SEAL (Straight Edge Animal Liberation) Issue # 3 (1996, Apple Valley, MN)
Well, let’s see here: collegiate lettering, gratuitous X’s, Earth Crisis worship, and “True Till Death.” This cover hit’s every checklist point for a straight edge vegan publication in the 90’s. It then continues with exactly what you’d expect on the inside: moral peacockery, anti-abortion bullshit, and an unwillingness to confront any of the failings of “The New Ethic’s” tendencies towards unethical behavior. Anti-gay bigots are given space to distribute literature, Hardline bands are reviewed, all sans criticism for their abhorrent political leanings.
That said, this isn’t a complete waste of ink. There is a long interview with Freeman Wicklund before his split with militancy that details three years of exciting activity in Minneapolis, activity which led to the publication of No Compromise and the escalation of direct action amongst the animal lib grassroots. Anyone seeking to understand the movement’s mid-90’s shift would do well to read Wicklund’s words. There are also interesting nostalgic tid-bits for those of us who were around during this time, like advertisements for Amy from NJ ADL’s well known zine Anxiety Closet.
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The ALF Is Watching And There’s No Place To Hide – Zine / Album (1988 – Laguna Beach, CA)
This post was difficult to write, and several times I almost abandoned it. What was originally intended to be a short essay about the dangers of sub-culturization vs. the positives of spreading messages through music quickly became something else- a warning about bigotry and cult like behavior in the animals rights movement.
It all started when a friend told me he had tracked down a copy of the punk record that is the subject of this post, The ALF is Watching And There’s No Place To Hide. He sent over the audio tracks along with the zine insert. I knew little about the record, but something seemed familiar about label behind it: “No Masters Voice.” It didn’t take long to figure out that the imprint had been run by Sean Muttaqi, founder of the band Vegan Reich and originator of a dogmatically anti-gay, anti-abortion tendency within the animal rights movement known as Hardline.
I could write volumes about the right wing sectarian leanings that have cropped up in the movement over the years and am tempted to every time I encounter anything related to Vegan Reich. Instead, I’ll make it simple. In the 1980’s a friend of mine was being surveilled by the FBI, ATF, and private security companies. After an anarchist gathering that took place in Toronto, corporate spy group Perceptions International erroneously claimed that he had been seen attending workshops with Muttaqi. He wrote Sean a letter to give him a heads up about the situation. This is what he got in response:
“I can tell by the anarchist-pacifist-faggot symbol you signed your letter with that I will never become friends with you.”
So, in short, fuck Hardline and anyone who apologizes for it.
That said, there are some decent tracks on this record, including songs from bands like Chumbawamba, who are decidedly antithetical to the tenets of Hardline. The liner notes were written prior to Sean’s “Zen Shiite” nonsense and contain nothing about “deviant sexuality,” or a gun wielding vegan vanguard. Instead, essays about various forms of animal imprisonment and abuse are scattered among reprints from British ALF publications. Minus the link to a cult leader, this would be a decent record!
TALON is looking to occasionally archive animal liberation related themes in popular media and subcultures. If you have an obscurity along those lines, please contact us HERE.
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.