Those of you who read this blog know that even though I, too, can be filled with rage about the treatment of animals, I've always been extremely dedicated to my lifelong nonviolent principles. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, that in the struggles against injustice and oppression, nonviolence is the greatest tool for the people. Arson is not an acceptable means to change society. It should be condemned and avoided.
At the same time, it is important to keep the focus on the real terrorists out there - those who exploit and abuse animals. The factory farm system, the fur and leather industries, the foie gras racket, the list goes on and on - these are the institutions that murder animals by the billions. The fires that Walter Bond may or may not have set (he hasn't been found guilty of carrying out the "Lone Wolf" fires) only destroyed property. The countless fires in factory farms across North America due to unsafe conditions, many here in Canada, have destroyed untold numbers of animals in the most horrifying ways imaginable.
The authorities will always try to steer attention away from these gargantuan crimes in order to keep the focus on "terrorists." That's an age-old tactic. And, sadly, it sometimes works. Earlier this year, a Canadian member of parliament launched a one-man crusade to lump animal rights activists under the category of "terrorist" with Al Qaeda and the Taliban. It was an absurd effort, but he managed to get a lot of publicity as he pointed to animal rights radicals as dangerous perpetrators of violence. And even though I don't think he got very far with his attempts to link animal advocates to Osama Bin Laden, he at least steered the spotlight onto his little crusade. Actions like his help marginalize the militants, keeping the focus on resistance rather than injustice, and marginalizing the radicals under the category of "nuts."
American authorities are doing the same thing. They're cracking down on the militant segment of the animal rights movement. One can easily understand why the angry young radicals are driven to extremes. What is driving them? The horrific treatment of animals. When you are surrounded by violent images on a day-to-day basis - animals getting slaughtered on assembly lines, animals living in filth and neglect, animals as victims of human violence, animals being exploited and murdered by the billions - the inherent violence of the system naturally rubs off on those who are resisting it.
But make no mistake: The resisters, no matter how extreme they are, will never - ever - be as violent as the system they are resisting. However misguided you might happen to think Walter Bond may be, his alleged acts of resistance - driven by despair and urgency and anger - will never match the violence against animals carried out by the institutions he is resisting.
Still, I believe that an important part of any act of resistance - whether it is blogging, boycotting, marching, or even more militant examples of direct action - is to rise above the pervasive violence of our socio-economic-political system and embrace an entirely new way of living. Violence is not a natural human state of affairs, contrary to all the historical examples that say otherwise. It is a profoundly unnatural way to live. Through our very examples, we can show our fellow human beings there is another way to live, a different way for humans and non-human animals to interact.
I was deeply moved by Walter Bond's essay on why he became a vegan, which I am linking to here on my blog. If you get a chance, please read it. It includes the address where you can write to Walter and offer support. I do not agree with the tactic of arson, and I'm not sure that Walter actually burned down those businesses. But I do know one thing: He is motivated by the noblest of impulses. His essay on why he became a vegan is one of the most compelling I've read. See what he has to say. Decide for yourself. I think you will agree that whatever mistakes Bond has made, on balance, his acts of resistance are not as violent or pernicious as the day-to-day activities carried out by institutions that systematically harm, exploit and ultimately destroy animals by the billions, as if they are commodities and not sentient beings with feelings.