"The essence of nonviolence is love. Out of love and the willingness to act selflessly, strategies, tactics, and techniques for a nonviolent struggle arise naturally. Nonviolence is not a dogma; it is a process." -- Thich Nhat HanhI've been spending a lot of time thinking about violence over the past week. I mean, I've been spending a lot of time thinking about human violence--over and above the violent acts humans already commit against nonhumans every single day for the sake of human pleasure. There are some in the animal advocacy movement who believe that the only way to bring about the end of the everyday violent acts humans commit against nonhumans is to, in turn, commit violent acts against those humans. Considering that (depending on whose survey you read) a mere 1.5-2.5% or so of the population of the United States, for instance, self-identifies as vegan and claims to abstain from consuming animals in any manner, this basically means that a few individuals making up an ever-so-tiny fragment of that less than 3% want to put the smack down on the other 97%+ of the population to get them to stop killing the over 10 billion animals in the United States alone who are killed each and every year. (Uh, yeah--good luck with that.)
I won't ramble on about why committing violence to end violence is wrongheaded. Abolitionists like Vincent J. Guihan (over at his blog We Other Animals) have already made clear cases for the common-sense, efficacy and logic in using nonviolence and vegan education to effect change for nonhumans. For instance:
As advocates, our work is not a matter of reaction; it is a matter of transformation. We have to struggle to avoid confusing the wallpaper for the walls. We have to struggle to avoid confusing our work pulling down the walls of the house of slavery and violence with building those walls back up again through violent and confrontational behaviour of our own. We can only “tear the house down” by convincing its other builders to join us, not with threats and idiocy, but creative and nonviolent education that calls them to join us in a life that respects the rights of other persons to be free from violence and slavery.It baffles me, really, that anyone would truly think that using fear and intimidation will change people's hearts and heads to allow the major paradigm shift that is needed to stop the overwhelming majority of us from thinking of nonhuman animals as things that exist solely for our use and pleasure--as our property.
Prof. Gary L. Francione, who has consistently promoted nonviolent vegan education to abolish the exploitation of nonhumans (you can read a couple of his earlier essays here and here), has also re-emphasized the avoidance of violence by vegans and animal rights advocates in his recent responses and reactions to the more recent calls for violence by a very few in the animal advocacy movement. He's done so in his podcast commentary of a few days ago, as well as over on the Opposing Views website and on his Facebook page, where discussions pertaining to the subject have been ongoing for several days on his Facebook profile page. It's on this Facebook page that Prof. Francione recently revealed that he has invited Steve Best, associate professor of philosophy at the University of Texas at El Paso and spokesperson for the Animal Liberation Press Office, to a formal (or even an informal) debate on the use of violent or nonviolent approaches in animal advocacy. Although the conditions surrounding it are still being ironed out (and you'll need to visit Prof. Francione's Facebook page to get the dish on those details), it appears that there is indeed a good chance it may happen sooner or later. Stay tuned for more information!
Update: Although Vegan Examiner Adam Kochanowicz reported earlier today that a formal debate would be held on September 18 and would then appear on the Animal Voices talk show, Prof. Francione has since stated that he and Best will, in fact, be having the actual debate in a one-on-one Skype call with no moderation. There has been no information concerning a potential later broadcast as of this time.