Action For Animals # 1 – (1989, Essex, England)
While there isn’t much stand-alone importance to this particular publication, the critical role played by grassroots newsletters in the 1980s in undeniable. Prior to the popular use of the internet local groups were run by a small core of organizers who communicated with their own membership and the broader public using these cheaply produced zines. Ideology, protest dates, campaign information, news from other organizations, fundraising efforts, and prisoner support were all shared, and with results that often dwarf what we see from Facebook based organizing.
Action for Animals produced a newsletter very typical of its era and geography. Those of you who take the time to look closer at this publication will notice excerpts from the London Greenpeace leaflet (co-written, as it turns out, by an undercover cop) that lead to the McLibel case. Also of note are AFA’s anti-capitalism sentiment, and the diversity of actions embraced by their group- from Christmas carolling to support for underground direct action.
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!)
Do Not Consider Yourself Free # 1-3 (1997 – 1998. New York, NY. USA.)
Do Not Consider Yourself Free was the official newsletter of the New York City Animal Defense League chapter. Contributors included many prominent 90s activists, such as Sarahjane Blum, Patrick Kwan, Kim Berardi, Ryan Shapiro, Lance Morosini, Brian Smith, Melanie Bartlett, Darius Fulmer, Justin Taylor, Christine Matyasovsky, and Lauren Gazzola. The publication primarily covered the ADL’s spectacularly planned acts of civil disobedience against the fur trade and many arrests of its members, but also included interviews and original articles. It remains one of the most well known and fondly remembered newsletters of its era.
Conflict Gypsy is proud to present the complete set here along with this new introduction by Ryan Shapiro.
“The late 1990s was a different world, and the NYC Animal Defense League rocked that world. Working closely with the Long Island, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Syracuse chapters of the ADL, as well as with the NYU animal rights organization SEAL, the NYC-based Wetlands Animal Rights Action Team, and DC-based Compassion Over Killing, NYC ADL warred against animal exploitation and abuse in New York City.
NYC ADL sought to combine the aggressive militancy that characterized the grassroots animal rights movement of the late 1990s with a parallel focus on strategic and tactical planning. Our goal was to be both radical and smart. Efficacy was our watchword. As such, NYC ADL members could be found in camos while recruiting at Earth Crisis shows and in suits and dresses while occupying the President’s office at NYU (even if we still had Firestorm playing on the President’s stereo).
We placed particular emphasis on our civil disobedience actions. In the heady days before 9-11 and the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, NYC ADL organized seemingly ceaseless opportunities to challenge animal exploitation by locking ourselves to things. Through boldness of vision, obsessive attention to detail, and the courage of our membership, NYC ADL sought to perfect the art of the urban blockade. Whether it was learning the science of concrete solidification or busting out the algebra to determine the optimal participant distribution for a lockdown, NYC ADL devoted ourselves to coordinating spectacular acts of civil disobedience that served as models for other groups around the country. Among our proudest accomplishments was to repeatedly shut down the world’s largest store, Macy’s Herald Square, in protest of Macy’s continued sale of fur.
Due primarily to the departure from NYC of many of ADL’s leading coordinators, the group began to falter in 2000. Even in its demise, however, NYC ADL served as a feeder for some of the most significant grassroots animal rights campaigns of the new millennium. After leaving NY, veterans of NYC ADL served as key participants in, amongst others, the SHAC campaign, the campaign to shut down Makah whaling, and the campaign to expose factory farming through “open rescue.”
Over a decade later, NYC ADL seems both like yesterday and a lifetime ago. In either form of memory, however, I remain deeply humbled to have served alongside activists so passionate and dedicated. It is truly one of the great honors of my life to have been a part of NYC ADL. Thank you to everyone who fought for animals alongside us, and to everyone who continues the fight today. NYC ADL is gone, but the message lives on: As long as others are held captive, do not consider yourself free.”
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.
EAT ME (1997-1998 New York, NY USA.)
Before the term snacktivist became derogatory, several amazing publications such as Soy Not Oi and Raggedy Anarchy promoted veganism and protest alongside recipes for tasty food. One much more obscure publication, EAT ME, was written by best selling vegan cookbook author Isa Moskowitz. Although the content doesn’t match the focus of most of our site, there is certainly a fun archival nerd collector value to seeing one of the most prominent faces of veganism during her radical youth. And yes, each issue contains a recipe. We are happy to have a new introduction to these newsletters from Isa herself.
“I made these as newsletters for the Anarchist Women’s Potlucks in 1997/1998. It was weird timing, because people had email and stuff but it was still a real privilege to have internet at home, so everything was done word of mouth. If you read a few issues, you can see that we used voicemail to let people know when they next one will be. So we were kind of cutting edge technology for the 90s, if only we had a beeper! I wrote them on a word processor, then cut and paste and just filled in some of the art with pictures of lips or whatever. I would love to try some of the recipes now, I was a pretty shitty recipe writer back then. So many awesome things came out of those potlucks, including Bluestockings Books which is still standing today. It was really the end of an era! Pre-internet activism, where you kinda had to know everyone face to face. There is definitely something valuable in that. I love seeing these because they seem so innocent, even though I felt jaded back then.”