Category Archives: books

Good Vegan Reads: Terrorists or Freedom Fighters?

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?

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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.

What are your opinions on the role of direct action in the animal rights movement?

Good Vegan Reads

Welcome to the second installment of Good Vegan Reads. Given all the recent media surrounding ag-gag bills, I thought it would be appropriate to review Will Potter’s book, Green is the New Red.

Green is the New Red: An Insider’s Account of a Social Movement Under Siege by Will Potter

In this book, Potter provides an account of how government/corporations have used the climate of fear surrounding the events of 9/11 to advance their own political and corporate agendas. Their agendas have targeted the civil rights of activists involved in the animal rights and environmental movement, namely by labeling such activists as “eco-terrorists”. This places peaceful activists in the same category as violent terrorists, thereby subjecting activists to unfairly harsh punishments. Potter describes the underhanded tactics of the government to target and prosecute activists through accounts from Daniel McGowan (*see footnote) and individual members of SHAC (Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty) as well as his own experiences with the FBI.

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Green is the New Red describes how those in government who have a vested interest in corporations that profit from animal abuse and environmental rape, have sought to increase the prosecution of activists for nearly any act, even free speech, that could potentially decrease profits. This book is an essential and compelling read on the threatening governmental role in silencing activists in the post 9/11 world.

This subject is timely given the recent introduction of ag-gag bills in at least 10 states this year, which made front page of the New York Times this past weekend. Ag-gag bills essentially prosecute activists for exposing animal cruelty and “food” safety violations on farms. Again, this is an attack on freedom of speech.

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Recently, an episode of Democracy Now  focused entirely on ag-gag bills and featured a debate between Will Potter and Emily Meredith of the Animal Agriculture Alliance. Will Potter basically kills this debate!! I’m impressed with his calm demeanor throughout the debate because Meredith makes some outrageous claims. CLICK HERE to be blown away by Will Potter’s awesomeness!

*Footnote: There is a great documentary on Daniel McGowan’s story, If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front available on netflix right now.

Good vegan reads part I

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Tell someone you’re vegan for health reasons, and that usually requires no further explanation. But I’m not vegan for health reasons. I’m vegan for ethical reasons. Back when veganism was a relatively new thing and people found out I was an ethical vegan, instead of the “Yo, that’s cool! Mad respect for dat!” response that I felt I should have gotten, I was hit with:

“What’s wrong with eggs and milk? The chickens and cows don’t die.”

“If things weren’t tested on animals, you would be dead.”

“You know you can’t drive on roads because there are animal products in asphalt.”

“So you care more about animals than people? You know there are people that need help too, like the poor, the oppressed,etc. ”

“But meat tastes soooo good. I love bacon.”

I quickly discovered that I didn’t have logical arguments and sound information to back up my veganism other than I cared for animals, which to most people just sounds like “bunnies are cute”. I needed to read. These are some of my favorite books (new and old) related to animal rights/veganism.

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Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or the Dog?  by Gary Francione

This is THE definitive read on the theory of animal rights for me. Francione, a Distinguished Professor of Law and Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Scholar of Law and Philosophy at Rutgers University School of Law-Newark, intelligently provides a clear and logical argument as to why non-human sentient beings should be included in our moral community. This book is worth it for the “Twenty Questions and Answers” appendix alone which basically addresses common issues like the use of animal tested prescription medications and the “tradition” of eating meat. From the forward by Alan Watson, “Although he [Francione] tackles some of the more difficult philosophical problems that inform animal ethics, his presentation is extraordinarily clear and accessible to any reader interested in the topic”. My copy is all written in and I reference this book a lot.

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MAD COWBOY:  Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Won’t Eat Meat  by Howard F. Lyman

I have a signed copy of this book(!) because I had the honor of seeing Howard Lyman speak at the University of Colorado in Boulder back in the early 2000’s. Lyman is the ex-Montana rancher that went on The Oprah Show and influenced her to stop eating beef which caused the livestock industry to get their panties in a bunch and sue Oprah back in 1998.  The case got dismissed. This book chronicles Lyman’s journey from hard-core animal eater and rancher to hard-core vegan. It’s autobiographical while full of factual insider information about the beef industry. The night I got this book was the first time I had vegan nachos and they were really good.

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MAKING A KILLING: The Political Economy of Animal Rights  by Bob Torres.

Bob Torres, along with his wife Jenna Torres used to be big in the vegan community hosting a podcast and publishing another book I like (which I gave to someone), Vegan Freak: Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World.  They seem to have since fallen off the face of the earth, but Bob Torres’ book is among one of my favorites. Torres provides parallelisms between other forms of oppression in our society and animal exploitation. He explains in a logical manner how animal exploitation is perpetuated in our society because of decades and decades of socialization in a hierarchical capitalist world.

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Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, And Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry by Gail A. Eisnitz.

This one was one I wished I owned, but I checked it out from the library. Shocking, disturbing and difficult to read at times, this really made me realize how horrific the meat industry is for animals and humans alike.  This book chronicles Eisnitz’s altruistic efforts to expose the inhumane treatment in slaughterhouses across the country. Her book covers 3 main aspects of slaughterhouses: (1) the inhumane treatment of animals (2) the terrible working conditions for slaughterhouse workers and (3) the corrupt role of the USDA and how this affects meat as food.

Heavy reading? An astounding YES. But I’d rather know than not know.

Stay tuned for Part II.