John Sanbonmatsu Attacks Roland Vincent


John Sanbonmatsu is an associate professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, MA.

Roland Vincent is a professional political strategist, animal liberationist, and publisher of Armory of the Revolution.

On May 16, Sanbonmatsu posted the following comment to an article I had written Obama Spins the Trans Pacific Partnership to Wayne Pacelle:

Mr. Vincent,

Someone recently brought my attention to one of your more irresponsible web postings, in which you openly advocated “taking out” animal exploiters. To advocate killing people in our political context is beyond irresponsible–it is criminal. Though I share you sense of urgency vis-a-vis human violence against animals, I am appalled that you think that threatening, hurting, or even killing people is a productive way for us to build a radical movement. The fact is that until and unless we can convince at least a sizable minority of our fellow humans to end the speciesist system, there is no prospect that we will be in a position to begin dismantling that system. So encouraging others to commit terrorist acts is a very good way to hurt our movement. It will not going to make people more sympathetic to our movement, but the opposite. We know this from the history of terrorism.

Finally, the fact that you refuse to criticize your avowed “friend” Wayne Pacelle–the greatest traitor to the animal cause in history, a promoter of mass violence against animals who has sold not only his own organization but the animal rights movement down the proverbial river–suggests to me that you are not merely a dangerous and irresponsible thinker, but a confused one as well. On the one hand, you stake out a macho position as a “radical”–which in your thinking seems to mean advocating that others embark on campaigns on reckless violence. On the other hand, you give Pacelle, this enemy of animal liberation, a complete “pass,” and make excuses for his apologia for genocide.

If you genuinely care about our movement, take down this website.


John Sanbonmatsu
Editor of “Critical Theory and Animal Liberation”


My response to Sanbonmatsu:

Lol! Forgive me for finding this tremendously amusing.

Where shall I start? You surely cannot expect me to silence myself because I have offended your sensibilities?

Let me be perfectly clear. My life’s work is animal liberation, animal rights, and the destruction of capitalism. To the best of my knowledge, this blog is the only one expressing those sentiments.

Let me begin with Wayne Pacelle and HSUS.

You may not remember what HSUS was before Wayne took over the organization. Animal issues beyond dog and cats rescue and spaying and neutering were not addressed. Under Wayne’s helmsmanship the organization has waged campaigns on fur, hunting, sealing, whaling, animals in agriculture, dog fighting, cockfighting, horse slaughter, etc.

The ludicrous suggestion that Pacelle has sold HSUS and the AR movement “down the river,” speaks to your disrespect for those who disagree with you. You have placed both Wayne and me in your crosshairs, as neither of us agree with the present direction, or effectiveness, of the animal movement.

HSUS is not a radical organization. It recruits from the general public, and is perhaps the single most effective organization in the world in attracting people to animal activism. It is from its ranks that most animal activists have come, and it is a presence that could not be sustained if it were a radical, anti-capitalist organization.

Were it to be another mouthpiece for veganism, it could not be more ineffective than are the rest of those voices. Veganism is not slowing the Animal Holocaust.

Unless you are working toward social revolution, you have absolutely no business criticizing Wayne Pacelle or HSUS, as your efforts are likely less effective than are theirs in saving animals or recruiting animal activists.

The modern animals movement can roughly be dated with the publication of Animal Liberation by Peter Singer, in 1975. In the intervening 41 years, animal slaughter has more than tripled from under 20 billion animals murdered each year then to the mind boggling number of 60 billion today.

Nothing we have done has stemmed the sea of blood or the unending screams of innocent creatures. Not recruiting vegans, not educating the public, not demos, leafleting, letter writing, or voting.

All of the animals saved by all animal activists around the world are fewer than the number who will be murdered in the next eight hours. And that excludes all the sea creature victims of humans, which account for two and a half trillion deaths annually, or about a million per second, around the clock.

The Animal Holocaust is driven by capitalists in pursuit of profits. Profit is the leading cause of animal cruelty and exploitation in the world.

Our legal systems allow and provide for the ownership of other creatures. Our capitalist economic system encourages and rewards animal cruelty, enslavement, exploitation, murder, and consumption. Our governments protect the industries and the abusers, and even subsidize them. The control of government by capitalist interests means legislation targeting animal liberationists and criminalizing animal activists.

The only hope for animals is bringing down the economic, legal, and political systems which permit the existence of the Animal Holocaust.

I harbor no illusions that overthrowing capitalism is on the horizon. Indeed, it is considerably below the horizon, decades or centuries away. But the goal of recruiting revolutionaries should be a higher priority for animal activists than recruiting vegans.

For your information, advocating for direct action is not illegal. What is illegal is calling for the imminent commission of a crime. As an attorney, I have carefully crafted my messages to avoid being accused of doing so. That said, I have no respect for human law, except to the degree that I wish to avoid being prosecuted by it.

Revolution requires violent action. It was necessary in the American and French Revolutions, the Mexican Revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution, the Cuban Revolution, etc. All participants in any of them would have been prosecuted had the revolutions failed.

Human depopulation would help both animals and the environment. But only human extinction would eliminate animal cruelty and exploitation. We cannot bank on pandemics and wars to reduce populations, but we can work on instituting socialism in place of capitalism.

Socialist societies murder and consume half the number of animals per capita as do capitalist societies.

Which means that a socialist world would murder and consume 30 billion fewer animals each year than are now murdered and consumed by capitalist societies.

The animal movement worldwide saves some one million animals each year, using generous estimates. Instituting socialist governments would have the effect of 30,000 of our current animal movements!

The equivalent of every animal activist multiplied by 30,000!

We are far too few in number to successfully revolt against the state. To be successful, animal activists must join broad coalitions in opposition to capitalism.

Political revolution was a distant dream of radicals and progressives until Bernie Sanders made the case for overthrowing the political establishment in the US. Bernie’s revolution is still playing itself out, and may well be realized in the next several election cycles as young people take over roles in society and politics.

Social revolution is a much more remote goal, as social revolution would mean bringing an end to capitalism and the current legal system in each country where it succeeded.
Social revolution is not accomplished through incrementalism or gradualism. Ending the rule of the state is a violent endeavor, as the state would use all of its power and resources to put down insurrection. The state’s first line of defense are the local police, backed up by the National Guard (in the US) and ultimately the military. Only widespread revolt, supported by the populace, can withstand the brutal suppression the state would unleash against those challenging its authority and power.

With enough constituencies harboring unrest and antipathy toward the state, an environment of potential success is present, provided there are those willing to ignite revolution and wage war against the government.

Flashpoints are a requirement for revolution. There have been any number or outrages against African Americans by police over the years, many recently. Unarmed men and children shot down in the streets or murdered in police custody. Each of those atrocities warranted armed insurrection, riots, and vigilantism. That non occurred demonstrates that social revolution still a distant possibility.

The very nature of the American political system deflects outrage and diffuses meaningful efforts to challenge or change it. People are mollified by the illusion of impacting the system through voting and petitioning for redress.

For revolution to succeed, a broad coalition of diverse constituencies must assemble in opposition to the status quo.

Recruiting revolutionaries should be the primary goal of all who wish to bring down the capitalist system.

There is probably no more fertile ground for nurturing social revolutionaries than within the animal activist community. Capitalism is the author of the greatest of atrocities ever committed: the Animal Holocaust.

The only possibility of ending, or drastically reducing, the horrors is through direct action against those capitalists who own or direct the slaughter industries, as well as the bankers and politicians who enable the genocide.

Attacking the very heart of capitalist power may be the only way to ignite the revolution.

Our task is to build the coalition that can sustain it.

Roland Vincent


Note to Readers of the Armory: This exchange may or may not continue. If it does, I will be publishing Sanbonmatsu’s and my responses to one another. If you wish to join the conversation, please comment. All substantive questions and observations will be included in our discussion.



Author’s Notes:

I am unaware of any other blog with the Armory’s mission of radicalizing the animal movement. I certainly hope I am not alone, and that there are similar sentiments being expressed by comrades unknown to me.

If you know of other blogs dedicated to animal rights and the defeat of capitalism, please comment with a link.

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11 thoughts on “John Sanbonmatsu Attacks Roland Vincent

  1. To critics of Wayne Pacelle:
    There is no alternative to pursuing incrementalism in animal agriculture except shooting the boards of directors of animal industries and burning down slaughterhouses. Neither are possible at present, as there are not enough of us. If we had the talent, the resources, the numbers to wage social revolution we could interrupt the chain of slaughter, and in the resultant chaos and socialist paradigm we could substantially reduce animal slaughter.

    I would be most interested in what alternatives you would employ to what HSUS is trying to accomplish.

    Sanbonmatsu’s got nothing. What have you got?


  2. John Sanbonmatsu wrote the following article about Wayne Pacelle:
    Inhumane Society: Animal Advocacy’s Capitalist Apostle

    No one believes there is such a thing as humane meat, including Wayne Pacelle. John Sanbonmatsu’s hit piece implies that Pacelle’s approach does not work and will cause more animal suffering. Both assertions are ridiculous. Nothing the animal movement has done in almost 70 years has done ANYTHING to slow the Animal Holocaust, let alone stop it. And Sanbonmatsu offers not a single suggestion how the animal movement might do so. Instead, he excoriates the only approach that is open to us: to negotiate voluntary changes in animal agriculture by the criminals who run the enterprises. I don’t like the idea much, but I like it a whole lot more than allowing the horrors to continue when we could have made a difference in the suffering.

    Fast slaughterlines allow for conscious animals to be dismembered! Calves having their legs chainsawed off while fully awake! Pigs dumped into scalding vats before they bleed out! Cows having their skin ripped from their sides. All while fully conscious and in the most profound agony imaginable.

    Fast slaughterlines as more profitable than are slow ones, so there is no incentive to end the suffering. And we are up against bribed Congress Members and industry hacks running the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, and Commerce.

    Pacelle is trying to make a difference, which is more than I can say for his critics. Including John Sanbonmatsu.


    • John, here is a recent article I wrote about Wayne Pacelle: Why Wayne Pacelle is Mostly Right and Most of His Critics are Mostly Wrong

      While I certainly have differences with Wayne, his attempting to win concessions from Big Ag is the only avenue open to the animal movement with any promise whatsoever of reducing suffering for animals trapped in the food system. All our efforts to appeal to compassion on the part of consumers, to recruit vegans, to educate the public, have been abject failures. Efforts of underfunded advocates versus the juggernaut of invested billions portends failure even if the human population were stagnant. That it is not seals the fate of the animal movement as it presently exists. Only human extinction can stop the Animal Holocaust. The next best thing for the animals would be global socialism, another unlikely scenario. Socialism anywhere would be better for animals than the current capitalist paradigm, as socialist societies kill and consume half the animals per capita as do capitalist societies.

      Planning for socialist revolution does nothing for animals in the short term, but is the only logical option for the animal movement.


  3. Pingback: Animal Liberation: Violence or Non-violence? Revolution or Rhetoric? | Armory of the Revolution

  4. According to Dr. Sanbonmatsu, it seems Mr. Vincent is too radical and Mr. Pacelle is not radical enough.
    When it comes to the issue of animal cruelty, Dr. Sanbonmatsu does “get it.“ In the introduction to the book he edited, Critical Theory and Animal Liberation, he gives a catalog of horrendous examples of abuse: There is the picture of the young boys, complete with adult audience, who are beating foxes to death with a baseball bat. One fox, “crouched, tongue lolling, exhausted almost to the point of death, gazes vacantly, a look of hopelessness or resignation visible on his pinched face.” He notes the unwanted animals in Puerto Rico thrown from bridges, run over by vehicles, or killed with machetes as a form of recreation. He discusses the “pogroms,” or routinized extermination, in slaughter houses and the mass slaughter of Asian poultry with the H5N virus when birds were “burned alive, suffocated, strangled, shot, and beaten with pipes . . . as though they themselves were to blame for the excruciating illness which their own squalid confinement and brutal treatment had made them susceptible. (pp. 1-3).

    However, Dr. Sanbonmatsu’s solution is problematic: “The fact is that until and unless we can convince at least a sizable minority of our fellow humans to end the speciesist system, there is no prospect that we will be in a position to begin dismantling that system.”

    When will we finally be able to do that? Individuals have criticized animal cruelty as early as the days of Pythagoras, and advocates have been trying to pass laws against it since the early 19th century. Although we have made some advances, we have not come nearly far enough. Progress has been slow and unsteady. Successes have met with resistance.

    Take animal agriculture as just one example, since it is responsible for some of the most egregious cruelty for the greatest number of animals. The abuse and killing of “food” animals is institutionalized in every country and every society. Attempts at improvement have failed.

    On June 10, 1822, Dick Martin’s law was passed in England, which made it illegal to “wantonly and cruelly beat or ill-treat [any] horse, mare, gelding, mule, ass, ox, cow, heifer, steer, sheep or other cattle . . . .” The law imposed a “fine of not more than five pounds or less than ten shillings, or imprisonment not exceeding three months.” But the abuse continued.

    Fast forward to the America of the 21st century, when farm animals continue to be the victims of extreme violence and cruelty. They are often excluded from state anticruelty laws under what are called “standard agricultural practices,” which seek to minimize costs and maximize profits. Such practices include dehorning and castrating without anesthesia, lack of veterinary care for sick and injured animals, “euthanasia” of baby pigs by slamming them into concrete floors, and using fork lifts to shove sick and disabled animals into transport trucks and onto slaughter house floors. The brutality of that slaughterhouse floor in America has been documented by observers since Upton Sinclair’s expose, The Jungle. Animals’ Angels has documented the horrors of auction lots and the transport of horses to slaughter, with foals being born on the transport truck and then trampled to death. Other horses arrive at their destinations battered and crippled. One appeal after another, even with thorough documentation, seldom leads to change or punishment, this in spite of Animal Welfare Act regulations that are supposed to ensure humane transport. Thus farm animals are just one of the species who are victimized by human beings and for whom no help arrives. Even documenting the cruelty by undercover investigations has led to attempted ag-gag laws to criminalize the investigations rather than the abusers.

    Nevertheless, advocates have followed Dr. Sanbonmatsu’s advice in trying to eliminate speciesism and bring about culture change for all animals. We have passed out leaflets, written letters to Washington, DC (where they will compete for legislators’ attention with lobbyists from Big Ag, Big Pharma, and other wealthy corporate abusers ), and we have engaged in protests. We haven’t gotten very far. Laws are passed with exclusions and loopholes. Legislators neglect to allocate funding for enforcement. Federal agencies or local authorities do not have the will to punish. Animal rights protests never reach the size or get the attention of the Civil Rights marches of the 1960s or even of Ferguson or Baltimore. A “protest” of six people marching against wolf hunting does not discourage the hunters or the NRA, just as a “protest” against gestation crates by fifteen people at Wal-Mart does not influence Smithfield’s treatment of its pigs. Only now have some circuses decided to free their elephants, but that still leaves other animals, such as horses and big cats under their control.

    Sometimes advocate voices do reach the numbers needed to get attention, as when Black Fish was aired and revealed the unnatural lives of the whales in Sea World and drove down audience numbers. When Cecil was murdered by Dr. Walter Palmer, thousands commented, donated, and called for an end of trophy hunting. But a few weeks later, Dr. Jan Seski was accused of illegally killing a lion in Zimbabwe; that death received much less attention. A short time later, a German millionaire, Rainer Schorr, killed one of the biggest elephants in Zimbabwe; the elephant’s murder also received less attention. But when Safari Club International held its convention in Las Vegas last summer, it attracted 18,000 trophy hunters from six continents. And that just included the “elite” hunters. It didn’t include the good old boys who take to the hills every fall with their guns and bows to wound and kill deer, elk, and moose. Laws against cruelty to wildlife, including steel-jaw traps, are virtually never passed or enforced. Cecil’s example reveals that it is not just the numbers that are important but also the persistence of those who complain.

    After describing the enormous breadth and the atrocities of animal cruelty, Dr. Sanbonmatsu notes the following: “When atrocity becomes the very basis of society, does society not forfeit its right to call itself moral?” (p. 12). Animal advocates believe causing suffering and death to living beings is, indeed, evil. However, Religion, that arbiter of morality, disagrees. Philosophers from Aristotle to Kant and theologians from St. Augustine to St. Thomas Aquinas and beyond declare animal lives do not count as a moral issue. The Catholic Catechism teaches that we should have respect for animals, and not cause them un-necessary harm. However “animals should not be treated like people, and it is okay to eat meat, wear leather and experiment on animals. “ The Church also does not condemn the outright torture of animals in Spanish-speaking countries to celebrate the festivals of its saints nor does it speak out against rodeos or other prevalent forms of abuse, including hunting. Most of the major religions agree. In 2014 the Oak First Baptist Church in Paducah, Kentucky, gave away guns to attract more people into the congregation. The East Bay Calvary Community Church in Traverse City, Michigan, gave new converts a chance to win 80 guns. Apparently mixing guns and God works well in hunting country.

    So the history shows that culture change happens slowly while millions of animals die. Laws, if passed, are ineffective. Morality exists for Homo sapiens alone.

    Then there is direct action. The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) saved lab animals, freed fur animals, and damaged property, as well. Their work helped those animals who were saved, but did little lasting good, and the activists when caught went to prison. Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) effectively protested company CEOs of Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) which provides animals used in research. SHAC members protested employees at the office and at their residence. They also targeted secondary companies, those who did business with Huntingdon Life Sciences. SHAC was successful enough that some of those companies severed their ties with Huntingdon and caused its stock to plunge. However, protesters eventually went to prison, and HLS is back in business. The activity of the ALF and SHAC, as well as even peaceful protests and undercover work, has led to retaliation in the form of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.

    Then there is direct action against the people who are guilty of the abuse, a strategy yet to be tried but condemned by Dr. Sanbonmatsu and others who recoil at the idea of harming humans. Many advocates feel such action would constitute condign punishment for the abusers. I suspect most of us fantasize about flash mobs of vigilantes punishing the man who raped and hanged a pit bull in Washington State or the people who set cats on fire or drag horses to death behind their trucks. We think about waylaying the slaughterhouse workers who spend their days slashing and pounding living beings to death. That we refrain is probably more a matter of futility than morality. With a world population of over 7 billion, millions of them poverty-stricken, any dispatched slaughterers would be quickly replaced. They are mere cogs in the killing machine.

    As for Wayne Pacelle, he has made the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) a major force in highlighting and combatting animal abuse. Although a vegan himself, as a CEO he is a pragmatist, not a purist. His HSUS is more of an animal welfare organization than an animal rights organization, which I believe explains some of his recent disappointing decisions, particularly involving farm animals.

    To sum up, the animal rights movement has not produced enough motivated activists to create major changes in the culture of abuse. Our legal system has not worked for animals. Our moral codes do not include them. Harming or “taking out” abusers that are a dime-a-dozen would accomplish nothing.

    So time to try socialism. Roland has outlined exceedingly well the path to achieve the “revolution” and the manner in which it will help animals when they are no longer exploited in astronomical numbers by capitalism.

    Dr. Sanbonmatsu also believes that animal liberation cannot do without socialism and that socialism without animal liberation is false and one-sided: “. . . to affirm a socialism without animal liberation is to affirm a civilization based on continued antagonism with the rest of nature. It is to suggest that an ideal society, a society of universal freedom and justice, could be founded upon enslavement, exploitation, and organized mass killing of other persons [sic]. . . . A speciesist socialism thus contradicts itself causally and materially because speciesism itself serves as one of the crucial ideological props of the capitalist system, a system which, in its anti-ecological iniquities, more and more poses a threat to human civilization itself (p. 31).

    Sounds a like meeting of minds here.

    Sanbonmatsu, John. Critical Theory and Animal Liberation (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2011).

    Liked by 2 people

    • As usual, a masterful analysis!

      While having the greatest respect for Dr. Sanbonmatsu, non-violence, as the above essay clearly shows, has not and is not working with respect to animal liberation. One may reasonably disavow violence against human exploiters of animals on pragmatic grounds but certainly not for reasons of morality. No liberation movement in history has ever succeeded without resort to violent resistance. As Frederick Douglas said: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” And demands not backed up by threat of violence are empty rhetoric.

      Where I differ with Mr. Vincent, and presumably with Dr. Sanbonmatsu, is in identifying the heart of the problem. I do not believe that substituting one human economic system (socialism) for another (capitalism) will ultimately solve anything. The root of the problem is not how the forces of labor are organized or how the fruits of labor are distributed, it lies in a warped human psyche; thus fully justifying a rational, though hard-to-act-upon, misanthropy.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I agree. Human beings usually don’t really solve anything. We just hope change makes things better rather than worse. I don’t often quote the clergy of the church I left, but I think the elderly Jesuit who said the following is right: Given enough time, everything human turns out badly.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. A non-human animal intentionally brought into the world for “exploitation” by a human that is subsequently “rescued” (the animal, that is) isn’t saved.

    The supposedly saved animal never should have existed or been exploited by a human.

    Sanctuaries are private zoos for misguided liberators who still desire to control the lives of those animals they prefer. Taking land and enclosing it for a menagerie of rescued animals affects the lives of other species–and some die because of this.

    By my accounting, the project of animal liberation has yet to commence.

    If you intentionally keep an animal on your “property,” you have no business calling yourself an animal liberator or activist.


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