Violence can never advance the true Animal Rights movement (Abolitionist Veganism) because it does not solve problems, either in an abstract respect nor in a practical one.
Here, in my opinion, are the reasons why:
1. Violence is immoral – True Veganism is a movement that is fundamentally about non-violence; it’s not only against violence by humans towards nonhumans, but also against humans towards other humans. If violence by humans against nonhumans is immoral, then violence by humans against other humans is also immoral, using the same criteria. Also, raping women who wear fur or killing vivisectors and factory farm workers is not Self-Defense nor is it Defense Of Others. Self-Defense/Defense Of Others occurs when the person committing the original violence understands why their violence is wrong. Since the people killing the factory farm workers or vivisectors etc. will not take the time to educate them all about Veganism, this rule does not apply, even in the abstract.
2. Violence harms the doer as much as the victim – When you commit violence, you’re harming your own psyche. Killing someone is one of the most harmful acts we can do… to ourselves as well. Even just harboring violent thoughts can harm us. People in the habit of thinking violent thoughts tend to harm other humans and even nonhumans much more often than people who think peaceful thoughts. Also, when you think violently, you tend to feel more stress, and your body reacts negatively to that as well. You will also not be able to advocate for nonhumans (or anyone) as effectively if you are known to use violence, in either words or deeds.
3. Violence does not teach people peace – If you are trying to stop violence it makes absolutely no rational sense to do violence in order to end violence. People don’t see someone commit violence and say “That person used violence, so it’s ok for them, but it’s not ok for me.”
4. Violence does not make pre-Vegans want to be Vegans – If anything, it makes pre-Vegans want to have nothing to do with Veganism. It makes them believe that Vegans are all violent, crazy, and out to hurt them all. Who would want to have anything to do with that? And using words of violence, anger and hatred can do as much damage as simply harming someone directly. Especially when online, since they stay around forever.
5. Violence makes others want vengeance – If you kill or otherwise harm a pre-Vegan, what reason do their friends and family – even if they are Vegan – have to not seek retribution against you? And so the cycle of violence is perpetuated. The old saying “An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind” was not coined for no reason. As soon as you harm someone else for reasons other than self-defense, someone else is going to want to harm you because you harmed that person, and someone will want to harm them for harming you, and it will just keep going back and forth until everyone has been harmed.
6. Who would you be using violence against? – Do you have pre-Vegan family and friends? Are the lives of insects worth less than the lives of mammals, or birds? If one of your pre-Vegan family or friends was about to kill an insect (or wipe out a whole bunch at one time) and nothing else you could do would dissuade them, would you kill them?
If not, then you just made a completely irrational arbitrary decision based on really… nothing. You care more about cows than you do about bees, for instance, when killing masses of bees is MUCH more likely to result in the death of this planet than killing the same number of cows. Your family is eating cows AND killing bees. Better get to killin’ ’em.
Let’s say you think we should kill only vivisectors, furriers and factory farm/slaughterhouse workers. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that we kill everyone involved in those 4 institutions. Will that end vivisection, the fur trade, or the consumption of animal substances? Why would it?
Since you’re attacking the supply side of the equation, and not the demand side, the demand for medical cures from animal testing, meat, dairy, eggs and fur is still there. So all you’ve done is kill a bunch of people who almost all thought they either were doing something good, or thought they had no other choice. You haven’t educated anyone about Veganism. Since the demand is still there, more vivisectors, furriers and producers of “animal foods” will just take over for the murdered ones. And the ones who died will be seen by the pre-Vegan public as as “martyrs to a cause greater than themselves.” In fact, the ones who take their place will be seen as “heroes nobly putting their own lives on the line to supply desperately needed medical cures, clothing and food to the masses.”
The only way to end the demand for these things is by educating the pre-Vegan public about Veganism. Nothing else will make the kind of lasting changes that every Vegan wants.
7. Violence has never been effective in ending violence – People have been using violence to try to solve problems that involve violence, and end violence altogether, for all of recorded history. People who promote using violence claim that it’s necessary or something terrible will happen. But everyone has been using violence since the dawn of time, and something terrible always keeps happening. We’re engaging in more violence now than in any other time in our history, per capita, and it’s only getting worse, not better. We’ve never tried not using violence as a species to “solve our problems.” It’s never been done. Any problem that’s come up, someone has always resorted to violence to “solve” it.
We keep trying the same thing over and over and over again, and we still have the problem of violence. If violence could solve the problem of violence, we’d be living in a 100% peaceful paradise by now.
“But there have been some social justice causes where violence was one tactic that was used and the campaign ended up abolishing the problem it was targeted at. Doesn’t that prove that violence helped?”
My answer to that is, if there was a car stalled at the bottom of a hill, and you had 10 people pushing it up the hill, but you had one person on the other end, pushing down, did the one person who was pushing down help them get that car up the hill? Sure they were engaging in an activity, but did it actually help at all? Just because someone did something within a social justice movement, doesn’t lead to the idea that they helped. The one does not automatically follow from the other.
People who think that violence will end violence always say “But you wouldn’t tell the people who wanted to fight Hitler to use peace instead.” Does that mean that we’ve never had a violent conflict since World War 2? We used violence against the Nazis and that didn’t end violence altogether. In fact, we’ve never been more violent than we are right now. The main problem is that people keep thinking that the threat is a specific person or people, when I maintain that the threat is violence itself. Ending “the threat” of a violent person or group of people by using violence doesn’t end the real threat, it perpetuates it.
“But animals are slaves, and the American Civil War ended the slavery of humans in the USA.”
The war itself didn’t end slavery. That was the 13th amendment, a year after the war. Abolitionism is what ended slavery. If we relied on violence to solve our slavery problem, and not changing the hearts and minds of the average person, we would still have slaves to this day. Violence doesn’t change hearts and minds.
Violence only leads to more violence. Peace leads to peace. The day that something bad happens and nobody uses violence to “solve” that problem is the day that we truly begin to evolve as a species. If we are really serious about ending violence forever, then the same methods that will end a pre-Vegan world need to be used to end a violent one. We seem to think that being the one to end violence is always the responsibility of someone else: “I would be non-violent, but ‘they’ won’t be, so I can’t, or else they will destroy me.” Don’t say “We can’t stop using violence because THEY will never stop using violence.” “They” are saying the same thing about YOU. In the majority of wars, both sides think the other one will utterly destroy them if they don’t destroy the other side first.
It’s not the responsibility of “the other” to end violence by being non-violent. It’s the responsibility of each of us. Each one of us needs to make the decision to not ever use violence for any reason and also educate others why they should not ever use violence either. Until then, the cycle of violence will just continue.
If you’re not already Vegan, and you think animals matter morally, then please go Vegan. It’s easy and great for you, incredible for the animals, and wonderful for the planet. If you’re already Vegan, please educate non-Vegans about why they should go Vegan. Please rescue, volunteer, adopt, foster, spay, and neuter the nonhuman refugees of domestication whenever you can. Please feed your nonhuman family Vegan where you can. These things are the most important, morally responsible things to do and are desperately needed by everyone.
To learn more about Abolitionist Veganism and the issues I’ve outlined in this post, check out The Master List Of Vegan Info:
Disclaimer: My only goal with this blog is to produce as comprehensive a resource for Vegan information as possible. I am 100% Abolitionist Vegan and 100% against exploitation of nonhuman or human animals, any type of violence against human or nonhuman persons or property, welfare regulation, any form of speciesism, ethnic bigotry, genderism, ableism, heterosexism, etc., any of the large governmental or non-governmental nonhuman animal organizations, “happy meat,” vegetarianism, veg*nism, Meat-Free Mondays, or other forms of reductionism and anything else that makes it seem like any form of violence or exploitation of animals is ok. If any of those positions are endorsed on any site in this list, or any language is used to imply that, it’s not that I included that link because I agree, but simply because I don’t control every bit of information on all of these sites.