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Using Nonviolent Direct Action to Expose Animal Agriculture and Liberate the Oppressed
In his 1963 “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote “One may well ask: ‘How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?’ The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”
This past week, I have been speaking to as many people as I can about last Sunday’s “Meat The Victims” event, a peaceful protest and occupation of an Abbotsford pig farm by 200 animal rights activists. The action followed the recent release of a video exposed in a CTV news story, showing animal cruelty captured by anonymous activists. Many people have lashed out at activists for breaking the law by trespassing on the farm, which is owned by a family with children who they say “may now be afraid for their safety”. It saddens me to know that the activists’ tactics are more concerning to some people than what is happening to the innocent, sentient pigs who are needlessly forced to endure a nightmare of an existence from the day they are born in captivity to the day they are violently slaughtered.
When oppressors are able to get away with enslaving and torturing animals, and in many cases cause excessive suffering by committing additional abuse (outside of what is considered “legal standard practice” by Canada’s notoriously poor animal welfare laws), I argue that the only way to obtain justice for animals is to illegally enter these facilities to expose the conditions within.
Let’s take the most optimal animal welfare scenarios where animals may be mutilated, manipulated, housed, transported and killed following legal standard practices within facilities such as hatcheries, egg-layer barns, dairy farms, slaughterhouses, cattle ranches and feedlots, and factory/modern farm warehouses. Industry veterinarians have no choice but to go against parts of the Canadian Veterinary oath which states:
“As a member of the veterinary medical profession, I solemnly swear that I will use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society.
I will strive to:
- promote animal health and welfare,
- prevent and relieve animal suffering,
- protect the health of the public and the environment, and
- advance comparative medical knowledge.
I will perform my professional duties conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.
I will strive continuously to improve my professional knowledge and competence and to maintain the highest professional and ethical standards for myself and the profession.”
How can one uphold the oath that they will “prevent and relieve animal suffering” of animals who will have their appendages cut off them without pain-killers; be ground up alive in macerators (male chicks in hatcheries); forcibly and repeatedly impregnated against their will and have their babies taken away; kept in cages, deprived of exercise, sunlight, freedom and family bonds; transported for up to 50 hours without food, water or rest in open-air trucks and in all weather conditions, and violently slaughtered against their will?
How can they participate in “protecting the health of the public and the environment” when it as a fact that eating animal products leads to disease in humans and that animal agriculture is the leading cause of biodiversity loss, ocean dead zones, soil and water contamination, deforestation, species extinction and habitat destruction, as well as excessive carbon, methane and nitrous oxide emissions. 80% of all antibiotics are fed to livestock, resulting in antibiotic resistance that is now causing human deaths — this is a crisis.
When the legal system is broken, and these industries cannot generally be trusted to govern themselves humanely, and our planet, our health and future is jeopardized, I argue that we have no other choice but to urgently engage in illegal action to expose the atrocities of industries which are not being honestly evaluated by our politicians. The animal agriculture industry has powerful lobbying groups influencing the government in ways which are in opposition to the well being of society as a whole, and we activists often risk our jobs and livelihoods to obtain justice for animals, the earth and humanity.
The message can only get out by sharing the truths behind closed doors that are otherwise hidden from the public. These hundreds of images and videos that we took that day cannot be denied. Compassion begins on our plate, and by opening our hearts and mind to the truth.
Here’s a 9 minute video documentary created by Jordan Ross on what happened between 15 activists and the farm owners on the farm’s outside property.
Here’s a powerful mini-doc made by Nick Schafer that sums up the happenings on this day, including negotiations made between police and activists inside the barn:
And here is the Animal Voices Vancouver exclusive 7-part LIVE video stream footage that shows the whole process of the activists entering the barn, the realities of the animal agriculture industry that we bore witness to while spending 6 hours inside the barn with hundreds of suffering pigs, being arrested by the Abbotsford police, and then, finally leaving the property to be free (while thousands of our animal friends are left inside in tortuous conditions and with a death day soon to come):