What is direct action in terms of the animal rights movement? As opposed to passing out leaflets, blogging and other forms of vegan education, those involved in direct action will commit acts of civil disobedience and sabotage. These acts could include destroying fur traps, breaking and entering labs or farms to rescue animals, or something as simple as defacing a billboard that is advertising meat. A recent example of direct action was the release of customer information from Hudson Valley Foie Gras.
But does direct action hurt or help the movement? Do those that carry out direct action only reverse the hard work of vegan educators by making all vegans out to be militant extremists? Or is there a place for both vegan education and direct action in the movement? How is direct action related to other social movements in history?
TERRORISTS or FREEDOM FIGHTERS? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals foreward by Ward Churchill, edited by Steven Best, PhD and Anthony J. Nocella II.
This book explores all of the above questions and more through an anthology of essays written by various people including Gary Yourofsky, Karen Davis, Kevin Jonas, Paul Watson, and Rod Coronado. Essays cover the history, motivation, ideology and perceptions surrounding direct action, analyses of all strategies used in the movement and interpretations of the relationship, or lack thereof, between “terrorism” and direct action.
I highly recommend this powerful and thought-provoking book. I gained a greater understanding about a part of a movement that I only knew superficially. Reading this confirmed my stance that direct action does have a place in the animal rights movement. However, just like any form of activism, some instances of direct action are more meaningful than others. In the case of the Hudson Valley Foie Gras incident, a chef decided to stop selling foie gras because things were “getting out of hand”. The “things” he refers to is the harassing anonymous phone calls. So, on one hand we’ve got one less buyer of foie gras, but on the other hand he doesn’t really get why the harassers are so upset about the foie gras. He just thinks they care more about animals than people.
But when I stop and think about the millions and millions of animals suffering in labs and farms every single second of every single day and then I think about the brave people who risk their freedom to go in and rescue them, I do get a little teary eyed. To me, they are freedom fighters.