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395Re: Top Chiron lawyer's home is vandalized -- Protesters clothed in black linked to animal-rights group

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  • Matthew G Liebman
    Aug 17, 2004
      Hi Thea,

      Thank you for your response.

      1. I feel like I should make a clarification: I'm afraid I've given the
      impression that I'm a total supporter of all forms of direct action at all
      times. That is not at all the case. I do not consider myself a direct
      activist; I've never committed a crime in the name of animal rights.
      However, I do openly defend those who do commit non-violent crimes for
      animal liberation. The people who do these actions cannot afford to speak
      up to defend themselves, so I think it is important for above-ground
      activists to defend direct action, especially when they have nothing to
      hide from the authorities.

      2. I completely agree with you, Thea, that there is a huge difference
      between liberations and sabotage. I am unequivocally in support of
      liberations, but am much more reserved when it comes to property
      destruction. However, the point I sought to make was that since animals are
      considered property in the eyes of the law, and since all property is
      defined as that which the law recognizes as belonging to someone, even
      liberations can be considered as a form of property destruction. I also
      think we should recognize the moral implications of finking on other
      activists. Speaking out for what you believe in is qualitatively different
      from running to the FBI every time there is a home demo.

      3. I'm not sure you've addressed the key important issue, Thea, which is:
      What is violence? You describe my position as a justification for
      "destruction and violence in the name of animal rights." This is not quite
      accurate. I consider myself a supporter of NON-VIOLENT direct action. You
      say that we should be non-violent, and I agree, but you never explain how
      property destruction is a form of violence. The ALF has always considered
      itself a non-violent organization. (http://www.animalliberationfront.com/
      ALFront/WhatisALF.htm). The position that property destruction is immoral
      when committed for animal liberation is the perfect example of Marx's
      concept of "commodity festishism," whereby property attains the status of a
      subject protected by moral consideration, and subjects (animals) are
      degraded to the status of property. But property is NOT a subject, and
      subjects are NOT property. Ultimately, I believe in non-violent direct
      action, so I don't think violent resistance is ethically justified. I would
      not condone committing violence against a sentient being. But I do think
      that property destruction and direct liberations are ethically justified
      (though the effectiveness issue is more difficult.)

      4. Let me again stress that I don't think direct action will result in the
      cultural shift we need, or "real peace for animals" as Thea nicely put it.
      Direct action is the short-term counterpart to our long term projects like
      vegan outreach, picketing, boycotts, letter-writing, and legal work. It's
      these tactics that will get us towards a more compassionate society, and I
      certainly applaud all of those compassionate efforts. Nevertheless, direct
      action can help get us there by demonstrating the attrocities of our
      opponents and by helping to save animals in the here and now.

      5. Many of these long-term non-violent strategies are made effective by the
      militancy of the ALF and similar groups. While we're quoting Martin Luther
      King, allow me to offer this one:
      "I am only effective as long as there is a shadow on white America of the
      black man standing behind me with a Molotov cocktail."

      6. Even if you do conclude that ALF and SHAC actions are a form of
      violence, I would respectuflly ask you to focus your energy on the far
      greater violence against animals that happens every second of every day. We
      need a healthy debate on these issues, but we also can't afford to splinter
      the movement. And we can't afford to waste our passions on in-fighting,
      when there are so many attrocities that demand our attention.

      7. And finally, I'm about to head out of town for a couple of days, so this
      will be my last post on the issue. I think I've made my position
      sufficiently clear. Plus I'm sure the moderators of these lists are tired
      of my ramblings! Anyone interested in discussing these issues further
      should feel free to contact me. I'm glad we were able to debate these
      issues rather than sink into the divisive fights that usually accompany
      these discussions. Again, I highly recommend Steven Best's "Terrorists or
      Freedom Fighters?" anthology which thoroughly investigates the arguments
      for and against direct action.

      Very best to all,

      Quoting Thea Langsam <thea_langsam@...>:

      > Matthew,
      > Your arguments about why destruction and violence in the name of animal
      > rights are justified sound persuasive and may be hard to rebut as a
      > logical matter. On one logical point, however, you lump together
      > rescuing animals, which may involve incidental property damage and might
      > be considered "property" theft, with property destruction done in order
      > to scare others into stopping the abuse of animals. These actions are
      > not the same, and therefore probably have different moral implications.
      > They do to me.
      > But, more importantly, no matter how persuasively you put forth your
      > positions, I find them frightening. The reason I am vegan, and why I
      > otherwise work for animal rights, is in large part because I am so
      > horrified by the violence done to animals. I cannot understand how
      > adding more violence to the world will ultimately help us achieve any
      > kind of real peace for animals. Your e-mails suggest that it is
      > close-minded and self-righteous to condemn violence done in the name of
      > animal rights. But, in the tradition of Ghandi and Martin Luther King, I
      > believe it is of the utmost importance that I and others continue to
      > condemn violence -- whether done to animals or in their name.
      > "However much I may sympathise with and admire worthy motives, I am an
      > uncompromising opponent of violent methods even to serve the noblest of
      > causes. Violent means will give violent freedom. I believe that it is
      > impossible to end hatred with hatred." -- Ghandi.
      > "In struggling for human dignity the oppressed people of the world must
      > not allow themselves to become bitter or indulge in hate campaigns. To
      > retaliate with hate and bitterness would do nothing but intensify the
      > hate in the world. Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough
      > and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can be done only
      > by projecting the ethics of love to the center of our lives." -- MLK.
      > "There is no way to peace. Peace is the way." -- A.J. Muste.
      > Sincerely,
      > Thea Langsam
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