Empathy, Education, and Violence: A Time for Everything
Love does not always conquer hate, reason does not solely conquer ignorance, and nonviolent protest does not always conquer institutionalized violence.
“You may torture my body, break my bones and even kill me. And then you can have my dead body. But not my obedience.”
Essay by Gary Yourofsky
NOTE: The following piece was first written in 1997. It was updated in 2005, 2008 and 2013. By the way, for all the narcissistic, disingenuous pacifists out there who are more in love with their image than actual activism, why do you refuse to condemn anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela for this statement to the Court during his 1963 trial: “I do not deny that I planned sabotage. I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness, nor because I have any love for violence. I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation. Without violence there would be no way open to the African people to succeed in their struggle.” And what about this comment when he was released from prison after 27 years on February 11, 1990: “Our resort to the armed struggle in 1960 with the formation of the military wing of the ANC (Umkhonto we Sizwe) was a purely defensive action against the violence of apartheid. The factors which necessitated the armed struggle still exist today. We have no option but to continue. We express the hope that a climate conducive to a negotiated settlement would be reached soon, so that there may no longer be the need for the armed struggle.” Read the two essays below along with More Problems with Pacifism in order to be edified about proper tactical positions. You can also watch me explain the insanity of pure pacifism during the 2012 interview shown below, at right.
For the first time in history, animal rights activists are facing an era of unprecedented repression by the US and UK governments. With active ALF liberators hard to find, those who publicly support the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), along with former ALF activists, have been receiving the brunt of the discriminatory power that these governments routinely wield against social justice activists.
Terrorists or Freedom Fighters, a collection of essays published in 2004, ignited debate about the nonviolent liberation and arson tactics of the ALF, and the violent threats of injury or death aimed at those who directly abuse animals put forth by The Animal Rights Militia (ARM), Revolutionary Cells, Justice Department, me, Camille Marino, Dr. Jerry Vlasak, and a handful of other activists worldwide. (Vlasak ended up justifying the use of tactical violence to Ed Bradley during a “60 Minutes” interview in November ’05.)
Most people are unaware of this, but the great pacifist Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, “I am only effective as long as there is a shadow on White America of a black man standing behind me with a Molotov cocktail.” King’s position on arson ― not just the fire of the incendiary Molotov cocktail ― might surprise most people as well. He believed arson is a nonviolent act because buildings ― made of brick, wood, metal or some other insentient material ― are incapable of feeling pain.
When it came to activists engaging in violence or people doing nothing at all, King and the other great pacifist Mohandas Gandhi both chose violence. Please do not misinterpret what they meant. King and Gandhi were the utmost pacifists and firmly believed in nonviolent activism. However, both iterated time and again that something (violence) would be better than nothing (apathy).
I feel the same way. Without question, I prefer nonviolent activism like classroom presentations, tabling events, leafleting, sign-carrying protests, op-ed pieces, undercover investigations and civil disobedience. It takes a wider array of tactics, however, to achieve substantive change. Given the choice of apathy or someone liberating mink, burning down a research torture-laboratory, or killing a vivisectionist or other DIRECT murderer of animals, I will choose the aforesaid actions over apathy any day of the week.
Radical tactics have been righteously implemented throughout history to produce immediate results. The Allied Forces violently broke down the gates of Hitler’s death camps, killing Nazis in the process, and forever destroying the gas chambers of Buchenwald and Auschwitz. When the North took up arms and violently killed thousands of Southern racists, those justifiable homicides committed on behalf of black slaves were unchallengeable. Gandhi achieved Indian independence even though many Indians killed British soldiers, rioted in the streets and routinely set fires. The Black Panthers’ tactics of intimidation and Malcolm X’s “by any means necessary” philosophy did not hinder the civil rights movement nor the exaltation of Dr. King. In fact, when asked to stop X’s radicalism, King replied, “Don’t ask me to stop Malcolm X. Malcolm X will stop when racism stops!”
As one of the nation’s most outspoken animal rights activists, I take the same approach. When a meat-eater or news reporter whines, “The ALF breaks laws and burns buildings and the ARM supports violence,” I simply reply, “The ALF and ARM will stop when the abuse and murder of animals stops!”
Those who actively seek to end injustices should always be praised, not vilified. Gandhi once said, “There have been murderers and tyrants, and at times they have seemed invincible. But in the end they always fall. Always!” Arsons, liberations, or acts of intimidation and justifiable homicide cannot impede the animal rights movement because nothing can hinder the truthful, benevolent push to liberate animals from their human captors.
When the ALF liberates animals and makes an immediate difference in their lives, I am not sure how any rational individual does not side with the ALF. Should we instead wait for politicians and society to gradually find time to fit animals into their greedy, selfish agendas? In the same way Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad liberated blacks by stealing the “property” of whites, the ALF liberates animals by stealing the “property” of furriers and vivisectionists.
Furthermore, during the hundreds of ALF arsons over the last 30 years, no human has ever been injured or killed. This spotless record of economic sabotage is not accidental either. Members of the ALF adhere to a strict code of nonviolence, and have risked their freedom ― harming no one in the process ― for the animals who have no freedom.
Tens of thousands of foxes and mink have been given the chance to avoid anal electrocution and neck-breaking by the reprobates who provide skin to the fur industry, while dogs and mice have been liberated from sick, vicious experimenters and placed in loving homes.
However, since violence is an essential part of activism, even if an abuser of animals perished during a fire or other form of direct action, I would unequivocally support that, too. Empathy is not for those who enslave and kill animals, the guilty victimizers. Empathy is for innocent victims, the animals. Animal rights is not about being nonviolent to humans anyway, even though nearly every activist embraces a nonviolence-to-humans ethic. Animal rights is about freeing animals from violent, avaricious, heartless thugs who profit from animal misery and murder.
It is important to remember that the animal rights movement has been completely nonviolent since its inception yet people still view us with derision. Luminaries, oracles and contemporaries like Pythagoras, Gandhi, Schweitzer, Tolstoy, Plutarch, da Vinci, Dick Gregory, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez have espoused the compassionate message of animal rights. Animals still remain enslaved nations killed by the billion. If peacefully protesting and educating the masses were the sole factors for compassionate change, animals would have been freed by now. Sadly, love does not always conquer hate. Reason does not solely conquer ignorance, or flat-out stupidity. Nonviolent protest does not always conquer institutionalized violence.
Sometimes I think the only effective method of destroying speciesism would be for each uncaring human to be forced to live the life of a cow on a feedlot, or a monkey in a laboratory, or an elephant in the circus, or a bull in a rodeo, or a mink on a fur farm. Then people would be awakened from their soporific states and finally understand the horrors that are inflicted on the animal kingdom by the vilest species to ever roam this planet: the human animal!
Deep down, I truly hope that oppression, torture and murder return to each uncaring human tenfold! I hope that sons acciden- tally shoot their fathers on hunting excursions [see the animated cartoon by Steve Cutts at left], while carnivores suffer heart attacks that kill them slowly. Every woman ensconced in fur should endure a rape so vicious that it scars them forever. While every man entrenched in fur should suffer an anal raping so horrific that they become disemboweled. Every rodeo cowboy and matador should be gored to death, while circus abusers are trampled by elephants and mauled by tigers. And, lastly, may irony shine its esoteric head in the form of animal researchers catching debilitating diseases and painfully withering away because research dollars that could have been used to treat them was wasted on the barbaric, unscientific practice of vivisection.
Those who truly care about animal liberation must view the animals no differently than any human they love. We should try and reason with those who enslave and kill animals. But that process alone cannot produce freedom. The time has come to forcibly free animals from their captors, even if that means injuring or killing someone in the process. It is not violent to physically stop someone from killing someone else. Using force to stop abuse or murder is a noble, justifiable act of vicarious self-defense [see the interview above].
Liberations, arsons or violence only evoke negative reactions because very few people ― activists included ― truly view cows, pigs, chickens, rabbits, mice and deer as equals. Until everyone accepts that animals deserve freedom and equality, the killing of animals will not cease, and people will continue to condemn activists like me, instead of abusers.
Once animals are viewed equally, it becomes appropriate to do whatever it takes to gain their freedom and stop their torture. Society disagrees with liberations, arsons or violence on behalf of animals because no one thinks animals are worthy of such generosity. I’ve often said that if I liberated children from a pornography ring in 1997, I would have been carried down the streets of Detroit as thousands cheered in support. Instead, I liberated 1,542 mink from an animal concentration fur camp, spent 77 days in maximum security and was branded a terrorist.
If mentally retarded children were in tiny cages at the National Institutes of Health waiting to be mutilated, blinded, burnt and killed by a vivisectionist, the tactics of the ALF and ARM would be unassailable. If black people were being hung upside down at a slaughterhouse as someone sliced their throats and dismembered their bodies, society would embrace the tactics of the ALF and the Revolutionary Cells. If our husbands, wives or best friends were traipsing through the woods as someone fired an arrow or a bullet destined for their chest, then we would all give thanks to the compassionate revolutionaries who call themselves ALF and Justice Department activists. If you honestly placed yourself in any animals’ position, anything would be acceptable to prevent your torture, enslavement and eventual murder.
This piece is not a call to abandon nonviolent activism and solely take up arms. The violent actions of past social justice movements were carried out by only a few, just like the violent actions of the animal rights movement that will one day be carried out by only a few.
Just to make everyone aware of my activism, in the late ’90s and early ’00s, I was arrested 13 times for civil disobedience and direct action, including the ALF liberation of 1,542 mink from the Eberts Fur Farm in Blenheim, Ontario. As of January 1, 2015, I’ve given 2,660 lectures to more than 60,000 animal exploiters at 186 schools in 30 states and several Israeli cities/schools because I believe veganism and education are the most effective forms of activism. I have yet to engage in violence but believe violence has its place alongside peaceful education and nonviolent protest. It is the amalgam of these methods that will result in the eventual freedom of animals.
What You Give Is What You Should Get
By Gary Yourofsky
The following editorial appeared in The Shield—the U. of Southern Indiana school paper—on Thursday, January 24, 2008.
Ever since Pythagoras promulgated peace to our planetary companions some 2,600 years ago, the animal rights community has utilized pacifism in its attempts to facilitate substantive change. As a proponent of education, my activism is no different. Each year I give around 200 lectures on ethical veganism to around 7,000 students explaining that victims of discrimination, slavery and murder come in all shapes and sizes. Many students thank me for removing their blinders and subsequently eliminate meat, cheese, milk and eggs from their diets. After all, consuming the cut-up corpses of murdered animals—and the things that ooze out of their bodies—is hardly an enlightened way of living.
However, author Sam Harris explained a major flaw with pacifism activism: “When your enemy has no scruples, your own scruples become another weapon in his hand.”
So, while my lifestyle and lectures are based on compassion, those who refuse to stop harming animals force me to support ‘eye for an eye’ and ‘by any means necessary’ philosophies.
In a world full of lying politicians and deceitful public relations, I hope you’ll appreciate my willingness to unapologetically say what I’m about to say.
Empathy should only be reserved for innocent beings—human or nonhuman. Institutionalized violence doesn’t simply vanish with a peaceful protest, a dose of logic and a whole lotta love. If people continually deny animals their inherent right to be free, radical tactics are necessary and justified. Physically preventing an abuser from committing abuse and killing a murderer to stop the murder are noble, vicarious acts of self-defense.
This is why furriers—who anally electrocute foxes or break the necks of mink—deserve the same treatment in return. The same goes for anybody who wears fur. If you pay someone to commit acts of cruelty, then you are complicit and, therefore, just as guilty.
Rapists, murderers and child molesters should be vivisected, executed and dissected, allowing researchers the opportunity to gather useful information that would actually benefit human health for a change. I see nothing wrong with capital punishment [see the interview above] because if you willfully destroy someone else’s life, then you automatically relinquish yours.
I believe in God but am vehemently opposed to organized religion and its attempts to sanctify cruelty in His name. Harming or killing animals is Satan’s milieu. Christians, Jews and Muslims need to represent their faiths through peaceful compassionate living, not the barbaric tradition of meat-eating or the inane rituals of singing songs to the sky, growing long beards, covering the head in cloth or dipping each other in water.
The next two paragraphs—originally penned in the “Empathy, Education and Violence” piece—are the reason why the USI administration canceled my lecture last year, and why journalism Professor Chad Tew and his students fought to change school policy and bring me back. Tew knew I had a First Amendment right to speak on campus.
“Sometimes I think the only effective method of destroying speciesism would be for each uncaring human to be forced to live the life of a cow on a feedlot, or a monkey in a laboratory, or an elephant in the circus, or a bull in a rodeo, or a mink on a fur farm. Then people would be awakened from their soporific states and finally understand the horrors that are inflicted on the animal kingdom by the vilest species to ever roam this planet: the human animal!
Deep down, I truly hope that oppression, torture and murder return to each uncaring human tenfold! I hope that sons accidentally shoot their fathers on hunting excursions, while carnivores suffer heart attacks that kill them slowly. Every woman ensconced in fur should endure a rape so vicious that it scars them forever. While every man entrenched in fur should suffer an anal raping so horrific that they become disemboweled. Every rodeo cowboy and matador should be gored to death, while circus abusers are trampled by elephants and mauled by tigers. And, lastly, may irony shine its esoteric head in the form of animal researchers catching debilitating diseases and painfully withering away because research dollars that could have been used to treat them was wasted on the barbaric, unscientific practice of vivisection.”