By Kevin Jonas
By 2050 it is estimated the human population will stand at over ten
billion. In 15 years the demand for meat will double. It is predicted
that as early as 2016, 95 percent of the world’s rainforests
will be depleted, and along with them a major source of our air supply.
Today alone, 137 species will be brought to extinction, and 50,000
more will join them by the year’s end.
These are only a few of the staggering statistics that should redefine
actually “urgent” in the struggle for animal liberation. Our unbridled
population growth coupled with extreme over-consumption is ushering in a global
holocaust the likes of which will make today’s inhumanity appear trivial.
These dire warnings, and the impending ecological collapse they promise, receive
scant attention from a political administration that is only exacerbating the
problems. And sadly, they register barely a nod from an animal rights movement
narrowly focused on short-term improvements in the conditions of imprisoned animals,
at the expense of long-term success.
That all our current “urgent” actions—from vegan outreach to
anti-bear baiting initiatives—could be for naught is the five-ton elephant
standing in the middle of our movement’s living room. Our current efforts
could likely prove to be band-aid solutions to bullet-wound problems. The only
token consolation is that, although we are not stunting the increase in the number
of animal lives being tortured and taken, we at least are slightly slowing its
Depressing, yes, but debilitating it can’t be. My roommate read the above
statistics and said “So what? There is nothing we can do about it.” His
response is precisely the problem. We are only bound by our fear of failure,
the protection of our privileges, and the limits of our imaginations.
As educated vegans and cruelty-free shoppers, we are no longer blissfully ignorant
to the suffering of animals. But we are perhaps ridiculously oblivious to the
risks of such limited thinking on how best to achieve animal rights. To acknowledge
(or admit) that all of our current efforts may ease our own guilt more than anything
else, means threatening the comfort levels we have established for ourselves.
We need to turn an eye towards the light at the end of the tunnel and ask whether
we are honestly headed in that direction. Only then will the struggle for animal
rights be something deserving of its name.
You will not find the answer at the end of this article; I have ideas and hypotheses,
but I don’t pretend to have confidence in a single answer. Rather, it is
precisely because we don’t know the answer that these issues must be discussed—not
dogmatically pushed off the table.
Those in the conservative wing of this cause argue for moderation in the process
of social change. That we must be “patient,” “it takes a long
time,” and as much as it pains us (and literally the animals), “we
have to make incremental progress towards liberation.” To this end, the “Republican
Party” of our political cause, groups like the Humane Society of the U.S.,
seek to homogenize the entire animal rights movement by eradicating any tinge
of radicalism. They would limit our demands to bigger cages, better treatment,
and quicker killings.
To say nothing of the ethical implications of such welfarism, what this position
fails to consider is whether we have the luxury of such patience. Time may not
be on our side, and each day that passes or is spent begging for cosmetic treatments
for terminal diseases, is a day lost in the bigger fight for survival.
When we are stubborn in our vow to play by the proscribed rules of social change,
we become engaged in one of those crooked carnival games. No matter how many
rings we toss and how long we try, they will never fit over the intended prize.
We are predetermined for failure because the game is not meant to be won. That
so many are lining up to play indicates that either our ranks are largely oblivious
to bigger-picture realities, or that we value our livelihoods, liberties, and
luxuries more than we do the future of billions of animals. Otherwise there would
be outrage from which real change could possibly spring.
Our solutions will not be found writing monthly checks to bloated protectionist
organizations that pay their executives hundreds of thousands in our donation
money. Pandering to those politicians already in the pockets of the agricultural,
pharmaceutical, and natural resource lobbies will not get us there.
I have always been a proud advocate of radical activism precisely because it
is a rejection of the stagnated process of the status quo. It is this sense of
urgency that inspires some to break the rules of the broken game and take our
Many dismiss radical activism and direct action as angry, immature, and disruptive
to the politics of the polite. Some criticisms may be constructive, but this
holds true for all methodology, and in many instances radical activism is more
than adolescent angst. It is a reaction to the pressure of impending collapse,
and a sincere attempt at affecting a measurable impact. Now, more than ever,
we should be discussing and considering these tactics in a desperate bid for
Confronting the impending crises of policy, population, and consumption is not
meant to romanticize revolutionary efforts, nor is it meant to discount improvements
that are being made gradually through letters, litigation, and legislation. My
feet frequently ache from manning information tables, and I’m happy my
grandmother can eat vegetarian at her local Burger King. However, acknowledging
the shortcomings of these tactics opens us up to question what it will truly
take to succeed.
We need to consider everything. To throw every idea against a wall and see what
sticks, and discard what slips. We owe it to those we’re fighting for to
discover what has true potential to end the atrocities against which we’re
fighting. We need to be personally and politically ready to accept that it may
not be the feel-good efforts at ‘changing the hearts’ of our toxic
species that work. That mad cow may be our best friend after all! We need to
at least start thinking about future realities and asking these questions. At
the very least, we need to refrain from quickly dismissing those who are trying
radical approaches to redress a radical and ravaging reality.
Times are this dire and no one among us should be satisfied with our current
progress. The solution is not necessarily that everyone go out and “get
militant,” but at least we can start thinking beyond the stringent rules
of the national protectionists and the trappings of our own creature comforts.
We must truly embrace a cause—a struggle—that is worth fighting for,
going to prison for, and perhaps even dying for.
Kevin Jonas is a campaign coordinator for Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC)
USA. Since 1999 he has been a full-time volunteer in the international effort
to close down the notorious animal-testing lab. To learn more visit www.shacamerica.net.