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.

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!