TURNING POINT – Issues 7-8 (1987, Oxford, UK)
Turning Point only produced two issues in 1987 due to a delay in an NAVS report claiming (probably erroneously) that AIDS was an unintended result of vivisection. The editors of Turning Point believed (absolutely erroneously) that the report was going to be “devastating,” and “the most important campaign that the anti-vivisection movement has ever undertaken.” By 1988 the campaign had fizzled out, but sadly pseudo-science conspiracy nonsense in the world of animal rights didn’t die with it.
Fortunately, plenty of other content made it into these pages, much of it worth reading. Direct action campaigns from around the world are covered, with mentions of Earth First!, the Central Animal Liberation League, and the Animal Liberation Front. Investigations, essays, and photographs of liberated donkeys take up the rest of the real estate in this brief volume.
No Compromise #12-14 (1999, Old Bridge, NJ and Santa Cruz, CA)
If I had to create a list of my favorite years in animal and earth liberation history, 1999 would be in the top 5. As the movement looked towards the new millennium there seemed to be an intense urgency in the air, perhaps people felt the need to close the 20th century with a bang or leave their mark before the world ended in a technological melt down on Y2K! Whatever the reasons, direct action reached a fever pitch. Lab raids returned to the United States, the Earth Liberation Front continued it’s ascendancy, Hillgrove farm was shut forever, and everyone seemed to be preparing for the World Trade Organization ministerial in Seattle. Across the globe there was a sense that people were not going to take it anymore, and whether you were struggling against bio-technology or prisons or speciesism, chances are good that you were employing some form of illegal tactic.
No Compromise may not have covered everything going on in the global struggle, but if it was animal lib related then chances are it was covered in these three issues. From the death of Alex Slack to end of the annual Hegins pigeon massacre, you’d be hard pressed to find a more complete overview of these twelve action packed months.
PeTA News, Various issues (1985-1990. Washington, D.C.)
“Why Property Damage? ALF action goes beyond acts of protest. Animals will always be rescued where possible, but the main purpose of the action is often economic sabotage. Property and “things” hold no sacred value-the opposite, in fact, if they are used to cause pain and death. To STOP the very real violence of torture and killing, inanimate objects must be rendered unusable. When equipment is broken, work cannot go on as usual with a new batch of victims, insurance rates go up and so do security costs, making the enterprise less profitable.” PeTA News, Volume 2 #1
“When questioned on Irish television about an action against a butcher shop, Morrissey, an avid vegetarian, was asked “What about the safety of the butchers?” Responded Morrissey, “When you think of the horror experienced by millions of animals in slaughterhouses each year, what’s a few butchers?” His song Meat Is Murder topped the charts in 1985.” PeTA News Volume 3 #1
Imagine for a moment that a young animal rights activist with very little knowledge of the movement’s history finds a time machine and heads back into the early 1980s. Upon arrival they decide to get involved with a militant group and begin asking who they should join. At every turn they are told that PETA is the most militant group in the United States. This seems absurd to our young activist! “All PETA does is embarrass the movement with offensive ad campaigns and nudity! They are celebrity driven and devoid of substance, they kill healthy feral cats and don’t even have a rights based philosophy! They even demoted an employee for publicly supporting politically motivated arson!” Angered, our imaginary friend stomps into the DC area offices of the group to re-write history, and is shocked with what they find…
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals experienced a meteoric rise in membership and notoriety in the early 1980’s as a direct result of their support for (and participation in) illegal direct action. Their relationship with the Animal Liberation Front was symbiotic: PETA provided the ALF with whistlebower information, credible spokespeople, and sympathetic coverage of raids. In return, PETA was placed in the media spotlight and received undercover footage and documents from the ALF that were often parlayed into high profile (and lucrative) campaigns. The atmosphere of popular militancy was exciting, and after years of slow progress people felt that supporting PETA meant backing a faster, more direct path to rights for non-humans.
PETA sold ALF support merchandise in their newsletters, ran a legal defense fund for people accused of unlawful activism, and helped popularize the concept of mischief in defense of animals. For example, PETA News sold squirt bottles of red permanent fabric ink alongside the warning that since the damage done to furs would be permanent, you should only spray the ink on your own furs! Articles talked about a likely apocryphal 15 year old who got grounded for passing out “Throw a Brick Through McDonald’s Day” pamphlets, and later chuckled as he got caught with paint bombs under his bed. Incidentally, the same article described how young “Kevin” made the paint bombs. These examples only just barely scratch the surface of the early militancy of Alex Pacheco and Ingrid Newkirk’s fledgling organization.
The story of animal rights in the United States can not be told without a thorough examination of the early days of PETA, an era sure to shock newcomers. In the coming months we will begin a more in depth analysis of their early days, but in the meantime jump into the TALON time machine and prepare to have your mind blown by these early issues of PeTA News.
Breaking Free Video Magazine #1 (1998, Eugene, OR)
Back in 1997 I was kicked out of the Liberation Collective house in Portland and moved back to my home town of Eugene. Portland was a great place for activism in those days, but Eugene didn’t have much going on… yet. So, me and an old friend decided to start an Animal Defense League chapter. Right from the start we had a tough time getting people in the streets, but we had another idea…
I grew up skateboarding, and one of the most fascinating things about that art form is how coverage of skateboarding ultimately progresses the art of skateboarding. Every time a new skate video came out kids all over the world would see new possibilities, would feel the fire lit beneath them to try new tricks, and would find courage to do so because they had just seen other people do it right in front of them. They would film their tricks, and then the whole process would happen again and again, with each new video being more impressive than the one that preceded it. My buddy had just bought a top of the line video editing setup- A pentium II with a 9 gig drive, an SVS deck, and a copy of Premiere 3.2 with a $3,000 analog video capture card. Maybe we could do for activism what skate videos did for skateboarding.
The world of non-human liberation movements was fast paced and loaded with action back then. I knew that someone needed to document everything going on, but I couldn’t afford to travel and film it all. Most AR groups had a cheap camera though, so I put out the word that we wanted to get everyone’s footage for a video, and slowly the tapes started to trickle in. We learned how to edit through trial and error, and after several months of frustration in front of the computer, Breaking Free #1 was available.
The video is not perfect in any way, and there is a lot about it that embarrasses me. Still, there was nothing else quite like it at the time. Sales were high, it was translated into German and Spanish, bootleg copies were everywhere, and even mainstream publications like Animals Agenda were praising us. While I cringe at the mispronunciation of “Nietzsche,” the bad joke of an opening, and yes, the techno music, (Sorry, Mr. K!) I feel pride that we created such an accurate picture of the state of the movement, and insured that so many acts of anger, disobedience, and compassion were not forgotten. Please watch it with critical, but forgiving eyes.
No Compromise #8 / Strategic Non-Violence for Animal Liberation Insert (1997-1998, Minneapolis, MN)
On November 16th 1997, nine years prior to the day that I turned myself in to federal prison in the SHAC 7 case, I was arrested in Anaheim, California. Activists from around the country had descended upon the home of Disneyland to protest the American Association of Laboratory Animal Scientists and we soon found ourselves facing a small army of law enforcement officers. They had miniature tanks, riot suits, pepper spray, batons, counter sniper units on rooftops, and a willingness to use all of the above to maintain the right of vivisectors to keep cutting open living animals. The demonstrations that day set in motion a chain of events that would change the face of grassroots animal rights in America. What does any of this have to do with No Compromise #8 and it’s insert? Allow me to explain.
Freeman Wicklund was a vibrant, young activist from Minnesota. After animal rights militancy had been severely hampered in the late 80’s by grand juries, arrests, and the presence of informants, Freeman was one of the activists who had helped pick up the pieces. His organizing with Student Organization for Animal Rights had made Minneapolis a sort of mecca for direct action oriented vegans, and his projects in the early 90s included traveling to England to bring back literature, documentaries, and interviews about the strengths and weaknesses of the movement abroad. These materials proved to be very influential, and after a short period of contributing to publications such as Out of the Cages, Freeman started No Compromise magazine with a few friends. No Comp, as we called it back then, was the spark that lit a prairie fire. After its publication actions against animal abusers hit a fever pitch.
The 1990s were a complicated time. On the one hand a lot of dedicated, sincere people were taking tremendous risks and making large sacrifices to liberate animals from harm. On the other hand, thrill seekers and status hunters wanted to make a name for themselves while having a little adventure. The epicenter of the latter phenomenon was Salt Lake City. The straight edge scene in Utah was notoriously violent and cultish, and it adherents had attached veganism to their gang-like mentality. Direct actions were on the rise in the area, but many of them were being performed by people who could care less about the politics. When Freeman visited the state in 1997 to help train young people to deal with grand juries, he found a movement based on bragging and scene points. Animals were secondary to climbing the straight edge social ladder, and snitching and self incrimination were epidemic. Disgusted with what he saw there, Freeman began reading the works of pacifist Gene Sharp, and slowly he began to have personal doubts about the role of sabotage and aggressive protest.
Those private conflicts became very public in Anaheim. The AALAS protest drew hundreds of people from multiple states and ended in 8 arrests. While Wicklund was being arrested he began to shout that he was opposed to the ALF at a nearby camera which he mistakenly believed belonged to news media. (The camera was being operated by the police to gather evidence against the protestors.) While we were being detained in the Orange County Jail he told the other arrestees that he was a pacifist now, and upon his release he announced via e-mail lists that he would be quitting his job as editor at No Compromise. When issue #8 was released it contained an editorial announcing his departure, along with a 16 page insert that detailed the focal points of his new strategy.
The supposed “violence vs pacifism” debate is unlikely to ever be resolved, but the contentious battles between the two sides of that argument can sure tear apart a movement. Freeman, for his part, was not content to simply let his views be known. His actions now provide us with a clear road map of what not to do with tactical dogmatism; he began traveling the country denouncing direct action at conferences, he sent out press releases denouncing ALF actions, he even went so far as to visit and disrupt meetings of pro-direct action organizations, including Student Organization for Animal Rights, the group he once worked for.
Many people who had been inspired by Freeman now could not decide where they stood and slowly drifted away. Actions slowed to a standstill as infighting raged and many activists just decided to flee the internal drama. By the start of 1998 the number of grassroots groups were declining and regional networks were falling into disarray.
As time went on Freeman faded into obscurity. His activism became a hodgepodge of confusing moves like running for a school board position in Minnesota, giving equal time to the meat industry when he would table, and requiring that members of his group sign a pledge acknowledging that he was their leader. When his court date in the Anaheim case came around he skipped it to give a lecture about the failings of the Animal Liberation Front. I did show up for my court date, and was sentenced to 45 days in one of the most violent county jails in the United States. There, while on hunger strike, I rejected my own pacifist tendencies, and started down the path that would ultimately lead to my participation in the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty campaign.
No Compromise #6-7 (1997. Minneapolis, MN.)
The second year of No Compromise was packed with inspiring coverage of the growth of the militant grassroots, including some of the most important events of the 90s: Tony Wong’s hunger strike, the mass arrests and police riot at the Yerkes primate center, and the World Week for Animals in Laboratories arrests at the UC Davis primate center.
Tony Wong was only 16 years old when he was convicted for a civil disobedience action at the Lazurus department store. He immediately began a hungerstrike in prison, and after a month of not eating the staff at the juvenile facility where he was being held began force feeding him animal products through a tube forcefully inserted through his nose. The brutality faced by Tony acted as a lightning rod, and soon large demonstrations and acts of sabotage rippled across the country. The most important thing that Tony did though was to set an example of dedication that others could admire and aspire to in their own lives. Sadly, Tony eventually embraced a deeply speciesist political transformation and began consuming animals again after sacrificing so much to save them.
World Week in 1997 saw miniature police riots in Georgia and California. The protests themselves were not as important as the resulting boost to the movement created by the heavy handedness of the cops. As van loads of activists traveled to these demonstrations and found themselves sharing jail cells with like minded comrades, they soon formed tighter networks which led to greater revolutionary potential. The west coast and east coast both saw an upswing in regional actions after these arrests.
No Compromise was plagued by it’s usual production and distribution delays this year. It only got two issues finished, and they didn’t make it into people’s hands on the advertised cover dates, but both of these issues are wonderful documents of their era.
No Compromise #1-5 can be found here.
Underground 14-15 (1999, Ontario, Canada)
The turn of the century was an odd time in the world of radical politics. The remnants of the mid-90s militants grassroots were fading away, and those still loyal began to look to England for signs of hope. In Eugene, an odd coalition of old school forest activists, crusties, anarchists, and even some members of the old left were rapidly embracing a philosophy critical of civilization, leftism, and pacifism. People all over the globe were beginning to talk about the specter of global trade agreements, and everyone began planning for the World Trade Organization meetings in the northwest, where arsons, lab raids, and whale hunt sabotages were already rampant. Everywhere there was a sense that the old politics were dying, and that something new was right around the corner.
Underground reflected some of this feeling, but production delays, staff turnover, and the rapid loss of its old writers meant that only 2 short issues were produced this year. Some great history was documented in these pages, but sadly much was left uncovered. These two issues should be thought of as an incomplete sampling of just some of what ’99 brought the world.