Above: Rosa Parks, Civil Rights Activist
“We didn’t have any civil rights. It was just a matter of survival, of existing from one day to the next. I remember going to sleep as a girl hearing the Klan ride at night and hearing a lynching and being afraid the house would burn down.”
– Rosa Parks quoted in “Standing Up for Freedom,” Academy of Achievement.org (2005-10-31) via http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Rosa_Parks
The fear of fear…
Though she stood for liberation…
It was more than her bus seat…
But, it was a single action…
Her efforts prevailed…
Every February, it is Black History Month, and we need to remember that nothing worth achieving happens because someone kindly gives to us what we want… Especially when it comes to social justice movements. I interpret single issue campaigns within the Animal Liberation movement as individual actions, protests, vigils, the passing of laws, etc. in order to obtain total freedom for the animals. New York’s animal justice advocate, Robert Bello, compares the refusal of African American Civil Rights Activist, Rosa Parks, to give up her seat to a white man, to the struggle that animals face on a daily basis. To effectively change the conditions by which animals are kept for purposes beyond their own freedom to eventually having full and lasting Animal Liberation, it is necessary and proper to hit lots of singles in order to see a difference. Rosa Parks did not consume dead animals, and she sacrificed much of herself for the betterment of others.
Bello states, “ROSA PARKS WAS A SINGLE ISSUE CAMPAIGN: She didn’t refuse to give up that seat on the bus unless all Blacks got civil rights immediately. She refused to give up that seat…..because she had the right to sit there. PERIOD. From there, building on that one single issue campaign, and many others involving restaurant counters, and rights to use bathrooms and be admitted to schools and colleges, little by little the Civil Rights movement built momentum and established LAWS granting minorities civil rights.”
All too often, within the vegan and animal rights movement, there is controversy surrounding SIC’s because those who want them are oftentimes referred to as “welfarists.” Nothing could be further from the truth. It is about NEVER turning our backs on those animals that have a knife to their throats all day every day. I do believe in animal welfare campaigns because they improve the lives that are left for the suffering animals, and it also creates pressure for farms, slaughterhouses, and other entities to have to spend more and have more regulatory controls and transparency to the public. This is not a be-all, end-all. It is just a beginning… So, my goal is certainly not to just get bigger cages for animals. It is to have those awful places shut down for good… It just takes a lot of work. If someone handed me a blanket in a concentration camp, and they couldn’t save my life, at least, I have experienced some sort of human kindness. I would take that with me because that love would never die. Referencing Mike Geer, of United for the Animals and Mino Valley Farm Sanctuary, he states, “I’m not talking about animal welfare campaigns looking for bigger cages, I’m talking about the countless other single issue campaigns which are fighting for the abolition of exploitation altogether, such as a ban on animal use in circus or a ban on animal testing. When you look back at the evolution of the animal rights movement, the victories that have been won, and lasting changes that have been made, every single one of them has been the result of a successful single issue campaign.” You can read more about SIC’s on the Unite For The Animals website.
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was also involved in many single-issue campaigns in order to gain justice for African Americans. Although he did eat meat, he spoke out on behalf of the animals. He said,
Above: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”
As the Vegan Fierce webmaster, my values are also aligned with those of King and Parks. I still remember the first time that I did an animal rights vigil, I was terrified of getting into trouble. However, my heart knew that it was the right thing to do because there were innocent beings being murdered inside of that plant. Baby cows were being dragged to their death, cut, burned, and hung… And, I was to accept the “right” for others to eat “their meat” since they respected my right to stand up for the animals. My inner strength trumped any worries that I once had. We all have a right to be happy and free, without fear of harm, pain, and/or death. If it is wrong to chain and tether the dog below to a life of enslavement, it is also wrong to do it to circus animals, animals used by vivisectors for experimentation, animal racing, horse-drawn carriages, animals used for food, such as pigs, cows, turkeys, chickens, fish, etc. It is a form of discrimination called “speciesism” where humans will love one animal but have no problem seeing another animal die for some human purpose.
Above: Dog tethered and chained to a life of enslavement
Bello also states, “It didn’t happen by POC [Persons of Color] all holding their breath until the civil rights movement happened in one fell swoop. Just like the Animal Liberation Revolution won’t happen like that. It takes small victories on individual issues building upon each other as building blocks and stepping stones in incremental steps..winning small battles…..which taken together over time…WIN THE WAR. THAT is how the Vegan Revolution will be won…not turning our backs on suffering animals for some greater long term vision that may never materialize.”
And, I will say what he says one more time:
“THAT is how the Vegan Revolution will be won…not turning our backs on suffering animals for some greater long term vision that may never materialize.”
Robert Bello, Vegan/Animal Activist Paul Schulman, Vegan/Animal Activist, Vegan Fierce Webmaster