S.A.R.P. Newsletter #12-15 (1993 – Northampton, England)
Only a few short years after reforming Support Animal Rights Prisoners, the contributors to the project (primarily Barry Horne) threw in the towel. Their raison d’être was being fulfilled by the ALF SG newsletters, and Barry felt as if the group wasn’t having the unifying, inspirational impact that he had hoped for. The final issue, mostly written by press officer Robin Webb, starts off light and positive, but ends with an angry missive from Horne accusing most activists of being mere radical t-shirt collectors rather than actual radicals. Across the span of decades and beyond even his own death, this stab at those unwilling to fight for liberation still hits its mark. It is a sad ending to an information packed publication, but not every issue of this last year of SARP is so intense. Tiny fragments of our history fall off these pages like gold dust- collect them together and you have a treasure. Barry might have died on hunger strike, but he did not leave us behind. His words and actions will continue to remind us where we came from, and for whom we fight. Rest in peace, comrade, and thank you for all you have given us…
The Militant Vegan 1-8 (January 1993 – March 1995. USA.)
Militant Vegan was an anonymously produced zine that ran for 8 issues between 1993 and 1995. The final issue was never printed by the team who produced the magazine, instead the files were distributed online. Due to the poor quality of modems and low usage of the internet at the time the issue was mostly lost to history. Other things contributed to the mag’s obscurity as well. For example- there was no address to order the magazine from. Instead, originals were distributed to some animal rights groups and it was requested that they make copies, and that the readers of those copies make further copies to distribute to activists. Since the publication already relied on much cutting and pasting this method of circulation resulted in heavy generation loss of images, and obtaining readable copies wasn’t always easy. Even activists who were heavily involved in the movement at that time never saw every issue. Conflict Gypsy was luckily able to track down a complete set, including the rare eighth and final dispatch.
Printed in starkly contrasted black and white, and dressed in over-the-top, macho imagery, Militant Vegan’s primary purpose was to publicize actions and news ignored by mainstream movement publications. Otherwise, the philosophy of the magazine was vague. It was pleasant to read a brief denunciation of the sexism and homophobia advocated by the “Hardline movement” in MV’s early issues, but elsewhere there was less clarity. For example, ALF guidelines prohibiting violence appeared alongside statements celebrating the poisoning of animal products left on store shelves. (These actions turned out to be hoaxes, and no one was actually poisoned.) Frequent reminders that the publishers didn’t wish to encourage illegal activity appeared alongside instructions on how to do exactly that. And despite the angry condemnation of speciesism, cops are still referred to as pigs in a page reprinted from Defiance #1. The rhetoric could be ugly and was generally unlikely to convince people that direct action was an ethical tactic that provided the movement a way forward.
Despite all of this there was nothing quite like Militant Vegan at the time that it was published, and it documented the rise of a new era of grassroots activism in the United States prior to the publication of No Compromise. For the lucky few who could obtain copies, MV brought news of groups like Student Environmental Action League, Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade, and Animal Defense League into their homes when glossy magazines like Animal’s Agenda did not. After a sharp dip in the number of underground actions in the earlier part of the 90s, Militant Vegan was a good source of information on the new trend towards smaller scale economic sabotage. Occasionally a well written original article appeared, and seeing press clippings from former radical (and current HSUS honcho) JP Goodwin’s convictions for sabotage remains amusing. Finally, the letters from prisoners were at times inspiring, and the coverage of Rod Coronado’s case from arrest to conviction is essential reading.
In total, Militant Vegan was a product of its time, written by amateurs who saw a niche and decided to fill it. It remains one of the only insider perspectives from that period of underground and radical grassroots animal liberation activism.
Counter Friction #1 (1998, Bloomington, IN. USA)
By the late 90s, it was becoming apparent that despite the commitment and energy of the militant grassroots, little was being accomplished for non-humans. A lack of focus on a single target, and minimal regional or national coordination had left the movement with few gains, frustrated organizers, and many participants drifting away. One early attempt at correcting the problem was a drive by members of the Animal Defense Leagues and CAFT to unify their efforts by publishing a joint newsletter called Counter Friction.
Counter Friction was well intentioned, but upon its release it had little impact. First and foremost, if anything the magazine served to highlight the overly diverse targets and lack of framework within the groups. Some groups were focused on fur, some on fundraising, some on vegan outreach, and despite JP Goodwin’s call for unified action, everywhere else in the magazine there was a sense of not knowing what to do next. Second, the publication came out during a time period of intense turmoil and lower participation caused by the conflict between supporters of Freeman Wicklund’s ill fated strategic non-violence plan, and more traditional grassroots militants who supported underground activity. Third, the articles were written by organizers who might be proficient at putting together a protest but miserable at composing a few paragraphs about it. With few exceptions the content was poorly written. Finally, there was an unintentional conflict in the mission for the newsletter: On the one hand it was meant to start creating a centralized clearinghouse for CAFT and ADL, but the other purpose was to drive people towards local chapters. Subscribers were told to contact local groups for subscriptions, to send submissions to the central group, to contact CAFT for merchandise, to contact ADL for literature, and in the end confusion abounded.
By the time managing editor Rachael Astachan requested that chapters send in articles and updates for the second issue the steam had run out for many of the ADL’s and CAFT affiliates. In a frustrated e-mail to the ADL group e-mail list she left the project, and it was never revived.
Militant Couple seeking Memphis Vegan
US: We are two friends who run a website archiving animal rights and environmental publications. Him: A rabid hoarder of rarities. Her: Amused by the meshing of conservative politics and veganism. You: A little odd but a fun third to our party. Come to us and find out all the magic we have to offer. Feel free to bring along your boy X Shawn Youngblood X. Smooooch.
(In other words, we’d really like to track down more issues of this publication. Please contact us at conflictgypsy ((at)) gmail ((dot)) com if you can help us obtain this treasure!)
Contention Builder (Publication dates unknown, likely 1997. San Diego, CA)
Although the mid to late 1990s brought a resurgence of participation to the animal rights movement, the new generation of liberationists also had an unfortunate tendency towards posturing, machismo, and puritanical language that bordered on the cultish. These newcomers plagued AR culture with cartoonish militant names such as JIHAD (Justice through Insurrection by Humans for Animal Defense), CLAW (Committed Liberation Activists of the West), ARMY (Animal Rights Militant Youth), Vegan Frontline, and the Vegan Militia Movement. It was the latter that brought us two issues of the eclectic, and at times frustrating, Contention Builder.
Many of the members of the Vegan Militia Movement went on to do excellent activism. Their early attempts at publishing, however, were somewhat rough. Packaged between artistic, eye grabbing covers, the interior pages of Contention Builder were filled with reprints, PETA fact sheets, vegan recipes, and the occasionally an original article attacking the credibility of bands like Earth Crisis. Worst of all were the heavy handed admonitions at the back of each issue for people to embrace the “Hardline movement,” a bizarre spin off of Straight Edge that rejected drugs, homosexuality, sex without procreation, abortion, and which later incorporated aspects of Taosim and Islam. Hardliners threatened to use violence against people who abused animals, but these statements were never acted upon and now appear to be the juvenile venting of angry young men.
Issue #1 of Contention Builder came packaged with a tract advertising the mission statement of the Vegan Militia Movement. Chuckle along with these earnest but silly run-on sentences: “WE BELIEVE IN ONE ETHIC- THAT ALL LIFE HAS THE VIRTUE TO LIVE OUT LIFE FROM BIRTH TO NATURAL DEATH – FREE FROM ALL UNETHICAL VALUES. WE MUST STRIFE [sic] AGAINST THOSE WHO ARE DESTROYING THIS WORLD WITH IMPURE AND WARPED VALUES BY VOICING OURSELVES AND TAKING ACTION AGAINST THEM.” Ah, yes, the good old days when hardcore lyrics replaced political discussion and the caps lock was permanently depressed.
But CB is worthy of notice not so much because of its content, but its regional importance to the movement in Southern California. For all the oddball rhetoric and over-reliance on reprints, the magazine still inspired young people to get active and attend protests throughout San Diego and Orange County. Space was given to examining issues ignored elsewhere in the animal rights movement, and violence against women, repression of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, and US Imperialism all received coverage. In the end, the sincerity of many members of this group was proven outside of the pages of the zine. All these years later many of them are still active and contributing to animal rights. Perhaps that is the best legacy of their old publication.