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Saturday, June 12, 2004

Anarchist Graffiti on the Wall of US Embassy in Moscow

A recent letter from Free finds him having a hard time in prison -- one can only imagine how amazed he must be to know that activists on the other side of the world are rising up in his name to express solidarity and an unwillingness to compromise with a zoocidal and repressive system. The FBI can call for terror alerts in the Northwest (apparently a secret that was leaked) but there's still little the Pax Americana can do to stop those operating on the margins of empire. NPR had a good radio segment on this yesterday, with Steve Best coming out strong in defense of environmental militants like Free Luers and the ELF, as he continues to demonstrate to American academics what being a public intellectual looks like in the 21st century...Sartre with an earth conscience.

Via: Russian Indymedia
Yesterday evening a group of anarchists in Moscow wrote "FREE JEFF LUERS!" with huge letters on the wall of the US Embassy in Moscow. Protesting this way against imperial "justice", radical activists gave moral support to their comrade Jeffrey Luers. All participators of the action successfully escaped, so security of one of the tightest guarded buildings in Moscow was put in shame.

June marks the beginning of the fifth year of imprisonment for our friend Jeff "Free" Luers, held captive by the US state. Sentenced to 22 years and 8 months for burning three ecologically harmful Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) at Romania Chevrolet in Eugene, USA, Jeff has continued to be active in prison and fight back with his words and inspiration.

Jeff decided to burn three such machines to fight against global climate change, made by big oil corporations and their allies who govern states. Vehicles of SUV category release 43% more pollutants causing global climate change than normal cars. SUV's are marketed for individuals seeking luxury, their inflated size has no any practical justification.

Jeffrey's sentence is far greater than that faced by many offenders convicted of violent acts against individuals. For example, in state of Oregon Manslaughter 1 carries a 10 year sentence; Attempted Murder, only 7 and a half years; Rape 1, 8 years four months. Clearly, Jeffrey's sentence is vastly disproportionate to the crime of burning three vehicles.

Today, supporters of Free are organizing actions in at least 26 cities of Australia, Brasilia, Canada, Finland, Ireland, Portugal, Russia, UK and USA.

WE DEMAND THE IMMEDIATE RELEASE OF FREE, WHOSE ACT MAY NOT BE CONSIDERED AS A CRIME, BUT AS AN ACT AGAINST CORPORATE MADNESS!

Anarchist Black Cross 12th of June 2004

More information about case of Jeffrey Free Luers and global day of action
for Free: http://www.freefreenow.org

Posted by Richard
6/12/2004 11:44:57 AM | PermaLink

 
Friday, June 11, 2004

Wake Up Weyerhaeuser: A Campaign to Protect Forests

June 19 International Day of Action:
Tell Trader Joe’s to "bag" Weyerhaeuser

Via: Rainforest Action Network

Weyerhaeuser gets lots of mileage out of its paper bag products. Weyerhaeuser produces paper bags for hundreds of grocery, retail, and health-food stores across the country. In 2002, Weyerhaeuser produced 70,000 tons of paper bags – about 2 percent of the total U.S. production of paper bags, generating almost $300 million in sales for the company. That’s about 20 million bags made annually at five U.S. mills, a nearly 20 percent jump from Weyerhaeuser’s production about five years ago.

"This has proven to be a nicely profitable business," said CEO Steven Rogel. Hundreds of companies use Weyerhaeuser paper bags in their businesses, from fast food restaurants to supermarket giants to local food cooperatives. Most have no idea that they’re buying their paper bags from the "#1 destroyer of old growth forests in North America." Until Weyerhaeuser commits to getting out of endangered and old growth forests around the world, we’re encouraging Weyerhaeuser paper bag customers to find an alternative to this company’s products.

Trader Joe’s, a grocery store with hundreds of locations in 17 states, is one of Weyerhaeuser’s national customers. Trader Joe’s is currently investigating Weyerhaeuser’s practices and deciding whether or not to cancel the contract for paper bags. Let’s send a strong message to Trader Joe’s top executives on June 19th – Trader Joe’s: Protect Endangered Forests, "Bag" Weyerhaeuser!

Find your local Trader Joe’s here

If there’s no Trader Joe’s in your town, find another grocery store that uses Weyerhaeuser paper bags – or set up an informational table on your campus or in your community square, and encourage people to call and write Trader Joe’s. Use it as an opportunity to educate your community about Weyerhaeuser’s predatory logging practices.

Or, you can go to one of Weyerhaeuser’s mills or customer service centers, and protest where the products are produced and sold! Find a Weyerhaeuser location near you...
-------------

Download your action toolkit here

A few suggestions as you plan your action:

This day of action is not about asking people to use plastic bags or switch to a different Weyerhaeuser paper product. Instead, let’s ask Trader Joe’s to stop buying from Weyerhaeuser until it cleans up its act in all of the 44 states and 18 countries in which it operates.

Use a friendly and gentle tone with Trader Joe’s; let’s make this a playful, fun, and creative day of action, not a confrontational one. Use this opportunity to educate the managers, staff, and shoppers at your local Trader Joe’s store about Weyerhaeuser’s logging practices. Let’s give the company the opportunity to do the right thing, and sever its business ties with Weyerhaeuser.

This day of action is on a Saturday; most people shop on the weekends when they have more time. Take advantage of this - have conversations with people about what they’re buying!

If you’d like more information about alternative paper products, go to the Smart Paper Project or to our Alternatives.

Posted by Richard
6/11/2004 08:20:41 AM | PermaLink

 
Thursday, June 10, 2004

I'll Stand Over Your Grave and Make Sure That You're Dead

The media spectacle that has been produced over the last week surrounding the death of Ronnie Ray Gun is truly astounding and sickening.

One expects Fox News, CNN, the major networks, etc., to assume the role of eulogists AND propagandists, accentuating the positive and playing up his role as "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" and de-emphasizing his many scandals and disasterous policies such as fueling the Iran/Iraq war, arming Hussein, Osama and Afghanistan, Contras, invading Grenada, and turning a blind eye to AIDS on moral grounds. Then there was also how he cut federal spending on Medicare and Medicaid, the food stamp program, welfare, and even school meals infamously making ketchup qualify nutritionally as a vegetable. Oh, and then there were the unprecedented tax-cuts for the rich and corporations -- in a move similar to this President (many of the same administration members) -- under Milton Friedman's "trickle down" theory, later called "voodoo economics" by Bush Sr. (Ray Gun's VP) when the plan ended in disaster for the country's working class and catalyzed the a 10.1% unemployment rate and national depression.

So when relatively sober (and often critical) international news outlets such as the British BBC and Canadian CBC engage (as they have been doing) in American flag waving and imperialism under the guise of covering the "mourning of a nation" and the "loss of a hero," I really have to wonder what in the hell is going on. How much money got paid off to send this guy out with a media parade? Somebody show me the accounts? Or was this a repayment for old debts?

On Newsworld International (and other channels), for instance, I watched a story the other day that proclaimed that while some remember Ray Gun as Mr. Star Wars and nukes in space, "in fact" (it was claimed), this President tried more so than any other to disarm both the US and USSR and end the nuclear threat.

What?!!! This amounts to nothing more than a complete re-writing of history -- George Orwell where are you?

Luckily, there are still a few people around from this era that know the truth. One of them, Dr. Helen Caldicott, had this to say about her meeting with the then President. She called him the Pied Piper of Armageddon -- which puts a new spin on the movie, released in the heart of Ray Gun's first term, The Day After. The movie is often credited with helping to coalesce an anti-nuke politics in the American public, but the reason it was shown on mainstream television may very well have been an attempt to generate fear in mass audiences of the Red Threat, in favor of beginning new military developments to counter it.

The article "Remembering Reagan: Changes in Nuclear Arsenal Recalled," uses the testimony of nuclear insider, Troy Wade, who points out that Ray Gun broke the Soviets economically by increasing the arms race.

Posted by Richard
6/10/2004 01:44:01 PM | PermaLink

 
Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Chimps Could Be Extinct in 50 Years - Study

This echoes the recent findings of UNEP that current trends point to the extinction of bonobo, gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees within 50 years -- a truly chilling conclusion, more so each time it is reported anew. At this rate, along with the growing movement to recognize their rights, one can only wonder with a morbid fascination if the planet will collectively awaken to these sentient animals' personages just as they eradicate the last of their kind from existence?

Via: Planet Ark
Humanity's closest relative the chimpanzee could be extinct in around 50 years because it is hunted for meat and threatened by deforestation and disease, researchers said yesterday.

Only 8,000 remain of the most vulnerable chimpanzee subspecies, the Pan troglodytes vellerosus, which is found predominantly in Nigeria, and it could be extinct in two decades, according to a study.

The study was presented at a conference of The Pan African Sanctuaries Alliance (PASA) in Johannesburg. PASA sanctuaries care for orphaned or injured great apes.

"It is believed that the illegal hunting and eating of apes - known as the bushmeat crisis - has had the greatest impact on the rate of decline, along with deforestation, human encroachment and disease," PASA said in a statement.

"The situation is much more critical than we thought," said Norm Rosen, an anthropologist at California State University-Fullerton who coordinated the study.

The study used the rate of orphans brought by people to sanctuaries to calculate the loss of chimpanzees in the wild - and showed a dramatic increase in the number of baby chimps losing their parents.

Rosen's study - which estimates that 10 chimpanzees in the wild are killed for every orphan that reaches a sanctuary - predicts that the vellerosus subspecies will become extinct in the next 17-23 years.

The other three chimpanzee subspecies face slightly better odds, but all are expected to disappear in 41-53 years, at current rates of decline.

"The numbers at the sanctuaries don't lie. You don't get the kind of steady stream of orphaned chimpanzees we're seeing without a devastating drop in the wild population," said Rosen.

Chimpanzees are found in western, central and eastern Africa.

The 19 PASA sanctuaries currently care for approximately 670 chimpanzees, a number that has risen by more than 50 percent in the last three years.

The study is the latest to sound the alarm about the fate of the great apes, which consist of chimps, gorillas, bonobos and the orangutans of Asia.

One recent UN study said less than 10 percent of the forest home of Africa's great apes will be left relatively undisturbed by 2030 if road building, construction of mining camps and other infrastructure developments continue at current levels.

Posted by Richard
6/09/2004 08:17:13 AM | PermaLink

 
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Attack of the Terrorist Fax by pattrice jones

Another thoughtful piece from pattrice, who is being rather prolific lately! She was also interviewed for Animal Voices radio today and that interview should be archived shortly for listening online. Meanwhile, check out some of the other shows archived there -- including the interview with your's truly of a couple weeks back! Now, here's pattrice:
Once upon a time, there was a slumlord in Ann Arbor. He and his family lived in health and safety paid for, in part, by the rents of his tenants. One day, those tenants grew tired of waiting for heat and essential repairs. After months of petitioning both the landlord and the city, they went on a rent strike but even that usually very effective tactic was taking too long. With winter coming on, they decided to turn up the heat on the landlord, picketing his home and his office so that his neighbors and business associates would know what kind of a man he was. Wherever he went, there they were with their slogans and photos. As long as they stayed on public sidewalks and didn't block traffic, it was all perfectly legal -- except that they were committing domestic terrorism.

Some years later, also in Michigan, a young gay prisoner with AIDS was gang-raped by fellow inmates. A sympathetic straight inmate who was also HIV+ contacted ACTUP/Ann Arbor to let them know that the guards had locked the young victim in solitary confinement as punishnment for "having sex" and that he was languishing there without medical treatment. ACTUP members first tried to work through channels but their increasingly urgent calls to the prison were brushed off by a warden's office unused to giving priority to prisoners' needs. The intrepid AIDS activists sprung into action, quickly organizing a phone and fax blitz that would make it impossible for the warden to attend to any other business until the young man was released from solitary and given health care. It was very effective and perfectly legal -- except that they were committing domestic terrorism.

And then there was the case of the University of Michigan Regent who was the local equivalent of Jesse Helms. After one of his particularly outrageous anti-gay comments, a motley assortment of gay men and lesbians staged a kiss-in on the sidewalk in front of his house. He and his wife tried to spin the media coverage of the event by offering the activists cider and donuts, but the activists had succeeded in drawing public attention to bigoted remarks that would otherwise have been buried in meeting minutes. The Regent by using his leverage to cancel a popular course taught by one of the activists. The students in the course were outraged and arranged for a barrage of email complaints to be sent to the relevant department chair on a given day. They didn't save the activist's job but did convince the department to make sure that the course content would be covered in other classes. All well and good except that -- you guessed it -- both the kiss-in and the email campaign were acts of domestic terrorism.

Don't dismiss this as an overly paranoid reaction to the provisions of the US Patriot Act. Our fears are now fact. The FBI's domestic terrorism has arrested seven activists allegedly associated with Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) and lodged charges against both them and the organization itself. Within the indictments, "telephone and e-mail blitzes, fax blitzes and computer blockades against HLS in order to divert HLS employees from their regular work" are characterized as a conspiracy to terrorize the company. The tactic of setting up legal pickets on public property outside of private homes is characterized as stalking.

It's time for the rest of the left to stand in solidarity with these activists, and not only because they might be next on the FBI's list. Animal liberation activists like arrestee Josh Harper embrace all of the ideals of progressive activists; they simply include non-human animals among those deserving peace, justice, freedom, and self-determination. A self-described anarchist, Harper recently spoke at a conference at Syracuse University, condeming what he called "the commodification of life" and acknowledging his intellectual debts to feminist and anti-racist activists and writers.

SHAC campaign coordinator Kevin Jonas, who was also among the recent arestees, also spoke at the Syracuse conference on animal liberation, explaining the strategy behind what has become one of the most effective efforts that any kind of activists have waged against a nefarious corporation. The SHAC campaign is also the subject of a chapter in a new book, Terrorists or Freedom Fighters: Reflections on the Liberation of Animals.

In brief, undercover video footage collected over a span of years revealed shocking abuses of animals at Huntingdon Life Science, a contract research firm to which other companies outsource animal testing of consumer products such as cosmetics and household cleansers. The footage, much of which is almost unbearable to watch, shows HLS employees punching and screaming at beagle puppies, a live monkey being dissected to death without anaethesia, and other atrocities. These films showed that the animals at HLS were suffering terror, pain, and psychological trauma associated with such abuses on top of the usual terror, pain, and psychological trauma associated with the enslavement and torture inherent in viviseciton itself.

In response, animal advocates have launched a multi-faceted international campaign that applies pressure to both HLS and its customers. Activists affiliated with or inspired by the organization known as SHAC utlize the whole range of legal protest tactics ranging from public education to picket lines outside the homes of executives who have chosen to engage HLS to do animal testing for their companies. Meanwhile, without being asked, underground activists have chosen HLS and its customers for direct actions ranging from property destruction to animal rescues. As a result, HLS has lost customers while seeing its security costs rise. Its public pronouncements to the contrary, the company is on the ropes and unlikely to survive if the campaign continues.

Hence the impetus for the FBI action. Yet again, the Feds have stepped in to prove what leftists and animal liberationists already know: that the state and its police forces exist primarily to protect property.

As Ward Churchill notes in his introduction to Terrorists or Freedom Fighters, the rest of the left can and should learn from the animal liberation movement, which utilizes direct action more consistently and effectively than any other currently active social change movement. Even the least radical animal activist accepts the premise that one must "walk the talk" by making sure that one's own purchases are consistent with ones stated beliefs. What if peace activists did the same? Virtually all animal activists are vegan, meaning that they do not purchase products made from or tested on animals and boycott all companies known to participate in any kind animal abuse. What if all of those who have marched for peace stopped buying war? How much more effective would the peace movement be if anti-war demonstations were backed up by massive tax resistance and (most importantly) an uncompromising boycott of GE and other war profiteers? If the many millions of people worldwide who opposed the invasion of Iraq had voted with their wallets, we might well have been able to stop the war before it started.

That's just one instance in which other activists might have been well served by taking a page from the playbook of a movement that has, in a few short decades, profoundly influenced both laws and public opinion. Since speciesism is, along with sexism, the oldest and most firmly rooted of the interwoven oppressions that have a stranglehold on the earth, the animal liberation movement has a very long way to go before achieving its goals. But remarkable progress already has been made. In Austria, the members of Parliament recently unanimously adopted a package of laws that will enshrine animal protection in the national constitution, end the traffic in dogs and cats, ban fur farms, and outlaw a number of cruel but usual practices, such as caging hens in egg factories and keeping dogs on chains. The United States is far behind Europe, but a combination of illegal direct action and above-ground consumer education recently led the California State Senate to pass a bill banning the production and sale of pate foie gras, which is made by force-feeding ducks and geese until they develop the diseased livers from which this 'delicacy' is made.

According to a recent Gallup poll, more than half of all people in the United States now favor strict laws concerning the treatment of farmed animals (who are, at present, not covered by most state laws concerning cruelty to animals). One-fourth of all people in the United States have come to believe that animals deserve the same legal protections as human beings. These are remarkable numbers in a country where farmed animals have traditionally been denied any legal protections and animal rights activsts have been derided (by both conservatives and the left) as lunatics without a clue as to the pulse of the public. Steadily increasing support for animal rights among the general public and among historically disenfranchised people suggests that the animal liberation message resonates with many people and that animal advocates have done a good job of imagining and enacting different ways of getting that message across to different groups of people.

The animal liberation movement still has a very long way to go in that respect and, indeed, in in the midst of one of those internal upheavals that all movements face when they begin to integrate the concerns and analyses of other movements into their own work. Just as feminists had to learn to include class and race in their analyses of issues while labor and anti-racist activists have had to learn to integrate feminist insights into their work, the animal liberation movement has been challenged from within to understand how speciesism relates to racism, sexism, and other intra-species inequalities. Movement conferences and publications now routinely address those issues, which were all but absent only a few short years ago.

The time has come for other progressive movements to respond in kind by, at minimum, extending solidarity to progressive animal liberationists ensnared by police oppression and by being willing to at least consider the arguments that animal liberationists have been making concerning the intersections between the exploitation of animals by people and the various ways that people exploit each other. It wasn't so long ago that leftists dismissed environmentalists and vice versa. The "Battle in Seattle" never would have been won if it weren't for the progress we have made in briding that gap. Given the number of people who are actively involved in working for animal welfare or liberation, the potential benefits of bridging the divide between animal advocates and other progressive activists are even more exciting.

Liberationists of all stripes believe that no one is free when anyone is oppressed. What could the left possibly lose by embracing activists who are willing to place their own freedom on the line in the service of the most generous interpretation of that venerable slogan? Remember: Only the destruction of the category "being without rights" will ensure that no one is ever again pushed into it. In the interim, we can all agree that the widening of the category "domestic terrorist" to include people engaged in non-violent civil disobedience and heretofore legal protest tactics must be resisted with all of our mights.

Top five things you can do to support the SHAC 7
1. Go vegan. While most activism is speculative in nature, there is one thing you can do that will, without doubt, reduce the amount of water pollution for which you are personally responsible, reduce the amount of violence for which you are personally responsible, decrease your consumption of scarce natural resources, and save the lives of scores of animals per year. Going vegan allows you to do all of those things without in any way diminishing your ability to work on your favored causes. In fact, going vegan will probably give you more energy and more productive years in which to work for social change. Visit www.veganoutreach.org or goveg.com for a free information to help you make the transition wisely and easily.

2. Learn about vivisection. Start by realizing that, like biotechnology, vivisection is one of those things that scientists associated with industry and for-profit health care lie about with great regularity. Then get the facts about animal testing. You'll learn that most vivisection is done on consumer and industrial products and that vivisection associated with disease research or drug testing has always been scientifically questionable and has become even more so with the advent of more sophisticated and accurate computer modeling programs. You'll have a better understanding of why many people believe that vivisection would be unethical even if it were good science, since rats and rabbits (like dolphins and bald eagles) have their own purposes and have not consented to be tortured on our behalf. You'll learn that its easy to avoid products tested on animals and that this is something else you can do without in anyway interfering with your other activism. Visit www.shacamerica.net for information about vivisection or www.leapingbunny.org and click on "shopping guide" for to access a free online and printed cruelty-free shopping guide.

3. Stand up against police repression. Don't let the SHAC 7 or other animal activists be tried and sentenced in silence. Accord them the same respect and attention accorded to other political defendants and, if they are convicted, show them the same solidarity you show to other politcal prisoners. Some organizations already do this, encouraging people to support imprisoned earth, animal, and human liberationist activists alike; visit http://www.eco-action.org/efau/prisoners.html for an example of such solidarity.

4. Question assumptions. We've all been socialized to think certain things about each other and the world around us. In becoming a feminist, or peace activist, or anti-racist agitator, you probably had to unlearn some of the things you had been taught about other people or yourself. In so doing, you may have realized that you had been very much mistaken. Might you be similarly mistaken about the alleged superior value of human animals over other animals? Are you sure that you've thought through the idea that human beings have some sort of natural right to enslave and exploit other animals? Where did you get that idea? From the same people who told you that "queers" are unnatural and inferior? If you've challenged the one idea, why not challenge the other? Are you sure the exploitation of animals isn't a causal factor in the oppression of people? Read Carol Adams' The Sexual Politics of Meat, Marjorie Spiegel's The Dreaded Comparison, and Charles Patterson's Eternal Treblinka before rushing to judgement on that question.

5. Make sure you know where your money goes. Do you want peace? Then don't buy from war profiteers like GE. Do you want a planet that can support life for many generations to come? Then don't eat meat or drive a gas-guzzling SUV. Visit www.boycottbush.org for detailed information about war profiteers and www.bravebirds.org for a quick education on the social, economic, and environmental impacts of factory farming.

The author coordinates the Eastern Shore Sanctuary & Education Center in rural Maryland. Her chapter "Mothers with Monkeywrenches: Feminist Imperatives and the Animal Liberation Front" appears in the new anthology Terrorists or Freedom Fighters: Reflections on the Liberation of Animals, published by Lantern Press. The author is not affiliated with SHAC. The opinions expressed in this article are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of any organization.

Posted by Richard
6/08/2004 11:06:23 AM | PermaLink

 
Monday, June 07, 2004

Organic Lawns: It's Easy Being Green

This article by the CS Monitor points to a growing movement towards ending the ubiquitous public spraying of herbicides and pesticides, the overuse of chemical fertilizers, and the outrageous heavy irrigation of yards in the everquest of the All-American green grassy lawn. Part of this move, it turns out, is because the lawn industries that have historically promoted chemical lawns are now sensing a potential gold mine in "new and improved organic" products. The article is unfortunately rather soft on the industries' take at times -- and I have felt free to snip out portions of industry propaganda, which you may read by following the link below. Basically, lawn care and related industries are promoting a poorly defined version of "organics" (as is happening in the corporate food industry) which appears to be a greenwash, while also defending green grassy lawns as "environmentally friendly." However, the really environmental choice is to move to a native planted, organic wildscape -- allowing one's little plot of earth to become reinhabited as a natural space and a sanctuary for animals of all shapes and sizes. An organic lawn simply doesn't do this, and besides, many grasses are invasive and non-native. As I have written, since wildscaping my lawn, it is now the envy of the neighborhood, has greatly decreased water use, and is a haven for butterflies and many non-common bird species. This morning a small flock of tiny unfamiliar juncos were playing in my wildflowers and eating worms. As the sun rises, four yellow-green warblers come and play until sunset -- birds I had never seen in the entirety of the neighborhood before.

Via: CS Monitor
Americans love their lawns - so much so that they've planted some 30 million acres of them - from the White House to the California desert.

If you lumped them all together, they could cover an area the size of Mississippi. [...]

"Lawns probably haven't risen to the level of a major national environmental issue - yet," says Paul Parker, executive vice president of the Center for Resource Management in Salt Lake City, a nonprofit environmental group that encourages collaboration among business leaders, government, and environmental groups. "But the acreage of lawns is so significant that water, pesticide use, and loss of wildlife habitat are increasingly important."

Consider:

[...]

• San Antonio's water department is working with builders to encourage the use of more drought-tolerant grasses in subdivisions. In Milford, Conn., residents hold "freedom lawn" competitions, giving awards to the best-looking lawns that eschew the standard chemical approach.

• Across the border in Canada, Quebec will restrict the cosmetic use of lawn and garden pesticides beginning next year. Dozens of other Canadian municipalities have also restricted pesticide use.

• The National Wildlife Federation and the National Audubon Society are among several groups now campaigning to convince Americans to plant more gardens and plants and less lawn. If attendance at organic lawn-care classes is any indication, consumers are beginning to listen.

Two years ago, Leticia Safran told her husband she was dropping their traditional lawn-care service to go the natural route. "What made me switch was my three kids and our dog," says the Natick, Mass., homemaker. "On the days when the chemical company came to spray the lawn, I just didn't have a good feeling about the little sign they put on lawn - telling us to stay off for two days."

[...]

About 4 out of 5 US households have private lawns, according to a 1998 academic study. They are typically about a third of an acre, and in 2003, Americans spent $38.4 billion tending those yards and gardens, about $457 per household, says the National Gardening Association. A growing portion of that money appears to be going organic, observers say.

[...]

Environmentalists point out that all those lush, weed-free acres sop up gargantuan quantities of water and chemicals. In a typical year, the average lawn consumes about 10,000 gallons of water over and above rainfall, the Environmental Protection Agency reports. Nearly a third of urban water use in the Eastern US goes to watering lawns, it adds.

In addition, millions of pounds of chemicals get dumped on lawns. In 1999, the last year such figures were available, 78 million pounds of yard insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides were sold to US households - not including professional applications, the EPA said. If they're overused (and some would argue even when they're not), pesticide and fertilizer runoff can pollute rivers and groundwater.

Then there are the millions of gallons of gasoline used in lawn equipment, whose engines are generally not as efficient as cars and can cause significant air pollution, California Air Resources Board says.

"The consumer, science, and the private sector have interacted in a way to come up with the 'industrial lawn,' something that's always green and always watered and fertilized," says Gordon Geballe, coauthor of "Redesigning the American Lawn: A Search for Environmental Harmony."

He argues that a new set of ethics and expectations is needed to put lawn care more in sync with nature. "Why put out a bird feeder to feed birds, but put pesticides on the lawn and kill worms so they have no food?" Dr. Geballe asks.

Each year, the US adds about 2 million acres of residential property, a 2001 US Department of Agriculture study reports. The result is a loss of habitat for birds and other animals, says Tess Present of the National Audubon Society. "We recognize that lawns are near and dear to everybody. But we'd like people to start thinking about whether they need as much area in lawn."

[...]

The biggest change of all may be the expectations of people like Debora White of Wellesley, Mass., who is in her third year of organic lawn care. She's changed her outlook on what a lawn should be.

Despite living in an affluent community, Ms. White doesn't care anymore if she sees crabgrass here and there - though her husband prefers it "looking like a green carpet." After a transition phase, weeds have been minimal, although a willingness to put up with clover and to use a dandelion fork and pull an occasional weed is part of going natural, too, she says. "My neighbors were recently admiring my lawn, and they had no idea I had dumped the chemical company," she says. "I just thought it was a better way to go. I don't want to be a crusader. I'm just doing what I can do."

Grass roots

• The average American homeowner spends 40 hours per year mowing the lawn.

• Of 103.9 million households with lawns, more than half (58 million) use insecticides; 40 million use herbicides; 14 million use fungicides.

• A one-acre lawn generates almost six tons of grass clippings a year, or nearly 1,000 garbage bags' full.

• The EPA estimates that the amount of pollution emitted by a lawn mower operating for one hour equals the amount of pollution emitted by a car driven for about 20 miles.

Sources: Audubon Science Office; Environmental Protection Agency; Toward a Low Input Lawn by C. Barth (2000) in T.R. Schueler & H.K. Holland (Eds.), "The Practice of Watershed Protection" (Article 130). Ellicott City, Md.: Center for Watershed Protection

Posted by Richard
6/07/2004 08:52:37 AM | PermaLink

Terrorists or Freedom Fighters?: Reflections on the Liberation of Animals

Ward Churchill provides the Foreword to the new book Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? and WHAT A FOREWORD! Let's just say that this thing is no holds barred and very controversial. It's not available for reprint here, so I'm reprinting a recent interview with Churchill from Satya Mag that gives a good intro and flavor to this revolutionary scholar and how he perceives the scene.

With Churchill's contribution and the wide range of top activists and theorists who have written for the Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? book, this is simply a collection that rocks for many reasons. Anyone who considers themselves a scholar, activist, or just plain citizen, interested in radical politics and/or its literature, NEEDS TO PROCURE FOR THEMSELF A COPY OF THIS BOOK! Sometimes a text is released that is a sort of bellweather for a movement and its times -- Best and Nocella have just given the animal liberation movement its definitive militant statement. Read it now, or hold your (fantasy of) peace.

Via: SATYA
Ward Churchill is perhaps one of the most provocative thinkers around. A Creek and enrolled Keetoowah Band Cherokee, Churchill is a longtime Native rights activist. He has been heavily involved in the American Indian Movement and the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee. He is Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado and has served as a delegate to the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations.

One of Churchill’s areas of expertise is the history of the U.S. government’s genocide of Native Americans—the chronic violation of treaties and systematic extermination of North American indigenous populations. His many books include A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas: 1492 to Present (1998) and The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents from the FBI’s Secret Wars Against Dissent in the U.S. (2nd edition, 2002). His new book, On the Justice of Roosting Chickens: Reflections on the Consequences of U.S. Imperial Arrogance and Criminality, was just published by AK Press (www.akpress.org).

As a member of a people who have been on the receiving end of violence, Churchill has a rather distinct perspective of the U.S. and the effectiveness of political dissent and social change. Ward Churchill recently shared some of his views with Catherine Clyne.

This issue of Satya is trying to push the debate about whether or not violence is an appropriate means for a desired end. With animal activists, there’s a growing gap between people who feel it’s not and others who feel that, for example, breaking into laboratories to liberate animals or burning down property is an effective way to stop abuse.
Well, that’s an absurd framing in my view. Defining violence in terms of property—that basically nullifies the whole notion that life is sacred. People who want to elevate property to the same level of importance as life are so absurd as to be self-nullifying.

Some people feel that those who abuse animals or people negate their right to consideration and open themselves up to physical violence. What’s your response to this?
The individuals who are perpetrators in one way or another, the “little Eichmanns”* in the background—the technocrats, bureaucrats, technicians—who make the matrix of atrocity that we are opposing possible are used to operating with impunity. If you’re designing thermonuclear weapons, you’re subject to neutralization, in the same sense that somebody who is engaged in homicide would be, in terms of their capacity to perpetrate that offense. One or two steps removed should not have the effect of immunizing. Otherwise, only those who are in the frontline—usually the most expendable in the systemic sense—are subject to intervention. None of the decision-makers, the people who make it possible, would be subject to intervention that would prevent their action in any way at all.

That brings me to one question, which is, in general, people like to think they’re pretty decent. They don’t like to think of themselves as violent or complying with a system that is oppressive...
Heinrich Himmler viewed himself in exactly that way. He was a family man, he had high moral values, he’d met his responsibilities, blah, blah, blah—a good and decent man in his own mind.

Do you think that applies to most American people?
In the sense that it applied to most Germans [during the Third Reich].

Your recent works detail the documentable history of the consequences of U.S. imperialism. After reading On the Justice of Roosting Chickens and listening to your two CDs, what do you want your audience to walk away with?
A fundamental understanding of the nature of their obligation to intervene to bring the kind of atrocities that I’ve described to a halt by whatever means are necessary.

The predominating absurdity in American oppositional circles for the past 30 years is the notion that if one intervenes to halt a rape or a murder in progress, if you actually use physical force as necessary to prevent that act, somehow or other you’ve become morally the same as the perpetrator.

What do you think those oppositional circles need to do to really effect change?
Stop being preoccupied with the sanctity of their own personal security, on the one hand, and start figuring out what would be necessary. That might require experimentation with tactics and techniques. Not how, like an alchemist, you repeat the performance often enough to make yourself feel good in the face of an undisturbed continuation of the horror you’re opposing. If your candlelit vigil doesn’t bring the process you’re opposing to a halt, what do you do next, presuming you actually desired to have an effect.

Let’s just presume that, in this case.
That’s not a safe presumption. There’s a whole feel-good ethic out there. It’s not [to] effect any substantive change. It’s to bear moral witness to make the person feel good, to assuage their conscience in exactly the fashion you were talking about: they can then posture as good and decent people, while engaged in active complicity in the crimes they purportedly oppose. Complicity of acquiescence: that’s the “Good German Syndrome.”

You move on. Rather than a vigil, you hold a rally. When that doesn’t do it either, you march around, do petitions, letters, you hold alternative educational fora, you try to build bridges with people; you do whatever. None of that works.

The obligation is not to be personally pure. The obligation is to effect a measurable change.

Some argue that the ten million people who gathered last year on February 15th to stop a U.S. invasion of Iraq didn’t really amount to much in terms of tangible results. Is there a precedent of experimentation you think people are not looking at?
If you conduct your protest activities in a manner which is sanctioned by the state, the state understands that the protest will have no effect on anything.

You can gauge the effectiveness—real or potential at least—of any line of activity by the degree of severity of repression visited upon it by the state. It responds harshly to those things it sees as, at least incipiently, destabilizing. So you look where they are visiting repression: that’s exactly what you need to be doing.

People engaged in the activity that is engendering the repression are the first people who need to be supported—not have discussion groups to endlessly consider the masturbatory implications of the efficacy of their actions or whether or not they are pure enough to be worthy of support. They are by definition worthy. Ultimately, the people debating continuously are unworthy. They are apologists for the state structure; [and] in [effect], try to convince people to be ineffectual.

Nonviolent action can be effectual when harnessed in a way that is absolutely unacceptable to the state: if you actually clog the freeways or occupy sites or whatever to disrupt state functioning with the idea of ultimately making it impossible for the state to function at all, and are willing to incur the consequences of that. That’s very different from people standing with little signs, making a statement. Statements don’t do it. If [they] did, we would have transformed society in this country more than a century ago.

What do you think holds people back?
For all the rhetoric, there is no nonviolent context operating here—not at all. The more you become in any sense effectual, you’re going to be confronted with the violence of the state to maintain order of a sort that perpetuates its functioning. So nonviolence renders one vulnerable to the lethal counter-force of the state. So there’s tangible fear. It’s basically, politically a consecration or concession of physical force to the state by those who purport to oppose the state.

Even if there is a sort of inchoate understanding of a position of privilege in society, coming from an economically affluent background, if you’re not going to face physical violence, ultimately, you are subject to consequences which are not physical: an erosion of your privilege, a making of your life more uncomfortable. Basically, nonviolence as it is practiced, espoused in the U.S., is not Gandhian. Gandhi never articulated anything that precluded personal sacrifice. This is a non-Gandhian appropriation of his principles for the purpose of confirming personal comfort. So it’s a politics of the comfort zone.

What are some of the solutions? Extreme events, like 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, have mobilized people out of such complacency, albeit temporarily.
I don’t have a ready answer for that. One of the things I’ve suggested is that it may be that more 9/11s are necessary. This seems like such a no-brainer that I hate to frame it in terms of actual transformation of consciousness. ‘Hey those brown-skinned folks dying in the millions in order to maintain this way of life, they can wait forever for those who purport to be the opposition here to find some personally comfortable and pure manner of affecting the kind of transformation that brings not just lethal but genocidal processes to a halt.’ They have no obligation—moral, ethical, legal or otherwise—to sit on their thumbs while the opposition here dithers about doing anything to change the system. So it’s removing the sense of—and right to—impunity from the American opposition.

In the case of the Germans during the Third Reich, outside influence could have altered their course. Do you think there’s any place for that in terms of the U.S.? From Europe or Canada, to kind of kick things along? I’m thinking of systems that have power and leverage with the U.S. administration.
That’s looking for a painless fix again. Power and leverage in the traditional sense are not going to bring fundamental change into being. Each of those entities is a projector of the same kind of violence, but on a quantitatively lesser scale than the U.S. However, the nature of their intervention, based upon their perception of self-interest, is convincing the U.S. to [change] in a way that will not visit undue consequences upon them. You’d get cosmetic alterations—policy adjustments and so forth—a refinement of the system, thus the continuation of the status quo. It would ultimately create illusions of change and keep people confused.

Third world opposition on the other hand understands this dynamic much more clearly. You have to have an eradication of the beast, not a retraining of the beast’s performance.

I can give a talk to a university in North America, to students and professors, and they are fundamentally confused about things that are automatically self-evident to people when you go to a village in Latin America, where the average educational attainment is third grade. Now why can these “peasants” automatically grasp concepts that are just beyond the reach altogether of your average university audience in North America?

Why do you think?
Partly because it’s this fostering of illusion—and it’s self-imposed—that repeating the same process yet again will somehow lead to a fundamentally different result. We can go through the charade of ‘let’s elect John Kerry instead of George Bush,’ do things which are essentially painless to us, and the outcome is going to be different. You don’t have politics, you have alchemy. That’s delusional behavior. It’s a state of denial in a social maybe even cultural sense. And that’s what’s masquerading as progressive politics.

Is there a historical example of what could happen here?
There is absolutely no historical precedent that I could name. We’re [within] the belly of the beast. When you destabilize, when there is genuinely significant fracturing, the actual disintegration of the social and political order. Everybody goes on about the end of the 60s, but there nonetheless were conditions indicating substantial instability. The ability of the U.S. to project power didn’t exactly evaporate but it was very sharply curtailed. But a complete curtailment of the U.S. ability to project power on a global basis has no historical precedent.

So if it takes eradication of the beast from within, how would you see that happening?
Well, first the withdrawal of consent, people imbued with consciousness to withdraw altogether from an embrace of the state.

If I defined the state as being the problem, just what happens to the state? I’ve never fashioned myself to be a revolutionary, but it’s part and parcel of what I’m talking about. You can create through consciousness a situation of flux, perhaps, in which something better can replace it. In instability there’s potential. That’s about as far as I go with revolutionary consciousness. I’m actually a de-evolutionary. I don’t want other people in charge of the apparatus of the state as the outcome of a socially transformative process that replicates oppression. I want the state gone: transform the situation to U.S. out of North America. U.S. off the planet. Out of existence altogether.

So what does that look like?
There’s no U.S. in America anymore. What’s on the map instead? Well let’s just start with territoralities often delineated in treaties of fact—territoralities of 500 indigenous nations imbued with an inalienable right to self-determination, definable territoralities which are jurisdictionally separate. Then you’ve got things like the internal diasporic population of African Americans in internal colonies that have been established by the imposition of labor patterns upon them. You’ve got Appalachian whites. Since the U.S. unilaterally violated its treaty obligations, it forfeits its rights—or presumption of rights—under international law. Basically, you’ve got a dismantlement and devolution of the U.S. territorial and jurisdictional corpus into something that would be more akin to diasporic self-governing entities and a multiplicity of geographical locations. A-ha, chew on that one for awhile.

There’s no overarching authority other than consensus or agreement between each of these. There has to be a collaborative and cooperative arrangement rather than something that’s centrally organized and arbitrarily imposed.

Is there any precedence for that in human history?
Well, partial precedence at least. It’s not worked out.

My ancestors did, in fact, generate their agreements voluntarily, serving their own interests to do so; they did cede territory. Not the territory that’s been taken, but the territory that’s been ceded is legitimately in the ownership of someone else. So there is, in that sense, a place for different populations, and accommodation arrangement can be made for others.

It’s not a case of returning to things as they were in 1619 or 1606 or whatever you want to pick from history as being the “pre-here.” It’s a matter of reasserting or sustaining the values and understandings that came with the disposition of things that applied at that time, and reapplying it or continuing to apply it in a contemporary context. It’s a reordering of relations both between people in the singular, and the rest of the natural order in a way that is coherent now. It’s not everybody who’s not in some sense discernibly native needs to leave in a physical sense. It’s that everybody who is not in some sense native needs to figure out how to accommodate themselves to life in either a native jurisdiction (as natives have been accommodating themselves) and existing under somebody else’s jurisdiction. Or, living in a jurisdiction of their own, but one that is constrained to that legitimate jurisdiction. In other words, not having arbitrary authority over anybody else’s lives, land or resources. To exist on the basis of the resources available to them in this constricted land base. A whole reordering of consciousness goes into that.

A self-defined spirit group in other words cannot assign itself a superior right to benefit from somebody else’s property. That property, I’m using in the broadest sense, includes their very lives.

What gives you hope?
What gives me hope is that people are imbued innately with consciousness and you can potentially reorder that to arrive at an understanding of what needs to be done. Once the understanding is there, the capacity to do what necessary is obviously present. So despite the fact that my experience tells me that it is unlikely (because of the vast preference of the bulk of the people to indulge themselves personally, rather than engage in something that might be effective but personally uncomfortable), the possibility of an alteration in that consciousness, remains always present. There’s where I find hope. That was a somewhat muddled response.

What would I do in the alternative if I were completely divested of hope? Collect stamps. The reason to go on with the struggle is why it’s work. It’s not an event; it’s a process. And if one understands one’s place in the world properly one is obligated to struggle. Struggling, you’ve got to have hope that you can succeed. If not in the immediacy of my lifetime, then to plant the seeds that can reach maturation at some point. Now I have an obligation to my children and my children’s children and generations out into the future, as do we all, whether we understand it or not.

Posted by Richard
6/07/2004 01:08:11 AM | PermaLink

 
Sunday, June 06, 2004

Insurgent Ideas: Subversive Scholars & Audacious Activists Under the Eyes of Curious Cops by pattrice jones

A review of the First Annual Animal Liberation Student Association Conference that GetVegan.com helped to sponsor and at which I proudly presented.
------------
Federal agents monitored activities from the parking lot while local undercover officers loitered among the activists inside the campus buildings. Vivisection laboratories readied themselves against incursions as hardcore bands rehearsed for a benefit concert. One activist was arrested shortly after delivering a stirring speech. The others -- possible "domestic terrorists" one and all -- were photographed entering and leaving the event. Two other conference participants were arrested in subsequent weeks.

The occasion for these dramatic happenings was not a building takeover, banner drop, Black Bloc maneuver, or act of eco-sabotage. Federal, state, and private security forces converged to police not actions but ideas at the Student Animal Rights Organization (SARO) conference on animal liberation, which included the first ever academic symposium on the Animal Liberation Front (ALF).

Dangerous Minds?

On a chilly April weekend, students, professors, and activists converged at Syracuse University to discuss philosophies and strategies of animal liberation. The first full day of the conference was packed full of panels on a panoply of topics both philosophical and pragmatic. The second day brought together several of the contributors to a forthcoming anthology on the ALF to discuss issues such as unspoken cooperation between above-ground and underground organizations, feminist justifications for forceful direct action on behalf of animals, and the forensics of effective animal advocacy.

Bookended by a film of ducks being force-fed on a factory farm and an energetic punk rock fundraiser, this was not your grandfather's academic conference. But were the ideas presented really so dangerous to the status quo? Were the agents of the state justified in thinking that these are the people they ought to keep an eye on?

If you understand the police to be protectors of privilege and property rather than defenders of liberty and life, then the answer to that is "yes." Woven into the fabric of the conference, appearing again and again in different colors and patterns, were two ideas that, if widely embraced, would undermine and overwhelm the existing world order: (1) the idea that direct action for animals is now as necessary and justified as the Underground Railroad once was; and (2) the idea that links between the struggles for earth, animal, and human liberation also are both justified and necessary.

Together, these two ideas both destabilize the dominant worldview and offer the possibility of building an ethical movement of sufficient mass to counter the power of the amoral might-makes-right mentality that now dominates both relations among people and relations between people and animals. That being the case, a few highlights from the conference are in order for those who were unable to attend...

Race, Sex, Class... and Species?

Why do people balk at comparisons between human and animal suffering? If we can answer that question, we can begin to do what needs to be done to overcome obstacles to the union of the struggles for social justice and animal liberation. While some of the reasons people don't want to connect the dots are very visible, with the most conspicuous being that they would have to give up their own assumptions of privilege over animals, other objections are more psychologically subtle.

In her keynote address concerning PETA's controversial "Holocaust on Your Plate" campaign, United Poultry Concerns president Karen Davis noted that traumatized peoples have historically rejected any and all comparisons to the suffering of other peoples, such as when Bosnian survivors of Serbian "ethnic cleansing" campaigns vehemently rejected comparisons to the Hutu genocide against the Tutsi people in Rwanda. Drawing upon the writing of Susan Sontag, Davis explained that nobody wants their personal anguish reduced to just one example of a commonplace category of suffering. Nonetheless, Davis argued, the comparisons must be made if we want to understand and undo the common causes of atrocities.

Going all the way back to the days before men asserted their ownership of land, animals, and women, filmmaker and animal liberation activist Josh Harper identified "the commodification of life" as the taproot of the tangled vines of exploitation that now ensnare people, animals, and ecosystems. SARO member Erin Ryan Fitzgerald also spoke of factors that underlie the oppression of both people and animals, numbering the profit motive, state authority, and "distortion of religion" among them.

Speaking on the subject of radical tactics, Pattrice Jones [author's note: that's me] urged activists to take such connections into account when planning campaigns. We must find ways to free or relieve the immediate suffering of animals right now while at the same time building a movement with the capacity to succeed in the long-term struggle for change. Thinking about the links between issues can help organizations to find allies and to plan actions that help the animal liberation movement to grow beyond its existing base of supporters.

Adventures in Antiviolence

Such strategic planning is necessary because there are so many different ways that people can and have taken action to contest violence against and violations of themselves and other animals. Activists must choose the tactics that are most likely to achieve their specific aims.

"Open rescue" has become an increasingly popular tactic, due to its success in liberating individual animals while at the same time publicizing the plight of their peers. Open rescue was pioneered by the intrepid Patty Mark and her comrades in Australia as an overt alternative to covert raids on vivisection labs and factory farms. Activists engaged in open rescue do not mask themselves or their intentions. They videotape every phase of the process of removing animals who are in dire need of food, water, or veterinary care. They replace any locks that they break and sometimes go so far as to call the police to notify them that they have taken the necessary step of taking starving or sick animals to a place where they will receive care. If they end up in court, they use what lawyers here in the USA call the "necessity defense," arguing that any crime they committed (such as trespass) was justified by the need to prevent a greater evil and using the trial as an opportunity to get videotaped evidence of extreme yet routine cruelty to animals into the public record.

The tactic of the open rescue was introduced to the United States when Patty Mark spoke at a United Poultry Concerns (UPC) conference in the late 1990s. At that time, UPC President Karen Davis now says, the potential power of videotaped images of compassionate people openly rescuing wretchedly miserable animals was immediately evident to all who witnessed Mark's presentation. Since then, the open rescue tactic has been used by a number of US organizations, with the most notable recent example being the GourmetCruelty.com campaign against pate foie gras, which is produced by force feeding confined ducks until they develop the fatty liver disease that is the defining feature of this perverse 'delicacy.'

Introducing the very powerful videotape "Delicacy of Despair" (which is available via GourmetCruelty.com and should be shown in every community), a female activist involved in that campaign spoke with barely contained grief about the experience of filming the wretched conditions in which the ducks used and abused by the pate foie gras industry endure lives of unrelenting suffering. These waterfowl are confined in metal crates without access to water and in constant fear of the twice-daily force-feedings during which tubes are violently shoved down their throats as the excess food that will destroy their livers is pumped inside their defenseless bodies.

Activists who undertake open or covert, legal or illegal investigations or rescues often must struggle with the emotional consequences of witnessing extreme suffering and may be haunted by the animals they were unable to save. But, for those animals who are saved, open rescue literally means everything. Conference participants were also able to witness that aspect of open rescue, by means of a very different videotape -- an Animal Planet episode that featured the rehabilitation and release to a sanctuary of former foie gras factory inmates.

Time and again videotaped evidence collected by covert methods has been the decisive factor in campaigns against cruelty to animals. Giving the history of the SHAC (Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty) campaign, which has eaten deeply into the profits of one of the worst vivisection operations in the world and which seems likely to succeed in forcing the company out of business, Kevin Jonas cited three key instances in which women went undercover with hidden cameras and succeeded in bringing out footage of extreme neglect and mistreatment. Those films have been used to motivate activists, sway public opinion, and embarrass the company's customers into cutting their ties with Huntington.

The SHAC campaign, which has been accompanied by supportive actions by underground activists, is an example of the power of unspoken cooperation between activists who pursue the same ends by different means. Sharing important stories from the history of animal advocacy, Jonas described several successful UK campaigns wherein legal demonstrations occurred during the daytime and then "the ALF took the night shift" (without any communication between the two groups of activists), using direct action to back up the demands of the demonstrators. In each instance, the combined pressure of embarrassing demonstrations during the day and property damage at night led those who had previously profited from their mistreatment of animals to conclude that continuing to do so would no longer be profitable. In each instance, the animal abusers went out of business.

Such cooperation, while undoubtedly effective, is rare. Too often, groups make decisions on the basis of organizational self-interest rather than the best interests of the movement. Misunderstanding and mistrust also inhibit relations among activists who favor different tactical approaches to achieving shared aims.

The question of violence often arises in debates concerning the Animal Liberation Front, even though the ALF is an explicitly nonviolent underground network. Problems arise from differing definitions of violence. Most people who support the ALF do not consider property destruction to be violence while many people who oppose the ALF see acts such as breaking windows or disabling machinery to be violent, even though they entail no risk of injury to people, plants or animals. Arson is a particularly volatile subject, with some activists arguing that fire can be safely deployed as an agent of nonviolent property damage and others arguing that there is always too great a risk of injury to firefighters and human or non-human bystanders.

Despite the ALF's nonviolent stance, some conference participants did come out in favor of what they called "violent" or "militant" activism on behalf of animals. Some likened the struggle for animal liberation to the French Resistance and other times when people have needed to literally fight for their own freedom or the freedom of others. If we condone the French Resistance to the Nazi occupation and we say that we believe that animals are as worthy of defense as people, they argued, then we are hypocritical if we do not support the same kinds of resistance against the vivisectors.

The question that begins to arise whenever such comparisons are made is, simply, "what is violence?" People tend to use the word loosely, without regard for the fact that its root -- violation -- tells you that it is always wrong. Often, it turns out that the "violent" tactics activists are advocating might be considered by many to be justifiable use of force, and thus not "violent" at all.

The real question is the location of the dividing line between violence and justifiable use of force. The exact same act -- pushing a child to the ground -- is justifiable force when one is pushing the child out of the way of a moving vehicle but becomes violence if it is done in anger or as punishment. Thus, whether or not a forceful act is violent (and hence unjustified) or justified (and hence not violent) depends on a host of contextual factors, none of which tend to be visible when people simply pronounce themselves for or against "violence."

Feminist Interventions

Feminist analyses of violence and nonviolence tend to be more subtle and sensitive to context than the theories made famous by esteemed men. In her presentation on feminist perspectives and the ALF, Pattrice Jones [author's disclosure: again, that's me] argued that anarcha~feminism, ecofeminism, radical feminism, and the feminist ethos of care all offer insights that support direct action for animals and can help to make such activism more effective. She issued two feminist challenges to ALF calls: (1) be truly true to the ALF principle of nonviolence; and (2) listen to the animals.

Concerning nonviolence, Jones warned that the nature of the ALF makes it attractive to disaffected and potentially violent young men and that this inherent problem is exacerbated when men claiming to be spokesmen for the ALF condone the violent acts of non-ALF activists or make thinly veiled threats rooted more in their own romantic ideas about rebellion than the day-to-day activities of the underground ALF cells they purport to represent. Jones went on record that "as a feminist and an animal liberationist, I will no longer believe any man who claims to be the spokesperson for the ALF, since the most that any one person can be is the conduit for the communications of a small subset of ALF cells." She also urged underground cells to be very careful in choosing the people through whom they communicate, so that their actions are not misrepresented or given a different political 'spin' than they intended.

Concerning listening to the animals, Jones warned that "we can be so busy speaking up for the animals that we can forget to listen to them." She shared stories of animals seeking their own liberation, aiding the liberation of other animals, and showing compassion across species. We must attend carefully to what the animals are doing for themselves and each other, she asserted, so that we can be better allies to them.

In the course of his presentations on topics ranging from radical tactics to the psychological dynamics of oppression, former Black Panther Party member and political prisoner Ashanti Alston proved to be a role model worthy of emulation by people in any liberation movement and a particularly apt exemplar for men grappling with the implications of feminism. Alston spent much of his time in prison reading widely and applying the insights of many different scholars and activists to the problems on which his own activism had been focused. In some instances, this forced him to rethink his assumptions and ways of interacting with others. We all must open ourselves to information and ideas from many different sources in order to avoid self-satisfied stasis. If we want to create change, we have to be willing to change.

Speaking of the ways that poverty, racism, and other forms of oppression warp and damage people, Alston asserted that we all must pay some attention to healing ourselves, if only so that we can become better activists. He revealed that battling his own personal sexism has been the most challenging task for him and that he considers that an important ongoing struggle to which he is very committed. Earlier that day, video activist Josh Harper had revealed that he too had changed some of his ways of thinking and acting in response to reading and listening to the words of women. Feminists in the audience sent up a collective prayer that men in the animal movement, the liberationist wing of which has been particularly prone to macho posturing, would follow the lead of Harper and Alston in challenging their own sexism.

Prisoners of Love

Anarchist Panther Ashanti Alston also spoke about his experiences in prison. He explained that, for prisoners, any little breath of nature is a lifeline. The outdoor prison yard was fenced with razor wire, so that any effort at escape would result in horrible injury. One day, a rabbit somehow got past the fence into the yard but became tangled in the razor-sharp wire when trying to leave. The prisoners watched, helpless, as the rabbit struggled to be free of the man-made fence, eventually bleeding to death. In the vivid image of the caged men watching the wild animal torn to pieces by the struggle to be free, audience members glimpsed the steely cruelty of a social system that imprisons people and animals alike.

Like Alston, former Animal Liberation Front member Andy Stepanian was imprisoned for the fundamental crime of loving life more than money. In his talk on human and non-human prisons, Stepanian explained that mink, who naturally travel many miles per day, pace around and around in their cages, compelled to run those miles even when constrained by bars. Serving time for alleged crimes associated with the liberation of animals, Stepanian noticed something similar among his fellow prisoners. Just like the mink, the human being has built-in drives that, if frustrated by unnatural confinement, will be expressed in stereotyped behavior.

Stepanian's insights reminded audience members that people really are animals. When we really understand this, we understand that the struggles for women's liberation or liberation from racism or economic exploitation are, self-evidently, struggles for animal liberation and that, vice versa, the struggle for animal liberation is a struggle to free the people too. The sooner we act upon that fundamental truth, the sooner we will be able to build a movement large, diverse, and cohesive enough to achieve total animal liberation.
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Note: This article reflects selected aspects of one person's experience of the conference and should not be taken as a complete account of that event. The author apologizes to all of the fine speakers not mentioned in this survey of some of the issues mentioned in the course of the weekend. All presentations were videotaped. For a full accounting of the conference agenda and information about the future availability of videotapes, visit SARO online at http://www.syracuseanimalrights.com.

pattrice jones' chapter "Mothers with Monkeywrenches: Feminist Imperatives and the Animal Liberation Front" appears in the new book Terrorists or Freedom Fighters: Critical Reflections on the Liberation of Animals edited by Steve Best and Tony Nocella and published by Lantern Press. She lives in rural Maryland, where she and her partner operate the Eastern Shore Sanctuary & Education Center.

Posted by Richard
6/06/2004 10:32:56 AM | PermaLink