by Steve Hindi, with response from ANIMALS 24-7
For me, more than 31 years after founding Showing Animals Respect & Kindness, following extensive frustration in trying to work with national animal advocacy organizations that lacked––and still lack––a work ethic, the biggest lesson Martin Luther King Jr. taught and exemplified is, never stop fighting .
This, unfortunately, is a concept long abandoned by the vast majority of the so-called animal rights movement.
Posts on social media apps are not fighting for a cause any more than are vegan potlucks, galas, conferences, reading self-serving propaganda from groups begging for money, etc.
“King and his brothers and sisters were on the streets”
King didn’t “fight” simply from the security of his pulpit. If he did, he’d certainly have lived a much longer life. King and his brothers and sisters were on the streets, on the front line of making change, a concept almost extinct in animal protection today. They took the billy clubs, the dog attacks, the firehoses, the beatings.
Regardless, they persisted.
They did not flinch from the constant corruption of the street level thugs or the government hacks. They didn’t move from issue to issue just to keep the money coming in from bleeding hearts.
“Focused & unswerving”
King and his supporters were focused and unswerving. They accepted that they might be hurt, and might be killed. How little of that spirit exists today in animal protection, which has transformed from a movement of compassion into a rotting profit-driven industry.
Today I see three kinds of people involved in “animal protection.
First there are the profiteers (i.e. ASPCA, HSUS, PETA, Alex Pacheco and many others).
Then there are the ignorant sucker/donors who fall for the profiteers’ marketing bullshit, and who can’t be troubled to make certain that their money is actually getting things done.
“Inadequate to the task”
Finally there are the very few who are actually following in King’s footsteps, and put themselves out where it actually matters, and never give up or back down. The latter are a rare breed indeed.
Imagine what would happen if we had a movement that was sincere. Change would still take longer than we want, but it would happen a hundred times faster than is the case now.
The tragic reality of today is that, while nonhumans surely deserve justice, the so-called animal protection movement is, by design, completely inadequate to the task, and will fail ninety percent of the time.
Sob stories & freak shows
The most important goal of the animal protection movement should be to put itself out of business, but people who make six and seven figure salaries have every reason to keep their income flowing. Pay for the profiteers doesn’t reflect actual accomplishments or even sincere effort. Instead animal advocacy is a contest to tell the biggest sob story, or put on the most obvious freak show, pretending that somehow equates with real activism.
Martin Luther King Jr. and his associates didn’t ignore one issue because donors got tired of the fight. King didn’t move from issue to issue to issue to keep the money flowing. He didn’t strip. He didn’t hawk imaginary cookies to make racists sterile. He didn’t play games. That’s why we remember him.
To those out there who want to seriously get something done, feel free to get in touch with us. No matter where you are in the U.S., or even outside this country, we’ll plug you into real activism. That is both a promise and a challenge. The way to truly honor King and his legacy is to cut through the crap, and get to work truly making a difference.
ANIMALS 24-7 responds
ANIMALS 24-7 does see significant value in vegan potlucks and conferences, for example in providing social reinforcement to people who have recently quit eating meat, losing some social relationships in consequence. Conferences also have huge value in personally introducing activists and organizations to each other.
Galas, usually held as fundraising events, have a similar role, though many cost more money to produce than they net, in introducing potential high donors to organizations and projects that they may support with ongoing donations and bequests.
Further, as a cause or movement ages, the early participants age as well. As young activists become middle-aged and older, they tend to take on more job and family responsibilities, become less able to participate in front-line activism, and simultaneously are more able to participate as donors, providing the financial wherewithal for activist organizations to hire people to do the front-line work.
But this is when many and perhaps most one-time activist organizations tend to simultaneously rake in more money than ever before, and do much less front-line activism. Instead of funding front-line activists, the former activist organizations spend ever more on fundraising and paying ever-higher executive salaries.
Eventually they abandon activism altogether. The recent demise of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society illustrates the malady in technicolor.
“Vegan” is a positive lifestyle change, but not a “victory” touted by fundraisers
The disease sapping animal advocacy activist energy is not an over-emphasis on vegan potlucks, conferences, and galas. Indeed, these too are waning, with pre-prepared vegan foods sold now in almost every grocery store, and no in-person conferences of note or major galas having been held in years now, due to COVID-19.
The problem, rather, is complacency, fed by endless “victory” announcements issued with fundraising appeals from organizations that often have not won an authentic victory for animals in decades, if ever.
Just this morning, for instance, ANIMALS 24-7 received appeals from four different organizations heralding as “victories” developments actually reflecting failures of previous “victories” in legislative, judicial, and regulatory matters.
Mercenaries fight for money, not for causes
Laws were passed without enforcement mechanisms and full of loopholes, enforcement regulations were adopted to bypass the intent of the laws, and judges issued rulings based on the letter of worthless laws, instead of on what the activists who urged their legislators to pass them thought they would be getting.
This is what happens when activist donors expect hired mercenaries to do the fighting for them: mercenaries fight for money, not for causes.
Not our own ox getting gored
Complacency in the animal cause may be inevitable because, for the most part, it is not our own ox getting gored. That does not mean complacency should be accepted.
Worth remembering is that neither Martin Luther King Jr. nor any other civil rights movement leader of note ever shunned potlucks, conferences, and galas.
On the contrary, the civil rights movement grew out of church potlucks and picnics, at which King and many others spoke, rallied support, and passed the hat. Conferences brought the many scattered congregations of activists together into an actual movement.
Civil rights activists could not get complacent
Arguably the most influential of all civil rights organizations was, and still is, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, so named because conferencing is what it does.
Galas featuring name entertainers helped for decades to raise the funds that stripped the Ku Klux Klan of their bedsheet disguises and sent them into political retreat.
The difference between the civil rights movement and the animal rights movement is that many of the participants in the civil rights movement personally felt––and still feel––the effects of racial discrimination each and every day.
Animal rights activists feel animal suffering only vicariously, and at that, mostly only if choosing to look at it.
This makes the struggle against complacency significantly harder to wage, both individually and as a cause, but no less essential.