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Words of Peace and Compassion Will Win Hearts:
A Non-Violent Approach to Achieving Animal Rights

By: Valerie Will
Submitted 9 February 1999

I was scanning local talk shows to see if there were any animal issues being discussed--I always have to jump in and defend our side. This particular day I was shocked into silence. There was no way I personally could defend what I had just heard. The talk show host had just informed his listeners that there was an animal rights activist site that told one how to make a bomb and also listed addresses of fur farms!

I put an e-mail alert out so that other New York activists would be aware of such a site so they could be ready for any comments relating to this violent site. Unfortunately, activists used my alert to launch a debate about the work of ALF. The debate got very heated and one activist accused the other of worrying more about her reputation than the suffering of animals..."you'd have those extra 50 fur farms gassing animals for the sake of protecting your reputation though." I responded--

It is very sad to read one activist being so mean to another...what a waste. Any one who is so worried about their "reputation" would never be an animal rights activist to begin with. One has to be more concerned about animals than themselves to be part of a movement that is so maligned by so many. If one wants to be respected and admired by the general public one volunteers for the United Way or Habitat for Humanity--one does not advocate for animals. We are continually ridiculed for our beliefs by not only our neighbors but by the media. It is only the very dedicated who continue to work (most without pay) on helping animals for a very long time--we not only have to put up with ridicule but we have to have our hearts constantly full of despair by witnessing the tremendous suffering of those who we are trying to save.

I have had to literally campaign to get into a local school to talk to the students...the principal did not want someone from an animal rights group to be allowed to talk because parents objected to a member of "terrorist-related" groups to be with their children. I spent a lot of time, but finally got to do the talk. I got letters from the students saying they never realized that hunting and trapping was so awful and they would never again support such "sports." In just one talk I had thirty young minds turned against the bloodsports. Thirty new people who are less likely to buy a fur coat or shoot an arrow into a wild animal. I also did a lecture at a school auditorium--over three hundred were present. When I asked to do the lecture the following year I was denied--too many parents called to object to having an animal rights activist at the school--by now you can guess why.

I feel there are many ways to fight a war...but I feel each tactic must be well thought out and scrutinized for the long term victory or harm. There are as many ways of doing things as there are as many different personalities of activists. I cannot presume to know what is absolutely best--I can only work from what I have experienced. I believe we must be very careful or we will do ourselves in--there are too many just waiting for us to make mistakes. That does not mean stop our activism because we might make a mistake! It just means fight SMART. Whatever one feels about direct action--I don't feel "smart" is putting bomb-making web site with threatening overtones where everybody and his cousin can make copies and use them to convince an uneducated public that our cause should be dismissed because we are "violent wackos."

Many have expressed outrage that recently a national television show depicted a couple of animal rights activists as criminals and terrorists--this is the real world--people who blow up places are immediately thought of that way--what can we really say if we call the show up and protest? These guys supposedly broke the law and are wanted by the police. The laws don't say "if you had good reason you can break the law!" As upsetting as this portrayal and bias is, our calls of protest won't really convince anyone if they have a police file in front of them.

I realize whatever I write there will be some that will find fault--that's okay. I also have many a hunter and trapper who absolutely (let's say it nicely), extremely dislike my activism--somehow I find that very comforting!

- Valerie Will

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