or Plunderers: Which are We?
By Steve Hindi
Those who advocate the use of violence in the animal
protection movement follow a well-worn path. It’s called “Do
as I say, not as I do.” It’s the stuff that causes children
to reject their double-talking parents, voters to reject corrupt elected
officials, and the faithful to reject phony religious leaders. Violence
conducted on behalf of animal protection causes society to reject the
efforts of all other animal protectors to create a more peaceful and
compassionate world for nonhumans.
SHARK (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness) considers violence to include
a physical attack, or threat of, on any living creature; attacks on
property having no direct relationship to animal abuse; and the use
of bombs, arson, or property damage with intent to cause bodily harm.
SHARK supports direct action and certain kinds of property destruction.
We have conducted home demos, and are certainly considered to be an
in-your-face organization. Just ask our opponents. Show me a lobster
trap and I’ll destroy it. The trap plays a direct role in the
suffering of lobsters. What SHARK will not do is cut the brake lines
on a lobster truck, as was committed by unknown people a couple years
ago in Chicago. If I destroy a lobster trap, I can tell people why I
did it, and they can relate to the plight of lobsters. When someone
cuts a truck’s brake lines, the public feels threatened, and the
suffering of the lobsters is forgotten.
The use of violence shifts public attention and opinion away from the
true victims—the animals. Then it is the animal exploiters who
reap the public relations benefits as they portray themselves as victims.
The cost of negative publicity should not be ignored because it is nonhumans
who pay the price. Animal protection legislation becomes tougher to
pass. Pressure eases on enforcement of existing humane laws. The public
is less willing to support animal causes or organizations that might
be construed as “terrorists.” And legitimate animal protectors
can find themselves encountering suspicion and resistance. When society’s
focus shifts from animals to the violence perpetrated in their name,
animal exploiters are free to molest, injure and kill with abandon,
while the limelight is shining elsewhere. You cannot induce people to
be compassionate under a threat of violence. Often such tactics only
cause the opposition to grow stronger in retaliation.
Education is the key to eliminating cruelty. Teaching compassion is
not a quick process, but properly conducted, history proves it can be
successful. Today’s technology allows us to bring messages and
images of animal abuse directly to the public via the media, mobile
video displays, and other methods of public presentation. This has already
had a profound effect on issues including whale protection, the fur
industry, seal slaughters, puppy mills, factory farms, circuses, rodeos,
bullfighting, the meat industry and many others.
I’m not saying that these abuses have been wiped out. Like other
social issues, they are like cancers in that they are very difficult
to eradicate and tend to recur. Our goal is to relegate them to oblivion.
But we must do this in a way that is in line with our plea for compassion
In the case of the Chicago lobster action, some people tried to defend
it by pointing out that there were written messages on the windows of
the business warning that the brake lines had been cut. This does not
change the public’s perception that it was a violent act of terrorism.
Furthermore, there is no certainty that advance warnings will be received
or heeded, and there is no certainty that innocents will not become
I am amazed and repulsed by the rationalizations given by animal abusers
for their crimes against animals. Supporters of hunting, bullfighting,
rodeos, flesh peddlers, cockfighting, etc., use the age-old “tradition”
argument. This is, of course, ridiculous. An indefensible act repeated
over time remains an indefensible act.
I recently read a similar claim by an animal protector who wrote that
since violence has at some point been employed by every successful social
movement, this makes it a legitimate and even necessary tactic on behalf
of animals. Were I to accept that argument, I might as well return to
hunting, fishing, and meat-eating, as these are all activities that
have been part of human existence from the beginning, along with murder,
rape, incest, pedophilia, and war.
Must the past determine future behavior, or can we learn from our mistakes?
Isn’t making positive change and stopping injustice what the animal
protection movement is all about? Any claim that violence must be used
in the cause of animal protection is a defeatist argument that indicates
a lack of faith in the power of compassion, and doubt with regard to
the legitimacy of our cause.
Another attempt to defend the indefensible is a claim that our violence
isn’t as bad as the violence of our opponents, or that violence
used to counter the violence of our opponents is justified. That’s
the “eye for an eye” proposition of the Old Testament. The
late Mahatma Gandhi correctly observed that “an eye for an eye”
would cause the whole world to go blind. It’s a vicious circle
with no possibility of producing a good outcome.
Someone has to break the circle of violence. Clearly we cannot expect
animal abusers to do that. By default that means we must be the agents
of change. The very fact that we abhor the violence of our opponents
is reason enough to reject such methods. There have always been those
who build, and those who plunder. Animal protectors should be the builders
of a better world. We cannot plunder our way to a more peaceful and
Another indicator that violence is counterproductive lies in the fact
that our opposition wants us to indulge in it so badly. In 1999, when
SHARK was battling Pepsi Cola over its sponsorship of bullfighting arenas
in Mexico, Spain and other countries, Pepsi executives falsely reported
a bomb threat, and pointed the accusing finger at me. Again, in 2001,
as SHARK was battling the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) over
the inclusion of a rodeo as part of the “Cultural Olympiad,”
the FBI, acting as private thugs for SLOC head Mitt Romney, accused
SHARK of making bomb threats against the Olympics. In both cases, the
opposition was exposed and discredited.
The point is that the use of violence is something that our opposition
is counting on—they absolutely need it—in order to draw
attention away from their corrupt, fear-based, hate-filled acts of cruelty
and murder. The question is—why are some of us playing right into
their hands? When society focuses on crimes against animals, animal
abusers are forced to change. This is a painfully slow process, but
it is progress, versus the violent methods that stymie our cause.
Violence is a tool for those who have no conviction in their beliefs,
and who fear the truth, and who have no ethics. This is true regardless
of whether those involved are animal abusers or animal protectors. No
one can claim to abhor the violence of others, but then advocate violence
to achieve their own ends. It is interesting that an informed society
always takes a position that animals deserve protection against cruelty
and exploitation. Those same people, however, often express resentment
towards animal protectors, and that is largely because of the violence
associated with the movement.
Those who commit and support the use of violence impede legitimate animal
advocacy and insure that it will at best remain what it is today—a
small, largely ignored movement that is often viewed with derision and
Steve Hindi is founder and president of SHARK (Showing
Animals Respect and Kindness), an organization dedicated to ending animal
suffering and abuse. A former hunter, Hindi utilizes TV technology with
the “Tiger Truck,” custom-equipped with large video screens,
and prowls the streets educating passersby with video footage of animal
abuse. Contact www.sharkonline.org
or (630) 557-0176.