Essay by Gary Yourofsky
The following essay is included in the book Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals, edited by Steve Best and Anthony Nocella.
For weeks after the events of 9-11, I was transfixed by the news media. CNN, MSNBC, FOX-News, The Today Show, Peter Jennings, Dan Rather, Brian Williams. Report after report. Image after image. The collision. The fireball. The smoke. The collapse. The rubble. The debris. Ground zero. The panic. The response.
As a national lecturer on animal rights, and one of the country's most outspoken animal liberationists, I believe I speak for the entire movement when I tell you that we have the utmost empathy for every innocent victim of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. We mourn human tragedy as much as animal tragedy. The notion that animal rights activists are anti human is an outrageous lie.
We choose to be activists for other species because billions of innocent animals are murdered without so much as a disquieting tinge of guilt from the masses. We are vegans because we realize that violence and hatred must be destroyed at its root, in our everyday habits of consumption.
Shortly after the 9-11 attacks, my faith in humanity was restored temporarily because I witnessed such an outpouring of love, empathy, compassion, and community. The world was condemning evil and the taking of innocent lives. In our unity to find the perpetrators, I wondered if we would understand that murdering any living being was wrong. I hoped that, by a collective awakening to compassion, the terror that humans inflict upon innocent animals for food, clothing, sport, entertainment, and research would end or at least abate.
In a moment of optimistic speculation, I pondered whether the camouflaged-hunters―lurking on American soil, skulking in the distance with guns and bows, waiting to terrorize and kill more than 200 million innocent animals annually—might throw their weapons to the ground?
Would the animal researchers who terrorize 50 million dogs, cats, primates and mice annually in vivisection procedures have a revelation? The March of Dimes experimenters who sew shut the eyes of kittens and ferrets to see if blindness affects their brains would surely stop their barbaric acts of terrorism.
After the 9-11 bombardment, the researchers at the Oregon Regional Primate Research Center—who electro-ejaculate primates in order to obtain sperm for their breeding colonies—would make the connection now. Surely, the animal research community was going to be arrested and charged with acts of terrorism.
Would terrorist fur-farmers and trappers be sent to prison for breaking the necks of mink, anally electrocuting foxes, genitally electrocuting chinchillas and catching wild animals in steel jaw leghold traps?
Would humankind realize that animals do not want to be our food, clothing, entertainment and research specimens? Would we finally understand the words of British Bishop William Inge when he said that if animals ever formulated an organized religion, the devil would be depicted in human form? And would we finally seek to change that image?
Would Gandhi's immortal words of peace―"The life of a lamb is no less precious than that of human"―be recited at every school across America?
But not a damn thing changed in human attitudes toward fellow animal species. The routine violence of human customs was swept even further under the rug. The repetitive talk of people revolting against evil sickened me because it was clearly hypocritical and deceitful.
Shamefully, it seems that the hatred that humans have towards nonhumans is so vicious, bitter and entrenched, that a thousand peaceful Gods and Goddesses couldn't eradicate it. For that brief moment, though, I saw a glimmer of hope. Reporters, civilians and government officials kept saying "we will destroy the evil." Unfortunately, they were only referring to the evil people who disrupt the rest of society from performing its own evil deeds.
Each meat, dairy and egg-eater is responsible for the death and dismemberment of more than 3,000 land animals and thousands of marine animals throughout their lifetime. Annually, in the US alone, around 10 billion cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys and other animals live in concentration camps. Within the first year of their pathetic lives, they're sent to killing-houses where knife-wielding terrorists slit their throats, drain their blood and dismember their bodies, all-too-often while the animals are still conscious and aware. Sadly, I realized that any lesson learned in the wake of 9-11 was not going to change that.
Path To Liberation
If people truly want to end terrorism, then they should discard animal flesh from refrigerators, toss bows and bullets into the trash, insist that universities close down their vivisection laboratories, demand that department stores close their fur salons, make circuses shift to only human performers, abolish the rodeo once and for all, and support the courageous ALF humanitarians who liberate animals from places of terror. People who yearn for a compassionate world should have nothing but praise for these amazing altruists. Otherwise, any talk of peace, civilization and justice will remain the most hypocritical rhetoric that has ever existed.
Remember, just because an act might be classified as illegal does not make it morally wrong. And just because an act is legal does not make it the best avenue for facilitating substantive change. Laws have always been broken by free-thinking, radical individuals who realize that it is impossible to make progressive changes within a corrupt, discriminatory system.
Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mohandas Gandhi, Henry David Thoreau and Jesus, to name a few, were routine, radical law-breakers who went to jail many times for disobeying unjust laws. We see them as heroes today, but in their time they were considered by many to be law-breakers, villains and radicals. "Radical" has a negative connotation in society today. However it is simply the Latin word meaning "root", and what radicals do is to bypass pseudo-solutions and get to the root of a problem. Everyone should realize that all social justice activists were considered radical in their time. It is only after social justice activists die and society begins to evolve and comprehend their actions that the "radical" is placed on a pedestal and embraced. Without question, ALF liberations are akin to Harriet Tubman and The Underground Railroad which assisted in the liberation of blacks from white slave-owners. In fact, a wise ALF adage—from an unknown individual—states: "If we are trespassing, then so were the American soldiers who broke down the gates of Hitler's death camps. If we are thieves, then so were the members of The Underground Railroad who freed the slaves from the South. And if we are vandals, then so were those who destroyed forever the gas chambers of Buchanwald and Auschwitz."
One must understand that ALF raids have two goals; giving enslaved animals a chance at freedom and causing major economic damage. As a movement, we must stop living in fantasyland by believing that those directly involved in torturing and murdering animals, and profiting handsomely from it, will listen to reason, common sense and moral truth. The vast majority will not. If they did, there wouldn't be an animal liberation movement because they would have understood the cruelty of their ways by now and adopted a vegan lifestyle.
I am aware that some activists like Howard Lyman and Don Barnes were former abusers of animals who had epiphanies and changed. That's why I said most will not listen to reason. I didn't say never try to educate and enlighten. But in the vast majority of cases, it is just a fantasy to believe that direct abusers collectively will change. What those involved in animal exploitation will listen to, however, is damage to their profits and livelihood. Only if we make their blood businesses unprofitable, will they cease the violence against the animal kingdom.
Remember, since the inception of the animal liberation movement, no human has ever been injured or killed during a liberation or an act of economic sabotage. We need to stop accepting the lies propagated by the media and the corporations who murder animals for a living. ALF activists are not terrorists; those who abuse animals for a living are! ALF activists are not criminals; those who enslave, torture, mutilate, dismember and murder animals for a living are! Activists who liberate animals should not go to prison; animal exploiters should! It should never be viewed as a crime to try and forcibly stop hatred and discrimination and terrorism; it is an act of compassion and courage.
All animals are simply disenfranchised nations in search of the one thing that every sentient being demands: FREEDOM! They are not property. They are not objects. And they are not commodities. The earth and its inhabitants do not belong to humans, under any circumstance. So when inanimate objects—like buildings and machines—are destroyed during an animal liberation, the property-destruction issue is justified because an animal's inherent right to be free trumps economic damage, and buildings that exist to torture living beings deserve to be eradicated forever!
Let Them Read Lies
I believe one main reason why the ALF does not yet have broad public support is because of the lies spewed by animal exploiters and the distortions reported and perpetuated by the mass media. Sadly, animal-killers and their supporters will go to any length to deceive and mislead the public into believing that they are the victims and not the animals. Having inside knowledge of what animal liberation entails, let me give an example of how the propaganda machines work.
On March 30, 1997, I was part of a mink liberation effort at the Eberts Fur Farm in Blenheim, Ontario. We released 1,542 mink from their cages, but were apprehended shortly thereafter. The media reported four lies that are typically issued by the fur industry after liberations: (1) the mink froze to death after freedom; (2) the mink starved to death overnight after freedom; (3) the mink caught pneumonia and became stressed out after freedom; (4) the mink were run over by cars on rural roads at three in the morning after freedom.
Let's look at the facts.
(1) Mink are clothed in natural fur coats which make it impossible to freeze to death, especially during the pleasant month of March/April, which is when my Ontario raid took place.
(2) It takes several weeks for mink to starve to death. It cannot happen overnight. In fact, authorities involved in the Ontario mink liberation stated that the liberated mink raided a nearby chicken farm for food, incontrovertibly exposing the starvation lie. As for the chickens, my heart goes out to them. But my enmity is still enflamed by the 250 million Americans who kill and eat 9 billion chickens to satisfy their meat-addictions. If humans didn't enslave chickens, mink wouldn't raid chicken farms. If humans didn't enslave mink, the ALF wouldn't raid mink farms.
On rare occasions, some people claim that mink attack companion dogs or cats. I have yet to see any proof of this happening. Not one photo of a dead body or a pile of canine or feline bones. So, I believe this is another ploy to divert attention from the real victims; the mink. Even if the mink did attack a dog or a cat, many times dogs attack cats, cats attack birds, and so on. This just proves two other points. In the last 100 years of mink farming, not one wild gene has been bred out of these animals. And after thousands of years of dog and cat domestication, they, too, still possess their wild genes. Being raised in captivity in no way impedes an animals' chance of surviving in the wild.
It should be noted that in the late 90s after the Frye Fur Farm in Illinois was raided—and thousands of mink were given a chance to escape—the fur industry issued a press release claiming how much the Fryes loved and cared for their mink. The release stated the Fryes routinely picked up and played with the mink. Yet, across the waters in England that same year, a liberation of 10,000 mink took place. That release stated that everyone should hide their dogs and cats and children because the mink were vicious animals who would attack and eat everything in sight. Isn't it remarkable that Illinois mink are sweet and cuddly, yet English mink are rapacious and vicious?
The fur industry's public relations people are masters of doublespeak and thereby hide their atrocities from public view. It is obvious that the fur industry can't even get their lies straight. And that's because one lie leads to another.
(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 caged-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. If they backed off and let the mink go, rarely would there be a mink-car casualty.
The fur industry knows that if people were aware of the five methods of death used on mink, foxes and chinchillas, virtually no one would buy a fur coat. The anal electrocutions, genital electrocutions, gassings, neck-breakings and toxic chemical injections are purely evil. So, the fur industry's spin doctors have devised some glittering propaganda in order to divert attention from the heinous methods of death, and the prejudiced media are all-too happy to report them uncritically. The industry and media conspire in an attempt to make animal liberations appear foolish and describe the actions as creating more harm than good.
Any wildlife biologist or veterinarian who is not associated with the fur industry or does not own a fur coat will admit that mink and foxes are wild animals who will undoubtedly survive after being set free. They also will admit that no amount of genetic breeding can take away animals' innate, instinctive survival mechanisms. And let me be perfectly clear: Freedom does not cause death! Hunters, meat, dairy and egg-eaters, fur-wearers, leather-lovers and animal-experimenters cause death!
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 of the purported 400 dead mink. They were asked to do so by either bringing in photos, dead bodies or testifying under oath. They declined all offers.
Not surprisingly, the death toll quickly descended from 400 to 300 to 200 to 100 to 12. Subsequently, during my three-day trial when I was convicted and sentenced to six months in prison, the furriers brought in photographs of two dead mink who allegedly died the night of the raid.
Now, I did not believe the authenticity of the photos, but for argument's sake, let's say that two mink were run over by the cars of the fur farmers who were trying to recapture the freed mink. Those two deaths are unfortunate. But every mink in the concentration camp was going to die. Opening the cages was the only chance any of them had. The act was justified.
The job of an ALF activist is not to guarantee safety and freedom, but to give incarcerated animals an opportunity to live in freedom. Unfortunately, 1,000 mink were recaptured because they never found the holes in the fence in order to make it across the street to the luscious miles of fields. (According to some authorities who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the official numbers of the Ontario raid were 1,542 released, 1,000 recaptured, 540 escaped and two dead.) However, of the 1,000 recaptured mink who never made it off the grounds through the cut fence-holes, the best news was 70-80 percent of the pregnant ones miscarried their fetuses. The animal rights community does not want animals bred into enslavement. A miscarriage is infinitely more humane than a lifetime of imprisonment, horror and eventual murder.
It's truly disheartening when the media and a majority of society get so upset when enslaved, tortured and soon-to-be-murdered animals are liberated. Yet, these same individuals don't get upset when enslaved, tortured and soon-to-be-murdered animals―who spend their pathetic lives inhaling the fumes of their own excrement―are gassed, anally electrocuted, genitally electrocuted, injected with toxins or have their necks broken manually.
Taking statements without questioning the source is contemptible. Why would responsible journalists heed the words of the police, who are experts at manipulation, and abject furriers, who collectively murder 40 million animals a year for money? If journalists would think rationally instead of trying to fit into the sleazy world of media hype, they could actually produce a brilliant story on ALF humanitarians and the current paradoxes in our society.
People who put their lives on the line for a cause should be commended not condemned. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once stated, "There are some things so dear—some things so precious—some things so eternally true—that they are worth dying for. And if a person has not discovered something that he or she is willing to die for—then that person isn't fit to live."
I wholeheartedly concur!
For my random act of kindness and compassion on behalf of the tortured and doomed mink, I spent 77 days in prison. (Hilma Ruby, my lone, upstanding compatriot out of the five, spent 60 days in prison.) Canadian Judge A. Cusinato sentenced me to six-months in the Elgin Middlesex Detention Center in London, Ontario. A deportation parole was issued, though, and I returned to Michigan after serving 77 days at the maximum security lock-up.
Before being carted off to prison, I was able to address the judge:
I stand before this court without trepidation and without timidity because the truth cannot be suppressed today and the truth will not be compromised. Mohandas Gandhi, one of the most benevolent people to ever grace this earth, once said, "Even if you are only one person the truth is still the truth."
The dilemma we face today is whether this court chooses to acknowledge the truth. The following statement is for everyone's edification.
One day every enslaved animal will obtain their freedom and the animal rights movement will succeed because Gandhi also proclaimed, "All throughout history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been murderers and tyrants and at times they have seemed invincible, but in the end they always fall. Always!"
The true devoted humanitarians who are working towards the magnanimous goal of achieving freedom for animals cannot be stopped by unjust laws.
As long as humans are placed on a pedestal above non-humans injustice to animals will fester because without universal equality one type of equality will always create another type of inequality. There will be no compromise here today because the truth cannot be compromised.
My presence in this courtroom today is paradoxical. I ask this court: If it is NOT a crime to torture, enslave and murder animals, then how can it be a crime to free tortured, enslaved and soon-to-be-murdered animals?
Humankind must climb out of its abyss of callousness, its abyss of apathy and its abyss of greed. Enslaving and killing animals for human satisfaction can never be justified. And the fur industry must understand that the millions of manual neck-breakings, anal and genital electrocutions, mass gassings, drownings, and toxic chemical injections can never be justified.
And, the snaring of millions of free-roaming animals in steel jaw leghold traps, who die slow, horrific deaths, is unjustifiable as well.
There will be no compromise, for the truth cannot be compromised. The schism that this court has created among the five co-accused has been sealed.
Now that I have been convicted, through my volition and in a symbolic protest of the unjust conditions that animals endure, a hunger strike will begin tomorrow at 7:30 a.m.
For every mink that ever languished in a tiny cage and was savagely murdered at the Eberts Fur Farm, I will go hungry. And for the 40 million other animals worldwide who have the skin ripped off their backs in a disgusting display of barbarity, in the name of vanity, I will go hungry.
And if this court expects me to experience an apostasy, meaning an abandoning of my beliefs, it is sadly mistaken. In April of '97, when I was incarcerated for 10 days in a Chatham jail, I briefly experienced, vicariously, what a caged animal goes through. And, thanks to that 10-day bail hearing, my empathy for every mistreated animal intensified.
No matter what I go through during my incarceration and hunger strike, will be nothing compared to the everlasting torture that innocent animals endure on a daily basis.
And if this court is alarmed by my honesty, let me close with a quote from slave abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison: "I will be as harsh as the truth and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think or speak or write with moderation. I am in earnest. I will not equivocate. I will not excuse. I will not retreat a single inch. And I will be heard. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal and hasten the resurrection of the dead. My influence shall be felt in coming years, not perniciously but beneficially, not as a curse but as a blessing, and posterity will bear testimony that I was right."
There will be no compromise here today because the truth cannot be compromised.
The Struggle Continues...
During my 77-day incarceration, I felt lifeless, moribund, and enervated. Not from any sort of punishment or correction the system thought it doled out, but from the lack of public compassion and activism for animals. Apathy is a bittersweet plague which leads to nihilism. And nihilism is the father of inertia which results in the death of one's emotions.
The majority of people―submersed in the aversion of revolution―have destroyed their humanity. If one cannot feel, see, nor understand the preciousness of this earth and all of its inhabitants, then why should he or she be blessed with the gift of existence? This planet should be a replica of the most beautiful place imaginable, a place where humans view animals with awe and respect. What a pathetic life I must have led before I heard the cries of the enslaved and the tumult of the animal kingdom. Activism engulfs me. My life is this struggle. From liberator to educator, I continue to fight for interspecies justice.
About the North American Animal Liberation Press Office
The North American Animal Liberation Press Office (NAALPO) was founded to communicate the actions, strategies, and philosophy of the animal liberation movement to the media and the public. Many of these actions are illegal under a current societal structure that fails to recognize the rights of non-human animals to live free of suffering, but validates and promotes the "right" of industries to do whatever they want to animals for profit or research. Within these conditions, those in the underground working for animal liberation often cannot speak out directly. Nevertheless, their actions and message are urgent and deserve to be heard and understood.
Since animal liberation actions either go unreported in the media or are uncritically vilified as "violent" and "terrorist" with no attention paid to the suffering that industries and individuals gratuitously inflict on animals, NAALPO seeks to clarify the motivation and nature of actions taken in defense of animals.
The Press Office also tries to provide a historical, social, and philosophical context for an objective understanding of the nature and motivation of illegal direct actions taken on behalf of captive animals. While the Animal Liberation Front, or ALF, is currently the most active liberation group, Animal Liberation Frontline will report on ANY act of animal liberation, and provide the press and general public with information on the actions and ideology behind them.