Response to Response to Statement:

Social change without violence is possible. However, most people who have studied the history of social change believe that violence rarely slows change. The honest question (despite a lot of revisionist history) is whether the violence is worth the cost. The difference between the position that violence is a viable tactic (worth the cost) for achieving animal rights is that those who believe in violence, even death, consider animals to have feelings on the same order of magnitude as humans, and many people felt it was worth dieing or killing to free the slaves. This philosophy was summarized by Dr. Jerry Vlasak on the television show "60 Minutes" when he said that those who claimed to support animal rights but not by using violence were "disingenuous".

Response to Statement by Rod Coronado about the Animal Liberation Movement (at bottom of this page)

While most animal rights activists have been laboring long and hard in the trenches of the war for the hearts and minds of compassionate human beings, a small and extreme minority of us has been performing violent acts in the name of our movement. In a recent statement about the animal liberation movement, posted to several internet sites, Rod Coronado argued that it is now time for the animal rights movement to discuss "tactics," including the use of "physical violence." Mr. Coronado implicitly supports that extreme minority of our movement, which presumes that progress can more quickly be made with violence than with nonviolence, although he does so in the vaguest possible language. He even compares the righteousness of violent tactics used by some "animal activists" to the violent resistance of the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II, who courageously battled Nazi exterminators.

While Mr. Coronado and I have our differences, I do agree with him about one thing: it is indeed time for a discussion of the tactics of a miniscule minority that is smearing the name of our entire movement and setting back our progress by years. So, in the spirit of free and open discussion of this important issue, here are some reasons why violence in the name of animal liberation is just plain wrong:

* VIOLENCE IS A TACTIC THAT CAN NEVER WIN. In a democracy, victory is in the numbers. When we have more votes for compassion than the other side has for exploitation, we win. To get those votes we need to appeal to the mainstream of voters and become a mass movement. Anything that stands in the way of our becoming a mass movement is an obstacle. And there is no greater obstacle than violence, which makes us all look like extremists and lunatics in the eyes of the mainstream. Violence is the way that you stop the movement from gaining widespread public acceptance. That's why, during the days of the War in Vietnam, the U.S. government infiltrated anti-war groups and turned them to violence in order to decrease their influence. It was called Project Cointelpro and it should remind anyone serious about winning animal liberation that, in western democracies, violence works to the benefit of the oppressors, not the oppressed. It does this by creating a backlash that hurts the very movement that it is supposed to benefit and separating the movement from the mainstream. Let's not be fooled again by those who promise success but give us only violence.

* VIOLENCE IS NOT NECESSARY. While there might be times in which victims of violence have no choice but to violently resist their tormentors, such as the Jewish resistance fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto, it is a false and misleading analogy to make a comparison to the animal rights movement. The Warsaw Ghetto resistance fought a dictatorial and malignant enemy without any hope of winning any more than a dignified death. But those of us lucky enough to live in western democracies are not fighting for dignity in a hopeless situation. We're fighting for justice and compassion toward animals and, hopefully, toward human beings as well. We should have learned from Mahatma Gandhi in India and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the United States that the most effective way to win massive social change in a democracy is to win the hearts and minds of people with the justice and righteousness of our cause. That takes education, not threats. And it can only be done by nonviolence, a tried and proven way to fight successfully for the animal liberation for which we all long.

* UNNECESSARY VIOLENCE IS NEVER JUSTIFIED. Those who support violence in the name of animal liberation believe that it is justified by the violence that is committed against animals. But, it is a basic rule of ethics that two wrongs do not make a right. Those who utilize violence to try to achieve animal liberation are, instead, simply adding the evil of their violence to the evil of animal exploitation. In their efforts to spread fear instead of compassion, they make us all look more like thugs and terrorists than compassionate human beings trying to make this world a better place, thus playing into the hands of the enemies of animal liberation. In truth, ours is a movement based upon justice and mercy, not bombs. But, why should anyone believe that we are truly outraged by violence against animals when some of us hypocritically carry out or support violent acts against other humans? Hypocrisy doesn't sell.

* NONVIOLENCE IS NOT THE BEST WAY TO WIN - IT'S THE ONLY WAY TO WIN. And we are winning. People have probably abused animals for as long as we've been on this planet, but then, in 1975, with the publication of Peter Singer's Animal Liberation, things began to change. During the past 30 years, slowly but steadily, without causing a major backlash, our movement has been growing and changing society, building like a snowball rolling down a hill into a force that will, someday, make this world a more just and compassionate place for all beings. We must not let a tiny minority of violent extremists stop and reverse our progress with their counterproductive violent outbursts. If we are to continue making progress, we must recognize that violence is a cancer eating at the soul of our movement. We must never aid or compromise with the tiny minority of extremists who reject nonviolence and, with it, the only effective path to animal liberation.

But, the most serious problem that our animal liberation movement faces is not the small but loud group of extremists who commit violent acts in our movement's name so much as it is the failure of leadership in the animal liberation movement. While violent extremists explode bombs, set fires and spread terror, where are the expressions of outrage from genuine national animal rights leaders? Where is their rage as the movement to which they have dedicated their lives is perverted by a violent few who have twisted the term "direct action" from an expression of ethical, nonviolent civil disobedience into an excuse for bombings and burnings? When will our so-called leaders stop silently condoning violence and say to all the world, as often as necessary, that those who commit violent acts in the name of our movement are not animal rights activists, they do not speak in our name and they will receive neither assistance nor support of any kind from this movement?

How about now?

It's time to put the violence to an end before the violence puts an end to our movement.

Pete Cohon
Founder, Veggie Jews
[This statement only expresses the views of it's writer and not those of Veggie Jews.]

Statement by Rod Coronado about the Animal Liberation Movement
November 18, 2005

[nb: Rod Coronado is an environmental and animal rights activist, author, and former member of the Animal Liberation Front who recently appeared on CBS News 60 Minutes program with Animal Liberation Press Officer Dr. Jerry Vlasak, speaking out about the use of direct action on behalf of animal liberation. Fee free to post this elsewhere.]

This statement is in response to recent tremors once again felt in the animal rights movement related to our support, encouragement and explanations of illegal acts to save animal lives and homes.

While not all of us agree with the opinions and actions of groups such as the Animal Liberation Front, Earth Liberation Front and Revolutionary Cells, the discussion of such groups actions and strategies is always worthy of respect as part of a healthy exchange of ideas and theories that is a hallmark of any legitimate movement endeavoring to keep pace with an ever increasing flood of animal abuse and environmental destruction. Attempts to discourage such discussions by privileged members of this country's ruling elite (be they white, male, middle-class, career paid staff, etc.) resembles too much the arguments put forth by the polite abolitionists societies of the 19th century when acts of human liberation and freedom violated the moral sensibilities and principles of such non-oppressed groups of self appointed individuals of others suffering.

No amount of discussion and questioning of our path towards the liberation of all oppressed individuals should ever be discouraged and never should those that promote it be chastised by others in the movement who claim to "know better". The opinions and views of some of our movement's most uncompromising voices for the Earth and animals has crept into the public mainstream's psyche only because people like Paul Watson, Ingrid Newkirk and Dave Forman were courageous enough to express them in times of unpopularity, often with the loudest criticisms from within our own ranks.

Discussions that include the rationale for using physical violence to achieve animal liberation are simply the practical and moral progression of a movement that must acknowledge its own double standards and hypocrisy when defending the lives of those we argue are morally equal to ourselves. The families of animals' and individuals themselves suffering in laboratories and fur farms are no less capable of feeling great sorrow and suffering than our own families if it were or own son's and daughter's being tortured be it in Huntington Life Sciences or U.S. controlled interrogation and torture centers in Afghanistan, Iraq and Cuba.

If the animal rights movement in the privileged heart of America most responsible for such abuse truly believes in equal rights for all species as I surely do, discussions of tactics that include physical violence cannot be ignored. Limiting or preventing any discussion while others debate the best mode of resistance to the suffering of others is a betrayal to those we claim to represent and a betrayal to the heroic spirit of resistance that was emblazoned by John Brown, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, the French Resistance and the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto who all advocated the use of arms to achieve liberation.

To think that our struggle is any different is naive and a failure to recognize the true identity of the animals' and our own oppressor as being the same evil force that has blanketed our beautiful planet with war and violence long enough. Recent discoveries of U.S. sponsored torture centers in Iraq where victims had their skin partially removed should remind us that the Earth and animals' oppressors have repeatedly demonstrated zero capacity for compassion even for their own species. If nonviolent tactics do not put an end to such atrocities carried out in our name in our time, we are obligated as representatives of those suffering not only to abandon those tactics which have failed us, but also to explore other avenues of resistance which historically time and time again have proven to be what is necessary to stop such state-sponsored violence.

In closing, I respect and appreciate the views shared by people like Jerry Vlasak who are courageous enough to risk what this society has given them in order to speak out against the same society's duplicity respect for life. While not the principles of the ALF or ELF, I as an indigenous descendant of a family forced to defend themselves with armed struggle, cannot deny that now is an appropriate time to discuss such tactics.

I've always battled with my own hypocrisy, for if it was my own son in the clutches of HLS or some other corporate or governmental death chamber, not only would I employ every means available to rescue them, but do whatever was necessary to ensure that those responsible were forever unable to commit such atrocities ever again.

For the Earth and Her Animal People,
Rod Coronado