Veganism: The War We Cannot Lose - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 12-06-2011, 09:23 PM
 
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Let me preface this post with a disclaimer. The video I'm posting includes a call to break unjust laws. I'm hoping that in stressing that I'm not going to argue here that people should actually do this, and that this is more or less akin to my saying "some people think we should break the law", that this post/thread won't be considered problematic.

I'm posting this video because I think it contains important points and harsh truths that most of us in the animal rights community have not considered, that we continually ignore, and I think it's important that we hear this.

If discussion of illegal tactics is inappropriate for this forum, that still leaves room to discuss legal direct action and civil disobedience. We can discuss what constitutes useful activism vs. what isn't so useful.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wSvSJmKUYw

Also, another point: please don't get too caught up on what he says about Vegan Outreach, which is not meant to be taken literally. The point he's making is simply that they overestimate the amount of good they do and make unsubstantiated claims.

Direct action is always the clamorer, the initiator, through which the great sum of indifferentists become aware that oppression is getting intolerable. - Voltairine de Cleyre
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#2 Old 12-07-2011, 08:28 AM
 
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That's quite the title. i would assume it'll turn off some vegetarians on here.

The Big Bad.
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#3 Old 12-07-2011, 09:55 AM
 
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I agree with a lot of what Steve Best says but I think he's mean-spirited, egocentric, and uses too much academic jargon. It's hard for me to accept his ideas when I dislike his personality so much. I know that's not rational, but there it is.

Best comes in with gross exaggerations of how leafleters think and then calls us the ones who overestimate. He wraps his attack on leafletting and culinary activism in hyperbole and insane logic in a speech about things he probably won't do himself.

All he has to say is: It's morally right to break unjust laws. Here's how to do it.
But he won't because that's against the law. See a problem here?

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Originally Posted by Kimberlily1983 View Post

please don't get too caught up on what he says about Vegan Outreach, which is not meant to be taken literally. The point he's making is simply that they overestimate the amount of good they do and make unsubstantiated claims.

I actually agree on that point even though I think leafletting is one of the most effective things anyone can do to help animals.
But they NEVER make the claim Dr. Best is claiming they make. NO ONE who does leafleting thinks that every single pamphlet is effective. They have suggested 1-2% of leaflets are effective. Even that claim is overestimated.

Yes, VO overestimates their effect and have not studied it well despite many opportunities to do so. However, some other people (Nick Cooney and others) have measured the effect of leafleting and they've determined that it IS effective. It's more like 0.1-1%. Not only that it is effective, but that it's likely more effective than many/most other forms of animal advocacy (circus protests for example).

But most importantly for me, and I suspect most people interested in this topic, is that leafletting is legal and easy. For anyone who cannot or will not break unjust laws (regardless of their reason) then leafletting is a very good alternative.

From my limited experience, the best reason to eliminate or limit illegal activism (even if its effective) is the threat of retaliation and the personal consequences. Animal advocates are out-numbered, out-funded, and often hung-out-to-dry by the rest of the movement, as well as the rest of society. Personally, it's very difficult to be a change-maker, but to be all alone at the same time, that's just not very human. We have social needs.

And Best's simplistic reaction to the problem of being a parent and an activist? He is completely insane! Does he really think we can just bring our children to prison with us? No, they will take them away. They will take them away. They will steal our children if we behave the way Dr. Best wants us to behave. It's like he doesn't even understand the mechanisms of social control and just thinks we can will all the problems away by simply being strong enough. The man is insane.
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#4 Old 12-07-2011, 11:17 AM
 
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@ElaineV - I thought he was quite mean-spirited and egocentric, too. I'd also add arrogant and brusque.

Leafleting is one of the few things that a majority of vegans can do that isn't against the law. People have to worry about keeping their jobs, putting food on the table, taking care of their family. As much as they may want to, they cannot simply go break the law.

His dislike of fuzzy math is understandable. I, too, have an extreme dislike of fuzzy math. But, I also dislike generalizations, which Mr. Best seems to use a lot. What are these generalizations based on? Fuzzy math? They usually are.

In this world, there is much to be negative about. It's a shame that he puts down the small victories that are needed to keep morale going. If we all work towards Mr. Best's end goal, the eradication of the "animal holocaust", we'll burn out in less than 5 years--if not sooner. The end goal must be split into smaller, more obtainable tasks.

I also dislike his statement that "saving one life doesn't matter". Aside from the fact that it does matter, it can be a starting point for further activism. I think that would be similar in saying that suicides do not have any considerable impact because the amount of people that die from suicides in a year are not "statistically significant". Of course they matter. Not only do they matter to those who were touched by the loss, they can also indicate trends.

Some of his last words were, "we can only do what we can do". If only he'd live by his own words. In my opinion, he's on the fine line between being an activist and being a hypocrite. Sure, he writes and makes appearances encouraging people to break the law, but I question whether he would be willing to actually break the law.

One proverb comes to mind: Stop saying what a good man ought to be, and be one.

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

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#5 Old 12-07-2011, 08:55 PM
 
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I agree that there is something perhaps slightly off putting in his style in this particular speech, which I'd guess is likely due to being tired from traveling, etc. He doesn't come across as arrogant in most of the stuff I've listened to by him. Regardless, I'm more interested in content and I think the man is right on many points, and that matters more to me. I think we should look past all the flaws each of us have (and we all have some), and try to be on the same side despite our differences. So like the man, dislike the man, it doesn't really matter.

Again, he wasn't meaning it to be a serious claim that VO literally thinks it gets one vegan for each pamphlet it puts out. He apologizes for putting it that way (in the comments; I think that's really him?). 0.1 to 1% is pretty depressing, if that's accurate, but maybe there are ways to get that number higher. I've never done any leafletting myself, but my guess would be that its effectiveness might be connected to how much time you spend actually talking to the people you hand out materials to. Myself, personally, not being very social and enjoying educating myself, being handed such material would be highly likely to convert me, if I weren't already vegan. But some people change on more subjective grounds (like how cool and friendly the Vegan Outreach leafletter was, for instance). So these people, if just handed something with a "hello" and nothing more, might just toss the thing in the garbage.

But I'm guessing the folks over at Vegan Outreach are onto this stuff already, and what is most effective.

Elaine, obviously right that the state would steal the children of these activists, and we can definitely question how ethical it would be for someone to get involved in this type of activism when they have children waiting for them at home. However, that doesn't apply to people who don't have children, or whose children are old enough to understand and have other places they can go live (with relatives, for instance). I don't think it's insane for people who are suited to that type of work and who finds themselves capable of it to consider doing it. And perhaps Best isn't suited to it: he's an academic. I consider my own temperament to be similar; I'm more suited for examining the ethics and philosophy behind this stuff than actually getting out in the field and doing it myself. Then there's fear, etc. We make excuses for ourselves, I suppose. Some people are suited to it, though, and are brave enough, and I guess one question we can ask ourselves is, are we going to vilify them, or are we going to defend them as the militant part of our movement, who are fully justified in the extreme actions that they take? We can still support them, even if we would never partake in such actions ourselves.

TailFin, I don't think Best at any point said saving one life doesn't matter, did he? I've listened to the speech a couple of times, I don't remember hearing that.

Direct action is always the clamorer, the initiator, through which the great sum of indifferentists become aware that oppression is getting intolerable. - Voltairine de Cleyre
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#6 Old 12-07-2011, 10:10 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Kimberlily1983 View Post

0.1 to 1% is pretty depressing, if that's accurate, but maybe there are ways to get that number higher.

I suppose that's depressing to someone who isn't very active. When you consider that you and some friends can hand out 1000 leaflets in an hour, that makes 1-10 new veg*ns and countless others who reduce their animal product consumption. The best thing about leafleting is that you can do it alone whenever you want. You don't need any special equipment or advance planning or other activist friends to help, you can just go out and do it.

Other effective LEGAL activism includes:

PPV - you set up a table with video screens and show Meet Your Meat or Farm To Fridge. You pay people $1 each to watch the video and you collect their email address so you can followup with a survey. So far, the survey's show that over 50% of people who watch the video reduce their consumption of animal products. But here's the thing, it takes at least three activists and you can only reach about 35 people in an hour per 3 activists. Plus, you need the equipment (laptops or DVD players, table, headphones, etc). Here's a link for more info on that: http://www.farmusa.org/PPV/

Feedins - you give away free vegan food to people along with leaflets and you answer their questions. I haven't seen any studies that indicate how effective this is but plenty of marketing research suggests free samples, particularly food, help sell products. It seems like it's effective. VegFund can help you pay for it: http://vegfund.org/


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Originally Posted by Kimberlily1983 View Post

I guess one question we can ask ourselves is, are we going to vilify them, or are we going to defend them as the militant part of our movement, who are fully justified in the extreme actions that they take? We can still support them, even if we would never partake in such actions ourselves.

Well that wasn't Dr. Best's point at all. He just attacked every kind of activism except illegal direct action.

He should have simply said that it's morally acceptable to break unjust laws and that in fact there are times when that action is the only moral action to take. Then he should explain why and how. That's it. No need to attack other activism and other activists. No need for any infighting. Just stick to the point, keep it simple, and give solid useful information.

Anyway, I've got no problem with anyone engaging in nonviolent direct action and I'm fond of all forms of animal rescue be they legal or non. But I can't get involved in any way with any of that.

You seem to be looking for ways to support activists who engage in illegal activities. One way is to write letters to incarcerated activists. Some people do that just to be nice, not to support or condone any activity.
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#7 Old 12-08-2011, 03:56 AM
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That's quite the title. i would assume it'll turn off some vegetarians on here.

I would imagine so ..

"Sleeping with the enemy" is hardly a turn-on.
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#8 Old 12-08-2011, 06:07 AM
 
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TailFin, I don't think Best at any point said saving one life doesn't matter, did he? I've listened to the speech a couple of times, I don't remember hearing that.

I listened to it while doing work at work; I may have either (a) taken it out of context or (b) thought I heard it but heard something else. I'm not going to listen to the entire speech again just to find that one sentence. I thought I heard it, but if you say you've listened to it a couple of times and didn't hear it, then maybe he didn't say it. You've heard it more than I have.

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So like the man, dislike the man, it doesn't really matter.

But it does matter. The first impression one makes on his/her audience can be the only impression you could get to make. If the audience finds the man off-putting from the very get-go, everything he says could go in one ear and out the other, simply bounce off the audiences' brains, or make the audience find specific things in his speech which they do not like.

I agree with him on some points. I disagree with him on others. In the end, I think he needs to change his mannerisms and tone of voice during speeches if he wants to effectively get his message across to the majority of the audience.

My $0.02.

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

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#9 Old 12-08-2011, 09:01 AM
 
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He said it around 18 min in. He said this about saving one life: "How pathetically low can we set our standards?"
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#10 Old 12-08-2011, 09:47 AM
 
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He said it around 18 min in. He said this about saving one life: "How pathetically low can we set our standards?"

Thanks for the time and the quote. I knew I heard it.

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

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#11 Old 12-08-2011, 11:07 AM
 
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I was at a vegan dinner at a friends house a few weeks ago and this video got played. it sparked quite a lively discussion among the guests!

his attitude and manner was not what put most of us off, it was the way he went on a bit of hitler-ish rant in the middle of his speech and sounded like he was trying to incite violence as a tactic.
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#12 Old 12-11-2011, 08:57 AM
 
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I agree with a lot of what he says, especially the stuff about a lot of vegans living in a fantasy world, but I don't agree with trying to turn the whole issue into a war-like "us and them" situation. Non-violence is the way to go.

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#13 Old 12-11-2011, 09:57 AM
 
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Elaine's posts are, as always, infinitely more eloquent than mine. I can't hope to match what she said, so my contribution is that I don't like the way this guy comes across. I don't like how he bashes leafleters, a group of people who as a whole probably convince more people to make compassionate meal choices on a daily basis than any other tactic out there, especially if you combine all the various forms of leafleting by all the various groups. I also don't like the "us vs them" mindset he and others display. The reason we advocate for animals through veganism is that the people we're trying to reach aren't so different from us. We believe in the same things. I reach out to people and help pay for others to do so because I know that's true. Before I was a vegan, I was essentially the same person I am now morally. I was simply in the dark about that level of suffering. I talked myself out of caring. A young woman with a booklet and a "meet your meat" video opened my heart and mind, and by not eating animals over the last eight years and encouraging others not to I've saved exponentially more animals than I would have by breaking windows, yelling at people or burning buildings.

Tam! RUGH!
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#14 Old 12-12-2011, 06:26 AM
 
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The reason we advocate for animals through veganism is that the people we're trying to reach aren't so different from us. We believe in the same things.

I mostly believe that, but I have had that belief challenged a few times in the past few months.

There have been a few under cover investigations gone mainstream in australia this year which has shoved cruelty right into people's lounge rooms, and although the outpouring of compassion from most of the public has been really encouraging, that has been offset by a lot of really dumb **** such as 'secretly filming animals in slaughterhouses is ruining people's livelihoods' or 'the activists that filmed that stuff payed those people to abuse that animal'

Several times i've had to walk away from the tv or the Internet because I just could not deal with the lack of compassion and states of denial that some people allow themselves to fall into.
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#15 Old 12-16-2011, 06:52 PM
 
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I suppose that's depressing to someone who isn't very active. When you consider that you and some friends can hand out 1000 leaflets in an hour, that makes 1-10 new veg*ns and countless others who reduce their animal product consumption.

Put that way, makes me think of it a little differently. It sounds like such a low percentage, but if you spent a lot of time doing it... and then keep in mind that those people go on to convince others... that's a little more encouraging.

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Other effective LEGAL activism includes:

PPV - you set up a table with video screens and show Meet Your Meat or Farm To Fridge. You pay people $1 each to watch the video and you collect their email address so you can followup with a survey. So far, the survey's show that over 50% of people who watch the video reduce their consumption of animal products. But here's the thing, it takes at least three activists and you can only reach about 35 people in an hour per 3 activists. Plus, you need the equipment (laptops or DVD players, table, headphones, etc). Here's a link for more info on that: http://www.farmusa.org/PPV/

Feedins - you give away free vegan food to people along with leaflets and you answer their questions. I haven't seen any studies that indicate how effective this is but plenty of marketing research suggests free samples, particularly food, help sell products. It seems like it's effective. VegFund can help you pay for it: http://vegfund.org/

Thanks for these suggestions. I like what the guy in the documentary The Witness did, too, which is close to the same idea as the first, minus the paying part. Don't know if you've seen it, but he drove around NYC in his van, in which he'd set up a TV. He'd stop and show people fur farm footage. Changed a lot of minds and hearts... I like the idea of doing that. I think footage can be a lot more powerful than just pictures sometimes.

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Well that wasn't Dr. Best's point at all. He just attacked every kind of activism except illegal direct action.

Hmm, been reading the anthology he put together with Anthony Nocella, Terrorists or Freedom Fighters, so I know more about his thoughts on the subject than someone coming to this video without any prior knowledge of him. He perhaps gives impressions in this speech that he doesn't mean to.

I don't think he wants people to stop doing other forms of activism, he just wants them to stop thinking they've done enough. Maybe there's so much evil that it's impossible for us to really do enough. That's not to say that we should beat ourselves up for it, but I think there's something morally disingenuous about being completely at peace with whatever our efforts have been, for most of us anyway. I include myself in that group, most definitely.

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I agree with him on some points. I disagree with him on others. In the end, I think he needs to change his mannerisms and tone of voice during speeches if he wants to effectively get his message across to the majority of the audience.

My $0.02.

Perhaps. I think there's a, likely growing, subset of AR, animal lib people who really want to hear this sort of thing. It resonates with us. It takes animals seriously, takes what they're going through seriously. Probably a good chunk of the people there to see that talk that day fit this type.

You're right if you're saying most people, including most people who care about animals, are going to be turned off by him, as well as by other AR people who talk like this (Peter Young, Gary Yourofsky, etc.). And maybe some of them need to work on that more than others. I think Young has a slightly softer approach that would appeal to people, without compromising his message, for instance (ever check out what he has to say? ).

I don't know that it's all that bad to turn people off, though, to anger them. I personally think that can be more effective at getting people to think (even if it's listening bystanders, not the people you're arguing with).

I talk about it with the same passion and anger I would if we were talking about, say, child prostitution. I'd say someone should bust down the doors and save those kids, despite the authorities (pimps, etc.) who would set out to hurt you and stop you from doing right. I feel the same way about what animals go through.

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He said it around 18 min in. He said this about saving one life: "How pathetically low can we set our standards?"

Oh, thanks, I didn't know what quote TailFin had in mind.

Sometimes, quotes can be taken out of context, or said in such a way that they imply something the speaker doesn't intend. Best doesn't really think that one life doesn't matter. Of course it matters. What he's saying is that we shouldn't stop there and think that we've made enough of a difference.

Let's say there's a pond, and 10 kids are drowning in it. Would you pull one kid out, saving her life, and then go home saying you did enough and you're not going to do anymore? Don't have to, because you did "your share"?

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I was at a vegan dinner at a friends house a few weeks ago and this video got played. it sparked quite a lively discussion among the guests!

his attitude and manner was not what put most of us off, it was the way he went on a bit of hitler-ish rant in the middle of his speech and sounded like he was trying to incite violence as a tactic.

Sounds like you have fun friends. Would love to do vegan dinner parties with documentaries and speeches to discuss, haha.

I hate the comparison to Hitler here. You wanna compare anyone to Hitler and the Nazis, talk about the society we live in, the concentration camps dotting the world today where billions of victims suffer and die because of human selfishness, ignorance, apathy. Talk about the propaganda being broadcast on our TVs everyday, telling us we need meat and dairy and eggs.

Been awhile since I've listened to the speech now, so I can't remember if he incited violence. He may have. Let's say he did. You can disagree with that if you want. What I'd like to know about all the people who oppose AR activists saying that kind of thing is this: would you be as opposed to violence as a tactic if the concentration camps around us had people in them? Instead of animals?

I'm not asking anyone to condone illegal activities, or violence, just asking if you see it as different because the victims are animals. Most of the people on here seem to be against the more radical forms of activism, against property destruction, and certainly against violence used against people who torture animals for a living. As you would expect. But I think those same people would say it was okay to use violence against those severely exploiting people.

It seems to me that everyone focuses on the so-called extreme nature of radical AR activists, ignoring the extreme violence the animal exploiters use every single day. Can't you at least understand what motivates the ALF, the ARM, etc. to act the way they do? Do you really think they're nuts for doing what they do? Even if you disagree with their actions, if you think it harms the movement... whatever... don't you think it's more fair to compare them to, say, someone who takes vengeance against the person who molested their child into their own hands, rather than as crazy people who "harm the movement" with their extremism?

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I agree with a lot of what he says, especially the stuff about a lot of vegans living in a fantasy world, but I don't agree with trying to turn the whole issue into a war-like "us and them" situation. Non-violence is the way to go.

Like I said above... if you think non-violence is always the answer, even against violence, that's fine. You're entitled to your opinion. Maybe you're right. I don't know. But my thinking is that when someone's torturing your human friends and family, or even human strangers, you'd change your tune fast. I could be wrong.

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A young woman with a booklet and a "meet your meat" video opened my heart and mind, and by not eating animals over the last eight years and encouraging others not to I've saved exponentially more animals than I would have by breaking windows, yelling at people or burning buildings.

I don't think that's a claim you can back up. Not necessarily one I can disprove, but not one you can prove, either. Given what Best says about subsidies, and considering the amount of meat that gets wasted, too, it's not clear how many we save just by being vegan alone, if any. I'd say that perhaps our greatest contribution lies in changing cultural attitudes through our actions (the values we teach others by being vegan, etc), as well as saving animals directly. For instance, it's not clear that by being vegan I've saved any particular animal. However, if I go into the woods and free a minimally injured animal caught in a trap, I've definitely saved and beneficially impacted that one life.

Direct action is always the clamorer, the initiator, through which the great sum of indifferentists become aware that oppression is getting intolerable. - Voltairine de Cleyre
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#16 Old 12-17-2011, 07:27 AM
 
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Let's say there's a pond, and 10 kids are drowning in it. Would you pull one kid out, saving her life, and then go home saying you did enough and you're not going to do anymore? Don't have to, because you did "your share"?

First, studies suggest that most people would not rescue any of the children. They'd expect others to do it. They don't like to get involved. Anyone who does any sort of rescue - human or non, one life or hundreds - is atypical.

Second, whenever someone adopts an animal from a kill shelter, even when someone adopts a child from fostercare or abroad, someone else has already done the literal "rescue" but the adopter is still choosing to protect one life knowing the other lives may not receive protection.

Even people who liberate animals from fur farms, lab cages, or hunting traps know they have to make choices about which lives they can effectively save because resources are limited. There are simply not enough homes for all the rescued battery cage hens, for example. If there were ten children drowning but your boat only holds one, how can you be faulted for saving only one?
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#17 Old 12-18-2011, 07:54 AM
 
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I hate the comparison to Hitler here. You wanna compare anyone to Hitler and the Nazis, talk about the society we live in, the concentration camps dotting the world today where billions of victims suffer and die because of human selfishness, ignorance, apathy. Talk about the propaganda being broadcast on our TVs everyday, telling us we need meat and dairy and eggs.

Been awhile since I've listened to the speech now, so I can't remember if he incited violence. He may have. Let's say he did. You can disagree with that if you want. What I'd like to know about all the people who oppose AR activists saying that kind of thing is this: would you be as opposed to violence as a tactic if the concentration camps around us had people in them? Instead of animals?

I'm not asking anyone to condone illegal activities, or violence, just asking if you see it as different because the victims are animals. Most of the people on here seem to be against the more radical forms of activism, against property destruction, and certainly against violence used against people who torture animals for a living. As you would expect. But I think those same people would say it was okay to use violence against those severely exploiting people.

It seems to me that everyone focuses on the so-called extreme nature of radical AR activists, ignoring the extreme violence the animal exploiters use every single day. Can't you at least understand what motivates the ALF, the ARM, etc. to act the way they do? Do you really think they're nuts for doing what they do? Even if you disagree with their actions, if you think it harms the movement... whatever... don't you think it's more fair to compare them to, say, someone who takes vengeance against the person who molested their child into their own hands, rather than as crazy people who "harm the movement" with their extremism?

If you had asked me what I thought of the comparison of the nazis and human concentration camps to say factory farming, I would have told you that I thought they were basically the same genocide, but you did not ask me that, you asked me what I thought of what Steve Best was advocating so I told you.

and to sum it up, although I share the same passionate beliefs about animal rights as people like best, the Alf etc, i don't share their anger. People have gone to jail for what these people advocate and I have no wish to do that. I dont believe it achieves anything for animals and also, i have a teenage son and I don't think that would be setting him a good example of how to deal with injustices in life.
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#18 Old 12-18-2011, 08:19 PM
 
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It seems to me that everyone focuses on the so-called extreme nature of radical AR activists, ignoring the extreme violence the animal exploiters use every single day. Can't you at least understand what motivates the ALF, the ARM, etc. to act the way they do? Do you really think they're nuts for doing what they do? Even if you disagree with their actions, if you think it harms the movement... whatever... don't you think it's more fair to compare them to, say, someone who takes vengeance against the person who molested their child into their own hands, rather than as crazy people who "harm the movement" with their extremism?

I understand what motivates those people but I have no desire to model their behaviour because it isn't intelligent.

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#19 Old 12-25-2011, 09:47 PM
 
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All he has to say is: It's morally right to break unjust laws. Here's how to do it.
But he won't because that's against the law. See a problem here?

I see two problems, but only one is fatal to his argument:

1. It's hypocritical (which is evident), but that fact does not argue against his case (that would be ad hominem). This one just makes him look bad.

2. It's deontological, rather than utilitarian, and as such it is neither rational nor logical with respect to the consequences.
Really, all he's doing is begging the question, which is to say, it very well may be morally wrong to do as he suggests. That does argue against his case.


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He should have simply said that it's morally acceptable to break unjust laws [...]
Anyway, I've got no problem with anyone engaging in nonviolent direct action and I'm fond of all forms of animal rescue be they legal or non.

That might have solved point #1, but it doesn't address the moral efficacy of the actions.

The idea that illegal direct action helps the movement isn't based on any actual objective evidence I know of. To the contrary, it seems to be hurting our case.

That is in contrast, to, say, certain kinds of legal activism the results of which can be studied more effectively:

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However, some other people (Nick Cooney and others) have measured the effect of leafleting and they've determined that it IS effective. It's more like 0.1-1%.

That's extremely good, and much higher than I would have expected- but the beauty of it is that we can analyze these things!

Without a scientific methodology to activism, all you have is a bunch of assumptions and dogma based on scant anecdotes floating around.

Remember medicine before the broader adoption of the scientific method? Blood letting, ice water baths, rhinoceros horns, powdered mummy, snake oil, homeopathy, electro-shock, exorcisms?!

'Doctors' used to kill a lot more people than they helped. It's not perfect now (and some of that same ignorance is still around) but it's a lot better.

In the best of cases most of this illegal activism is an enormous waste of effort which only makes the activist feel warm and fuzzy inside (or cool and rebellious?), but could better be put towards something that actually helps animals more effectively (though it might be less sexy), and in the worst it may actually cause substantial harm to the movement and prolong animal suffering.

The bottom line is that we really don't know if most of this illegal activism is working, or if it's just making things harder for the legal activism (legal activism which we at least know does help a little).

Not even to mention the many problems with the "non-violent" concepts in some of this activism.

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I'm not asking anyone to condone illegal activities, or violence, just asking if you see it as different because the victims are animals. [...] But I think those same people would say it was okay to use violence against those severely exploiting people.

No, and no. Humans are animals.

Were I alive in the states just prior to the civil war, I would likewise have favored legal abolition and decried the violent abolitionists who prompted, among other things, the fugitive slave act.

In retrospect, we can understand much about civil war era politics that applies to animal rights, and if you study more objective history with regards both to what led up to the civil war, and the fallout after the 13th amendment, you may be surprised.

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Can't you at least understand what motivates the ALF, the ARM, etc. to act the way they do?

Yep.

Good hearts. Righteous anger. And irrational deontological ethics.

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Do you really think they're nuts for doing what they do?

Insofar as "nuts" is illogical beliefs and irrational behavior? Yes.

The ends do not justify the means. Not only because the means are extremely dangerous, but because the ends are based on assumptions of efficacy that do not bear out and indeed probably amount only to hampering the movement and ultimately causing more animal suffering.

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Even if you disagree with their actions, if you think it harms the movement...

There is no "Even if", that is the point in and of itself. If it harms the movement, then it results in more animal suffering. If it results in more animal suffering, then it is wrong. Period.

It doesn't matter how good their intentions are, if they're causing harm, it is an immoral action. That they are unaware that their actions are immoral is their saving grace as moral people, but that does not therefore justify the actions themselves.

If I think people like being stabbed with a knife, and that screaming is the sound people make when they're happy, and that blood comes out of people when they're feeling good, does that make it moral for me to go around administering stabbedy death?

Kant is wrong. A moral intent does not make a moral action. Comprehension of the actual consequences of our actions, and an understanding of the nature of the real world are essential to the practice of moral action upon it. Though we may often be lacking in a total understanding of the consequences of our actions, it is by way of moral obligation that we should do our best in that regard, and in light of that any elective ignorance or dogma that stands in the way of such an accurate perception as we may be otherwise able to obtain is nothing short of wicked.

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...don't you think it's more fair to compare them to, say, someone who takes vengeance against the person who molested their child into their own hands, rather than as crazy people who "harm the movement" with their extremism?

That analogy doesn't make any sense.

1. A lone wolf pursuing a personal cause isn't going to sully a movement; the consequences of his or her actions are relatively contained.

2. No matter what he or she does to a child molester, it's not going to generate a lot of sympathy for the molester from the public; that is, as ElaineV said, we are vastly outnumbered. You need to consider the political climate and the actual effects.

3. Such an act of vengeance could easily be taken out on the wrong person- one who was innocent of the act- or in extreme disproportion to the crime itself, and it could easily hurt other people in the process (such as the family of the offender, who may walk in on it and attack the avenger). This is why mob justice is illegal. If the criminal justice system makes mistakes with all of its protocols, individuals who have no concept of legal objectivity do so even more.

In the third sense only, yes, they should be considered the same: Equally wrong.


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I don't think that's a claim you can back up. Not necessarily one I can disprove, but not one you can prove, either. Given what Best says about subsidies, and considering the amount of meat that gets wasted, too, it's not clear how many we save just by being vegan alone, if any.

You're concerning me a bit... it's like you're taking this guy's words as dogma. He may have something of a personality cult, but please don't fall victim to it.

He's wrong- very wrong. Companies detect and respond to miniscule market fluctuations; that meat which is wasted is a relatively fixed percentage of the meat that is purchased and consumed (by economic necessity!)- it scales with demand. Consider the case of a small grocer with only dozens of clients, and you'll be able to imagine the effects more clearly.

Every vegan makes a difference.

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For instance, it's not clear that by being vegan I've saved any particular animal. However, if I go into the woods and free a minimally injured animal caught in a trap, I've definitely saved and beneficially impacted that one life.

This only plays to the ego of the activist, and this example speaks against your point.

Yes, you feel better by "saving" an animal from a trap because you get to see that animal. But that hunter probably has a legal quota of animals he's allowed to take from the local fish and game regulatory body, and he'll keep trapping until he catches all he's allowed to- in that case, you saved that one and damned his faceless cousin.

In the case of veganism, there's actually a net reduction in demand, which translates to a reduction all along the supply chain which isn't made up for by somebody doubling his or her own consumption of animal products.

The same applies to all rescue animals- they are only replaced, because the demand for their meat (or bodies for testing) still exists.

Rescue some hens, the company writes it off a spillage and breeds more to make up for it.
Burn down a lab, the insurance picks up the tab, the company's insurance rates increase slightly which is absorbed by the company's shareholders.

And then, of course, the companies all lobby Congress, which passes the animal enterprise terrorism act. And the tax payers (not the companies) pay for the police, the courts, and the prisons to catch and incarcerate the unfortunate activists who got it in their heads that illegal activity was the way to make a real difference.

Too bad they didn't leaflet instead of going to jail, educate people instead of put them off, and make several new vegans every day making a real difference to the bottom line of animal suffering instead of giving those corporations a (possibly) much appreciated excuse to expand their political influences.


Sorry, that was I kind of long post, but I hope you can understand where I'm coming from.

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#20 Old 12-25-2011, 11:23 PM
 
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Without a scientific methodology to activism, all you have is a bunch of assumptions and dogma based on scant anecdotes floating around.

Exactly. That cuts both ways, remember.

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In the best of cases most of this illegal activism is an enormous waste of effort which only makes the activist feel warm and fuzzy inside (or cool and rebellious?), but could better be put towards something that actually helps animals more effectively (though it might be less sexy), and in the worst it may actually cause substantial harm to the movement and prolong animal suffering.

I don't think your estimate of the "best case" is accurate.
See above.

Quote:
In the case of veganism, there's actually a net reduction in demand, which translates to a reduction all along the supply chain which isn't made up for by somebody doubling his or her own consumption of animal products.

That's not actually proven.

You're right, there isn't one person who doubles their consumption of animal products every time someone else goes vegan. But there are nonvegans who have kids. And nonvegans reproduce at a higher rate than vegans.

The problem with vegan education as the sole tool for AR activism is that is fails to outpace the rate at which nonvegans are produced.

By the time we reach people in high school or college even our most effective vegan education campaigns are not effective enough to combat the lifetime of brainwashing that has occured and undo the significant damage that has occured as a result of the cheap surplus meat and milk that makes its way into public schools and the fast food commercials on children's television programs.

Consider, for example, the cigarette companies. They lose business everyday because their product literally kills their customers. Well, then they just go make more customers. So far, they're better at making new customers than the nonsmokers and health professionals are at preventing them from making new customers. It's the same with veganism. Animal agribusiness is better at making new customers than vegan educators are at making vegans.

Don't get me wrong - vegan education is the tool I prefer in my own activism. But I don't choose it because I think it's the most effective, period. I choose it because I think it's the most effective form of activism that I'm willing to do. It's cheap, it's easy, it's legal... these are reasons I choose it. And these are reasons I suggest it for other activists.
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#21 Old 12-26-2011, 03:13 AM
 
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You're right, there isn't one person who doubles their consumption of animal products every time someone else goes vegan. But there are nonvegans who have kids. And nonvegans reproduce at a higher rate than vegans.

The problem with vegan education as the sole tool for AR activism is that is fails to outpace the rate at which nonvegans are produced.

Very true of current vegan education trends. I just meant in the sense of personal action with regards to one's own effects.

My comment was as opposed to the idea that the meat we don't eat is just wasted. There is a reduction from what it would be if we all were also carnivores- I did not mean to imply that the world as a whole was eating less meat with consideration of all other factors or that vegan education was putting us on the fast track to a vegan world.

China is a bigger factor than Western Population growth, which despite a leveling population, is becoming wealthier and more Chinese are beginning to eat meat as a serving where it was once a garnish or seasoning in an otherwise largely vegetable dish.

In the West, vegans probably do more to reduce meat eating at any scale by being trendy and getting otherwise strict omnivores to eat vegan now and then as a meal option.

E.g. that "Mexican, Italian, or Chinese?" Has now become "Mexican, Italian, Chinese, or Vegan?" in some places. If a meal option is available, people will choose it now and then merely out of interest in diversity (and whatever superstitions they may have as to what a varied diet means).

It's going to take a lot of work to translate and propagate those successful concepts properly, but we won't make any headway if we fail to follow a more objective methodology in refining those strategies, and instead only wander blindly ahead.


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I don't think your estimate of the "best case" is accurate.

I beg to differ, from the evidence available, it ranges from ineffective to damaging.

But if you have hard evidence on the efficacy, I'd be glad to see it.

So far all we have is a supposed "medicine" that has known and dangerous side effects, and no evidence of efficacy, and without even a valid theory of action. That's not medicine at all; that's worse than snake oil.

There's no reason to believe that illegal activism against big animal agriculture has any direct effect on the bottom line of animal suffering.

The theories upon which the supposed direct efficacy rests are deeply flawed- One can not damage the industry by imposing on one company property damages. It doesn't do anything to the bottom line at all- the costs are absorbed at the corporate level (since they can't be passed on to consumers due to competition), and the owners of the company are out a few million. If you went so far even as to bankrupt a company, it wouldn't make a difference- the demand is still there, so the competition just expands its operations.

It doesn't make meat more expensive (if it did, then slightly fewer people might buy it, or buy less of it), so it doesn't cause fewer animals to die (because the same number of people are buying the same amount of meat).

If you wanted to actually damage the industry the way typical illegal AR is trying to do it, you'd have to hit pretty much all of the producers with substantial property damage simultaneously, possibly as well as their insurance providers, and probably internationally. You'd have to make them uninsurable, or drive their insurance rates to phenomenal heights. If you hit all of them, then that would allow them to pass along those costs to the consumer, which would increase the price of meat.

A coordinated attack like that of immense property damage would undoubtedly have human casualties, the overwhelming majority of the animals themselves would have to die too (logistically impossible to rescue that many, and simply because the animals themselves represent valuable financial assets, which without destruction leaves the companies largely viable), and the political fallout would be profound.

The governments would step in and bailout the industries that were attacked to get them back on their feet, and the expenses on national security would skyrocket. Anybody even tangentially related to the activity would be locked up, and while meat would be a rarity for several months (and possibly even more than a year if it were significant enough an attack), the industry would get back on its feet and would have to suffer another blow or two (But from where? They're all in jail?) before it finally collapsed and gave way to mock-meat alternatives.

Coordinating a conspiracy of that magnitude isn't even possible for Islamic fundamentalists who have the backings of princes with billions of dollars and the fervent religious faith that they're doing the right thing by Allah in killing people. Information leaks to family and friends of friends no matter how tight lipped, and eventually even their closest friends and allies go cold and turn informant to save human lives when the nature of their plans become clear.

Not only is something like that clearly morally problematic (since it would involve killing billions of animals and at least dozens of humans if not hundreds), but it simply is not possible to pull off with human nature.

Your only other illegal routes are more science-fictional, like inventing a virus that would make people allergic to meat (FYI this is actually theoretically possible, but unless one had a small army of AR biochemists and a few billion in funding I don't think that would prove to be a viable option).

Sure, we could talk about fantasy all day.

But in reality, particularly with regards to taking on the majority Animal Agriculture industry, change has to be legal- both memetic and economic. It's not just the best way, it's the only way.


Outside the majority illegal AR tactics, of course there are some things in the grey are, like hidden camera stuff, which don't think it even falls under the AETA but rather breach of contract (Please correct me if I'm wrong on that point).

Illegal activism might arguably work against minority/unpopular industries (particularly international ones like whaling), and illegal ones (like dog fighting), because they're small enough to affect the price/risks of doing business, and unpopular enough that they are hard pressed to gain public support. At least there, the theory seems sound. Not saying I condone it in those cases either, just that in those rare cases it might actually work.

Anyway, I certainly hope we can find more effective legal means of vegan educational outreach.

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#22 Old 12-26-2011, 03:25 PM
 
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There's no reason to believe that illegal activism against big animal agriculture has any direct effect on the bottom line of animal suffering.

Maybe we should begin again with clear definitions. Why lump all illegal activism into the same category rather than distinguish between different kinds of activism based on the acts? If you're saying that all illegal activism is wrong - by virtue of being illegal - then I simply cannot agree at all. Consider: http://strikingattheroots.wordpress....ollege-campus/
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#23 Old 12-28-2011, 09:08 PM
 
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Maybe we should begin again with clear definitions. Why lump all illegal activism into the same category rather than distinguish between different kinds of activism based on the acts? If you're saying that all illegal activism is wrong - by virtue of being illegal - then I simply cannot agree at all.

I wouldn't say it is wrong merely by vice of being illegal, but that it being illegal generally contributes unfavorably to its moral qualities on account of the consequences of those actions, public perception (which in many countries is almost one in the same with law), and opportunity cost.

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#24 Old 12-28-2011, 10:37 PM
 
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I wouldn't say it is wrong merely by vice of being illegal, but that it being illegal generally contributes unfavorably to its moral qualities on account of the consequences of those actions, public perception (which in many countries is almost one in the same with law), and opportunity cost.

The first and last of those three downsides you listed only affect the people who get caught. The middle one - public perception - is the one everyone always points to as the reason not to do illegal activism, but I'm not so sure that's a good reason. Certainly, arson and death threats cause serious negative public perception when they're in the media. But other types of illegal acts like plain old animal liberation? Cutting open cages and setting animals free? Rescuing animals and finding them new homes. It seems to me that many or most people actually think that's a good and brave thing to do. The public perception for animal rescue is pretty good, actually. There's even a kids movie about that, Hotel For Dogs. Albeit, it's about dogs and not about foxes or minks or chickens or pigs, but still...
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#25 Old 12-28-2011, 11:54 PM
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That's quite the title. i would assume it'll turn off some vegetarians on here.

So be it, it's the war we cannot lose. There will be casualties, uno!
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#26 Old 12-29-2011, 07:35 AM
 
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The first and last of those three downsides you listed only affect the people who get caught.

I don't agree with that.

The burden on police, the criminal justice system, and our prisons for those people who really aren't a danger to society is shouldered by everybody. Either they're displacing violent criminals, or they're costing us money that would be better spent on social programs.

Getting thrown in jail isn't good, and I don't really think much good can come of it.

The last one doesn't affect them at all; I'm talking about the opportunity cost of missing out on more effective and lasting activism. If those people who committed criminal activity had leafleted instead, how many more animals would they have saved (or, how many period, given the general lack of effectiveness of illegal activism)?

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It seems to me that many or most people actually think that's a good and brave thing to do. The public perception for animal rescue is pretty good, actually.

If we had data that the public perception was so favorable that people were going vegan because of it- and in sufficient numbers to compare favorably against the average jail term of the activists who participate in that kind of thing, I would say that's a fair argument.

The actual liberation itself, though, doesn't cost the companies very much, and doesn't save any net animals from suffering (the stolen animals are just replaced to fill that demand).

And remember, illegal activism is rarely ever completely non-violent; by vice of being illegal, there's almost always some risk that somebody will get hurt because of that (from snitches who get stitches, to the security guard who keels over trying to chase them because he's had one too many doughnuts). Illegal activity is simply more dangerous than legal activity, because it doesn't enjoy the support of the social structures that exist to protect us from each other.

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#27 Old 12-29-2011, 09:18 AM
 
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I don't have a problem with anything he said. I think he's right. I'm just too cowardly to break the law and go to jail.
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#28 Old 12-29-2011, 04:28 PM
 
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I don't agree with that.

Oh, sorry. You are right that it affects others and not merely the individual who did the acts. I misspoke.

I meant that those consequences you listed are only a result of getting caught. I believe that most people who perform illegal animal activism do not get caught. (Of course, I don't actually know this to be true.)

Moreover, since it is certainly possible to do the acts without getting caught, then it doesn't seem fair to analyze the ethics of the acts purely on the basis that some people doing them get caught and jailed. If that were so, then any form of civil disobedience would be unethical in your paradigm since the consequences of getting jailed would result in some negative outcome. (Consider, for example, anyone who violated the Jim Crow Laws.)

And you still haven't explicity weighed the postive outcomes of legal activism vs positives of illegal and the negs v. negs. We need real solid data for that and none of us have got it. So... you can keep saying "I don't really think much good can come of it" but that's not going to convince anyone who seriously disagrees with you. (Perhaps that's not your goal? Perhaps you just want to declare your position for the benefit of those who agree with you?)

Please remember, my argument is NOT in favor of all illegal animal activism. My argument is that I will not condemn it because I believe that unjust laws ought to be challenged. Moreover, I do not currently believe that condemning illegal activism will result in any net good in large part because I have yet to see compelling arguments against it. Those who argue against illegal activism tend to preach to the choir and don't offer much in the way of real evidence to support their claims.

At issue are these things:
- Should unjust laws be broken? Which laws?
- If so, how? What constitutes violence?
- Which consequences are likely? Which unlikely? How responsible are activists for unforeseen and unlikely consequences of their actions? How far in to the future do we look when determining the consequences of particular actions?
- To what extent might the end justify the means? Which opportunity costs (and other costs) might we accept? Remember, of course, that all activism requires us to make choices about what we won't be able to do as a result of doing this or that activism. For example, if choose to do a tabling event where I show undercover videos of animal abuse at factory farms then I can't also spend that time baking vegan cookies for a bake sale to raise money for a farmed animal sanctuary.
- How much ought we try to control other activists? Are strong-willed individuals (like Steve Best and others who advocate illegal activism) likely to be convinced to change paths or is our time better spent trying to convince other people of other things?

And then, pertaining to the orginal video posted in this thread, the issues are:
- Do we really need to attack one form of activism to make a compelling argument in favor of another form of activism?
- Are Best's claims about activism efficacy accurate? Why or why not?
- Do we have to choose between attacking activists or defending activists? Isn't there some middle ground where we can stand?
- Is infighting helpful to the movement or not? If not, is it inevitable? How should we deal with it?
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#29 Old 12-30-2011, 09:32 AM
 
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I think I see the root of our disagreement here:

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And you still haven't explicity weighed the postive outcomes of legal activism vs positives of illegal and the negs v. negs. We need real solid data for that and none of us have got it.

This compares to the difference between the average 'agnostic' and 'atheist'.

Or, less controversially, to the difference between alternative 'medicine' and evidence based medicine.

Yes, maybe rhinoceros horn does magically treat male impotency- but there's no reason whatsoever to believe that it would. There's no coherent theory to how it could treat impotency (the explanations being inconsistent and in contrast to known facts). There is no evidence that it does treat impotency. And we have medicine that actually is able to treat impotency (with evidence to that end).

When an element alternative medicine provides an iota of evidence of efficacy, it crosses over into real evidence based medicine (and gets mountains of research funding). I certainly agree that a lot of things could use more clinical testing to determine if they work or not, and whether they would be useful to society. But without that evidence, we should assume they do not work for the sake of avoiding dangerous side effects for something that really does probably not work, and for pursuing those things which do work to treat our illnesses instead of what usually amount only to placebos.

I condemn alternative 'medicine' for the same reason I condemn illegal activism.

Hopefully that clarifies things a bit. If you don't likewise condemn unevidenced alternative 'medicine' (and to be very clear, I don't mean herbal medicine, much of which is actually evidence based, and there are arguments which favor it) then I don't think we'd be able to come to any agreement on this point either.

If that is the case, though, I would encourage you to study some of the instances of people dying (including children thanks to their parents' misinformation) due to use of alternative medicine either as a consequence of the side effects, or for lack of actual medical treatment.


Richard Dawkins and James Randi have both made programs on homeopathy and other alternative medicine, and I think there's a Penn and Teller's Bull**** episode on it too. Might be worth looking into if you aren't familiar with the issue; they provide reasonably good summaries.


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So... you can keep saying "I don't really think much good can come of it" but that's not going to convince anyone who seriously disagrees with you.

There will always be true believers, and perhaps I won't have much luck at ever convincing them.

None of the evidence against the supposed [now debunked] link between vaccines and autism have convinced the true believers in that to the contrary- if unanimous scientific and medical consensus can't convince a few people to give their children vaccines, I don't suppose I'd have much luck convincing true believers in illegal activism.

There are still people who believe that the Earth is flat, and there are even still people who don't accept evolution.

My hope is that there are a few people out there who haven't fully succumbed to dogma, and might be open to critical thinking and re-evaluating their positions.

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(Perhaps that's not your goal? Perhaps you just want to declare your position for the benefit of those who agree with you?)

False dichotomy. I'm most interested in people who are on the fence than either




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Moreover, since it is certainly possible to do the acts without getting caught, then it doesn't seem fair to analyze the ethics of the acts purely on the basis that some people doing them get caught and jailed.

One certainly needs to consider them as a matter of statistics. If one in ten people are caught and jailed, then the effects would be a tenth of the total for the jailed cases for the action in general.

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If that were so, then any form of civil disobedience would be unethical in your paradigm since the consequences of getting jailed would result in some negative outcome. (Consider, for example, anyone who violated the Jim Crow Laws.)

If enough people are jailed that the laws are changed, that would be a point. The occupy movements are interesting in that regard (in addition to some other recently successful rabble rousing in the Middle East).

Generally I only respect breaking laws as a matter of demonstration and challenge to the legal system- such as in the case of Dr. Kevorkian. That is, breaking a law openly only to turn oneself in for arrest and prosecution. That kind of only requires one, or a couple people, to do it; it's not something that can be generally advisable as a practice. Suing or getting arrested deliberately to challenge a law are generally accepted and useful practices (they're well planned, and generally legal defense is acquired in advance)- illegal activism is far from either of those because it's not really challenging the legal system, it's cowering from it.

If you found a creative way to challenge the Animal Enterprises Terrorism Act as unconstitutional (in ways that hadn't been tried), and required your arrest under very specific circumstances, it would make sense to get arrested for that to challenge the law- not to break the law and then run and hide from it.

The most severe danger of law breaking is often in trying to flee the consequences (too often a slippery slope of violent and criminal activity), more legitimate forms of courtroom challenges amount to people throwing themselves into the arms of the police so they can put the law itself on trial.

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#30 Old 01-03-2012, 11:51 AM
 
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I've seen this video before, and I have nothing but respect for Steve Best. One thing that everyone needs to remember is that no social justice movement has never been one through just one kind of activism, and I don't think the vegan/animal rights movement will be any exception.
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