Civil disobedience necessary for animals’ rights, freedom

Related Posts

World-renowned humanitarian and vegetarian Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Where did we go wrong? Billions of people claim they love animals and stop a couples times a day to consume the carcass of an innocent being who was utterly and hideously deprived of everything that could possibly make their life worth living.

How would you feel if on the day of your birth, the day of your death were already planned; if your own name were an insult such as “pig,” “cow” or “ass”; if every time people looked at you, the first thing that came to mind was a puzzle of your flesh being called bacon or beef?

The Sunday of Oct. 22, 2017, the animal rights advocacy coalition known as Direct Action Everywhere marched 200 people into a slaughterhouse in Oakland in order to share the love of our presence with the animals. Twenty-two of us, myself included, partook in civil disobedience when we were asked to leave by police, and we were eventually issued trespassing citations. Besides common sense, we knew after undercover investigation that this establishment was breaking animal welfare laws.

Convenience, taste and tradition have caused people to ignore the sentient life they’re consuming. Euphemisms such as “bacon,” “beef” and “sushi” have caused us to reduce something as sacred as life to nothing more than a “thing,” a meal or a fashion appliance, an absolute and utter commodification of someone’s being entirely. And yet, when we were little, we were taught to care about animals, to treat others the way we want to be treated: We all wanted Nemo to be found; for Wilbur to escape slaughter; and for the Chickens to escape in “Chicken Run,” but at what age were we taught to stop caring?

We went in with the belief that adopting veganism is a moral imperative for humanity. May our lifestyle reflect our deepest values and intentions, our voices speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. You, the consumer, create the world you want to live in. If not now, when? If not you, who? A kinder world begins with you.

To rally the troops of the revolutionary army in the winter of 1776, Thomas Paine said, “These are the times that try men’s souls; the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country, but he who stands by it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered.” As vegans who grew up loving “meat,” “eggs,” milk and “cheese,” we are resisting a lifestyle we once placed at the foundation of our identity. We swore that we loved animals because we appreciated our dogs and cats and believed in euphemisms such as “free range” and the oxymoron “humane slaughter.” But we found out the hard way that the greatest threat to our common values of love and compassion were not to be found in some cruel abattoir, but rather in a cruelty-free diet.

Our ambivalent relationship with animal agriculture corporations has led us to rob the lives of animals, pave the way for environmental degradation and taint our bodies with the flesh of others. We felt, and still do, that we must once again accept arrest, skepticism and civil disobedience as means of change.

Every time we give, the world gives in. Every time we change, the world changes. There is no happy ending in apathy, no great story devoid of hardship. I am not saying this will be easy at first; the best things never are. I am not saying we won’t go undefeated. I am saying we will be unrelenting. In retrospect, it takes nothing from a human to go vegan, but it costs an animal everything if we don’t.

You owe it to yourself to take a moment to research the treasury of information on both sides of the issue.

Nathan Fisher is a UC Berkeley student and a member of Direct Action Everywhere.

Please keep our community civil. Comments should remain on topic and be respectful.
Read our full comment policy
  • DarkStarCrashes

    These groups are too extreme. They make it about moral/spiritual purity instead of taking a more practical path.

    A more practical path would be:

    1. Encouraging people to eat LESS meat instead of NO meat.
    2. Recognizing that grass-fed, free-range animals are not suffering, at least not in a way that is at all comparable to the suffering of factory-farmed ones.
    3. Recognizing that that it doesn’t hurt a chicken to lay an egg or a cow to give milk (but encourage consumers to buy from non-factory-farmed sources).
    4. Not equating fish with mammals/birds.
    5. Not equating non-human animals with humans. Yes we are all sentient beings and do not deserve to needlessly suffer, but there are ways that humans can suffer that animals cannot; we can understand our own mortality.
    6. Focusing primarily on the environmental cost of high levels of meat production/consumption instead of the whole “meat is murder” trip.

  • Killer Marmot

    How would you feel if on the day of your birth, the day of your death were already planned; if your own name were an insult such as “pig,” “cow” or “a*s”; if every time people looked at you, the first thing that came to mind was a puzzle of your flesh being called bacon or beef?

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that farm animals don’t take offense at the names we call them, nor do they worry about what we might think of them.

    • Matt Johnson

      Neither do many children and many humans with disabilities. But abusive speech about them is still a problem because it marginalizes them and their interests.

      • Killer Marmot

        Well done. You’ve just compared children and disabled people to farm animals.

        If you want to know why extreme animal rights groups are considered loonies by most people, this discussion is a fine example why.

        • Matt Johnson

          Humans’ presumption of superiority is exactly the problem – a product of discrimination and privilege. You express incredulity at animal personhood but not a relevant difference as to why we would protect those children or humans with disabilities, but not the nonhuman animals, which are sentient all the same.

          • Killer Marmot

            Animals aren’t people, no matter how much you rant and rave.

          • Matt Johnson

            KM in 1800: “Black people aren’t white people, no matter how much you rant and rave.”
            KM in 1900: “Women aren’t men, no matter how much you rant and rave.”
            KM in 2000: “Gay people aren’t straight people, no matter how much you rant and rave.”

          • lspanker

            Typical lefty kook, playing the race card when you can’t win your silly argument. Why don’t you go down to E&J BBQ on San Pablo and tell the brothers and sisters there that your loony crusade is the moral and historical equivalent of the Civil Rights movement and see what they have to say about that…

          • Savvy?

            But people are animals. And so are dogs, cows, birds, elephants, etc. We are all animals. They experience life in a way that’s similar to our own experience. Why not let them live their lives without exploitation or abuse? We don’t need to do it. It’s completely unnecessary to use animals.

          • lspanker
  • Matt Johnson

    Great work Nathan and the entire 200+ in attendance that day! The movement for animal rights is growing to change the world before our eyes!

    • lspanker

      Name one person who’s going to change their mind because of this kooky article…

      • Matt Johnson

        Berkeley’s largest animal rights gathering ever happened on October 21, when over 400 activists marched the streets for animal rights.

        The the following day, over 200 marched into an Oakland slaughterhouse and rescued animals in broad daylight, with 23 participating in civil disobedience, getting arrested in a stand for animals.

        Veganism and vegetarianism is blowing up, particularly amongst millenials.

        Whether you choose to acknowledge a movement emerging before our eyes or stay on the wrong side of history is your prerogative.

        • lspanker

          Berkeley’s largest animal rights gathering ever happened on October 21, when over 400 activists marched the streets for animal rights.

          The the following day, over 200 marched into an Oakland slaughterhouse and rescued animals in broad daylight, with 23 participating in civil disobedience, getting arrested in a stand for animals.

          Once again, how many minds did it change? Not many…

          Veganism and vegetarianism is blowing up, particularly amongst millenials.

          Outside of adherents among a few minority religions and left-wing kooks, hardly. When I start seeing lines around the block for those vegetarian Hare Krishna restaurants like I see for In-N-Out, maybe we will take you seriously. Until then…

  • lspanker

    I will start worrying about :animal rights” when animals start working and paying taxes…

    • Matt Johnson

      Is this what you say about dogs and cats as well? Children? People with disabilities?

      • lspanker

        If you can’t tell the difference between dogs and cats, and human beings, there’s not much I can do to help you…

        • Matt Johnson

          You’ve shifted the goalposts. You started with a rejection of animal rights due to animals’ inability to contribute to society (at least monetarily). When I pointed out the logical inconsistency of your position, you ignored the point and moved on.
          Responding specifically to what you said – I very much do see differences between humans and nonhuman animals, just as I see differences between people of different genders or skin colors.
          The question is not whether differences exist, but whether those differences are relevant. Is there any trait which exists in the marginalized class (nonhuman animals), which when present in oppressing class (humans), would justify treating them the same way?
          There’s no morally relevant basis for our treatment of animals. Speciesism is discrimination.

          • lspanker

            You’ve shifted the goalposts.

            No, I have pointed out that you’re being silly and disingenuous in comparing the two, that’s all. All you do is confirm the perception that vegans are miserable human beings intent on shoving their misery on others.