Animal (the kingdom of which humans are a part) liberation is a cause I find to be intrinsically socialist. The struggle for justice includes animals as oppression does not spare them. If the animal rights movement’s waves are any indicator, these practices of direct action – demanding change and impacting those witnessing as well as inspiring others to join in – can be a driving force for democratic socialism, and that includes within this party, right now.
In late May, 1300 activists from around the world converged in Berkeley, California to learn, practice, and take mass action at the Animal Liberation Conference. The conference itself was a joint venture of Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) and The Save Movement, with heavy involvement by Anonymous for the Voiceless. Whereas other vegan conferences might “preach to the choir” and focus on vegan consumerism, this conference was the antidote and did on a large scale what DxE chapters do on a consistent basis which is to treat animal rights like a social justice movement.
The grassroots effort attracted internationally renowned speakers such as street activists “Earthling Ed” and James Aspey as well as investigative journalists Nelufar Hedayat and Glenn Greenwald (the latter made famous for breaking the Edward Snowden story). For eight days, attendees engaged in practical trainings, including nonviolent resistance and founding local chapters, and took part in daily creative protests, from marches to disruptions to vigils to the largest “cube of truth” ever.
The final day was reserved for history-making as the group invoked, for the first time, a particular statute in the California penal code interpreted by a legal scholar to entitle activists to go in and remove animals (farmed animals not exempt) from a facility where there is evidence of abuse and neglect. Since the targeted farm had been investigated by DxE over the past year, there was well-documented evidence with overcrowding and lack of access to water in this alleged “cage-free” farm. Specially trained activists donned biosecurity gear and saved thirty-seven hens from this factory egg farm, assisted by teams to facilitate their entry and exit and supported by a final team on the street, holding vigil and being the public face for media. This mass open rescue has launched an ongoing campaign targeting Amazon, as the farm supplies Whole Foods Market (now an Amazon subsidiary), with its “animal welfare certified” claims.
Taking a page from successful past mass movements, the animal rights movement employs disruptive direct action as a key tactic supporting its larger strategy to achieve animal liberation (enshrining basic protective rights for nonhuman animals in our legal systems) within one generation. In the science of social change, it is said that if 3.5% of a population engage in sustained nonviolent direct action, success is all but guaranteed. And since polls show growing numbers of vegans and majorities favoring animal welfare, if a small fraction of these people can be mobilized, social change can be achieved.
The truth is unstoppable. Another world is possible!
Lauren Koslow joined SPUSA over a decade ago. She appreciates the intersection of socialism with the other facets of her life: animal rights, public libraries, and The Episcopal Church. She holds a BA from Boston University and a MLIS from Rutgers University. She works at Enoch Pratt Free Library and is an organizer with Direct Action Everywhere. She is married with two cats, Patience and Fortitude (named for the lions of the NYPL), and one human daughter.