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we are not extreme, but the rhetoric is

July 21, 2010

Check out this power point from the US State Department’s Overseas Security Advisory Board:


(FYI, I covered the faces of all activists since they did not give their consent to be in this slide show; otherwise it is in the original). This presentation is geared toward corporations that rely on or support animal exploitation. This power point was first released publicly on  Will Potter does an excellent job of covering the important political issues surrounding this issue, so check it out.

The logic and rhetoric demonstrated here is absurd. Be sure to download the slide show and read the “notes” section for the full “WTF” effect.  Some of the most ridiculous parts of this slideshow include a fallacious link between SHAC and the ALF and highlighting the mainstream U.S. Animal Rights conference as a place where “extremists” gather.

And then there is their description of the “extreme” tactics of the animal rights movement:

Site demonstrations have long been a tactic of extremists. However, mobilizing several hundred supporters is difficult for the extremists. Therefore, their tactics have evolved to include only 6-10 hardcore individuals who rent cars and travel in a pseudo-convoy from one targeted site to the next and on to the next, all in one day. At each stop, they splatter the location with leaflets, bang drums, shout and chant into a bullhorn, and often attempt to intimidate the employees of the company

Last time I checked, this was called carpooling to a protest.

I am sick of this bullshit. The terrorism and extremism rhetoric must stop.

They call us terrorists. But what is terrorism? Terrorism is valuing artificial borders over life. It is killing civilians in the name of “war.” It is killing anyone in the name of “war.” It is flying planes into buildings, no matter what country the perpetrator is from. Terrorism is using rape as a tool for war. Terrorism is tearing down rainforests, stripping the land of entire species of animals and plant life for the sake of capitalist gain. Terrorism is raping animals, kidnapping and imprisoning their babies just to force them to grow up in overcrowded conditions and have their body parts (like beaks, tails and talons) cut off, only to haul them off to a scary painful slaughter.

This is terrorism

Animal rights activists are not terrorists. Terror means fear but we fight for life.

They call us extreme, but what is extreme? Extreme is over 350 animals being slaughtered for food in the United States every single second of every single day. Extreme is the high rate of heart disease in the U.S. Extreme is labeling legal protest activity terrorism. It is allowing a person to die from lack of shelter or healthcare because they are poor or lack the appropriate citizenship status. Extreme is imprisoning people and not charging them with any crimes, then holding them without legal representation.   It is rich pharmaceutical companies refusing to provide HIV medications to AIDS ravaged countries.  It is dairy ads claiming, “milk does a body good,” when it actually leeches calcium from bones. Extreme is the fact that Monsanto was actually allowed to patent and “own” food seeds. Factory farming is extreme. Murdering animals to take their fur is extreme. Beating animals so they will perform “cute” tricks is extreme.

This is extreme

Animal rights activists are not extreme. Rejecting violence is anything but extreme. It is simply logical. Extreme means irrational, but we fight for love and against exploitation; these are the most loving, rational and basic things a person can fight for.

This is love

Animal rights activists fight for equality and the right for everyone to live a life free of exploitation and pain. We are not terrorists and we are not extremists. No matter how many times it is said, no matter how many laws are passed, no matter how many activists are imprisoned, we will never be terrorists and we are not extreme. Animal rights activists choose life over death and compassion over violence. Artificial borders, be they between nations or ethnicities or genders or species, are never justification for exploitation or murder. Rejection of these things in favor of life is not terror and it is not extreme, it is simply love.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. ryan permalink
    July 22, 2010 8:03 am

    perfectly stated. i have to say, i really enjoyed the powerpoint as it outlines some serious AR accomplishments. and i especially “enjoyed” the part where it is noted that “ARE” are tech savvy and can send pictures as e-mail attachments. look out!

  2. July 22, 2010 8:04 am

    If you’re not thinking that at least a part of the movement is extreme, then why do you cite a “fallacious link” between SHAC and ALF? Shouldn’t you embrace all of your fellow activists?

    “Animal rights activists choose life over death and compassion over violence.” This is a slippery slope. Though I understand and respectfully disagree with your definition of terrorism from some of your other debates (yours is “loss of life” and mine is “doing things to cause people to fear for their safety”), I would hope that our definitions of violence and compassion aren’t that different. Isn’t this violence?

    “The Animal Liberation Front, an underground network of activists […] has claimed responsibility for sabotaging animal research labs, setting fires, flooding properties and making death threats against researchers.” (from

    I would challenge you to justify why violence against those who are guilty of admittedly awful crimes against animals makes animal rights activists interested in “compassion, not violence.”

    (Side note: I love reading your site. I always do whenever you have a new post and, believe it or not, your perspectives have influenced a lot of my thinking, just not rhetoric like that contained in this article.)

    • July 22, 2010 12:57 pm

      Thank you for being open to my perspective, Ashley.

      I mention the link between the ALF and SHAC is fallacious not because I want the movement to reject or speak out against the ALF but because the false link between underground and above ground activists is what the FBI and police use as justification for repressing above-ground, legal protest activity and activists. The FBI’s claim that the above and below-ground are comprised of the same members and that there are organizational ties has been used as the premise for a number of grand jury investigations and for wiretapping and following above-ground activists.

      Every animal rights activists I have ever met chooses “life over death and compassion over violence.” In fact, I can’t think of one action in the US in which violence or death was ever chosen. Regardless of whether property damage or demonstrating at peoples’ homes (this is what the slide show is referring to as “personal threats” by the way) is violence these labels still do not hold. The number of times anyone in the U.S. has been hurt is zero. And the only really dangerous actions that happen are arsons. And that almost never happens. Since I started grad school two or three other grad students at my school committed suicide, I am guessing many hundreds across the country have as well. In the same amount of time there have probably been WAY fewer arsons in the name of ending animal exploitation. I would be willing to bet that the proportion of grad students that commit suicide in a given year is greater than the proportion of animal rights activists that do anything that can in any way be construed as violent. No one ever approaches me and asks if I am depressed and worries I might kill myself but I regularly get labeled an extremist. Grad students are seen as individuals and judged by the majority and averages yet somehow all animal rights activists are labeled terrorists. I know at least one of the activists in that slideshow; the person is a grassroots organizer engaged in normal above-ground social movement activity yet the word “extremist” accompanies his image. This is clearly a cause for outrage.

      And as to the justification of violence, even though I think it is a non-issue in this movement at this point (at least on our end- the animals experience untold horrific violence on a daily basis), I don’t think it is okay. The rejection of violence in the movement is notable, particularly in the face of the extreme and disgusting violence we are combating. Governments have gone to war over issues not even a fraction as serious as this. Animals are being annihilated for nothing more than the fact that they are not “like” us and it has to stop, so I will not promote pacifism either. So, as an individual, I do not promote violence and I will not engage in violence, but I do know that playing by the rules and following laws and being pacifists has never ever gotten any social movement anything so I think it is a complicated issue.

  3. July 23, 2010 6:35 am

    Cardiac surgeon Caldwell Esselstyn gives another interesting perspective on use of the word “extreme” in the new movie “Forks Over Knives.” He says many people think a plant-based diet is “extreme.” But, he says, meat-eaters who develop serious heart disease will have their rib cage cut open from top to bottom with a power saw, their leg cut open to remove an artery, and the artery painstakingly transplanted onto their heart. That, he says, is “extreme.” It’s all in the eye of the beholder.

  4. July 28, 2010 6:12 am

    “… it is simply love.” Beautiful and true.

    But carrying such love and such passion does make us vulnerable to perpetrating acts of violence to protect, like a mother, those we love. Even if they do not involve physical violence inflicted on people, acts that cause people to fear for their safety or that of their family are indeed acts of violence.

    If we are to stand up against violence and oppression, we must bridle our passion and not join the ilk of the perpetrator.

  5. August 7, 2010 12:37 am

    Excellent. I agree totally.

  6. August 12, 2010 3:47 pm

    I fully endorse the use of violence, in principle, if that violence (however you define the term; I include property destruction and physical aggression) is used in defense of a defenseless party. Non-violence of the kind advocated here is similar to arguing that you, the “strong” or capable, are willing to allow the “weak” and incapable/defenseless to be abused and terrorized when you could intervene. Deontological challenges to violence, in other words, don’t accord with my moral intuitions. Those who used violence against slave owners were justified.

    Now, practical challenges do arise: Who is the oppressor? Since my defense of violence is consequentalist, will the use of violence cause more harm and death in the long run? But on the moral matter, the principle at stake, I think you are wrong.

  7. December 20, 2012 11:09 pm

    Sorry, I couldn’t read past the first paragraph, which claimed that animal rights “extremists” sometimes put lives in danger. I need to puke the irony out before I read any more state dept. rhetoric


  1. » we are not extreme, but the rhetoric is NEGOTIATION IS OVER!

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