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Posted: November 15th, 2012 By BWM

by Jake Conroy (SHAC 7)

“I don’t tweet or tumbl or any of that stuff, so I don’t really have a place to put this besides here. Nor can I contact websites like Animal Liberation Frontline or NAALPO due to my legal issues. But this ridiculous article ( http://ow.ly/fkeMf ) about how we need to do away with ALF supporters has been heavy on my mind. So I thought I would share my thoughts. Feel free to share on your social media outlets if you feel inspired to:

While I share in the anonymous author’s desire to see more action and less talk, the arguments laid out in their article are tragically flawed, dangerous, and counterproductive (and somewhat laughable as it is being posted on blogs and all things social media, thus creating just the opposite affect of the original argument). I have spent awhile thinking about and being angered over the article and how best to respond. Ultimately, my own personal story, which I think is fairly commonplace for a lot of us, was the best rebuttal:

I think my story is pretty typical for anyone coming up in the mid 90′s. I moved to the Northwest in 1995 when I was 19. I quickly became vegan and interested in politics. I didn’t know any other activists or even vegans at the time. However, I found myself captivated by hardcore and punk music, and zines that espoused the lifestyle. I would go to places like Fallout Records and dig through the dusty box they had in the corner, full of old magazines. Here I would find old Sea Shepherd journals and issues of The Underground (the ALF Supporters Group newsletter). I would go to hardcore shows and pick up literature at tables. I spent hours in used bookstores digging through the history sections for books on radical activism. I would spend days pouring over these materials, reading and rereading them, and dreaming and scheming.

Eventually I would find my way into my local animal rights group. I worked with the Northwest Animal Rights Network in Seattle that was a mix of the greatest group of people. Our tight-knit core group of 10 or so had retired naval lawyers in their 70s down to punk rock teens with mohawks. But the one thing we all had in common was that we unabashedly supported the ALF. One of the first demonstrations I ever went to was an ALF support demo after a local Honey Bee Ham restaurant had its windows smashed in. Myself and a friend started passing out information on animal rights and animal liberation at the local hardcore shows. We would be doing tables upwards of 3-4 times a week. There wasn’t much in the way of ALF support merchandise at the time, so we screened pro-ALF shirts and hoodies we got from the thrift store and sold them to cover the costs of photocopies. While I certainly don’t attribute it entirely or even remotely to the two of us, there was definitely a genuine feeling of support for direct action and the ALF within the community.

Over the next several years I would redirect my focus from simple protests to civil disobedience, to direct action in the form of whale hunt sabs off the coast of Washington, to helping get the SHAC USA office off the ground and working on the anti-HLS campaign for 5 years. During that time I also worked on and helped start some of the biggest and most important direct action support magazines of those times. Those magazines would help build, among other things, community support for imprisoned activists around the world. That support would come in many forms, including leaflets and magazines, t shirts, videos, benefits, and support funds. Eventually myself and 5 friends would be found guilty in the SHAC 7 trial. I would be sentenced to 48 months in federal prison, partly because we chose to publicly share ideas. Controversial ideas, like supporting direct action and the ALF.

All of this started with zines I found in a box in the corner of a record store. It led to high-fives with friends, wearing black shirts and taking goofy pictures with disposable cameras at hardcore shows (that’s what we did before Instagram). I started out as a kid listening to music and reading propaganda. I never was a press officer, or a convicted (or not convicted) operative, nor am I disabled. But I think I’ve accomplished some really exciting things in my 17 years as an activist – from getting fur out of major retailers in Seattle, to using direct action to stop the killing of whales off the coast of Washington to organizing with SHAC USA, one of the most successful grassroots animal rights campaigns in our history. And I started out exactly as the kid you are saying needs to stop their “madness”.

Do you know who else started out the same way I did? Being inspired by listening to the music you want to end and reading the zines (now online, called blogs) you would like to do away with? ALF activists like Rod Coronado, Keith Mann, Peter Young. Andy Stepanian, Darius Fullmer. Do you know how ALL of those folks survived their prison experiences? By receiving books and letters and photos and donations by all those people who you suggest do nothing more than “work and watch movies with friends”.

The bottom line is, for over 40 years there has been ALF support work going on all over the world. (Please learn the history of that work at Conflict Gypsy ) That work has created a community of people that might not be exactly what you want them to be, but ultimately will support those people you revere so much when they need it the most. Their simple presence will keep that community around, will foster that support when its needed, and keep the issues as relevant as possible. Of course we want more action, less words. But ultimately we need both, because that’s what will keep these ideologies going throughout the peaks and the troughs, the highs and the lows. To not show your support publicly for direct action is what may be the final blow to one of the most important elements of the animal rights movement.”

13 Responses to “Critique of ‘Do Not Support the ALF’”

  1. Brandon Becker Says:

    Thanks, Jake, for your thoughtful critique of the article. I agree completely.

  2. Critique of ‘Do Not Support the ALF’ « Guerrilla News Says:

    [...] By Jake Conroy (SHAC 7), from Because We Must: [...]

  3. nn Says:

    thanks for this responce, well written and true

  4. Tanya Says:

    Thank you for this critique. I was a little put off by the article “Do not Support the ALF”. I am a mother of two young children and I do not participate in “direct action” methods for fear of prosecution and I don’t want to jeopardize being there for my kids. While I hope to do more direct action someday, at this time I show my support for the movement by pamphleting, participating in protests, and bringing vegan dishes to potlucks at work. Although I wish I could do more, I think that helping in other ways is important to the movement and it disappoints me to see it criticized that way.

  5. pinbalwyz Says:

    Sympathy for ALF’s underlying principles isn’t hard to curry. (See http://amicuscuria.com/wordpress/?p=7743 ) It’s the tactics that put off so much of the public. You can’t MAKE an entire population kowtow to your vision short of civil war…a war you’re most likely to lose. But conscience…that’s the wild card. Having been a meat eater since before grade school, it’s the reports/images/video of the suffering endured by animals that’s compelling–that and the opportunity to become intimately familiar over the years with the domesticated ones on the farm we share.

    As a young man raised in a southern California city, I stupidly polluted our environment by draining the oil from my 1956 Ford straight into the concrete gutters, using the curb to elevate the vehicle sufficiently to crawl under. I’d never dream of doing so now, having our own well, growing our own food, etc. But it’s not FORCE or fear of violating the law the prevents this stupidity. It was education!…that and a sense of responsibility to our community and our mother, Gaea. Similarly, the Civil Rights Movement of the 60′s succeeded due to its supporters pricking the conscience of America, not FORCE/violence.

    The Canadian seal hunts were stopped (unfortunately now resumed these many years later) on the basis of empathy people felt seeing photographs of seal pups clubbed to death while their mothers watched helplessly. Whale hunts were slowed to a crawl as much by published accounts of what happened in Scammon’s Lagoon as by Green Peace dueling on the high seas. The fur trade took a big hit as people began to vote with their wallets, not because a retailer was attacked. This all requires a movement dedicated to the proposition of educating our neighbors and appealing to their conscience. Like the ancient Pharaoh, violent confrontation tends to frighten and harden the hearts of the public.

    “It’s odd how those who dismiss the peace movement as utopian don’t hesitate to proffer the most absurdly dreamy reasons for going to war: To stamp out terrorism, install democracy, eliminate fascism and most delusionally, to ‘rid the world of evil-doers’” -Arundhati Roy-
    (http://amicuscuria.com/wordpress/?p=7775)

    Another example of the fallacy of arguments for violent argument/vandalism may be found in the parable of the Golden Spruce. A tale of a passionately committed deep green environmentalist who had started out as a timber surveyor before discovering his love for untrammeled forests and ultimately deliberately destroying what he loved most in a fit of despair. (Scorched Earth Defense? http://amicuscuria.com/wordpress/?p=609)

    It’s like hearing the President Johnson era defense of the Vietnam war all over again: We had to destroy the country to save it. :(

  6. Leo Gibbs Says:

    I think it’s important to respect a diversity of tactics. Peaceful protest appeals to some people, direct action to others. Neither represent a perfect approach and I don’t think anyone can reasonably claim to know “the right approach” since no one can possibly know the full effect on other people and the situation as a whole. So long as people approach the issue, I’m happy: the more, the better and eventually I believe animals will be liberated (the possible ways that come about are varied in my mind, but in my heart, I believe it is inevitable). Keep up the good work, whatever way you choose to work on this issue!!

  7. Ray Says:

    I’m quite torn about this myself. I came to the idea of equal animal rights (in terms of simply the fundamental rights, i.e. life and security from harm) simply by understanding consciousness and the capacity to suffer, and now in university I don’t know whether or to attempt to change the system by working from within and possibly risking corruption/succumbing to frustration or going the direct action route. I’ve been to a few protests, but I feel as though simply by being more capable than other animals we have a duty, as Uncle Ben said “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Its more than that, I have to admit I’m scared of prison, but I know that I should stand for my beliefs. My brain tells me that prison really shouldn’t deter me, because I won’t have done anything I consider immoral, and if I turn myself in and serve the allotted time, I separate myself from a “terrorist” and become an activist, albeit taking a more direct approach than others.
    I would really appreciate some help coming to terms with all of this. My e-mail is raeldrikp@gmail.com.

  8. pinbalwyz Says:

    Oh!…I almost forgot: There isn’t GOING to be some bright tomorrow or promising future. Existence is going to be violent, brutish, and short. For many, that’s the case now–quiet desperation and suffering. Our privileges (for those who have them) are built on that foundation. Frankly, I’m grateful I wasn’t born any later than I was. There were slightly more than 2 billion souls alive at that time. Now…there are over 7 billion–a tripling in my lifetime…and I’m still here! Global collapse of the climate isn’t a future specter, it’s here NOW–we’re living/seeing it today! Predictions of a ‘population bomb’ when I was young were naive. We’d already passed the threshold of what the Earth can sustain indefinitely. Since then, the rush into the abyss has only accelerated and shows no sign of slowing. I wish I had better news…if this is ‘news’. The only hope left is for a humane death–for us and our animal cousins…to die mercifully in our sleep.

  9. Effective Activism & State Repression: An Interview with Jake Conroy on how the SHAC Campaign nearly bankrupt one of the largest animal testing labs in the world « Profane Existence Says:

    [...] JAKE: Subcultures and music has played a very influential role in grassroots and radical movements. The first time I was introduced to the idea of black power and the Black Panther Movement was after buying the album Fight The Power by Public Enemy when I was in junior high. As a white, suburban kid growing up in New England, those radical ideas didn’t make it into our classrooms. Soon after I would be introduced to hardcore and punk rock, which would open the doors to a do-it-yourself subculture, the straightedge philosophy, and veganism. Bands, ‘zines, and literature acquired at record stores and shows filled my imagination and passion with big ideas about grassroots organizing and direct action; the idea that we didn’t need large organizations and governments to enact the change we wanted to see in the world. That change was something we could bring about on our own and on our own terms. This idea wasn’t just mine – this self-empowerment and introduction to direct action through music communities was shared by 5 of the 6 individuals in the SHAC7 case, and direct action legends like Rod Coronado and Keith Mann. It introduced a whole generation of young people in the mid 90’s to veganism, activism, and direct action, that would eventually shape the entire animal rights movement. [...]

  10. Becausewemust» Blog Archive » Effective Activism & State Repression: An Interview with Jake Conroy Says:

    [...] JAKE: Subcultures and music has played a very influential role in grassroots and radical movements. The first time I was introduced to the idea of black power and the Black Panther Movement was after buying the album Fight The Power by Public Enemy when I was in junior high. As a white, suburban kid growing up in New England, those radical ideas didn’t make it into our classrooms. Soon after I would be introduced to hardcore and punk rock, which would open the doors to a do-it-yourself subculture, the straightedge philosophy, and veganism. Bands, ‘zines, and literature acquired at record stores and shows filled my imagination and passion with big ideas about grassroots organizing and direct action; the idea that we didn’t need large organizations and governments to enact the change we wanted to see in the world. That change was something we could bring about on our own and on our own terms. This idea wasn’t just mine – this self-empowerment and introduction to direct action through music communities was shared by 5 of the 6 individuals in the SHAC7 case, and direct action legends like Rod Coronado and Keith Mann. It introduced a whole generation of young people in the mid 90’s to veganism, activism, and direct action, that would eventually shape the entire animal rights movement. [...]

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