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Effective and Ineffective Means of Protest:
The Picketing of Homes

By: Stephen Kaufman, MD
Submitted 14 July 1999

Hello, All.

I share concerns about protesting at private homes for both ethical and practical reasons.  This comment will address practical considerations only, rather than delve into the ethics that underlay pacifism and nonviolence.

These protests attract attention by virtue of their invasions of privacy and threats of personal violence. As such, this tactic is violent, and it raises the spectre of greater violence, because it is possible that, among the angry mob, a Fran Trutt may lurk. The media is interested, because it is drawn to violence. Unfortunately, the media story is the violence against the vivisectors, not the violence against the animals.

One person portrayed the American public as drunk and ignorant. If so, then it makes no sense trying to enlist them to animal liberation, as they will never have the intelligence or the impetus to help. It makes no sense to try enlist the media to put vivisection before their vacant eyes. If not (and I personally give the public more credit), most people will likely see these protests as the violent acts that they are. They will conclude that animal activists "care about animals more than people," and will be interested in helping only if they share this perspective.

For the sake of argument, one might endorse violence on the grounds of retributive justice or as a "lesser harm" to vivisection. One form of violence is invasion of privacy and implicit threats of harm. In this case, it is protected by the First Amendment and therefore poses little risk to the perpetrators. However, I see it as ineffective and counter-productive. It does not strike terror into the targets; it merely makes them upset and allows them to portray themselves as victims, generating communal support for their plights.

I disagree that all media coverage is good. That may have been true for AR at one time, but people now know there is an animal rights movement. They tend to believe it is fringe and irresponsible and not worthy of reasonable consideration, in part because that is what they want to believe and in part because that is how the movement has been portrayed by the media. Protesting at homes and generating fear reinforces this image.

It is difficult for as diverse and decentralized a movement as the animal rights movement to have an overarching "action plan." The best activists can do is distance themselves from and, if necessary, denounce actions that they find unethical and/or counter-productive.

Steve

Readers are encouraged to visit Stephen Kaufman's web site, Biospirituality

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