On Pluralism, Lies and Mink
A dozen people who apparently think I’m a member of the ALF want to know why I’m writing about this controversial topic and were fearful of commenting publicly. That terrified me but demonstrated the effect the US government has had on our freedom. This, the free world, has become a place where people are afraid to have a discussion about a controversial (un)organization that they don’t even support!
Here’s why I’m writing, and the idea for today came from Bea’s most recent comment: the importance of pluralism. I’ve yet to read an interview or a chapter regarding direct action where the activist says that property damage–or boycotting, for that matter–is the only answer. Every situation is different and requires a different strategy–that’s pluralism. As Steve Best often says (and I’m paraphrasing): We shouldn’t be wedded to one dogma or another. Instead, we should look for what works in different situations. There is no universal rule to cover all situations.
I’m merely interested in thinking critically about an easy target (the ALF). I’ve had all the same preconceptions as everyone else, but the more research I did, the more I discovered I was wrong about a lot of them. One particular fact that many people aren’t aware of, is that many campaigns by the ALF in the UK were successful and put breeders and other exploiters permanently out of business (think of the Greyhound track Ronnie Lee mentioned). It’s not true that exploiters will always replace animals and recover from "attacks." There is often enormous economic impact that forces them out of business.
Another fact that we all should have no problem believing, is that when direct action campaigns are reported on in the media, the result is often a pack of lies. One lie I’ve seen on blogs (including my own) in comments and posts (and I by no means think the author of the post or comment is aware that what they write is not true), pertains to the mink liberation effort in 1997 in Ontario. The common comment is that the activists "liberated" the mink only to have them all die overnight, by starvation, getting hit by cars and freezing to death, and because they were raised in captivity they didn’t stand a chance when liberated (specifically, they contracted stress-induced pneumonia as a result of being liberated).
In Gary Yourofsky’s essay "Abolition, Liberation, Freedom: Coming to a Fur Farm Near You" in Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Mr. Yourofsky, who was part of the mink liberation effort, writes:
Let’s look at the facts. (1) Mink are clothed in natural fur coats that make it impossible for them to freeze to death; also note that the Ontario raid took place not in the dead of winter, but in April. (2) It takes several weeks for a mink to starve to death. It cannot happen overnight. . . . . (3) Mink do not spontaneously contract pneumonia or stress when they are not in cages. Being kept in a cage for your entire life causes stress and neurosis. Freedom is the cure for cage-induced stress and neurosis. (4) There are no cars on rural roads at three in the morning, except for those of fur farmers and police who are trying to recapture the liberated mink. . . . According to the fur industry, 400 mink instantly died after my Easter Sunday raid. Yet, on my request, the lawyers asked them to provide proof . . . . [W]hen I was convicted and sentenced to six months in prison, the furriers brought in photographs of two dead mink who had allegedly died the night of the raid.
That fur farm has since gone out of business.
I don’t know Mr. Yourofsky (who says he always prefers nonviolent activism), and I do know how controversial he is (read more of his thoughts here). But that shouldn’t take away from the reality that we often don’t have the facts of a situation, as any reader of Will Potter knows. All I’m asking is that if you are going to be for or against something, especially if you’re going to make your case as passionately as many animal rights activists do, it behooves you to refrain from quick judgments–even those based on instinct–and think critically about what you are being told and what you read.
My life isn’t set up to include breaking the law and going to prison for it. Not because I have the utmost respect for the law, but because I have made choices that don’t allow for certain kinds of direct action. In addition, I have heard and read about activists who advocate for physical harm of exploiters, and though we might be waging a war, in my mind it shouldn’t include harming anyone (and remember not one person has been injured or killed so far, but there is some amount of talk of that nature and that makes me very uncomfortable).
My hope is only for activists to be open to at least learning about the variety of actions they can take–or support–to put a dent in the machine that brutally massacres billions of sentient nonhumans each year for no good reason.