Hello Mr. Young! Delighted to have your acquaintance. Thank you for being here.

 

Jilly Thefirst:

Hi Peter, thanks very much for being here!

 

Trent Engelhart:

Hi Peter, thanks for chatting

 

Lynne Yates:

Hi Peter

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Hello Peter!

 

Jesse Newman:

Hey Peter!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Peter 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 Peter during his first session, and feel free to send a private message to an admin if you wish to address him at any time.

 

I’d now like to ask Peter his first question on behalf of Brandon Becker, who couldn’t be here today. Music was my introduction to veganism and animal rights and continues to be important to my political education. Can you tell us if and how music has influenced your life as a vegan and animal liberationist?

 

Peter Young:

Music was certainly central to my evolution as an activist and my involvement in the animal liberation movement. I often cite the vegan straight edge scene as my gateway to the movement, but before that I was inspired by some of the early-90s punk / crust bands like Disrupt and Drop Dead. What really resonated with me in regards to the vegan straight edge scene was that it was a group of people I felt were serious about action. Not just being a critique-based musical subculture, but people really serious about getting things done.

 

I'm still vegan straight edge, fyi. One more thing I'll say on that subject, while my faith in the scene aspect of vegan straight edge has changed a lot in the last 7 years, it is important to look at the history of the animal liberation movement and see how many people got involved through the Hardcore scene. The new wave of vegan straight edge has changed things dramatically, and I feel like the claws and fangs that made vegan straight edge so relevant have largely been replaced by the worst kind of anarcho-liberal armchair politics, the scene was at one time very important to this movement. And there are still a lot of people involved who are serious about animal liberation. And it remains a great gateway.

 

Roger Yates:

Thanks Peter...

Next up is Prof. Tim Gier - Tim.......

 

Tim Gier:

Thank you Roger, and thank you Peter for taking our questions. Given your experiences, can you suggest some ways that people can become involved in effective activism?

 

Peter Young:

Focus focus focus. There is so much injustice and cruelty with how we treat animals in this world, it is very easy to be overwhelmed. "Analysis paralysis" affects almost all of us. There is so much to do it can be crippling. First thing is to find people who are in sync with the direction you want to take your activism, and form close bonds with them. That said, I'm a big proponent of doing things alone in the absence of other people to work with. That is as important in the direct action realm as vegan outreach. If you find yourself without anyone to work with, do it anyway. Animal liberation is not a group you join. You become an activist by acting on behalf of animals.

 

Kate Go Vegan:

Thanks Peter

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks Peter, may I ask a quick follow-up?

 

Peter Young:

Yes

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks. I often hear people say that simply being vegan is being an activist. Would you agree with that?

 

Peter Young:
Being vegan is simply neutral. I don't want to downplay the importance of veganism in any way, but when our numbers are so small, "living by example" isn't enough.

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks again Peter. Brooke Cameron is up with the next question, Brooke, please go ahead...

 

Brooke Cameron:

Hi Peter, you’re well known for releasing minks from fur farms in a number of locations across the US. Could you please explain what, if any, precautions you have taken in the past to ensure the minks you release don’t cause overwhelming environmental damage in the areas they’re released?

 

Peter Young:

There is a reason that mink are one of the only species that the Animal Liberation Front releases directly from captivity into the wild. That is very deliberate.

 

In addition to being native to North America, they are extremely solitary animals that cannot stand the presence of another mink within 3/4 of a mile. When you release thousands of mink into a small area, there is, for a short time, a very high concentration of animals in a small area.

 

One thing you'll see in the news reports after these actions is that mink are reported 10 or 15 miles away 36 hours after a mink farm raid. Mink travel, I think they say up to 12 miles a day. Mink regulate their numbers to the availability of prey. So this, combined with their inability to handle the presence of other mink by their nature, mitigate any potential environmental damage associated with their release.

 

The Fur Commission USA uses any ammunition it has available to discredit mink liberations, and to date have been unable to cite one study which shows economic devastation as a result of mink releases. There are several states including Iowa and Washington which have seen numerous large mink releases where there has been no reported environmental consequences.

 

Lastly, I can think of few things less ecologically destructive than 20,000 animals intensely confined into a small plot of land. Mink releases remedy this by freeing the animals and often times shutting down these farms.

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thanks, Peter. There's often talk about released mink causing both environmental damage and damage to the local animals in the area they're released. You're saying this isn't true. Thanks for the information, I appreciate it!

 

Peter Young:

One point I'll follow up with:

 

Roger Yates:

Go ahead...

 

Peter Young:

Mink eat other animals when released. This is often used to discredit these actions. I should point out the obvious and say: the mink aren't vegan on the farm. They’re eating animals there too. Just factory farmed animals.

 

Brooke Cameron:

Exactly, thanks, Peter!

 

Jason Ward:

Thanks Peter, next with a question is Barbara DeGrande- go ahead Barbara when you are ready.

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Thank you Jason!

The AEPA and the AETA (Animal Enterprise Protection Act and Animal Enterprise Terrorist Act) are US attempts to further institutionalize the currently legal human exploitation of animals. They also attempt to gag the animal liberation movement. Do you foresee a backlash from these attempts or do you imagine things continuing on this trajectory of discrimination?

 

Peter Young:

There is a lot of "sky is falling" discussion about the AETA. One thing that is left out of the conversation is the government (and industry's) total failure at following through on all of the worse implied threats of the act. The momentum has sputtered out, and no one is talking about this.

 

For example, the AETA 4 case was dismissed and the government has not attempted to prosecute the 4 activists again. The case related to a campaign of home demos at UC Berkeley vivisectors, and many were seeing this as the beginning of the end of legal protesting in this country. But the case fell flat. The AETA case related to the ALF raid of the University of Iowa also fell apart. The only two successful prosecutions to date under the act have both resulted in sentences that are no longer than we saw before the passage of the act.

 

BJ and Alex in Utah received approx 2 years for a mink release that won freedom for 650 animals. And Walter Bond was sentenced to approx 4.5 years for an arson. Which is pretty standard for an arson conviction. I think these facts are conveniently ommitted from the doomsday scenario that seems to be the dominant narrative on the AETA. They are only succeeding to scare people who are not looking closely at the facts.

 

Barbara DeGrande:

May I ask a follow up question?

 

Peter Young:

Yes.

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Any idea why the terrorist rhetoric has dissipated, then?

 

Peter Young:

You mean from the government?

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Yes.

 

Peter Young:

I don't know that it has. I have noticed the word "ecoterrorism" declining in usage in the mainstream media. I've seen a couple of instances of the word "sabotage" used to describe ALF actions recently, which I haven't seen in years. And the "ecoterrorist" reporter at the Portland, Oregon newspaper told me his editors asked him to stop using that word in favor of "saboteurs", which I think is significant.

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Thank you. Next up will be Tim Gier. Tim.... 

 

Tim Gier:

Peter, you’ve said this: “While we recently may only see a few significant actions a year, I'm impressed with a big action and good strategy more than I am with a brick and spray-paint.” Would you explain what you mean by “big action and good strategy” and perhaps give an example of what you think activists should be concentrating on?

 

Peter Young:

I recently edited a book called "Animal Liberation Front: Complete Diary of Actions" which compiles the first 30 years of ALF activity in timeline form. When I finished compiling all the material, I sat back and looked at the history of ALF actions, and it became clear what perhaps could have been done differently. The one thing I noticed was that the vast majory of the 1300 ALF actions that have been claimed were small scale sabotage actions - broken windows of McDonalds, spraypainted fur stores, etc. Actions which arguable are not that effective. And I'm saying this as someone who used to believe in this level of small scale sabotage, and carry it out myself.

 

I began to realize that my time as an activist may be short. I could go to prison (which I eventually did), or any number of things could happen which would impede my ability to continue. And I should make every action count. I knew if I was going to go to prison, I didn't want it to be for a merely symbolic action. If I was sitting in a cell, I knew I wanted to be there knowing I had saved lives. I think about how much greater of an impact the ALF could have had in its history if every bit of effort that was expended on breaking a window had been directed towards either really going for the jugular of a weak animal industry, or directly liberating animals.

 

The model that I would propose as best for future ALF activity would be: While our numbers are small, going after weak, vulnerable industries. Foie gras and the fur industry as two examples. Going after infrastructure targets, vs retail. For example there may be so many hundred of restaurants selling foie gras, but only two farms. The ALF would do best to think in terms of upstream targets like feed suppliers vs downstream targets, like restaurants and fur stores.

 

There is a lot I could say about this, but one more thing: I think it is a myth that the larger the action, the more risk that is involved. Its actually riskier to spraypaint a fur store than to release 500 animals from a mink farm. People should think about high-impact vs. easy accessibility. The efforts of just a dozen people, if focused and strategic, could cripple a small animal abuse industry. There is a lot more I could say on this subject, but those are a few of my thoughts.

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks Peter, Laura Cooley has the next question but can't be here, so Carolyn will ask her question in her place...Carolyn..

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Tim. Laura couldn't be here today, but asked that this question be asked on her behalf: Most of your actions in defence of other animals seem to have been targeting the fur industry. Why did you target this industry in particular? Thanks!

 

Peter Young:

Targeting the fur industry was purely a risk / benefit equation, or more accurately effort / benefit. We had a lot of options of places to target in Seattle, where I lived at the time. We could rescue a few dozen chickens from an egg farm, for example. There was also a place that bred rats for vivisection, and we had a plan to break through the window and do a smash and grab style raid to get as many rats as we could in a short amount of time.

 

We chose mink farms because we knew we could release thousands of animals in under an hour. Without the burden of having to find them homes. Also the industry was and is very weak. So it made our efforts that much more impactful. And, there was a huge ALF campaign at the time targeting fur farms. Dozens of mink farms had been raided in 18 months, and we wanted to do our part to join this campaign and destroy the industry. If that campaign had continued and the pace of the ALF had been sustained, the fur industry would have been destroyed in just a couple of years.

 

To date, there have been approximately 80 raids of mink farms across the country. These actions seem to happen at a pace of only one or two a year in recent years, and that is unfortunate. I would love to see us finish off this industry and move on. Not because it is any worse than the meat, dairy, or egg industries, but because it is the easiest victory.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks very much, Peter! I'd like to ask a question myself now.

 

Peter Young:

Yes

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Many people were inspired by your defiant speech to the court prior to being sentenced in 2005, directed toward fur farmers, in which you said: “To those people here whose sheds I may have visited in 1997, let me tell you directly for the first time, it was a pleasure to raid your farms, and to free those animals you held captive. Have you had any regrets about this speech, how was it received in the courtroom at the time, and what has been the reaction since?

 

Peter Young:

However my statement may have adversely affected my sentence, the only vindication I needed came from a supporter in the courtroom who was present that day and described the scene from where she was sitting when I said those words.

 

There were many fur farmers who attended my sentencing. She was sitting next to one, and when I began my statement the farmer buried her face in her hands and shook her head for the duration. That could be read many ways, but I believe that every one of those fur farmers went home that day with a much weakened resolve that they were going to win this.

 

I hope I showed at least those farmers in the courtroom that we are very serious about animal liberation, and no prison sentence would deter the movement as a whole. People will often mention they appreciated the statement. That is very good to hear, however I would be much more happy to hear someone tell me not how it made them feel, but what it made them *do*. That would be the highest compliment and make it all worth it: "I read those words and went out and did ______". I haven't gotten that response yet.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

I think it was quite a courageous thing to do, thank you!

 

Kate Go Vegan:

It was an inspirational statement to make, thank you.


Carolyn Bailey:

Tim Gier is up with another question now, Peter. Thanks, Tim.


Tim Gier:

What do you think about undercover videos of “factory farms” and their usefulness as a tool to help raise awareness in the general public about what’s wrong with human exploitation of other animals?

 

Peter Young:

Two weeks ago I was at the national animal rights conference in LA. A friend and I were talking about our pasts, activism, and wondering what direction we should take our activism. He said to me "look around the room (exhibitor hall with tables from dozens of AR groups) - do you think any of these groups are effective?"

 

It was a tough question, but I actually did look around that room and take stock of nearly every table, and what I came to, and he agreed to, was that the groups getting a lot of media with undercover footage were the most effective. Mercy for Animals, for one. I think it is extremely effective and I'm really happy to see the media attention being given farmed animals as a result.

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks Peter. Sky is up next, Sky go ahead with your question when you're ready...

 

Sky:

In a XVO interview you talk about how the adoption of a vegan ethic should open the doors to involvement in other social justice movements. In recent weeks, however, it has been noted that animal advocates involved in live exports campaigning frequently make racist comments when talking about the international trade in other animals. Do you think this is simply an issue of them not seeing the bigger picture and getting bogged down in single issues?

 

Peter Young:

I have no problem with someone putting their energy into a single issue. I of course have a problem with people who only *care* about a single issue. These are two separate things. It is very hard to understand how someone can see the oppression of non-human animals, and not at the same time see and fight against the oppression, say, of other races. Its been said many times, but: all oppression is linked.    

 

Sky:

Thanks. A follow-up please? 

 

Peter Young:

Sure

 

Sky:

Thanks. It really bothers me that many animal people seem to HATE - really hate - humanity. Aren't they just being shallow? 

 

Peter Young:

Humans clearly have the greatest capacity for good, and at the same time the greatest capacity for evil. I have yet to meet the vegan who truly hates all human beings. There is probably a difference between questioning "humanity" and its role on this planet with having feelings about individual humans. I can be the former, while still caring for people on the individual level.

 

Sky:

Thanks - and thanks for what you do for animals!!!

 

Jason Ward:

Thanks again Peter for your insightful answers. Carolyn Bailey has the next question - when you're ready Carolyn.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Jay! Hi again, Peter. You’re supportive of direct action as a general matter, what are your thoughts on the use of arson?

 

Peter Young:

It’s a very human-centered, privileged thing to sit back and debate the merits of certain tactics when hundreds of animals are being murdered every second. I don't fetishize arson and its a valid discussion on a case by case basis whether it was / is the most effective tactic. But to dismiss the tactic wholesale is very privileged. The animal murderers are showing no restraint in their war against non-humans. They set the boundaries of this conflict. We're playing by the terms they've created.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Peter. May I follow-up, please?

 

Peter Young:

Sure.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Peter. Do you think arson may be a tactic we need to re-consider, based on the murder which takes place each time an act of arson occurs, to the other animals inside that building? Mice, rats, birds and insects, for example.

 

Peter Young:

That is the only argument against arson I give thought to. Its a very valid point. I would challenge the presupposition that there are animals inside every building, first. Every person who would carry out an arson should be very careful to minimize the risk of mice or rats being present inside a building. It is impossible to account for every square inch of a structure, but if someone was going to employ this tactic, I would hope they took steps to minimize that risk. I like to think that most animals like mice and rats who have an incredible ability to find their way into buildings, are able to also find their way out just as quickly.

 

Kate Go Vegan:

But not all the insects who are present. They would have no chance of escaping and therefore are burned alive.

 

Peter Young:

I have never carried out an arson and have never had to confront the question.

 

Kate Go Vegan:

Please excuse my interruption.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

I think that's the point, it is impossible to clear every building of other animals prior to an arson attack. Thanks for your thoughts!

 

Peter Young:

I would say in most instances that inaction leads to many more deaths. Any transport truck that was set on fire would kill a great number of insects (as well as its cargo) during its next trip, a trip it can now not take because it has been effectively decommissioned.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Tim is up next with the last of the "formal" questions for today, after which we'll open the chat up to all other members who wish to engage Peter. Please let one of the admins know if you'd like to address Peter. Thanks, Tim.

 

Tim Gier:

You’ve heard the argument that if activists rescue & release a certain number of individuals from a facility one day, they will just be replaced with others on the next day. How did this factor in your decisions to release minks?

 

Peter Young:

That has merit on a target by target basis. In terms of releasing mink, this was a primary reason we targeted fur farms. The breeding on mink farms is done "in house" so to speak, and on a very regimented annual schedule, so if an entire stock is released the farm is out of commission until the next year. We have to be comfortable not always being able to measure precisely the effects of our actions.

 

There is one equation that is always simple: When you do nothing at a place that kills animals, every animal is killed.

 

There are many places that source their animals from places that can easily replace their lost "stock" within hours. For example, many species of animals used in labs. The math becomes less easy to computer when you factor in the setbacks caused by lab raids, and how that might translate to fewer animals used in experiments. I remember turning on the news in Seattle one day and seeing a story about a chicken liberation at a local egg farm. The story showed footage the ALF had taken inside the farm. Really graphic footage showing the horrible conditions.

 

Instances like that confirm there is a greater impact to many ALF actions outside of the individual animals saved (who are also very important). Direct action can be outreach. Outreach that saves many lives in the long term. There are countless examples of potential ALF targets where it can be confirmed that the animals cannot be replaced. In addition to fur farms, there are countless quail farms, skunk farms, canned hunts, and other more "exotic" species for which no convenient source exists to repeace the animals taken or released.

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks Peter, so part of what you're saying is that libertating other animals, in addition to saving their lives, might have the effect of freeing people's minds?

 

Peter Young:

No question.

 

Tim Gier:

Ok, thank you. I agree with you about that.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Peter! Your responses to these questions have been thoughtful and comprehensive, ARZone sincerely appreciates your time and your willingness to share your experiences with us. I'd like to open the chat up now and ask Maynard S. Clark to ask Peter his first question in this open session. Thanks, Maynard.

 

Peter Young:

Yes lets.

 

Maynard S. Clark:
Peter, you're very brave.  But wouldn't direct action educating people about veganism be a far more strategically worthwhile way to take risks, be heroic, and struggle to accomplish something pro-animal in this world? Thank you, Peter, for your depth and clarity.

 

Peter Young:

The issue I have with this question is that it’s based on a false assumption: That there are two sides and a line down the middle, and that people need to choose between outreach and direct action. I think both are very important, and that me, you, or anyone, can do both. Its a false dichotomy and I think one that is very damaging.

 

Were you to see a dog being beaten on the street outside your home right now, you wouldn't go hand the person beating the dog a Why Vegan pamphlet, you would intervene. And then you would give him a Why Vegan, of course. Point being: you can do both.

 

Maynard S. Clark:

Yes.  Thank you, Peter. I'm thinking about outcomes.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Nice reply, Peter!

Herdis Daugbjerg would like to ask a question now, go ahead Herdis.

 

Herdis Daugbjerg:

A question about mink releases. We have just had one here in Denmark. Thousands of minks were released. Mink is not native to Denmark and Denmark doesn´t really have much “untouched land” left.  Our agriculture area is more than 63% - the largest percentage in Europe. We hardly have any “wild” nature left for the minks to be released into. What do you think about that?

 

Peter Young:

I don't feel qualified to answer this, I'll just be upfront about that. In the broader sense, I think it is possible there are ALF actions that have a short term benefit for the animals involved, but *may* result in a net loss. In terms of native wildlife destruction, etc. I'm open to that.


Herdis Daugbjerg:

It´s just that I don´t really know what to think when it happens

 

Peter Young:

If you're asking about the individual mink, they were slated to be killed regardless and, native or not, they fared much better in the wild than in a cage. So in the absence of more information, I would support such an action.

 

Herdis Daugbjerg:

Thanks :-)

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Peter. Will would like to ask you a question next, thanks, Will.

 

Will:

Pete – im bothered by your arson answer. We know that millions of nonhuman animals are murdered but the arson question is about US –animal people- murdering nonhuman animals. I’m fed up with animal people being casual and uncaring about when WE kill the animals while we go ape shit when others do it.

 

Peter Young:

I don't know of anyone who is casual and uncaring about any animal that dies. I also don't know of any "animal person" who has ever knowingly killed an animal.

 

Will:

People that set fire to things?

 

Peter Young:

So again, I think that is predicated on a false assumption. What dead animals are you referring to?

 

Will:

Be real Pete - there are no empty buildings.

 

Peter Young:

The vast majority of arsons, if you look at the history of the ALF, have been of non-structures such as vehicles, or structures that are unlikely to have rat or mice populations. (And I prefer "Peter")

 

Kate Danaher:

lol

 

Will:

OK, Pete

 

Peter Young:

Take care Willy.

 

Anique Human:

Will, please stop being dispectful.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Peter, and Will

 

Peter Young:

Its a good question

 

Dominique:

Will, do you not walk across the grass, or hike in the forest, wth common sense.. this is a holocoust for these animals..

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Elaine Vigneault is up next, thanks, Elaine.

 

Peter Young:

Agreed. We have to work with the circumstances we have in front of us.

 

Elaine Vigneault:

Thanks :-) I understand what you mean about going for the "low hanging fruit" and choosing actions that could result in significant change. I also understand the analogy with the dog beater. However, it's naive to think that we can really always do both outreach and direct action. Often we have to choose. There are consequences to all our choices and we just have to choose sometimes. I get the sense that you think both are worthwhile so it doesn't matter which we choose so long as we ACT. Is that a fair interpretation?

 

Peter Young:

In terms of the meat industry right now, you could make a good argument that it would be very difficult to lodge any direct action campaign that would have a crippling impact on the industry, or even one that would save large numbers of animals. The industry is just too large.

 

However doing massive vegan outreach does nothing for the animals that are suffering inside countless other animal prisons in other industries. We need to have tactics at our disposal that address game farms, fur farms, circuses, etc. Vegan outreach can and should be used with other tactics.

 

Elaine Vigneault:

By the same individuals?


Peter Young:

I don't think it serves the animals to view the ALF as a mafia-like organization that one must "enter into", as though it’s a threshold that is crossed.

 

Dominique:

Excellent point Peter

 

Peter Young:

I'll end the question with that.

 

Elaine Vigneault:

Can i ask another?

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Sure, Elaine

 

Peter Young:

Sure. I should mention I'm in Des Moines, Iowa and will be speaking in a few minutes at a Bold Native screening, so I may have time for only one or two more. Sure.

 

Elaine Vigneault:

My opposition to arson is that fire is inherently chaotic. The chances that a large fire could not be contained is pretty high and therefore arson is a high-risk action. Moreover, the legal penalties for arson are high. You say we ought to compare risks (vs rewards) when deciding on actions, yet you also say it's privileged to oppose arson. I'm not sure I see how privilege enters into the equation. (Other than how privilege enters into all equations, you know?)

 

Peter Young:

There are so many misconseptions about illegal tactics, and I think you hit on another one: The "illegal action = prison" equation. The stats show that almost no one gets caught, that's number one.

 

Elaine Vigneault:

That's a good point.

 

Peter Young:

So while some people do get arrested and suffer the consequences you speak of, a well thought of action (preferably done alone) carried out with good security has a minimal risk of resulting in arrest. There has never been an example of an ALF arson getting out of control and spreading to unintended targets. Simply put, this is presumably all worked out by people in advance of an action. If there was such a risk, the building (or other property) would simply not be targeted.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Peter! Jesse Newman would like to ask a question now. When you're ready, thanks, Jesse.

 

Jesse Newman:

Thank you Peter. What do you think of the popularity of veganism in the celebrity world -- Like Ellen Degeneres just launched a website.

 

Peter Young:

Its embarrassing to say, but if I think of myself and everyone I know and everything we may have accomplished in our lives, that is probably outdone by one celebrity saying a few words on national television. I wish more celebrities used their position for good. I need to get on reality TV.

 

Jesse Newman:

I'd watch that show!

 

Kate Danaher:

you gotta pitch it

 

Peter Young:

(I have a pitch, contact me privately to give me tips)

 

Dominique:

Let's pitch that Peter on reality TV, seriously!!

 

Kate Danaher:

k

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks again, Peter! Mateja Presern would like to ask another quick question now, thanks, Mateja.

 

Peter Young:

Sure. 

 

Mateja Presern:

Hello Peter, hello everyone. Here's a question - or a request perhaps -  from a bunch of folks in Slovenia. Basically, what's the best source of information on vegan infant nutrition? Have there been any official statements made regarding the recent infant deaths in France and the UK? Here's why. Earlier this week, a 10-month old baby died in Slovenia. The cause of death has been said to be septic shock. The media is using unsure information that the baby weighed only 3600 grams and that the parents were vegan to conclude that veganism leads to malnutrition. Some physicians (one in particular) have appared on TV and in papers, criminalising vegan parents, claiming that humans have developed teeth to eat meat, that a child's brain cannot develop properly on a vegan diet, and that international guidelines (ESPGHAN) recommend not to feed children a plant-based diet.

 

Peter Young:

I'm told veganparent.com is a good resource. And PCRM.

 

Mateja Presern:

We also learned that the physicians are generally very poorly educated on nutrition which is a further obstacle for any parent seeking advice on how to take best care of their children on a vegan diet.

 

Peter Young:

This is another one that is outside my area of expertise.

 

Mateja Presern:

We have refrained to comment the actual cause of death but have responded, citing some sources in support of the appropriateness of well-planed vegan nutrition. Those sources are Dr Benjamin Spock, American Dietary Association and Dietitians of Canada,  Carter, Furman, & Hutcheson on the height of vegan children, Dwyer et al. on the IQ of vegan children and the following websites (and the references given within them): http://www.pcrm.org/health/veginfo/vegetarian_kids.html, www.vrg.org/nutrition, , http://www.veganhealth.org/articles/preginfchil, http://www.viva.org.uk/guides/motherandbaby.htm, http://www.vegansociety.com/lifestyle/nutrition/infants-and-childre..., http://nutritionfacts.org/

 

Anna Kowalska:

There was a big study in Poland about vegan children done by Malgorzata Desmond. Try to reach her for results.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Perhaps, Mateja, we can address this question on the transcript?

 

Mateja Presern:

Of course, Carolyn. that will be fine

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks Peter. Tyler has a question now. Thanks, Tyler.

 

Peter Young:

Hi Tyler.

 

Tyler:

Hey Peter. Thanks for taking your time to be here.  What is your opinion about ‘welfare campaigns’ (e.g) free range, etc...?  Do you think they are helpful or mostly just help to solidify the property status of animals in the minds of the public?  Do you think it’s beneficial for individuals, and the movement in general, to be pursuing these kinds of campaigns or do you think we should be clear about our ultimate goals and focus on vegan education?

 

Peter Young:

Vegan education.

 

Tyler:

Haha thanks that's clear enough

 

Peter Young:

Its very difficult and we all want what's best for animals. I'm going to step into a minefield if I keep talking.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks so much, Peter! You've been incredibly generous with your time today, and we do sincerely appreciate it! Kelly Carson would like to make a comment before we conclude for today. Thanks, Kelly.

 

Kelly Carson:

Your reply to Maynard earlier may have answered my question but there is a larger picture. There is a recent, apparently divisive, term called “single action” in the AR movement.  I'm not clear on how this can be a bad thing. Thank you for your comment “focus, focus, focus.” You know that AR are in the minority in any given region, town, neighbourhood (hell, workplace).  Commit and see it through to a compassionate conclusion.

 

Peter Young:

If by "single action" you mean "single issue", then yes this discussion can be very divisive.

 

Kelly Carson:

That's the term.

 

Peter Young:

Pick a target, create a specific plan, and follow through. Its very easy to get caught in the trap of thinking if you can't do everything, you shouldn't do anything. Thanks. One more question?

 

Kelly Carson:

Exactly.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Before we finish, Sheila Fitzgerald would like to ask one more question. Go ahead when you're ready, Sheila. Thanks!

 

Sheila Fitzgerald:

Hello everyone! Peter: You have criticized "culinary activism" and "vegan table hopping" for masquerading as activism. Where do you draw the line between this type of activity and vegan outreach that might involve food (which you advocate)? What is the difference? Is opening a vegan bakery in a town with zero vegan restaurants activism?

 

Peter Young:

In particular, I've had some words about us taking every hedonistic impulse we have and framing it as "activism". That looks very self serving to me. Eating vegan food is a natural consequence of being vegan. Therefore, its hard to see how food blogs and cooking podcasts are winning victories for animals. The bigger point is that you, me, and everyone should be honest about the impact and value of our actions. If you like to cook, don't call yourself a "culinary activist". It is very pretentious. More vegan businesses are the natural byproduct of more vegans. We need more vegans. And next time I'm in X's to O's, I promise to pay for something, Sheila.

 

Sheila Fitzgerald:

:-):-):-)

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Peter. You make some great points!

 

Sheila Fitzgerald:

Thanks Peter

 

Peter Young:

(Plug for Sarah's bakery)

Sorry everyone. I'm holding up the Bold Native screening here so I should go. Great questions.

 

Sadia:

Absolute gratitude Mr.Young for your generosity with time. Best of wishes a wise for you to keep going stronger. Thank you much indeed.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks again for being so generous with your time today, Peter. I know you're very busy, we really do appreciate it!

 

Stacey Rakic:

Thank you, Peter.  Very insightful and helpful.

 

Jason Ward:

Thanks for your time here today Peter

 

Tyler:

Thanks Peter!

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thanks, Peter. Great chat!

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Thank you for your time and thoughtful responses.

 

Tim Gier:

Thank you Peter!

 

Richard McMahan:

Thanks Peter!

 

Nadia Lee Bass:

Thanks peter, great points

 

Maynard S. Clark:

Marvelous, Peter.  Your moral focus impresses me very much!

 

Herdis Daugbjerg:

Thanks for being here, Peter - you are an inspiration

 

Jilly Thefirst:

Thank you, and please keep doing what you do! :-)

 

Mangus O’Shales:

thanks peter

 

Peter Young:

Thanks to everyone. www.voiceofthevoiceless.org  to contact me privately.

 

Kate Go Vegan:

Thank you Peter.

 

Ben Hornby:

Thanks Peter. Great educational chat today.

 

Kate Danaher:

If thoughts are things, visualize a new human, one with a heart fully open without prejudice for all animals (vegan.)  You can think this at all times regardless of what you are doing and one day it may be so - if you believe thoughts are things :-)

 

Jesse Newman:

Thank you Peter

 

Maynard S. Clark:

Do good work in Iowa!  Much work TO DO there.

 

Dominique:

Weeter, TY

 

Anique Human:

Thank you Peter - from South Africa!

 

Peter Young:

We talked a lot about tactics, but I hope everyone turns off their computer right now and goes out and does something - anything.

 

Kelly Carson:

Thank you, good soul.

 

Lisa Viger:

Excellent chat, thank you

 

Marguerite Blake:

Thank you Peter, I learned a lot!

 

Peter Young:

Bye everyone. Off to watch Bold Native for the 8th time. www.boldnative.com if you haven't already seen this important film. Take care.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Views: 538

Tags: ALF, Bold-Native, Peter-Young, Transcript, activist, liberation

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Comment by Tim Gier on August 19, 2011 at 6:49
Hi Roger, 

You are correct, and many vegans will be a living witness of their veganism to the world, and they will do "outreach" just by the very fact of their being unabashedly vegan. At the same time, I do hope we can agree that it is possible, and even likely, that there are some vegans who deliberately don't act as witnesses to the world, and who don't do anything by way of outreach. If this is true, and it seems that it must be, then veganism alone is not activism. Veganism plus something else is activism.

As far as whether vegan education (as an informative practice) is the most effective way to actually help other people become vegan, I think we actually can know more about that than your comment suggests. For example, research has shown that many people will have a firmer grip on to their preconceived ideas after someone presents them with clear and convincing evidence that ought to cause them to abandon, or at least question, those ideas. In the same way, studies have shown that people generally believe their own arguments more completely after engaging with reasonable counterarguments. 

I think if advocates want to do "vegan education" by leafletting or discussing the moral arguments in support of their position, they ought to be aware that they make actually be making their own job harder. In any case, they ought not to criticize others who have a different approach, as if "vegan education" was known to be the only, or the most, effective way to "create new vegans". 

What Tyler said is true. When there are more people who are vegan, then more people will find it easier to become vegan. Most of us do what we do because most of the rest of the world does what it does.

I've worked out in my mind what I think is compelling moral argument for why no one should intentionally harm or kill another conscious being. But if there's a better way to get people to begin to adopt veganism that doesn't involve me making that moral argument, why in the world would I insist on making it? It's not really all that immediately important to me why the harming  and killing others stops, what is immediately important is that it stops.
Comment by Tyler on August 19, 2011 at 3:32

When did I suggest NOT making a case for vegan education?  I've suggested the opposite; that vegan education has to form the foundation of the movement. 

 

I agree that we have no real way of knowing what will work best and what won't.  I guess time will tell.  What I'm saying is what happens if we focus 110% on vegan education, and after 100 years or 200 years we still only have a tiny fraction of the population vegan?  Of course I'm saying 'IF'.  Again, we have no way of knowing.  That's why I think it's important that we think about this and talk about it now.  If vegan education, in conjunction with other things, can create a larger number of vegans and get us closer to abolition, then maybe that's the way to go.  I honestly have no idea.  I'm not suggesting we do that, I'm just trying to discuss this issue with other people and get their opinion. 

 

The premise I'm suggesting is that maybe our society is more complicated, and the animal issue is more complicated, than 100% no exceptions vegan education can solve.  Maybe we need to employ other tatics as well to be successful.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I'm just saying.  Thinking out loud.  What do you guys think?           

Comment by Tyler on August 19, 2011 at 2:58
I think meeting a larger number of vegans is one of the most important things in getting some, although not all, people to veganism.  Now when I tell someone I'm vegan they often say, "wow, I've never met a vegan before."  So at this point most of us are considered weirdos in normal society because there are so few of us.  But the more vegans there are the less weird we will seem.  Maybe a few years down the road when I tell someone I'm vegan they'll say, "Yeah, my sister's a vegan, and two of my friends, and my brother in law, and my dentist, and....damb, I know quite a few vegans."  And to me, that's HUGE.  The more vegans that a person knows will completely change the way that person views veganism, and can only get them closer to thinking about it.  That being said, even if they are happy to explain why they are vegan when asked, I hesitate to call them 'activists'.  To me they're not that active.  I would say they're more 'passive', and then 'reactive' when questioned.
Comment by Tyler on August 19, 2011 at 1:47
I agree.  But I still think that vegan education has to form the foundation of the movement.  I think whatever else we do in terms of integrating the 'animal movement' with other social issues, if we aren't completely clear with people about the moral necessity of veganism, we'll never get a lot of new vegans no matter what we do.  Or so it seems to me.  
Comment by Tim Gier on August 18, 2011 at 23:41

Tyler,

Thank you for sharing your experience. I'm sure that many people, like me, see their own journey reflected in yours. Where, when, how and why each of us comes to the decisions we do in our lives aren't a simple things to understand, and the process is made all the more complex because, as you've pointed out, we ourselves don't even know how we got to where we are.

As far as vegan education goes, I'd say that as long as vegan education is considered solely or mostly as information dissemination (via leafletting & conversation about consumerism) then it will fail. 

The oppression and exploitation of marginalized others is supported by, promoted by and deeply entangled with the social, economic and political structures which inform and govern our lives. Unless and until "the movement" embraces a strategy that seeks to radically alter these structures, "the movement" will remain ineffective. This isn't, at the very core of the problem, simply about who we eat or who we experiment on. It is about what it means to be a human being in a world filled with equally valuable other beings and how we build a just society. We can't achieve a vegan world while maintaining rampant corporate-capitalism, unbridled military expansionism, unrepresentative political hegemony and relentless environmental degradation. Unfortunately, merely getting people to "go vegan" by itself will do little to nothing end any of those things. Therefore, we need to re-think what is "vegan education" and adopt a more encompassing strategy that looks beyond the plates on our tables and begins to address these broader structural impediments. In order to bring about a vegan world, we might be better off giving up our vegan pamphlets and, instead, joining forces with those people who are working to revolutionize our governments, our economies and our societies. 

Comment by Tyler on August 18, 2011 at 14:42
I agree with you Tim.  I think the road to veganism often requires a lot of little 'experiences' along the way.  Maybe someone sees part of a documentary about factory farms on TV, then a few months later goes to a vegan restaurant with a friend, then later reads a leaflet about battery cages, then afterwards drives by a circus protest, etc... I think for some people they'll the get the arguments for veganism right away and go vegan, but I also think you're right that a lot of other people will hear the argument, agree with the logic, and then keep on doing what they were doing before.  I think part of the reason is that they just aren't ready, but I also think that for many of them it was too much too soon.  Maybe for some people they need to be exposed to animal issues slowly and in different ways.  I think that's how it was for me.  When I was 16 I was sitting on my mother's sofa, turned on the TV, and caught the last few minutes of a documentary about factory farming.  I had never thought about where my food came before, but I loved animals, and I went vegetarian immediately.  Then I did the Peta thing, then I did the 'free range' eggs thing, etc...  And then, 17 years later (sigh!), I stumbled into Vegan Freak radio.  And I think, after all that time, and all the animal things I'd been exposed to, I was in a place that I was ready to hear an argument for veganism.  But I've often wondered what would have happened if I hadn't be exposed to all those things first?  Maybe someone would have tried to educate me about veganism, and I just wouldn't have had enough collective experience built up to understand or accept was he/she was saying.  I know most of the things that lead me to veganism had very little to do with veganism, and likely fall somewhere into the categories of 'welfare' or 'single issue campaigns.  I guess my question is, do you think we can convince the majority of the population to go vegan with vegan education alone?    
Comment by Tim Gier on August 18, 2011 at 13:30

Hi Tyler,

I can't speak for Peter (obviously!!) and I don't speak for ARZone, I only speak for myself, but if you're interested in what I think, please read on!!

I don't accept the argument that attempting to reform the current systems of exploitation necessarily has the effect of making the eventual abolition of exploitation harder, or that it necessarily has the effect of "making people more comfortable" using other animals now.  I understand the argument but I have come to believe that it is based on a misunderstanding of how human beings act and make decisions. I also think that if the argument were correct that there would be some evidence that it was, and I have yet to see any. (That is, there’s no evidence that campaigns to reform exploitation in order to make it less bad lead to an increase of the use of other animals.) Moreover, there is some evidence that seems to be contrary to what we would expect if the argument were correct. 

In any case, I think we are prone to overestimate (perhaps by a wide margin) the effectiveness of “vegan education” as we usually conceptualize it.  Nick Cooney will probably shed some light on this in his chat this weekend. We have good evidence that people routinely do not act on the things they say they believe. Human beings are very good at thinking one thing and doing another, even when what they think is something that they consider meaningful or important in their lives.

I submit that we need to change our conceptualization of vegan education, and realize that individuals respond to many different sorts of messages – messages that we might not think of as leading them toward veganism. For all we know, when a person hears about a campaign to eliminate battery cages, that information acts as the trigger that begins their journey towards anti-speciesism and veganism. For all we know, when a person hears us make the moral argument for veganism, that acts as the trigger that begins their thought process rejecting veganism forever. Nick Cooney might have something to say about this as well.

As advocates for others, it doesn’t matter that our moral argument is right. It matters that whatever tactics we employ to end oppression and exploitation work. It is tempting to believe that a sound and valid moral argument is what will work in most cases, but it is likely that that simply isn’t true. Better that we find what is true and go with that.

Am I suggesting that we ought to abandon our moral thinking? No, I am not saying that at all. Sound moral reasoning should inform all of our actions. Sound moral reasoning should lead us to the firm conviction that nothing short of the abolition of exploitation will do justice to those who are being oppressed and exploited. Of that we can be sure. But, what tactics and measures should we employ to bring about our desired goals? Moral reasoning alone will not provide us the answers to that question, because that is not a question only of morality, but also one of social psychology, economic reality and political theory.

 

Comment by Tim Gier on August 18, 2011 at 11:25
Hi Sky! (Sky high?)

I agree with Peter about this. Being vegan is good, because being vegan means that a person has no intention to exploit other animals (and I include human animals). But, to my mind, a person also has to intend to bring about an end to exploitation in order to be an activist. What I mean is that a person who lives as a vegan but does nothing to reach out to non-vegans, even to the point of downplaying their own veganism in order to not "rock the boat", is still a vegan. But they certainly wouldn't be much of an advocate for ending exploitation, would they be? I don't think so. That's not to say that every vegan must be an advocate, or that there's only one way to be an advocate, but it is to say that it's possible to be vegan without being an actual activist in the struggle to end exploitation.

Consider this example: I don't actively withhold food from starving children. I try not to contribute to those things which lead to children starving. But I do little to nothing to actively bring about an end to world hunger or the starvation of children. Would anyone call me an activist with respect to child starvation? I hope not. 

I think an activist for ending the exploitation of other animals must have no intentions to exploit others and must have intentions to bring about an end to exploitation. Having only one or the other won't do.
Comment by Sharron Woodward on August 15, 2011 at 12:04
I feel such a connection with Peter & his views. Perhaps this also gives me a disconnect to others. I hope not. I too believe that we can do both - outreach & direct action. This has to be one of my favourite interviews so far. 
Comment by Tyler on August 15, 2011 at 9:55
I'm curious about Peter's views about welfare campaigns.  He gave a pretty straightforward answer to my question (that we should focus on vegan education rather than welfare campaigns), but I got the feeling that he has a more nuanced position.  However, by his own admission, he was scared to 'step on a minefield' by saying more.  This is a question I think about a lot.  I personally only do vegan outreach myself, and I think no matter what vegan education should be the foundation of the 'animal movement'.  Still, I can't shake the feeling that we can do both and that both are important.  I always think about birds in battery cages and sows in gestation crates, etc... It keeps me up at night.  And although I think welfare campaigns will indeed likely help to prolong the property status of animals in the minds of the public, I also feel that a large number of people will still continue eating eggs for quite a while to come no matter what we do.  To me that isn't pessimism, it's just reality.  Or maybe it is pessimism.  I don't know.  But, if it is likely that the majority of people in our culture will continue eating eggs for the foreseeable future, maybe we need to address that reality somehow and try to reduce their suffering as much as we can.  Sorry it's so long.  Thoughts?  

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