Animal Liberationists: Why We Must Take The Fight To Human Targets

closedby Roland Vincent

By definition, terrorism is violence against the innocent.

Terrorist organizations hope to influence the actions of governments by paralyzing populaces with fear and uncertainty.

We see these tactics employed by jihadist Muslims, right wing hate groups, and radical separatists. Government response, predictably, is repression and fascist legislation. Voices of reason and of tolerance are drowned out by demagogues and political opportunists.

In the US, the irony of such a reaction is that the very police that the public demands protect it in fact kill nine times as many Americans as do terrorists.

In attempt to demonize and intimidate animal liberationists, animal exploitation and murder industries directed two of their wholly owned Senators (Democrat Feinstein of California and Republican Inhofe of Oklahoma) to co-author and introduce the Animal Enterprises Terrorism Act (AETA – subsequently signed into law by fascist president George W Bush) which makes animal liberation a federal crime and equates animal activists with terrorists such as ISIS militants or Timothy McVeigh.

Animal liberationists have consistently targeted only property in their activities, have judiciously avoided violence, and have harmed not a single person in the years since Ronnie Lee of the UK founded the Animal Liberation Front (ALF).

Criticism of the ALF has been that freeing a few animals accomplishes relatively little, that the incarceration and support of animal liberationists places a strain on the animal movement out of all proportion to the benefits of ALF attacks, that the result of such attacks is usually no more than modest increases in insurance premiums for the animal enslavers.

Even so, that animal enterprises do not want their practices highlighted is evidenced by the enactment of AETA and the attempts by lobbyists for Big Ag to push for ag-gag laws throughout the nation which criminalize whistleblowing and photography of animal abuse and cruelty at factory farms, feed lots, and slaughterhouses.

Jon Hochschartner is a young leftist writer and animal advocate. Still in his 20s, among his accomplishments is the creation and building of Species and Class, an influential blog which examines speciesism and socialism.
Jon turned over management of Species and Class to me some time ago. He remains a regular contributor to S&C. His recent article concerns the ineffectiveness of animal liberation as a tool of the animal movement.

His article, published on S&C, is reproduced here in its entirety:

I understand despair driving ALF
By Jon Hochschartner

In June 2015, according to the Mississauga News, the Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility for the firebombing of two trucks in Canada owned by Harlan Laboratories, a company which provides research animals to vivisectionists. Police said the blaze caused no injuries.

For a while now, I’ve counseled animalists against this sort of illegality, advocated by groups like the ALF. Not because I have a moral opposition to torching the vehicles of vivisectionists. But because I’m convinced such actions are ineffective. Individual acts of sabotage cannot address systemic problems. They do, however, invite government repression against the animalist movement as a whole and send dedicated activists to prison for decades at a time. And yet, frequently, I wonder whether the alternative — building a mass movement against animal exploitation — is possible in this moment in history.

Take Jacobin Magazine, the current voice of the far left in the United States, which should be a proponent of animalism. So far as I’m aware, the publication has addressed our movement twice. Both times, it has done so with hostility and condescension. In an article from August 2015, called “Peter Singer’s Race Problem,” Sarah Grey and Joe Cleffie pushed back against the idea animal suffering and human suffering were in any way comparable, and argued making analogies between them was inherently reactionary. In an article from October 2015, called “Welfare for All,” Adam Fisher argued workers were the real victims of factory farming, as opposed to animals being literally dismembered. As the saying goes, with friends like these, who needs enemies?

This is at a time in which animalists are bending over backwards in their attempts to court leftist allies. In our movement, blogs are proliferating everywhere, trying to examine non-human exploitation from a socialist lense, from a feminist lense, or from an anti-racist lense. And yet it seems no matter how much we concede, ideologically or tactically, we have gotten nothing in return from the broader left. Further, this is at a time, in which — animalists should not need to be reminded — over 65 billion land animals are slaughtered every year, according to Farm Animal Rights Movement. To put that in a bit of perspective, the Population Reference Bureau estimates only 107 billion humans have ever lived. So in this respect, we can agree with Grey and Cleffie. There can be no real comparison between animal and human suffering. The former is infinitely worse.

So I understand the despair that drives groups like the ALF. While, ultimately, I know only a mass movement can liberate animals, I understand the despair which led animalists to place incendiary devices in vehicles owned by a company profiting from non-human exploitation. I understand the despair that makes animalists give up on humanity’s capacity to change, and take matters into their own hands. After all, if we can’t sway the left, those who should be most sympathetic to our arguments, perhaps systemic change — even mild reform — is not possible in the here and now.

Jon has raised, even if unintentionally, a fundamental question regarding the future of the movement, and further questions on what our short and long term strategies should be.

Socialism, the goal of most of the political left, is still the goal of enlightened animal advocates, as a socialist system will remove the profit incentives that drive animal exploitation and murder. Even socialist societies indifferent to animals prove much more humane than capitalist societies, as socialist societies kill and consume half the animals per capita as do capitalist ones.

Which means that if socialism replaced capitalism, THIRTY THOUSAND MILLION animals would be saved every year! That simple fact should make every animal activist and everyone who loves animals a SOCIALIST REVOLUTIONARY.

Bringing about a socialist world is a daunting task and a distant dream.

Bringing about animal rights is even more daunting and more distant.

So, what should our goals and strategies be? What we have been doing as movement has not worked.

Indeed, it cannot work. We are a tiny minority of the populace. Our numbers are proportionately declining against the growing world population.

Clearly, the animal movement has no allies. While most animal activists are politically supportive of other oppressed constituencies, those constituencies (blacks, women, LGBTs, the poor, etc) do not seem to be returning the favor. And if we do not have allies, we must grow our movement and our influence internally.

If, as Jon postulates, reform is not a possibility, what is possible?

In my opinion the animal movement must target other than the economic interests of animal abusers and murderers, we must target those who actually commit the atrocities.

Conventional wisdom argues that taking out slaughterhouse workers or owners would mean only that others would take their places. And that may be true in the short term. But as the benches become shallow, the cost of meat production would skyrocket with the requirements for salaries, security, public relations, etc.

Similar tactics could be used against big game hunters (more a symbolic effort than a productive one), dog fighters, sealers, bullfighters, fur farmers, puppy mill operators, etc.

The key to success in any of these regards is having no contact whatsoever with the targets, exponentially increasing the difficulties of apprehension.

The justification of such direct action is simple: Nothing else has worked, nothing we have done has even diminished the Animal Holocaust. If we continue on our current path, we guarantee the murders of billions upon billions of animals into the future. Upwards of 60 billion land animals, 2500 billion sea creatures annually.

Animal activists alone could not possibly bring down the capitalist system that exploits animals and people.

But animal activists could ignite the spark of revolution. African and Native Americans are the biggest victims of the government and corporate America and the most brutalized by police thugs.

Police have been killing our comrades for years. Our black brothers and sisters are our natural allies, even if some are indifferent to the plight of animals.

Taking out a few hundred or a few thousand murdering psychopaths seems a small investment in the future.

And could be the precursor to revolution.

Terrorism is violence against the innocent.

But revolution is violence against the guilty.