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How We Can Make the Animal Liberation Movement Stronger

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By Anika Lehde

Hey, NARN Friends. Something has been on my mind lately. Like many people who are working to make the world a better place (for human animals and non-human animals), I’m sometimes disheartened by infighting, rifts, and snide name calling in activist spaces and movements—particularly the animal liberation and vegan movement. I’ve also noticed that there seems to be some major confusion between what I’ll call “Strategic Disagreements” and what is actually “Internal Accountability” to be non-oppressive ourselves.

I’d  like to take a moment to differentiate these two categories of tension within social movements. This is important because the first type, disagreements, doesn’t require any specific sort of response; indifference, cooperation, avoidance, collaboration—while not all ideal—are at least acceptable. But the second type, accountability, requires immediate, constant, and transparent action.

Strategic Disagreements

Most of us have experienced the arguments—sometimes mild, sometimes nasty—about specific tactics, results analysis, personalities, internal politics, public perceptions, etc. within activist communities and movements. We may have been in the mix or on the sidelines, but either way we felt how destructive infighting can be, because it rarely takes place when people are in a learning or listening mode and sometime devolves into personal attacks.

Often the disagreement is around what is truly “effective” activism. Groups claim to have the answer, based on their specific method of research or experience. They see resources or energy going to another tactic and are frustrated by what they perceive to be a waste of time or energy—precious resources in animal activist communities. They may be critical of other groups and express publicly that others are incompetent and jeopardizing the animals themselves.

Sometimes the fights are around how radical or controversial we should be in our activism. The more conservative argue that the negative impressions left by more extreme actions negate their benefit. The more radical argue that anything less that direct action slows progress and creates space for moral ambiguity. There are many more types of strategic disagreements, even, but these are two common examples.

We have been told by our wiser comrades to not fall into this trap, that our infighting is exactly what “the other side” is betting on. You may have even been told that those we fight against have infiltrated the activist ranks and purposely start these fights to keep us inwardly focused and too beleaguered to make any progress.

This may all be true, and most importantly, the often negative and nasty way in which these debates take place pushes new activists away, attracts personalities who thrive in conflict, and may distract from the work at hand. We should not let disagreements on strategy devolve into name calling, mockery, or become the actual focus of our activism. These types of strategic disagreements are very important to discuss, and we should also do everything in our power to have them in constructive ways that increase our knowledge and understanding. But if we can’t come to agreement, we can at least agree to disagree and let our multi-tactic movement move forward without delay.

Internal Accountability

Internal accountability is very different in nature, but can look similar on the surface. It can sometimes even include the same people or be conflated with strategy debates. Trying to create internal accountability, though, means setting standards and norms for social justice spaces that are inclusive, as safe as possible for as many as possible, and don’t allow other forms of oppression to thrive (such as racism, sexism, sexual abuse, classism, or any other oppressive behavior or policies). This sounds easy until we take into account how deeply oppressive behaviors can run, even unexamined within ourselves, and how the very leaders of movements are sometimes the worst perpetrators of oppressive—and even abusive—behavior. Developing spaces that fight oppression on every front is challenging, but must be done to create a strong foundation for animal activism.

When oppressive animal activist policies or leaders are called out or oppressive tactics are identified, those who are unaffected by the abuse often label this process as “infighting” or “whining” and call for its end the same way one might call for those with different tactics to curtail their public arguments. The problem is that these aren’t the same; in fact, calling for accountability within the animal liberation movement is one of the most important things we can do to strengthen our movement, increase our ranks, and improve our strategies. We must hold each other to standards of non-oppression while doing animal activism. This is a never-ending process.

But why?

First, it is the right thing to do. This isn’t obvious to everyone. Those who watch as groups try to remove abusers from their ranks, or implement anti-racist practices, find the discord so uncomfortable (and it is) that they would rather sweep the issues under the rug rather than face them head on. They would rather look the other way and minimize the importance of these issues. This should be unacceptable. Even if if there was no benefit to animal activism as a whole (there is), creating safer spaces for activists should be a priority, because it is the right thing to do for people. Just because we fight for animal liberation doesn’t mean we are for human oppression. Besides, activism is difficult enough—we shouldn’t make it harder for those involved.

Second, it is the strategic thing to do for the animal liberation movement. Activist spaces that allow unchecked misogyny, racism, ableism, transphobia, or any other oppressive behavior to thrive will not attract the strongest and most skilled activists. The best activists will not tolerate an unsafe environment and certainly won’t trust us as peers. Oppressive activist spaces drive away the people with experience in other social justice movements who could bring important new ideas, strategies, and learning to the table. What’s more, our inability to be consistent with an anti-oppression approach will delegitimize the animal liberation movement and reduce the diversity of thought and experiences necessary for creating real change for animals. What it will do instead is attract privileged narcissists who reinforce oppressive hierarchies and who would rather dismiss and mock their activist peers than work to create strong communities of resistance.

For these two reasons, we need to embrace and welcome processes of internal accountability within the animal liberation movement. How this looks on the ground may be different for every group, depending on the current issues they are facing. This could be ensuring that leadership within the organization is non-hierarchical and doesn’t replicate white-supremacy and male-supremacy. It could be making sure there is a documented process for dealing with accusations of abuse or oppressive behavior within the community (and following it). It could mean not accepting when peer groups participate in or use racist, sexist, ableist, and classist tactics, and calling them to accountability when they do (this is what people often confuse as infighting, but is actually movement accountability). It could be creating a culture of learning and sharing about all types of oppression with a book club or a weekly article reading group. It could be creating true and deep connections with other activist communities by showing up in solidarity with those movements (without expectation of reciprocation) so we can learn even more how to infuse our animal activism with anti-oppression strategies. I highly recommend this last step as it is incredibly informative to experience other spaces that are welcoming.

No matter the exact step, it is imperative that we don’t confuse this critically important approach to anti-oppression and internal accountability with the common “infighting” about general tactics and strategies. We also should never dismiss the process of strengthening our movement and building better activist spaces as a distraction. It is not a distraction, but rather a truly foundational part of the work that we do for animals. The oppression of humans and animals has a common enemy, and we can’t fight for one cause (animals) while participating in and propping up other oppressions.

Remember, let’s have constructive debates about tactics, but let’s not ever tolerate oppression. We can fight oppression in all its forms together! Let’s go! If you want to chat with me more on this topic, you can find me on twitter at @veganscore.

About the author:

Anika Lehde is a former NARN board member (2013-2015) and current Advisory Board member. She also volunteers for Food Empowerment Project, where she helps organize volunteers for outreach, fundraising, education, and other vegan food justice programs in Washington State. When not volunteering, Anika is the President of a marketing consulting firm and lead writer for Seattle Vegan Score, a local blog profiling vegan people, events, companies, and animal advocacy.

Q&A With the Founder of Seattle Farmed Animal Save. Join Us in Enumclaw!

Kris stands with the "Animals Are Not Property" sign alongside Ryan and Shannon Hill of Sky's The Limit Sanctuary, Paul and Maggie Bowen, and Dave Roers outside the Enunclaw Live Animal Auction in June.

Kris stands with the “Animals Are Not Property” sign alongside Ryan and Shannon Hill of Sky’s The Limit Sanctuary, Paul and Maggie Bowen, and Dave Roers outside the Enunclaw Live Animal Auction in June.

Kristina Giovanetti is the founder of Seattle Farmed Animal Save, a nonprofit that’s part of The Save Movement, a global effort that started in December 2010 with Toronto Pig Save. The idea is to bear witness to animals sent to slaughter in our own communities. Kris has been holding personal vigils at the Enumclaw Sales Pavilion’s live animal auction for about a year and invites everyone to join her.

The next vigil is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 15. As the Facebook invitation says, “We are a grassroots, love-based, and peaceful organization. We believe in non-violence and the transformational power of compassion. We follow a Tolstoyian perspective in that we do not believe in turning away from suffering, but instead moving closer to it.” It’s a heart-wrenching experience to watch roosters, geese, rabbits and others struggle and cry out as they are auctioned. There are almost always day-old dairy calves, piglets, lambs and baby goats — and once a month, they auction horses that are sold for slaughter.

It’s also powerful to stand on the road outside the pavilion with signs reminding people that animals don’t belong to us, encouraging them to go vegan, and to honk for the pigs. A surprising number of people honk! A lot yell for us to “get a job,” too, which is puzzling and good for a laugh.

Here’s a Q&A with Kris about The Save Movement in Seattle:

What moved you to start a branch of The Save Movement here?
In June 2016, I attended an all-day vigil in Toronto with Anita, the founder of The Save Movement. We spent 16 hours bearing witness outside pig, cow, and chicken slaughterhouses. The pigs deeply affected me – looking into their eyes, you can really see the fear, you can sense their suffering in a profound way.

Pigs are very much like dogs and to lock eyes with them, to reach out and stroke them in an attempt to provide a moment of comfort and then watch the truck turn into the slaughterhouse where you know they will be brutally killed just moments later is a life changing event.

That day in Toronto I became an activist.

When did you start going to the Enumclaw Live Animal Auction? What have you seen there?
When I returned home, I immediately started looking for places near me to connect with the animals and share their stories. My first trip to the auction barn in Enumclaw was in July 2016.

I’ve seen so many horrible things there – the chickens are transported in cardboard boxes with a few air holes punched in the sides. There is a stone-faced woman who always works the birds. She reaches in, pins their wings behind their back and yanks them out of the box. The birds are screaming, literally screaming as she holds them high and waves them around in the air for a few seconds as the auctioneer works the crowd and finally sells them for 3 to maybe 9 dollars. Then the woman shoves the screaming and terrified bird back into the box, head first.

The day-old male dairy calves always stay with me, in my mind, for days after I see them. They still have umbilical cords dangling from their bellies and look absolutely bewildered. They have no idea they are being sold to become veal calves and will spend the next few weeks chained to a crate and will then be killed.

This place sells lambs and baby goats, too. The babies are always very hard to see.  But I think the spent dairy cows are the most heartbreaking of all. They are absolutely skin and bones – it looks like they haven’t been fed for weeks. Their bodies are emaciated and they have large, swollen udders. But it’s the look in their eyes and the way they hang their head that just rips my heart out. These sweet, gentle beings have been impregnated over and over again, and have had their calves stolen from them every single time. Their bodies have been exploited and pushed absolutely to the breaking point. And when their milk production begins to wane, the farmers stop feeding them, then sell them to slaughter to become cheap hamburger meat. It’s absolutely gut-wrenching to see them.

What does it mean to you to bear witness as these animals are sold? What is the power of bearing witness? 

Bearing witness is being present in the face of injustice and trying to help.  When we bear witness we become the situation – we connect with our entire body and mind.  And from that, action arises.  The purpose of bearing witness is to provide love and compassion to these animals, to share their stories, to show the reality of animal agriculture, raising awareness to the public, and helping people make the connection.  People need to understand what goes on so they will make the decision to stop supporting it.
How do people react to the protest? What do you think of the calls to “get a job”?  

We get about an equal number of supportive people and angry people, and a lot of people just pass by with no visible or audible reaction.  The supportive people will honk in a friendly manner and give a thumbs up.  The angry people show us their middle finger and yell at us.  The comment to “get a job” is so curious to me because we hear it all the time, and I’ve heard it at vigils all over the world.  I think what they are really saying is that we should do something constructive with our time.

Are there also slaughterhouses near Seattle? Where are they, and what do you know about them? 

Yes, there are two slaughterhouses within an hour of Seattle that we have investigated and will be holding vigils at.  Both of them are north of the city, around Stanwood and Mt Vernon.  The Draper Valley chicken slaughterhouse kills more than 800,000 chickens each week.

Do you plan to have vigils at the slaughterhouses, too?  

Absolutely!  We are learning the truck schedules and will be starting vigils up there very soon.

Seattle Farmed Animal Save

 

Please follow Seattle Farmed Animal Save on Facebook and on Instagram, and join Kris in Enumclaw next weekend.

If you happen to be in Europe this fall, she’ll also be speaking in Luxembourg in September at the International Animal Rights Conference.

Come Table and Leaflet for the Animals at Folklife and/or the Fremont Fair!

It was a great weekend for spreading the good vegan word! By the end of the U District Streetfair, all our boxes of literature were empty — hooray!

We have a couple more events coming up and would love to see you, either as a tabler or a leafletter, or both! Tabling shifts are typically three hours.

To learn more about shifts and to sign up, write to Rachel at rachel@narn.org or check out “events” on NARN’s Facebook page.

Eva Piccininni tabling for the animals at the U District Streetfair this weekend.

Eva Piccininni tabling for the animals at the U District Streetfair this weekend.

Thank You, Rep. Sherry Appleton, for Talking Sense to UW Over Treatment of Pigs

“Paramedics don’t need to cut open the throat of a pig when they have other options,” Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, told the The News Tribune regarding the University of Washington’s practice of using live pigs to practice a medical procedure that involves slitting their throats.

“I would like to see the university take responsibility and to search out different ways to solve these situations,” said Appleton, who is one of eight members of the state House who signed a letter asking the UW to consider using modern training methods instead of animals.

The university says it’s looking into it.

Let’s thank Rep. Appleton for publicly talking sense about this. Her number is (360) 786-7934, and her email address is sherry.appleton@leg.wa.gov.

Here are the other reps who signed the letter: Jessyn Farrell of Seattle, Strom Peterson of Edmonds, Judy Clibborn of Mercer Island, Cindy Ryu of Shoreline, Joan McBride of Kirkland, Joe Fitzgibbon of Seattle and Mia Gregerson of SeaTac.

New Ag-Gag in Arkansas: Let’s Stop This Thing

From the Animal Legal Defense Fund:

A proposed new Ag-Gag bill is being considered by Arkansas lawmakers, and we need your help to stop it from becoming law. Factory farms want to keep their cruel practices hidden from the public, and industry lobbyists push Ag-Gag laws to accomplish that goal.

House Bill 1665 has already passed the Arkansas House and moved out of committee in the Senate. The law would allow factory farm employers to sue whistleblowers directly, making them vulnerable to expensive lawsuits all for trying to do the right thing. Such intimidation will effectively keep those who see animal cruelty from speaking up.  Arkansas’s version of Ag-Gag is written so broadly that it would also ban undercover investigations of virtually all private entities, including daycare centers and restaurants. This law would silence conscientious employees who wish to report wrongdoing.

Call or email the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism to politely inform them that if this bill passes, you won’t be visiting the state.

Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism: 501-682-7777

It’s incredibly important to always be calm and polite when speaking with decision makers and other officials who might influence them. Keep your call short and simple, and consider using the script below.

“Hello, my name is __________ and I’m calling to let you know that even though Arkansas is a beautiful state, I will not be visiting if HB 1665 becomes law.”

Animal Activism 101: Please Join Us!

After spending my bus commute this morning listening to my neighbor talk about his backyard chickens, I was reminded how much I still have to learn about advocating for animals. We talked about factory farming and rat poison and the waste of crops grown for animal feed. I wanted so much to mention the fates that the brothers of his hens suffered, but things were going well, and I wasn’t sure how to say it without a blaming edge in my voice that would sound more like scolding than information.

Being a strong advocate for animals does not always come naturally.

If you or someone you know feels the same way, consider attending NARN’s Animal Activism 101 class on Saturday, Feb. 25, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. It’s at 2100 24th Ave S, between Rainier Avenue and Mount Baker.

More details on our Facebook events page.

Write to Prisoners, Including a Vegan Sent to Prison Last Week

In case you missed NARN’s letter-writing party on Sunday, it’s not too late to write letters in support of Trans Prisoner Day of Action & Solidarity (Jan. 22). Find names, addresses and more information here.

www.supportnicoleandjoseph.com

www.supportnicoleandjoseph.com

Another prisoner who could use our support is Nicole Kissane, who was sentenced last week to 21 months in federal prison after a judge accepted her non-cooperating plea agreement.

She and Joseph Buddenburg are animal advocates from California who were indicted in 2015 for alleged conspiracy to violate the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. They are charged for allegedly releasing thousands of animals from fur farms and destroying breeding records in Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

You can write to Nicole here:

Nicole Kissane #20651-111
San Diego MCC
808 Union Street
San Diego, California 92101

Joseph had already been sentenced to two years in prison. Here’s his address:

Joseph Buddenberg #12746-111
FCI Victorville Medium I
P.O. BOX 3725
ADELANTO, CA 92301

For more information, visit the Support Nicole & Joseph website and Facebook page.

Join us for our next letter-writing party, which will be posted here.

NARN Stands Against Patriarchy and All Oppression

Northwest Animal Rights Network is a volunteer-run organization that has been fighting for the rights of animals for more than 30 years. In that spirit, NARN believes in the fundamental right of all individuals–humans and non humans alike–to be free from harassment, exploitation, and oppression. When we are threatened, harassed, or attacked as activists, it can become dangerous or impossible to do our work.

For these reasons, NARN stands with local activist Zarna Joshi. After a charged Seattle City Council meeting related to the Block the Bunker issue, Joshi was sexually harassed by a bunker supporter. Rather than let it slide, she spoke out. As a result, for the last few months Zarna has been harassed, threatened with rape and death, and otherwise attacked. While Zarna’s abuse happened at a Block the Bunker event, we know that this kind of thing could have–and certainly HAS–happened at animal rights demos and events.

Let us be clear: Women and other oppressed/marginalized people absolutely retain the right to defend themselves from misogyny and harassment. NARN supports Zarna Joshi and anyone else who makes the choice to resist oppression. We believe this resistance and mutual support is absolutely fundamental to our work as activists

Please take the time to watch Zarna’s illuminating response videos below. To read more about what patriarchy is and how it affects our work and lives, check out this article Why Patriarchy Persists (and How We Can Change It). Be sure to scroll all the way to the end for 10 ways you can take action.

Wolf Supporters to Rally in Olympia to Protest Killing of the Profanity Peak Pack

Media Advisory

August 30, 2016

Contacts:   

Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613, aweiss@biologicaldiversity.org

Brooks Fahy, Predator Defense, (541) 520-6003, brooks@predatordefense.org

Wolf Supporters to Rally in Olympia to Protest Killing of the Profanity Peak Pack

OLYMPIA, Wash.— Wildlife supporters, including several conservation groups, will rally Thursday at noon in Olympia to mourn the loss of Washington’s Profanity Peak pack and call on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to stop killing the public’s wolves on public lands to benefit the private ranching industry.

The agency has already killed six of the pack’s 11 members and aims to eradicate the entire pack, including five 4-month-old pups, for conflicts with livestock on federal public lands after a rancher moved his cattle directly onto the pack’s known den site.

What: Members of the public, including members of multiple conservation organizations representing thousands of Washington residents, will rally at Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife headquarters to mourn the loss of the Profanity Peak wolf family and to send a clear message that state residents want the agency to protect Washington’s endangered wolves, not kill them on public lands to benefit irresponsible ranchers.

When: Noon to 2 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 1.

Where: The sidewalk and parking lot in front of the main entrance to the headquarters building of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, at 1111 Washington Street, SE, Olympia, WA 98501.

Visuals: Attendees will hoist posters and banners with messages in support of ending wolf-killing for irresponsible ranchers; images of killed wolves will be displayed on the ground. Speakers will include Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity; Brooks Fahy, executive director for Predator Defense; Paul Ruprecht, staff attorney for Western Watersheds Project, and several citizen activists.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Northwest Animal Rights Network is a Pacific Northwest based animal rights organization which advocates for the rights inherent to all sentient beings to live a full life, to be free, and to not be used and exploited.

Predator Defense is a national nonprofit advocacy organization working to protect native predators and help people to coexist with wildlife. Our efforts take us into the field, onto America’s public lands, to Congress, and into courtrooms.

The mission of Western Watersheds Project is to protect and restore western watersheds and wildlife through education, public policy initiatives and legal advocacy.

WildLands Defense: Working to inspire and empower the preservation of wildlands and wildlife in the West.

Food Empowerment Day at Drizzle & Shine

Local vegan boutique Drizzle & Shine donates a portion of sales to a different non-profit each month. Food Empowerment Project is their non-profit for July. In addition to donating a percentage of the monthly sales total, Drizzle & Shine is hosting Food Empowerment Day at the store and will be offering 10% off all purchases with an additional 10% going to Food Empowerment Project.

Come visit and meet some of the local FEP volunteers and try some fair-trade, vegan chocolate!

Where: Drizzle & Shine, 102 15th Ave East (Capitol Hill), Seattle, WA 98112
Date: July 30th, 2016
Time: From noon to 4 pm.

Food Empowerment Day

Food Empowerment Project is an organization that is working to create a more just and sustainable world through the food choices we make. They are a fantastic organization that is creating a more compassionate society by spotlighting the abuse of animals on farms, the depletion of natural resources, unfair working conditions for produce workers, the unavailability of healthy foods in communities of color and low-income areas, and the importance of not purchasing chocolate that comes from the worst forms of child labor.

Check out their app, Chocolate List, in Google Play or in the Apple App Store. It’s a great resource to help you source companies that make vegan, slave-free chocolate.