Violence and animal rights–the middle way
January 3, 2013 11 Comments
There has long been a debate in the Animal Rights community over how best, tactically, to address the problem of systemic animal cruelty. The movement has long been home to pacifists on one end of the spectrum and the lunatic fringe on the other. The pacifists, of course, believe violence is never justifiable and the lunatic fringe (for lack of a better term) believe they should employ any means necessary including arson and even assassination.
Recently the North American Animal Liberation Front Press Office (NAALPO) has initiated a debate between representatives from both respective ideologies. James McWilliams represents the pacifist perspective and Camille Marino (a handsome woman) represents the lunatic fringe (a term she seems to embrace).
(Above) Camille Marino looking good
McWilliams’ argument is simple enough: activists should be creative and devise productive ways to be effective without resorting to the “violent” tactics used by Animal Liberationists in the past. McWilliams doesn’t really tell us how to do this, instead he writes:
To me, the most revolutionary thing we could do through peaceful activism would be to reinvent the meaning of violence. In other words, take it away from the state. Steal it. And then turn it into a productive tool of the people–people who want peace and justice in this world for animals, for people, for trees, for falafel shops, for whatever.
If you’re asking yourself what in the hell this means, you’re not alone. McWilliams doesn’t give us any examples of how to do this, just that it should be done…
McWilliams also defines violence for us. He specifically states that violence can be committed against both “…people or property.”
Basically, McWilliams’ argument can be summed up thusly: Violence against people or property, along with the violent rhetoric espoused by certain elements within the Animal Rights community are counter-productive – they make the whole movement look bad and they bring the might of the State apparatus down on a pretty benign and peaceful movement.
To counter, NAALPO calls on the Queen of Violent Rhetoric herself, Camille Marino.
Before we proceed let it be noted that (in my opinion) property-damage and arson are not forms of violence.
If we accept my definition of violence (for argument’s sake) there have been very few instances that Animal Liberationists have ever employed “violent” tactics. There’s David Barbarash and (the snitch) Darren Thurston. These two Canadian citizens were alleged to have mailed Unabomber-style letter-bombs to vivisectionists and other animal exploiters.Charges were dropped and nobody was ever prosecuted. Barbarash never hurt anybody and he doesn’t write blogs calling others “do-nothing-activists”.
There is also the notable case of long-time fugitive Daniel Andreas San Diego who earned himself a much-coveted spot on the FBI’s Ten-Most-Wanted list. The following excerpt from Wikipedia summarizes San Diego’s alleged crimes. It should be noted that there is much controversy over the specifics of the incident.
On August 28, 2003, two sophisticated homemade bombs exploded approximately one hour apart, the second intended to target responding police officers and firefighters, at the Chiron Corporation in Emeryville, California, causing minor property damage but no injuries. Another bomb, wrapped with nails to produce shrapnel, exploded on September 26, 2003 at the Shaklee Corporation in Pleasanton, California, again causing damage but no casualties. The FBI believes this second bomb was timed to target first responders. The bombs used ammonium nitrate explosives and mechanical timers.
The statement “[t]he FBI believes this second bomb was timed to target first responders” is intentionally misleading. The second bomb was detonated a month after the first one in a different city in a different building. First responders didn’t arrive at the scene until after the bomb had detonated – why would they? The bomb was obviously not intended to harm first responders (who are as likely to be volunteer fire-fighters or paramedics as they are to be law-enforcement officers).
There have also been less violent/more juvenile “attacks” on animal vivisectionists. Cars have been set fire to, yachts have been scuttled (sank), etc.,
It is true the vast majority of Animal Liberation bloggers have redoubled their violent rhetoric and lost sight of their goals. In fact, Animal Rescues are becoming more and more infrequent and the movement is losing momentum while calls come from all corners urging people to be more violent and more uncompromising.
There has been a lot of name-calling on the internet lately, perpetrated mostly by Marino and an Anonymous Animal Liberationist. They accuse fellow Animal Liberationists of being “do-nothing activists” – of talking the talk (as it were) without walking the walk. The internet (it’s true) is full of people who are more-than-willing to incite others to violence without putting their proverbial money where their mouths are.
But there’s a huge problem with this logic.
You can say the same thing about Camille Marino.
There is no documented evidence of Camille Marino doing anything aside from typing violent sounding slogans and posting them on her stupid web-page. Marino has never been accused of committing violent crimes herself, nor has she ever been connected to any Animal Liberations. There is no evidence of her ever opening a cage, of ever burning down a building, of ever breaking a storefront window, of ever killing or assaulting anyone… All she seems to do is publically condone violence committed by other activists and to condemn everybody else for “doing nothing”.
It may be that Camille Marino has a secret life where, at night, she puts on a black mask, grabs a Molotov cocktail, a sniper rifle and some bolt-cutters and puts in work. It’s at least possible… After all, the first rule of Fight Club is to never talk about Fight Club…
Unfortunately the same can be said about every other “do-nothing-activist”. To take credit for an unsolved crime is both verboten and stupid. How can we expect anybody else to do it if Marino won’t do it herself?
Fortunately between these two extremes, there’s a middle way.
What we have on either side of this argument are two do-nothing activists (yeah, I said it). The worst crime Camille Marino ever committed was emailing drunken death threats to University Professors.
Also, who the hell ever heard of James McWilliams? Chances are if he’d done anything worth knowing about we’d know about it.
We don’t have to choose between peaceful-fairytale-land and post-modern-ultra-violence. In fact, we shouldn’t. We should simply take a step back and look at what has been effective in the past.
What we can say for sure, at least about Coronado, is that he set fires when he didn’t need to. This made it easy for the media and the authorities to paint him as a fire-bug (which IS a mental illness, Walter Bond). We do know that in some instances a little bit of arson can be effective in doing economic damage to large companies – whether they’re fur farmers or tree farmers. Sometimes releasing mink is enough to shut down a fur operation completely, but sometimes to shut down wealthier farms, property damage is necessary. It is, however, unnecessary to destroy breeding records with fire because we can satisfy this need with a paper-shredder (or scissors) just as easily.
A paper-shredder would also undermine the threat of sentencing enhancements for arson or terrorism enhancements for timed incendiary devices. Coronado, in at least one instance, used acid to destroy breeding records. This easily circumvents the sticky legal situation an arson can put a person into.
Coronado, in a decade, did more damage to the Fur Industry (and more good for animals) in the United States than anybody ever has.
Peter Young, in terms of doing damage to the fur industry, was at least as effective as Coronado. Young and his accomplice (some nameless snitch) released thousands of mink all across the mid-west and never employed arson as a tactic. The government could not paint Young as a destructive pyromaniac and Young was only sentenced to two years when he was finally prosecuted.
So with that said: why is Camille Marino such a marginalized voice in the Animal Rights community? Why are her tactics so ineffective?
Marino is simply expanding on a method used to great effect by a group called Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty (SHAC).
Where SHAC is trying to undermine the foundation on which vivisection is built, Marino is simply trying to blow up the whole damned building.
Marino’s enemy is much more amorphous than was SHAC’s. Marino targets people who (whether it’s true or not) believe they are pursuing a noble calling. They could even be, arguably, saving lives.
HLS has no pursuit nobler than making a quick buck off a perceived necessity. Vivisectionists in the medical field feel (with not much but some) justification that they are providing an indispensible service to humanity.
SHAC believed that by taking out a fundamentally important component of the superstructure the rest would inevitably fall. They utilized their resources effectively and worked with what they had. They identified a weak link in a strong chain (a link they could shatter with their limited resources) and attacked it. They chose a small but important target and they put as much pressure on it (enough pressure, it turns out) as they could.
Marino is calling for an all-out guerrilla war on the Vivisection “industry”. What she doesn’t understand about guerrilla war (as Che was always so eager to point out) is that you need to win the hearts and minds of the community to truly win.
What would happen if Marino were to form a guerrilla army? Could it be any more effective than the Weather Underground? Could it be any more effective than the Red Army Faction? Neither of those organizations did much good and it’s hard to believe Marino (who looks like she’s done a few too many Quaaludes) could possibly do any better.
It’s true that, as Steve Best said, some Vietnamese peasants were able to defeat the mightiest military super-power in the history of the world with little more than some crappy Russian guns by employing Guerrilla tactics in a war of attrition.
It is also true that the Confederacy lost the Civil War and they were much better military strategists than Steve Best and Camille Marino COMBINED. It is also true that wars of attrition are NEVER successful when they’re being fought by citizens in the “First World” against their own country. Never has a social justice movement in the West come even close to revolution by means of guerrilla war. Never…
Violence might be necessary someday. It might be necessary now. But it’s stupid to fetishize violence. It’s also unhealthy to dwell on it. It might even be characteristic of mental illness. It is counter-productive at times and, frankly, Camille Marino and the Vegan fringe just don’t have the blood-lust or the foresight to pull it off.
The fur industry in this country is weak. It would be much easier to shut down than the cattle industry. Huntington Life Sciences is weak. Vivisection won’t be stopped by targeting individual vivisectionists. Maybe justice would be served by doing so but, in the end, how much closer would it really put us to our goal?
What it boils down to is a war of semantics.
When the Berrigan brothers (both avowed pacifists) set fire to draft records in Catonsville, Maryland they did not commit an act of violence. When Rod Coronado (decidedly not a pacifist) destroyed Mink breeding records with acid he did not commit an act of violence. What then, Mr. McWilliams, makes Philip and Daniel Berrigan any less violent than Rod Coronado?
And what if we reversed this question and put it to Camille Marino?
This argument is framed as a dispute over effective tactics, but it has nothing to do with tactics. What it boils down to is an argument over preconceived ideas about what is moral and what is immoral. Neither address the most important question, which is “what do we do next?”