Hello and welcome to episode 15 of Coexisting With Nonhuman Animals, Violence.
Before I start, I'd love to mention one of my new friends who listens to my podcast,
Sasha James, Thank you for emailing me Sasha. She mentions:
"Recently at World Animal Day in Melbourne I was talking to some reps
from Sea Shepherd and spoke to them about their activisim, and how it could be
less confrontational...and whether confrontation that puts peoples
lives in danger is the best method..."
I love hearing from listeners, so please think about emailing me, with
positive or negative feedback, at email@example.com"
I was lucky enough to have been on episode 49 of NZ Vegan Podcast, the second time Elizabeth had let me appear on her show. I think you should check out all episodes of NZ Vegan, EXCEPT 11 and 49, where I appear! I never listen to my own voice, so they are the only two episodes I havnt heard, normally I listen to every episode of NZ Vegan a few times.
For this episode, I've been allowed permission to use part of an Abolitionist Approach Commentary episode, Professor Gary Francione speaking about nonviolence. I've never met Professor Francione, we have never spoken except when he replied to a Tweet of mine, which was pretty cool, I took a screenshot of his reply. Professor Francione in no way lends support to my podcast, whatever I say on here is my own little opinion, and any clips of him I use are left in context, Im making it clear that what he says is not directed at anything I've asked him. I'm linking to the full Abolitionist Approach Commentary episode, and I urge you to listen to the full article.
I've linked to the full episode in my shownotes that you can find on my blog or in the lyrics section of this podcast episode.
I doubt that using physical violence against corporations, property, or individuals will help veganism become respected in society. I doubt it helps animals, I'd argue that with even a small number of violent extremists, Animal Rights gets slandered in the media, as if we are all this way. I've read stories from overseas, where a mother fed her children on weeds and water, and when the children were found by authorities and taken away, it was blamed on " a vegan diet ". There are so few vegans, at least where I live, that the actions of those covered in the mainstream media can be taken as the positions of the majority of vegans.
I'd like to mention that I know people who kill animals. Some of my friends like to hunt, these large young men enjoy driving a big vehicle around remote areas at night, stunning rabbits with a spotlight, and shooting them. These friends, who I've grown up with, will laugh as they talk to each other about blowing the animals heads off, that they apparently saw one rabbit hop away frightened with its brain showing. I have another friend who told me about catching fish, and that one of the animals they caught wouldnt die. It was flopping around on the pavement, until they cut it with a knife. I saw the photos, of this fish being cut to finally kill it, it was awful, my friends holding a knife, the fish bleeding.
Every day, I walk past a butcher, I hold my breath as I walk past, and only breath in next to a rubbish bin. This butcher, on the same block as I live, often has whats termed "home kill" happening, a small truck drives out to a farm, kills an animal, and brings it back to be processed at the butcher shop. I'll be walking past, and I'll be able to hear the circular saws, or even see the carcass hanging outside as they carve it up, next to the many rubbish bins. Blood flows across the pavement, and drains into the gutter. Theres a lot of mould on the path, sprouting from where the blood usually flows down onto the road.
I also walk past a dairy factory, processing cow and sheep milk. This is society, this is what happens, and to me, its no different than what a bunch of whalers are doing, its technically worse if, like me, you think a life is a life. The whalers we get all upset about only aim to kill a thousand or so animals a year. Hell, in my small country of but four million people, we kill many thousands in pigs alone, every week! Its happening all around us.
Am I supposed to attack the people who do these things? Should I throw glass bottles of foul smelling liquids at them? Should I shine my own green laser pointer into their eyes? Should I protest the butcher shop, and destroy the butchers car? I dont think so. My own father worked at a slaughter house, a local Freezing Works, for about a decade. I asked him to appear on my original podcast talking about it. Heres a small snippet of my father talking about life in a slaughter house.
My fathers rather proud of the work he did, he knows many of his friends from working at The Works.
So, my father is really no different than any of the whalers, would you expect me to be violent towards him, to threaten his life? I have a good friend who believes in direct action, who has a family member who lives with them, who enjoys fishing. My good friend is very against the whalers, yet, I dont really see a difference in killing a fish, or a bunch of fish, and catching a whale. Oh, I know that currently one is meant to be illegal, but really, a life is a life, is it not? My friend doesnt attack the family member who likes killing fish though, they wouldnt ram his car, or blind him with lasers, or throw stink bombs at him!
Animal use is all around us, being violent, making threats, and pulling stunts for media attention wont help us. We need to seem credible, and not as a bunch of people who have escaped from a lunatic asylum. For the blood and guts images that some groups like to use, everyone knows where meat comes from. They know that "chicken" was until recently A chicken. I read a history of a local Freezing Works, the title of the book was "A Cut Above". During one of the strikes, slaughtermen took sheep into the centre of my city, and let them loose on the main street. The police couldnt control the animals, there were too many. Eventually, the slaughtermen took the animals to a public place, and killed the animals publicly, with tv cameras recording. Its not like the freezing works hides the fact they kill animals, perhaps people will turn away from watching it, but they KNOW it happens. In New Zealand, everyone is somehow related to someone employed by "The Works", in fact, our politicians often mention that as job experience, to show they are tough and worked their way up from the bottom.
Being violent, apart from being downright poor manners, will only hurt Veganism as a whole. If I try and stage a one man campaign against local butchers, its unlikely the public will side with me. Especially if I liken the butcher to Hitler, if I throw stinkbombs at him, if I try and blow up his vehicle. I' would end up in a prison cell. And, judging from the court notices in the local newspaper, there are a lot of slaughtermen convicted for crimes, the vast majority of cases seem to be carried out by tradesmen and freezing workers here. During my fathers time at The Works, they enjoyed throwing guts at each other, they would try and upset repairmen who were "cityboys". I'm sure slaughtermen who were in jail for violent crime would have a great time with an animal rights activist behind bars.
Speaking of prison, one of my uncles spent time locked away for manslaughter. My uncle had a rough life, he had been to prison before, and at the time of this incident, he was living in a rehabilitation facility in the South Island, a little like a retirement home I think. The former inmates lived in small houses, and I guess they were somewhat supervised, as a sort of test to see how they would get on in the real world. I think they were allowed to drive, I think they were pretty much independent, they just happened to live in this area, with other similar people. Once, my Uncle got in a fight with a mentally unstable older man. Apparently the man attacked my uncle, and in the scuffle, my uncle pushed him down to the ground, from memory, I believe the man died from a heart attack or a seizure. I was never told much, my family treated me as if I were too young to understand. My uncle didnt set off any explosives, he didnt ram the mans vehicle, he didnt shine lasers in his eyes or throw stink bombs at him. He basically pushed the guy away, and the man died. I dont remember how long my uncle spent in jail, a few years. I asked him what it was like in prison, and he seemed to have enjoyed himself, Im not sure if thats the right term, but at least afterwards he could laugh about it. He remembers the inmates making jokes about how stupid the wardens were, he remembers working in the prison workshop, making a couple dollars a week, stamping out crappy furniture for a large, overpriced Australasian retail chain. A few years later, my uncle lost his longtime battle with cancer and died.
I remember when I was about 7, and one of my grandfathers died , essentially from smoking. I was sick with measles before he died, I couldnt go and see him at the hospital. I remember being very upset that I was not allowed to say goodbye, it felt so unfair to a small boy. I waited in the car, and my grandfather appeared above me in one of the large windows, I think he briefly waved to me, but he was far above me, and I could barely make him out. I realized it was him of course, but it felt so distant, not being able to say goodbye. My mother had bought me a Thunderbirds toy, Lady Penelope's pink rolls royce, I have it on the desk as I record this. She had gotten it for me, to make up for not being able to say goodbye to my grandfather, I held this toy while I waited in the car. Lets say the car cost 10, 20 dollars, its not equal to being able to say goodbye to a loved one. I remember promising my Grandfathers body, at his funeral, that I would never smoke. When I saw my uncle last, he was in a very bad condition, he was truly skeletal, his head was a skull, and his organs were shutting down. His stomach was essentially a bag on the outside, he carried a hemp with his plastic stomach, that looked like an IV bag. He had felt hungry for the first time in days, and in the bag was potatos and gravy from KFC. I never got to go to my uncles funeral, but I decided that I would avoid violence whenever possible, I dont want to be locked away for pushing someone. My uncle was away from his daughter's early teenage years, he died fairly soon after getting out of prison. His daughter never got to spend that time with her father. Accidents happen, life is precious, we shouldnt go risking ours, or that of others.
So, what is my suggestion then? I want to end on a more positive note.
Not all animal rights podcasts have special effects.