National Disaster: Leading our own Movement

nonprofitindustrialcomplexI’m going to talk about something now that is probably going to get a lot of peoples’ backs up. I know this because whenever I discuss the idea with people who don’t share similar views to me it does exactly that. But it is not something I say in order to get that reaction, I say it because I honestly believe it, and that is that I don’t like the national groups. In fact I think they’re detrimental to the animal liberation movement.

Before I explain why I think we need a little clarification here because people always ask: “But what about this group or that group?” When I say “national group” I am specifically referring to organisations that: have paid employees; a centralised structure; are often NGOs or not-for-profits; have a supporter base from which they secure funds and are essentially in the business of “animal rights”.

Why do I dislike these groups so much? The simple answer is that I believe they ineffective and unable to bring about an end to animal exploitation due to the way they are funded and structured. I also believe that they draw energy and resources away from local grass-roots organisations who are more fit for purpose to achieving animal liberation.

National groups may have the animals’ best interests at hearts but they are essentially nothing more than animal welfare organisations. The reason they are nothing more than animal welfare organisations is because they have costs to cover: Rent for offices and staff to pay. Because of this they need to maintain a steady source of income, and that comes from donations. To achieve the maximum potential for cash donations they need to appeal to the lowest common denominator in order not to upset any potential donors.

This means being careful not to rock the boat too much. Which translates into easily winnable animal welfare campaigns that increase peoples’ trust in the organisation but doesn’t necessarily make any considerable gains for the animals. Anything more might risk losing donations, which means being unable to pay rent and wages, which means being unable to continue campaigning.

Thus national groups are sucked into this downward spiral where in order to continue functioning they must keep creating winnable campaigns that do not challenge the status quo, so that they can make enough money to carry on existing. To challenge the status quo would be to risk their livelihoods, I mean if animal exploitation were to be abolished, they would be out of a job!

RevolutionBecause of this constant need for donations animal rights groups like these often draw money and resources away from local grass-roots organisations working on the ground to achieve animal liberation. National groups are always more than happy to provide us with leaflets or campaign materials (sometimes for free!) but on the back of every leaflet is a donation form which encourages you to give so much a month to the group. We’re essentially doing their hard work for them.

This leaves local grass-roots organisations who are often (if not always) made up of volunteers organising their own fund raisers while the nationals rake in all the donations. Sometimes we can plead to them for a share of the wealth that we helped create and sometimes they’ll be generous enough to split their bounty. But they got costs to cover, like I mentioned, they can’t afford to give out money willy-nilly!

The tactics of the national groups often do not lend themselves to building a bigger, more effective animal liberation movement. In a time where the animal liberation movement is at a noticeable low we should be encouraging as many people as possible to get involved with their local groups and influence change directly. What is the national group line though? Join us! Become a member! Donate £5 a month and we’ll fix the problems for you!

Sometimes they might even encourage you to write a letter to your MP or sign a petition, if they’re feeling particularly passionate about a campaign.

What is the alternative though? We need the national groups don’t we? They’re the only ones with the resources to produce leaflets; carry out investigations… uh, what else do they do again?

The truth is the only reason they have those resources is because of the donations they receive thanks to the leaflets handed out by us. There are people within the movement right now with all the necessary skills to do what the national groups do (and more). There may not be one in every local group but that is why we need to pull together our resources.

If we began to communicate with one another about what we needed we’d suddenly find that we have the means to fulfil each other’s needs. Instead of waiting for the national groups to lead us let’s take matters into our own hands. We need a leaflet about an upcoming event? There is somebody in London who can design it; and somebody in Leeds who can print it; there are groups in Bristol, Brighton, Cardiff and Newcastle who can pay for it. You get the picture.

The national groups should answer to us, not the other way round. Its time we started calling the shots. Maybe we don’t need the national groups at all. If we can communicate with each other in a way that means we can achieve everything the national groups did (and more) we wouldn’t need them, we would of superseded them.

What if we created our own organisation: One that was led by the decisions of local grass-roots organisations; that pulled together the collective resources of the national animal liberation movement; that had no need for leaders or paid staff because work was shared out equally amongst its members; that would combine the collective strength of the thousands of animal liberation activists together; a group that was accountable to the grass-roots because it was the grass-roots.

Why would we even need the national groups then?#

Join the discussion on Facebook and Reddit

Defining Direct Action for Animal Liberation

direct-action-bunnyWhen we talk about direct action for animal liberation the first thought that comes to most peoples mind is the image of a balaclava clad activist breaking into a vivisection laboratory and rescuing the animals trapped inside. This romanticized view of direct action is not only unrealistic (only a minority of actions carried out in the name of animal liberation involve live liberations) but damaging to the growth of the movement as a whole (by limiting the realm of ‘direct action’ to a narrow scope of live liberations or economic sabotage we are excluding large numbers of our movement and limiting ourselves to what we can and cannot do in the name of animal liberation).

Direct action is a broad term that encompasses a  wide range of actions, both physical and non-physical, both legal and illegal, with the one defining feature being that the action be direct (i.e. it tackles the problem at the root). This is the definition of radical which comes from the Latin for ‘root’. It means to grasp the problem at the root. This means addressing the issue where it arises and not asking somebody else (I.e. the Government) to solve it for us.

The term ’direct action’ has become synonymous in the animal rights movement with those taking physical action. You often here people talking about how they wish they could take direct action, but can’t because they are not physically or mentally up to the challenge, or cannot risk being arrested or sent to jail. To those people I say: You can take direct action! Everybody can take direct action to stop animal exploitation!

Leafleting; protesting; lock ons; communication blockades; protest camps; letter writing; talking to people; free food giveaways; street theatre; sit-ins; occupations; film screenings; hacktivism; these are all forms of direct action! If none of these seem feasible or appealing to you, then create your own form of direct action! There is no blueprint for how we will achieve animal liberation. It will require a diversity of tactics and new ideas are needed all the time. Only through our creativity and persistence can we win this battle for a better world.

When people are led to believe that they cannot participate in direct action that is when they turn to a higher authority for help. They start signing petitions; donating to charities; writing letters to their MPs or boycotting companies. They feel disempowered. Like they can’t get involved in the fight for animal liberation directly. The animal rights movement has left a lot of people feeling disempowered. We need to reclaim that power! Only we – the people – can bring about the radical change in society that we seek.

There is a cult of militancy surrounding direct action that likes to make people think that their form of direct action (I.e. illegal, physical direct action) is the only form of action that will achieve animal liberation. These people are lost in a fantasy world fuelled by their own self-importance. A quick look at history will show you that any successful movement has required a diversity of tactics to achieve it’s goals. Whether it be the Suffragettes, the Abolition of Slavery, the Civil Rights Movement or even Indian Independence.

This view is put forward by websites like Bite Back who have a monopoly on the definition of direct action and only post actions that are physical and illegal in nature. While it is important to create a forum for these actions to be shared so they can inspire other activists the severe lack of discussion on websites like this around what constitutes direct action furthers that divide between the “can do” and the “can’t do”.

We must make sure our movement is as broad and welcoming as it possibly can be  to ensure the greatest number of people can get involved. This means moving away from the idea that ’direct action’ is limited to breaking into buildings, burning down meat trucks or chasing after hunts.  Direct action is the base level from which our movement grows. It is the foundation of any successful movement. Unless a majority of the population are engaged in direct action in some form or another we are destined to reformism not revolution and it is only a social revolution that will help us achieve animal liberation.

Pulling the Trigger on 269life

[TRIGGER WARNING: Discussion of rape, sexual assault, self-harm, racism, abuse, assault]

Over the past few months 269life has gained a significant amount of attention from the animal rights movement, gaining many supporters but also attracting criticism of their use of racist, anti-choice and anti-human imagery/views, as well as their provocative publicity stunts.

The latest of which has shocked and disgusted many of us, leaving us no choice but to speak out against this so-called “activism”. The stunt, uploaded to YouTube (with no trigger warnings) – entitled “Women stripped naked and milked in Israel – 269life”, depicts a woman and her baby (yes, a real baby), being attacked near to a protest by a number of people dressed in black wearing balaclavas. The baby is then taken from the woman by one of the masked attackers and placed into a cage on the ground, before the woman is then partially stripped, forcibly milked and then thrown to the ground, while she screams, begging them to stop. This, 269life imply, is in solidarity with cows exploited by the dairy industry.

The blatant disregard for people who have experienced sexual assault, abuse, or rape who may have passed by this performance in a busy public spot in Israel, and for people coming across the video online, is horrendous. Trigger warnings cannot be applied in public to such stunts, and the potential effects this “action” may have had on numerous individuals viewing it is unimaginable. Similar concerns have also been raised over the public branding events, and certain images used by 269life, due to the potential for triggering those who have struggled with self-harm.
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Interview with Matt Miner (author of LIBERATOR)

We’re pleased to present to you our interview with Matt Miner, vegan, animal advocate, shelter worker and writer of the up-coming four-issue comic series: LIBERATOR. Matt has been very supportive of our project since the beginning and we’re excited to have had this chance to speak to him about his project, his work with animal sanctuaries and his plans for the future!

BT: Hello Matt! Thanks for doing this interview for us!

No, thank you guys – really love your mission, already a big fan.

BT: Could you start off by telling us a bit about yourself? What sort of activism have you been involved in? What has been some major events that has led you to where you are now?

Well I’ve been vegan for about a decade – I got curious as to why vegans boycotted all animal products, started wondering “is it really that bad?” and googled up animal cruelty videos one night. I’d always considered myself an “animal lover” because I’d loved my cats growing up, but that night’s when I made that connection.

So after what seemed like hours of watching these videos, everything from Meet Your Meat to the undercover investigations into Huntingdon Life Sciences to ALF videos, I went pescetarian immediately and less than a week after that I realized how ridiculously easy it was to give up most meat so I went vegan, which is also ridiculously easy to do.

I was pretty heavily involved in the Huntingdon Life Sciences campaign for many years, along with anti-fur campaigns like the ones against Escada and Max Mara, plus vegan outreach type stuff, circus campaigns, and the New York City horse carriage campaign. More recently I’ve been involved in animal rescue of abused dogs and cats – my wife and I work in a pretty sketchy area of NYC and so we rescue, foster, rehab and rehome animals.

Ever since learning of the ALF I always thought these folks were like superheroes for animals – I’ve always been a vocal supporter of the underground and have supported our prisoners, but I wanted to do more. These activists are labeled “terrorists” for helping animals and, being a lifelong comic book fan, I saw an opportunity to put a comic book into the mainstream market that accurately portrayed these masked vigilantes as the compassionate crusaders they are and didn’t sugarcoat the awful truth of what we do to animals.

Liberator_issue1cover-TimSeeleyBT: Which leads us nicely onto our next question: You’re writing a new 4-issue comic series called LIBERATOR, can you tell us about that? What do you hope to achieve with LIBERATOR?

LIBERATOR is a gritty anti-hero adventure story featuring two underground vigilantes who take action in defense of animals. Clearly it’s inspired by real events and actual people – the men and women who take to the night under the name ALF and rescue animals and destroy the profit motivation of abusers. I hope to achieve three things with LIBERATOR – I want to bring more people to comics, I want to use this non-preachy vengeance story to bring new eyes to animal issues and I want to help fund my continued animal rescue work in the Rockaways, New York.

BT: Apart from the obvious issues surrounding animal exploitation are there any other topics that you hope to discuss with LIBERATOR? How have you found promoting radical politics within the comics industry? The comics industry isn’t exactly known for it’s politics at the best of time, what are some of the major issues you see within the industry and comics in general?

In LIBERATOR we explore themes of sexism and misogyny as well – it’s well known that LIBERATOR_01_02_600_CMYK_2btthere are some issues within comics when it comes to the treatment of women both on and off the page and I want LIBERATOR to be a positive force for good for the people who pick the book up and give it a shot.

So you’re never going to see the female heroes of LIBERATOR posed in unnatural ways in order to provide the sexiest shots to the male reader, nor are the female characters there to be used as a prop or a “girlfriend” or sex interest. Our characters are all strong fully developed individuals with their own personalities, interests, goals and motivations.

BT: You mentioned your animal rescue work in the Rockaways, New York. Can you tell us a bit more about that? Can you tell us about why you think animal rescue work is important? Do you see it as a vital part of the struggle for animal liberation?

The Rockaways is the name given to a little peninsula of Queens, NYC that was nailed hard by Hurricane Sandy. When the storm came we stayed behind because we had animals, including fosters, that we weren’t about to abandon, and we knew that in the wake of the storm there would be animals who needed help. After the storm passed and we were rebuilding our house we found that a lot of abandoned houses were now being used to warehouse fighting dogs, plus the streets are crawling with house cats who were left behind when their despicable owners left town. So we’ve had our hands full.

I appreciate and respect anyone who works for animal liberation and there are many areas where the struggle needs help. For my wife and I, we’re both vegan and worked for years on aboveground animal rights campaigns – hell, we first met at a home demo outside the CEO of Huntingdon Life Sciences’ apartment, we were engaged at the national animal rights conference and married at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. While we’ve worked in other areas of this fight, we found that we couldn’t turn our backs on animals in need who are literally right in front of us as we walk down the street so our focus is on companion animal rescue at this time.

LIBERATOR_02_05_600_COLOR-btBT: It looks like you’re doing some really good work over there! We can’t wait to get our hands on the first issue of LIBERATOR either. When is it coming out? How can we get ourselves a copy?

Issue 1 is available for pre-order now! Pre-ordering for independent books is super  important because LIBERATOR is not BATMAN or SPIDER-MAN and shops will probably not order it if they don’t know there’s a demand. A lack of orders would result in  cancellation by the distributor, which would seriously suck.

All the info on how to snag yourself a copy is up at

BT: I know it is early days at the moment but do you have any future plans for LIBERATOR or any other comic series? Are there any other issues you’d like to raise in future comics?

Well I have LIBERATOR stories for years, so if the first series is well received I’d love to do another, possibly focusing on Jeanette, the co-hero who I’ve personally decided is way cooler and more badass than her male counterpart. I have a story in OCCUPY COMICS #3 coming out in August that recounts my own experiences in Hurricane Sandy, what we went through, and how Occupy Sandy really saved the day out here. All the profits from that series go back to the Occupy movement.

I’d also love to do non-politically charged stories – I have a lot of ideas for both creator-owned books and licensed characters and I’m super excited to take a shot at telling them!

BT: Thanks for talking with us! Anything else you’d like to add before you leave?

Find me on twitter @MattMinerXVX for regular updates on LIBERATOR and my other projects, and always adopt, never shop!

On the Campaign Against “The Dog Meat Industry”

If you go on to any animal rights organisation’s page these days you’re sure to stumble across a petition against the dog meat industry in China. The recent expose by Animal Equality has once again brought this issue to surface and all the problems that come with it.

The disproportionate amount of attention paid to the dog meat industries in these countries is deeply problematic for various reasons:


When we focus on dogs and other companion animals we are reinforcing this idea that it is acceptable to exploit certain animals (cows, pigs, chickens etc.) over others. We do this without even beginning to think about how companion animals are exploited in our culture through the pet industry.

By focusing on the dog meat industry in particular we are normalizing the consumption of other animals. The dog meat industry is attacked because it is considered “strange” and “barbaric” by Western standards. When was the last time that you ever saw a petition against the cow or pig meat industry in China? Or the United Kingdom for that matter?


The campaign against the dog meat industry in China often simplifies the argument to the point where it becomes solely about nationality. The Chinese – they would argue – eat dogs therefore they are the enemy. They tar everybody with the same brush despite the existence of groups like the Chinese Companion Animal Protection Network (CCAPN) who actively campaign against the dog meat industry from within China itself.

These sort of campaigns open the floodgates for the racism and xenophobia that is hidden just below the surface of the animal rights movement (and society at large). You only have to take one look at Animal Equality’s Facebook page since the release of the expose to see the sort of stuff I’m talking about. Comments range from mildly xenophobic to outright racist hate speech aimed at the Chinese. These sort of comments are ignored or accepted. People are rarely called out for their racist views.


When you look at the campaign against the dog meat industry from another angle what you basically have is a group of white people in the west telling people in China how they should act. We are sitting here in our homes in the West telling people in far-away countries to change their ways and be more like us. We are assuming that Western culture is the only, and therefore the best culture, and all other cultures should just copy us.

How are we any different to the invading armies of the United States who claim to bring “peace and democracy” to the Middle East? The only difference is that we don’t have guns and our message is about “compassion”! We are replicating out-of-date colonial mindsets that lead us to believe that we are somehow superior to people in other countries, that we know best, and everyone else should follow our example because we’re oh so fucking perfect.

How then, should we move forward in the fight against the dog meat industry in China? For a start we should step back and hand over the reigns to the people in those countries who are fighting these battles on behalf of the animals there. We should show solidarity with those fighting for animal liberation in China and offer our support when they ask for it. We should never speak on behalf of them or act as if we know what’s best.

We should also involve ourselves with the struggle against animal exploitation in our own countries. Not just by going vegan or protesting against the animal agricultural industries. We need to look at how companion animals are abused by the pet industry. At the root of all these oppressions is the belief that humans are somehow superior to other animals. This belief allows humans to dominate other animals in countless ways. We need to unlearn this human-centric world view and spread a message of compassion that goes beyond what we do or do not buy.

Animal exploitation will only be stopped by the combined efforts of animal advocates across the globe working together for animal liberation. It will not be won by a small group of people in the west dictating to the rest of the world how to act. As the old saying goes: “Think Globally, Act Locally”.

Rights/Protection/Liberation: Some Notes on Terminology

As the movement to end animal exploitation has evolved throughout history so has the terminology surrounding our struggle: From the “animal welfare” of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) to the development of “animal rights” by writers such as Lewis Gompertz and Edward Nicholson.

With the publication of his book of the same name in 1975, Peter Singer coined the term “animal liberation”. His usage of the word “speciesism” in this text led to it becoming an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1989 (though the term was created by Richard Ryder in 1970).

Since then other terms have sprung up to define different currents within the animal movement. The “Abolitionist” approach, as favoured by Gary Francione and Tom Regan, argues for an end to animal ownership, much in the same way Abolitionists fought against the Slave Trade in an attempt to end the ownership of Blacks by Whites.

“Protectionist” or “Animal Protection” has also cropped up as a new term to describe our movement though its usage dates back to as far as 1635 in Ireland with the passing of animal protection legislation that prohibited pulling wool off sheep, and the attaching of ploughs to horses’ tails. Modern Protectionists favour gradual change for the benefit of the animals with the end result being complete abolition.

We at Baring Teeth favour the term “Animal Liberation” as we feel it best describes our approach to tackling animal exploitation. We see parallels between the struggle for animal liberation and the fight for Black Liberation or Queer Liberation. We do not define Animal Liberation as merely the act of liberating animals from places of cruelty (as the Animal Liberation Front does) though we do not dismiss this as a vital tactic.

We see Animal Liberation as a philosophy that advocates for the end of animal use for human need (i.e. abolition) but also the rejection of the anthropocentric world-view that places humans above other animals and nature. It is the incorporation of humans into the struggle for animal liberation, because humans are animals too. It is the struggle against speciesism and all other forms of oppression. It is the understanding that all these oppressions are interlinked and therefore must be combated together if we are to ever achieve true liberation.

We aware that some people are worried that the term “Animal Liberation” may be seen as too “extreme” or have negative connotations but we argue that what we are advocating is extreme. We are fighting for the emancipation of all animals from exploitation. We are calling for a social revolution to remove the oppressive systems that dominate and control all life on this planet. If that’s not extreme, then I don’t know what is.