Animal rights activist Ari Moore, who says he is a member of both People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Farm Sanctuary, has a post on his weblog in which he rationalizes his desire to engage in violence to further the animal rights cause. Moore’s thoughts on violence are inspired by an issue of Satya magazine that offered a platform for advocates of animal rights terrorism, including the University of Texas at El Paso’s resident terrorist apologist, Steven Best.
Moore writes of his acts of wanting to move beyond his acts of animal rights-inspired graffiti,
I was at a place right before I read the first issue where I was going to step up my anti-speciesist graffiti by throwing red model paint at fast food restaurants and stores that sell furs and/or lots of leather. It hardens to a dark red gloss that looks a lot like blood and is very difficult to remove. I’d also affix a statement explaining the action, perhaps stuck in the paint so it would be difficult to remove. Time was, I would not engage in any action that caused fiscal damage. Over time, I began writing on and stickering over advertisements on phone booths, advertising walls (disgusting marketing development in New York), subway posters and the like. After a while, throwing red paint started looking like a good next step.
I thought I had everything well thought out but now my thinking is even more developed, though I still haven’t decided whether I’m going to stop with the fiscal damage or step it up even further, perhaps join the ALF. (Shhh, it’s secret.)
Moore then goes on to describe the two basic competing ideas he ran through — how would any such action benefit animals and how would the intended audience perceive it. You’ll note that in his analysis he doesn’t waste a single word on the rights of his proposed victims. They simple don’t count,
The issues as I see them are this: I have to keep two things in mind, the benefit to the animals I’m working for, and the impact on my audience Â— people. While theoretically, stealing farm animals and burning the farm buildings to the ground would save not only the present inhabitants but prevent them from being quickly replaced by yet more animals, this would most likely have a terrible impact on the credibility and image of the animal rights movement, and could possibly be so damaging that in the long run more animals would end up suffering while we repaired the damage. Conversely, while a purely non-violent, pacifist approach that excludes all property damage and vandalism would make for a very respected and trusted movement in the public eye, this restraint would be a form of passive violence (i.e. if a psycho rapist is threatening to harm children, you get in there and you push the fucker away, pacifism be damned).
You have to love that last sentence — by not committing an act of violence against McDonald’s or a furrier, Moore would in fact be committing a large act of violence against animals by failing to help them. Although acts of terrorism are clearly not on par with those committed by groups dedicated to killing as many people as possible, such as Al Qaeda, they do at least share with such groups ridiculous attempts at rationalizing their actions. If Moore commits an act of violence it’s not his fault or responsibility — its actually his victim’s fault for putting him in a position where if he does nothing he is guilty of a “form of passive violence.”
Moore restates this basic idea a couple paragraphs later by claiming that extreme situations require extreme methods,
On one side of the debate there are total pacifists, many of them making rash generalizations about how violent so many animal rights activists are, and on the other side there are those who use violence against property (but not against any sentient being, unless you count intimidation as violence) to varying degrees.
I have to admit that I’m feeling more in line with the latter folk. When Malcolm X used the words “by any means necessary,” he wasn’t advocating random violence, but self defense. The violence carried out against people of color, women, the poor and the homeless demands that we exercise our right to defend ourselves Â— or in the case of animal rights, to defend those who can not defend themselves. Extreme situations require extreme methods. In the words of Ingrid Newkirk as quoted by Steve Best, Ph.D. in Satya:
If a concentration camp or laboratory is burned, that is violence, but if it is left standing is that not more and worse violence?Â…IsnÂ’t the chicken house todayÂ’s concentration camp?Â…Will we condemn its destruction or condemn its existence? Which is the more violent wish?
So how will does all of this work in everyday situations? If I throw red paint at McDonald’s, some worker may get pissed off the next day because he has to go scrape it off, and a few people may feel guilty when it occurs to them that what they’re eating is rotting corpse, but they may then close off and get angry instead of changing their actions. But perhaps a lot of people walking by will wake up a little, be startled into thinking about something they don’t usually think about. Maybe the people eating there who feel guilty will decide not to eat there again. Maybe the workers will question what it is they’re being paid to do, and what it is they’re eating. Maybe vegans passing by will feel validated in knowing that other people feel the same way they do, and maybe they’ll be inspired to do some direct action themselves.
Fascinating. Moore has gone from saying that acts of violence may be justifiable because to stand by will allow greater acts of violence to occur, to suggesting that acts of violence may be justified if the acts are publicized and end up validating others who agree with him. This, of course, is exactly the argument that racist extremists use to justify vandalizing the homes of minorities — such vandalism both acts to intimidate the victim (and like Moore probably don’t see intimidation as being violence) as well as validates the opinions of other potential racists in the community. (And, like animal rights extremism, usually tends to produce a backlash much bigger than both).
Moore concludes his essay with a flourish,
So I believe that in some cases non-violence is needed, and in others, considered and careful use of violence against property is needed Â— a diversity of approaches, always keeping the benefit to non-human animals and the impact on humans in mind. It’s just occurred to me that these two considerations are essentially ahimsa: the most good and the least harm. So I knew this all along. I just had to read a lot and think a lot to get to the answer in a more roundabout way.
Which is simply a long-winded way of saying that, for Moore, the ends justify the means. What a shocker there.
Yet more vegan evolution. Ari Moore, May 7, 2004.