A Critique of Lee Hall, Friends of Animals, and the Franciombe Effect in the New Abolitionist Movement –
By Steven Best and Jason Miller
“I am one of those who believe that it is the mission of this war to free every non-human animal in the United States. I am one of those who believe that we should consent to no peace which shall not be an Abolition peace. I am, moreover, one of those who believe that the work of animal liberationists will not have been completed until all the sentient beings of the Earth, shall have been admitted, fully and completely, into the moral circle of humanity. I look upon speciesism as going the way of all the earth. It is the mission of the war to put it down.” —revision of a quote by MLK
Malcolm X once said, “I don’t favor violence. If we could bring about recognition and respect of our people by peaceful means, well and good. Everybody would like to reach his objectives peacefully. But I’m also a realist. The only people in this country who are asked to be nonviolent are black people.”
Fast forward four decades and the same rings true for animal rights people.
Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), one of the world’s largest animal testing companies, is notorious for extreme animal abuse (torturing and killing 500 animals a day) and manipulated research data. To test everything from toothpaste and floor cleaners to Big Pharma drug concoctions, HLS mercilessly tortures and murders millions of dogs, rabbits, primates, rodents, and pigs each year. As evidence of senseless brutality for profit, on numerous occasions employees have been caught on tape punching beagle dogs in the face, dissecting live monkeys, and other barbarities. 1
Yet despite its malevolence, Huntingdon reported revenues of $127.6 million for the first six months of 2008, an increase of 13.4% over the same period in 2007. Although HLS may be more hindered by SHAC’s efforts than its glowing press releases reveal, it still maintains its despicable existence. Meanwhile six members of SHAC USA, a group dedicated to shutting down HLS through publicity campaigns and direct action, were given stiff prison sentences for the “crime” of running a website that provided information enabling other activists to engage in intimidation and property damage against HLS and its business partners. In a world dominated by speciesism and capitalism, an entity that has inflicted abject misery upon millions of sentient beings over the years operates with impunity and reaps economic reward for its violence. Meanwhile, defenders of those with no voice were imprisoned for acts of compassion.
Vivisectors, animal researchers, factory farmers, furriers, and their ilk condemn their victims– living beings who feel and suffer, just as we humans do– to a life that is so “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” it would have appalled even Thomas Hobbes. Socially conditioned to believe that we are the master species, most people condone the exploitation of animals “for the good of humanity.” Others apathetically look the other way. Some, however, opt to oppose this abomination with tactics appropriate to the evils inflicted on animals, and yet they are as scorned by many in the animal advocacy movement in the same language and tone that one finds in the discourse of the FBI and SHAC’s prosecutors.
Like Good Germans
“Our complex global economy is built upon millions of small, private acts of psychological surrender, the willingness of people to acquiesce in playing their assigned parts as cogs in the great social machine that encompasses all other machines. They must shape themselves to the prefabricated identities that make efficient coordination possible… that capacity for self-enslavement must be broken.” —Theodore Roszak
Ironically, the relatively few animal defenders who carry out the struggle against the monstrous animal-industrial complex through militant direct action (MDA), such as property destruction and liberating caged animals, often find that animal exploiters are not their only opponents. In a perverse twist, a surprisingly large number of people whom the casual observer would assume to be allied with direct activists often align themselves with animal oppressors in their rush to show they “reach across the aisle,” “remain civil,” “work within the system,” and above all, “adhere to non-violence.” They become perfect puppets of the corporate-state complex.
Consider Judith Marie Gansen, a politically correct, beautifully brainwashed, and suitably subdued animal advocate, who pondered how best to serve the animals at a time when so much illegal activism prompted animal exploitation industries to pressure Congress to pass the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, a notorious law that criminalizes a wide range of formerly legal pressure tactics and goes so far as to characterize these tactics as “terrorism.” Fleeing from the likes of SHAC, and running into the comforting arms of the state, Gansen obligingly says:
As for myself, I will continue to respond to writing alerts I receive from my favorite, legal animal organizations. I will continue to make respectful phone calls and emails and do letters to the editor to educate people and change policy and convince lawmakers that our cause is a just cause–and this will all be done without harassing anyone. I will avoid shopping where my dollar spent will harm any animal and will participate in legal boycotts.
I will strive to be a better informed animal advocate to be certain I know the limits of the law and follow them. I will live my life as cruelty-free as possible to set an example for others. My way may take a little [!] longer, but I truly believe that the change that this brings will be the lasting change that we need, and more importantly, that animals need. 2
One can stop wondering why the animal advocacy movement is losing the fight, as meat consumption skyrockets, animal exploitation increases exponentionally, the sixth great species extinction crisis rapidly accelerates, and the planetary ecosystem irrevocably comes undone. Couple Gansen’s dogmatic adherence to declawed and defanged “socially acceptable” forms of activism with her conclusion that, “the effect of some alleged ‘animal terrorists’ in recent years is that laws are now on the books that may be used against people who trespass on land to get real evidence that is needed to put someone in jail,” and it becomes apparent that Gansen is a clone of Lee Hall, the consummate smug bourgeois liberal, loathe to break the law or directly challenge capitalism.
Hall, a former adjunct law professor at Rutgers, legal director of Friends of Animals, and protégé of fellow lawyer and animal rights advocate Gary Francione, is an unwavering pacifist who believes the war against animals can be won by converting the world to veganism (a 2006 Harris poll determined that 1.4% of the US population was vegan—we’re almost there!). Hall epitomizes the loyal opposition that has sustained the rancid and ruthless capitalist system throughout its history.
In two of Hall’s many woefully misguided jeremiads against militant direct action, she arrogantly dismisses the risk, loss, suffering, and value of those who have dared to give wholesale animal murderers and torturers a tiny taste of their own medicine. 3 Rather than recognizing their courageous efforts as an integral part of a revolutionary struggle for animal liberation, she demonizes direct activists, scapegoats them for draconian laws protecting the animal industrial complex, and leaves readers with the impression that the movement would be light years ahead without groups such as the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and SHAC.
What Hall, her allies, acolytes, and drone-like followers fail to emphasize is that in a capitalist “democracy,” the courts, state, and legal system serve the interests of corporations. While her assertion that the Bush administration and Congress (part and parcel of the “power elite” that C. Wright Mills identified and dissected) enacted the AETA because direct action poses a real and immediate economic threat to the lucrative animal exploitation industries is true, Hall misses the more significant fact that this is a welcome indication that the animal rights movement is shaking some foundations, and crossing the Rubicon of intense state repression is often a necessary stage for any rights or justice struggle that has the potential to succeed. For the state rarely lifts a finger to stop ineffectual forms of dissent, such as animal rights activists who do nothing but chant and hold signs outside of research laboratories. Thus, the provisional absence of such legislation hardly indicates successful tactics. Moreover, the original version of the AETA, the “Animal Enterprise Protection Act,” became law in 1992, 8 years before the SHAC movement crossed the Atlantic into the US, and so one could just as easily argue that it was legal and peaceful tactics that were the catalyst for state repression. In fact, any significant challenge to animal exploitation — legal or illegal, aboveground or underground – will provoke a harsh state response. So the question is not how to avoid state repression but how to break through it, using a variety of effective tactics without hindering the movement by fundamentalist fallacies and pacifist dogmas. 4
Thus, once activists break with tired forms of protest and find more creative ways to truly threaten the economic interests of exploiters and even the capital supply to an entire nation (as SHAC and other liberationists did in England), then corporations and governments will rise like a sleeping dragon and belch fire in a serious counter-attack. While Hall and her followers may believe the myth that we can do battle with the corporate-state monster peacefully and that “peaceful” tactics alone can defeat violence, intelligent animal liberationists recognize that if they turn the other cheek, animal-exploiters will slap them down like rag dolls. They recognize that time has grown too short to move at the snail’s pace afforded by peaceful resistance, that the rapidly worsening ecological crisis does not allow the long march through the state and the plate and that we have but moments to effect radical change and to topple the dominionist paradigm informing nearly all human thought, none greater than the Western bankers and timber, mining, agriculture, and biotechnology corporations.
While many non-violent, legal tactics are often necessary and useful to advance animal liberation, they are impotent without being supplemented by radical direct action, as they pose no immediate threat to the global capitalist system that enables the moneyed elite to prey upon billions of non-human (and human) animals each year to fuel growth and profits. CEO’s don’t lose much sleep over a student petition campaign, a weekly vegan outreach program downtown, or a Sunday potluck dinner with a vegan speaker, as these efforts barely break past 1% of the US population. But exploiters do suffer nightmares when they themselves come under attack and realize there is a real possibility that their property could catch fire or their bloody businesses could be brought down by a gas can and a match.
As powerful and effective as Martin Luther King and his followers were with their non-violent approach, institutionalized racism would exist even more today were it not for the militant presence and tactics of Malcolm X and the Black Panthers. Just as the power elite spawned COINTELPRO in reaction to the emerging social movements of the 1960s, so forty years later they enacted the AETA to squelch the successful tactics of groups like the ALF and SHAC. In short, they are afraid. And that is a good thing. Let them tremble in with some scintilla of the fear they inflict on their animal victims.
We need the largest and most systemic and inclusive vision and strategy possible, one that fears no consequence of logic and is attuned to historical precedents. We need the most uncompromising, militant form of politics we can muster or we shall all just be washed away by the tsunami of corporate repression and buried by the chaos and violence of ecological disaster rumbling on the horizon.
Yet pseudo-abolitionist peacenik posers in the movement like Lee Hall, Gary Francione, and Bob Torres – those who dilute, distort, deny, and diminish the power and pluralist tactics used by the original abolitionist movement in the 19th century — along with feeble welfarists such as Erik Marcus and soma peddlers like Will Tuttle, severely diminish the chances of realizing the powerful vision that uncompromisingly fought human slavery by any means necessary. If Hall’s pitifully anemic approach to assailing the animal exploitation industry were the only problem she presented, we could dismiss her as another innocuous, or even tad-bit helpful pacifist.
However, just as the academic community has learned to pay attention to rightwing extremist David Horowitz — a wolf in sheep’s clothing who persistently attempts to muzzle radical and dissenting voices in the name of “fairness, balance, and diversity” — those who truly desire the abolition of animal exploitation and speciesism need to sit up and take notice of the faux-abolitionists, the fundamentalist pacifist, the outright collaborationist approach of Hall, Francione, and others, who feel more comfortable with animal exploiters than true animal liberators.
Collaborationists in the Churchyard
“We are a violent species, and we always solve our problems with violence. There have been no exceptions. Nonviolent victories are a myth. Force has always prevailed. The independence of India was not achieved by Gandhi alone; there was a violent insurgency going on against the British at the same time. Gandhi utilized nonviolence as a tactic against the self-righteous British for the purpose of humiliating them, and it worked; whereas it would never have worked against the Nazis or Stalin’s Communist Party. Martin Luther King did not win civil rights achievements by himself; he had the help of the Black Panthers and riots in the streets. Nonviolence works as a compliment to violent action; it has never worked by itself. Violence can only be defeated by a greater force of violence or by the strategic implementation of applied violence.” Paul Watson
Lee Hall, who reveals many of her betrayals against the animal rights movement in her self-published screed, Capers in the Churchyard, is a collaborationist of the first order.
Perhaps her most insidious quality is that Hall tries to steer between the Scylla of animal welfarism and the Charybdis of militant direct action, portraying each as the key barriers to progress. Her position is that welfarists only promote reforms, never challenging the property status of animals and that MDA takes the animal rights movement off the moral high road by engaging in the very violence the movement seeks to change.
Like the ever treacherous centrists in US politics, Hall peddles a middle-of-the-road approach, minimizing conflict and ultimately playing into the avaricious grasp of the “enemy” — oops, sorry– in Hall’s Jesus/Gandhian/Kingian pacifist playbook we are supposed to “love” our “enemies” like lost brothers — by completely eliminating the option of MDA as a necessary and effective tactic. In Hall’s delusional, blue-pill world, vegan outreach and education by a relative handful of dedicated activists will eventually overcome the staggeringly powerful opposition of billions of meat-addicted speciesists and profit-hungry animal exploiters. The word “eventually” is crucial here, for while she and Gansen know that their agonizingly sluggish progress through vegan education “may take a little longer,” the question of time is absolutely crucial. Amidst this multidimensional planetary social and ecological crisis – fueled by human overpopulation, species extinction, deforestation, global warming, resource shortages, and so on – time is a luxury we don’t have. We need to fight for human, animal, and Earth liberation immediately, full-out, peddle to the metal, and by any and every means necessary.
A cursory look at the fanfare littering Internet forums and review sites shows that Capers in the Churchyard has received almost unanimous praise, with legions of fans breathlessly extolling it as “the best animal rights book ever.” This could be because it is the only animal rights book they ever read. Or because its bubble-gum flavor reinforces the pacifist illusions they picked up from Gandhi and King. Or even because it is a feel-good, Panglossian tract that lulls people into thinking that we can change the world through education and legislation, without serious levels of agitation. Yet again, it could be because those who know nothing of the history of social movements, who do not understand the complexity of social power dynamics, and who are myopically single-issue in their approach to animal rights can easily swallow Hall’s simplistic, opiate-laced nonsense that a vegan revolution will not only bring animal liberation, but will be the trigger and catalyst for social revolution in general.
Capers is not just a bad book, it is a dangerous book. Unfortunately it poses no danger to the system that tortures and murders 52 billion land animals and 90 billion marine animals each year; it is, rather, a threat to those opposing it. Hall naïvely obscures how long, hard, and difficult the struggle for animal liberation will be. She myopically and ahistorically glosses over the fact that many different kinds of social movements will have to strike back hard at systemic oppression and find ways to form powerful alliances of resistance to bring about the level of radical social transformation needed to bring this planet back from its tailspin into catastrophe. Instead, despite their occasional nods to alliance politics, she and Francione peddle single-issue and elitist fantasies that dietary transformation can spark general social transformation.
Essentialism and the Religion of Pacifism
“Pacifism is generally considered to be a morally unassailable position to take with respect to human violence. … While it can seem noble enough when the stakes are low, pacifism is ultimately nothing more than a willingness to die, and to let others die, at the pleasure of the world’s thugs. It should be enough to note that a single sociopath, armed with nothing more than a knife, could exterminate a city full of pacifists. … Here we come upon a terrible facet of ethically asymmetric warfare: when your enemy has no scruples, your own scruples become another weapon in his hand.” Sam Harris
“Here is somebody who can really think,” says sycophant Jeffrey Masson in his vegan creampuff introduction to Capers. Without embarrassment, Masson goes further to say that Hall “provides all the evidence that allows you to advance your own thinking.” If this book is a stellar example of “thinking,” the animal rights movement is in serious crisis. Far from a paradigm of thought, Capers is rather a minefield of fallacies, ranting, propaganda, ad hominems, and vulgar demagoguery. It should indeed be taught in philosophy classes – as a model of how not to think.
Gansen provides an example of the arrogance and idiocy that Hall’s Capers is sowing and validating when she writes, “Keep in mind that the worst incidents from those claiming to be animal activists did not happen inside the U.S. and these incidents are not part of the legitimate animal rights movement.”
Capers in the Churchyard is replete with this type of dogmatic, patronizing, and arrogant attitude based on a tendentious essentializing of the meaning of “animal rights.” Hall and her minions define animal rights ex cathedra as if theirs is the only “true” moral philosophy and praxis and everything else is reformist or extremist. They employ this Platonic platitude to enshrine their doctrine as eternal truth. Make no mistake about it. Hall and Francione view themselves as messiahs and expect nothing less than parroting the party line from their loyal adherents and apparatchiks. When did vanity, egoism, competitiveness, and megalomania become vegan values?
Consider even more from Hall and her fellow Franciombes at FoA: “Above all, the key change is diet, for it is absurd to discuss the rights of animals as we eat them. The vegetarian movement employs the most direct action of all.” 5
Diet is THE most direct action of all? THE key? THE One Way? Based on what criteria? We agree that veganism is a profound form of direct action and that vegan outreach and education are important indeed, but to call it THE most direct action of all? The hubris in this statement rivals the arrogance in Hall’s notion that her concept of animal rights is THE concept divined by her alone. We were under the impression that the ALF and similar groups engaged in some extremely successful and important direct actions on behalf of animals. But apparently in Lee Hall’s world, theirs are simply the actions of terrorists and therefore, in Stalinist fashion, just erased from history.
In Capers, as in all her work, Hall grossly caricatures the direct action movement with distorted portraits and propaganda that often exceed the criticism of noxious industry front groups such as the Center for Consumer Freedom. With nary a nuance in sight, she dismisses groups like the ALF and SHAC as all “coercive” or “criminal” and as never having made any contributions to the movement because they have violated her dogmatic adherence to non-violence.
Is she opposed also to the Boston Tea Party? To the sabotage tactics of suffragettes? To the ANC? To the anti-Nazi resistance movement? The latter is a paradigmatic counter to pacifism, and has to be taken on by absolutistic critics of violence. But in Capers Hall only raises the question to dismiss it in cryptic terms, and in one paragraph at that! The question remains, and troubles her simplistic black-and-white, this-or-that, either-or worldview. Like Hall, animal rights philosopher Tom Regan defines the sabotage perpetrated by direct activists as violence, but he at least considers cases where violence is potentially necessary and legitimate. 6
The Stench of Hypocrisy
“People often say that violence accomplishes nothing, that it’s ineffective. Violence is dreadfully effective. That’s why those in power use it.”
Violence has been a ubiquitous and necessary element in justice struggles throughout history. Hitler, for instance, could never have been defeated without the use of violent methods, nor would the American Revolution have been possible. Vital forces of ethics and justice have involved groups such as the Jewish Resistance, Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, Gandhi and the Indian independence movement, the Suffragettes, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, and Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress. All of them broke the law, destroyed the enemy’s property, or committed violence; they were beaten, jailed, killed, and denounced as extremists or the equivalent of terrorists.
Yet who will argue that their actions were wrong? Today we lionize Nelson Mandela as a great hero, but he and the ANC used violence to win their freedom. People forget that the much-heralded Suffragettes in England and the US used arson and bombs to help win the emancipation of women. Few if any movements for social change have succeeded without a radical fringe, without civil disobedience, property destruction, and even violence — so why should one expect it to be any different with the animal liberation struggle?
It is incredibly naïve to believe that a revolution of the scale and complexity such as needed now can come about through education, legislation, and prompting veganism on a mass scale. From our pluralist, pragmatist, and contextualist position, we can surely see these as important tactics, but they need to be supplemented by direct action and, more importantly, by a revolutionary social movement propelled by numerous groups in an anti-capitalist alliance politics. 7
Contaminated by the mindset of the fundamentalist–unable to capture complexity and tenaciously clinging to absolute truths and facile dualisms—Hall’s outlook is dogmatic and monolithic. Theologically divorced from reality and concrete situations by an obsession with the abstract and purity of principles in a viral world, she is incapable of recognizing contexts in which intimidation or sabotage is useful and necessary and that the animal liberation movement needs a plurality of tactics to succeed.
Hall and Priscilla Feral, the president of Friends of Animals, summarized their objection to militant direct action when they wrote,
We do not believe that “armed revolution” should be considered part of a debate within animal advocacy. First — and this is the key point — because it contradicts the non-violent ethic of animal rights, seen in its best light. Second, because even if there were not that ethical problem, the existence of at least some animal advocates who espouse violence or intimidation allows the public to decry an entire movement on such grounds. Third, because in any case it’s impossible for animal advocates to prevail in armed conflict against an armed government (which is the entity protecting property interests). 8
Notice how FoA, Hall, and other Franciombes censor and ban certain issues from the discussion of animal liberation because they, in their estimation, possess the truth. What “non-violent ethic of animal rights”? That is not our definition of animal rights, so how does Feral and Hall’s one-sided response elide into THE definition? And who is talking about armed struggle as the principal tactic of struggle? Who is saying they can shoot it out with the most violent and militarist state in history? Not us.
Yet rejecting the use of sabotage and raids as vital tactics is laughably idealistic when one considers that animal exploiters are fiercely determined to protect their profits and have the full weight of a powerful and brutally violent state apparatus behind them.
Hall and FoA are right to critically examine direct action for moral worth and practical effectiveness. But despite their conclusion to the contrary, to effect large-scale, progressive social change the animal rights movement needs the third leg of militant agitation to complement the emphases on education and legislation. While illegal sabotage actions are rearguard, piecemeal, and ineffective as the sole agents of change, they are key facets of resistance and they are readily defensible from a moral standpoint as they serve as a form of extensional self-defense carried out by human proxy agents on behalf of suffering animals. 9
Typically, those who vilify saboteurs as “violent” leap to the conclusion that they are “terrorists,” failing to realize that there is an important difference insofar as one can use violence in morally legitimate ways in conditions ranging from self-defense to a “just war.” The ALF is not a terrorist organization because (1) they never physically injure people, and (2) they never target anyone but those directly involved in the war against animals. Let’s do away with any false absolutist position and some serious hypocrisy while we are at it. Just as causing physical violence to another “person” is not always right, nor is it always wrong. There is wide assent that violence is legitimate to defend innocent human beings from being wrongly harmed or killed by others. In the paradigm case, who truly condemns the use of property destruction and violence to free Jewish prisoners from Nazi genocide? Resistance fighters blew up train tracks, gas ovens, and killed German soldiers at every possible opportunity. Bravo!
But if discussion turns to the use of property destruction or physical violence to liberate animals from oppression, suddenly there is outcry that this tactic is wrong, violent, and counter-productive. Appealing to critics to overcome the fallacy of speciesism and to think in a rigorously consistent manner, we simply ask: why? Why are the anti-Nazi resistance fighters heroes while the ALF are terrorists? Why is economic sabotage and violence acceptable to use in defense of human beings but not animals? This gross inconsistency ought to embarrass every unprejudiced and logical person and it is a scandal when paraded about by a so-called “animal advocate.” It is just a disguised form of speciesism whereby extraordinary actions are courageous and laudable if done on behalf of human animals but despicable and deplorable if taken for nonhuman animals.
Beginning in 1976, the ALF declared war against animal oppressors and the state that defends them, but the ALF did not start the conflict. The ALF did not so much wage war as it entered into a war that animal exploiters long ago began. If one party succumbs to a war initiated by another party, it employs violence in self-defense and so its actions are legitimate. Animals too have the right to self defense. But since they cannot defend themselves (except for instances such as where elephants or tigers justly kill their trainers), humans must act on their behalf. And if violence is needed to save an animal from attack, then violence is legitimate as a means of self defense for animals. If one likes, this could be called extensional self defense, since humans are acting on behalf of animals who are so vulnerable and oppressed they cannot fight back to attack or kill their oppressors.
Deeply committed to the dogmatic axiom that we can win liberation for animals with enough flowers to go into every rifle butt, Hall is living in a different reality, a different galaxy. For just as the known natural universe is held together by the laws of gravity, so the only social universe humans ever lived within is anchored in the laws of struggle, power, and counter-power. Hall and her ilk do more harm than good in the sense that they offer people an enticing illusion that they can fight animal exploiters without posing any real existential threat to the systematic torture and murder of sentient beings.
Pass the Pacifism Please
“Do you think then that revolutions are made with rose water?” Alain Chamfort
How far removed from reality is Lee Hall? In a 2003 article entitled “Of Babies, Bathwater, and the Animal Rights Movement,” she wrote, “If our task is to encourage people to embrace non-violence, then one vegan recipe is worth more than all the incendiary devices in the world.” 10“One recipe” is so earth-shaking?! This quote perfectly captures the hyperbole, wild fantasy, and naïveté of Feral, Hall, and Franciombes in general. The statement here is circular, question-begging, and true by definition. Handing the Joseph Luters of this world vegan recipes, moreover, is not likely to convince them to give up the lucrative business (and incredibly violent practice) of factory farming.
Cliff Preefer, the owner of a restaurant in Manhattan called Sacred Chow, is one of Hall’s “revolutionary soldiers” who has armed himself with vegan recipes. An FOA review of his eatery captured the essence of his strategy:
Cliff expresses a devotion to peaceful change: “Everything we do is a practice of trying to be less violent.” Instead of anger toward others who do not share this peaceful perspective on diet, Cliff resolved to “make me more gentle, and maybe in that way, I can affect other things in the world.” 11
So what do Feral, Hall, Bob Torres, and countless other peacenik protégés of Francione have to offer for tactics? For making the “vegan revolution” real? The answer? Their entire revolution hinges on converting the world to veganism, which proceeds “one plate at a time.” Feral exhibits the mentality in classic form: “Lee has said veganism is achieved one person at a time; we’re striving to achieve a critical mass, just as vegans started out doing. As a profound social revolution involves a challenge to domination, it requires us to stop viewing animals as a meal; to get them off our menus. That’s why Dining With Friends was written.” 12
According to Feral, she and Hall also wrote their “revolutionary tome” because, “Some vegan cookbooks are trendy with a fixation on one type of food item. I wanted to publish a cookbook without relying on a gimmick such as “Sexy and Saucy…” whatever – and illustrate appetizers to desserts in an interesting, workable presentation.”
The problem, indeed, is about “time,” and the hour’s grown far too late for the fatuous “revolution one plate at a time” fantasy. Their revolution unfolds individual by individual, growing geometrically. Meanwhile, meat consumption is increasing exponentially, particularly in heavily populated nations where capitalism is in its infancy. 13 In large developing countries like China, India and Brazil, consumption of red meat has risen 33 percent in the last decade. Current levels of meat consumption are expected to double globally between by 2050, and the human population is projected to grow to 9 billion. While the global economic downturn may slow the globe’s appetite for meat momentarily, it is not likely to reverse a profound trend.”
But what do Lee Hall and her fellow Franciombes say about this? Nothing. Why aren’t they in underdeveloped countries trying to stop the juggernaut? Why? Because they are quite comfortable in their privileged positions, their New York apartments, and their smorgasbord of vegan cafes. Apparently, a key part of their plan to save the world is to produce a cookbook for the white elite and middle classes. Maybe if they actually handed out plates full of vegan food to the homeless or to the hungry in poor minority neighborhoods, the change could proceed faster.
There is no time to waste on this narrow, dogmatic approach. In January 2009 NASA scientist James Hansen told President Obama he had 4 years to radically change US energy policy or it would be too late for the planet. But Franciombes don’t engage this crisis, because it shatters their vegan utopia and glacial concept of change. In spite of their cookbooks, recipes and vegan dining alternatives, in 4 years there will be a hell of a lot more meat eaters than vegans and the planet will be irreversibly damaged. We need every tactic in the book—and even some that aren’t—to turn this global omnicidal tanker ship of speciesist capitalism around.
Cavorting with Speciesists
“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is in an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.” Frederick Douglass
Instead of lauding those who engage animal exploiters with the tactics of direct action, Hall and FOA continue to chant their mantra of “non-violence” and even go so far as to collaborate with enemies of MDA groups. In an open letter to Mark Potok and Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Hall and Feral again lapsed into a delusion of grandeur by presuming to speak for the entire animal rights movement in stating, “It does not matter how many times one repeats misanthropic exhortations heard at some non-profit corporation’s fundraising event: the message of animal rights is nonviolence.” 14
FoA even went so far as to invite Potok to speak at their 2005 “Foundations of a Movement” animal rights conference. Potok, according to FoA’s website, “described trends in animal and environmental activism that parallel the growth of right-wing extremism. Mark spoke of the debilitating effect of specific decisions and rhetoric in drawing people into a movement who appear to the outer world to have little respect for humanity, nonhuman animals, or the environment. Mark also recounted how Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center have recently intervened in the Sierra Club elections to stop ‘the greening of hate.’” 15
While a reputable organization for identifying the threat of racist, neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic, and other reactionary groups, SPLC betrays their own biases, prejudices, and ignorance in stigmatizing groups like the ALF and SHAC as “extremists” and “hate groups” and therefore lumping egalitarian, anti-hierarchical, and non-racist liberationists in with despicable and vile purveyors of violence. Militant animal liberationists are not principally about hate, but rather love – a love of life and sympathy for all sentient beings so great they will risk their own freedom to secure that of another. The only thing they “hate” is oppression, animal exploiters, and injustice of any kind, including how humans treat animals, and rightly so. But, on the somewhat safe assumption that Dees, Potok, and other luminaries of SPLC and humanist causes are not vegans, but rather dine on the rotting carcasses of tortured beings, we could much more legitimately say that they are hateful degenerates who inflict their own violent and bigoted natures onto any nonhuman species they can comfortably sink a fork and knife into.
To her credit, author Joan Dunayer declined to speak at the FoA conference with Potok and explained why in a letter to fellow AR activists:
Mark Potok clearly is largely ignorant of, and indifferent to, the cruelty and injustice of vivisection, the pelt industry, food-industry enslavement and slaughter, and other forms of speciesist abuse. He’s an active foe of animal rights and animal rights advocacy. It’s an understatement to say that Potok has no genuine understanding of animal rights and is not an appropriate keynote speaker for an animal rights conference.
Friends of Animals does a disservice to nonhuman animals and their advocates in hosting Potok, giving him positive publicity, and presenting him as a credible spokesperson with regard to animal rights. I no longer will participate in the FoA conference because I no longer believe that participation is in the best interests of nonhuman animals. Further, I advise animal advocates to be wary of Potok and the SPLC. 16
And if the SPLC’s aspersions cast against the perpetrators of direct action in the animal rights movement are true, then the militant factions of the civil rights movement (the cause the SPLC champions) were also analogous to rightwing extremist groups. Had it not been for “hate groups” like the Black Panthers, the legal and financial foundation upon which the SPLC comfortably rests would not even exist. The next time Potok and Dees are savoring a platter of ‘delectable’ Southern fried decomposing chicken tissue in an integrated restaurant in Montgomery, Alabama, they need to remind themselves that the black couple in the booth next to them would be eating in a separate restaurant if some civil rights activists hadn’t utilized militant tactics.
Inviting a speciesist like Potok to appear at the FoA’s conference on animal rights as a keynote speaker further exemplifies Hall’s disconnect from reality, her collaboration with animal oppressors, and her strategic ineptitude. If her goal is to form alliances, she should forget such hardened bigots and reach out to poor people of color living in the underbelly of privileged communities.
The same FoA conference also featured this amazingly ridiculous exchange: “Peter Galvin is research director for the Center for Biological Diversity. Peter’s car runs on biofuel and an interesting discussion came up between Peter and Loren Lockman about the best vegetable-based fuels. Loren, who spoke of Treading Lightly on the Earth and How Our Decisions Impact Other Animals, is founder and director of the Tanglewood Wellness Center. Loren drives a recycled and extremely handsome two-door Mercedes with non-leather interior, powered on vegetable oil recycled from restaurants.” 17
It’s difficult to imagine more than a relative handful of Lee’s 6.5 billion potential vegan converts finding anything of value in a debate on the merits of various vegetable-based fuels or in hearing about a conference participant’s “green car,” particularly when its manufacturer caters to the very oppressor class we must eliminate in order to achieve liberation for human and non-human animals.
Instead of wasting their time attempting to foment a pacifist bourgeois revolution, Hall, FOA and Francione might want to consider inviting the poor and working class to participate. And while they’re at it, maybe some Franciombes could extend a hand of solidarity to oppressed people rather than to privileged speciesists who brand MDA as a hate crime.
Love Thy Oppressors
“There are many people who feel that it is useless and futile for us to continue talking peace and non-violence — against a government whose only reply is savage attacks on an unarmed and defenseless people. And I think the time has come for us to consider, in the light of our experiences at this day at home, whether the methods which we have applied so far are adequate.” Nelson Mandela
“So let us not talk falsely now,
The hour is getting late.” Bob Dylan, “All Along the Watchtower”
Hall and fellow Franciombes suffer from a severe case of Stockholm Syndrome, identifying far more with animal oppressors than with animal liberators throughout her nauseating Capers in the Churchyard and “one vegan recipe at a time” approach to animal liberation. In the series of open letter exchanges Hall had with the SPLC about their “Intelligence Report” that compared members of the ALF and SHAC to abortion clinic bombers like the Army of God, Hall lashes out at “activists who glorify aggression” to reassure those at the helm of our oppressive and exploitative system that they have nothing to fear from the AR movement. 18 No intimidation or sabotage here. Just an appeal to humanity’s alleged inner moral goodness and The Joy of Tofu.
Comparing the amount of invective that Hall dishes out against animal rights militants to that she reserves for corporate exploiters of billions of animals, it is obvious that she sympathizes far more with animal oppressors than she does with militant animal activists and that she’d probably rather see Kevin Jonas and Josh Harper of the SHAC7 go to jail before Brian Cass of HLS or David Novak of Yum! Brands, Inc. She goes so far as to virtually apologize to corporate animal exploiters for the rude ways militant activists treat them.
Lee Hall, we have one question for you: just whose fucking side are you on in this war?
While accusing direct activists of internalizing values of our dominator culture, Hall has swallowed the oppressor’s most powerful ruse by uncritically embracing nonviolence—not unlike many of the Jews in Nazi Germany. While lofty principles like pacifism may be admirable and often tactically sound, when billions of animals are suffering every day, and the globe faces the imminent prospects of biological meltdown and ecological collapse, the question becomes: Which do you love more — the animals or your principles?
Perhaps Hall’s pacifism is actually a calculated and deceitful means of creating a self-satisfying edifice of virtue, which in turn enables her to knowingly collaborate with the mortal enemies of the defenseless innocents for whom she professes to love. And to what saving grace and Messiah for the animals do Feral and Hall appeal to deliver humans from evil? Why of course to newly elected President Obama: “We look forward to a government that learns to disengage from the old, violent methods: violence that harms us all, human and non-human.” 19 Keep looking, because the Obama administration is not it; running on the campaign promise to bring us “change we can believe in,” instead Obama is fully committed to Israel, militarism, neoliberalism, the surveillance state, and bragging to Illinois cattle auctioneers that there aren’t any vegetarians in the Democratic Party. Liberal shallowness and naïveté at its best. Only through a single-issue, ahistorical, and non-systemic lens, one oblivious to the realities of state power and profound limitations of the Democratic Party could Hall and Feral hold out hope for humans or animals through Obama’s Presidency.
To be clear: We are not advocating the use of physical violence as a first strike measure or pivotal tactic for animal liberation, but nor are we taking it off the table as something that has to be dogmatically excluded on fundamentalist pacifist principles alone. We prefer not to disarm this struggle against monumental evil and destruction of life in any way. In some contexts outside the First World, in particular, violence may be very necessary – such as to save the Rwandan mountain gorillas from extinction, and indeed there is an armed struggle of soldiers against poachers to do this. Thankfully, Hall is not directing this effort, for the gorillas would be slaughtered and served as burgers, right next to Hall’s Vegan Outreach stand giving away free tofu pups.
Euro and US-centric pacifist animal liberationists, listen up: there is already an ongoing – and quite necessary– armed struggle to save one amazing species from extinction in Africa. By what edict or fiat do you claim we cannot and must not employ MDA to end animal exploitation in Japan, Thailand, or Brazil? And what do you propose we say to the billions of animals enduring unimaginable suffering and meeting violent ends at the hands of ruthless exploiters? We love you, but we’re sorry, we aren’t going to help you because we don’t believe in violence?
We are not taking Lee Hall to task for her position that legislation and vegan education are viable means to advance the cause of animal rights. But we are condemning her for betraying the courageous people who engage in direct action, an indispensable element of animal liberation. They have taken considerable risks and some have suffered significant consequences as they have acted in extensional self-defense for our non-human animal brethren. In unconditionally attacking them, Lee Hall is a traitor to the movement and a mouthpiece for speciesist and corporate-state propaganda.
As more and more people gain critical consciousness of the severe problems in Hall’s philosophical and tactical positions, including dualism, essentialism, either/or fallacies, elitism, dogmatic pacifism, and more, let us hope her 15 minutes have expired and she will retire to the back offices of FoA, where she can do least harm.
Dr. Steve Best, Thomas Paine’s Corner senior editor for animal rights, is associate professor of philosophy at UTEP, an award-winning writer, public intellectual, and seasoned activist. Steven Best engages the issues of the day such as animal rights, ecological crisis, biotechnology, liberation politics, terrorism, mass media, globalization, and capitalist domination. Best has published 10 books, over 100 articles and reviews, spoken in over a dozen countries, interviewed with media throughout the world, appeared in numerous documentaries, and was voted by VegNews as one of the nations “25 Most Fascinating Vegetarians.” He has come under fire for his uncompromising advocacy of “total liberation” (humans, animals, and the earth) and has been banned from the UK for what can only be termed fear of “seditious thinking.”
Jason Miller is a critic of capitalism, and committed animal liberationist. He is also the founder and editor of Thomas Paine’s Corner, blog director for The Transformative Studies Institute and associate editor for the Journal for Critical Animal Studies.
1. On the SHAC movement, see Steven Best and Richard Kahn, “Trial By Fire: The SHAC7 and the Future of Democracy,” IMPACT Press #52, August-September 2004, http://www.impactpress.com/articles/augsep04/shac78904.html.
2. “How Did AETA Happen?,” March 2007, http://www.all-creatures.org/aip/nl-20070322-how.html.
3. See “Separating the Green from the Scare,” October 2008 (http://www.friendsofanimals.org/news/2008/october/separating-the-green.html) and “The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act May Soon Be Law: How Could This Happen?” (http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Oct06/Hall31.htm).
4. See Steven Best, “Dispatches from a Police State: Animal Rights in the Crosshairs of State Repression,” The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, Vol. 3, #1, January 2007, http://www.inclusivedemocracy.org/journal/vol3/vol3_no1_Best_animal_rights.htm; and Steven Best and Anthony Nocella II, “Clear-Cutting Green Activists: The FBI Escalates the War on Dissent,” IMPACT Press, Issue #60, Spring 2006, http://www.impactpress.com/articles/spring06/bestspring06.html.
5. Lee Hall, “Of Babies, Bathwater, and the Animal Rights Movement,” Summer 2003, Actionline, http://www.friendsofanimals.org/actionline/summer-2003/babies-bathwater-animal-rights-movement.php. Our emphasis.
6. See Tom Regan, “How to Justify Violence,” in Steven Best and Anthony J. Nocella (eds.) Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals. New York: Lantern Books, pp. 231-236.
7. See Steven Best and Anthony J. Nocella II, “Introduction: A Fire in the Belly of the Beast: The Emergence of Revolutionary Environmentalism,” Igniting a Revolution: Voices in Defense of Mother Earth, AK Press, 2006, pp.8-25.
8. “FoA’s Response to Speaking Invitations for the 2005 `Grassroots Animal Rights Conference,’” http://www.friendsofanimals.org/programs/animal-rights/grassroots-animal-rights-conference.html.
9. On justifying violence as a form of “extensional self-defense,” see Steven Best, “Evolve or die: Can we shed our moral primitivism before it’s too late?,” Thomas Paine’s Corner, January 18, 2009, http://thomaspainescorner.wordpress.com/2009/01/18/evolve-or-die-can-we-shed-our-moral-primitivism-before-it%e2%80%99s-too-late/
10. Hall, “Of Babies, Bathwater, and the Animal Rights Movement.”
11. Edita Birnkrant,“Sacred Chow: The Pursuit of Peaceful Proteins,” Fall 2005, Actionline, http://www.friendsofanimals.org/actionline/fall-2005/sacred-chow.php
12. “Pricilla Feral Interview,” Abolitionist Online, Issue 2, 2007, http://www.abolitionist-online.com/07r_feral.shtml.
13. Elizabeth Rosenthal, “From hoof to dinner table, a new bid to cut emissions,” December 4, 2008, International Herald Tribune, http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/12/04/healthscience/04meat.php
14. Our emphasis. Read the increasingly endearing exchange of letters between FoA and Potok and Dees on the Friends of Animals website, at: http://www.friendsofanimals.org/programs/animal-rights/foa-response-splc.html.
15. Pricilla Feral and Lee Hall, “The Foundations of a Movement 2005: An Animal Rights Conference,” http://www.friendsofanimals.org/the-foundations-of-a-movement/index.html.
16. See “Joan Dunayer Withdraws from Friends of Animals Conference Because Opponent of Animal Rights/Eco-Terrorism Invited As Well,” http://www.animalrights.net/articles/2005/joan-dunayer-withdraws-from-friends-of-animals-conference-because-opponent-of-animal-rightseco-terrorism-invited-as-well/.
17. Pricilla Feral and Lee Hall, “The Foundations of a Movement 2005: An Animal Rights Conference.”
18. For the SPLC hatchet job on SHAC, see “From Push to Shove
Radical environmental and animal-rights groups have always drawn the line at targeting humans. Not anymore,” Intelligence Report, Fall 2002, http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?aid=42.
19. “New Political Times, Breathing Space for Animal Rights,” Friends of Animals, November 5, 2008, http://www.friendsofanimals.org/news/2008/november/new-political-times-.html.