There are two approaches that can be employed to end the exploitation of animals: Dissuading people from doing so and impeding their ability to do so.
The animal movement, by and large, has been woefully unsuccessful employing either approach.
Neither can be entirely successful, as there will always be people who will engage in cruelty, but dissuasion is by far the less helpful course of action.
We can dissuade by persuasion or by coercion. There is a point at which persuasion is no longer effective as we reach the limit of people who actually care about animals. And that limit is very low in the general population. Witness how few animal activists are vegan and extrapolate that reality to the public at large.
Coercion would be substantially more effective than persuasion for the great majority of humanity, who value their own lives more than they care about animals.
The approach pursued by most in the animal movement is dissuasion.
We try to dissuade people from hurting animals, from consuming them, from supporting companies and policies which exploit animals.
Most attempts to dissuade fall upon deaf ears. Vegans are a tiny percentage of the population, despite years of proselytizing and recruiting. Spreading empathy has not been very successful as a strategy.
Simple math demonstrates our failures. More animals are enslaved and murdered than ever before. While we have made advances in rescuing companion animals, over the past 50 years the number of dogs and cats we have saved is fewer than the number of animals who will have their throats cut in the next 8 hours.
For most of the animals abused, enslaved, tortured, and murdered, it is as though the animal movement does not exist.
Aside from failing miserably at dissuasion, our efforts to impede animal exploitation have been equally ineffective.
Impediments to animal exploitation can be public or private. Public impediments are legislation and enforcement, areas in which there has been little real progress in a century. Private impediments are direct action.
Most of the direct action engaged in has been not only ineffective, but financially crippling to the movement in supporting imprisoned activists.
ALF raids, burning slaughterhouses, freeing mink, etc, are tactics that impede animal cruelty, but only in the short term. Insurance covering losses of facilities, animals, and profits ensures the resurrection of the cruelty.
If we are to engage in direct action, it should be direct action that will dissuade. Direct action that impedes is covered by insurance.
Aggressive direct action against animal exploiters should be aimed at convincing animal abusers that their personal safety is at risk if they continue with their conduct. Action aimed at people who exploit (rather than the faciliities they work in) would likely cause many to re-evaluate their dedication to animal exploitation.
Coercion could save many more millions of lives than we are saving now, but even that would hardly make a dent in the billions of animals murdered every year.
The pathway to impeding animal cruelty is through changing the very systems that permit, protect, and encourage it.
Most animal cruelty is the product of businesses in pursuit of profits.
Our legal systems permit the enslavement and murder, and our governments protect the abusers.
We need a paradigm shift in our understanding of the struggle in which we are engaged, and paradigm shifts in both our objectives and our strategies.
The first step is to recognize that the animal movement is a leftist movement. That we are the successors to the struggles against human slavery, oppression, and fascism. That our allies are liberals, progressives, and socialists.
The second step is to recognize we cannot win unless we join in solidarity to bring down the capitalist state.
Natasha Sainsbury, of Good Karma Graphic Design, has joined Armory of the Revolution as Editor, and is responsible for the transformation of the blog’s appearance.