The community of vegetarians, vegans and environmental activists is getting bigger every day. There are different reactions to the declining situation with consumer society, climate, animals’ rights and nature in general. But what do those people really stand for? Sometimes even people who try to live in a certain way, don’t realize what a great responsibility they have to take upon themselves.
I've read the whole story of you working at the slaughterhouses and what caused you to be Vegan. Would you talk a little about what was happening to you after you left your job? What were your first thoughts? What did you want to do at that moment?
I remember my first priority was to get active in a legal way. I remember thinking that people need to know the truth of what these animals are suffering and I wanted to educate others about the moral dimensions of their dietary and consumer choices. I got a hold of the seminal Animal Rights book 'Animal Liberation' by Peter Singer. In the back of that book were all kinds of addresses for animal rights groups mainly in America and the UK. This was before the internet so I sat down and wrote each group a letter of concern and interest. It was easily 30 letters that I mailed out.
Over the next few weeks I began receiving responses, newsletters and fliers from many different places. I took the ones that I felt were best produced or told the truth about Animal abuse and made photocopies and began distributing them. I really wanted to educate people. I remember as a new Vegan and activist thinking the problem was simply one of education. It was not until years later that I realized that logic and ethics only go so far, and that unfortunately, a vast amount of people while paying lip service to ' the right thing' are never going to be swayed in their behavior towards Animals because of interesting conversations.
What was the first radical action you took part in?
Of course, the only actions I have ever partaken in that were outside the scope of the law were the 4 arsons that I have been previously and currently incarcerated for.
When You decided to give up your job, home and other social attributes what influenced this decision of yours? How did your family react?
I wasn't married or romantically involved with anyone, I have no children and all of my family in Colorado had moved away many years before I became an ALF activist. so my family was not aware of my outlaw lifestyle until my arrest. As far as giving up my job and home this was not difficult either. My home was a small studio apartment with about 3 pieces of used furniture, not a serious commitment to begin with and I was sick of work. I have had so many dead end jobs for so much of my life that it was awesome to finally be doing what I wanted to do even if I was broke. Besides, I gave what little I had up because I knew that I was going to walk this path of militancy until I was killed or arrested. Having no way to go back is an excellent way to continue forward when your in extreme circumstances.
You lead this ascetic way of life, some would say you only live once so why not enjoy it? What would be your response to such critics.
Honestly, my so called asceticism did not start out as a choice. I was raised poor. I mean like living in a shack with no plumbing or duplexes with all my relatives. Both my parents believed that living simply was noble and honest and that is how I also feel, I was never ashamed to have less material garbage than other kids. As I got older I learned that the things you own end up owning you. I like freedom more than I like stuff. As far as people that think you have to go out there and consume everything imaginably congestive to have a full life. That is hedonism, and I am not a fan of amoral and destructive behavior. Everybody cannot do whatever the hell they want and also respect everyone else's rights at the same time. If that was possible pornography would not be exploitative, eating Animal flesh would not wrought the pain, torture and environmental destruction that it does and drug and alcohol abuse would not cause a state of apathy, degeneration and slow suicide. Many times in life things are opposite to what they look like on the surface. Over consumption, leads to addiction, leads to slavery. A meager existence and life of service leads to health, sincerity and purpose.
Most typical office workers and middle class people have major responsibilities, their family, their life, their dog etc. I suppose most people will always find a way to protect and justify their way of life and their comfort zone. Any thoughts on this?
Everyone has their own issues and justifications, it's not about that. many people would say that I justify my way of life and love of arson with my ideals about Animal Liberation. Indeed, that's what more than a few mainstream activists think about me. Not everyone is cut out for the lifestyle and hardships that go along with being an ALF warrior. It can be a difficult existence. But just because that is not a reality in the life of most activists doesn't mean that they should do nothing! Nor does it mean that activists should just show up every Sunday to the same location and chant slogans and become more ritualistic than effective.
Everyone has their own skill set and strong points. Conversely, everyone has their own weak points and inabilities. The key to being effective in the Liberation or care of actual Animals, or successful in educating others about their plight, or the positive effects of Veganism is being yourself and working hard for their lives in the capacity you have chosen. I have met activists that honestly are squeamish and frightened of actually handling Animals but were amazing at communicating and teaching.
What would help people to realize that human beings have a greater responsibility for the Environment?
Peter Tosh once said 'You never miss your water until your well runs dry'. This is my fear for humanity; that one day a summer will come that gets up to a 170 degrees and as a huge chunk of the population dies as well as Animals, we will all finally 'get it' but it will be to late. What the general population doesn't seem to understand is the timeline, the Earths timeline. This planet is millions of years old it's timeline is different than ours and when the balance of nature is tipped to far by a greedy humanity it won't be as simple as 'oh, ok, now were going to consume less and get things right'. It will be game over! In answer to your question I really think that It will take an actual ecological disaster on a worldwide scale to wake humanity as a whole to the plight of environmental destruction, not just the threat of one.
In your brief autobiography I read about the horrible scene you witnessed in the slaughterhouse. As the workers beat the half alive pig you turned around in disgust and were expecting that others would do the same. Instead they were laughing and clapping their hands. So I would like to ask you, at that moment as your life changed radically did it happen because you realized how much you love Animals or because of your disgust with human beings?
Wow! What a great question! I have never really thought about it until just now, but I have to admit it was human callousness and cruelty that pushed me over the edge. I tolerated the death of Animals all day around me as a fact of my job. While I never enjoyed it, I tolerated it for a paycheck. But seeing others enjoy blunt force murder of innocent life made something inside me snap! It destroyed all my illusions and justifications that I had about my job building these death camps, my diet and humanities general attitude towards the whole of creation. I saw it as the murder multiplied by the billions that it is and since that moment questions like :'does my being vegan stop this carnage'? became secondary to never wanting to personally engage in the process or end result of a murdered Animal. It's curious that no one tries to justify other injustices in this reverse way. We don't for one moment worry about if our not raping is really cutting down on rape in the greater scheme of things. I guess our brains like to play all kinds of logic and rhetoric tricks when we have a vested and pleasurable interest in the oppression and murder of others.
Since that eye opening day my love of Animals has grown. True love, not infatuation or preoccupation. It's their well being and freedom that I desire, not their connection to people. Once again we see that things are often different than the surface. Example: Muslims and Jews as a general rule, find pigs to be disgusting and believe all kinds of stereo types about them which, of course, are not true. Pigs are sensitive and beautiful creatures. But in their religious foreboding they will not touch a pig, eat a pig or come physically near a pig. While many that claim to love pigs really mean that they love to eat their murdered corpses but want to see them enjoying themselves in a field before they are sent to slaughter. Love goes deeper than getting the warm fuzzies inside. Love means considering an others feelings, interests and safety as if it were your own, or sometimes even more.
What do you think about modern civilization?
I think that modern civilization, particularly from the industrial age forward marks the beginning of humanities change from a cell, into a cancer within the global community of species. Technology is based on cheating. I can't talk to you from where I am so I need a phone. I can't travel the globe by foot so I need automobiles and airplanes. I cant control social interactions in real life so I socialize as much as possible online. But there is a balance, ever so subtle, that we cannot cheat and our attempts inevitably work against us. Global pollution, deforestation, dead zones in the ocean. drinking water infected with anti-deppressants and chemicals. For every perceived gain their is a greater loss. In this is a lesson for the wise and observant. That's not to say that technology doesn't do many wonderful things because it really does, but is the pay off worth it? I think the answer is, no. The hell and environmental destruction that is the price off production is a scant pay off. Meanwhile the easier life gets through our crutches, the softer and weaker humanity becomes. Mentally, spiritually, socially, physically, morally and in nearly every other way. This isn't even mentioning the exploitation of human over human to attain and create a world of plastic trinkets, plastic keyboards and plastic faces. Technologically advanced civilization is ruinous and poisonous to Life. And anything that harms or kills innocent Life without provocation is evil.