The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) carries out direct action against animal abuse in the form of rescuing animals and causing financial loss to animal exploiters, usually through the damage and destruction of property.
The ALF’s short-term aim is to save as many animals as possible and directly disrupt the practice of animal abuse. Their long term aim is to end all animal suffering by forcing animal abuse companies out of business.
It is a nonviolent campaign, activists taking all precautions not to harm any animal (human or otherwise). Les animaux du zoo de beauval.
Because ALF actions may be against the law, activists work anonymously, either in small groups or individually, and do not have any centralized organization or coordination.
The Animal Liberation Front consists of small autonomous groups of people all over the world who carry out direct action according to the ALF guidelines. Any group of people who are vegetarians or vegans and who carry out actions according to ALF guidelines have the right to regard themselves as part of the ALF.
The ALF guidelines are:
The ALF Mission Statement: To effectively allocate resources (time and money) to end the “property” status of nonhuman animals.
The Objective of the Mission: To abolish institutionalized animal exploitation because it assumes that animals are property.
Examples of ineffectively allocating resources – usually the result of emotions overcoming logic:
I spent two weeks of vacation time and $1000 protesting and getting support to save a whale trapped in a bay, ignoring the fact that a week spent at the animal shelter (where I volunteer) likely would have saved 10 lives (finding homes, finding financial donors to the shelter, etc).
My actions were possibly more reprehensible than a person who eats beef while believing that cows live a happy life before they die and that eating beef gives life to a cow who otherwise would have never existed.
I knew what I was doing. Knowledge should be more than power–it should be obligation.
Ironically, I sometimes find it frustrating that the public is not aware of the animal abuse that goes on behind closed doors. Yet, I sometimes spend time saving one animal at the expense of many due to my laser focus on events in front of me. Not all actions are equal. I am frequently faced with the choice of “Do I save animal A or animal B?” Here are some suggested things to consider when evaluating a potential AR activity (beware of “paralysis of analysis”):
Cost. Time, money, and emotional energy spent (one of my mistakes: rescuing an animal that was near-death and spending large amounts of money on medical bills, then running out of money for an operation that would have saved an otherwise healthy animal).
Danger to other sentient beings. Take into account humans as well as rodents you can’t see. Realize that “change” may upset a miniature ecosystem on which some beings may rely. Fires or bombs can kill mice and birds you didn’t see.
Improvement in the quality of life of the “to-be saved” animals (there should be a good home or safe environment for them).
Public opinion. (one of my mistakes: rescuing an animal and then, in frustration, spray-painting an obscenity on the wall). The obscenity made the news (nowadays there is no news without pictures) and the slant of the news-story was anti-AR. Poor result: More folks think AR activists are out of control.
Effect on the business losing the animal. (one of my mistakes: liberating an animal from an experiment that was subsequently replaced with a “brand new” test subject. Although the liberation forced the company to buy a new security system, the company did not reduce the amount of testing. The only effect of causing economic damage was to stockholders – NOT a good reason).
Internet opinion polls—Expense: 5 minutes to read and vote. Gain: Our follow-up on the opinion polls that we thought were meaningful revealed the websites considered them “for fun” to “attract web traffic” and “not deemed scientific”. No course of action was changed. Your time is better spent with e-mail campaigns (below).
Letter writing / e-mail campaigns—Expense: 10 minutes to cut, paste, hopefully modify (if you have time), print, and mail. Gain: Our follow-up shows that many industry leaders, judges, and politicians count each letter, frequently respond to the individual who sent the letter, and many of them change their course of action. Many admit to being unaware of the AR Activists’ perspective. Time is well spent if the issue is important to you.
Answering questions from people who are seeking AR information. This is tricky. My first answer should be brief to evaluate the intent of the person and not to to overwhelm them. I have inadvertently overwhelmed people in my enthusiasm to share my knowledge. After I have answered their first question, what next? Now I judge whether they want info, or they want to argue (see 4, below). If they want to argue, I nod politely and save my breath for cooling my soup. And few people can make a lot of changes to their lives. When I have seen long-term change in folks, here is how the discussions started:
a. Vegetarian/Vegan health—many people have a positive reaction to the facts in books like “Diet for a New America.”
b. Hunting/Fishing—if you tell someone about the evils of factory farming and they still eat meat, logically it is hypocritical to be concerned about someone who hunts. At least hunters aren’t having someone else do their killing. Wait for them to ask.
c. Entertainment—Zoos, circuses, rodeos, etc. Save this for when you learn they are attending such an event.
d. Factory farming—share some info about beef, pork, and chicken. It might help them stick to their new veggie diet.
e. Animal testing—it is surprising difficult to get folks to change their shopping habits, which include grabbing the same old products without examining the box. It sometimes helps to tell people they can save money and help animals by buying “generic” brands. These are usually copies of the same product the major companies make.
Debating with opponents of AR—This will frequently begin with someone asking for information (see 3, above). You might as well spend your time talking to yourself. In 15 years the only folks who approached me with an attitude and then actually listened and discussed issues, were folks who calmed down immediately when presented with a cool response. If they remain argumentative and don’t care about your first several answers, they won’t change. Even if one did, it is not a statistically reasonable way to allocate your time. Your knowledge of AR is a valuable resource. Don’t waste it.
Demonstrations—In this age of the media sound byte, demonstrations that get news coverage further the awareness of the masses, who, for the most part, are not evil—just uninformed.
Donations to AR organizations—There is clout in numbers. Support them, but be aware of organizations that consider animal welfare to mean protecting animals for hunters. Stay with the big orgs unless you’ve done your homework.
Simplest Act – The Simplest ALF Action. How it might all begin…
Activists Role-- The Role of Radical Animal Activists as Information Providers to Consumers – Joshua Frank
Terrorism – Defining Terrorism by Steven Best and Anthony J. Nocella, II
Terrorism Rhetoric – The Rhetoric of ‘Terrorism’ and Its Consequences
ALF UK – Hunt Sabs – a dozen pages . Animal Rights Militia Fact Sheet. Britain, where it all began.
SHAC – Information about SHAC “Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty”
Lab Liberation – news on half a dozen lab liberations
Imposs Witness – (Im)possible Witness: Viewing PETA’s “Holocaust on Your Plate” Nathan Snaza. Plus a response from PETA.
Human-Animal – Two Movements and Human-Animal Continuity: Positions, Assumptions, Contradictions. By Barbara Noske
ALF USA – news of about a dozen l iberations in the USA
Israel – AR and ALF Actions
ALF Canada – Monumental Animal Liberation Front Actions - Canada. Mink Liberation.
AR China – Animal rights, still new in China, is drawing more debate
Germany – Index. ARAs, battery hen being rescued.
French Web – French AR Website. Greystoke – Greystoke operation on April 1, 1985. Baboon rescue.
Tibet Vegets – Oct. 2005. Vegetarian Movement in Pune
Netherlands – Actions
Peruvian Squirrels – Rescuing Peruvian Squirrels
Brazil – Protests, Rescues
Actions - Turkey
Sweden – Sept 2005 Ferret liberation. July 2005 Rabbit liberation
Indonesia – Sept 2005. Protesters call for halt to wild animal trade.
South Africa – Protecting the South African Seals
Norway Mink Lib – Sept 19, 2005. Hundreds of mink pose threat
Aus & NZ – ALF Actions in Australia and New Zealand
Russian ALF – Lab raids at Moscow University, and more
Spanish ALF – including awesome 30,000 mink liberation
Croatia – Animal Rights activists. 2005 beagle liberation.
Finnish Fox Girls – Silly little girls or dangerous terrorists? by Pihla Tiihonen. June 2005
Italy – ‘Terrorists’ steal 128 beagles
Irish fur farm raid .pdf file
Netherlands: Respect Voordieren & Animal Freedom
Norway: Dyrenes Frigjorings Front
New Zealand: Auckland Animal Action & Animal-Liberation
Spain: Aktion Vegana & Frente de Liberacion Animal & Infopacma_English
Poland: Alf_Poland & Animal-Liberation
Italy: Free Forum Zone Chiuderemorini
Australia: Animal-Lib & ALV & Animal Liberation & Animal Lib QLD & AL-ACT
Brazil: Midiaindependente (Portuguese)
Czech Republic: Prohlaseni_Biotest
Belgium: APA.online & GAIA
Israel: Free.org & Shevi.org & One Struggle
Turkey: Haykod & Kurkehayir (no english link) & Seals
Ireland: Greyhound Action & Gateway to Hell & KFC Cruelty & Clare Animal Welfare & Limerick Animal Welfare
Countless publications on economic sabotage are in print. A more known one would be George Hayduke’s Get Even: The Complete Book of Dirty Tricks. Copies of the ALF primer can be obtained from the North American Animal Liberation Front Support Group. Also helpful is a series of essays written 2,300 years ago by Sun Tzu: The Art Of War
Before you even consider undertaking any action read this entire guide, then read it again. Know every detail inside and out, particularly those parts regarding preparation and security. We highly recommend you read Ecodefense, by David Foreman, as well. Although oriented more towards environmental action, it is incredibly detailed and informative. If what is presented here is the kindergarten class on direct action, Ecodefense is the college course.
This guide is dedicated to the brave men and women of the Animal Liberation Front. In this age of insanity you may be branded a terrorist, but you will one day be remembered as a selfless warrior who dared to fight for what is right.
This guide is anti-copyrighted. Any reproduction, in part or in full, without the expressed, written consent of the authors would be greatly appreciated.
This guide is for your entertainment, information, and general interest only. It is not meant to encourage the activities described within. We’re just writing this for the heck of it. We would never dream of encouraging someone to use the proven-effective methods presented within to free innocent beings from the depths of hell, or to destroy the tools used to torture, mutilate, and murder them. We’d much prefer you sit at home watching TV and remain apathetic.
The History of the ALF
The Animal Liberation Front has its roots in 1960s England. At this time a small group of people began sabotaging hunts there. This group, the Hunt Saboteurs Association, would lay false scents, blow hunting horns to send hounds off in the wrong direction, and chase animals to safety. In 1972, after effectively ending a number of traditional hunting events across England, members of the Hunt Saboteurs decided more militant action was needed, and thus began the Band of Mercy. They moved on to destroying guns and sabotaging hunters vehicles by breaking windows and slashing tires. They also began fighting other forms of animal abuse, burning seal hunting boats as well as pharmaceutical laboratories. After the jailing of two Band of Mercy members in 1975, word spread, support grew, and the Animal Liberation Front was begun in 1976.
Who are the ALF?
Members of the Animal Liberation Front act directly to stop animal suffering, at the risk of losing their own freedom. Direct action refers to illegal actions performed to bring about animal liberation. These are usually one of two things: rescuing animals from laboratories or other places of abuse, or inflicting economic damage on animal abusers. Due to the illegal nature of ALF activities, activists work anonymously, and there is no formal organization to the ALF. There is no office, no leaders, no newsletter, and no official membership. Anyone who carries out direct action according to ALF guidelines is a member of the ALF.
Animal Liberation Front Guidelines
1. To liberate animals from places of abuse, i.e. fur farms, laboratories, factory farms, etc. and place them in good homes where they may live out their natural lives free from suffering.
2. To inflict economic damage to those who profit from the misery and exploitation of animals.
3. To reveal the horror and atrocities committed against animals behind locked doors by performing nonviolent direct actions and liberations.
4. To take all necessary precautions against hurting any animal, human and non-human.
In the third section it is important to note the ALF does not, in any way, condone violence against any animal, human or non-human. Any action involving violence is by its definition not an ALF action, and any person involved is not an ALF member.
The fourth section must be strictly adhered to. In over 20 years, and thousands of actions, nobody has ever been injured or killed in an ALF action.
This includes innocent bystanders:
One View of the ALF
One ALF member put it this way, “I see participating in the ALFs raids not as a momentary forfeiture of the highest human values - goodness, generosity and the like - but rather as an embodiment of them… We feel a sense of urgency for the animals whose pain and imminent death is absolutely real to them today.”
Does Direct Action Work?
Susan Paris, president of vivisection front group Americans For Medical Progress (AMP), admits the Animal Liberation Front has had a large impact on vivisectionists. She writes, “Because of terrorist acts by animal activists like Coronado, crucial research projects have been delayed or scrapped. More and more of the scarce dollars available to research are spent on heightened security and higher insurance rates. Promising young scientists are rejecting careers in research. Top-notch researchers are getting out of the field.” The August 1993 Report to Congress on Animal Enterprise Terrorism describes the ALFs effectiveness as, “Where the direct, collateral, and indirect effects of incidents such as this are factored together, ALFs professed tactic of economic sabotage can be considered successful, and its objectives, at least towards the victimized facility, fulfilled.” If we look past the “terrorist” rhetoric, we can see that its a fact - direct action works. If you don’t take their word for it, ask any animal rescued by the ALF and I’m sure they would agree that direct action works.
Are You Ready for the ALF?
Direct action is nothing to take lightly. The moment you carry out your first action you are at risk of being arrested. Direct action is very demanding, physically and mentally. Are you in top physical shape? If you were being chased by a police officer, could you outrun him? Could you scale a barbed wire fence? Living under the constant stress of possible arrest can take its toll mentally as well. ALF activists should also remain drug and alcohol free, as these things decay physical and mental ability, give the police another reason to investigate you, and waste money better spent on supplies. Veganism is obviously encouraged, as it is both morally responsible, and will better your physical condition. Some ALF members will also limit their association with mainstream animal rights groups, as to remain less visible to police investigations.
Finding People to Work With
One of the most important steps towards getting involved in direct action is finding people to work with. In any ALF action you are putting your freedom on the line, so you must be positive you can completely trust the people you are working with. It is essential to find people who will not sell out you or the movement should an arrest occur. You should always work with people who you know well and have for a long period of time, people who you know you can rely on. Security is an important issue in direct action, so people with a tendency to brag or who won’t be able to keep their mouth shut are a bad idea. Starting your own cell is better than joining an existing one, since if you know of an existing one, their security obviously isn’t too good. Asking someone if they want to get involved is never an easy thing to do. Bring up the subject in a general way and see how the person feels about direct action first, and move on from there. Cells usually consist of 2 to 5 members. Use the minimum number of people needed for each action, but don’t forget the importance of look outs. Having extra people unnecessarily puts them at risk. One person should be chosen as the leader of the group. This doesn’t mean that person has any special power or privileges, and it often wont come into play at all. But if during an actions things go wrong, someone will need to make split second decisions, and in this case there is no time for democracy. Progress as a group, starting with minor actions to get used to each other, discussing after each action what went well and what didn’t, and discussing how to improve and hit harder.
Before you even think about undertaking any action, read. Know this guide inside and out. Before you do anything you’d better know how to do it right, or you may wind up in a lot of trouble. As with anything, the first time is the hardest. So start small. If your first action is a liberation of a large laboratory with high security you are going to have problems. Start by gluing locks or some spray paint. You can go about finding a target a few ways. First, you may want to decide what kind of establishment you want to target - a fur shop, a butcher shop, a factory farm or slaughterhouse, or maybe a fast food restaurant? If you are planning on getting involved in direct action you are hopefully already aware of various animal rights issues and probably know where and how to find whichever kind of abuser you want to target. Your local animal rights group is probably aware of abusers in the area, but keep in mind that local animal rights groups are the first people the police will question. The easiest way to find a target is to let your fingers do the walking. A phone book can direct you to all your local fur shops, butcher shops, etc. If fast food restaurants are your goal, you can’t go down the street without seeing one. Locations of fur farms can be found in The Final Nail. Once you’ve begun and know what you are doing, go big. The more actions you take part in the more likely it gets that you will get caught, so be sure that when you hit you hit hard.
After selecting your target become familiar with it. You may want to study a road map and become familiar with the surrounding area. You should first visit the sight in daylight. Park well away in a non-suspicious place, like the parking lot of a large store or a side road with many cars. Approach on foot and get as close as possible. Take a good look around (without looking suspicious) and think about how you are going to do whatever it is you are going to do. Once back to your car, draw a map including everything you can remember. Now it is time to draw up your exact plan. Leave nothing to chance. Figure out every detail and be certain that everyone is completely familiar with every detail. You don’t want to find yourself at the site trying to get your act together. Next, return to the site once more before your action, this time at night. Follow your route to the site just as it will be during your action. You can think of this as a dress rehearsal. Get as close to the target as you can. This should also be as close to the time of day your action will take place (actions are obviously almost always carried out at night), so that you can see what security and other factors are in effect at that time. Always plan for things to go wrong. Know what you will do if you come in contact with a security officer or police. Know which way you will run, if you will go as a group or alone, and where you will rendezvous. These recommendations are general. For something as simple as gluing locks, less intense planning is needed. For something as complex as a raid, more planning may be necessary.
Consider leaving your immediate area for actions; repeatedly working close to home can be a tip off to police. Also be sure to not keep a regular schedule of days and times your actions take place - if the police establish your pattern its one more thing they can use to catch you. As tempting as it is, avoid hitting the same place repeatedly. This is how a good number of people get caught. If you choose to report your actions, don’t name your specific group. If so, the police will know just what actions are carried out by your group, making finding you easier. Always have a story set if stopped by the police. Know where it is you will say you are coming from and going to. If you are going to be using your car for actions, remove all bumper stickers. Also be sure all lights, license plates, etc. are OK. Drive carefully and legally. Don’t give them reason to stop you. Be sure to have enough gas before leaving for an action, so you don’t have to stop on the way, or especially while transporting animals. Clothing is important as well. Wear nothing with identifiable markings. Consider many targets are equipped with security cameras, and always assume the one you are hitting is. Any tattoos should be covered, any piercing covered or removed. You want to wear dark colors, but all black can look suspicious, so just keep it dark but not unusual. Ski masks are commonly employed during direct action, but be ready to ditch them if need be - they can be quite incriminating, especially on a summer night. A hooded sweatshirt, a baseball cap, and a scarf are a better idea in some locations. On high risk operations you may want to get some oversized shoes from a thrift shop to avoid leaving tell tale footprints. Stuffing the toes will make them wearable. Another option is to keep a pair of shoes used just for direct action with your tools at a safe house. If this is the case, only put them on while on the way to an action and take them off on the way back, as not leave corresponding footprints around your house or on your carpet. Wearing socks over your shoes or covering the soles in duct tape also works well against footprints. For actions where the police are going to be investigating more heavily, even hairs and fibers on clothing may be a problem. In this case you can buy clothes from a thrift store just for that night, and throw them away afterwards. Another possibility on high risk operations is to wear boiler suits, which cover all your clothes, and can be removed quickly after back to the car. Always wear gloves and be mindful of fingerprints. Be careful of using thin latex gloves, since fingerprints can be left through them. Put one pair over another if you choose to use them. Fingerprints will also be left on the inside of the glove, so if you use them, dispose of them separately from any other evidence. Be careful whenever purchasing equipment for an action. Buying a gallon of bright red paint a block from home and dumping it on the McDonalds two blocks away the same day is not a good idea. Purchase everything far away from home and always with cash, as well as long before an action is to take place when possible. Be careful of using materials that will give away where you are from. For instance, if using newspapers in an arson attack far from home, using your local paper will be dead give-away. Wipe everything you are taking with you completely to remove fingerprints, in case anything is dropped or has to be left behind. You have to scrub hard to remove prints, and some soap or rubbing alcohol may help. Clean everything as if it is going to be left behind, since sooner or later something you didn’t plan to leave will drop.
For this same reason you should take as little as possible with you, and connect whatever you must take to your body. A rubber band through your belt loop with each end attached to your key chain will keep it secure, even if you are being chased and have to go headfirst over a fence, etc. Even if you don’t touch something while purchasing it by wearing gloves for instance, wipe it anyway so it cant be traced Obviously, do not have drugs, weapons, or anything else illegal on you or in you car during an action. If you are using tools such as crowbars or bolt cutters (this is mostly for liberations), sharpen or file them after every action, since slight markings on the tool can leave traceable markings on what is opened. Also, never keep tools at your house. If you are keeping tools used in actions, store them at a safe house. A safe house is the house of a person not involved in the actions at all, someone who the police would never investigate. Tools and clothing should never be disposed of in your own garbage. A large dumpster at a store or restaurant is an ideal place to dispose of evidence. Never buy cheap tools, especially if you are using walkie talkies. Your freedom and the animals lives are on the line, so go for the quality equipment. Before setting out for an action, spend about 30 minutes outside in the dark. This will improve your night vision. When using flashlights, regular light will ruin your night vision. Red or blue lenses will not, and are also preferable because they are less visible from a distance. Military flashlights, available at Army/Navy stores come with red or blue lenses. Another piece of equipment that can greatly increase security is walkie talkies. Having lookouts set up and connected to the team via radio can increase warning times from seconds to minutes. The Walkman/headset style are ideal, and are commonly available at Radio Shack for a reasonable price. Night vision scopes are another useful tool. They take existing light and magnify it tens of thousands of times, allowing one to virtually see in the dark. Top of the line night vision equipment is out of the financial range of most activists, but earlier models are available for a few hundred dollars at Army/Navy and survival stores. For very thorough information on radios, night vision scopes, and many other useful bits of technology, consult Ecodefense.
The government is actively monitoring animal liberationists, particularly suspected members of the ALF, so watch your back. They are opening mail and tapping phone lines, so never ever ever say anything incriminating over the phone, mail, or e-mail. Always assume that you are being watched and your house may be searched at any time (they have gone so far as dismantling heating ducts while searching the houses of suspected ALF members, so never assume anything is hidden well enough). Discussing direct action works on a need-to-know basis. Never tell anyone anything that they do not absolutely need to know. Never discuss actions with people not involved, for your safety and theirs. If someone asks you about the ALF, say that you aren’t involved, but you have heard or read about it. That way you can discuss the ALF without incriminating yourself. If someone says something incriminating over the phone, quickly excuse yourself and hang up before they can get another word in, then explain to them what they did wrong next time you see them in person. Keep in mind that homes, cars, and anywhere else can be bugged. Try to discuss actions in areas that are secure (where nobody can overhear), but that they would be unable to bug. Take a walk through the woods, for instance. Except for the purpose of improving your group and its effectiveness, once an action has taken place, never discuss it again. The damage was done, animals lives were saved, and that’s the important thing. Bringing up old “war stories” is an unnecessary risk. All this may seem like paranoia, but the government will go to any length stop us. Besides, its better to be a little paranoid than in jail.
Start small, then move on to bigger things. Even the simplest actions take practice to get right, so try one thing at a time until you’ve gotten it down. Once you’ve mastered the small things, use them in combination to really ruin an abusers day. Think about possibilities of combining breaking windows and paint bombs for instance. Be sure to start with the quietest parts when doing a number of things. What is outlined here are general methods used by the ALF. Every location and building is different, so after checking over your target, you should both modify these methods based on the specific area and target itself, and feel free to be creative and come up with new ways to do damage. Creativity will make you more effective, harder to catch since you are less predictable, and make whatever security they come up with less effective.
Windows are probably the easiest target available in most situations, yet large windows can cost hundreds, making them an ideal target. Glass etching fluid (hydrofluoric acid) is available in some larger arts and crafts stores. Be sure to buy out of town on specialized items like this. Its a liquid or cream that eats through the surface of glass. If you can get a hold of some, put it in some kind of squeeze bottle, one of those plastic lemon ones for instance, and off you go. If you get the cream it can also be applied with a paintbrush, allowing slogans to be written on the window. Its potent stuff, so be careful not to get it on your skin. Working quickly at the target you’ll probably make somewhat of a mess with the bottle, so bring a plastic bag to throw it in after you are done. Its a quick and relatively safe way to cause some financial damage. A less expensive but much noisier method is simply smashing windows. It is loud, so get ready to run. Aside from throwing a brick or rock, a popular way to do this is with a sling shot. They are available in many sporting stores. You may have to patronize a store that sells hunting equipment to find one, but you can always offset this by returning at a later date and smashing their windows in turn. The advantage of a sling shot is that you don’t have to be right next to the window to break it. Sling shots can even be effective from moving cars. Try to fire symmetrical objects such as ball bearings or nuts. Rocks or bolts will be hard to control due to their lack of aerodynamics. Whatever you shoot, be sure to wipe them for fingerprints first. It is always your responsibility to be certain there is nobody in or near the store that you could injure while firing. Shooting from totally inside the car (as in, don’t hang out the side) will make detection a whole lot harder. Air guns (a.k.a. BB guns) are another option. They don’t do as much damage to the window as a brick might, but they are very quick, can be used easily from inside a car, and are very quiet. You can easily roll up to a store, stop in front for a second, roll down the window, take a shot, and leave. Unless someone is standing right there, nobody will notice a thing. Most of the time they will leave a small hole with a spider web crack, about the size of a silver dollar. Occasionally they will completely shatter a window though, so be ready for it. There are generally two types of BB guns. The first look like rifles, and are powered by being manually pumped. The second look like handguns, and are powered by CO2 cartridges. The cartridges only cost around $2 each and will give you around 150 shots. The advantage of the CO2 style is that they are generally semi-automatic (meaning it fires one shot every time you pull the trigger). Using such a device you could take out over a dozen windows in a couple of seconds. They do look like real guns though, so if the police roll up, drop them immediately or risk getting shot. The other option for breaking windows is a hammer. Tilers hammers are best because of their pointed design; they can be found in most hardware stores. Windows, especially shatter proof, are tougher than they seem, so use a hammer of some weight. The best time for this is a stormy night, the lack of visibility and noise of the storm providing excellent cover. You’ll naturally think to hit windows in the center, but this is actually the strongest part. Always go for the corners, as these are the weak spots. Another option with windows is glass glue, which permanently sticks glass to glass. Attaching a piece of glass with a slogan painted on the inside will require them to replace the whole window.
People in more urban areas are probably familiar with stores lowering metal shutters over their windows while closed. After having windows smashed, a target store in a less urban area may do the same. If you are dealing with the kind of shutters that are a grid, or bars, etching fluid, sling shots, or BB guns will still work fine. Its also possible to simply lock any kind of object to the shutter, making it impossible to open.
Sometimes they wont use all the holes for locks that are available on the shutter. If this is the case, put your own lock on there. Make sure its fingerprint free first. More difficult are the full shutters that don’t have any holes. Hitting the shutter with a sledgehammer may work in both damaging the shutter, and possibly breaking the window if they are close enough together. A more subtle method of dealing with full shutters is gluing the shutter locks, which you can see under the gluing locks section. If they have been dumb enough to only put a shutter over the main window and left a smaller one, like on a door, uncovered - break that one, then reach in and break the main one.
Vehicles are another easy target. There’s a great number of ways to do damage to them. When doing a set of things to a vehicle, start with the quieter parts. There are basically two different approaches that can be taken with vehicles, destruction and sabotage - the difference being with destruction vehicles are visibly damaged, and with sabotage the action is not evident until the vehicle is run and experiences mechanical problems. There are many options with the destruction method. Tires can be slashed. An ice pick, sharp knife, or anything of that sort will work. Tires, especially on trucks, are tougher than they seem, so use something thick and strong that wont break or bend. Putting a hole in the side wall will make it impossible to repair. A pair of pillars can also be used to yank out the stem (the thing you put air in through), which will also flatten the tire. A large screwdriver can damage a radiator by punching holes in it through the grill. If you cant get to the engine, you can cut wires and break various components. If you cant get to the engine, you can also cut what you can from underneath. Bring something heavy-duty like small bolt cutters, as regular wire cutters wont be able to handle metal cables and such. Either paint or paint stripper can do some damage to the paint job. Windshield wipers can be broke off, headlights and windshields smashed or painted with etching fluid, and locks glued. Windshields are made to deflect rocks kicked up on the road, so only more direct methods of breaking them, such as a hammer, will work.
With the more subtle sabotage method, it is important to leave no signs you were there, so the vehicle is run and the damage is done. If dealing with trucks, look for levers on the side of the hood to release it and open it forward. The stereotypical sabotage technique is sugar in the gas tank. This will merely block the filter, and do little damage. More effective fuel tank additives are sand or 10 to 15 mothballs. Be sure not to use sand from near home, as it can be traced. The best sabotage target is the lubricating system. If incapacitated, it will cause the engine to overheat, bind, and generally destroy itself. Karo syrup in the oil filler hole is another classic that, in reality, only effects the filter. One option for major damage is to carefully remove the oil, either by punching a hole in the oil pan, or removing the drain plug. Adding water to the oil is more effective, since it will not lubricate, but will keep the oil pressure up, keeping a warning light from coming on. Better than water is diesel or gasoline, as it will also break down existing oil. For maximum effect, look to adding abrasives to the lubricating system. The oil filler hole is not the only option here. All moving parts need lubrication, such as transmissions, differentials, and wheel hubs. Many lubrication points will have screw on caps that can be removed with an adjustable wrench. Sand can be used for this as well. However, the top of the line abrasive is the kind used to polish stones in tumblers, available in hobby and lapidary supply shops. A very fine powder grit mixed with a slightly more coarse fine sand grit will have the best chance of getting throughout the whole engine and wrecking everything. A 400 and 600 grit size mix works well. A mere half pint of this will completely destroy an engine. Pouring sand or grit can be difficult, especially at night, so here are a few ways to make it easier. Attach a couple feet of flexible plastic tubing to a funnel for increased and easier reach. Or get a grease gun, available at auto parts stores, remove half the grease, mix in grit, and apply with the gun. Another option is to put the grit in a condom, tie it off, and simply drop it in the oil filler hole. After running for 30-50 minutes the condom will dissolve and release the grit. Other options for sabotage include dropping plaster of paris or a handful of BB’s into the carburetor. A box of quick rice in the radiator will expand as the vehicle runs and clog the works. A pound of salt or some Drano will eat away the copper tubing of a radiator.
Gluing locks is one of the quickest, easiest, and safest forms of direct action, and one of the most commonly used. The idea of gluing locks is that time is money, and if you can keep an abusers business closed, even for a short time, that’s money lost and animals saved. Properly glued locks will require a locksmith to fix, and they aren’t cheap either. In order to glue a lock, get a tube of glue, ideally the kind with the long, sharp tip, or the kind in the syringe. Approach your target, be it store or vehicle, and put a small piece of wire or similar object, less than a fingernails length, into the lock. Insert the glue tube into the lock, and fill the lock with glue.
Once the glue dries it will be practically impossible to open. Some glues are effective, some aren’t. Get some cheap locks and test some out for yourself until you find what works. In order for a glue to work well it must be thick enough as to not run out of the lock, and dry solid, not rubbery. Also consider drying time. Hardware stores have a wide selection of various glues, so try to find something with both these properties. An easier way to effectively glue locks may be to take a glue tube with a wide enough opening, squeeze some glue out, fill the tube with BBs and mix them in with the glue. This way your solid material will simply squeeze out with the glue.
Paint is often a good way to get your message across and do some damage. Vehicles, billboards, and buildings are all paintable. Spray paint is one option. Splashing paint out of a container of some sort is another. Plastic soda bottles will work well there. To get more range you can put a hole in the top and screw it back on, then spray through it. Paint-bombs can be constructed by simply filling Christmas ornaments or light-bulbs with paint. Light-bulbs take some work, but are easier to come by. Cut off the bottom part of the metal, below the glass. Very carefully break out the bottom part of the glass, by the filament, inside the remaining metal ring. Fill and carefully seal. You can use a screwdriver for that. The advantage of such paint bombs is that they are surprisingly quiet. Be positive they are print-free first though. Always transport them in sealed plastic bags, in case one ruptures. Balloons can be used too, but they tend to not work as well. Paint can be inserted into soda bottles, ornaments, or bulbs using, ironically, a turkey baster. Always mix paint about 50/50 with water or paint thinner so it splatters better. Paint on glass is easy to get off, getting it on wood, metal, or stone exteriors is a lot more effective. Large markers can also work. Super-soaker type water guns filled with a paint/water mixture are effective as well. They sometimes leak and drip, so keep them in a plastic bag before and after a hit. Its impossible to wash all the paint out afterwards, making it good evidence if found, and possibly clogged after a couple uses. Bearing this in mind it may be a good idea to buy one, use it one night on a number of establishments, and dispose of it. Just remember that paint is a messy business and has a tendency to get everywhere, including all over you.
Paint stripper is another option, especially effective on vehicles. 3M Safest Strip, or Extra Strength, has the advantage of clinging to vertical surfaces. Dupli-Color makes ST-1000 Paint Stripper, available in auto parts stores. It comes in spray cans, and can eat down to bare metal in 30 minutes. Brake fluid is an effective paint stripper as well.
Sponges and Toilets
This is one of the few actions undertaken actually inside the abusive establishment, and while they are open none the less. This can be risky for heavily involved ALF members, but it’s a great action for those looking for simple and more low level things to do. If you are able to get access to an abusers toilet, such as stopping in a fast food restaurant to use the bathroom, here’s a quick and easy way to do some damage. Get a sponge, the bigger the better. Big fluffy ones are better than hard square ones. Get it wet, and then wrap it tightly in string and let it dry. Remove the string and it will stay in its compact shape. Once in the water the sponge will expand to its previous size. So simply drop it in, flush, and hopefully clog up the toilet. If it gets deep into the pipes first, this can turn into a very expensive problem. Lacking a sponge, lots of their toilet paper can clog a toilet as well. It is easier to unclog, but still a minor nuisance.
A mixture of plaster and sawdust in a nylon stocking is another method.
Telephones lines are the most neglected way to easily cause a business to lose money. Once you find an abusers building, locate the phone lines coming out. Attach a weight of some kind to a strong rope, toss it over the line, grab both ends and pull. Another option is to climb the pole it is going to and to cut it. Either way, business rely a lot on their phones and this is an easy way to take them out of commission. If you see any wires, phone lines or other, at ground level, just yank them out or cut them.
Careful if it’s electrical though!
Places that get hit a number of times may install security measures, such as cameras. Don’t let this deter you. As long as you are well covered, the best they can do is give them a general height of the people involved, which doesn’t mean much. What they actually do for establishment is the opposite of what they are intended. Instead of protecting them, it gives you something else to break. Security cameras are expensive, and not all that hard to destroy. Aside from open cameras, look for boxes or spheres, which sometimes house cameras. They are generally up high, around ten feet up. Flood light systems are another thing you might see pop up. If you want to hit the place again but you’re not to fond of all the light, try a slingshot to take them out of commission. Just remember that if they do install a security system, that means money out of their pocket, which is what you wanted anyway. It also means you’re being effective, so keep it up. Just be careful not to hit the same place too often or they’ll be waiting for you.
Various foul smelling agents can serve a variety of purposes and direct action. Some ideas are dropping some through mail slots, windows after being broken, trucks (especially if windows or doors are left open.), large fur sales, and hunting conventions. Numerous very weak acids have powerful and strong smells. Most well known is butyric acid, of which two drops will clear a room and one ounce is enough for a building. A commonly available option is the various lures used by hunters, such as deer piss. These can be delivered using a medicine dropper or hypodermic needle.
If you come across an abusive institution under construction, there are many effective actions that can be carried out at this point. Firstly, however, be positive it is in fact going to be what you think it is. During construction survey stakes (wooden stakes with colored ribbons tied to the top) are used to mark such things as corners, water and sewer lines, and elevation. Simply removing these stakes, and disguising the holes will cost a few days work. When removing stakes, also look for “hub and tacks”, which are 2X2" stakes pounded flush through the ground, with a nail driven in top, or sometimes marked by flags on wires. Also, reference points, which include various stakes or hubs and tacks as much as 50 away must be removed or the survey sticks can simply be replaced. More effective than removing stakes may be to move them just slightly. Although it may seem minor, removing survey stakes is considered a relatively major crime, so use the usual security precautions.
Salt greatly weakens concrete. If a large amount can be introduced into cement bags or sand piles for making concrete, foundations and the like would be weakened. Leave a note that you have damaged the cement so that people don’t get hurt. Make certain the note is received.
After the foundation is poured, connections for plumbing, especially sewage, are exposed. There are often covered in duct tape to avoid objects being dropped inside. If the duct tape were to be carefully removed and clogging elements such as concrete, epoxy, or plaster were dropped down the pipes and the tape was carefully put back in place it could cause major problems if not realized until the building is completed.
After drywall is put up electrical wiring is put in. Once sheet-rock or other wallboard is hung this wiring is very hard to get to. After drywall is erected, wiring can be cut in inconspicuous places like behind studs, and then taped or glued into position. Hopefully this will keep the cuts from being noticed until after sheet-rock is hung.
Arson is a big, and dangerous step up in direct action. It can be very dangerous in a number of ways. Arson is a very serious crime, so before considering it you’d better be aware of the possible consequences if caught. Fire is also terribly dangerous, so the utmost care is needed when starting one. Its necessary to be positive that no human or nonhuman animals will be hurt in the blaze. It is also dangerous media wise. Arson carries the heavy tag of “terrorism”, and must be used wisely as not to discredit the entire movement. As dangerous as arson is, it is also by far the most potent weapon of direct action. One of the first arson attacks in the US was against a new research lab at U.C. Davis doing over 4 million dollars in damage. When constructing your incendiary device, be careful! Consider the source of the information you are using. Never, ever, ever use The Anarchists Cookbook. This was put together by a right wing individual purposely using faulty recipes in order to kill or injure people following the book. Never use information off the internet either, as much of it is from The Anarchists Cookbook or other unreliable sources. Just use common sense.
Arson can have two different purposes. The first and more obvious is to start a fire and burn down the target, be it a building or a vehicle. But devices can also be created that will only have a small fire, meant to give off heat, thus setting off a buildings sprinkler system, doing water damage to merchandise. If using this method, you should be using timed devices, set to go off at night when nobody is around. It is best to try to get the device into the store while open, rather than breaking in during the night. These devices are placed out of sight under flammable furniture, displays, etc. Putting them inside of furniture or other products may be dangerous considering the device may fail to go off on time and go off at a later time after someone has purchased it. Placing the device on the top floor is best, since the water from the sprinklers will then ideally run down to the other floors, doing damage on each. We will first discuss devices intended to start a fire, then move on to more complicated timed devices meant to set off sprinkler systems. Before using any device be absolutely sure to wipe it clear of all fingerprints. Do not assume the device burning will get rid of fingerprints. The authorities have at least 32 methods of pulling prints of burned articles. In some cases, the fire actually fuses the oil of the print to object, making it easier to read. Whenever using a flammable liquid try to use kerosene, or diesel fuel. Their fumes aren’t flammable, unlike gasoline, and are therefore safer to use. Kerosene can be bought at outdoor or camping stores as well as some gas stations. Here it is especially important to buy far away from home. Purchase it in regulation red fuel containers, then transfer it to whatever bottle you are using (usually plastic drink bottles or jugs). Also, if using bottles don’t fill them all the way, or as the liquid turns into a gas and expands it will cause the bottle to leak. Flammable liquid is made to have a noticeable smell, so be sure to keep it totally sealed in a plastic bag when transporting, and be careful not to get any on you or in your car. Wash yourself, your clothes, and air out your car or spray some air freshener in it after the action is done. Incense sticks are often used as a fuse in incendiary devices. We strongly caution against this. They are hard to light, go out easily, and dont always set off the device. A much better fuse can be based on those prank birthday candles - the kind that you cant blow out. They’re made to not go out, so what could be better? Just be sure that they are set up in a way that the dripping wax wont interfere with the connection to the rest of the device.
A simple way to create an incendiary device is based on two plastic bottles of flammable liquid. Lightly soak two sponges in whatever liquid is in the bottles. Place the ends of the candles between the sponges, and place the sponges between the bottles, then tape the whole thing together. You can also put matches at the base of the candles in order to help things along. Be positive the candle and match heads are very close to the sponges or it will not work. The fire will slowly move down the candle, light the sponges, which will melt the bottles, and start the fire.
A different version of the same device uses one gallon water jug, the kind with the handle. A sponge is placed sideways through the handle opening and the candles are stuck in on both sides of the handle. Another simple way to start a fire is the cigarette delay. This entails taking a cigarette, and placing the end between two open books of matches, with the match heads against the cigarette. Tie them together around the cigarette with string or a rubber band. Place this between cardboard boxes, newspaper, or whatever other flammable stuff you care for. This method will give you a five to ten minute delay, but don’t count on specific times.
A common target for arson is the wooden broiler units used to hold hens. Due to various drugs, hens now reach their maximum weight in just seven weeks. So, every seven weeks the hens are slaughtered, and the boiler units are cleaned out and disinfected, ready for the new batch of chicks. Just after the disinfecting is the best time to burn them down since the disinfecting scares away rodents. The standard process for this uses only two people, although other people may be put to use as look outs and drivers. One person carries bags of torn up clothes. The other carries a container of flammable liquid, newspaper, matches, and fire-lighters. Fire-lighters are pieces of solid material used to start fires. You can find them in camping and army/navy stores. Broiler units are often left open to air out after cleaning and disinfecting. The bags of torn up clothes are placed in the corners of the unit, and the flammable liquid is poured into the bags, soaking the clothing. The bags should be leaning against the walls so the don’t fall away while burning. Some flammable liquid can also be poured on the wall as well, but be careful not to overdo it, you still have to get out. The fire-lighters are placed on top of the bags, against the walls. A box of matches can be placed on top of the bag as well. A piece of newspaper is rolled up and used as a fuse so you don’t have to be right over the bag while lighting it. If your target has a number of buildings you probably wont want to stick around long enough to do more than one, so go for the largest one.
Destroying vehicles by means of fire, one must be careful. When the fuel tank of a car or truck explodes it can throw the vehicle 20 to 30 yards. If it is that close to a building containing human or nonhuman animals it is necessary to break in, release the break, and push it out of range. A simple way to burn a vehicle is to place a sheet or blanket on top or underneath and soak it in flammable liquid. If the doors can be opened, it can also be poured over the dashboard and seats. If not using a time-delay device, try to light it from as far away as possible by lighting the end of a rolled up newspaper, flare, or other torch-like object.
The device used to set off sprinklers begins with a cigarette box, playing card box, or similar small box, and a card is cut to fit inside (to attach the parts to). Playing card boxes work well in this capacity since you already have perfect fitting cards. Holes are punched in the sides of the box and card for ventilation, and both parts are coated with nail varnish. A brand new nine volt battery (must be Duracell or it wont work!) is glued to the card. Next, take a 21 watt bulb, the kind used in cars for reverse lights. The glass must be broken without damaging the filament. To do this, heat the bulb with a lighter and then place it in cold water. The older way of wiring it is to get a battery snap (the thing nine volt batteries attach to) and solder one wire of it to the nipple of the bulb. A spare piece of similar wire is soldered to the metal side of the bulb (the side part is also a contact, not only the nipple). Fine, but stiff, wire is then soldered onto the ends of the two wires. These two will later be attached to a watch face. A watch (not digital - the kind with hands!) is used, removed of its band and glass over the face. The thin but stiff wire at the end of the wire coming off the side of the bulb is bent up off the watch face into a bridge shape, like an upside down letter U. Both ends are soldered onto the watch face with the bridge part lifted off, or perpendicular, to the watch face. The other wire, the upright, is bent at a 90 degree angle, so the end stands off the face, slightly taller than the bridge. The purpose is to have the hour hand push the upright into the bridge, completing the circuit and setting off the bulb. In order to not have the minute or second hand hit the upright they must carefully be bent out of the way or cut off. Then the two wire ends, the bridge and the upright, are glued onto the face between one and three. They are placed on the watch face so that as the hour hand reaches them it will push the upright into the bridge. The watch, battery, and bulb are glued onto the card. A piece of fire-lighter is glued to the card in front of the bulb, and covered with nail varnish. The filament is carefully placed on the fire-lighter and more varnish is painted over the filament and fire-lighter. Match heads, removed from the sticks with razor blades, are placed on the fire-lighter, touching the filament, while the varnish is still wet. Fire-lighter can be hard to get going, so attach as many match heads around it as possible. Any remaining space on the card should be filled with more pieces of fire-lighter. Only touch it with gloves after that point, or better yet, only touch it with gloves from the beginning, since parts may be impossible to wipe off after being assembled. Before entering the target, set the hand to the correct position, depending on what time you want it to go off. Do not connect the battery snap to the battery yet. Once in the store, visit the bathroom and connect it there. The device is now armed. Various problems can come up, such as the hour hand not being strong enough to push the upright into the bridge, so try it out and try to use the same materials and set up once you’ve found what works. Here is the newer, and more effective way of setting up this device. First off, watch hands aren’t that strong, so small travel alarm clocks work better. This will require you find a larger type of box. Also, a simpler wiring than using uprights and bridges is to just connect the wire to the hour hand, traveling along it from the center out. Be sure to leave enough loose wire so that as it goes around it doesn’t pull off. The end of the wire should be stripped with enough bare wire to make good contact. Depending on your set-up, it can either contact another wire attached to the side of the bulb, or contact the side of the bulb itself. Try different set ups out, testing it along the way by checking if the bulb lights up before you break it, and so on. Once you have a finished product test it out to make sure it flames up enough to start a small fire. Take notes throughout the process so you can recreate it again if it works. Once you have found something that works, commit it to memory and destroy the notes. Always be wary of any evidence you may be keeping around, like those notes, or boxes or receipts from parts you had to buy.
A timed device used for vehicles is similar. It begins with the same box, card, bulb, and battery set up. Using pieces from a plastic bag, make a small bag, about 4 x 2.5 cm, containing a mixture of half sodium chlorate (weed killer) or potassium nitrate (saltpeter) and half white granulated sugar (use Jack Frost - it vegan!). UHU or similar glue is used to seal the edges of the bag. The bag is placed along the filament where the fire-lighter was used in the previous device. If you don want to mess around with the bag, use the same fire-lighter set up as the 12 hour device. Instead of a watch being used as a timer, this one uses a cooking timer which has a rotating arm. A nail is banged into the top of the timer, not far enough to affect the mechanism, and secured with glue. A piece of metal that can conduct electricity is bent into a letter L shape. This piece is glued to the arm, so that the L touches the nail when the timer reaches that point. The wires are attached to this arm and to the nail. The device is glued to a plastic bottle filled 3/4 full with gasoline, and dish washing liquid is added. The dish washing liquid is used to sustain the flame. It does solidify the gasoline in around three days, so the device should be used within 24 hours. The device should be placed inside the truck, on the upholstery. If you cant open a door, you’ll have to break a window or use it below the truck. Before using such a device it is absolutely necessary to check the truck to make sure the driver is not sleeping inside, as is often the case with larger commercial vehicles. Any product that repels dogs and cats can also be placed around the truck for safety, especially with longer timers. Again, make sure all fingerprints are completely gone before setting off for an action and only touch it with gloves after that.
Getting Through Locks
In some actions, particularly liberations, breaking in is an essential part of the action. Locks can be dealt with in a number of ways. If you are going to be attempting to get by a lock you should take a close look at it, possibly when you check out the site your first time during the day, or more likely your second time at night. Then try to get the exact same kind of lock and see what works. You can try to pry them open with a crowbar, or cut them with bolt cutters. The other way through a lock is to use an electric powered drill and a new 1/8 inch high speed drill bit. Depending on the hardness of the lock it may take more than one bit. Never buy cheap drill bits - they’ll let you down. Most keyed locks are pin-tumbler types. In this kind of lock, a number of spring loaded pins are pushed up when the key is inserted. When the tops of these pins are in perfect alignment with the “shear line”, the “plug” into which the key is inserted can turn and the lock opened. In many locks, parts are made of brass to prevent corrosion.
Fortunately, brass is relatively soft and easily drilled. A drill can be used to destroy the pins along the shear line. Be careful not to drill too deeply, since this can damage the locking bar making it impossible to open. Drill only the depth of the keyway, which is 3/4 inch in most padlocks, and 1 inch in most door locks. A “drill stop”, available in most hardware stores, can be used to pre-set the depth required. Once the lock has been drilled out, insert a pin, such as a nail, into the lock to press the remains of the pins above the shear line. You may have to insert the drill a few times to chew up bits of pins that are interfering with opening. Finally, using a flat-head screwdriver, turn and open the lock. This operation takes practice, so get a few cheap locks and work on it first. Books and tools for picking locks are not too difficult to come by. The other way to get past doors is to just go through them. Prying them open with a crowbar, knocking them open with a sledgehammer, are two ways.
Another way is to cut a hole through the middle of the door just big enough to fit through. A row of holes drilled with a thick drill bit is one way to do this, portable power saws are another. The advantage of this method is that if the door is alarmed going through the middle may not trigger the alarm.
Liberations are the quintessential direct action. Education and economic sabotage save animals lives in the long run, but liberating animals from laboratories, factory farms, or other places of abuse is the only way to save animals lives here and now. Liberations are probably the most complex actions, and some of the most risky. For both these reasons, an incredible amount of planning and preparation are needed. The first step in a liberation is research. You have to know all you can about the target. You have to know how many animals they have, what kind of animals, what they are doing to them, and where they are located. Once these are determined comes the most important part of a liberation - finding homes for the animals. Aside from the actual break in group, a whole other group of people may be needed for this aspect. NEVER liberate an animal that you have not found a good and loving home for. Liberated animals should be placed in homes of people not associated with your group, and hopefully not associated with the movement at all. Once animals are taken police will be looking for them, so they have to placed somewhere police will not look. Before being liberated, an animal should be completely checked over by a trusted veterinarian. Again, before planning on how to get animals out of bad situations, be certain you have a good situation to put them in once they have been liberated. Special homes may be needed for some animals considering you may be liberating animals not normally kept as pets, or with special conditions inflicted upon them by the abusers.
While caring for a dog taken from a laboratory breeder may not require special skill, the average person does not know how to care for a monkey with a hole cut in its skull and an electrode attached to its brain. As was said, liberations are often highly complex, requiring a number of people and a huge amount of planning. The people involved should each have an area of responsibility, a specialty. You will need people responsible for finding homes, researching and planning the raid, look outs, breaking in, carriers - people to get the animals out, and drivers, as well as someone to coordinate the whole thing. If possible the look outs and break in crew should arrive early so that the carriers and drivers are there for as short a time as possible. Of course have a way for lookouts to notify everyone else if things go wrong, be it an audible signal or by walkie talkies. Many animals naturally make noise when disturbed or moved, and there’s nothing you can do about it. All you can do is get in, get the animals, and get out as quickly as possible. You have to have lookouts you can rely on, so that you can concentrate on getting the job done and not have to worry about watching your back. If things go wrong get everyone together and leave quickly. Most people will be happy just scaring you off, so unless literally being shot at, don’t leave anyone behind.
Parking vehicles near the site may be suspicious. It may be best to have the vehicles arrive early and park in nearby large parking lots or on side streets amongst other cars. Then, they can simply pull up, either at pre-appointed times or when notified, possibly by walkie talkie, get the animals, and go. Always have the vehicle with the animals leave first. If the animals get caught they face death, if you are caught you will only lose your freedom for a short time.
Fur Farm Liberations
Almost all animals raised on fur farms can be released safely into the wild. Police and fur farmers may disagree, saying they will starve or die in the wild, but wildlife officials agree that this is a self serving lie. Of course some will not survive the wild; some animals raised in the wild don’t survive it either. Do they stand any better chances on the fur farm? This makes liberating animals on fur farms much easier than those from laboratories. Fox, mink, wolf, bobcat, lynx, raccoon, and coyote can all be safely released into the wild. The only common fur animal that can not survive the wild is the chinchilla. Fur farms are also an easier target since they are more open and generally have less security, although with increasing fur farm liberations, security is quickly increasing. No huge ecological imbalance results from releasing these animals, even in massive quantities, into the wild. They all disperse quickly, with mink traveling five to ten miles a day, and fox traveling twelve. Fur farms are easily spotted, most use long sheds or rows of cages. Fur animals are kept as cold as possible, since this will thicken their coats. For this purpose fur cages are always open to the outside air, making liberation that much easier.
There are some points of safety for the animals that must be followed in a fur animal liberation. Animals are not old enough to be released until after they have been weaned. Also, they should never be released after late October, since by then winter has set in and they wont have time to learn to hunt since prey species will be more difficult to catch at this time. The best method for releasing large amounts of animals is to cut holes in fences surrounding the compound, and then just open the cages and let the animals find their own way out. Of course some will not get out, but when releasing thousands of animals it may be the only way. The more escape routes you can cut the better chances they will have. With any release into the wild some animals will be recaptured, but getting most or even some of the animals to freedom is still much better than all dying. Chinchillas are a small herbivore native to South America. They are generally not killed until spring. As was said earlier, chinchillas are the only fur animal not able to be released to the wild, so they should be found good homes with people who know how to care for them. An important thing to know is that they can not tolerate temperatures over 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Books about their care are available at book stores and libraries. Even if a liberation is not possible, fur farms can still be disrupted. From October to December the “pelting stock”, the animals about to be killed, and the “breeding stock”, those animals left to produce more animals, are the same size. By opening all the cages and releasing them into the compound they will be unable to tell which is which. The breeding stock may be kept in just a few cages, so be sure to open them all, or else you might miss the breeding stock and have accomplished nothing. You can also destroy the breeding cards, index card sized slips which contain the genetic history (thus the value) of the stock, usually kept on the front of the cages. This action will not save the animals in the fur farm at that time, they will still be killed. In fact, they will probably kill all the animals and purchase new ones for breeding. But, such actions can cause a farm to shut down, thus saving countless animals. Its a question each individual must decide for themselves.
Another method is to take a non-toxic dye and spray it on each animal, rendering the pelt worthless. Again, they will still be killed, but possibly it will shut down the farm and save future generations.
Dealing With The Police
The following holds true for both being arrested, or just taken in for questioning. When performing direct action, arrests at some point are inevitable, so you had better be prepared for dealing with the police. Although it is true that the more actions you do the higher your chances of arrest get, and some forms of direct action are more risky than others, there is still a chance you will be arrested during your first action, no matter how minor, so be prepared. The general rule in dealing with police is to say nothing. Keep in mind that these people go to school to learn how to trick you into incriminating yourself and others. They are also avid liars, and will say anything to try to trick you. Realize that every word out of their mouth, no matter how friendly, innocent, or unrelated it may seem, is said with the goal of getting evidence against you. Just keep your mouth shut. They may try to threaten a statement out of you. They may say they will keep you in longer if you do not talk. A lie. If they see they are not going to get what they want out of you they eventually will give up. If they see you may talk they will keep pushing until they get what they want. They may threaten you with physical violence. They may even use physical violence against you. Do not fight back. Face it, your are in a police station, surrounded by cops. You aren’t going to win. If you do try and fight back you will get yourself a charge of assault on a police officer against you, and some hefty jail time. Its not worth it. If attacked, try to role into a ball and protect your head with your arms. If you can get into a corner, do so. Police will only turn to violence if they think it will get you talking, so keep your mouth shut and you will keep safe. If given a phone call, do not say anything incriminating over the phone. Call your lawyer if you have one, if not call a good animal rights group and they will help you out with one. By the way, no one has ever gotten off by giving police the information they wanted or by turning in others. Its important for ALF members to know their rights, since they are often in possession of incriminating evidence, and allowing a search to happen when you don’t have to could be disastrous. When dealing with a police officer it can fall under one of three categories. The first is consensual contact. This means that you are not being held, are free to go if you choose, and you do not have to talk to the officer. This is the state you are in if they have no solid reason to suspect you of any crime and just want to talk to you. In this situation you should politely excuse yourself and leave, since talking to the officer will give him the chance to look for spray-paint on your fingers, etc. The next stage is detention. This means that they have reason to suspect you, but not enough to arrest you on. In this situation you can not leave, but of course should answer “no comment” to any questions. In order to hold you in detention they must have SAF, or Specific and Articulate Facts. Then of course there is arrest, which requires a “high level of suspicion” that you have committed a crime. Only once under arrest can you be searched, otherwise they must present a search warrant. In any situation, if they begin a search, you should clearly and repeatedly state that you object to it. Of course, most cops do not follow the rules, but knowing them can both scare a cop (once you say Specific and Articulate Facts they’ll know not to mess with you) and legally protect yourself.
Federal Agents and Grand Juries
The same holds true for speaking to federal agents and when called to testify at a grand jury. A grand jury is an idea out of English government, originally used for one government group to investigate the actions of another. They were banned in the UK in 1933. In the U.S. it is used to target and get information on citizens, particularly those involved in social justice movements such as the animal rights movement. A federal agent will call a grand jury, and people will be subpoenaed. If called you will be either the target, meaning the person they are trying to indicted, a suspect, meaning not the target, but still suspected of illegal activity, or a witness, meaning you aren’t suspected, but they want information out of you.
Grand juries are meant to lead to indictments, but only one, Rod Coranado, has ever come about. They are more often used to get information on groups like the ALF and the people involved. In a grand jury setting you basically have no rights. You have no right to remain silent, no right to have a lawyer present. You may only have a lawyer outside the room, contactable by phone. If you refuse to answer their questions you can be placed in jail for up to 18 months. There is a way to beat them though. Resist, resist, resist. When the grand jury is called, refuse to show up. As soon as the agent is out the door after delivering the subpoena, call every activist you know and tell them what is happening. If they aren’t familiar with grand juries, explain it to them. Call every animal rights group you know of. Be sure to contact less deeply involved people as well and inform them of what to do, as these are the people they will target first, since they are more likely to speak. Call a press conference and speak about what is happening. Have a protest outside their federal building. Grand juries are clearly unconstitutional. The last thing they want is publicity. Speak out about this injustice and never, ever say a word to them. This is exactly what was done when a grand jury was called in Syracuse recently, and the grand jury quickly disappeared. Resist, resist, resist.
If you choose to report your actions to a support group, send news clippings or your own report, including the date, place, and what was done. Write the reports on plain paper using block capital letters, or a publicly accessible typewriter or computer, like the ones available at a library. Photocopy the report a couple times at a public copier to obscure details making it harder to trace. If handwriting it, you may want to have more than one person write each letter. For an A, have the first person write the /, the second write the , the third write the -, making a complete letter A. This will be much harder for them to trace. Be certain not the leave fingerprints on the envelope, paper, or stamp. Obviously don’t sign the report or include your address in the report or put a return address. Spell everything correctly, since certain spelling errors are often common to certain individuals. Wet the envelope glue and stamp with a sponge, don’t lick them as saliva is traceable. Always drop in a public mailbox, and avoid using the same one frequently. After it is sealed and you are sure it is evidence-free, seal it in a larger envelope so that it can be safely handled. When you are dropping it off, rip an end off the larger envelope and drop the smaller one into the mailbox without touching it. When mailing in a communiqué, be careful where the post mark is from. Don’t mail in a report close to your home for an action a state away. Assume whatever you send is first opened and read by the government. Dropping it of anonymously at a supportive groups office, or the house of a supportive above ground activist is safer than mailing it.
AR Concept – Our next moral challenge, by Richard Nilsen
ALF Summary – Animal Liberation – By ‘Whatever Means Necessary’ by Robin Webb, ALF Press Officer
Rod C Statement – Nov. 2005. Statement by Rod Coronado on the Animal Liberation Movement
Domination History – PETA Project – World History of Callous Domination
30 Years of Action – Thirty Years of Direct Action, by Noel Molland
AR took on world-- How animal rights took on the world, by Simon Cox and Richard Vadon
Liberation Movement – The Animal Liberation Movement: Its Philosophy, its Achievements, and its Future, by Peter Singer, 1985.
A. Lib at 30 – Animal Liberation at 30, by Peter Singer
AR Overview – Animal Rights — An Overview. DownBound.com Spring 2005
Barry Horne – Animal Liberationist who died on hunger strike
New Approach – A New Approach to Animal Liberation, by Marc Romanoff
Face of AR – The Face of Animal Rights, by Steve Ann Chambers
Postcards – Historical ALF Postcards
State of AR – State of the Animal Rights Movement, by Kim W. Stallwood
From CALA – Comments from The Center on Animal Liberation Affairs about the direction of the animal liberation movement
Evolution AR – The Evolution of the Animal Rights Movement, by Kim W. Stallwood
Threat? – Animal activists still a top threat, by Jerry Spangler
ALF tactics – Chicago Tribune’s description of ALF tactics
AR Timeline – History of Animal Rights prepared by Medici, Prusan-Goldstein, Romanelli, James, and Caparino
AW Timeline – Timeline starting in 1960s
Animal Welfare Chronology – from 1866 to 2002
ALF History – Compiled by the Center of Animal Liberation Affairs
ALF - Ronnie Lee - History of origins of the Band of Mercy and the ALF
Totals – Various unverified summaries of ALF activity from 1979 through 2004
Fur farms – Fur Farm Raids, 1995-2003
Mink Stats 2004 – Mink pelt production in the United States in 2004
Going Mainstream – More documentation that animal rights is going mainstream
Xmas Song – ALF’s “Twelve Months of Terror” Christmas song
S.A.N.E. 12 days – Movie version of ALF’s Xmas song
Report on ALF – Costs run to millions as researchers and others cope with arson, bombs, and animal releases
Russian ALF – The history of the Russian Animal Liberation Front
Fighters 4 AR – French newspaper article. Militant Protesters’ ‘reign of terror’. Fighters for animal rights, by Cedric Gouverneur
Sinking Whalers – Sinking the Icelandic Whaling Fleet in 1986
Case History – How One Raid by the ALF at the University of Iowa Made a Difference, from CALA
Against odds – Adobe .pdf file. Against All Odds. ALF 1982-1996
ADL-LA – Los Angeles direct action, 1995-2001
Animal Advocacy – History
Activist Tips – Some Handy Tips for Activists
Ten Activist Tips – Top Ten: Do It Yourself Activism Tips
Direct Action Myths – Twelve Myths About Direct Action
Action Stations! (Do or Die) – This article explains some of the things to think about when planning an action.
Grand Jury.pdf – What’s it all about?
Ecodefense – Edited by Dave Foreman
Earth Liberation Prisoners Support Network
Efficacy Assessment Model – July 10, 2005. How to decide on the best action to take
Utilitarianism – Utilitarianism, Animals, and the Problem of Numbers by Stephen Hanson, PhD
Going Underground – Going Underground for Animal Liberation
Trial by Fire – Trial By Fire: The SHAC7, Globalization, and the Future of Democracy by Steven Best, PhD and Richard Kahn
Activists Role – The Role of Radical Animal Activists as Information Providers to Consumers by Joshua Frank
AR Phases – Four phases in the career evolution of an animal rights activist by Douglas Fakkema
Training – The Monsters Among Us b y Gary Jackson. Personal experience.
Discipline in the Trenches – Discipline in the Trenches by Groose Rats and Co.
Security – 20 articles on all phases of security for activists
Organizing Students – Organizing Student Groups by Adam Weissman
Speaking in School – Speaking in School by Dawn Ratcliffe
FAQs - Activism – Animal Rights FAQs (#87-91) regarding Animal Rights Activism
ALFing – Six articles from the Underground: How She Joined ALF. Finding a Partner (or Two). Funding Your Actions. Personal Liability. Planning and Stealth for Safety on the Jobsite. Billboard Liberations.
Guide to Lock Picking – circa 1991. Lock Picking addenda
Militant Activism – Suggestions for anyone interested in what are considered more militant tactics and campaigns.
Fighting 4 Animals – Entire text of book Fighting for Animals by Vernon Coleman
act locally – Yahoo Group with suggestions on how to save homeless animals in your neighborhood
Note to the Underground – about dropping the ALF acronym
I Am An Activist – Self description of an animal rights activist
ALF POWs – ALF POWs – list is not updated regularly
panel – N.J. puts animal-rights reformers on the prowl. Activists dominate panel aimed at preventing cruelty. February 2003 by BRIAN T. MURRAY
Biteback 1 – Operation Bite Back-Part I & Part 2 Fact Sheets
plea deal – Animal-rights activist rejects Somerset County plea deal. Home News Tribune 12/21/02 by CRISSA SHOEMAKER
Protesting – Suggested animal protest guidelines
I Want to Quit – I Want to Quit (This Is What Animal Rescue Is Like) by Joan C. Fremo
by CLEAR CANDLE CLEARCANdLE@AOL.COM
I spent two @#%$! weeks of vacation time and $1000 protesting and getting support to save a whale trapped in a bay, ignoring the fact that a week spent at the animal shelter (where I volunteer) would likely have saved 10 lives (finding homes, additional cost savings to the shelter).
This is possibly more reprehensible than a person who eats beef believing that cows live a happy life before they die and that eating beef gives life to a cow who otherwise would have never existed.
I knew what I was doing. Knowledge should be more than power–it should be obligation.
Ironically, I sometimes find it frustrating that the public is not aware of the animal abuse that goes on behind closed doors. Yet, I sometimes spend time saving one animal at the expense of many due to my laser focus on events in front of me. Not all actions are equal. I am frequently faced with the choice of “Do I save animal A or animal B?” Here are some suggested things to consider when evaluating a potential AR activity (beware of “paralysis of analysis”):
Cost. Time, money, and emotional energy spent (my mistake: rescuing an animal that was near-death and spending large amounts of money on medical bills, then running out of money for an operation that would have saved an otherwise healthy animal).
Danger to other sentient beings. Take into account humans as well as rodents you can’t see. Realize that “change” may upset a miniature ecosystem on which some beings may rely.
Improvement in the quality of life of the “to-be saved” animal (is there a good home or safe environment for it?).
Public opinion. (My mistake: rescuing an animal and then, in frustration, spray-painting an obscenity on the wall). The obscenity made the news (nowadays there is no news without pictures) and the slant of the news-story was anti-AR. Result: More folks will probably turn a deaf ear to AR issues.
Effect on the business losing the animal. (My mistake: liberating an animal from an experiment that was subsequently replaced with a “brand new” test subject. Although the liberation forced the company to buy a new security system, the company did not reduce the amount of testing. The only effect of causing economic damage was to stockholders–NOT a good reason).
Internet opinion polls—Expense: 5 minutes to read and vote. Gain: Our follow-up on polls that we thought were meaningful revealed the websites considered them “for fun” to “attract web traffic” and “not deemed scientific”. No course of action was changed. Your time is better spent with e-mail campaigns (below).
Letter writing / e-mail campaigns—Expense: 10 minutes to cut, paste, print and mail/send. Gain: Our follow-up shows that many industry leaders, judges, and politicians count each letter, frequently respond to the individual who sent the letter, and many do change their course of action. Many admit to being unaware of the AR Activists’ perspective. Time is well spent if the issue is important to you.
Informing people seeking information. After I have answered their first question, what next? Of course, this depends on the individual. But I have inadvertently overwhelmed people. It was too temping to share my knowledge. And few people can make a lot of changes to their lives. When I have seen long-term change in folks, here is how the discussions started:
a. Vegetarian/Vegan health—many people have a positive reaction to the facts in books like “Diet for a New America.”
b. Hunting/Fishing—if you tell someone about the evils of factory farming and they still eat meat, logically it is hypocritical to be concerned about someone who hunts. At least hunters aren’t having someone else do their killing. Wait for them to ask.
c. Entertainment—Zoos, circuses, rodeos, etc. Save this for when you learn they are attending such an event.
d. Factory farming—share some info about beef, pork, and chicken. It might help them stick to their new veggie diet.
e. Animal testing—it is surprising difficult to get folks to change their shopping habits, which include grabbing the same old products without examining the box. It sometimes helps to tell people they can save money and help animals by buying “generic” brands. These are usually copies of the same product the major companies make.
Debating with opponents of AR—you might as well spend your time talking to yourself. In 15 years the only folks who approached me with an attitude and then actually listened and discussed issues, were folks who calmed down immediately when presented with a cool response. If they remain argumentative and don’t care about your first several answers, they won’t change. Even if one did, it is not a statistically reasonable way to allocate your time. Your knowledge of AR is a valuable resource. Don’t waste it.
Demonstrations—In this age of the media sound byte, demonstrations that get news coverage further the awareness of the masses, who, for the most part, are not evil—just uninformed.
Donations to AR organizations—There is clout in numbers. Support them, but be aware of organizations that consider animal welfare to mean protecting animals for hunters. Stay with the big orgs unless you’ve done your homework.
Arkangel 1: for animal liberation Winter 1989
Internal Feuding by Ronnie Lee
Beyond Non-Violence by Ronnie Lee
Bristol Ravers by Anon
The Bristol Bomb Revisited by Barry Maycock
Who Are They Kidding by Brendan McNally
Arkangel 2: for animal liberation Spring 1990
Animal Liberation But Not Too Much? by Ronnie Lee
Beyond Non-Violence by John F. Robins
Controversial Actions by Andrew Fenton
The Leather Issue by David Lane
Arkangel 3: for animal liberation Summer 1990
Beyond The Pale by Val Graham
Not A Game Of Cricket by Catherine Spicer
Unjustifiable Explosions by Ronnie Lee
Arkangel 4: for animal liberation Winter 1990
Sentientism by Richard D. Ryder
Is Violence In The Pursuit Of Animals’ Rights Morally Justifiable? by Robin Webb
A Sense Of Perspective by Seamus Burke
The Real World by Barry Horne
Arkangel 5: for animal liberation Spring 1991
Some Lessons From Our Loss by Ronnie Lee
Animal Rights Tunnel Vision by Paul Gravett
Arkangel 7: for animal liberation Spring 1992
The Compassionate Vegetarian by David Lane
Arkangel 8: for animal liberation Summer 1992
Image by Badger
Arkangel 9: for animal liberation Spring 1993
A Plea For Tolerance by Tom
Arkangel 10: for animal liberation
Animal Rights and the Easy Option by Black Sheep
Arkangel 11: for animal liberation
Missing The Point by David Phillips
Animal Liberation and the Hard Option by Annie Lib
Anti-Vivisection: Time To Move On? by Barry Maycock
In the eyes of the government and some conservative watchdog groups–Mommy is potential terrorist material. Please don’t tell my family. They’ll be very upset. Yet even under oath, I’m sure they would profess: “Yes, she can mouth-off. No, she is not a threat to homeland security.”
Obsessive. Fanatic. Wacko. The ambush of adjectives against animal rights activists is old news. But a new brand of anti-AR soldier has risen from the ashes of 9/11 to tackle perceived dissent. With G.I. Joe ferocity, anti-terrorist task forces comb the countryside in search of animal rights “terrorists.” According to Bob Kane of Sportsmen’s and Animal Owners’ Voting Alliance (SAOVA), the AR/Eco terrorists are set to abolish your right to “Enjoy a steak dinner, hunt and fish, and pet your favorite cat or dog.”
Doomsday discourse is the byline of far-right groups such as SAOVA, Center for Consumer Freedom, Foundation for Biomedical Research, and National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA)–whose members represent National Cattlemen, Rodeo, Fur Commission USA, Pharmaceuticals and others with a financial stake in animal usage. But when the respected hate-group monitor Southern Poverty Law Center issues an in-depth Intelligence Report listing my colleagues as thugs, I am compelled to ask: What is going on here?
It’s beginning to look a lot like McCarthyism. Law enforcers now treat animal advocates with strategies previously set aside for drug dealers, gangsters, and violent fundamentalist sects. AR activist J. Johnson, 19, discovered his status as “Member of Terrorist Organization” when a friendly Illinois cop providing roadside assistance offered to run Johnson’s license to demonstrate police technology. To the surprise of both, a screen flashed Johnson’s home address and photo along with “Animal Rights Extremist” and “Domestic Terrorist.”
In December 2002 the website AnimalRights.Net (subtitle: Debunking the animal rights movement) briefly posted my name and address with directions to “Please call and demonstrate against these nuts.” My fellow nuts included Kevin Jonas of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) and a third woman with no ties to the AR movement.
Earlier that month, Kevin and I joined 300 activists in East Millstone, New Jersey to protest Huntingdon Life Sciences, a contract laboratory that conducts animal tests to screen household cleaners, food additives, dyes, pesticides/herbicides, adhesives, and assorted pharmaceutical goods. As a speaker invited to solemnize Huntingdon’s 50th Anniversary and the death of 9 million animals over half a century, I discussed the despair activists feel when they take in HLS undercover videos and journals.
The debunkers, who likely saw my biography on SHAC’s website, paint a skewed portrait that vilifies the messenger rather than the message. It makes far sexier press to pit activists against “a company that uses animals to find cures for deadly diseases” (as noted in the Waterbury Republican-American’s Animal-Rights Terrorists, a report that presumably equates soap and bug spray with life-saving science) than to examine verified evidence against HLS.
In fact, HLS has acquired 32 violations of the Federal Animal Welfare Act, 16 violations of Good Laboratory Practice in England, a $50,000 payoff to the U.S. Agriculture Department for inept record keeping, and documented animal abuse/scientific fraud in five undercover investigations.
What you won’t see on the evening news is the videotape of an HLS tech who repeatedly punches a squealing beagle puppy in the face. You won’t read about the noxious materials pumped into each animal’s stomach for toxicity tests “only reliable 5-25% of the time,” as stated in one HLS record. You won’t hear about the animals who return to barren cages to seize, vomit and collapse unattended.
One former HLS employee claims animals are never anesthetized or euthanized correctly. “[I] saw a beagle on the necropsy table. The vivisector put a knife into the animal, who threw his head back and howled…His last howls were when the leg muscles were severed.”
If comparable violence were perpetrated against people or family pets, it would be classified as terrorism. But the media and anti-AR contingent rarely look inside the necropsy room or animal ward. Critics such as Wesley J. Smith of National Review Online look at the message-bearers and proclaim: “They have crossed to the dark side–animal rights terrorism.”
“Granted, some radical animal activists have committed serious acts of vandalism and other crimes. But the wrath isn’t directed solely at them,” writer Steven Zak (Who Are You Calling A Terrorist?) argues. “Mr. Smith, for instance, condemns groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and even the moderate Humane Society of the United States.”
When PETA, Physician’s Committee For Responsible Medicine and Protect Our Earth’s Treasures (POET) exposed veterinarian Michael Podell’s botched attempt to emulate amphetamine abuse in HIV-positive drug users by pumping speed into cats infected with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), Dr. Steven L. Teitlebaum, president of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, lumped law-abiding activists into a “violent segment of the animal rights movement, whose harassment campaigns include personal attacks and death threats against scientists and their families.”
AIDS and FIV have dissimilar cellular processes that render approximation to the human species baseless. Many scientists object to the use of FIV as a model for HIV. Yet Podell’s $1.68 million study for Ohio State University wasted three years subjecting cats to painful spinal taps, precarious stunts, brain probing, death and dissection.
After Podell’s eventual resignation, POET searched for proof of AR violence against the vivisector. Podell had filed no police reports. When asked to authenticate “almost a dozen” death threats, he came up with one vaguely threatening email from an activist in England.
POET exercised legal tactics to reveal fraud within the tax-funded animal experimentation system. Most AR activists utilize letter campaigns, literature, media exposure and lawful protest to convey their message.
“The majority are ordinary people with families to care for and bills to pay. We are acutely aware of the unnecessary, inexcusable suffering of other species on a daily basis and we have made a commitment to help alleviate that suffering,” asserts The Animal Spirit’s Shell Sullivan in Rights For Animals? “I talk to people who will listen and I protest against what I believe to be wrong.”
Sullivan may soon find her free-speech privileges choreographed to conform with the narrowing scope of civil-rights liberties. The courts increasingly ban demonstrations and judges reject bail money for activists. SHAC claims FBI agents allegedly threatened the life of an activist who refused to divulge information. Others have been offered cash to become informants.
Robin Webb, British press officer for the Animal Liberation Front, was arrested at the HLS demo in New Jersey for violating an injunction that ordered activists to assemble in 50-count groups. Bail was initially set at an unprecedented $50,000 for the 57-year-old’s “crime” of dashing across the grass to become person #51 outside HLS.
Such scare tactics not only stifle free speech, they are also disproportionate to the crime. At worst, AR vandalism and property damage do not rank as terrorist offenses. By equating the two, reactionaries “trivialize the real thing and insult its victims,” Zak contends.
Personally, I am a mom who wishes to see her two-year-old son inhabit a more compassionate world where he is free to question the status quo. I want him to know that every political and ethical advance throughout history evolved from the unpopular few willing to take a stand.
The German activist Helmut Kaplan wrote: “Our grandchildren will ask us one day: Where were you during the Holocaust of the animals? What did you do against these horrifying crimes? We won’t be able to offer the same excuse for the second time–that we didn’t know.”
Just as my mother gave me the wisdom and fortitude to speak for the voiceless, I give my son the eyes to see and the words to fight back.
The following are excerpts that the ChinCare webmasters researched from the Internet for the purpose of proving that even the radical, extremist groups DO NOT just carelessly “release” chinchillas. As stated on the Change by Choice page, we do NOT support radical or extremist methods of creating change, as activists we only support change through educational, peaceful and legislative means.
Liberations are the quintessential direct action. Education and economic sabotage save animals lives in the long run, but liberating animals from laboratories, factory farms, or other places of abuse is the only way to save animals lives here and now. Liberations are probably the most complex actions, and some of the most risky. For both these reasons, an incredible amount of planning and preparation are needed. The first step in a liberation is research. You have to know all you can about the target. You have to know how many animals they have, what kind of animals, what they are doing to them, and where they are located. Once these are determined comes the most important part of a liberation - finding homes for the animals. Aside from the actual break in group, a whole other group of people may be needed for this aspect. NEVER liberate an animal that you have not found a good and loving home for. Liberated animals should be placed in homes of people not associated with your group, and hopefully not associated with the movement at all. Before being liberated, an animal should be completely checked over by a trusted veterinarian. Again, before planning on how to get animals out of bad situations, be certain you have a good situation to put them in once they have been liberated. Special homes may be needed for some animals considering you may be liberating animals not normally kept as pets, or with special conditions inflicted upon them by the abusers. While caring for a dog taken from a laboratory breeder may not require special skill, the average person does not know how to care for a monkey with a hole cut in its skull and an electrode attached to its brain. As was said, liberations are often highly complex, requiring a number of people and a huge amount of planning."
A.L.F. Raids More Fur Farms: 10 Liberated
The A.L.F. struck a Texas fur farm for the first time on April 9th. Ten chinchillas were liberated from the DeBerry, Texas-based Don Kelley Fur Farm. In an anonymous call to a sympathetic animal rights group, the A.L.F. claimed credit for the action and claimed that the animals would be put in loving homes. Most fur farmers kill chinchillas by either genital electrocution, foot to ear electrocution, or neck-breaking. This is the first time the A.L.F. has liberated chinchillas during this new anti-fur farm campaign, possibly because chinchillas are not known for being good candidates for release into the wild. Due to the chinchilla’s thick coat, they cannot survive in temperatures much over 80 degrees. Mink and fox, on the other hand, have been shown to thrive directly upon release from fur farms. The A.L.F. claims that the chinchillas freed during this raid are now living with human companions who will care for them and their needs.
FUR FARM LIBERATIONS
Almost all animals raised on fur farms can be released safely into the wild. Police and fur farmers may disagree, saying they will starve or die in the wild, but wildlife officials agree that this is a self serving lie. Of course some will not survive the wild; some animals raised in the wild don’t survive it either. Do they stand any better chances on the fur farm? This makes liberating animals on fur farms much easier than those from laboratories. Fox, mink, wolf, bobcat, lynx, raccoon, and coyote can all be safely released into the wild.
The only common fur animal that can not survive the wild is the chinchilla. Fur farms are also an easier target since they are more open and generally have less security, although with increasing fur farm liberations, security is quickly increasing. No huge ecological imbalance results from releasing these animals, even in massive quantities, into the wild. They all disperse quickly, with mink traveling five to ten miles a day, and fox traveling twelve. Fur farms are easily spotted, most use long sheds or rows of cages. Fur animals are kept as cold as possible, since this will thicken their coats. For this purpose fur cages are always open to the outside air, making liberation that much easier. There are some points of safety for the animals that must be followed in a fur animal liberation. Animals are not old enough to be released until after they have been weaned. Also, they should never be released after late October, since by then winter has set in and they wont have time to learn to hunt since prey species will be more difficult to catch at this time. The best method for releasing large amounts of animals is to cut holes in fences surrounding the compound, and then just open the cages and let the animals find their own way out. Of course some will not get out, but when releasing thousands of animals it may be the only way. The more escape routes you can cut the better chances they will have. With any release into the wild some animals will be recaptured, but getting most or even some of the animals to freedom is still much better than all dying. Chinchillas are a small herbivore native to South America. They are generally not killed until spring. As was said earlier, chinchillas are the only fur animal not able to be released to the wild, so they should be found good homes with people who know how to care for them. An important thing to know is that they can not tolerate temperatures over 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Books about their care are available at book stores and libraries. Even if a liberation is not possible, fur farms can still be disrupted.
From October to December the “pelting stock”, the animals about to be killed, and the “breeding stock”, those animals left to produce more animals, are the same size. By opening all the cages and releasing them into the compound they will be unable to tell which is which. The breeding stock may be kept in just a few cages, so be sure to open them all, or else you might miss the breeding stock and have accomplished nothing. You can also destroy the breeding cards, index card sized slips which contain the genetic history (thus the value) of the stock, usually kept on the front of the cages. This action will not save the animals in the fur farm at that time, they will still be killed. In fact, they will probably kill all the animals and purchase new ones for breeding. But, such actions can cause a farm to shut down, thus saving countless animals. Its a question each individual must decide for themselves. Another method is to take a non-toxic dye and spray it on each animal, rendering the pelt worthless. Again, they will still be killed, but possibly it will shut down the farm and save future generations.
I support the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). I support property destruction against industries that massacre animals and rape the planet. Since when do implements of death and devastation fall outside the range of legitimate attack? I do not believe that property destruction is violence, but even if it is, violence is defensible in certain cases and I will always defend the lesser over the greater violence.
Origins and Philosophy of the ALF
“We are a non-violent guerilla organisation, dedicated to the liberation of animals from all forms of cruelty and persecution at the hands of mankind.” Ronnie Lee, ALF founder
“Not to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission — to be of service to them whenever they require it.” St. Francis of Assisi
The ALF grew out of the hunt saboteur movement in England in 1970s. Activists turned from legal tactics of hunt disruption to illegal tactics of sabotage when they grew weary of being assaulted and jailed and sought more effective tactics. A hunt sab group known as the Band of Mercy broadened the focus to target other animal exploitation industries such as vivisection and began to use arson as a potent tool of property destruction. Two of its leaders were arrested in 1974 and released a year later. One turned snitch and left the movement, the other, Ronnie Lee, deepened his convictions and began a new ultra-militant group he called the Animal Liberation Front that would forever change the face of direct action struggle. The ALF migrated to U.S. in the early 1980s and is now an international movement in over twenty countries.
The ALF is a loosely associated collection of cells of people who go underground and violate the law on behalf of animals. They break into and enter prison compounds (euphemistically referred to as “research laboratories” and the like) to rescue animals, and they also destroy property in order to prevent further harm done to animals and to weaken exploitation industries economically. Official ALF guidelines are: (1) to liberate animals from places of abuse; (2) to inflict economic damage to industries that profit from animal exploitation; (3) to reveal the horrors and atrocities committed against animals behind locked doors, and (4) to take all necessary precautions against harming any human or nonhuman animals. Anyone who follows these guidelines – and who is vegan – belongs to the ALF.
Despite the incriminations of animal exploitation industries, the state, and the mass media, the ALF is not a terrorist organization; rather they are a counter-terrorist outfit and the newest form of freedom fighters. They are best understood not by comparing them to the Al Qaeda or Saddam Hussein’s republican guard, but instead to the Underground Railroad, the Jewish anti-Nazi resistance fighters, or current peace and justice movements. By providing veterinary care and homes for many of the animals that they liberate (vs. those like mink that they release back from cages into the wild), the ALF models itself after the U.S. Underground Railroad movement that helped fugitive slaves reach Free states and Canada. ALF members pattern themselves after freedom fighters in Nazi Germany who liberated war prisoners and Holocaust victims and destroyed equipment such as gas ovens which the Nazis used to torture and kill their victims. Similarly, the ALF has important similarities with some of the great freedom fighters of the past two centuries, and are akin to contemporary peace and justice movements in their quest to end bloodshed and violence toward life and to bring justice to all species.
There are indeed real terrorists in today’s world, but they are not the ALF. The most violent and dangerous criminals occupy the top positions of U.S. corporate and state office; they are the ones most responsible for the exploitation of people, the massacre of animals, and the rape of the planet.
A Tale of Two Systems
“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will” Frederick Douglass
“Even voting for the right thing is doing nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority.” Henry David Thoreau
American history has two main political traditions. First, there is the “indirect” system of “representative democracy” whereby citizens express their needs and will to elected local and state officials whose sole function is to “represent” them in the political and legal system. The system’s “output” – laws – reflects the “input” – the peoples’ will and interests. This cartoon image of liberal democracy, faithfully reproduced in generation after generation of textbooks and in the discourse of state apologists and the media, is falsified by the fact that powerful economic and political forces co-opt elected officials who represent the interests of the powerful instead of the powerless.
From the realization that the state is hardly a neutral arbiter of competing interests but rather exists to advance the interests of economic and political elites, and that “pluralist democracy” is the best system that money can buy, a second political tradition of direct action has emerged.
Direct action advocates argue that the indirect system of representative democracy is irredeemably corrupted by money, power, cronyism, and privilege. Appealing to the lessons of history, direct activists insist that one cannot win liberation struggles through education, moral persuasion, political campaigns, demonstrations, or any form of aboveground, mainstream, or legal action alone. Direct action movements therefore bypass efforts to influence the state in order to immediately confront the figures of social power and oppression they are challenging.
Direct action tactics can vary widely, ranging from sit-ins, strikes, boycotts, and tree sits to hacking web-sites, email and phone harassment, home demonstrations, and arson. Direct action can be legal as with home demonstrations against a vivisector, or illegal, in the case of the civil disobedience tactics of Mohandas Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Illegal direct action, moreover, can be nonviolent or violent; it can respect private property or destroy it.
Whereas indirect action can promote passivity and dependence on others for change, direct action tends to be more involving and empowering. In the words of nineteenth century anarchist Voltairine de Cleyre, “The evil of pinning faith to indirect action is far greater than any minor results. The main evil is that it destroys initiative, quenches the individual rebellious spirit, and teaches people to rely on someone else to do for them what they should do for themselves. People must learn that their power does not lie in their voting strength, that their power lies in their ability to stop production.”
Anyone quick to condemn the tactics of the ALF needs a lesson in history and a logical consistency check. As writer James Goodman points out, “The entire edifice of western liberal democracy – from democratic rights, to representative parliament, to freedom of speech – rests on previous acts of civil disobedience. The American anti-colonialists in the 1770s asserting ‘no taxation without representation’; the French revolutionaries in the 1780s demanding ‘liberty equality fraternity’; the English Chartists in the 1830s demanding a ‘People’s Charter’; the Suffragettes of the 1900s demanding ‘votes for women’; the Gandhian disobedience movement from the 1920s calling for ‘Swaraj’/self-government; all of these were movements of civil disobedience, and have shaped the political traditions that we live with today.”
From the Boston Tea Party to the Underground Railroad, from the Suffragettes to the Civil Rights Movement; from Vietnam War resistance to the Battle of Seattle, key struggles and movements in U.S. history employed illegal direct action tactics to advance human rights and freedoms. Rather than being a rupture in some bucolic tradition of Natural Law guiding the Reason of modern men and women to the Good and bringing Justice down to Earth in a peaceful and gradual drizzle, the contemporary movements for animal and Earth liberation are a continuation of the American tradition of rights, democracy, civil disobedience, and direct action, as they expand the struggle to a far broader constituency.
Moral progress does not work through gentle nudges or ethical persuasion alone. Society is inherently conservative, and change is blocked either by the corruption of the powerful or the apathy of the powerless. Sometimes society has to be pushed into the future, and justice has to be forced past the barricades of ignorance and complacency by the most enlightened people of the time. Within this framework, direct action and civil disobedience are key catalysts of progressive change.
The Rationale of Resistance
“The Earth Liberation Front realizes the profit motive caused and reinforced by the capitalist society is destroying all life on this planet. The only way, at this point in time, to stop that continued destruction of life is to by any means necessary take the profit motive out of killing.” ELF website
“We’re very dangerous philosophically. Part of the danger is that we don’t buy into the illusion that property is worth more than life. We bring that insane priority into the light, which is something the system cannot survive.” David Barbarash, former spokesman for the ALF
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. referred to direct action as the “marvelous new militancy” of the civil rights movement in the U.S. In his celebrated 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, he blasted the “tranquilizing drug of gradualism” and urged immediate and forceful non-violent direct action. Having been assailed so many times with the label of “extremist,” King learned to wear it as a badge of honor, turning the tables on his accusers and proclaiming himself an extremist in love and a passion for justice.
The defense of direct action and civil disobedience rests on the distinction between what is legal and what is ethical, between the Law and the Right. There are textbook cases where legal codes violate codes of ethics and justice: Nazi Germany, U.S. slavery, and South African apartheid. In such situations, not only is it legitimate to break the law, it is obligatory. In the words of Dr. King, “I became convinced that non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.”
The true forces of ethics and justice have involved groups such as the Jewish Resistance, Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, Gandhi and the Indian independence movement, the Suffragettes, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, and Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress. All of them broke the law, destroyed the enemy’s property, or committed violence; they were beaten, jailed, killed, and denounced as extremists or something like terrorists.
Yet who will argue that their actions were wrong? Today we lionize Nelson Mandela as a great hero, but he and the ANC used violence to win their freedom. People forget that the much-heralded Suffragettes in England and the U.S. used arson and bombs to help win the emancipation of women. No movement for social change has succeeded without a radical fringe, without civil disobedience, property destruction, and even violence – so why should one expect it to be any different with the animal liberation struggle?
Following the nonviolent philosophy of Gandhi and the U.S. civil rights movement, the ALF believes there is a higher law than that created by and for the corporate-state complex, a moral law that transcends the corrupt and biased statues of the U.S. political system. When the law is wrong, the right thing to do is to break it. This is often how moral progress is made in history, from defiance of American slavery and Hitler’s anti-Semitism to sit-ins at “whites only” lunch counters in Alabama. By destroying the property of animal oppressors, the ALF helps to prevent future destruction to life as it weakens – and in some cases, eliminates – industries by making their bloodletting more costly.
Opponents of direct action, typically those with vested interests in the status quo, believe that illegal actions undermine the rule of law and they view civil disobedience as a threat to social order. Among other things, this perspective presupposes that the system in question is legitimate or that it cannot be improved upon. It also misrepresents direct activists as people who disrespect the law, when arguably they have a higher regard for the spirit of law and its relation to justice than those who fetishize political order for its own sake. Champions of direct action renounce uncritical allegiance to a legal system. To paraphrase Karl Marx, the law is the opiate of the people, and blind obedience to laws and social decorum led millions of German Jews to their death with almost no resistance. All too often, the legal system is a structure to absorb opposition and induce paralysis by delay.
Thus, it is important to recognize that direct action is not a carte blanche for political “anarchy” in the stereotyped sense of complete lawlessness and disorder. Thoreau’s maxim that one ought to obey one’s own conscience rather than an unjust law is a good start toward critical thinking and autonomy, but it can also provide a formula for violence and legitimate killing for a cause. The ALF is guided by the belief that however righteous their anger, no human being must ever be harmed in the struggle for liberation of others; rather, only property is to be damaged as a necessary means to the end of animal liberation. Despite zeal for its cause, the ALF is quite unlike radical anti-abortionists who kill their opponents and the differences should never be conflated.
Let’s be honest: the real lawbreakers are corporations such as Enron and the U.S. government itself, which not only breaks particular laws, but is now in the process of shredding the Constitution itself in the name of Homeland Security. For those seeking to uncover contemporary currents of anti-Americanism, turn away from the ALF and look toward the highest legal brokers of the land – Attorney General John Ashcroft and President George W. Bush.
Direct Action and the ALF
“The pump don’t work 'cause the vandals took the handles.” Bob Dylan, “Subterranean Homesick Blues”
Activists from the ALF and ELF draw from and expand the noble traditions of direct action and property destruction in U.S. struggles for freedom and democracy. In addition to anti-globalization forces, the hottest battles today are over the politics of the natural world. There is new social turmoil in the U.S. because the animal rights and environmental movements have found their own “marvelous new militancy.”
The new direct action movements have emerged because of an ever-worsening situation for animals and the Earth, in addition to dynamics of increasing radicalism within the animal and environmental movements. In the animal advocacy community, one sees a movement from welfare to rights to the ALF; in the environmental movement, there is a path from reforms to radical ecology to the ELF. Moreover, new factions are developing in each movement that now openly advocate violence, as we saw in the 2003 bombings of Chiron and Shaklee corporations by the Revolutionary Cells who warned that “this is the endgame for animal killers, there will be no more quarter given, no more half-measures taken.”
We are witnessing the dawn of a new civil war between those who will kill every last living thing for power and profit, and those prepared to fight these omnicidal maniacs tooth and nail. This is a guerilla war, fought by ecowarriors who go underground, don masks and balaclavas, operate at night, and strike through sabotage. As evident by the Vietnam War and the current war in Iraq, it is not a war that the U.S. government knows how to fight and perhaps one it cannot win. Through guerilla warfare, David can defeat Goliath.
The ALF argues that animals have rights, and these rights trump property rights. Hence, the ALF does not “steal” animals from laboratories because they never were anyone’s to own. The true theft occurs when exploiters steal their freedom and lives from them, whereas the ALF rescues, restores, and liberates. The ALF does not commit a wrong; it rights a wrong against life. For the ALF, whenever property is used to injure or take a life, it is legitimate to destroy the property in order to protect that life. This is not vandalism or hooliganism because it has a high moral purpose – it is ethical sabotage.
For the ALF, life has more value than property, whereas in the capitalist worldview property is sacred and life is profane. Animal and Earth exploitation industries can massacre billions of animals and tear down the rainforests as respectable businessmen, yet anyone who challenges their right to do this is vilified as a terrorist. Throughout the nation, new laws are being created to make videotaping animal abuse in laboratories or factory farms a felony crime, but legislators find barbaric cruelty to animals perfectly acceptable and defend the right of industries to torture and murder their living “property.”
According to official FBI definition, “Eco-terrorism is a crime committed to save nature.” It speaks volumes about capitalist society and its domineering mindset that actions to “save nature” are classified as criminal actions while those that destroy nature are sanctified by God and Flag.
On the grounds that animals have rights and these rights trump property rights, I argue that the ALF are not the terrorists that are demonized by animal exploitation industries, the state, and mass media, but rather counter-terrorists and the newest form of freedom fighters. Like the Nazi resistance movement, they destroy equipment used to torture and kill; like the Underground Railroad, they rescue slaves and transport them to freedom. Like any current human rights struggle, they seek peace and justice.
Whereas white abolitionists reached across race lines in empathy and solidarity, so the ALF reaches across species lines. Because of entrenched institutions of exploitation and speciesism, this will be the most difficult liberation struggle ever fought. But it is unquestionably the most important one because the stakes transcend specific group interests to involve all species and the future of life on this planet.
On Violence and Terrorism
“It’s a strange kind of terrorist organization that hasn’t killed anyone.” The Observer
“A man that should call everything by its right name would hardly pass the streets without being knocked down as a common enemy.” George Savile, first Marquess of Halifax
But isn’t the ALF a violent organization? Doesn’t it in fact perpetuate terrorism? The terms “violence” and “terrorism” are almost never defined by ALF critics, and when they specify their meaning to any degree, the definitions are blatantly biased and self-serving, such that the real violence and true terrorism – acts committed and supported by the corporate-state complex— are ruled out of consideration by shabby semantic tricks.
If violence is the intentional infliction of bodily harm against another person, then how can one “hurt,” “abuse,” or “injure” a nonsentient thing that does not feel pain or have awareness of any sort? How can one be “violent” toward a van or be a “terrorist” toward brick and mortar? How does one harm or terrorize a laboratory or fur farm with spray paint or a firebomb?
One simply does not – unless someone owning or associated with the property is adversely affected. People whose homes, cars, or offices are damaged suffer fear, anxiety, and trauma. Their business, livelihood, research, or careers may be ruined, and they are harmed psychologically, economically, professionally, and in other ways.
Admittedly, none of this is good from the point of view of an ALF victim such as a vivisector, foie gras chef, or fur farmer. But is it sound to call sabotage “violence”? Perhaps, if one relied on a general psychological definition involving something like “mental trauma,” but one could just as well argue that sabotage is the lesser violence compared to what it tries to prevent, that it simply is not violence, or that violence, including physical attacks against human persons, is acceptable and legitimate in a war against the warmongers.
If any definition of violence is warranted, it should be in our understanding of a “person” – any being that is sentient and the “subject of a life.” Since animals are not only sentient, but also psychologically and socially complex beings, they are subjects in every significant way human beings are. Thus, every injury to an animal ought to be considered injury to a person, and hence violence.
Like the term “communism” in the 1950s, “terrorism” is the most abused word in the English vocabulary today. In the era of the Patriot Act where all forms of dissent are denounced as terrorism, and terrorism is defined as an attempt to intimidate or influence government, the term is in danger of losing any meaning whatsoever. Objectively defined, terrorism involves three key conditions; there is: (1) an intentional act of physical violence (2) directed against innocent civilians, non-combatants, or “persons” (both human and nonhuman) (3) for ideological, political, or economic purposes.
Typically, those who vilify saboteurs as “violent” leap to the conclusion that they are “terrorists,” failing to realize that there is an important difference insofar as one can use violence in morally legitimate ways in conditions ranging from self-defense to a “just war.” The ALF is not a terrorist organization because (1) they never physically injure people, and (2) they never target anyone but those directly involved in the war against animals.
Truth be told, one can use violence in morally legitimate ways in conditions ranging from self-defense to a “just war.” One could plausibly argue that the ALF are acting in defense of the defenseless, that they are combatants in a just war, and that animal exploiters are legitimate military targets. Pacifist arguments assume that nonviolent methods of resistance can solve all major social conflicts (they cannot) and that a human life has absolute value (it does not). Philosophically speaking, one has to wonder what kind of absolute value is attached to the life of a vicious killer such as a member of the infamous Safari Club who wins prizes for “bagging” endangered species in comparison to the life of the rare elephants, lions, and gorillas the bastard kills. Why ought the human “right” to kill be protected over an animal’s right to live through a code of nonviolence?
Regardless, the corporate-state complex uses terms such as “violence” and “terrorist” as smokescreens, so that they can mask the real violence and terrorism directed from their headquarters and legitimate their war against dissent. Once the state captures its target in the semantic crosshairs, they can pull the trigger of political repression.
“In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.” George Orwell
“The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kinds of extremists we will be. The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Crimes of enormous proportion are committed against animals that the legal system ignores and only so much good can be accomplished through education and legislation. The ALF exists because peaceful dialogue alone does not work to bring about needed social change; they are people who distrust the system, who hurt when life hurts, and who feel the urgency of the crisis and want immediate effect and change.
Would you be content to write letters to your congressperson or newspaper if your family members were locked up and tortured in a laboratory? Would you not break in and free them if you could and destroy the property so that others would not be tortured? Would you not liberate your neighbor’s dog if it was being abused and the local police were indifferent? Would you not seize and destroy traps set by a local sadist who was killing cats for pleasure? Are you truly opposed to Paul Watson’s destruction of miles of driftnet used to kill everything in the sea including dolphins?
Do you want to find fault with the Jewish resistance fighters who killed every Nazi and destroyed every gas oven they could? If you support that kind of struggle and property destruction, why do you not support the ALF? Is it because that was the 1940s and this is now? Is it because that was Germany and we are the U.S.? Or is it because those acts defended human persons while the ALF defends nonhuman persons? Is it because you are a speciesist who privileges human interests over nonhuman interests without any logical grounds for doing so? Is it the tactics you really disagree with – or the species that is defended?
Just as carnivores pay the slaughterhouse workers to do their dirty work for them, animal rights activists have the ALF doing the dangerous work for them. The ALF ought to be respected and appreciated for the brave soldiers they are.
Meaningful social change will not result from the use of one or a few tactics alone – all strategies and tactics are needed. The animal rights movement needs people to write letters, work with local and state “representatives,” educate students, do vegan outreach, demonstrate and protest, and so on. And it also needs underground direct action.
If you care about animals; if you care about the values of peace, freedom, and justice; if you care about human moral progress; if you value logical consistency, you should support the ALF.
#1 What are the fundamental principles of the Animal Rights (AR) movement?
The fundamental principle of the AR movement is that nonhuman animals deserve to live according to their own natures, free from harm, abuse, and exploitation. This goes further than just saying that we should treat animals well while we exploit them, or before we kill and eat them. It says animals have the RIGHT to be free from human cruelty and exploitation, just as humans possess this right. The withholding of this right from the nonhuman animals based on their species membership is referred to as “speciesism”.
Animal rights activists try to extend the human circle of respect and compassion beyond our species to include other animals, who are also capable of feeling pain, fear, hunger, thirst, loneliness, and kinship. When we try to do this, many of us come to the conclusion that we can no longer support factory farming, vivisection, and the exploitation of animals for entertainment. At the same time, there are still areas of debate among animal rights supporters, for example, whether ANY research that harms animals is ever justified, where the line should be drawn for enfranchising species with rights, on what occasions civil disobedience may be appropriate, etc. However, these areas of potential disagreement do not negate the abiding principles that join us: compassion and concern for the pain and suffering of nonhumans.
One main goal of this FAQ is to address the common justifications that arise when we become aware of how systematically our society abuses and exploits animals. Such “justifications” help remove the burden from our consciences, but this FAQ attempts to show that they do not excuse the harm we cause other animals. Beyond the scope of this FAQ, more detailed arguments can be found in three classics of the AR literature:
The Case for Animal Rights, Tom Regan (ISBN 0-520-05460-1)
In Defense of Animals, Peter Singer (ISBN 0-06-097044-8)
Animal Liberation, Peter Singer (ISBN 0-380-71333-0, 2nd Ed.)
While appreciating the important contributions of Regan and Singer, many animal rights activists emphasize the role of empathetic caring as the actual and most appropriate fuel for the animal rights movement in contradistinction to Singer’s and Regan’s philosophical rationales. To the reader who says “Why should I care?”, we can point out the following reasons:
One cares about minimizing suffering.
One cares about promoting compassion in human affairs.
One is concerned about improving the health of humanity.
One is concerned about human starvation and malnutrition.
One wants to prevent the radical disruption of our planet’s ecosystem.
One wants to preserve animal species.
One wants to preserve wilderness.
The connections between these issues and the AR agenda may not be obvious. Please read on as we attempt to clarify this. --DG
“The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny.” --Jeremy Bentham (philosopher)
“Life is life–whether in a cat, or dog or man. There is no difference there between a cat or a man. The idea of difference is a human conception for man’s own advantage…” --Sri Aurobindo (poet and philosopher)
“Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.” --Thomas Edison (inventor)
“The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men.” --Leonardo Da Vinci (artist and scientist)
SEE ALSO #2-#3, #26, #87-#91
Back to Questions
#2 Animal Rights vs. Animal Welfare
Animal welfare theories accept that animals have interests, but allow these interests to be traded away as long as there are some human benefits that are thought to justify that sacrifice. Animal rights means that animals, like humans, have interests that cannot be sacrificed or traded away simply because it might benefit others. The rights position does not hold that rights are absolute; an animal’s rights, just like those of humans, must be limited, and rights can certainly conflict. Animal rights means that animals are not ours to use for food, clothing, entertainment, or to experiment on. Animal welfare allows these uses as long as humane guidelines are followed.
The Animal Welfare movement acknowledges the suffering of nonhumans and attempts to reduce that suffering through “humane” treatment, but it does not have as a goal elimination of the use and exploitation of animals. The Animal Rights movement goes significantly further by rejecting the exploitation of animals and according them rights in that regard. A person committed to animal welfare might be concerned that cows get enough space, proper food, etc., but would not necessarily have any qualms about killing and eating cows, so long as the rearing and slaughter are “humane”.
The Animal Welfare movement is represented by such organizations as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the Humane Society.
Having said this, it should be realized that some hold a broader interpretation of the AR movement. They would argue that the AW groups do, in fact, support rights for animals (e.g., a dog has the right not to be kicked). Under this interpretation, AR is viewed as a broad umbrella covering the AW and strict AR groups. This interpretation has the advantage of moving AR closer to the mainstream. Nevertheless, there is a valid distinction between the AW and AR groups, as described in the first paragraph.
Animal Liberation (AL) is, for many people, a synonym for Animal Rights (but see below). Some people prefer the term “liberation” because it brings to mind images of other successful liberation movements, such as the movement for liberation of slaves and liberation of women, whereas the term “rights” often encounters resistance when an attempt is made to apply it to nonhumans. The phrase “Animal Liberation” became popular with the publication of Peter Singer’s classic book of the same name.
This use of the term liberation should be distinguished from the literal meaning discussed in question #88, i.e., an Animal Liberationist is not necessarily one who engages in forceful civil disobedience or unlawful actions.
Finally, intellectual honesty compels us to acknowledge that the account given here is rendered in broad strokes (but is at least approximately correct), and purposely avoids describing ongoing debate about the meaning of the terms “Animal Rights”, “Animal Liberation”, and “Animal Welfare”, debate about the history of these movements, and debate about the actual positions of the prominent thinkers. To depict the flavor of such debates, the following text describes one coherent position. Naturally, it will be attacked from all sides!
Some might suggest that a subtle distinction can be made between the Animal Liberation and Animal Rights movements. The Animal Rights movement, at least as propounded by Regan and his adherents, is said to require total abolition of such practices as experimentation on animals. The Animal Liberation movement, as propounded by Singer and his adherents, is said to reject the absolutist view and assert that in some cases, such experimentation can be morally defensible. Because such cases could also justify some experiments on humans, however, it is not clear that the distinction described reflects a difference between the liberation and rights views, so much as it does a broader difference of ethical theory, i.e., absolutism versus utilitarianism. --DG
Historically, animal welfare groups have attempted to improve the lot of animals in society. They worked against the popular Western concept of animals as lacking souls and not being at all worthy of any ethical consideration. The animal rights movement set itself up as an abolitionist alternative to the reform-minded animal welfarists. As the animal rights movement has become larger and more influential, the animal exploiters have finally been forced to respond to it. Perhaps inspired by the efforts of Tom Regan to distinguish AR from AW, industry groups intent on maintaining the status quo have embraced the term “animal welfare”. Pro-vivisection, hunting, trapping, agribusiness, and animal entertainment groups now refer to themselves as “animal welfare” supporters. Several umbrella groups whose goal is to defend these practices have also arisen.
This classic case of public-relations doublespeak acknowledges the issue of cruelty to animals in name only, while allowing for the continued use and abuse of animals. The propaganda effect is to stigmatize animal rights supporters as being extreme while attempting to portray themselves as the reasonable moderates. Nowadays, the cause of “animal welfare” is invoked by the animal industry at least as often as it is used by animal protection groups. --LJ
SEE ALSO: #1, #3, #87-#88
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#3 What exactly are rights and what rights can we give animals?
Rights (whether moral or legal) serve to protect certain basic interests from being traded away. If I have the right to liberty, that means my interest in my freedom will be protected and not sacrificed merely because it would be in the interests of others to ignore it. Animals don’t always have the SAME rights as humans, because their interests are not always the same as ours and some rights would be irrelevant to animals’ lives. For instance, a dog doesn’t have an interest in voting and therefore doesn’t have the right to vote, since that right would be as meaningless to a dog as it is to a child. Animals do, however, have the right to equal consideration of their interests. For instance, a dog most certainly has an interest in not having pain inflicted on him or her unnecessarily. We therefore are obliged to take that interest into consideration and respect the dog’s right not to have pain unnecessarily inflicted pain upon him or her.
Animal rights means that animals deserve certain kinds of consideration – consideration of what is in their own best interests regardless of whether they are cute, useful to humans, or an endangered species, and regardless of whether any human cares about them at all (just as a retarded human has rights even if he or she is not cute or useful or even if everyone dislikes him or her). It means recognizing that animals are not ours to use–for food, clothing, entertainment, or to experiment on.
Despite arguably being the foundation of the Western liberal tradition, the concept of “rights” has been a source of controversy and confusion in the debate over AR. A common objection to the notion that animals have rights involves questioning the origin of those rights. One such argument might proceed as follows:
Where do these rights come from? Are you in special communication with God, and he has told you that animals have rights? Have the rights been granted by law? Aren’t rights something that humans must grant?
It is true that the concept of “rights” needs to be carefully explicated. It is also true that the concept of “natural rights” is fraught with philosophical difficulties. Complicating things further is the confusion between legal rights and moral rights.
One attempt to avoid this objection is to accept it, but argue that if it is not an obstacle for thinking of humans as having rights, then it should not be an obstacle for thinking of animals as having rights. Henry Salt wrote: Have the lower animals “rights?” Undoubtedly–if men have. That is the point I wish to make evident in this opening chapter… The fitness of this nomenclature is disputed, but the existence of some real principle of the kind can hardly be called in question; so that the controversy concerning “rights” is little else than an academic battle over words, which leads to no practical conclusion. I shall assume, therefore, that men are possessed of “rights,” in the sense of Herbert Spencer’s definition; and if any of my readers object to this qualified use of the term, I can only say that I shall be perfectly willing to change the word as soon as a more appropriate one is forthcoming. The immediate question that claims our attention is this–if men have rights, have animals their rights also?
Satisfying though this argument may be, it still leaves us unable to respond to the skeptic who disavows the notion of rights even for humans. Fortunately, however, there is a straightforward interpretation of “rights” that is plausible and allows us to avoid the controversial rights rhetoric and underpinnings. It is the notion that a “right” is the flip side of a moral imperative. If, ethically, we must refrain from an act performed on a being, then that being can be said to have a “right” that the act not be performed. For example, if our ethics tells us that we must not kill another, then the other has a right not to be killed by us. This interpretation of rights is, in fact, an intuitive one that people both understand and readily endorse. (Of course, rights so interpreted can be codified as legal rights through appropriate legislation.)
It is important to realize that, although there is a basis for speaking of animals as having rights, that does not imply or require that they possess all the rights that humans possess, or even that humans possess all the rights that animals possess. Consider the human right to vote. (On the view taken here, this would derive from an ethical imperative to give humans influence over actions that influence their lives.) Since animals lack the capacity to rationally consider actions and their implications, and to understand the concept of democracy and voting, they lack the capacity to vote. There is, therefore, no ethical imperative to allow them to do so, and thus they do not possess the right to vote.
Similarly, some fowls have a strong biological need to extend and flap their wings; right-thinking people feel an ethical imperative to make it possible for them to do so. Thus, it can be said that fowl have the right to flap their wings. Obviously, such a right need not be extended to humans.
The rights that animals and humans possess, then, are determined by their interests and capacities. Animals have an interest in living, avoiding pain, and even in pursuing happiness (as do humans). As a result of the ethical imperatives, they have rights to these things (as do humans). They can exercise these rights by living their lives free of exploitation and abuse at the hands of humans. --DG
SEE ALSO: #1-#2
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#4 Isn’t AR hypocritical, e.g., because you don’t give rights to insects or plants?
The general hypocrisy argument appears in many forms. A typical form is as follows:
“It is hypocritical to assert rights for a cow but not for a plant; therefore, cows cannot have rights.”
Arguments of this type are frequently used against AR. Not much analysis is required to see that they carry little weight. First, one can assert an hypothesis A that would carry as a corollary hypothesis B. If one then fails to assert B, one is hypocritical, but this does not necessarily make A false. Certainly, to assert A and not B would call into question one’s credibility, but it entails nothing about the validity of A.
Second, the factual assertion of hypocrisy is often unwarranted. In the above example, there are grounds for distinguishing between cows and plants (plants do not have a central nervous system), so the charge of hypocrisy is unjustified. One may disagree with the criteria, but assertion of such criteria nullifies the charge of hypocrisy.
Finally, the charge of hypocrisy can be reduced in most cases to simple speciesism. For example, the quote above can be recast as:
“It is hypocritical to assert rights for a human but not for a plant; therefore, humans cannot have rights.”
To escape from this reductio ad absurdum of the first quote, one must produce a crucial relevant difference between cows and humans, in other words, one must justify the speciesist assignment of rights to humans but not to cows. (In question #24, we apply a similar reduction to the charge of hypocrisy related to abortion. For questions dealing specifically with insects and plants, refer to questions #39 through #46.)
Finally, we must ask ourselves who the real hypocrites are. The following quotation from Michael W. Fox describes the grossly hypocritical treatment of exploited versus companion animals. --DG
“Farm animals can be kept five to a cage two feet square, tied up constantly by a two-foot-long tether, castrated without anesthesia, or branded with a hot iron. A pet owner would be no less than prosecuted for treating a companion animal in such a manner; an American president was, in fact, morally censured merely for pulling the ears of his two beagles.” --Michael W. Fox (Vice President of HSUS)
SEE ALSO: #24, #39-#46
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#5 What right do AR people have to impose their beliefs on others?
Just by saying that, you are telling me what I should and shouldn’t do! Everybody is entitled to their own opinions, but freedom of thought does not always imply freedom of action. You are free to believe whatever you want as long as you don’t hurt others. You may think that animals should be killed, that black people should be enslaved, or that women should be beaten, but that doesn’t give you the right to put your beliefs into practice. As for telling people what to do, society exists so that there will be rules governing people’s behavior. The very nature of reform movements is to tell others what to do–don’t use humans as slaves, don’t beat your wife, etc.-- and all movements initially encounter opposition from people who want to go right on doing the criticized behavior.
There is a not-so-subtle distinction between imposition of one’s views and advertising them. AR supporters are certainly not imposing their views in the sense that, say, the Spanish Inquisition imposed its views, or the Church imposed its views on Galileo. We do, however, feel a moral duty to present our case to the public, and often to our friends and acquaintances. There is ample precedent for this: protests against slavery, protests against the Vietnam War, condemnation of racism, etc.
One might point out that the gravest imposition is that of the exploiter of animals upon his innocent and defenseless victims. --DG
“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” --George Orwell (author)
“I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it’s hell.” --Harry S. Truman (33rd U.S. President)
SEE ALSO: #11, #87-#91
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#6 Isn’t AR just another facet of political correctness?
If only that were true! The term “politically correct” generally refers to a view that is in sync with the societal mainstream but which some might be inclined to disagree with. For example, some people might be inclined to dismiss equal treatment for the races as mere “political correctness”. The AR agenda is, currently, far from being a mainstream idea.
Also, it is ridiculous to suppose that a view’s validity can be overturned simply by attaching the label “politically correct” or “politically incorrect”. --DG
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#7 Isn’t AR just another religion?
No. The dictionary defines “religion” as the appeal to a supernatural power. (An alternate definition refers to devotion to a cause; that is a virtue that the AR movement would be happy to avow.)
People who support Animal Rights come from many different religions and many different philosophies. What they share is a belief in the importance of showing compassion for other individuals, whether human or nonhuman. --LK
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#8 Doesn’t it demean humans to give rights to animals?
A tongue-in-cheek, though valid, answer to this question is given by David Cowles-Hamar: “Humans are animals, so animal rights are human rights!”
In a more serious vein, we can observe that giving rights to women and black people does not demean white males. By analogy, then, giving rights to nonhumans does not demean humans. If anything, by being morally consistent, and widening the circle of compassion to deserving nonhumans, we ennoble humans. (Refer to question #26 for other relevant arguments.) --DG
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” --Mahatma Gandhi (statesman and philosopher)
“It is man’s sympathy with all creatures that first makes him truly a man.” --Albert Schweitzer (statesman, Nobel 1952)
“For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.” --Pythagoras (mathematician)
SEE ALSO: #26
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#9 Weren’t Hitler and Goebbels in favor of animal rights?
This argument is absurd and almost unworthy of serious consideration. The questioner implies that since Hitler and Goebbels allegedly held views supportive of animal rights (e.g., Hitler was a vegetarian for some time), the animal rights viewpoint must be wrong or dubious.
The problem for this argument is simple: bad people and good people can both believe things correctly. Or put in another way, just because a person holds one bad belief (e.g., Nazism), that doesn’t make all his beliefs wrong. A few examples suffice to illustrate this. The Nazis undertook smoking reduction campaigns. Is it therefore dubious to discourage smoking? Early Americans withheld respect and liberty for black people. Does that mean that they were wrong in giving respect and liberty to others?
Technically, this argument is an “ignoratio elenchus fallacy”, arguing from irrelevance.
Finally, many scholars are doubtful that Hitler and Goebbels supported AR in any meaningful way. --DG
SEE ALSO: #54
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#10 Do you really believe that “a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy”?
Taken alone and literally, this notion is absurd. However, this quote has been shamelessly removed from its original context and misrepresented by AR opponents. The original context of the quote is given below. Viewed within its context, it is clear that the quote is neither remarkable nor absurd. --DG
“When it comes to having a central nervous system, and the ability to feel pain, hunger, and thirst, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” --Ingrid Newkirk (AR activist)
SEE ALSO: #47
#11 There is no correct or incorrect in morals; you have yours and I have mine, right? (3 answers)
The main problem with this position is that ethical relativists are unable to denounce execrable ethical practices, such as racism. On what grounds can they condemn (if at all) Hitler’s ideas on racial purity? Are we to believe that he was uttering an ethical truth when advocating the Final Solution?
In addition to the inability to denounce practices of other societies, the relativists are unable to counter the arguments of even those whose society they share. They cannot berate someone who proposes to raise and kill infants for industrial pet food consumption, for example, if that person sees it as morally sound. Indeed, they cannot articulate the concept of societal moral progress, since they lack a basis for judging progress. There is no point in turning to the relativists for advice on ethical issues such as euthanasia, infanticide, or the use of fetuses in research.
Faced with such arguments, ethical relativists sometimes argue that ethical truth is based on the beliefs of a society; ethical truth is seen as nothing more than a reflection of societal customs and habits. Butchering animals is acceptable in the West, they would say, because the majority of people think it so.
They are on no firmer ground here. Are we to accept that chattel slavery was right before the US Civil War and wrong thereafter? Can all ethical decisions be decided by conducting opinion polls?
It is true that different societies have different practices that might be seen as ethical by one and unethical by the other. However, these differences result from differing circumstances. For example, in a society where mere survival is key, the diversion of limited food to an infant could detract significantly from the well-being of the existing family members that contribute to food gathering. Given that, infanticide may be the ethically correct course.
The conclusion is that there is such a thing as ethical truth (otherwise, ethics becomes vacuous and devoid of proscriptive force). The continuity of thought, then, between those who reject the evils of slavery, racial discrimination, and gender bias, and those who denounce the evils of speciesism becomes striking. --AECW
An example of the method of leveraging a person’s morality is to ask the person why he has compassion for human beings. Almost always he will agree that his compassion does not stem from the fact that: 1) humans use language, 2) humans compose symphonies, 3) humans can plan in the far future, 4) humans have a written, technological culture, etc. Instead, he will agree that it stems from the fact that humans can suffer, feel pain, be harmed, etc. It is then quite easy to show that nonhuman animals can also suffer, feel pain, be harmed, etc. The person’s arbitrary inconsistency in not according moral status to nonhumans then stands out starkly. --JEH
Fortunately, the most fundamental ethical axioms seem to be nearly universally accepted, usually because they are necessary for societies to function. Where differences exist, they can be elucidated and discussed, in a style similar to the “leveraging” described by JEH. --DG
“To a man whose mind is free there is something even more intolerable in the sufferings of animals than in the sufferings of man. For with the latter it is at least admitted that suffering is evil and that the man who causes it is a criminal. But thousands of animals are uselessly butchered every day without a shadow of remorse. If any man were to refer to it, he would be thought ridiculous. And that is the unpardonable crime.” --Romain Rolland (author, Nobel 1915)
SEE ALSO: #5
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#12 The animals are raised to be eaten; so what is wrong with that?
This question has always seemed to me to be a fancy version of “But we want to do these things, so what is wrong with that?” The idea that an act, by virtue of an intention of ours, can be exonerated morally is totally illogical.
But worse than that, however, is the fact that such a belief is a dangerous position to take because it can enable one to justify some practices that are universally condemned. To see how this is so, consider the following restatement of the basis of the question:
“Suffering can be excused so long as we breed them for the purpose.” Now, cannot an analogous argument be used to defend a group of slave holders who breed and enslave humans and justify it by saying “but they’re bred to be our workers”? Could not the Nazis defend their murder of the Jews by saying “but we rounded them up to be killed”? --DG
“Shame on such a morality that is worthy of pariahs, and that fails to recognize the eternal essence that exists in every living thing, and shines forth with inscrutable significance from all eyes that see the sun!” --Arthur Schopenhauer (philosopher)
SEE ALSO: #13, #61
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#13 But isn’t it true that the animals wouldn’t exist if we didn’t raise them for slaughter?
There are two ways to interpret this question. First, the questioner may be referring to “the animals” as a species, in which case the argument might be more accurately phrased as follows:
“The ecological niche of cows is to be farmed; they get continued survival in this niche in return for our using them.”
Second, the questioner may be referring to “the animals” as individuals, in which case the phrasing might be:
“The individual cows that we raise to eat would not have had a life had we not done so.”
We deal first with the species interpretation and then with the individuals interpretation. The questioner’s argument applies presumably to all species of animals; to make things more concrete, we will take cows as an example in the following text.
It is incorrect to assert that cows could continue to exist only if we farm them for human consumption. First, today in many parts of India and elsewhere, humans and cows are engaged in a reciprocal and reverential relationship. It is only in recent human history that this relationship has been corrupted into the one-sided exploitation that we see today. There IS a niche for cows between slaughter/consumption and extinction. (The interested reader may find the book Beyond Beef by Jeremy Rifkin quite enlightening on this subject.)
Second, several organizations have programs for saving animals from extinction. There is no reason to suppose that cows would not qualify.
The species argument is also flawed because, in fact, our intensive farming of cattle results in habitat destruction and the loss of other species. For example, clearing of rain forests for pasture has led to the extinction of countless species. Cattle farming is destroying habitats on six continents. Why is the questioner so concerned about the cow species while being unconcerned about these other species?
Could it have anything to do with the fact that he wants to continue to eat the cows?
Finally, a strong case can be made against the species argument from ethical theory. Arguments similar to the questioner’s could be developed that would ask us to accept practices that are universally condemned. For example, consider a society that breeds a special race of humans for use as slaves. They argue that the race would not exist if they did not breed them for use as slaves. Does the reader accept this justification?
Now we move on to the individuals interpretation of the question. One attempt to refute the argument is to answer as follows: “It is better not to be born than to be born into a life of misery and early death.”
To many, this is sufficient. However, one could argue that the fact that the life is miserable before death is not necessary. Suppose that the cows are treated well before being killed painlessly and eaten. Is it not true that the individual cows would not have enjoyed their short life had we not raised them for consumption? Furthermore, what if we compensate the taking of the life by bringing a new life into being?
Peter Singer originally believed that this argument was absurd because there are no cow souls waiting around to be born. Many people accept this view and consider it sufficient, but Singer now rejects it because he accepts that to bring a being to a pleasant life does confer a benefit on that being. (There is extensive discussion of this issue in the second edition of Animal Liberation.) How then are we to proceed? The key is that the AR movement asserts that humans and nonhumans have a right to not be killed by humans. The ethical problem can be seen clearly by applying the argument to humans. Consider the case of a couple that gives birth to an infant and eats it at the age of nine months, just when their next infant is born. A 9-month old baby has no more rational knowledge of its situation or future plans than does a cow, so there is no reason to distinguish the two cases. Yet, certainly, we would condemn the couple. We condemn them because the infant is an individual to whom we confer the right not to be killed. Why is this right not accorded to the cow? I think the answer is that the questioner wants to eat it. --DG
“It were much better that a sentient being should never have existed, than that it should have existed only to endure unmitigated misery.” --Percy Bysshe Shelley (poet)
SEE ALSO: #12
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#14 Don’t the animals we use have a happier life since they are fed and protected?
This argument was used to claim that black people were better off as slaves on plantations than as free men and women. The same could also be said of people in prison, yet prison is considered one of society’s harshest punishments. Animals on factory farms suffer so much that it is inconceivable that they could be worse off in the wild. The wild isn’t to the animals who live there; it’s their home. There they have their freedom and can engage in their natural activities. The fact that they might suffer in the wild is no reason to ensure that they suffer in captivity.
The questioner makes two assumptions here. First, that happiness or contentment accrues from being fed and protected, and second, that the animals are, in fact, fed and protected. Both of these premises can be questioned.
Certainly the animals are fed; after all, they must be fattened for consumption. It is very difficult to see any way that, say, factory-farmed chickens are “protected”. They are not protected from mutilation, because they are painfully debeaked. They are not protected from psychological distress, because they are crowded together in unnatural conditions. And finally, they are not protected from predation, because they are slaughtered and eaten by humans.
We can also question the notion that happiness accrues from feeding and protection alone. The Roman galley slaves were fed and protected from the elements; nevertheless, they would presumably trade their condition for one of greater uncertainty to obtain happiness. The same can be said of the slaves of earlier America.
Finally, an ethical argument is relevant here. Consider again the couple of question #13. They will feed and protect their infant up to the point at which they consume it. We would not accept this as a justification. Why should we accept it for the chicken? --DG
SEE ALSO: #13
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#15 Is the use of service animals and beasts of burden considered exploitative?
A simple approach to this question might be to suggest that we all must work for a living and it should be no different for animals. The problem is that we want to look at the animals as like children, i.e., worthy of the same protections and rights, and, like them, incapable of being morally responsible. But we don’t force children into labor! One can make a distinction, however, that goes something like this: The animals are permanently in their diminished state (i.e., incapable of voluntarily assenting to work); children are not. We do not impose a choice of work for children because they need the time to develop into their full adult and moral selves. With the animals, we choose for them a role that allows them to contribute; in return, we do not abuse them by eating them, etc. If this is done with true concern that their work conditions are appropriate and not of a sweat-shop nature, that they get enough rest and leisure time, etc., this would constitute a form of stewardship that is acceptable and beneficial to both sides, and one that is not at odds with AR philosophy. --DG
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#16 Doesn’t the Bible give Humanity dominion over the animals?
Dominion is not the same as tyranny. The Queen of England has dominion over her subjects, but that doesn’t mean she can eat them, or wear them, or experiment on them. If we have dominion over animals, surely it is to protect them, not to use them for our own ends. There is nothing in the Bible that would justify our modern-day practices that desecrate the environment, destroy entire species of wildlife, and inflict torment and death on billions of animals every year. The Bible imparts a reverence for life; a loving God could not help but be appalled at the way many animals are treated.
It is true that the Bible contains a passage that confers on humanity dominion over the animals. The import of this fact derives from the assumption that the Bible is the word of God, and that God is the ultimate moral authority. Leaving aside for the moment consideration of the meaning of dominion, we can take issue with the idea of seeking moral authority from the Bible. First, there are serious problems with the interpretation of Biblical passages, with many verses contradicting one another, and with many scholars differing dramatically over the meaning of given verses.
Second, there are many claims to God-hood among the diverse cultures of this world; some of these Gods implore us to respect all life and to not kill unnecessarily. Whose God are we to take as the ultimate moral authority?
Finally, as Tom Regan observes, many people do not believe in a God and so appeals to His moral authority are empty for such people. For such people, the validity of judgments of the supposed God must be cross-checked with other methods of determining reasonableness. What are the cross-checks for the Biblical assertions?
These remarks apply equally to other assertions of Biblical approval of human practices (such as the consumption of animals).
Even if we accept that the God of the Bible is a moral authority, we can point out that “dominion” is a vague term, meaning “stewardship” or “control over”. It is quite easy to argue that appropriate stewardship or control consists of respecting the life of animals and their right to live according to their own nature. The jump from dominion to approval of our brutal exploitation of animals is not contained in the cited Biblical passage, either explicitly or implicitly. --DG
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#17 Morals are a purely human construction (animals don’t understand morals); doesn’t that mean it is not rational to apply our morality to animals?
Animals’ inability to understand and adhere to our rules is as irrelevant as a child or mentally handicapped person’s inability to do so.
The fallaciousness of this argument can be easily demonstrated by making a simple substitution: Infants and young children don’t understand morals, doesn’t that mean it is not rational to apply our morality to them? Of course not. We refrain from harming infants and children for the same reasons that we do so for adults. That they are incapable of conceptualizing a system of morals and its benefits is irrelevant.
The relevant distinction is formalized in the concept of “moral agents” versus “moral patients”. A moral agent is an individual possessing the sophisticated conceptual ability to bring moral principles to bear in deciding what to do, and having made such a decision, having the free will to choose to act that way. By virtue of these abilities, it is fair to hold moral agents accountable for their acts. The paradigmatic moral agent is the normal adult human being.
Moral patients, in contrast, lack the capacities of moral agents and thus cannot fairly be held accountable for their acts. They do, however, possess the capacity to suffer harm and therefore are proper objects of consideration for moral agents. Human infants, young children, the mentally deficient or deranged, and nonhuman animals are instances of moral patienthood.
Given that nonhuman animals are moral patients, they fall within the purview of moral consideration, and therefore it is quite rational to accord them the same moral consideration that we accord to ourselves. --DG
SEE ALSO: #19, #23, #36
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#18 If AR people are so worried about killing, why don’t they become fruitarians?
Killing, per se, is not the central concern of AR philosophy, which is concerned with the avoidance of unnecessary pain and suffering. Thus, because plants neither feel pain nor suffer, AR philosophy does not mandate fruitarianism (a diet in which only fruits are eaten because they can be harvested without killing the plant from which they issue). --DG
SEE ALSO: #42-#46
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#19 Animals don’t care about us; why should we care about them?
The questioner’s position–that, in essence, we should give rights only to those able to respect ours–is known as the reciprocity argument. It is unconvincing both as an account of the way our society works and as a prescription for the way it should work.
Its descriptive power is undermined by the simple observation that we give rights to a large number of individuals who cannot respect ours. These include some elderly people, some people suffering from degenerative diseases, some people suffering from irreversible brain damage, the severely retarded, infants, and young children. An institution that, for example, routinely sacrificed such individuals to test a new fertilizer would certainly be considered to be grievously violating their rights.
The original statement fares no better as an ethical prescription. Future generations are unable to reciprocate our concern, for example, so there would be no ethical harm done, under such a view, in dismissing concerns for environmental damage that adversely impacts future generations.
The key failing of the questioner’s position lies in the failure to properly distinguish between the following capacities:
The capacity to understand and respect others’ rights (moral agency).
The capacity to benefit from rights (moral patienthood).
An individual can be a beneficiary of rights without being a moral agent. Under this view, one justifies a difference of treatments of two individuals (human or nonhuman) with an objective difference that is RELEVANT to the difference of treatment. For example, if we wished to exclude a person from an academic course of study, we could not cite the fact that they have freckles. We could cite the fact that they lack certain academic prerequisites. The former is irrelevant; the latter is relevant. Similarly, when considering the right to be free of pain and suffering, moral agency is irrelevant; moral patienthood IS relevant. --AECW
The assumption that animals don’t care about us can also be questioned. Companion animals have been known to summon aid when their owners are in trouble. They have been known to offer comfort when their owners are distressed. They show grief when their human companions die. --DG
SEE ALSO: #17, #23, #36
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#20 A house is on fire and a dog and a baby are inside. Which do you save first?
I would save my child, but that is only instinct. A dog would save her pup. Whomever I save, however, it proves nothing about the moral legitimacy of experimenting on animals. I might save my own child instead of my neighbor’s, but that hardly proves that experimentation on my neighbor’s child is acceptable.
The one I choose to save first tells us nothing about the ethical decisions we face. I might decide to save my child before I saved yours, but this certainly does not mean that I should be able to experiment on your child, or exploit your child in some other way. We are not in an emergency situation like a fire anyway. In everyday life, we can choose to act in ways that protect the rights of both dogs and babies. --LK
Like anyone else in this situation, I would probably save the one to which I am emotionally more attached. Most likely it would be the child. Someone might prefer to save his own beloved dog before saving the baby of a stranger. However, as LK states above, this tells us nothing about any ethical principles. --DVH
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#21 What if I made use of an animal that was already dead?
There are two ways to interpret this question. First, the questioner might really be making the excuse “but I didn’t kill the animal”, or second, he could be asking about the morality of using an animal that has died naturally (or due to a cause unassociated with the demand for animal products, such as a road kill). For the first interpretation, we must reject the excuse. The killing of animals for meat, for example, is done at the request (through market demand), and with the financial support (through payment), of the end consumers. Their complicity is inescapable. Society does not excuse the receiver of stolen goods because he “didn’t do the burglary”
For the second interpretation, the use of naturally killed animals, there seems to be no moral difficulty involved. Many would, for esthetic reasons, still not use animal products thus obtained. (Would you use the bodies of departed humans?) Certainly, natural kills cannot satisfy the great demand for animal products that exists today; non-animal and synthetic sources are required.
Other people may avoid use of naturally killed animal products because they feel that it might encourage a demand in others for animal products, a demand that might not be so innocently satisfied. --DG
This can be viewed as a question of respect for the dead. We feel innate revulsion at the idea of grave desecration for this reason. Naturally killed animals should, at the very least, be left alone rather than recycled as part of an industrial process. This was commonly practiced in the past, e.g., Egyptians used to mummify their cats. --AECW
“You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.” --Ralph Waldo Emerson (author)
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#22 Where should one draw the line: animals, insects, bacteria?
AR philosophy asserts that rights are to be accorded to creatures that have the capacity to experience pain, to suffer, and to be a “subject of a life”. Such a capacity is definitely not found in bacteria. It is definitely found in mammals. There is debate about such animals as molluscs and arthropods (including insects). One should decide, based upon available evidence and one’s own conscience, where the line should be drawn to adhere to the principle of AR described in the first sentence.
Questions #39 and #43 discuss some of the evidence relevant to drawing the line. --DG
SEE ALSO: #39, #43
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#23 If the killing is wrong, shouldn’t you stop predators from killing other animals?
This is one of the more interesting arguments against animal rights. We prevent human moral patients from harming others, e.g., we prevent children from hitting each other, so why shouldn’t we do the same for nonhuman moral patients (refer to question #17 for a definition of moral patienthood)? If anything, the duty to do so might be considered more serious because predation results in a serious harm–death.
A first answer entails pointing out that predators must kill to survive; to stop them from killing is, in effect, to kill them.
Of course, we could argue that intervening on a massive scale to prevent predation is totally impractical or impossible, but that is not morally persuasive.
Suppose we accept that we should stop a cat from killing a bird. Then we realize that the bird is the killer of many snakes. Should we now reason that, in fact, we shouldn’t stop the cat? The point is that humans lack the broad vision to make all these calculations and determinations.
The real answer is that intervening to stop predation would destroy the ecosystems upon which the biosphere depends, harming all of life on earth. Over millions of years, the biosphere has evolved complex ecosystems that depend upon predation for their continued functioning and stability. Massive intervention by humans to stop predation would inflict serious and incalculable harm on these ecosystems, with devastating results for all life.
Even if we accept that we should prevent predation (and we don’t accept that), it does not follow that, because we do not, we are therefore justified in exploiting moral patients ourselves. When we fail to stop widespread slaughter of human beings in foreign countries, it does not follow that we, ourselves, believe it appropriate to participate in such slaughter. Similarly, our failure to prevent predation cannot be taken as justification of our exploitation of animals. --DG
SEE ALSO: #17, #19, #36, #64
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#24 Is the AR movement against abortion? If not, isn’t that hypocritical?
Attempts are frequently made to tie Animal Rights exponents to one side or the other of the abortion debate. Such attempts are misguided. Claims that adherence to the ethics of AR determine one’s position on embryo rights are plainly counter-intuitive, unless one is also prepared to argue that being a defender of human rights compels one to a particular position on abortion. Is it the case that one cannot consistently despise torture, serfdom, and other barbaric practices without coming to a particular conclusion on abortion?
AR defenders demand that the rights currently held by humans be extended to all creatures similar in morally relevant ways. For example, since society does not accept that mature, sentient human moral patients (refer to question #17 for a brief description of the distinction between patients and agents) may be routinely annihilated in the name of science, it logically follows that comparable nonhuman animals should be given the same protection. On the other hand, abortion is still a moot point. It is plainly illogical to expect the AR movement to reflect anything other than the full spectrum of opinion found in society at large on the abortion issue.
Fundamentally, AR philosophers are content with submitting sufficient conditions for the attribution of rights to individuals, conditions that explain the noncontroversial protections afforded today to humans. They neither encourage nor discourage attempts to widen the circle of protection to fetuses. --AECW
There is a range of views among AR supporters on the issue of abortion versus animal rights. Many people believe, as does AECW, that the issues of abortion and AR are unrelated, and that the question is irrelevant to the validity of AR. Others, such as myself, feel that abortion certainly is relevant to AR. After all, the granting of rights to animals (and humans) is based on their capacity to suffer and to be a subject-of-a-life. It seems clear that late-term fetuses can suffer from the abortion procedure. Certain physiological responses, such as elevated heart rates, and the existence of a functioning nervous system support this view.
It also can be argued that the fetus is on a course to become a subject-of-a-life, and that by aborting the fetus we therefore harm it. Some counter this latter argument by claiming that the “potential” to become subject-of-a-life is an invalid grounds for assigning rights, but this is a fine philosophical point that is itself subject to attack. For example, suppose a person is in a coma that, given enough time, will dissipate–the person has the potential to be sentient again. Does the person lose his rights while in the coma?
While the arguments adduced may show that abortion is not irrelevant to AR, they do not show that abortion is necessarily wrong. The reason is that it is possible to argue that the rights of the fetus are in conflict with the rights of the woman, and that the rights of the woman dominate. All may not agree with this trade-off, but it is a consistent, non-hypocritical stance that is not in conflict with AR philosophy.
See question #4 for an analysis of hypocrisy arguments in general. --DG
SEE ALSO: #4
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#25 Doesn’t the ethical theory of contractarianism show that animals have no rights?
Contractarianism is an ethical theory that attempts to account for our morality by appealing to implicit mutually beneficial agreements, or contracts. For example, it would explain our refusal to strike each other by asserting that we have an implied contract: “You don’t hit me and I won’t hit you.” The relevance of contractarianism to AR stems from the supposition that nonhuman animals are incapable of entering into such contracts, coupled with the assertion that rights can be attributed only to those individuals that can enter into such contracts. Roughly, animals can’t have rights because they lack the rational capacity to assent to a contract requiring them to respect our rights.
Contractarianism is perhaps the most impressive attempt to refute the AR position; therefore, it is important to consider it in some detail. It is easily possible to write a large volume on the subject. We must limit ourselves to considering the basic arguments and problems with them. Those readers finding this incomplete or nonrigorous are advised to consult the primary literature.
We begin by observing that contractarianism fails to offer a compelling account of our moral behavior and motives. If the average person is asked why they think it wrong to steal from their neighbor, they do not answer that by refraining from it they ensure that their neighbor will not steal from them. Nor do they answer that they have an implicit mutual contract with their neighbor. Instead of invoking contracts, people typically assert some variant of the harm principle; e.g., they don’t steal because it would harm the neighbor. Similarly, we do not teach children that the reason why they should not steal is because then people will not steal from them.
Another way to point up the mismatch between the theory of contractarianism and our actual moral behavior is to ask if, upon risking your own life to save my child from drowning, you have done this as a result of a contractual obligation. Certainly, one performs such acts as a response to the distress of another being, not as a result of contractual obligations.
Contractarianism can thus be seen as a theory that fails to account for our moral behavior. At best, it is a theory that its proponents would recommend to us as preferable. (Is it seen as preferable because it denies rights to animals, and because it seems to justify continued exploitation of animals?)
Arguably the most serious objection to contractarianism is that it can be used to sanction arrangements that would be almost universally condemned. Consider a group of very rich people that assemble and create a contract among themselves the effect of which is to ensure that wealth remains in their control. They agree by contract that even repressive tactics can be used to ensure that the masses remain in poverty. They argue that, by virtue of the existence of their contract, that they do no wrong. Similar contracts could be drawn up to exclude other races, sexes, etc.
John Rawls attempts to overcome this problem by supposing that the contractors must begin from an “initial position” in which they are not yet incarnated as beings and must form the contract in ignorance of their final incarnation. Thus, it is argued, since a given individual in the starting position does not know whether, for example, she will be incarnated as a rich woman or a poor woman, that individual will not form contracts that are based on such criteria. In response, one can begin to wonder at the lengths to which some will go in creating ad hoc adjustments to a deficient theory. But more to the point, one can turn around this ad hoc defense to support the AR position. For surely, if individuals in the initial position are to be truly ignorant of their destiny, they must assume that they may be incarnated as animals. Given that, the contract that is reached is likely to include strong protections for animals!
Another problem with Rawls’ device is that probabilities can be such that, even given ignorance, contracts can result that most people would see as unjust. If the chance of being incarnated as a slave holder is 90 percent, a contract allowing slavery could well result because most individuals would feel they had a better chance of being incarnated as a slave holder. Thus, Rawls’ device fails even to achieve its purpose.
It is hard to see how contractarianism can permit movement from the status quo. How did alleged contracts that denied liberty to slaves and excluded women from voting come to be renegotiated?
Contractarianism also is unable to adequately account for the rights we give to those unable to form contracts, i.e., infants, children, senile people, mental deficients, and even animals to some extent. Various means have been advanced to try to account for the attribution of rights to such individuals. We have no space to deal with all of them. Instead, we briefly address a few.
One attempt involves appealing to the interests of true rights holders. For example, I don’t eat your baby because you have an interest in it and I wouldn’t want you violating such an interest of mine. But what if no-one cared about a given infant? Would that make it fair game for any use or abuse? Certainly not. Another problem here is that many people express an interest in the protection of all animals. That would seem to require others to refrain from using or abusing animals. While this result is attractive to the AR community, it certainly weakens the argument that contractarianism justifies our use of animals.
Others want to let individuals “ride” until they are capable of respecting the contract. But what of those that will never be capable of doing so, e.g., senile people? And why can we not let animals ride?
Some argue a “reduced-rights” case. Children get a reduced rights set designed to protect them from themselves, etc. The problem here is that with animals the rights reduction is way out of proportion. We accept that we cannot experiment on infants or kill and eat them due to their reduced rights set. Why then are such extreme uses acceptable for nonhumans?
Some argue that it is irrelevant whether a given individual can enter into a contract; what is important is their theoretical capacity to do so. But, future generations have the capacity but clearly cannot interact reciprocally with us, so the basis of contractarianism is gutted (unless we assert that we have no moral obligations to leave a habitable world for future generations). Peter Singer asks “Why limit morality to those who have the capacity to enter into agreements, if in fact there is no possibility of their ever doing so?”
There are practical problems with contractarianism as well. For example, what can be our response if an individual renounces participation in any implied moral contracts, and states that he is therefore justified in engaging in what others would call immoral acts? Is there any way for us to reproach him? And what are we to do about violations of the contract? If an individual steals from us, he has broken the contract and we should therefore be released from it. Are we then morally justified in stealing from him? Or worse?
In summary, contractarianism fails because a) it fails to accurately account for our actual, real-world moral acts and motives, b) it sanctions contractual arrangements that most people would see as unjust, c) it fails to account for the considerations we accord to individuals unable to enter into contracts, and d) it has some impractical consequences. Finally, there is a better foundation for ethics–the harm principle. It is simple, universalizable, devoid of ad hoc devices, and matches our real moral thinking. --TA/DG
SEE ALSO: #11, #17, #19, #96
#26 Surely there are more pressing practical problems than AR, such as homelessness; haven’t you got better things to do?
There are very serious problems in our world that deserve our attention; cruelty to animals is one of them. We should try to alleviate suffering wherever we can. Helping animals is not more or less important than helping human beings – both are important. Animal suffering and human suffering are interconnected.
Inherent in this question is an assumption that it is more important to help humans than to help nonhumans. Some would dismiss this as a speciesist position (see question #1). It is possible, however, to invoke the scale-of-life notion and argue that there is greater suffering and loss associated with cruelty and neglect of humans than with animals.
This might appear to constitute a prima-facie case for expending one’s energies for humans rather than nonhumans. However, even if we accept the scale-of-life notion, there are sound reasons for expending time and energy on the issue of rights for nonhuman animals.
Many of the consequences of carrying out the AR agenda are highly beneficial to humans. For example, stopping the production and consumption of animal products would result in a significant improvement of the general health of the human population, and destruction of the environment would be greatly reduced.
Fostering compassion for animals is likely to pay dividends in terms of a general increase of compassion in human affairs. Tom Regan puts it this way:
…the animal rights movement is a part of, not antagonistic to, the human rights movement. The theory that rationally grounds the rights of animals also grounds the rights of humans. Thus those involved in the animal rights movement are partners in the struggle to secure respect for human rights–the rights of women, for example, or minorities, or workers. The animal rights movement is cut from the same moral cloth as these.
Finally, the behavior asked for by the AR agenda involves little expenditure of energy. We are asking people to NOT do things: don’t eat meat, don’t exploit animals for entertainment, don’t wear furs.
These negative actions don’t interfere with our ability to care for humans. In some cases, they may actually make more time available for doing so (e.g., time spent hunting or visiting zoos and circuses). --DG
Living cruelty-free is not a full-time job; rather, it’s a way of life. When I shop, I check ingredients and I consider if the product is tested on animals. These things only consume a few minutes of the day. There is ample time left for helping both humans and nonhumans. --JLS
“I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.” --Abraham Lincoln (16th U.S. President)
“To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being.” --Mahatma Gandhi (statesman and philosopher)
“Our task must be to free ourselves…by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.” --Albert Einstein (physicist, Nobel 1921)
SEE ALSO: #1, #87, #95
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#27 If everyone became vegetarian and gave up keeping pets, what would happen to all the animals?
It’s unrealistic to expect that everyone will stop eating animals overnight. As the demand for meat decreases, the number of animals bred will decrease. Farmers will stop breeding so many animals and will turn to other types of agriculture. When there are fewer of these animals, they will be able to live more natural lives.
As vegetarianism grows, the number of animals bred for food gradually will decline, since the market will no longer exist for them. Similarly, a gradual decrease would accompany the lessening demand for the breeding of companion animals. In both cases, those animals that remain will be better cared for by a more compassionate society. --LK
SEE ALSO: #75
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#28 Grazing animals on land not suited for agriculture increases the food supply; how can that be considered wrong?
There are areas in the world where grazing of livestock is possible but agriculture is not. If conditions are such that people living in these areas cannot trade for crops and must raise livestock to survive, few would question the practice. However, such areas are very small in comparison to the fertile and semi-arid regions currently utilized for intensive grazing, and they do not appreciably contribute to the world food supply. (Some would argue that it is morally preferable not to live in such areas.)
The real issue is the intensive grazing in the fertile and semi-arid regions. The use of such areas for livestock raising reduces the world food supply. Keith Acker writes as follows in his “A Vegetarian Sourcebook”:
Land, energy, and water resources for livestock agriculture range anywhere from 10 to 1000 times greater than those necessary to produce an equivalent amount of plant foods. And livestock agriculture does not merely use these resources, it depletes them. This is a matter of historical record. Most of the world’s soil, erosion, groundwater depletion, and deforestation–factors now threatening the very basis of our food system–are the result of this particularly destructive form of food production.
Livestock agriculture is also the single greatest cause of world-wide deforestation both historically and currently (between 1967 and 1975, two-thirds of 70 million acres of lost forest went to grazing). Between 1950 and 1975 the area of human-created pasture land in Central America more than doubled, almost all of it at the expense of rain forests. Although this trend has slowed down, it still continues at an alarming and inexorable pace.
Grazing requires large tracts of land and the consequences of overgrazing and soil erosion are very serious ecological problems. By conservative estimates, 60 percent of all U.S. grasslands are overgrazed, resulting in billions of tons of soil lost each year. The amount of U.S. topsoil lost to date is about 75 percent, and 85 percent of that is directly associated with livestock grazing. Overgrazing has been the single largest cause of human-made deserts.
One could argue that grazing is being replaced by the “feedlot paradigm”. These systems graze the livestock prior to transport to a feedlot for final “fattening” with grains grown on crop lands. Although this does reduce grazing somewhat, it is not eliminated, and the feedlot part of the paradigm still constitutes a highly inefficient use of crops (to feed a human with livestock requires 16 times the grain that would be necessary if the grain was consumed directly). It has been estimated that in the U.S., 80 percent of the corn and 95 percent of the oats grown are fed to livestock. --TA
“I grew up in cattle country–that’s why I became a vegetarian. Meat stinks, for the animals, the environment, and your health.” --k.d. lang (musician)
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#29 If we try to eliminate all animals products, we’ll be moving back to the Stone Age; who wants that?
On the contrary! It is a dependency upon animal products that could be seen as returning us to the technologies and mind set of the Stone Age. For example, Stone Age people had to wear furs in Northern climates to avoid freezing. That is no longer the case, thanks to central heating and the ready availability of plenty of good plant and human-made fabrics. If we are to characterize the modern age, it could be in terms of the greater freedoms and options made possible by technological advance and social progress. The Stone Age people had few options and so were forced to rely upon animals for food, clothing, and materials for their implements. Today, we have an abundance of choices for better foods, warmer clothing, and more efficient materials, none of which need depend upon the killing of animals. --TA
It seems to me that the only Stone Age we are in any danger of entering is that constituted by the continuous destruction of animals’ habitats in favor of the Portland-cement concrete jungle! --DG
SEE ALSO: #60, #62, #95
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#30 It’s virtually impossible to eliminate all animal products from one’s consumption; what’s the point if you still cause animal death without knowing it?
Yes, it is very difficult to eliminate all animal products from one’s consumption, just as it is impossible to eliminate all accidental killing and infliction of harm that results from our activities. But this cannot justify making it “open season” for any kind of abuse of animals. The reasonable goal, given the realities, is to minimize the harms one causes. The point, then, is that a great deal of suffering is prevented. --DG
SEE ALSO: #57-#58
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#31 Wouldn’t many customs and traditions, as well as jobs, be lost if we stopped using animals?
Consider first the issue of customs and traditions. The plain truth is that some customs and traditions deserve to die out. Examples abound throughout history: slavery, Roman gladiatorial contests, torture, public executions, witch burning, racism. To these the AR supporter adds animal exploitation and enslavement.
The human animal is an almost infinitely adaptable organism. The loss of the customs listed above has not resulted in any lasting harm to humankind. The same can be confidently predicted for the elimination of animal exploitation. In fact, humankind would likely benefit from a quantum leap of compassion in human affairs.
As far as jobs are concerned, the economic aspects are discussed in question #32. It remains to point out that for a human, what is at stake is a job, which can be replaced with one less morally dubious. What is at stake for an animal is the elimination of torture and exploitation, and the possibility for a life of happiness, free from human oppression and brutality. --DG
“People often say that humans have always eaten animals, as if this is a justification for continuing the practice. According to this logic, we should not try to prevent people from murdering other people, since this has also been done since the earliest of times.” --Isaac Bashevis Singer (author, Nobel 1978)
SEE ALSO: #32
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#32 The animal product industries are big business; wouldn’t the economy be crippled if they all stopped?
The invention of the automobile, the abolition of slavery, and the end of World War II also necessitated job retraining and restructuring. This is simply an ingredient in all social progress–not a reason to deter progress.
One cannot justify an action based on its profitability. Many crimes and practices that we view as repugnant have been or continue to be profitable: the slave trade, sale of child brides, drug dealing, scams of all sorts, prostitution, child pornography.
A good example of this, and one that points up another key consideration, is the tobacco industry. It is a multibillion-dollar industry, yet vigorous efforts are proceeding on many fronts to put it out of business. The main problem with it lies in its side-effects, i.e., the massive health consequences and deaths that it produces, which easily outweigh the immediate profitability. There are side effects to animal exploitation also. Among the most significant are the pollution and deforestation associated with large-scale animal farming. As we see in question #28, these current practices constitute a nonsustainable use of the planet’s resources. It is more likely true that the economy will be crippled if the practices continue!
Finally, the profits associated with the animal industries stem from market demand and affluence. There is no reason to suppose that this demand cannot be gradually redirected into other industries. Instead of prime beef, we can have prime artichokes, or prime pasta, etc. Humanity’s demand for gourmet food will not vanish with the meat. Similarly, the jobs associated with the animal industries can be gradually redirected into the industries that would spring up to replace the animal industries. (Vice President Gore made a similar point in reference to complaints concerning loss of jobs if logging was halted. He commented that the environmental movement would open up a huge area for jobs that had heretofore been unavailable.) --DG
It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind." --Albert Einstein (physicist, Nobel 1921)
SEE ALSO: #28, #31
#33 Humans are at the pinnacle of evolution; doesn’t that give them the right to use animals as they wish?
This is one of many arguments that attempt to draw ethical conclusions from scientific observations. In this case, the science is shaky, and the ethical conclusion is dubious. Let us first examine the science.
The questioner’s view is that evolution has created a linear ranking of general fitness, a ladder if you will, with insects and other “lower” species at the bottom, and humans (of course!) at the top. This idea originated as part of a wider, now discredited evolutionary system called Lamarckism. Charles Darwin’s discovery of natural selection overturned this system. Darwin’s picture, instead, is of a “radiating bush” of species, with each evolving to adapt more closely to its environment, along its own radius. Under this view, the idea of a pinnacle becomes unclear: yes, humans have adapted well to their niche (though many would dispute this, asserting the nonsustainable nature of our use of the planet’s resources), but so have bacteria adapted well to their niche. Can we really say that humans are better adapted to their niche than bacteria, and would it mean anything when the niches are so different?
Probably, what the questioner has in mind in using the word “pinnacle” is that humans excel in some particular trait, and that a scale can be created relative to this trait. For example, on a scale of mental capability, humans stand well above bacteria. But a different choice of traits can lead to very different results. Bacteria stand “at the pinnacle” when one looks at reproductive fecundity. Birds stand “at the pinnacle” when one looks at flight.
Now let us examine the ethics. Leaving aside the dubious idea of a pinnacle of evolution, let us accept that humans are ranked at the top on a scale of intelligence. Does this give us the right to do as we please with animals, simply on account of their being less brainy? If we say yes, we open a Pandora’s box of problems for ourselves. Does this mean that more intelligent humans can also exploit less intelligent humans as they wish (shall we all be slaves to the Einsteins of the world)? Considering a different trait, can the physically superior abuse the weak? Only a morally callous person would agree with this general principle. --AECW
SEE ALSO: #34, #37
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#34 Humans are at the top of the food chain; aren’t they therefore justified in killing and eating anything?
No; otherwise, potential cannibals in our society could claim the same defense for their practice. That we can do something does not mean that it is right to do so. We have a lot of power over other creatures, but with great powers come even greater responsibilities, as any parent will testify.
Humans are at the top of the food chain because they CHOOSE to eat nonhuman animals. There is thus a suggestion of tautology in the questioner’s position. If we chose not to eat animals, we would not be at the top of the food chain.
The idea that superiority in a trait confers rights over the inferior is disposed of in question #33. --AECW
SEE ALSO: #33
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#35 Animals are just machines; why worry about them?
Centuries ago, the philosopher Rene Descartes developed the idea that all nonhuman animals are automatons that cannot feel pain. Followers of Descartes believed that if an animal cried out this was just a reflex, the sort of reaction one might get from a mechanical doll. Consequently, they saw no reason not to experiment on animals without anesthetics. Horrified observers were admonished to pay no attention to the screams of the animal subjects.
This idea is now refuted by modern science. Animals are no more “mere machines” than are human beings. Everything science has learned about other species points out the biological similarities between humans and nonhumans. As Charles Darwin wrote, the differences between humans and other animals are differences of degree, not differences of kind. Since both humans and nonhumans evolved over millions of years and share similar nervous systems and other organs, there is no reason to think we do not share a similar mental and emotional life with other animal species (especially mammals). --LK
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#36 In Nature, animals kill and eat each other; so why should it be wrong for humans?
Most animals who kill for food could not survive if they did not do so. That is not the case for us. We are better off not eating meat. Also, we do not look to other animals for standards in other areas, so why should we in this case?
Predatory animals must kill to eat. Humans, in contrast, have a choice; they need not eat meat to survive.
Humans differ from nonhuman animals in being capable of conceiving of, and acting in accordance with, a system of morals; therefore, we cannot seek moral guidance or precedent from nonhuman animals. The AR philosophy asserts that it is just as wrong for a human to kill and eat a sentient nonhuman as it is to kill and eat a sentient human.
To demonstrate the absurdity of seeking moral precedents from nonhuman animals, consider the following variants of the question:
“In Nature, animals steal food from each other; so why should it be wrong for humans [to steal]?”
“In Nature, animals kill and eat humans; so why should it be wrong for humans [to kill and eat humans]?” --DG
SEE ALSO: #23, #34, #64
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#37 Natural selection and Darwinism are at work in the world; doesn’t that mean it’s unrealistic to try to overcome such forces?
Assuming that Animal Rights concepts somehow clash with Darwinian forces, the questioner must stand accused of selective moral fatalism: our sense of morality is clearly not modeled on the laws of natural selection. Why, then, feel helpless before some of its effects and not before others?
Male-dominance, xenophobia, and war-mongering are present in many human societies. Should we venture that some mysterious, universal forces must be at work behind them, and that all attempts at quelling such tendencies should be abandoned? Or, more directly, when people become sick, do we abandon them because “survival of the fittest” demands it? We do not abandon them; and we do not agonize about trying to overcome natural selection.
There is no reason to believe that the practical implications of the Animal Rights philosophy are maladaptive for humans. On the contrary, and for reasons explained elsewhere in this FAQ, respecting the rights of animals would yield beneficial side-effects for humans, such as more-sustainable agricultural practices, and better environmental and health-care policies. --AECW
The advent of Darwinism led to a substitution of the idea of individual organisms for the old idea of immutable species. The moral individualism implied by AR philosophy substitutes the idea that organisms should be treated according to their individual capacities for the (old) idea that it is the species of the animal that counts. Thus, moral individualism actually fits well with evolutionary theory. --DG
SEE ALSO: #63-64
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#38 Isn’t AR opposed to environmental philosophy (as described, for example, in “Deep Ecology”)?
No. It should be clear from many of the answers included in this FAQ, and from perusal of many of the books referenced in question #92, that the philosophy and goals of AR are complementary to the goals of the mainstream environmental movement. Michael W. Fox sees AR and environmentalism as two aspects of a dialectic that reconciles concerns for the rights of individuals (human and nonhuman) with concerns for the integrity of the biosphere.
Some argue that a morality based on individual rights is necessarily opposed to one based on holistic environmental views, e.g., the sanctity of the biosphere. However, an environmental ethic that attributes some form of rights to all individuals, including inanimate ones, can be developed. Such an ethic, by showing respect for the individuals that make up the biosphere, would also show respect for the biosphere as a whole, thus achieving the aims of holistic environmentalism. It is clear that a rights view is not necessarily in conflict with a holistic view.
In reference to the concept of deep ecology and the claim that it bears negatively on AR, Fox believes such claims to be unfounded. The following text is excerpted from “Inhumane Society”, by Michael W. Fox. --DG
Deep ecologists support the philosophy of preserving the natural abundance and diversity of plants and animals in natural ecosystems… The deep ecologists should oppose the industrialized, nonsubsistence exploitation of wildlife because…it is fundamentally unsound ecologically, because by favoring some species over others, population imbalances and extinctions of undesired species would be inevitable.
In their book “Deep Ecology”, authors Bill Devall and George Sessions… take to task animal rights philosopher Tom Regan, who with others of like mind “expressed concern that a holistic ecological ethic…results in a kind of totalitarianism or ecological fascism”…In an appendix, however, George Sessions does suggest that philosophers need to work toward nontotalitarian solutions…and that “in all likelihood, this will require some kind of holistic ecological ethic in which the integrity of all individuals (human and nonhuman) is respected”.
Ironically, while the authors are so critical of the animal rights movement, they quote Arne Naess (…arguably the founder of the deep ecology movement)…For instance, Naess states: “The intuition of biocentric equality is that all things in the biosphere have an equal right to live and blossom and to reach their own forms of unfolding and self-realization…” --Michael W. Fox (Vice President of HSUS)
SEE ALSO: #28, #59
#48 The animals are killed so fast that they don’t feel any pain or even know they’re being killed; what’s wrong with that?
Quickly killing an animal in the wild is much less cruel than factory farming. However, it ignores that animals’ basic right to be left alone to lead their own lives. If our real concern is to keep animals from starving, we should not hunt, but take steps to reduce the animals’ fertility. We should also preserve wolves, mountain lions, coyotes, and other natural predators. Actually, many deer herds and duck populations are carefully managed (artificially manipulated) to produce more and more animals for hunters to kill. If for some unusual reason it should be necessary for the animals to be shot, sharpshooters should be employed. Sharpshooters are more likely to kill the animals quickly, not just wound them, and would choose those who seemed ill or in pain, not just shoot randomly.
This view can only be maintained by those unfamiliar with modern meat production methods. Great stress occurs during transport in which millions die miserably each year. And the conveyor-belt approach to the slaughtering process causes the animals to struggle for their lives as they experience the agony of the fear of death. Only people who have never watched the process can believe that they don’t feel any pain or aren’t aware that they’re being killed.
One point that many people are unaware of is that poultry is exempted from the requirements of the Humane Slaughter Act. Egg-laying hens are typically not stunned before slaughter. Also exempt from the act are animals killed under Kosher conditions (see question #49).
But even if no suffering were involved, the killing of sensitive, intelligent animals on a vast scale (over six billion each year in the U.S. alone) cannot be regarded as morally correct, especially since today it is demonstrably clear that eating animal flesh is not only unnecessary but even harmful for people. Fellow-mammals are not like corn or carrots. To treat them as if they were is to perpetuate an impoverished morality which is based not on rationality but merely tradition. --DVH
Even the climactic killing process itself is not so clean as one is led to believe. Every method carries strong doubts about its “humaneness”. For example, consider electrocution. We routinely give anesthetics to people receiving electro-shock therapy due to its painful effects. Consider the pole-axe. It requires great skill to deliver a perfect, instantly fatal blow. Few possess the skill, and many animals suffer from the ineptness with which the process is administered. Consider Kosher slaughter, where an animal is hoisted and bled to death without prior stunning. Often joints are ruptured during the hoisting, and the death is a slow, conscious one. The idea of a clean, painless kill is a fantasy promulgated by those with a vested interest in the continuance of the practices. --DG
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#49 What is factory farming, and what is wrong with it?
Factory farming is an industrial process that applies the philosophy and practices of mass production to animal farming. Animals are considered not as individual sentient beings, but rather as a means to an end–eggs, meat, leather, etc. The objective is to maximize output and profit. The animals are manipulated through breeding, feeding, confinement, and chemicals to lay eggs faster, fatten more quickly, or make leaner meat. Costs are minimized by recycling carcasses through feed, minimizing unit space, not providing bedding (which gets soiled and needs cleaning), and other practices.
Battery-hen egg production is perhaps the most publicized form. Hens are “maintained” in cages of minimal size, allowing for little or no movement and no expression of natural behavior patterns. Hens are painfully debeaked and sometimes declawed to protect others in the cramped cage. There are no floors to the cages, so that excrement can fall through onto a tray–the hens therefore are standing on wire. Cages are stacked on top of each other in long rows, and are kept inside a climate-controlled barn. The hens are then used as a mechanism for turning feed into eggs. After a short, miserable life they are processed as boiler chickens or recycled.
Other typical factory farming techniques are used in pig production, where animals are kept in concrete pens with no straw or earth, unable to move more than a few inches, to ensure the “best” pork. When sows litter, piglets are kept so the only contact between the sow and piglets is access to the teats. The production of veal calves is a similar restraining process. The calves are kept in narrow crates which prevent them from turning; they can only stand or lie down. They are kept in the dark with no contact with other animals.
Factory farming distresses people because of the treatment of the animals; they are kept in unnatural conditions in terms of space, possible behaviors, and interactions with other animals. Keeping animals in these circumstances is not only cruel to the animals, but diminishes the humanity of those involved, from production to consumption.
In addition, the use of chemicals and hormones to maximize yields, reduce health problems in the animals, and speed production may also be harmful to human consumers. --JK
SEE ALSO: #12, #14, #32, #48, #50
Back to Questions
#50 But cattle can’t be factory-farmed, so I can eat them, right?
At this time, cattle farming has not progressed to the extremes inflicted on some other animals–cows still have to graze. However, the proponents of factory farming are always considering the possibilities of extending their techniques, as the old-style small farm becomes a faded memory and farming becomes a larger and more complex industry, competing for finance from consumers and lenders. Cattle farming practices such as increasing cattle densities on feedlots, diet supplementation, and controlled breeding are already being implemented. Other developments will be introduced.
However, as discussed in question #49, it is not only the method of farming that is of concern. Transport to the slaughterhouse, often a long journey in crowded conditions without access to food and water, and the wait at the slaughterhouse followed by the slaughtering process are themselves brutal and harmful. And the actual killing process is itself not necessarily clean or painless (see question #48). --JK
We can challenge the claim that cattle cannot be factory-farmed; it just isn’t true. We can also challenge the claim that if it were true, it would justify killing and eating cattle.
A broad view of factory farming includes practices that force adaptations (often through breeding) that increase the “productivity” of animal farming. Such increases in productivity are invariably achieved at the expense of increased suffering of the animals concerned. This broader view definitely includes cattle, both that raised for meat and for dairy production.
Veal production is paradigmatic factory farming. David Cowles-Hamar describes it as follows: “Veal calves are kept in isolation in 5’x2’ crates in which they are unable even to turn around. They are kept in darkness much of the time. They are given no bedding (in case they try to eat it) and are fed only a liquid diet devoid of iron and fiber to keep their flesh anemic and pale. After 3-5 months they are slaughtered.”
Dairy farming also qualifies as factory-farming. Here are some salient facts:
Calves are taken away at 1-3 days causing terrible distress to both the cows and the calves; many calves go for veal production.
Over 170,000 calves die each year due to poor husbandry and appalling treatment at markets.
Cows are milked for 10 months and produce 10 times the milk a calf would take naturally. Mastitis (udder inflammation) frequently results.
Cows are fed a high-protein diet to increase yield; often even this is not enough and the cow is forced to break down body tissues, leading to acidosis and consequent lameness. About 25 percent of cows are afflicted.
At about 5 years of age, the cow is spent and exhausted and is slaughtered. The normal life span is about 20 years.
Finally, we cannot accept that even if it were not possible to factory-farm cattle, that therefore it is morally acceptable to kill and eat them. David Cowles-Hamar puts it this way: “The suggestion that animals should pay for their freedom with their lives is moral nonsense.” --DG
SEE ALSO: #14, #48-#49
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#51 But isn’t it true that cows won’t produce milk (or chickens lay eggs) if they are not content?
In order for a cow to produce milk, she must have a calf. Dairy cows are impregnated every year in order to keep up a steady supply of milk. In the natural order of things, the cow’s calf would drink her milk (eliminating her need to be milked by humans). But dairy cows’ babies are taken away within a day or two of birth so that humans can have the milk nature intended for calves. Female dairy calves may be slaughtered immediately or raised to be future dairy cows. Male dairy calves are confined for 16 weeks in tiny veal crates too small for them even to turn around in. The current high demand for dairy products requires that cows be pushed beyond their natural limits, genetically engineered and fed growth hormones in order to produce huge quantities of milk. Even the few farmers who choose not to raise animals intensively must both eliminate the calf (who would otherwise drink the milk) and eventually send the mother off to slaughter after her milk production wanes.
This is simply untrue. Lactation is a physiological response that follows giving birth. The cow cannot avoid giving milk any more than she can avoid producing urine. The same is true of chickens and egg-laying; the egg output is manipulated to a high level by selective breeding, carefully regulated conditions that simulate a continuous summer season, and a carefully controlled diet.
To drive this point home further, consider that over the last five decades, the conditions for egg-laying chickens have become increasingly unnatural and confining (see question #49), yet the egg output has increased many times over. Chickens will even continue to lay when severely injured; they simply cannot help it. --DG
SEE ALSO: #49, #52, #55
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#52 Don’t hens lay unfertilized eggs that would otherwise be wasted?
Yes, but that is no justification for imposing barbaric and cruel regimes on them designed to artificially boost their egg production. If the questioner is wondering if it is OK to use eggs left by free-range chickens “to go cold”, then the answer from the AR side is that free-range egg production is not so idyllic as one might like to think (see question #55). Also, such a source of eggs can satisfy only a tiny fraction of the demand. --DG
SEE ALSO: #49, #51, #55
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#53 But isn’t it true that the animals have never known anything better?
To be prevented from performing the most basic, instinctual behaviors causes tremendous suffering. Even animals caged since birth feel the need to move around, groom themselves, stretch their limbs or wings, and exercise. Herd animals and flock animals become distressed when they are made to live in isolation or when they are put in groups too large for them to be able to recognize other members. In addition, all confined animals suffer from intense boredom–some so severely that it can lead to self-mutilation or other self-destructive behavior.
If someone bred a race of humans for slavery, would you accept their excuse that the slaves have never known anything better? The point is that there IS something better, and they are being deprived of it. --DG
“Not having known anything better does not alleviate the suffering of the animal. Its fundamental desires remain and it is the frustration of those desires that is a great part of its suffering. There are so many examples: the dairy cow who is never allowed to raise her young, the battery hen who can never walk or stretch her wings, the sow who can never build a nest or root for food in the forest litter, etc. Eventually we frustrate the animal’s most fundamental desire of all–to live.” --David Cowles-Hamar
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#54 Don’t farmers know better than city-dwelling people about how to treat animals?
This view is often put forward by farmers (and their family members). Typically they claim that, by virtue of proximity to their farmed animals, they possess some special knowledge. When pressed to present this knowledge, and to show how it can justify their exploitation of animals or discount the animals’ pain and suffering, only the tired arguments addressed in this FAQ come forth. In short, there is no “special knowledge”.
One should also remember that those farmers who exploit animals have a strong vested interest in the continuance of their practices. Would one assert that a logger knows best about how the forests should be treated?
Technically, this argument is an instance of the “genetic fallacy”. Ideas should be evaluated on their own terms, not by reference to the originators. --DG
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#55 Can’t we just eat free-range products?
The term “free-range” is used to indicate a production method in which the animals are (allegedly) not factory-farmed but, instead, are provided with conditions that allow them to fully express their natural behavior. Some people feel that free-range products are thus ethically acceptable. There are two cases to be considered: first, the case where the free-range animal itself is slaughtered for use, and second, the case where the free-range animal provides a product (typically, hens providing eggs, or cows providing milk).
Common to both cases is a problem with misrepresentation of conditions as “free-range”. Much of what passes for free-range is hardly any better than standard factory-farming; a visit to a large “free-range egg farm” makes that obvious (and see MT’s comments below).
Nutritionally, free-range products are no better than their factory-farmed equivalents, which are wholly or partly responsible for a list of diseases as long as your arm.
For the case of free-range animals slaughtered for use, we must ask why should a free-range animal be any more deserving of an unnecessary death than any other animal? Throughout this FAQ, we have argued that animals have a right to live free from human brutality. Our brutality cannot be excused by our provision of a short happy life. David Cowles-Hamar puts it this way: “The suggestion that animals should pay for their freedom with their lives is moral nonsense.” Another thing to think about is the couple described at the end of question #13. Their babies are free-range, so it’s OK to eat them, right?
For the case of products from free-range animals, we can identify at least four problems: 1) it remains an inefficient use of food resources, 2) it is still environmentally damaging, 3) animals are killed off as soon as they become “unproductive”, and 4) the animals must be replaced; the nonproductive males are killed or go to factory farms (the worst instance of this is the fate of male calves born to dairy cows; many go for veal production). --BRO
What’s wrong with free-range eggs? To get laying hens you must have fertile eggs and half of the eggs will hatch into male chicks. These are killed at once (by gassing, crushing, suffocation, decompression, or drowning), or raised as “table birds” (usually in broiler houses) and slaughtered as soon as they reach an economic weight. So, for every free-range hen scratching around the garden or farm (who, if she were able to bargain, might pay rent with her daily infertile egg), a corresponding male from her batch is enduring life in a broiler house or has already been subjected to slaughter or thrown away to die. Every year in Britain alone, more than 35 million day-old male chicks are killed. They are mainly used for fertilizer or dumped in landfill sites.
The hens are slaughtered as soon as their production drops (usually after two years; their natural life span is 5-7 years). Also, be aware that many sites classified as free-range aren’t really free-range; they are just massive barns with access to the outside. Since the food and light are inside, the hens rarely venture outside. --MT
SEE ALSO: #13, #49-#50, #52
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#56 Anything wrong with honey?
Bees are often killed in the production of honey, in the worst case the whole hive may be destroyed if the keeper doesn’t wish to protect them over the winter. Not all beekeepers do this, but the general practice is one that embodies the attitude that living things are mere material and have no intrinsic value of their own other than what commercial value we can wrench from them. Artificial insemination involving death of the male is now also the norm for generation of new queen bees. The favored method of obtaining bee sperm is by pulling off the insect’s head (decapitation sends an electrical impulse to the nervous system which causes sexual arousal). The lower half of the headless bee is then squeezed to make it ejaculate. The resulting liquid is collected in a hypodermic syringe. --MT
SEE ALSO: #22, #39-#41
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#57 Don’t crop harvest techniques and transportation, etc., lead to the death of animals?
The questioner’s probable follow-up is to assert that since we perform actions that result in the death of animals for producing crops, a form of food, we should therefore not condemn actions (i.e., raising and slaughter) that result in the death of animals for producing meat, another form of food. How do we confront this argument?
It is clear that incidental (or accidental, unintended) deaths of animals result from crop agriculture. It is equally clear that intentional deaths of animals result from animal agriculture. Our acceptance of acts that lead to incidental deaths does not require the acceptance of acts that lead to intentional deaths. (A possible measure of intentionality is to ask if the success of the enterprise is measured by the extent of the result. In our case, the success of crop agriculture is not measured by the number of accidental deaths; in animal agriculture, conversely, the success of the enterprise is directly measured by the number of animals produced for slaughter and consumption.)
Having shown that the movement from incidental to intentional is not justified, we can still ask what justifies even incidental deaths. We must realize that the question does not bear on Animal Rights specifically, but applies to morality generally. The answer, stripped to its essentials, is that the rights of innocents can be overridden in certain circumstances. If rights are genuinely in conflict, a reasonable principle is to violate the rights of the fewest.
Nevertheless, when such an overriding of the rights of innocents is done, there is a responsibility to ensure that the harm is minimized. Certainly, crop agriculture is preferable to animal agriculture in this regard. In the latter case, we have the added incidental harm due to the much greater amount of crops needed to produce animals (versus feeding the crops directly to people), AND the intentional deaths of the produced animals themselves.
Finally, many argue for organic and more labor-intensive methods of crop agriculture that reduce incidental deaths. As one wag puts it, we have a responsibility to survive, but we can also survive responsibly! --DG
SEE ALSO: #58-#59
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#58 Modern agriculture requires us to push animals off land to convert it to crops; isn’t this a violation of the animals’ rights?
Pushing animals off their habitats to pursue agriculture is a less serious instance of the actions discussed in question #57, which deals with animal death as a result of agriculture. Refer to that question for relevant discussion.
An abiding theme is that vegetarianism versus meat eating, and crop agriculture versus animal agriculture, tend to minimize the amount of suffering. For example, more acreage is required to support animal production than to support crop production (for the same nutritional capability). Thus, animal production encroaches more on wildlife than does crop agriculture. We cannot eliminate our adverse effects, but we can try to minimize them. --DG
SEE ALSO: #57, #59
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#59 Don’t farmers have to kill pests?
we could simply say that less pests are killed on a vegetarian diet and that killing is not even necessary for pest management, but because the issue is interesting, we answer more fully!
This question is similar to question #57 in that the questioner’s likely follow-up is to ask why it is acceptable to kill pests for food but not to kill animals for food. It differs from question #57 in that the defense that the killing is incidental is not available because pests are killed intentionally. We can respond to this argument in two ways. First, we can argue that the killing is justifiable, and second, we can argue that it is not necessary and should be avoided. Let’s look at these in turn.
Our moral systems typically allow for exceptions to the requirement that we not harm others. One major exception is for self-defense. If we are threatened, we have the right to use force to resist the threat. To the extent that pests are a threat to our food supplies, our habitats, or our health, we are justified in defending ourselves. We have the responsibility to use appropriate force, but sometimes this requires action fatal to the threatening creatures.
Even if the killing of pests is seen as wrong despite the self-defense argument, we can argue that crop agriculture should be preferred over animal agriculture because it involves the minimization of the required killing of pests (for reasons described in question #57).
Possibly overshadowing these moral arguments, however, is the argument that the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and herbicides is not only not necessary but extremely damaging to the planet, and should therefore be avoided. Let us first look at the issue of necessity, followed by the issue of environmental damage.
David Cowles-Hamar writes: “For thousands of years, peoples all over the world have used farming methods based on natural ecosystems where potential pest populations are self-regulating. These ideas are now being explored in organic farming and permaculture.” Michael W. Fox writes: “Integrated pest management and better conservation of wilderness areas around crop lands in order to provide natural predators for crop pests are more ecologically sensible alternatives to the continuous use of pesticides.” The point is that there are effective alternatives to the agrichemical treadmill.
In addition to the agricultural methods described above, many pest problems can be prevented, certainly the most effective approach. For example, some major pest threats are the result of accidental or intentional human introduction of animals into a habitat. We need to be more careful in this regard. Another example is the use of rodenticides. More effective and less harmful to the environment would be an approach that relies on maintenance of clean conditions, plugging of entry holes, and nonlethal trapping followed by release into the wild.
The effects of the intensive use of agrichemicals on the environment are very serious. It results in nation-wide ground water pollution. It results in the deaths of beneficial non-target species. The development of resistant strains requires the use of stronger chemicals with resulting more serious effects on the environment. Agrichemicals are generally more highly concentrated in animal products than in vegetables. It is thus enlightened self-interest to eschew animal consumption!
Organic farming and related methods eschew agrichemicals in favor of natural, sustainable methods. --DG
SEE ALSO: #57-#58
#60 What is wrong with leather and how can we do without it?
Most leather goods are made from the byproducts of the slaughterhouse, and some is purpose-made, i.e., the animal is grown and slaughtered purely for its skin. So, by buying leather products, you will be contributing to the profits of these establishments and augmenting the economic demand for slaughter.
The Nov/Dec 1991 issue of the Vegetarian Journal has this to say about leather: “Environmentally turning animal hides into leather is an energy intensive and polluting practice. Production of leather basically involves soaking (beamhouse), tanning, dyeing, drying, and finishing. Over 95 percent of all leather produced in the U.S. is chrome-tanned. The effluent that must be treated is primarily related to the beamhouse and tanning operations. The most difficult to treat is effluent from the tanning process. All wastes containing chromium are considered hazardous by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Many other pollutants involved in the processing of leather are associated with environmental and health risks. In terms of disposal, one would think that leather products would be biodegradable, but the primary function for a tanning agent is to stabilize the collagen or protein fibers so that they are no longer biodegradable.” --MT
For alternatives to leather, consult the excellent Leather Alternatives FAQ maintained by Tom Swiss (firstname.lastname@example.org). --DG
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#61 I can accept that trapping is inhumane, but what about fur ranches?
Leaving aside the raw fact that the animals must sacrifice their lives for human vanity, we are left with many objections to fur ranching.
A common misconception about fur “ranches” is that the animals do not suffer. This is entirely untrue. These animals suffer a life of misery and frustration, deprived of their most basic needs. They are kept in wire-mesh cages that are tiny, overcrowded, and filthy. Here they are malnourished, suffer contagious diseases, and endure severe stress.
On these farms, the animals are forced to forfeit their natural instincts. Beavers, who live in water in the wild, must exist on cement floors. Minks in the wild, too, spend much of their time in water, which keeps their salivation, respiration, and body temperature stable. They are also, by nature, solitary animals. However, on these farms, they are forced to live in close contact with other animals. This often leads to self-destructive behavior, such as pelt and tail biting. They often resort to cannibalism.
The methods used on these farms reflect not the interests and welfare of the animals but the furriers’ primary interest–profit. The end of the suffering of these animals comes only with death, which, in order to preserve the quality of the fur, is inflicted with extreme cruelty and brutality. Engine exhaust is often pumped into a box of animals. This exhaust is not always lethal, and the animals sometimes writhe in pain as they are skinned alive. Another common execution practice, often used on larger animals, is anal electrocution. The farmers attach clamps to an animal’s lips and insert metal rods into its anus. The animal is then electrocuted. Decompression chambers, neck snapping, and poison are also used.
The raising of animals by humans to serve a specific purpose cannot discount or excuse the lifetime of pain and suffering that these animals endure. --JLS
“Cruelty is one fashion statement we can all do without.” --Rue McClanahan (actress)
“The recklessness with which we sacrifice our sense of decency to maximize profit in the factory farming process sets a pattern for cruelty to our own kind.” --Jonathan Kozol (author)
SEE ALSO: #12, #14, #48-#49
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#62 Anything wrong with wool, silk, down?
What’s wrong with wool? Scientists over the years have bred a Merino sheep which is exaggeratedly wrinkled. The more wrinkles, the more wool. Unfortunately, greater profits are rarely in the sheep’s best interests. In Australia, more wrinkles mean more perspiration and greater susceptibility to fly-strike, a ghastly condition resulting from maggot infestation in the sweaty folds of the sheep’s over-wrinkled skin. To counteract this, farmers perform an operation without anesthetic called “mulesing”, in which sections of flesh around the anus are sliced away, leaving a painful, bloody wound.
Without human interference, sheep would grow just enough wool to protect them from the weather, but scientific breeding techniques have ensured that these animals have become wool-producing monstrosities.
Their unnatural overload of wool (often half their body weight) brings added misery during summer months when they often die from heat exhaustion. Also, one million sheep die in Australia alone each year from exposure to cold after shearing.
Every year, in Australia alone, about ten million lambs die before they are more than a few days old. This is due largely to unmanageable numbers of sheep and inadequate stockpersons.
Of UK wool, 27 percent is “skin wool”, pulled from the skins of slaughtered sheep and lambs.
What’s wrong with silk? It is the practice to boil the cocoons that still contain the living moth larvae in order to obtain the silk. This produces longer silk threads than if the moth was allowed to emerge. The silkworm can certainly feel pain and will recoil and writhe when injured.
What’s wrong with down? The process of live-plucking is widespread. The terrified birds are lifted by their necks, with their legs tied, and then have all their body feathers ripped out. The struggling geese sustain injuries and after their ordeal are thrown back to join their fellow victims until their turn comes round again. This torture, which has been described as “extremely cruel” by veterinary surgeons, and even geese breeders, begins when the geese are only eight weeks old. It is then repeated at eight-week intervals for two or three more sessions. The birds are then slaughtered.
The “lucky” birds are plucked dead, i.e., they are killed first and then plucked. --MT
#63 Humans are natural hunter/gatherers; aren’t you trying to repress natural human behavior?
Yes. Failing to repress certain “natural behaviors” would create an uncivilized society. Consider this: It would be an expression of natural behavior to hunt anything that moves (e.g., my neighbor’s dogs or horses) and to gather anything I desire (e.g., my employer’s money or furniture). It would even be natural behavior to indulge in unrestrained sexual appetites or to injure a person in a fit of rage or jealousy.
In a civilized society, we restrain our natural impulses by two codes: the written law of the land, and the unwritten law of morality. And this also applies to hunting. It is unlawful in many places and at many times, and the majority of Americans regard sport hunting as immoral. --DVH
Many would question the supposition that humans are natural hunters. In many societies, the people live quite happily without hunting. In our own society, the majority do not hunt, not because they are repressing their nature–they simply have no desire to do so. Those that do hunt often show internal conflicts about it, as evidenced by the myths and rituals that serve to legitimize hunting, cleanse the hunter, etc. This suggests that hunting is not natural, but actually goes against a deeper part of our nature, a desire not to do harm. --BL
“The squirrel that you kill in jest, dies in earnest.” --Henry David Thoreau (essayist and poet)
SEE ALSO: #37, #64-#67
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#64 The world is made up of predators and prey; aren’t we just another predator?
No. Our behavior is far worse than that of “just another predator”. We kill others not just for nourishment but also for sport (recreation!), for the satisfaction of our curiosity, for fashion, for entertainment, for comfort, and for convenience. We also kill each other by the millions for territory, wealth, and power. We often torture and torment others before killing them. We conduct wholesale slaughter of vast proportions, on land and in the oceans. No other species behaves in a comparable manner, and only humans are destroying the balance of nature.
At the same time, our killing of nonhuman animals is unnecessary, whereas nonhuman predators kill and consume only what is necessary for their survival. They have no choice: kill or starve.
The one thing that really separates us from the other animals is our moral capacity, and that has the potential to elevate us above the status of “just another predator”. Nonhumans lack this capacity, so we shouldn’t look to them for moral inspiration and guidance. --DVH
SEE ALSO: #37, #63, #67
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#65 Doesn’t hunting control wildlife populations that would otherwise get out of hand?
Starvation and disease are unfortunate, but they are nature’s way of ensuring that the strong survive. Natural predators help keep prey species strong by killing only the sick and weak. Hunters, however, kill any animal they come across or any animal they think would look good mounted above the fireplace–often the large, healthy animals needed to keep the population strong. In fact, hunting creates the ideal conditions for accelerated reproduction. The abrupt drop in population leads to less competition among survivors, resulting in a higher birth rate. If we were really concerned about keeping animals from starving, we would not hunt, but, rather, take steps to reduce the animals’ fertility. We would also preserve wolves, mountain lions, coyotes, and other natural predators. In actuality, many predator species are killed in order to produce more and more “game”; animals for hunters to kill.
Hunters often assert that their practices benefit their victims. A variation on the theme is their common assertion that their actions keep populations in check so that animals do not die of starvation (“a clean bullet in the brain is preferable to a slow death by starvation”). Following are some facts and questions about hunting and “wildlife management” that reveal what is really happening.
Game animals, such as deer, are physiologically adapted to cope with seasonal food shortages. It is the young that bear the brunt of starvation. Among adults, elderly and sick animals also starve. But the hunters do not seek out and kill only these animals at risk of starvation; rather, they seek the strongest and most beautiful animals (for maximum meat or trophy potential). The hunters thus recruit the forces of natural selection against the species that they claim to be defending.
The hunters restrict their activities to only those species that are attractive for their meat or trophy potential. If the hunters were truly concerned with protecting species from starvation, why do they not perform their “service” for the skunk, or the field mouse? And why is hunting not limited to times when starvation occurs, if hunting has as a goal the prevention of starvation? (The reason that deer aren’t hunted in early spring or late winter–when starvation occurs–is that the carcasses would contain less fat, and hence, be far less desirable to meat consumers. Also, hunting then would be unpopular to hunters due to the snow, mud, and insects.)
So-called “game management” policies are actually programs designed to eliminate predators of the game species and to artificially provide additional habitat and resources for the game species. Why are these predator species eliminated when they would provide a natural and ecologically sound mechanism for controlling the population of game species? Why are such activities as burning, clear-cutting, chemical defoliation, flooding, and bulldozing employed to increase the populations of game animals, if hunting has as its goal the reduction of populations to prevent starvation? The truth is that the management agencies actually try to attain a maximum sustainable yield, or harvest, of game animals.
The wildlife managers and hunters preferentially kill male animals, a policy designed to keep populations high. If overpopulation were really a concern, they would preferentially kill females.
Another common practice that belies the claim that wildlife management has as a goal the reduction of populations to prevent starvation is the practice of game stocking. For example, in the state of New York the Department of Environmental Conservation obtains pheasants raised in captivity and then releases them in areas frequented by hunters.
For every animal killed by a hunter, two are seriously injured and left to die a slow death. Given these statistics, it is clear that hunting fails even in its proclaimed goal–the reduction of suffering.
The species targeted by hunters, both the game animals and their predators, have survived in balance for millions of years, yet now wildlife managers and hunters insist they need to be “managed”. The legitimate task of wildlife management should be to preserve viable, natural wildlife populations and ecosystems.
In addition to the animal toll, hunters kill hundreds of human beings every year.
Finally, there is an ethical argument to consider. Thousands of human beings die from starvation each and every day. Should we assume that the reader will one day be one of them, and dispatch him straight away? Definitely not. AR ethics asserts that this same consideration should be accorded to the deer. --DG
Unless hunting is part of a controlled culling process, it is unlikely to be of benefit in any population maintenance. The number and distribution of animals slaughtered is unrelated to any perceived maldistribution of species, but is more closely related to the predilections of the hunters.
Indeed, hunting, whether for “pleasure” or profit, has a history more closely associated with bringing animals close to, or into, extinction, rather than protecting from overpopulation. Examples include the buffalo and the passenger pigeon. With the advent of modern “wildlife management”, we see a transition to systems designed to artificially increase the populations of certain species to sustain a yield or harvest for hunters.
The need for population control of animals generally arises either from the introduction of species that have become pests or from indigenous animals that are competing for resources (such as the kangaroo, which competes with sheep and cattle). These imbalances usually have a human base. It is more appropriate to examine our resource uses and requirements, and to act more responsibly in our relationship with the environment, than to seek a “solution” to self-created problems through the morally dubious practice of hunting. --JK
“…the American public is footing the bill for predator-control programs that cause the systematic slaughter of refuge animals. Raccoons and red fox, squirrel and skunks are but a few of the many egg-eating predators trapped and destroyed in the name of “wildlife management programs”. Sea gulls are shot, fox pups poisoned, and coyotes killed by aerial gunners in low-flying aircraft. This wholesale destruction is taking place on the only Federal lands set aside to protect America’s wildlife!” --Humane Society of the United States
“The creed of maximum sustainable yield unmasks the rhetoric about “humane service” to animals. It must be a perverse distortion of the ideal of humane service to accept or engage in practices the explicit goal of which is to insure that there will be a larger, rather than a smaller, number of animals to kill! With “humane friends” like that, wild animals certainly do not need any enemies.” --Tom Regan (philosopher and AR activist)
“The real cure for our environmental problems is to understand that our job is to salvage Mother Nature…We are facing a formidable enemy in this field. It is the hunters…and to convince them to leave their guns on the wall is going to be very difficult.” --Jacques Cousteau (oceanographer)
SEE ALSO: #66
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#66 Aren’t hunting fees the major source of revenue for wildlife management and habitat restoration?
We have seen in question #65 that practices described as “wildlife management” are actually designed to increase the populations of game species desirable to hunters. Viewed in this light, the connection between hunting fees and the wildlife agencies looks more like an incestuous relationship than a constructive one designed to protect the general public’s interests. Following are some more facts of interest in this regard.
Only 7 percent of the population hunt, yet all pay via taxation for hunting programs and services. Licenses account for only a fraction of the cost of hunting programs at the national level. For example, the US Fish and Wildlife Service programs get up to 90 percent of their revenues from general tax revenues. At the state level, hunting fees make up the largest part, and a significant part is obtained from Federal funds obtained from excise taxes on guns and ammunition. These funds are distributed to the states based on the number of hunters in the state! It is easy to see, then, how the programs are designed to appease and satisfy hunters.
It is important to remember that state game officials are appointed, not elected, and their salaries are paid through the purchase of hunting fees. This ensures that these officials regard the hunters as their constituents. David Favre, Professor of Wildlife Law at the Detroit College of Law, describes the situation as follows:
The primary question asked by many within these special [state] agencies would be something like, “How do we provide the best hunting experience for the hunters of our state?” The literature is replete with surveys of hunter desires and preferences in an attempt to serve these constituents.
Three factors support the status quo within the agency. First, as with most bureaucracies, individuals are hesitant to question their own on-going programs…Second, besides the normal bureaucratics, most state game agencies have a substantial group of individuals who are strong advocates for the hunters of the state. They are not neutral but very supportive of the hunting ethic and would not be expected to raise broader questions. Finally, and in many ways most importantly, is the funding mechanism…Since a large proportion of the funds which run the department and pay the salaries are from hunters and fishermen, there is a strong tendency for the agency to consider itself not as representing and working for the general public but that they need only serve their financial sponsors, the hunters and fishermen of the state. If your financial support is dependent on the activity of hunting, obviously very few are going to question the ecological or ethical problems therewith.
Many would argue that these funding arrangements constitute a prostitution of the public lands for the benefit of the few. We can envision possible alternatives to these arrangements. Other users of parks and natural resources, such as hikers, bird watchers, wildlife enthusiasts, eco-tourists, etc., can provide access to funds necessary for real habitat restoration and wildlife management, not the perverted brand that caters to the desires of hunters. As far as acquisition and protection of land is concerned, organizations such as the Nature Conservancy play an important role. They can do much more with even a fraction of the funding currently earmarked to subsidize hunting ($500 million per year). --DG/JK
SEE ALSO: #65
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#67 Isn’t hunting OK as long as we eat what we kill?
Did the fact that Jeffrey Dahmer ate his victims justify his crimes? What is done with a corpse after its murder doesn’t lessen the victim’s suffering. Furthermore, hunters are harming animals other than the ones they kill and take home. It is estimated that for every animal a hunter kills and recovers, at least two wounded but unrecovered animals die slowly and painfully of blood loss, infection, or starvation. Those who don’t die outright often suffer disabling injuries. The stress that hunting inflicts on animals–the noise, the fear, and the constant chase–severely restricts their ability to eat adequately and store the fat and energy they need to survive the winter. Hunting also disrupts migration and hibernation. For animals like wolves who mate for life and have close-knit family units, hunting can severely harm entire communities.
Some vegetarians accept that where farmers or small landholders breed, maintain, and then kill their own livestock there is an argument for their eating that meat. There would need, at all stages, to be a humane life and death involved. Hunting seems not to fit within this argument because the kill is often not “clean”, and the hunter has not had any involvement in the birth and growth of the animal.
As the arguments in the FAQ demonstrate, however, there is a wider context in which these actions have to be considered. Animals are sentient creatures who share many of our characteristics. The question is not only whether it is acceptable to eat an animal (which we perhaps hunted and killed), but if it is an appropriate action to take–stalking and murdering another animal, or eating the product of someone else’s killing. Is it a proper action for a supposedly rational and ethical man or woman? --JK
This question reminds one of question #12, where it is suggested that killing and eating an animal is justified because the animal is raised for that purpose. The process leading up to the eating is used to justify the eating. In this question, the eating is used to justify the process leading up to it. Both attempts are totally illogical. Imagine telling the police not to worry that you have just stalked and killed a person because you ate the person! --DG
SEE ALSO: #12, #21, #63-#64
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#68 Fish are dumb like insects; what’s wrong with fishing?
Fish are not “dumb” except in the sense that they are unable to speak. They have a complex nervous system based around a brain and spinal cord similar to other vertebrates. They are not as intelligent as humans in terms of functioning in our social and physical environment, but they are very successful and effective in their own environment. Behavioral studies indicate that they exhibit complex forms of learning, such as operant conditioning, serial reversal learning, probability learning, and avoidance learning. Many authorities doubt that there is a significant qualitative difference between learning in fishes and that in rats.
Many people who fish talk about the challenge of fishing, and the contest between themselves and the fish (on a one-to-one basis, not in relation to trawling or other net fishing). This implies an awareness and intelligence in the hunted of a level at least sufficient to challenge the hunter.
The death inflicted by fishing–a slow asphyxiation either in a net or after an extended period fighting against a barbed hook wedged somewhere in their head–is painful and distressing to a sentient animal. Those that doubt that fish feel pain must explain why it is that their brains contain endogenous opiates and receptors for them; these are accepted as mechanisms for the attenuation of pain in other vertebrates. --JK
Some people believe that it is OK to catch fish as long as they are returned to the water. But, when you think about it, it’s as if one is playing with the fish. Also, handling the fish wipes off an important disease-fighting coating on their scales. The hook can be swallowed, leading to serious complications, and even if it isn’t, pulling it out of their mouth leaves a lesion that is open to infection. --JSD
SEE ALSO: #22, #39
#69 Don’t zoos contribute to the saving of species from extinction?
Zoos often claim that they are “arks”, which can preserve species whose habitat has been destroyed, or which were wiped out in the wild for other reasons (such as hunting). They suggest that they can maintain the species in captivity until the cause of the creature’s extirpation is remedied, and then successfully reintroduce the animals to the wild, resulting in a healthy, self-sustaining population. Zoos often defend their existence against challenges from the AR movement on these grounds.
There are several problems with this argument, however. First, the number of animals required to maintain a viable gene pool can be quite high, and is never known for certain. If the captive gene pool is too small, then inbreeding can result in increased susceptibility to disease, birth defects, and mutations; the species can be so weakened that it would never be viable in the wild.
Some species are extremely difficult to breed in captivity: marine mammals, many bird species, and so on. Pandas, which have been the sustained focus of captive breeding efforts for several decades in zoos around the world, are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity. With such species, the zoos, by taking animals from the wild to supply their breeding programs, constitute a net drain on wild populations.
The whole concept of habitat restoration is mired in serious difficulties. Animals threatened by poaching (elephants, rhinos, pandas, bears and more) will never be safe in the wild as long as firearms, material needs, and a willingness to consume animal parts coincide. Species threatened by chemical contamination (such as bird species vulnerable to pesticides and lead shot) will not be candidates for release until we stop using the offending substances, and enough time has passed for the toxins to be processed out of the environment. Since heavy metals and some pesticides are both persistent and bioaccumulative, this could mean decades or centuries before it is safe to reintroduce the animals.
Even if these problems can be overcome, there are still difficulties with the process of reintroduction. Problems such as human imprinting, the need to teach animals to fly, hunt, build dens, and raise their young are serious obstacles, and must be solved individually for each species.
There is a small limit to the number of species the global network of zoos can preserve under even the most optimistic assumptions. Profound constraints are imposed by the lack of space in zoos, their limited financial resources, and the requirement that viable gene pools of each species be preserved. Few zoos, for instance, ever keep more than two individuals of large mammal species. The need to preserve scores or hundreds of a particular species would be beyond the resources of even the largest zoos, and even the whole world zoo community would be hard-pressed to preserve even a few dozen species in this manner.
Contrast this with the efficiency of large habitat preserves, which can maintain viable populations of whole complexes of species with minimal human intervention. Large preserves maintain every species in the ecosystem in a predominantly self-sufficient manner, while keeping the creatures in the natural habitat unmolested. If the financial resources (both government and charitable), and the biological expertise currently consumed by zoos, were redirected to habitat preservation and management, we would have far fewer worries about habitat restoration or preserving species whose habitat is gone.
Choosing zoos as a means for species preservation, in addition to being expensive and of dubious effectiveness, has serious ethical problems. Keeping animals in zoos harms them, by denying them freedom of movement and association, which is important to social animals, and frustrates many of their natural behavioral patterns, leaving them at least bored, and at worst seriously neurotic. While humans may feel there is some justifying benefit to their captivity (that the species is being preserved, and may someday be reintroduced into the wild), this is no compensating benefit to the individual animals. Attempts to preserve species by means of captivity have been described as sacrificing the individual gorilla to the abstract Gorilla (i.e., to the abstract conception of the gorilla). --JE
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#70 Don’t animals live longer in zoos than they would in the wild?
In some cases, this is true. But it is irrelevant. Suppose a zoo decides to exhibit human beings. They snatch a peasant from a less-developed country and put her on display. Due to the regular feedings and health care that the zoo provides, the peasant will live longer in captivity. Is this practice acceptable?
A tradeoff of quantity of life versus quality of life is not always decided in favor of quantity. --DG
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#71 How will people see wild animals and learn about them without zoos?
To gain true and complete knowledge of wild animals, one must observe them in their natural habitats. The conditions under which animals are kept in zoos typically distorts their behavior significantly. There are several practical alternatives to zoos for educational purposes. There are many nature documentaries shown regularly on television as well as available on video cassettes. Specials on public television networks, as well as several cable channels, such as The Discovery Channel, provide accurate information on animals in their natural habitats. Magazines such as National Geographic provide superb illustrated articles, as well. And, of course, public libraries are a gold-mine of information.
Zoos often mistreat animals, keeping them in small pens or cages. This is unfair and cruel. The natural instincts and behavior of these animals are suppressed by force. How can anyone observe wild animals under such circumstances and believe that one has been educated? --JLS
“All good things are wild, and free.” --Henry David Thoreau (essayist and poet)
SEE ALSO: #69-#70
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#72 What is wrong with circuses and rodeos?
To treat animals as objects for our amusement is to treat them without the respect they deserve. When we degrade the most intelligent fellow mammals in this way, we act as our ancestors acted in former centuries. They knew nothing about the animals’ intelligence, sensitivities, emotions, and social needs; they saw only brute beasts. To continue such ancient traditions, even if no cruelty were involved, means that we insist on remaining ignorant and insensitive.
But the cruelty does exist and is inherent in these spectacles. In rodeos, there is no show unless the animal is frightened or in pain. In circuses, animals suffer most before and after the show. They endure punishment during training and are subjected to physical and emotional hardships during transportation. They are forced to travel tens of thousands of miles each year, often in extreme heat or cold, with tigers living in cramped cages and elephants chained in filthy railroad cars. To the entrepreneurs, animals are merely stock in trade, to be replaced when they are used up. --DVH
David Cowles-Hamar writes about circuses as follows in his “The Manual of Animal Rights”: Not surprisingly, a considerable amount of “persuasion” is required to achieve these performances, and to this end, circuses employ various techniques. These include deprivation of food, deprivation of company, intimidation, muzzling, drugs, punishment and reward systems, shackling, whips, electronic goads, sticks, and the noise of guns…Circus animals suffer similar mental and physical problems to zoo animals, displaying stereotypical behavior…Physical symptoms include shackle sores, herpes, liver failure, kidney disease, and sometimes death…Many of the animals become both physically and mentally ill. --DG
The American rodeo consists of roping, bucking, and steer wrestling events. While the public witnesses only the 8 seconds or so that the animals perform, there are hundreds of hours of unsupervised practice sessions. Also, the stress of constant travel, often in improperly ventilated vehicles, and poor enforcement of proper unloading, feeding, and watering of animals during travel contribute to a life of misery for these animals.
As half a rider’s score is based on the performance of the bucking horse or bull, riders encourage a wild ride by tugging on a bucking strap that is squeezed tightly around the animal’s loins. Electric prods and raking spurs are also used to stimulate wild behavior. Injuries range from bruises and broken bones to paralysis, severed tracheas, and death. Spinal cords of calves can be severed when forced to an abrupt stop while traveling at 30 mph. The practice of slamming these animals to the ground during these events has caused the rupture of internal organs, leading to a slow, agonizing death.
Dr. C. G. Haber, a veterinarian with thirty years experience as a meat inspector for the USDA, says: “The rodeo folks send their animals to the packing houses where…I have seen cattle so extensively bruised that the only areas in which the skin was attached was the head, neck, legs, and belly. I have seen animals with six to eight ribs broken from the spine and at times puncturing the lungs. I have seen as much as two and three gallons of free blood accumulated under the detached skin.” --JSD
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#73 But isn’t it true that animals are well cared for and wouldn’t perform if they weren’t happy?
Refer to questions #72 and #74 to see that entertainment animals are generally not well cared for.
For centuries people have known that punishment can induce animals to perform. The criminal justice system is based on the human rationality in connecting the act of a crime or wrongdoing with a punishment. Many religions are also based, among other aspects, on a fear of punishment. Fear leads most of us to act correctly, on the whole.
The same is true for other animals. Many years of unnecessary and repetitive psychology experiments with Skinner boxes (among other gadgets) have demonstrated that animals will learn to do things, or act in certain ways (that is, be conditioned) to avoid electric shocks or other punishment.
Animals do need to have their basic food requirements met, otherwise they sicken and die, but they don’t need to be “happy” to perform certain acts; fear or desire for a reward (such as food) will make them do it. --JK
SEE ALSO: #14, #51, #72, #74
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#74 What about horse or greyhound racing?
Racing is an example of human abuse of animals merely for entertainment and pleasure, regardless of the needs or condition of the animals. The pleasure derives primarily from gambling on the outcome of the race. While some punters express an interest in the animal side of the equation, most people interested in racing are not interested in the animals but in betting; attendance at race meetings has fallen dramatically as off-course betting options became available.
While some of the top dogs and horses may be kept in good conditions, for the majority of animals, this is not the case. While minimum living standards have to be met, other factors are introduced to gain the best performances (or in some cases to fix a race by ensuring a loss): drugs, electrical stimuli, whips, etc. While many of these practices are outlawed (including dog blooding), there are regular reports of various illegal techniques being used. Logic would suggest that where the volume of money being moved around is as large as it is in racing, there are huge temptations to massage the outcomes.
For horses, especially, the track itself poses dangers; falls and fractures are common in both flat and jump races. Often, lame horses are doped to allow them to continue to race, with the risk of serious injury.
And at the end of it all, if the animal is not a success, or does not perform as brilliantly as hoped, it is disposed of. Horses are lucky in that they occasionally go to a home where they are well treated and respected, but the knackery is a common option (a knackery is a purveyor of products derived from worn-out and old livestock). (Recently, a new practice has come to light: owners of race horses sometimes murder horses that do not reach their “potential”, or which are past their “prime”, and then file fraudulent insurance claims.) The likely homes for a greyhound are few and far between. --JK
Race horses are prone to a disease called exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH). It is characterized by the presence of blood in the lungs and windpipe of the horse following intense exercise. An Australian study found 42 percent of 1,180 horses to be suffering from EIPH. A large percentage of race horses suffer from lameness. Fractures of the knee are common, as are ligament sprain, joint sprain, and shin soreness.
“Steeple chasing is designed to make the horses fall which sometimes results in the death of the horse either though a broken neck or an “incurable” injury for which the horse is killed by a veterinarian.” --David Cowles-Hamar
SEE ALSO: #72-#73
#75 What about keeping pets?
In a perfect world, all of our efforts would go toward protecting the habitats of other species on the planet and we would be able to maintain a “hands off” approach in which we did not take other species into our family units, but allowed them to develop on their own in the wild. However, we are far from such a Utopia and as responsible humans must deal with the results of the domestication of animals. Since many animals domesticated to be pets have been bred but have no homes, most AR supporters see nothing wrong with having them as companion animals. As a matter of fact, the AR supporter may well provide homes for more unwanted companion animals than does the average person! Similarly, animals domesticated for agricultural purposes should be cared for.
However, animals in the wild should be left there and not brought into homes as companions. A cage in someone’s house is an unnatural environment for an exotic bird, fish, or mammal. When the novelty wears off, wild pets usually end up at shelters, zoos, or research labs. Wild animals have the right to be treated with respect, and that includes leaving them in their natural surroundings. --LK
A loving relationship with a proper companion animal, a relationship that adequately provides for the animal’s physical and psychological needs, is not at all inconsistent with the principles and advocacy of animal rights.
Indeed, animal rights advocates have been leaders in drawing attention to some of the abuses and neglects of our “beloved” pets. Many of the taken for granted practices do need to be reexamined and changed. The questions that animal rights raises about companion animals are important questions:
Can we maintain animals as companions and still properly address their needs? Obviously, we can’t do this for all animals. For example, keeping birds in cages denies those creatures their capacity and inherent need to fly.
Is manipulating companion animals for our needs in the the best interests of the nonhuman animal as well? Tail docking would thus be a practice to condemn in this regard.
Might some of our taken-for-granted practices of pet keeping be really a form of exploitation? Animals in circuses or panhandlers using animals on the street to get money from passersby would arguably be cases of exploitation.
Which attitudes of human caretakers are truly expressions of our respect and love towards these animals, and which might not be? Exotic breeding is one example of this kind of abuse, especially when the breeding results in animals that are at a greater risk for certain diseases or biological defects.
All that animal rights is really asking is that we consider more deeply and authentically the practice at hand and whether or not it truly meets the benchmark that BOTH the needs of human AND nonhuman animals be considered. --TA
The following points should be considered when selecting a companion animal.
Get a companion animal appropriate to your situation–don’t keep a big dog in a flat or small garden. Don’t get an animal that will be kept unnecessarily confined–birds, fish, etc. However, it is a good policy to try to keep cats inside as much as possible, especially at night, to protect both the cat and local wildlife. Get your dog or cat from a local pound or animal group; thousands of animals are destroyed each year by groups such as the RSPCA. The majority are animals who are lost or dumped. Vicious animals are not adopted out. By getting an animal from such a source you will be saving its life and reducing the reliance on breeders.
Finally, get your companion neutered. There is no behavioral or biological benefit from being fertile or from having a litter. And every pup or kitten that is produced will need to find a home. --JK
SEE ALSO: #76
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#76 What about spaying and neutering?
Ingrid Newkirk writes: “What’s happening to our best friends should never happen even to our worst enemies. With an estimated 80 to 100 million cats and dogs in this country already, 3,000 to 5,000 more puppies and kittens are born every hour in the United States–far more than can ever find good homes. Unwanted animals are dumped at the local pound or abandoned in woods and on city streets, where they suffer from starvation, lack of shelter and veterinary care, and abuse. Most die from disease, starvation, and mistreatment, or, if they’re lucky are ‘put to sleep’ forever at an animal shelter.”
The point is that the practice of neutering and spaying prevents far more suffering and harm than it imposes on the neutered or spayed animals. The net harm is minimized. --DG
SEE ALSO: #75
#77 What is wrong with experimentation on animals?
The claimed large gains from using animals in research makes the practice the most significant challenge to AR philosophy. While it is easy to dismiss meat production as a trivial indulgence of the taste buds, such a dismissal is not so easily accomplished for animal research.
First, a definition. We refer to as “vivisection” any use of animals in science or research that exploits and harms them. This definition acknowledges that there is some research using animals that is morally acceptable under AR philosophy (see question #80).
The case against vivisection is built upon three planks. They are:
PLANK A. Vivisection is immoral and should be abolished.
PLANK B. Abolition of vivisection is not antiscience or antiresearch.
PLANK C. The consequences of abolition are acceptable.
It is easy to misunderstand the AR philosophy regarding vivisection. Often, scientists will debate endlessly about the scientific validity of research, and sometimes AR people engage in those debates. Such issues are part of PLANK C, which asserts that much research is misleading, wrong, or misguided. However, the key to the AR position is PLANK A, which asserts an objection to vivisection on ethical grounds. We seek to reassure people about the effects abolition will have on future medical progress via PLANKS B and C.
In the material that follows, each piece of text is identified with a preceding tag such as [PLANK A]. The idea is to show how the text fragments fit into the overall case. There is some overlap between PLANKs B and C, so the assignment may look arbitrary in a few cases. --DG
Over 100 million animals are used in experiments worldwide every year. A few of the more egregious examples of vivisection may be enlightening for the uninformed (taken from R. Ryder’s “Victims of Science”):
Psychologists gave electric shocks to the feet of 1042 mice. They then caused convulsions by giving more intense shocks through cup-shaped electrodes applied to the animals’ eyes or through spring clips attached to their ears.
In Japan, starved rats with electrodes in their necks and electrodes in their eyeballs were forced to run in treadmills for four hours at a time.
A group of 64 monkeys was addicted to drugs by automatic injection in their jugular veins. When the supply of drugs was abruptly withdrawn, some of the monkeys were observed to die in convulsions. Before dying, some monkeys plucked out all their hair or bit off their own fingers and toes.
Basic ethical objections to this type of “science” are presented here and in questions #79 and #85. Some technical objections are found in questions #78 and #80. Question #92 contains a list of books on vivisection; refer to them for further examples of the excesses of vivisection, as well as more detailed discussion of its technical merits.
VIVISECTION TREATS ANIMALS AS TOOLS. Vivisection effectively reduces sentient beings to the status of disposable tools, to be used and discarded for the benefit of others. This forgets that each animal has an inherent value, a value that does not rise and fall depending on the interests of others. Those doubting this should ponder the implications of their views for humans: would they support the breeding of human slaves for the exclusive use of experimenters?
VIVISECTION IS SPECIESIST. Most animal experimenters would not use nonconsenting humans in invasive research. In making this concession, they reveal the importance they attach to species membership, a biological line that is as morally relevant as that of race or gender, that is, not relevant at all.
VIVISECTION DEMEANS SCIENCE. Its barbaric practices are an insult to those who feel that science should provide humans with the opportunity to rise above the harsher laws of nature.
The words of Tom Regan summarize the feelings of many AR activists: “The laudatory achievements of science, including the many genuine benefits obtained for both humans and animals, do not justify the unjust means used to secure them. As in other cases, so in the present one, the rights view does not call for the cessation of scientific research. Such research should go on–but not at the expense of laboratory animals.” --AECW
“Atrocities are not less atrocities when they occur in laboratories and are called medical research.” --George Bernard Shaw (playwright, Nobel 1925)
“Vivisection is the blackest of all the black crimes that a man is at present committing against God and his fair creation.” --Mahatma Gandhi (statesman and philosopher)
“What I think about vivisection is that if people admit that they have the right to take or endanger the life of living beings for the benefit of many, there will be no limit for their cruelty.” --Leo Tolstoy (author)
“I am not interested to know whether vivisection produces results that are profitable to the human race or doesn’t…The pain which it inflicts upon unconsenting animals is the basis of my enmity toward it, and it is to me sufficient justification of the enmity without looking further.” --Mark Twain (author)
SEE ALSO: #78-#82, #85-#86
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#78 Do AR people accept that vivisection has led to valuable medical advances?
AR advocates generally believe that vivisection has played a contributing, if not necessarily essential, role in some valuable medical advances. However, AR philosophy asserts that the end does not justify the means, and that therefore the answer cannot decide the legitimacy of the stance against vivisection.
That said, many people, including former vivisectors and medical historians, will readily state that there is ample scientific and historical evidence showing that most vivisection is futile, and often harmful to those it pretends to serve.
On statistical grounds, vivisection does not deliver: despite the use of 144,000,000 animals in Britain since 1950, life-expectancy in Britain for the middle-aged has not changed since this date. Some 85 percent of the lab animals killed between the 1890s and the 1990s died after 1950, but the fall in death rate during these 100 years was 92 percent complete by 1950.
Consider, for a specific example, these figures for cancer:
Bladder 118 123 + 4.2
Pancreas 118 125 + 5.9
Prostate 177 199 + 12.4
Stomach 298 278 - 6.7
Colorectal 311 320 + 2.9
Lung, Trachea, 1091 1125 + 3.1
[data for women excised for space reasons]
Gains in the war against cancer are sadly lacking, despite the vast numbers of animals sacrificed for cancer research.
When such analyses are performed across the spectrum of health issues, it becomes clear that, at best, the contribution of vivisection to our health must be considered quite modest. The dramatic declines in death rates for old killer diseases, such as, tuberculosis, pneumonia, typhoid, whooping cough, and cholera, came from improvements in housing, in working conditions, in the quantity and quality of food and water supplies, and in hygiene. Chemotherapy and immunization cannot logically be given much credit here, since they only became available, chronologically, after most of the declines were achieved.
Consider the particular example of penicillin: it was discovered accidentally by Fleming in 1928. He tested on rabbits, and when they failed to react (we now know that they excrete penicillin rapidly), he lost interest in his substance. Still, two scientists followed up on his work, successfully tried on mice and stated:
“…mice were tried in the initial toxicity tests because of their small size, but what a lucky chance it was, for in this respect man is like the mouse and not the guinea pig. If we had used guinea pigs exclusively we should have said that the penicillin was toxic, and we probably should not have proceeded to try to overcome the difficulties of producing the substance for trial in man.”
Vivisection generally fails because:
Human medicine cannot be based on veterinary medicine. This is because animals are different histologically, anatomically, genetically, immunologically, and physiologically.
Animals and humans react differently to substances. For example, some drugs are carcinogenic in humans but not in animals, or vice-versa.
Naturally occurring diseases (e.g., in patients) and artificially induced diseases (e.g., in lab animals) often differ substantially.
All this manifests itself in examples such as the one below
SPECIES DIFFERENCE IN TESTS FOR BIRTH DEFECTS
Chemical Teratogen (i.e., causes birth defects)
aspirin rats, mice, monkeys, humans guinea pigs, cats, dogs
aminopterin humans monkeys
azathioprine rabbits rats
caffeine rats, mice rabbits
cortisone mice, rabbits rats
thalidomide humans rats, mice, hamsters
triamcilanone mice humans
There are countless examples, old and recent, of the misleading effects of vivisection, and there are countless statements from reputable scientists who see vivisection for what it is: bad science. Following are just a few of them. --AECW
“The uselessness of most of the animal models is less well-known. For example, the discovery of chemotherapeutic agents for the treatment of human cancer is widely heralded as a triumph due to use of animal model systems. However, here again, these exaggerated claims are coming from or are endorsed by the same people who get the federal dollars for animal research. There is little, if any, factual evidence that would support these claims. Indeed while conflicting animal results have often delayed and hampered advances in the war on cancer, they have never produced a single substantial advance in the prevention or treatment of human cancer. For instance, practically all of the chemotherapeutic agents which are of value in the treatment of human cancer were found in a clinical context rather than in animal studies.” --Dr. Irwin Bross, 1981 Congressional testimony
“Indeed even while these [clinical] studies were starting, warning voices were suggesting that data from research on animals could not be used to develop a treatment for human tumors.” --British Medical Journal, 1982
“Vivisection is barbaric, useless, and a hindrance to scientific progress.” --Dr. Werner Hartinger, Chief Surgeon, West Germany, 1988
“…many vivisectors still claim that what they do helps save human lives. They are lying. The truth is that animal experiments kill people, and animal researchers are responsible for the deaths of thousands of men, women and children every year.” --Dr. Vernon Coleman, Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, UK
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#79 How can you justify losing medical advances that would save human lives by stopping vivisection?
The same way we justify not performing forcible research on unwilling humans! A lot of even more relevant information is currently foregone owing to our strictures against human experimentation. If life-saving medical advances are to be sought at all cost, why should nonhuman animals be singled out for ill-treatment? We must accept that there is such a thing as “ill-gotten gains”, and that the potential fruits of vivisection qualify as such.
This question might be regarded as a veiled insult to the creativity and resourcefulness of scientists. Although humans have never set foot on Pluto, scientists have still garnered a lot of valuable scientific information concerning it. Why couldn’t such feats of ingenuity be repeated in other fields? --AECW
Forcible experimentation on humans is not the only alternative. Many humans would be glad to participate in experiments that offer the hope of a cure for their afflictions, or for the afflictions of others. If individual choice were allowed, there might be no need for animal experimentation. The stumbling block is government regulations that forbid these choices. Similarly, government regulations are the reason many animals are sacrificed for product testing, often unnecessarily. --PM
SEE ALSO: #77-#78, #80-#82, #85-#86
It isn’t feasible to stop using animals for basic medical research because of the need to observe the complex interactions of cells, tissues, and organs:
Besides the moral issues involved, clinical and epidemiological studies of humans offer a far more accurate picture without hurting anyone. Observing interactions in animals is no guarantee that the information can be extrapolated to humans. Different species of animals vary enormously in their reactions to toxins and diseases and in their metabolism of drugs. For example, a dose of aspirin that is therapeutic in humans is poisonous to cats and has no effect on fever in horses; benzene causes leukemia in humans but not in mice; insulin produces birth defects in animals but not in humans, and so on. Animal experiments cannot replace careful clinical observation of human beings.
If we couldn’t use animals, wouldn’t we have to test new drugs on people?
The choice isn’t between animals and people. There’s no guarantee that drugs are safe just because they’ve been tested on animals. Because of the physiological differences between humans and other animals, results from animal tests cannot be accurately extrapolated to humans, leaving us vulnerable to exposure to drugs that can cause serious side effects. Ironically, unfavorable animal test results do not prevent a drug from being marketed for human use. So much evidence has accumulated about differences in the effects chemicals have on animals and humans, that government officials often do not act on findings from animal studies. In the last two decades, many drugs, including phenacitin, Eferol, Oraflex, Suprol, and Selacryn, were taken off the market after causing hundreds of deaths and/or injuries. In fact, more than half the drugs the Food and Drug Administration approved between 1976 and 1985 were either removed from the market or relabeled because of serious side effects. If the pharmaceutical industry switched from animal experiments to quantum pharmacology and in vitro tests, we would have greater protection, not less.
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#80 Aren’t there instances where there are no alternatives to the use of animals?
The reply to the question here is succinct: “If so, so what?”. Let us recall that we are happy enough (today) to forego knowledge that would be acquired at the expense of commandeering humans into service, and that we include children, the mentally diminished and even people suffering from types of disease for which animal models are unsatisfactory (such as AIDS). That is, a prior ethical decision was made that rules them out from experimentation, and that foregoes any potential knowledge so derived.
Now the Animal Rights argument is consistent: since no morally relevant difference can be produced that separates humans spared experimentation from test animals (those that are subjects-of-a-life), vivisection is exposed as immoral, and the practice must be abandoned.
Just as the insights offered by the Nazis’ experiments on concentration camp prisoners were morally illicit, so are any and all benefits traceable to vivisection. As Tom Regan put it: “Since, whatever our gains, they are ill-gotten, we must bring an end to [such] research, whatever our losses.”
The argument above makes the search for alternatives morally imperative, and if it is objected that this “just isn’t possible”, one should reply that belittling the ingenuity of scientists will not do. There have been cases where alternatives to vivisection had to be sought, and–of course–they were found. For example, Sharpe writes in The Human Cost of Animal Experimentation: “Historically, a classic example is the conquest of yellow fever. In 1900, no animal was known to be susceptible, prompting studies with human volunteers which proved that mosquitoes did indeed transmit the disease. These observations led to improved sanitation and quarantine measures in Havana where yellow fever, once rife, was eradicated.”
We now cite a few alternatives to animal models of human diseases. Two traditional types are: a) Clinical studies: these are essential for a thorough understanding of any disease. Anesthetics, artificial respiration, the stethoscope, electrocardiographs, blood pressure measurements, etc., resulted from careful clinical studies. b) Epidemiology studies: i.e., the study of diseases of whole populations. They, and not animal tests, have identified most of the substances known to cause cancer in humans.
Typical example: Why is cancer of the colon so frequent in Europe and North America, infrequent in Japan, but common in Japanese immigrants to North America?
More recent technological advances now allow a host of other investigative methods to be applied, including:
Tissue cultures: Human cells and tissues can be kept alive in cultures and used for biomedical research. Since human material is used, extrapolation problems are short-circuited. Such cultures have been used in cancer research by FDA scientists, for example, and according to them: “[they] offer the possibility of studying not only the biology of cancer cell growth and invasion into normal human tissue, but also provide a method for evaluating the effects of a variety of potentially important antitumor agents.”
Physico-chemical methods: For example, liquid chromatographs and mass spectrophotometers allow researchers to identify substances in biological substances. For example, a bioassay for vitamin D used to involve inducing rickets in rats and feeding them vitamin-D-rich substances. Now, liquid chromatography allows such bioassays to be conducted quicker and at reduced cost.
Computer simulations: According to Dr. Walker at the University of Texas: “… computer simulations offer a wide range of advantages over live animal experiments in the physiology and pharmacology laboratory. These include: savings in animal procurement and housing costs; nearly unlimited availability to meet student schedules; the opportunity to correct errors and repeat parts of the experiment performed incorrectly or misinterpreted; speed of operation and efficient use of students’ time and consistency with knowledge learned elsewhere.”
Computer-aided drug design: Such methods have been used in cancer and sickle-cell anemia drug research, for example. Here, 3D computer graphics and the theoretical field of quantum pharmacology are combined to help in designing drugs according to required specifications.
Mechanical models: For example, an artificial neck has been developed by General Motors for use in car-crash simulations. Indeed, the well-known “crash dummies” are much more accurate and effective than the primates previously employed.
This list is by no means exhaustive.
There are instances where the benefits of experimentation accrue directly to the individual concerned; for example, the trial of a new plastic heart may be proposed to someone suffering from heart disease, or a new surgical technique may be attempted to save a nonhuman animal. This may qualify, in the mind of the questioner, as an instance of use of animals. The position here is simple: The Animal Rights position does not condemn experimentation where it is conducted for the benefit of the individual patient. Clinical trials of new drugs, for example, often fall in this category, and so does some veterinary research, such as the clinical study of already sick animals. Another example of acceptable animal research is ethology, i.e. the study of animals in their natural habitat. --AECW
Following is a list of alternatives to much, if not all, vivisection:
Cell, tissue, and organ cultures
Human volunteers (sick and well)
Material from natural deaths
Noninvasive imaging in clinical settings
Substitution with plants
These alternatives, and others not yet conceived, will ensure that scientific research will not come to a halt upon abolition of vivisection. --DG
If we didn’t test on animals, how would we conduct medical research? Human clinical and epidemiological studies, cadavers, and computer simulators are faster, more reliable, less expensive, and more humane than animal tests. Ingenious scientists have developed, from human brain cells, a model microbrain with which to study tumors, as well as artificial skin and bone marrow. We can now test irritancy on egg membranes, produce vaccines from cell cultures, and perform pregnancy tests using blood samples instead of killing rabbits.
Hasn’t every major medical advance been attributable to experiments on animals? Medical historians have shown that improved nutrition, sanitation, and other behavioral and environmental factors–not anything learned from animal experiments–are responsible for the decline in deaths since 1900 from the most common infectious diseases and that medicine has had little to do with increased life expectancy. Many of the most important advances in health are attributable to human studies, among them anesthesia; bacteriology; germ theory; the stethoscope; morphine; radium; penicillin; artificial respiration; antiseptics; the CAT, MRI, and PET scans; the discovery of the relationships between cholesterol and heart disease and between smoking and cancer; the development of x-rays; and the isolation of the virus that causes AIDS. Animal testing played no role in these and many other developments.
Back to Questions
#81 But what if animals also benefit, e.g., through advance of veterinary science?
The Animal Rights philosophy is species-neutral, so the arguments developed elsewhere in this section apply with equal force. The immorality of rights-violative practices is not attenuated by claiming that the victims and beneficiaries are of the same species. --AECW
Back to Questions
#82 Should people refuse medical treatments obtained through vivisection?
Unfortunately, a number of things in our society came about through others’ exploitation. For instance, many of the roads we drive on were built by slaves. We can’t change the past; those who have already suffered and died are lost. But what we can do is change the future by using non-animal research methods from now on.
This is a favorite question for the defenders of vivisection. The implication is that the AR position is inconsistent or irrational because AR people partake of some fruits of vivisection.
As a first answer, we can point out that for existing treatments derived from vivisection, the damage has already been done. Nothing is gained by refusing the treatment. Vivisectors counter that the situation is analogous to our refusal to eat meat sold at the grocery; the damage has been done, so why not eat the meat? But there is a crucial difference. Knowledge is a permanent commodity; unlike meat, it is abstract, it doesn’t rot. Consider a piece of knowledge obtained through vivisection. If vivisection were abolished, the knowledge could be used repeatedly without endorsing or further supporting vivisection. With meat consumption, the practice of slaughter must continue if the fruits are to continue to be enjoyed.
Another point is that, had the vivisection not occurred, the knowledge might well have been obtained through alternative, moral methods. Are we to permanently foreclose the use of an abstract piece of knowledge due to the past folly of a vivisector? The same cannot be said of meat; it cannot be obtained without slaughter.
If the reader finds this unpersuasive, she should consider that the AR movement sincerely wants to abolish vivisection, eliminating ill-gotten fruits. If this is achieved, the original question becomes moot, because there will be no such fruits. --DG
This is another “where should I draw the line” question, with the added twist that one’s personal health may be on the line. As such, the right answer is likely to depend a good deal on personal circumstances and judgment. It is certainly beyond the call of duty to make an absolute pledge, since the principle of self-defense may ultimately apply (particularly in life-or death cases). Still, many people will be prepared to make statements against animal oppression, even at considerable cost to their well-being. For these, the following issues might be worth considering.
WHAT IS THE TRUE CONTRIBUTION OF ANIMAL EXPERIMENTATION TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE TREATMENT? Most treatments owe nothing to animal experimentation at all, or were developed in spite of animal experimentation rather than thanks to it.
Insulin is one good example. The really important discoveries did not proceed from the celebrated experiments of Banting and Best on dogs but from clinical discoveries: According to Dr. Sharpe: “The link between diabetes and the pancreas was first demonstrated by Thomas Cawley in 1788 when he examined a patient who had died from the disease. Further autopsies confirmed that diabetes is indeed linked with degeneration of the pancreas but, partly because physiologists, including the notorious Claude Bernard, had failed to produce a diabetic state in animals…the idea was not accepted for many years.” One had to wait until 1889 for the link to be accepted, the date at which two researchers, Mering and Minkowski, managed to induce a form of diabetes in dogs by removing their entire pancreas. Autopsies further revealed that some parts of the pancreas of diabetics were damaged, giving birth to the idea that administering pancreatic extracts to patients might help.
Other examples of treatments owing nothing to vivisection include the heart drug digitalis, quinine (used against malaria), morphine (a pain killer), ether (an anesthetic), sulfanilimide (a diuretic), cortisone (used to relieve arthritic pains, for example), aspirin, fluoride (in toothpastes), etc.
Incidentally, some of these indisputably useful drugs would find it hard to pass these so-called animal safety tests. Insulin causes birth defects in chickens, rabbits, and mice but not in man; morphine sedates man but stimulates cats; doses of aspirin used in human therapeutics poison cats (and do nothing for fever in horses); the widespread use of digitalis was slowed down by confounding results from animal studies (and legitimized by clinical studies, as ever), and so on.
IS THE TREATMENT REALLY SAFE? The nefarious effects of many newly-developed, “safe” compounds often take some time to be acknowledged. For example, even serious side-effects can sometimes go under-reported. In the UK, only a dozen of the 3500 deaths eventually linked to the use of isoprenaline aerosol inhalers were reported by doctors. Similarly, it took 4 years for the side-effects of the heart drug Eraldine (which included eye damage) to be acknowledged. The use of these drugs were, evidently, approved following extensive animal testing.
WILL THE TREATMENT REALLY HELP? This question is not as incongruous as it may appear. A 1967 official enquiry suggested that one third of the most prescribed drugs in the UK were “undesirable preparations”. Many new drugs provide no advantage over existing compounds: in 1977, the US FDA released a study of 1,935 drugs introduced up to April 1977 which suggested that 79.4 percent of them provided “little or no [therapeutic] gain”. About 80 percent of new introductions in the UK are reformulations, or duplications of existing drugs. A 1980 survey by the Medicines Division of UK Department for Health and Social Security states : “[new drugs] have largely been introduced into therapeutic areas already heavily oversubscribed and…for conditions which are common, largely chronic and occur principally in the affluent Western society. Innovation is therefore largely directed toward commercial returns rather than therapeutic needs.”
ARE THERE ALTERNATIVES TO THE TREATMENT? A better appreciation of the benefits of “alternative” practices has developed in recent years. Often, dietary or lifestyle changes can be effective treatments on their own. Adult-onset diabetes has been linked to obesity, for instance, and can often be cured simply by weight-loss and sensible dieting. Other types of alternative medicine, such as acupuncture, have proven useful in stress relief, and against insomnia and back pains. --AECW
In modern society, I think it would be almost impossible NOT to use medical information gained through animal research at some stage–drug testing being the most obvious consideration–without opting out of health care altogether. It is important, therefore, that we emphasize the need to stop now. The past is irretrievable. --JK
Back to Questions
#83 Farmers have to kill pests to protect our food supply. Given that, what’s wrong with killing a few more rats for medical research?
First, we object to the casual attitude of the questioner to the killing of rights holders. A nonspeciesist philosophy, such as that of Animal Rights, sees that as no different from suggesting:
Humans are killed legitimately every day. Given that, what’s wrong with killing a few more humans for medical research?
Hopefully, the reply is now obvious: in the original question, the fate of pests is an irrelevant consideration (here), and the case for the liberation of laboratory animals must be evaluated on its own. Seeking to dilute a number of immoral killings into a greater number of arguably defensible ones is a creative but illogical attempt at ethical reasoning. --AECW
SEE ALSO: #59
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#84 What about dissection; isn’t it necessary for a complete education?
More and more medical students are becoming conscientious objectors, and many students now graduate without having used animals; instead, they learn by assisting experienced surgeons. In Great Britain, it is against the law for medical students to practice surgery on animals, and British physicians are as competent as those educated elsewhere. Many of the leading U.S. medical schools, including Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, now use innovative clinical teaching methods instead of old-fashioned animal laboratories. Harvard, for instance, offers a Cardiac Anesthesia Practicum, where students observe human heart bypass operations instead of dog labs; the Harvard staff who developed it have recommended it be implemented at medical schools everywhere.
Dissection refers to the practice of performing exploratory surgery on animals (both killed and live) in an educational context. The average person’s experience of this practice consists of dissecting a frog in a high-school biology class, but fetal chipmunks, mice, rabbits, dogs, cats, pigs, and other animals are also used.
Dissection accounts for the death of about 7 million animals per year. Many of these animals are bred in factory-farm conditions. Others are taken from their natural habitats. Often, strayed companion animals end up in the hands of dissectors. These animals suffer from inhumane confinement and transport, and are finally killed by means of gassing, neck-snapping, and other “inexpensive” methods.
The practice of dissection is repulsive to many students and high-schoolers have begun to speak out against it. Some have even engaged in litigation (and won!) to assert a right to not participate in such unnecessary cruelty. California has a law giving students (through high school) the right to refuse dissection. The law requires an alternative to be offered and that the student suffer no sanctions for exercising this right.
Having dealt with the sub-question “What is dissection?”, let’s consider whether it is necessary for a complete education.
There are several very effective alternatives to dissection. In some cases, these alternatives are more effective than dissection itself. Larger-than-life models, films and videos, and computer simulations are all viable methods of teaching biological principles. The latter option, computer simulation, has the advantage of offering an additional interactive facility that has shown great value in other educational contexts. These alternative methods are often cheaper than the traditional practice of dissection. A computer program can be used indefinitely for a one-time purchase cost; the practice of dissection presents an ongoing expense.
In view of these effective alternatives, and the economic gains associated therewith, the practice of dissection begins to look more and more like a rite of passage into the world of animal abuse, almost a fraternity initiation for future vivisectors. This practice desensitizes students to animal suffering and teaches them that animals can be used and discarded without respect for their lives. Is this the kind of lesson we want to teach our children? --JLS/DG
Dissecting animals is often described as necessary for the complete education of surgeons. This is nonsense. Numerous surgeons have stated that practicing on animals does not provide adequate skills for human surgery. For example, dogs are the favorite test animal of surgery students, yet their body shape is different, the internal arrangement of their organs is different, the elasticity of their tissues under the scalpel is different, and postoperative effects are different (they are less prone to infection, for one thing). Also, many surgeons have suggested that practicing on animals may induce in the mind of the student a casual attitude to suffering.
Following are the thoughts of several prestigious surgeons on this issue. --AECW
“…wounds of animals are so different from those of [humans] that the conclusions of vivisection are absolutely worthless. They have done far more harm than good in surgery.” --Lawson Tait
“Any person who had to endure certain experiments carried out on animals which perish slowly in the laboratories would regard death by burning at the stake as a happy deliverance. Like every one else in my profession, I used to be of the opinion that we owe nearly all our knowledge of medical and surgical science to animal experiments. Today I know that precisely the opposite is the case. In surgery especially, they are of no help to the practitioner, indeed he is often led astray by them.” --Professor Bigelow
“…the aim should be to train the surgeon using human patients by moving gradually from stage to stage of difficulty and explicitly rejecting the acquisition of skills by practicing on animals…which is useless and dangerous in the training of a thoracic surgeon.” --Professor R. J. Belcher
“Practice on dogs probably makes a good veterinarian, if that is the kind of practitioner you want for your family.” --William Held
“Animal life, somber mystery. All nature protests against the barbarity of man, who misapprehends, who humiliates, who tortures his inferior brethren.” --Jules Michelet (historian)
“Mutilating animals and calling it ‘science’ condemns the human species to moral and intellectual hell…this hideous Dark Age of the mindless torture of animals must be overcome.” --Grace Slick (musician)
SEE ALSO: #77-#81, #92
Back to Questions
#85 What is wrong with product testing on animals?
The practice of product testing on animals treats animals as discardable and renewable resources, as replaceable clones with no individual lives, no interests, and no aspirations of their own. It callously enlists hapless creatures into the service of humans. It assumes that the risks incurred by one class of individuals can be forcibly transferred onto another.
Product testing is also unbelievably cruel. One notorious method of testing is the Draize irritancy test, in which potentially harmful products are dripped into the eyes of test animals (usually rabbits). The harmfulness of the product is then (subjectively) assessed depending on the size of the area injured, the opacity of the cornea, and the degree of redness, swelling and discharge of the conjunctivae, and in more severe cases, on the blistering or gross destruction of the cornea.
The use of animals in medicine is often challenged on scientific grounds, and product tests are no exception. For example, one widely used test is the so-called LD50 (Lethal Dose 50 percent) test. The toxicity level of a product is assessed by force-feeding it to a number of animals until 50 percent of them die. Death may come after a few days or weeks, and is often preceded by convulsions, vomiting, breathing difficulties, and more. Often, this test reveals nothing at all; animals die simply because of the volume of product administered, through the rupture of internal organs.
How such savage practices could provide any useful data is a mystery, and not just to AR activists. It is seen as dubious by many toxicologists, and even by some Government advisers. Animal models often produce misleading results, or produce no useful results at all, and product testing is no exception. One toxicologist writes: “It is surely time, therefore, that we ceased to use as an index of the toxic action of food additives the LD50 value, which is imprecise (varying considerably with different species, with different strains of the same species, with sex, with nutritional status, environmental status, and even with the concentration at which the substance is administered) and which is valueless in the planning of further studies.”
The truth is that animal lives could be spared in many ways. For example, duplication of experiments could be avoided by setting up databases of results. Also, a host of humane alternatives to such tests are already available, and the considerable sums spent on breeding or keeping test animals could be usefully redirected into researching new ones. --AECW
“The animal rights view calls for the abolition of all animal toxicity tests. Animals are not our tasters. We are not their kings.” --Tom Regan (philosopher and AR activist)
SEE ALSO: #86
Back to Questions
#86 How do I know if a product has been tested on animals?
There are two easy ways to determine whether a product uses animal products or is tested on animals. First, most companies provide a toll-free telephone number for inquiring about their products. This is the most reliable method for obtaining up-to-date information. Second, several excellent guides are available that provide listings of companies and products. The section entitled “Guides, Handbooks, and Reference” in question #92 lists several excellent guides to cruelty-free shopping. For maximum convenience, you can obtain a wallet-sized listing from PETA. Send a stamped, self-addressed envelope with your request for the “PETA Cruelty-Free Shopping Guide” to PETA, P.O. Box 42516, Washington, DC 20015.
Another thing to think about is the possibility of avoiding products by making safe, ecologically sound alternative products yourself! Several of the guides described in question #92 explain how to do this. --DG
SEE ALSO: #85, #92
#87 What are the forms of animal rights activism?
Let us first adopt a broad definition of activism as the process of acting in support of a cause, as opposed to privately lamenting and bemoaning the current state of affairs. Given that, AR activism spans a broad spectrum, with relatively simple and innocuous actions at one end, and difficult and politico-legally charged actions at the other. Each individual must make a personal decision about where to reside on the spectrum. For some, forceful or unlawful action is a moral imperative; others may condemn it, or it may be impractical (for example, a lawyer may serve animals better through the legislative process than by going on raids and possibly getting disbarred). Following is a brief sampling of AR activism, beginning at the low end of the spectrum.
The spectrum of action can be divided conveniently into four zones: personal actions, proselytizing, organizing, and civil disobedience. Consider first personal actions. Here are some of the personal actions you can take in support of AR:
Learning – Educate yourself about the issues involved.
Vegetarianism and Veganism – Become one.
Cruelty-Free Shopping – Avoid products involve testing on animals.
Cruelty-Free Fashion – Avoid leather and fur.
Investing with Conscience – Avoid companies that exploit animals.
Animal-Friendly Habits – Avoid pesticides, detergents, etc.
The Golden Rule – Apply it to all creatures and live by it.
Proselytizing is the process of “spreading the word”. Here are some of the ways that it can be done:
Tell your family and friends about your beliefs.
Write letters to lawmakers, newspapers, magazines, etc.
Write books and articles.
Create documentary films and videos.
Perform leafletting and “tabling”.
Give lectures at schools and other organizations.
Speak at stockholders’ meetings.
Join Animal Review Committees that oversee research on animals.
Picket, boycott, demonstrate, and protest.
Organizing is a form of meta-proselytizing–helping others to spread the word. Here are some of the ways to do it:
Join an AR-related organization.
Contribute time and money to an AR-related organization.
Found an AR organization.
Get involved in politics or law and act directly for AR.
The last category of action, civil disobedience, is the most contentious and the remaining questions in this section deal further with it. Some draw the line here; others do not. It is a personal decision. Here are some of the methods used to more forcefully assert the rights of animals:
Sit-ins and occupations.
Obstruction and harassment of people in their animal-exploitation activities (e.g., foxhunt sabotage). The idea is to make it more difficult and/or embarrassing for people to continue these activities.
Spying and infiltration of animal-exploitation industries and organizations. The information and evidence gathered can be a powerful weapon for AR activists.
Destruction of property related to exploitation and abuse of animals (laboratory equipment, meat and clothes in stores, etc.). The idea is to make it more costly and less profitable for these animal industries.
Sabotage of the animal-exploitation industries (e.g., destruction of vehicles and buildings). The idea is to make the activities impossible.
Raids on premises associated with animal exploitation (to gather evidence, to sabotage, to liberate animals).
It can be seen from the foregoing material that AR activism spans a wide range of activities that includes both actions that would be conventionally regarded as law-abiding and non-threatening, and actions that are unlawful and threatening to the animal-exploitation industries. Most AR activism falls into the former category and, indeed, one can support these actions while condemning the latter category of actions. People who are thinking, with some trepidation, of going for the first time to a meeting of an AR group need have no fear of finding themselves involved with extremists, or of being coerced into extreme activism. They would find a group of exceedingly law-abiding computer programmers, teachers, artists, etc. (The extreme activists are essentially unorganized and cannot afford to meet in public groups due to the unwelcome attention of law-enforcement agencies.) --DG
“One person can make all the difference in the world…For the first time in recorded human history, we have the fate of the whole planet in our hands.” --Chrissie Hynde (musician)
“This is the true joy in life; being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one, and being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod.” --George Bernard Shaw (playwright, Nobel 1925)
“Nothing is more powerful than an individual acting out of his conscience, thus helping to bring the collective conscience to life.” --Norman Cousins (author)
SEE ALSO: #5, #88-#93, #95
Back to Questions
#88 Isn’t liberation just a token action because there is no way to give homes to all the animals?
If one thinks of a liberation action solely in terms of liberation goals, there is some validity in viewing it as a token, or symbolic, action. It is true that liberation actions could not succeed applied en masse, because there aren’t enough homes for all the animals, and even if there were, distribution channels do not exist for relocating them. Having said this, however, one needs to remember that for the few animals that are liberated, the action is far from a token one. There is a world of difference between spending one’s life in a loving home or a sanctuary and spending it imprisoned in a cage waiting for a brutal end.
Liberation actions need to be viewed with a less literal mind set. As Peter Singer points out, raids are effective in obtaining evidence of animal abuse that could not otherwise have come to light. For example, a raid on Thomas Gennarelli’s laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania obtained videotapes that convinced the Secretary for Health and Human Services to stop his experiments.
One might also bear in mind that symbolic actions have been some of the most powerful ones seen throughout history. --DG
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” --Edmund Burke (statesman and author)
SEE ALSO: #89-#91
Back to Questions
#89 Isn’t AR activism terrorism because it harasses people, destroys property, and threatens humans with injury or death?
The answer to question #87 should make it clear that most AR activism cannot be described as extreme and, furthermore, that not even all acts described as extreme could be thought of as “terrorism”. For example, a peaceful sit-in is highly unlikely to put others in a state of intense fear. Thus, it is not correct to characterize AR activism generally as terrorism.
One of the fundamental guidelines of the extreme activists is that great care must be taken not to inflict harm in carrying out the acts. This has been borne out in practice. On the very rare occasions when harm has occurred, the mainstream AR groups have condemned the acts. In some cases, the authors of the acts have been suspected to be those allied against the AR movement; their motives would not require deep thought to decipher.
The dictionary defines “terrorism” as the systematic use of violence or acts that instill intense fear to achieve an end. Certainly, harassment of fur wearers, or shouting “meat is murder” outside a butcher shop, could not be considered to be terrorism. Even destruction of property would not qualify under the definition if it is done without harming others. Certainly, the Boston Tea Party raiders did not consider themselves terrorists.
The real terrorists are the people and industries that inflict pain and suffering on millions of innocent animals for trivial purposes each and every day. --DG
“If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behavior.” --Henry David Thoreau (essayist and poet)
“I am in earnest–I will not equivocate–I will not excuse–I will not retreat a single inch and I will be heard.” --William Lloyd Garrison (author)
SEE ALSO: #87-#88, #90-#91
Back to Questions
#90 Isn’t extreme activism involving breaking the law (e.g., destruction of property) wrong?
Great men and women have demonstrated throughout history that laws can be immoral, and that we can be justified in breaking them.
Those who object to law-breaking under all circumstances would have to condemn:
The Tiananmen Square demonstrators.
The Boston Tea Party participants.
Mahatma Gandhi and his followers.
World War II resistance fighters.
The Polish Solidarity Movement.
Vietnam War draft card burners.
Martin Luther King Jr.
The list could be continued almost indefinitely.
Conversely, laws sometimes don’t reflect our moral beliefs. After World War II, the allies had to hastily write new laws to fully prosecute the Nazi war criminals at Nuremburg. Dave Foreman points out that there is a distinction to be made between morality and the statutes of a government in power.
It could be argued that the principle we are talking about does not apply. Specifically, the law against destruction of property is not immoral, and we therefore should not break it. However, a related principle can be asserted. If a law is invoked to defend immoral practices, or to attempt to limit or interfere with our ability to fight an immoral situation, then justification might be claimed for breaking that law.
In the final analysis, this is a personal decision for each person to make in consultation with their own conscience. --DG
“Certainly one of the highest duties of the citizen is a scrupulous obedience to the laws of the nation. But it is not the highest duty.” --Thomas Jefferson (3rd U.S. President)
“I say, break the law.” --Henry David Thoreau (essayist and poet)
SEE ALSO: #89, #91
Back to Questions
#91 Doesn’t extreme activism give the AR movement a bad name?
This is a significant argument that must be thoughtfully considered. In essence, the argument says that if your actions can be characterized as extremist, then you are besmirching the actions of those who are moderate, and you are creating a backlash that can negate the advances made by more moderate voices.
The appeal to the “backlash” has historical precedent. Martin Luther King heard such warnings when he organized civil-disobedience protests against segregation. Had Dr. King yielded to this appeal, would the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts have been passed?
Dave Foreman, writing in “Confessions of an Eco-Warrior”, points out that radicals in the anti-Vietnam War movement were blamed for prolonging the war and for damaging the “respectable” opposition. Yet the fear of increasingly militant demonstrations kept President Nixon from escalating the war effort, and the stridency eventually wore down the pro-war establishment.
The backlash argument is a standard one that will always be trotted out by the opponents of a movement. Backlash can be expected whenever the status quo is challenged, regardless of whether extreme actions are employed. The real question to ask is: Does the added backlash outweigh the gains achieved through extreme action? The answer here is not clear and we’ll leave it to the informed reader to make a judgement. Two books that might help in assessing this are “Free the Animals” by Ingrid Newkirk, and “In Defense of Animals” by Peter Singer.
The following argument is paraphrased from Dave Foreman: Extreme action is a sophisticated political tactic that dramatizes issues and places them before the public when they otherwise would be ignored in the media, applies pressure to corporations and government agencies that otherwise are able to resist “legitimate” pressure from law-abiding organizations, and broadens the spectrum of activism so that lobbying by mainstream groups is not considered “extremist”. --DG
“My doctrine is this, that if we see cruelty or wrong that we have the power to stop, and do nothing, we make ourselves sharers in the guilt.” --Anna Sewell (author)
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favour freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are people who want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” --Frederick Douglass (abolitionist)
SEE ALSO: #87-#90
#92 What are appropriate books and periodicals to read for more information on AR issues?
There are hundreds of books that could be recommended. We provide only a sampling of books and periodicals below. Please refer to question #94 for further book references and reviews. Space limitations forced us to avoid children’s books. Refer to the guide books listed for full bibliographies. --TA/DG/JLS/AECW
Animal Production and Factory Farming
“Animal Factories”, Jim Mason and Peter Singer, AAVS, 801 Old York Rd, Suite 204, Jenkintown, PA 19046-1685, $12.95. Facts and photos on farms that mass produce animals for meat, milk, and eggs. [1980, 1990]
“Factory Farming: The Experiment That Failed”, Animal Welfare Institute,P.O. Box 3650, Washington, DC 20007. Fact-packed indictment of factory-farming on welfare and economic grounds. 
“Waste of the West: Public Lands Ranching”, Lynn Jacobs, P.O. Box 5784, Tucson, AZ 85703.
“Do Hens Suffer in Battery Cages?”, Michael Appleby, The Athene Trust, 5a Charles St, Petersfield, Hants GU32 3EH. Scientific evidence of hen suffering. 
“Alternative to Factory Farming”, Paul Carnell, Earth Resources Research Publishers, London. Factory farming challenged on economic grounds. 
“Chicken and Egg: Who pays the price?”, Clare Druce, Green Print Publishers, London. A criticism of the poultry industry. 
“Taking Stock: Animal Farming and The Environment”, Alan Durning and Holly Brough, Worldwatch Paper 103, WorldWatch Institute, 1776 Mass. Avenue N.W., Washington, DC 20036-1904. The environmental cost of animal farming. 
“Assault and Battery”, Mark Gold, Pluton Publishers, London. Effects of farming on animals, humans and the environment. 
“Animal Machines”, Ruth Harrison, Vincent Stuart Publishers, London. The first book on factory farming. 
“Facts about Furs”, G. Nilsson, et. al., Animal Welfare Institute, (op. cit.). On fur-farming and trapping. 
“Pulling the Wool”, Christine Townend, Hale and Ironmonger Publishers, Sydney, Australia. The Australian wool and sheep industry. 
Animal Rights History
“All Heaven in a Rage”, E. S. Turner. Provides a history of the animal protection movement up to the 1960’s. 
“Animal Warfare”, David Henshaw, Fontana Publishers, London. The rise of direct action for Animal Rights. 
“History of the Humane Movement”, Charles D. Niven, Johnson Publishers, London. From antiquity to today. 
“Animal Revolution”, Richard Ryder, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford. Overview of the history of AW and AR movements. 
“The Animal Liberation Movement: Its Philosophy, Its Achievements and Its Future”, Peter Singer, Old Hammond Press Publishers, Nottingham, 
“Man and the Natural World”, Keith Thomas, Penguin, London. History from 1500 AD to 1800 AD. 
Animal Rights Legislation
“Animals and their Legal Rights”, The Animal Welfare Institute, Washington D.C. 
“Animal Rights, Human Wrongs”, S. Jenkins, Lennard Publishings, Harpenden, UK. An RSPCA officer’s experiences demonstrate the lack of adequate animal legislation. 
“Up against the Law”, J. J. Roberts, Arc Print, London. 1986 Public Order Act and its implications for Animal Rights protests. 
“Animals and Cruelty and Law”, Noel Sweeney, Alibi, Bristol UK. A practicing barrister argues for Animal Rights from the legal standpoint. 
Animal Rights Philosophy
“The Case for Animal Rights”, Tom Regan, University of California Press. 
“The Struggle for Animal Rights”, Tom Regan, International Society for Animal Rights, Inc., Clarks Summit, PA. 
“Animal Liberation”, Peter Singer, PETA Merchandise, P.O. Box 42400, Washington, D.C. 20015, $3.00 post-paid. The book that popularized Animal Rights. [1975, 1990]
“In Defense of Animals”, Peter Singer.
“Animals’ Rights”, Henry Salt, AAVS (op. cit.), $6.95. Written a century ago, a true classic, anticipates many of today’s arguments.
“No Room, Save in the Heart: Poetry and Prose on Reverence for Life–Animals, Nature and Humankind”, Ann Cottrell Free, AAVS (op. cit.), $8.95.
“The Unheeded Cry: Animal Consciousness, Animal Pain and Science”, Bernard Rollin. 
“Created from Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism”, James Rachels. 
"Morals, Reason and Animals, Steve Sapontzis. 
“Political Theory and Animal Rights”, Clarke and Lindzey (Eds.). This book provides interesting excepts from thinkers since Plato to Regan on the issue of our relations and duties towards animals. 
“The Nature of the Beast: Are Animals Moral?”, Stephen Clark.
“Animals, Men and Morals”, Godlovitch et. al. 
“Fettered Kingdoms”, John Bryant, Fox Press Publishers, Winchester. Includes a well-known indictment of pet keeping. 
“The Moral Status of Animals”, Stephen Clark, Oxford University Press Publishers, Oxford. The roots of humans’ treatment of animals in sentimental fantasy. 
“The Savour of Salt–A Henry Salt Anthology”, G. and W. Hendrick, Centaur Press Publishers, Fontwell. 
“Animals and Why They Matter: A Journey Around the Species Barrier”, Mary Midgley, Penguin Publishers, London. 
“Beast and Man”, Mary Midgley, Harvester Press Publishers, Brighton. 
“Animal Rights–A Symposium”, David Paterson and Richard Ryder, Centaur Press Publishers, Fontwell. 
“Inhumane Society: The American Way of Exploiting Animals”, Michael W. Fox, St. Martins Press, New York. 
“The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory”, Carol J. Adams. 
“Rape of the Wild: Man’s Violence against Animals and the Earth”, Andree Collard with Joyce Contrucci. 
“The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery”, Marjorie Spiegel, Mirror Books, NY. 
Animal Rights Theology
“Christianity and the Rights of Animals”, Andrew Linzey, Crossroad, New York. 
“Animal Sacrifices – Religious Perspectives on the Use of Animals in Science”, Tom Regan (Ed.), Temple University Press, PA. 
Circuses, Rodeos, and Zoos
The Rose-Tinted Menagerie", William Johnson, PETA (op. cit.), $16.50. Describes behind-the-scenes action in circuses, aquariums, and zoos.
“Animals in Circuses and Zoos–Chiron’s World?”, Marthe Kiley-Worthington, Little Eco Farms Publishing, Basildon, UK. Investigation into the treatment of animals by zoos and circuses. 
“The Last Great Wild Beast Show”, Bill Jordan and Stefan Ormrod, Constable Publishers, London. How animals are snatched from the wild to be shipped to zoos worldwide. 
“Beyond the Bars”, Virginia McKenna, William Travers, Jonathan Wray (eds.), Thorsons Publishers, Wellingborough, UK. The immorality of animal captivity. 
“Diet for a New America”, John Robbins, PETA (op. cit.), $12.50 post-paid. Examines problems with animal-based food systems with solutions, info on the link between diet and disease.
“Compassion: The Ultimate Ethic”, V. Moran, American Vegan Society, NJ, USA. Exploration of veganism: its roots in eastern and western philosophy. 
“Food: Need, Greed and Myopia”, G. Yates, Earthright, Ryton UK. World food problem seen from a vegetarian/vegan standpoint. 
“Radical Vegetarianism”, Mark Braunstein, Panjandrum Books, Los Angeles. 
Guides, Handbooks, and Reference
“Save the Animals! 101 Easy Things You Can Do”, Ingrid Newkirk, PETA (op. cit.), $4.95.
“67 Ways to Save the Animals”, Anna Sequoia, Harper Perennial, $4.95. 
“The Animal Rights Handbook – Everyday Ways to Save Animal Lives”, Berkley Books, New York, $4.50. 
“PETA’s Shopping Guide for Caring Consumers”, PETA (op. cit.), $4.95. A must have! Lists names and addresses of cruelty-free companies.
“Keyguide to Information Sources in Animal Rights”, Charles R.Magel, AAVS (op. cit.), $24.95.
“A Shopper’s Guide to Cruelty-Free Products”, Lori Cook, Bantam Books, New York, $4.99. 
“Animal Rights: A Beginner’s Guide”, Amy Achor, Writeware Inc., Yellow Springs, OH, $14.95. 
“The PETA Guide to Action for Animals”, PETA (op. cit.), $4.00.
“The Extended Circle: A Commonplace Book of Animal Rights”, Wynne-Tyson (Ed.). Provides hundreds of quotes and short excepts from thinkers throughout history. 
“The Animal-Free Shopper”, R. Farhall, R. Lucas, and A. Rofe A. (Eds.), The Vegan Society, 7 Battle Road, St. Leonards on Sea, East Sussex, TN37 7AA, UK. 
“The Animal Welfare Handbook”, C. Clough and B. Kew, 4th Estate, London, UK 
Laboratory Animals and Product Testing
“Vivisection and Dissection in the Classroom: A Guide to Conscientious Objection”, Gary L. Francione and Anna E. Charlton, AAVS (op. cit.), $7.95. Legal citings, sample pleadings, and letters.
“Animals in Education: The Facts, Issues and Implications”, Lisa Ann Hepner, Richmond Publishers, Albuquerque NM. 
“Entering the Gates of Hell: Laboratory Cruelty You Were Not Meant to See”, Brian Gunn, AAVS (op. cit.), $10.00.
“Animal Experimentation: The Consensus Changes”, Gill Langley (Ed.), MacMillan Publishers, London. Collection of essays outlining the change in morality. 
“Slaughter of the Innocent”, Hans Ruesch, Civitas Publications, Swaine, NY. 
“Naked Empress: The Great Medical Fraud”, Hans Ruesch, CIVIS, Klosters, Switzerland. Why vivisection is a major cause of human disease. 
“Victims of Science: The Use of Animals in Research”, Richard Ryder, National Anti-Vivisection Society, Centaur Press Publishers, Fontwell. Classic denunciation of vivisection. 
“The Cruel Deception: The Use of Animals in Medical Research”, Robert Sharpe, Thorsons Publishers, Wellingborough, UK. Detailed study of the barbarity and uselessness of vivisection. 
“Free the Animals!”, Ingrid Newkirk, PETA (op. cit.), $14.00. Story of the Animal Liberation Front in America.
“Animals Magazine”, 350 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02130.
“The Animals’ Agenda”, P.O. Box 6809, Syracuse, NY 13217-9953.
“Animal People”, P.O. Box 205, Shushan, NY 12873.
“The Animals’ Voice”, P.O. Box 341-347, Los Angeles, CA 90034.
“Between the Species”, P.O. Box 254, Berkeley, CA 94701.
“Bunny Hugger’s Gazette”, P.O. Box 601, Temple, TX 76503-0601.
“The Politics of Extinction”, L. Regenstein, Collier-Macmillan, London. Classic denunciation of the wildlife carnage. 
“Wildlife and the Atom”, L. Veal, London Greenpeace, 5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX, UK. The use of animals by the nuclear industry. 
SEE ALSO: #1, #94
Back to Questions
#93 What organizations can I join to support AR?
There are hundreds of AR-related organizations scattered around the globe. In addition, there are many vegetarian and vegan groups. This FAQ is already too long to list all of these groups. This FAQ gives only AR-related groups in the United States and the United Kingdom. Later editions of the FAQ may cover other countries. For a full listing of vegetarian and vegan groups worldwide, refer to the excellent FAQs maintained by Michael Traub (Internet address email@example.com).
The following data on US organizations comes from the book “The Animal Rights Handbook”, Berkley Books, New York, 1993, ISBN 0-425-13762-7. --DG/AECW
UNITED STATES – Multi-Issue
Alliance for Animals, P.O. Box 909, Boston, MA 02103
American Humane Association, 63 Inverness Drive East, Englewood, CO 80112-5117
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), 424 E. 92nd St., New York, NY 10128
Animal Allies, P.O. Box 35063, Los Angeles, CA 90035
Animal Liberation Network, P.O. Box 983, Hunt Valley, MD 21030
Animal Protection Institute of America, P.O. Box 22505, Sacramento, CA 95822
Animal Rights Mobilization, P.O. Box 1553, Williamsport, PA 17703
Animal Welfare Institute, P.O. Box 3650, Washington, DC 20007
Citizens to End Animal Suffering and Exploitation (CEASE), P.O. Box 27, Cambridge, MA 02238
Defenders of Animals, P. O. Box 5634, Weybosset Hill Station, Providence, RI 02903, (401) 738-3710
Doris Day Animal League (DDAL), 227 Massachusetts Ave. NE, Suite 100, Washington, DC 20002
Focus on Animals, P.O. Box 150, Trumbull, CT 06611
Friends of Animals, P.O. Box 1244, Norwalk, CT 06856
The Fund for Animals, 200 West 57th St., New York, NY 10019
Humane Society of the United States, 2100 L St., NW, Washington, DC 20037
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), 501 Front Street, Norfolk, VA 23510
World Society for the Protection of Animals, 29 Perkins St., P.O. Box 190, Boston, MA 02130
The Anti-Cruelty Society, 157 W. Grand Ave., Chicago, IL 60616 Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA), 350 S. Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02130
Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), 15305 44th Ave. W, P.O. Box 1037, Lynnwood, WA 98046
San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SFSPCA), 2500 16th St., San Francisco, CA 94103
Sports and Entertainment
Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting, P.O. Box 44, Tomkins Cove, NY 10986
Performing Animal Welfare Society, 11435 Simmerhorn Rd., Galt, CA 95632
Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT), P.O. Box 14599, Chicago, IL 60614
Farm Animals Reform Movement (FARM), 10101 Ashburton Lane, Bethesda, MD 20817
Farm Sanctuary, PO Box 150, Watkins Glen, NY 14891
Humane Farming Association, 1550 California Street, Suite 6, San Francisco, CA 94109
United Animal Defenders, Inc., P.O. Box 33086, Cleveland, OH 44133
United Poultry Concerns, PO Box 59367, Potomac, MD 20889
Alternatives to Animals, P.O. Box 7177, San Jose, CA 95150
American Anti-Vivisection Society, 801 Old York Rd., Suite 204, Jenkintown, PA 19046
In Defense of Animals, 21 Tamal Vista Blvd., No. 140, Corte Madera, CA 94925
Last Chance for Animals, 18653 Venture Blvd., No. 356, Tarzana, CA 91356
National Anti-Vivisection Society, 53 W.Jackson Blvd., Suite 1550, Chicago, IL 60604
New England Anti-Vivisection Society, 333 Washinton St., Boston, MA 02135
Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), 1363 Lincoln Ave., San Raphael, CA 94901
Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, 15 Dutch St., Suite 500-A, New York, NY 10038
National Association of Nurses Against Vivisection, P.O. Box 42110, Washington, DC 20015
Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, P.O. Box 6322, Washington, DC 20015
Psychologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, P.O. Box 1297, Washington Grove, MD 20880-1297
Scientists Center for Animal Welfare, 4805 St. Elmo Ave., Bethesda, MD 20814
Scientists Group for Reform of Animal Experimentation, 147-01 3rd Ave., Whitestone, NY 11357
Committee for Humane Legislation, 30 Haviland, South Norwalk, CT 06856
The National Alliance for Animal Legislation, P.O. Box 75116, Washington, DC 20013-5116
United Action for Animals, 205 E. 42nd St., New York, NY 10017
Marine Life Preservation
American Cetacean Society, P.O. Box 2639, San Pedro, CA 90731
Center for Marine Conservation, 1725 DeSales St., NW, Washington, DC 20036
Greenpeace, P.O. Box 3720, 1436 U St., NW, Washinton, DC 20007
Marine Mammal Fund, Fort Mason Center, Bldg. E, San Francisco, CA 94123
Defenders of Wildlife, 1244 19th St., NW, Washington, DC 20036
Earth Island Institute, 300 Broadway, Suite 28, San Francisco, CA 94133
International Fund for Animal Welfare, P.O. Box 193, Yarmouth Port, MA 02675
Rainforest Action Network, 301 Broadway, Suite A, San Francisco, CA 94133
Wildlife Information Center, Inc., 629 Green St., Allentown, PA 18102
American Horse Protection Association, 1000 29th St., NW, Suite T100, Washington DC 20007
Bat Conservation International, P.O., Box 162603, Austin, TX 78716
The Beaver Defenders, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge, Inc., Newfield, NJ 08344
Friends of the Sea Otter, P.O. Box 221220, Carmel, CA 93922
Greyhound Friends, 167 Saddle Hill Rd., Hopkinton, MA 01748
International Primate Protection League, P.O. Box 766, Summerville, SC 29484
Mountain Lion Preservation Foundation, P.O. Box 1896, Sacramento, CA 95809
Primarily Primates, P.O. Box 15306, San Antonio, TX 78212
Save the Manatee Club, 500 N. Maitland Ave., Suite 210, Maitland, FL 32751
Feminists for Animal Rights. P.O. Box 16425, Chapel Hill, NC 27516
International Network for Religion and Animals, P.O. Box 1335, North Wales, PA 19454
Jews for Animal Rights, 255 Humphrey St., Marblehead, MA 01945
Student Action Corps for Animals (SACA), P.O. Box 15588, Washington, DC 20003-0588
Animal Aid, 7 Castle Street, Tonbridge, Kent TN9 1BH, UK
Animal Concern, 62 Old Dumbarton road, Glasgow G3 8RE, UK
Animal Liberation Front Supporters Group, BM 1160, London WC1N 3XX, UK
Animal Research Kills, P.O. Box 82, Kingswood, Bristol BS15 1YF, UK
Athene Trust, 5a Charles Street, Petersfield, Hants GU32 3EH, UK
Beauty Without Cruelty, 57 King Henry’s Walk, London N1 4NH, UK
Blue Cross Field Centre, Home Close Farm, Shilton Road, Burford, Oxfordshire OX18 4PF, UK
Born Free Foundation, Cherry Tree Cottage, Coldharbour, Dorking, Surrey RH5 6HA, UK
British Hedgehog Preservation Society, Knowbury House, Knowbury, Ludlow, Shropshire SY8 3LQ, UK
British Trust For Ornithology, The Nunnery, Nunnery Place, Thetford, Norfolk IP24 2PU, UK
British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, 16a Crane Grove, Islington, London N7 8LB, UK
Campaign for the Abolition of Angling, P.O. Box 130, Sevenoaks, Kent TN14 5NR, UK
Campaign for the Advancement of Ruesch’s Expose, 23 Dunster Gardens, London NW6 7NG, UK
Campaign to End Fraudulent Medical Research, P.O. Box 302, London N8 9HD, UK
Cat’s Protection League, 17 King’s Road, Horsham, West Sussex RH13 5PN, UK
CIVIS, P.O. Box 338, London E8 2AL, UK
Disabled Against Animal Research and Exploitation, P.O. Box 8, Daventry, Northamptonshire NN11 4QR, UK
Donkey Sanctuary, Slade House Farm, Salcombe Regis, Sidmouth, Devon EX10 0NU
Dr. Hadwen Trust for Humane Research, 6c Brand Street, Hitchin, Hertfortshire SG5 1HX, UK
Earthkind, Humane Education Centre, Bounds Green Road, London N22 4EU, UK
Elefriends, Cherry Tree Cottage, Coldharbour, NR Dorking, Surrey RH5 6HA, UK
Environmental Investigation Agency, 2 Pear Tree Court, London EC1R 0DS, UK
Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments, Eastgate House, 34 Stoney Street, Nottingham NG1 1NB, UK
Green Party Animal Rights Working Party, 23 Highfield South, Rock Ferry, Wirral L42 4NA, UK
Horses and Ponies Protection Association, Happa House, 64 Station Road, Padiham, N. Burnley, Lancashire BB12 8EF, UK
Humane Research Trust, Brook House, 29 Bramhall Lane South, Bramhall, Stockport, Cheshire SK7 2DN, UK
Hunt Saboteurs Association, P.O. Box 1, Carlton, Nottingham NG4 2JY, UK
International Association Against Painful Experiments on Animals, P.O. Box 215, St Albans, Herts AL3 4PU, UK
International Primate Protection League, 116 Judd Street, London WC1H 9NS, UK
League Against Cruel Sports, 83-87 Union Street, London SE1 1SG, UK
International League of Doctors for the Abolition of Vivisection, UK Office, Lynmouth, Devon EX35 6EE, UK
National Anti-Vivisection Society, Ravenside, 261 Goldhawk Road, London W12 9PE, UK
National Canine Defence League, 1 Pratt Mews, London NW1 0AD, UK
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, P.O. Box 3169, London NW6 2QF, UK
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire SG19 2DL, UK
Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Causeway, Horsham, West Sussex RH12 1HG, UK
Student Campaign For Animal Rights, P.O. Box 155, Manchester M60 1FT, UK
Teachers For Animal Rights, 29 Lynwood Road. London SW17 8SB, UK
Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, 19A James Street, Bath, Avon BA1 2BT, UK
Zoocheck, Cherry Tree Cottage, Coldharbour, Dorking, Surrey CR0 2TF, UK
Back to Questions
#94 Can you give a brief Who’s Who of the AR movement?
TOM REGAN – Professor of Philosophy at North Carolina State University. His book “The Case For Animal Rights” is arguably the single best recent work on animal rights. It is a demanding text but one that is well worth the effort to read and study carefully. Everybody that is seriously interested in the issues should read this rigorously argued case for AR. It starts with some core concepts of inherent value theory, the same concepts that played an important and significant role in the progress of human civil liberties since the 17th century and which began to be extended to nonhumans during the 19th century. The notion of inherent value continues to be vital and important for progress in both human and animal rights. A less demanding but still informative book by Regan is “The Struggle for Animal Rights”. One might wish to first read this book before tackling Regan’s more difficult text.
PETER SINGER – Professor of Philosophy at Monash University, Melbourne. Singer is best known for his book “Animal Liberation”, probably the most widely read book on AR philosophy. Singer, unlike Regan, is not an abolitionist as many people incorrectly surmise. His utilitarian position allows for the possibility or necessity of killing animals under certain circumstances. What is often lost sight of is that the obvious and patent abuses of animals covers so much ground that both Regan and Singer share common views on far more issues than those on which they differ. Other important books by Singer include “In Defense of Animals” and “Animal Factories.”
MARY MIDGLEY – Senior Lecturer of Philosophy at the University of Newcastle. Midgley’s book “Beast and Man” has not been given the attention that it deserves. She deals with the contemporary facts of biology and ethology head-on to provide an ethical argument for the respectful treatment of animals that takes seriously scientific discoveries and thoughts about animals. The “Humean fork” (or so-called logical divide) between facts and values is here carefully crossed by observing that we are foremost “animals” ourselves and that the similarities between ourselves and other animals is more important and relevant for our ethics and self-understanding than are the often over-inflated differences.
CAROL ADAMS – Adams’ book “The Sexual Politics of Meat” has made a valuable contribution in combining cultural and ethical analysis by pointing out the political implications of the metaphors we unthinkingly employ. The primary metaphors she analyses in her book relate to meat. Such metaphors have been applied to women, but the most insidious aspect of the metaphors is the way that they hide the life that is killed to produce meat. Instead of “cow”, we have “beef” on our plates. Adams argues that the system that kills animals is the same system that oppresses women; hence, there is an important and striking connection between vegetarianism and feminism.
RICHARD RYDER – Senior Clinical Psychologist at Warneford Hospital, Oxford. Ryder is the originator of the key term “speciesism”. Ryder’s book “Animal Revolution” provides both an historical perspective and a critical analysis of animal welfare and attitudes towards animals.
HENRY SALT – 1851-1939. Salt was a remarkable social reformer who championed the humane reform of schools, prisons, society, and our treatment of animals. He also exerted a critical and important influence upon Gandhi. His book “Animals’ Rights” was the first to use that title and therein he gives voice to almost all of the essential arguments for AR that we see being advanced and refined today. The book provides an excellent biography of earlier European writers on animal issues during the 18th and 19th centuries.
VICTORIA MORAN – Moran’s book “Compassion the Ultimate Ethic” makes a fine contribution regarding the less discursive but perhaps more fundamental intuitive basis for animal rights.
MARJORIE SPIEGEL – Spiegel’s book “The Dreaded Comparison” is a slim but courageous volume comparing the treatment of African-American slaves and the treatment of nonhuman animals. In text and pictures, Spiegel discloses remarkable similarities between the two systems. A picture of slaves packed into a slave ship is matched with a photograph of battery hens. A picture of a woman in a muzzle is paired with a picture of a dog in a muzzle. The parallels are striking and revealing. Few other writers have been as open or as unequivocal as Spiegel in likening cruelty to animals to traffic in human beings. --TA
It is hard to keep a Who’s-Who list at a reasonable length. Here are a few other prominent people:
STEPHEN R. L. CLARK – Professor of Philosophy at Liverpool University.
MICHAEL W. FOX – Vice President of Humane Society of the US, nationally known veterinarian, and AR activist.
RONNIE LEE – Founder of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF).
JIM MASON – Attorney and journalist.
INGRID NEWKIRK – Co-founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA); prominent activist.
ALEX PACHECO – Co-founder of PETA; exposer of the Silver Spring monkeys abuses.
Back to Questions
#95 What can I do in my daily life to help animals?
Indeed, the buck must first stop here in our own daily lives with the elimination or reduction of actions that contribute to the abuse and exploitation of animals.
Probably the single most important thing you can do to save animals, help the ecology of the planet, and even improve your own health, is to BECOME A VEGETARIAN. It is said that “we are what we eat”. More accurately, “we are what we do” and what we do in order to eat has a profound consequence on our self-definition as a compassionate person. As long as we eat meat, we share complicity in the intentional slaughter of countless animals and destruction of the environment for clearly trivial purposes.
Why trivial? No human has died from want of satisfying a so-called “Mac Attack”, but countless cows have died in order to satisfy our palates. On a more positive note, vegetarians report that one’s taste and enjoyment of food is actually enhanced by eliminating animal products. Indeed, a vegetarian diet is not a diet of deprivation; far from it. Vegetarians actually eat a GREATER variety of foods than do meat-eaters. Maybe the best kept culinary secret is that the really “boring” diet actually turns out to be the traditional meat-centered diet.
Next, STOP BUYING ANIMAL PRODUCTS LIKE FUR OR LEATHER. There are plenty of good plant and synthetic materials that serve as excellent materials for fabrics and shoes. Indeed, all the major brands of high-quality running shoes are now turning to the use of human-made materials. (Why? Because they are lighter than leather and don’t warp or get stiff after getting wet.)
There are many less obvious animal products that are being used in many of our everyday household and personal products. After first attending to those obvious and most visible products like leather and fur, then consider what you can do to reduce or eliminate your dependency on products that may contain needless animal ingredients or were brought to market using animal testing. Two very good product guides are:
Shopping Guide for the Caring Consumer, PETA, 1994.
A Shopper’s Guide to Cruelty-Free Products, Lori Cook, 1991.
Then GET INFORMED AND READ AS MUCH AS YOU CAN ON THE ISSUE OF ANIMAL RIGHTS. Besides reading about animal rights from the major theorists, also read practical guides and periodicals. Question #92 lists many appropriate books and periodicals.
Finally, you can GET INVOLVED IN A LOCAL ANIMAL RIGHTS OR ANIMAL WELFARE ORGANIZATION. Alternatively, if you lack the time, consider giving donations to those organizations whose good work on behalf of animals is something you appreciate and wish to materially support. --TA
SEE ALSO: #87, #92-#93
Back to Questions
#96 I have read this FAQ and I am not convinced. Humans are humans, animals are animals; is it so difficult to see that?
This FAQ cannot reflect the full variety of paths which have led people to support the concept of Animal Rights. A more complete compilation would include, for instance, religious arguments. For example, some Eastern religions stress the importance of the duties of humans toward animals. A Christian case for Animal Rights has been presented. Also, legal arguments have been put forward, by some barristers in the UK, for instance.
Still, some people may remain skeptical about the viability of all of these other approaches as well. For those people, here is a short quiz:
What is wrong with cannibalism?
What is wrong with slavery?
What is wrong with racial prejudice?
What is wrong with sexual discrimination?
What is wrong with killing children or the mentally ill?
What is wrong with the Nazi experiments on humans?
Animal Rights proponents can reply instantly and consistently. Can you? Do your answers involve qualities that, if you are objective about it, can be seen to apply to animals? For example, were the Nazi experiments wrong because the subjects were human, or because the subjects were harmed??? --AECW
It is not difficult to see that humans are humans and animals are animals. What is difficult to see is how this amounts to anything more than an empty tautology! If there are relevant differences that justify differences in treatment, then let’s hear them. AR opponents have consistently failed to support the differences in treatment of humans versus animals with relevant differences in capacities.
Yes, an animal is an animal, but it can still suffer terribly from our brutality and lack of compassion. --DG
“I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.” --Abraham Lincoln (16th U.S. President)
“[The day should come when] all of the forms of life…will stand before the court–the pileated woodpecker as well as the coyote and bear, the lemmings as well as the trout in the streams.” --William O. Douglas (late U.S. Supreme Court Justice