A little excerpt from the comedy/horror movie Black Sheep, with some hilarious lines from a hippy animal rights character.
If you can’t see the embedded video, click here to watch it on YouTube.
For most of those supportive of animal liberation, veganism is the norm. The idea that animals are not ours to eat, torture or abuse, but rather should be able to live their own lives, fits well with the vegan philosophy of not eating, wearing or using animals or animal products.
How we see our veganism, however, differs from person to person. For many, perhaps most vegans, it is the idea that by being vegan, one is not responsible for the death of millions of broiler hens, factory farmed pigs or skinned minks each year, or the torture of millions of dairy cows & battery hens in fields & sheds all over the world. This idea rests on a similar basis to that of other individualised “consumer” boycotts, such as not buying sweatshop made clothes, or not eating/drinking Nestle products.
The supporter of individualised consumer boycotts believes that, if only enough people “saw the light” and joined them, these industries would collapse upon themselves. While perhaps true in a limited fashion, this analysis sorely misses the basis of the capitalist society we live in today.
Individualised boycott is intimately linked in with that concept that liberals seem so adept at gifting themselves, guilt. Those who boycott so-called “bad capitalists” feel that by not directly supporting these corporates, they are removing any blame from themselves and can thus live a guilt free life, the only thing that is seemingly important to them. Likewise, by engaging in the occasional ritualistic A-B march and/or writing a letter to the local newspaper or MP, they are “showing their opposition” to the latest war/trade agreement/other bad thing. To the liberal, showing your opposition often seems more important than actually opposing anything in any meaningful way.
The liberal concept of showing opposition is remarkably similar to the (“radical”) Christian practice of “bearing witness”. In both, it is the display which takes importance over the action, with the ultimate goal of leaving the liberal/Christian able to live their own lives with the self-important knowledge that they spoke out, and if the powers-that-be didn’t listen, well, it can hardly be the liberal/Christian’s fault, can it?
Supporters of boycott often point to apartheid South Africa as an example of how boycotts can work. They fail, however, to note the massive difference between that example and whatever they are engaging in on any given day. The boycott of South Africa was just one part of a huge campaign, it was a mass collective boycott (not a small-scale individualised one), and, of course, within South Africa there was also a huge movement pushing for societal change. Today’s boycott campaigns, without exception, are nothing like this.
My veganism does not hurt the meat, dairy, egg, leather or fur industries. Their level of production did not change one iota when, around 18 months ago, I decided to go vegan, and nor did I ever expect it to. My veganism is simply a personal choice, albeit one with a political logic, similar to my choice not to vote, which most certainly will not hurt the state in and of itself in any way.
To be continued…
Below is an op-ed I wrote and submitted to the Dominion Post, the local daily corporate newspaper. They didn’t accept it – they said they didn’t want something that contained the facts, but rather something which argued why spying was not a good thing. Also, they didn’t want to call Somali Young, the Wellington spy, as definately a spy, because she hasn’t admitted it publicly (because clearly, when confronted, 99% of spies admit what they do?!?!?). Anyway, enjoy it. Thanks to V & M for the edits.
Secretive Industries Must Be Exposed After Spying
The recent revelations of corporate spies paid to infiltrate the Wellington Animal Rights Network (WARN), Peace Action Wellington (PAW) and Save Happy Valley Christchurch (SHV) has made a significant splash in the media over the last week, something which the corporates who hired the spies traditionally like to avoid. In Wellington, law student Somali Young was spying on WARN for two years and PAW for eleven months, while in Christchurch, Ryan Paterson-Rouse reported on the activities of SHV for 7 months. Both were hired by Thompson & Clark Investigations Ltd (TCIL), who in turn had contracts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars with Solid Energy, NZ Bio and, most likely, the New Zealand Defence Industry Association (NZDIA).
Solid Energy, New Zealand’s largest coal mining company, are also the most environmentally destructive state owned enterprise. They are responsible for mining coal which, when burnt, will result in carbon emissions equivalent to New Zealand’s entire domestic transport fleet each year.
NZ Bio, who advertise themselves as “representing the New Zealand biotechnology sector”, are an umbrella group covering a range of companies across the country that engage in vivisection and genetic engineering. Both industries have traditionally had large public opposition, and both have done their utmost to prevent information about their practices reaching the public. NZ Bio receive state funding for their work. They link to TCIL from their website, labelling them one of four “NZ Bio Partners” and the “Security Providers to the Biotech Industry”
The NZDIA are an umbrella group containing most of New Zealand’s weapons manufacturers. Working closely with the Ministry of Defence, the New Zealand Defence Force and New Zealand Trade & Enterprise, they hold an annual conference which for several years has been a target of protest by PAW, who are opposed to the trade in arms and munitions. Andrew Gibson, owner of Gibson Security, has revealed that TCIL would contract the services of his company specifically for events such as these annual conferences.
TCIL paid Ryan Paterson-Rouse a base rate of $400/month, plus $30 an hour for the time spent spying on SHV and $300/day for any time spent in Happy Valley. For this, all emails he received were forwarded directly to Gavin Clark of TCIL, he provided a report on the 30th of each month and responded to any questions from Solid Energy via Gavin Clark. Topic of discussion ranged from who was coming to meetings, what people’s roles within SHV were and who was in a relationship with who through to legally privileged information on SHV’s defence strategies for the upcoming defamation hearing and the planning for the recent coal train blockade. In fact, the action planning meetings for the train blockade were held at Paterson-Rouse’s house!
One can imagine that the pay received, and information passed on, by Somali Young was of a similar nature. Additionally, her position as a law student enabled her to offer her services as a legal advisor to both WARN and PAW. Prior to the October 2006 protests against the defence industry conference held at Te Papa, Young provided a space for the planning meetings, meaning TCIL knew the entire plan for what would occur, which was then passed on to security present on the day, as revealed by Andrew Gibson of Gibson Security in the Sunday Star Times (June 3). In her role as legal adviser, Young collected names and phone numbers (including family contacts) of many of the participants. Lastly, Young also offered to be the collection point for all still photography and video footage taken during the demonstrations – footage that no doubt ended up with TCIL.
Solid Energy have rightly been subject to hard questions this past week, but the vivisection and arms industry have thus far managed to avoid public scrutiny. The three industries are some of the most destructive to people, animals and the planet, and all have spent state funding on spies to enable them to hide information and frame public debate in a way that is directly opposed to transparency and accountability.
In the late 1990′s, Timberlands West Coast Ltd, a state owned enterprise, was caught out using similar methods in its bid to shut down public debate over West Coast native logging. In this case, the conspiracy went straight to the top, with Jenny Shipley, then Prime Minister, and other National Party hierarchy fully enmeshed, as revealed in Nicky Hager’s book Secrets & Lies. While Helen Clark and Trevor Mallard have condemned Solid Energy’s hiring of Paterson-Rouse, it is still speculation just what the Labour Government’s involvement in the spying prior to its exposure was.
TCIL’s first foray into spying on political groups came through genetic engineering, an area with heavy involvement from Crown Research Institutes such as AgResearch and Crop & Food Research. It appears, then, that TCIL have a long history of spying on political groups for Government owned companies.
This kind of spying is, unfortunately, totally predictable. These corporations are involved in destroying the planet, torturing animals and manufacturing war material. Until our economic, political and social systems stop rewarding such activities, there will be plenty of people willing to sell their services to the highest bidder. Over the last week, we have seen what may be simply the tip of the iceberg – as the pieces fall into place more will become clear. Only then, perhaps, will we know how deep the well of deceit and subterfuge sinks.
The Christchurch Save Happy Valley (SHV) group, the Wellington Animal Rights Network (WARN) and Peace Action Wellington (PAW) have exposed corporate spies operating within their groups. In Christchurch, Ryan had been involved in the group for 7 months, while in Wellington Somali had been spying for around 2 years.
The pair were employed by Thompson & Clark Private Investigations Limited, an Auckland firm that specialises in “covert physical and electronic surveillance” and “political activism”. In Ryan’s case, the money came from Solid Energy, while in Somali’s, it was likely to be the NZ Biotech Industry for WARN and the NZ Defence Industry Association for PAW.
Frances Mountier, spokesperson for SHV Christchurch, said “It is shocking that a state owned enterprise would use such insidious and underhand tactics to undermine the public debate on climate change”.
“Thompson & Clark are a leech-like company, feeding off political groups while making sure not to kill their main source of income” stated WARN spokesperson Mark Eden. “Companies that abuse animals like to keep their practices their dirty little secret, and it seems they will sink to any low to keep it that way.”
Peace Action Wellington has expressed solidarity with the other groups. “This corporate infiltration and spying combined with the spying and violence of the police is part and parcel of speaking out in this so called “democratic” State. We wish to extend our solidarity towards those other groups infiltrated seeking to do the same”.
The Save Happy Valley Coalition has previously exposed Thompson & Clark on two occassions – in February 2006, people at the Happy Valley occupation came accross two T&C spies on a ridgeline overlooking the campsite, while in September 2006 a camera with a powerful zoom lens was discovered at the start of the track into the Valley.
Sorry about the lack of writing, been focussing on getting the second issue of the Anarchia zine finished (it’s almost done, will hopefully be online before New Years). In the meantime, enjoy this lovely image, apparently from a new NRA comic book!
The fourth Carnival Of Empty Cages is about to hit us and I thought I’d contribute to this one.
A few months ago now, I moved into a new flat. I had long given up finding a vegan flat, and eventually realised I’d probably have to go back on my promise to myself that I wouldn’t live with meat-eaters. That horrible smell of burning flesh that I thought I’d never have to live with again? If I wanted to have somewhere to live, I figured I’d probably have to deal with it. So, I went to visit a flat that seemed to have everything else going for it – big backyard, nice flatmates with good taste in music, walking distance from most places I’d want to go. It was great – and then the discussion turned to food, and my heart sunk:
“We all cook together, is that going to be alright with you?”
Then, just as I began to respond that I was vegan and thus wouldn’t be able to buy and cook food together with them, one of them added:
“Oh, and we’re vegetarian, I hope you don’t mind.”
Brilliant! I told them I was vegan, and they came out with even better news:
“That’s sweet, we hardly ever drink cows milk anyway, we all prefer soy. I reckon we could cook vegan real easily.”
And so it came to pass – my flat isn’t fully vegan, they do add cheese to their meals sometimes (after dishing up my portion), but by and large its pretty easy, and they’re really good about it – in fact, when friends came over for dessert one night and bought a non-vegan cake with them, one of my flatmates baked a vegan cake just so I wouldn’t go without!
I could almost get used to this…and, it seems, I have. Thinking back over the last few weeks, I can think of a number of occasions where I have declined invitations – to friends houses for dinner, to parties and other things, simply because I don’t want to put up with being around burnt flesh (and to a lesser extent other animal extracts). I appear to have put myself into a self-imposed vegan exile, away from my non-vegan friends and away from situations where I know I’ll find myself having to say
“No thanks, I don’t eat meet/cheese”
It’s not that I don’t feel confident in my own reasons for being vegan – when I feel the need to, I can talk for long periods of time about them. It’s simply that, for the most part, I can’t be bothered, and unfortunately, most people don’t get the hint when you wear “I love tofu” badges. There’s only so many times you can repeat something before it begins to lose all meaning.
So, how to get around this? Well, I’ve only just realised I’m doing it, and, to be honest, at this stage I’m not sure it’s even a bad thing – I definately need more time to myself, and if this gives me an excuse to get it, I’m gonna keep making the most of it. But I’ll throw the question out there – have any vegan readers of this blog encountered something similar?
From Aotearoa Indymedia:
Animal rights activists protested outside the Ministry of Agriculture offices in Wellington today. The protest was a reaction to the news that Agriculture Minister Jim Anderton is overruling parliamentary legal advice and supporting the use of battery cages.
While it was a small protest called without much notice, it seemed to really upset the Ministry of Agriculture, who seemed offended that we named and shamed David Bayvel of MAF. Several MAF staff came out and took photos and video film of protesters and scuttled back behind the police when challenged.
Despite overwhelming public opposition, Minister of Agriculture, Jim Anderton, has yet again interfered with the democratic process to protect
the profits of the egg industry.
Parliament’s Regulations Review Committee recently ruled that battery cages do not comply with the Animal Welfare Act, and they must be phased out over time. Jim Anderton has overruled the committee and says he will ignore their advice, ignore science, and ignore public opinion. Instead he defends the cruel egg industry and will allow them to continue cramming birds into tiny cages for their entire lives.
Protesters said today “It’s time we stopped tolerating these spineless apologists for the animal abuse industries. Jim Anderton and the rest of the Labour led government have done nothing to help these animals, despite overwhelming public opposition to factory farming for years. The faceless bureaucrats at the Ministry of Agriculture who advise the Minister are also to blame. People like David Bayvel, Director of Animal Welfare at MAF, who hasn’t done a thing for animals since he got the job”.
If you want to really help animals, forget the politicians, forget lobbying, and help us to hit the industry where it hurts – in the pocket.
Boycott battery eggs and get involved in our campaign to expose and disrupt factory farming!
And here’s some photos I took at the demo:
The following letter to the editor was sent to me, and I thought I'd share it with you. It appeared in Saturday's issue of The Press, the daily newspaper in Christchurch.
Chicken or …
Having just flown with Air New Zealand and knowing that as a middle-aged male I would be segregated from anyone under 14, I settled in for the inflight movie and dinner. It was announced that dinner was a choice of chicken or vegetarian. Now that is not a choice. Chicken or beef is a choice.
The overwhelming preference on the plane was for chicken. The 50-plus passengers at the rear of the plane had no choice and some were unhappy.
I would sooner change my sexual preference than eat vegetarian, so declined my meal. A man became agitated and had to be subdued. I was thankful for pre-flight security checks as he looked less menacing waving a plastic spoon.
I urge like minds to request a special dietary meal – meat.
I almost don't know where to start with this one….it scares me that people like this can still exist. The idea that a meat eater can feel discriminated against in our overwhelmingly meat eating society is just ridiculous. The homophobia in "I would sooner change my sexual preferences than…", implying that the concept of sexual preferences other than the norm are so disgusting (although less so than eating vegetarian?!?) that they can be used as the extreme example of something this person does not want to do….
I'm not going to formulate a coherent response to this letter…instead, I'm just gonna sit here shaking my head that people like this still exist.
The word rights is one we hear a lot in connection with politics, especially from those on the left. Human rights, women's rights, animal rights, worker's rights and so forth. But what exactly are these rights based on? In a world where language defines our society (rather than the other way around), we obviously need to be very careful with how we choose to speak.
"Rights" are not something which we take for ourselves, but rather things which are granted to us. In modern society, there seem to be two types of rights. One type is granted by the state, the other type is considered innate. I will explore these in turn.
As an anarchist, the irrelevance of state-given rights to me is clearly obvious, however, time and time again, I hear other anarchists referring to them. This seems to be especially prevelant amongst anarchists based in the USA, where anarchists are heard to complain when their "rights under the US constitution" are ignored, and in relation to war and imprisonment, such as the "rights under the Geneva convention" of the prisoners at places like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.
Surely, as anarchists, we understand that states only grant concessions when forced to in order to quell dissent – the 8 hour day, the repealing of the Jim Crow laws, granting women and blacks the vote are all examples of this. And, as anarchists, we understand that even where the state is forced to grant concessions, it will usually try to bring the same results back in a more palatable form (the above 3 examples are all relevant here too). What was once de jure becomes de facto, and the state survives to oppress another day.
Why then, are we so surprised when state-given rights are violated? This is the norm, not the exception. In making the issue the violation of state-given rights, rather than state oppression, we allow the state to dictate the agenda, leaving ourselves eternally on the back foot. As long as we argue within a statist framework, we will remain trapped inside it.
For activists concerned with them, issues such as human rights and animal rights are frequently regarded as innate inside the animal (whether human or not) they refer to. In our society, there is only one thing that is imagined to have the power to grant innate rights, and that is god.
The number of atheists who refer to these innate rights is bizarre. Innate rights assume a universal truth, a universal good and bad, which can only come from a higher being. As with state-given rights, discussing innate rights only serves to further entrench that which is normative, namely a belief in a higher power (god).
Liberation – An alternative view
An alternative to the rights-based view already exists and has a heavy usage within political circles – it is liberation. Unlike passively recieved rights, liberation requires active participation. It is not based on any universal truth. Liberation is bold, liberation confronts the oppressors, and, eventually, liberation can bring true freedom, not reliant on the framework of the oppressor or the belief that an ulimate authority will make things right.
Today I finally printed the first issue of my zine, also titled Anarchia. You can download it below.
If you want a hard copy, it will be available either now or very soon from the following locations:
Te Whanganui-a-Tara / Wellington – The Freedom Shop, shop 204b in Left Bank (off Cuba Mall).
Otautahi / Christchurch – Food Not Bombs stalls most Fridays 11-2 cnr Cashel and Colombo, and other random stalls and events.
Otepoti / Dunedin – Black Star Books, 2nd Floor, Regent Chambers, 18 The Octagon.
Melbourne – Barricade Books, inside Irene Community Arts Warehouse, 5 Pitt Street, Brunswick
More locations to come
If you know of anywhere else that might be interested in it, then feel free to print the .pdf above, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for hard copies or more details.