• Flux Magazine

"Civil Unrest for Animal Rights" by Becca DeMent

Since last summer a few provocative and considerably large protests have taken place at the Reichardt Duck Farm in Petaluma. A few reports on TV and articles in local papers have publicized the events, to which many seem to have a resentful attitude towards. The group that brought the hundreds of animal rights activists was Direct Action Everywhere, based out of Berkeley, California only an hour away. Because of these demonstrations, DxE faces hundreds of arrests, even seven felony charges. Most people hear of the “hippies” coming over and disrupting legitimate, and legal American (“small”) business. However, DxE arrived in response to Sonoma County authorities being aware of evidence showing Reichardt Duck Farms participating in constant animal cruelty. DxE felt that they had to bring formal attention to injustice. Most people do not support these types of demonstrations because they view them as futile, disruptive of business, and for an unworthy cause. I’d like to build a bridge of empathy as to why this impression does not embrace the ultimate issue of civil unrest.


I’ll start from Reichardt Duck Farms. There is a system here. The fourth-generation farmer Jim Reichert founded his business in 1992 due to demand. It processes more than 200,000 ducks today. There is a multitude of laws, policies and traditional “industry standards” that uphold how this duck farm has operated since its founding. So for a bunch of protesters to show up at their door and trespass on their property was met with authorized resistance. Over 40 Sonoma County authorities, three of which were dressed in riot gear, arrested hundreds of animal activities for trespassing, theft, and other charges. The DxE indeed broke many laws. But that, in and of itself, doesn’t indicate a problem to most people. Again, most don’t think that the ​cause​ justifies such measures. Most don’t think that they have to do “that”, and that they are being animal-loving nonsense hippies. Now let us address that side.


For every movement, there is a spectrum of commitment and urgency for its advocates. Some front runners stop at nothing, and there are lifestylists and hashtagged. There are outsiders and insiders; the directly affected and their allies. For women’s rights, trans’ rights, civil rights and more, this is so. At the time of the height of the movements, and the midsts of them we’re in now, some do the extreme. They march across miles. Civil rights advocates got sprayed with fire hoses, sat in diners while being ridiculed, chained themselves to buildings and climbed the barbed wire. Many at that time thought that their efforts were futile, disruptive of business, and for an unworthy cause. To clarify, I am by no means equating animal rights to human rights, rather acknowledging the fact that for each movement, it includes a group of people is so moved, so compelled with an urgency that they must act there and then with no consideration for the law. It may not be you, and without an agreement, there still is the fact that DxE feels that urgency. Every movement needs those who feel such an intense call that it is possible to make a difference.


We often think that there is a “civil way” that these injustices can be rectified; and yes I imagine that you acknowledge there is at least ​some​ degree of injustice with the way we treat animals. Civil disobedience is a subjective spectrum and usually, we don’t see until much later that those drastic moves were necessary. At the time, African Americain parents begged their young adult children not to go out and demand equality in the streets. But going through the system to require systematic change is a choice we all know wouldn’t have worked to acquire the change we see now. I think that is what this situation requires. Although it is not ​our​ method for change, and do not feel the same ​urgency​ that that animal rights activist feels, we should empathize and acknowledge that some feel a great urgency for their cause and that in the future we may see exactly why it was necessary.


There is much to consider it's true. What are these current “industry standards”? Are the Sonoma County Police refusing to acknowledge animal cruelty when there is direct evidence? Why? What is the standpoint of the activist group? Why are they using this method of communication of their message? People don’t gather for no reason. They don’t chain themselves around their necks to farm gates for no reason. There’s something we’re missing here. The urgency comes with education. If we knew, we’d get mad too.


Notes:

Their DxE says authorities at all levels have refused to take action, despite evidence of criminal animal abuse inside several Sonoma county farms, and are instead prosecuting whistleblowers who are exposing abuse. Currently over 100 are potentially facing charges, including six facing trial on seven felony charges each.

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