On a February afternoon in 1960 four students sat down at a “whites-only” lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. Because of the color of their skin, what they were doing was illegal. It was also rude, brazen, confrontational and downright dangerous. The store’s manager asked the four men to leave, and even the black waitress working the counter scolded, “Fellows like you make our race look bad.”
This past Thursday, some 53 years later, nine activists chose to stand up and disrupt the panel discussion following the screening of the film “American Meat.” While our action was not like that of the Greensboro Four, we faced much of the same critique. We were asked to leave, jeered at and scolded by supporters and critics of our message alike.
The organizers of the film screening are right: a discussion needs to take place about what is winding up on our plates. However, that discussion is not over farmers’ pay or the environmental costs of factory farming. It’s about the animals killed and their lives. Our protest began with the story of a little girl – a dog – named Lisa, who, much like the animals in the film, could very well have ended up as food. Elsewhere in the world, dogs just like Lisa are slaughtered for their flesh. Lisa was lucky to have escaped a similarly grim fate.
It is easy to dismiss animal rights activists who choose to speak up as irrational and militant. But with billions of animals killed and eaten every year – individuals with lives as beautiful and valuable as Lisa’s – silence is no longer an option. Grave injustices are being committed against victims whose only crime was being born into a nonhuman species. We are compelled to speak in their defense and fight for their lives.
The discussion that was ultimately held after the screening of “American Meat” may not have been the discussion that the organizers of the event wanted to have. But it was the discussion that we urgently need to have. History looks back on the Greensboro Four as a catalyst for ending segregation, not only at a single lunch counter, but also throughout the United States. It is easy to look back at these brave men and laud their actions. When a similar opportunity to speak up arises today, are we going to have the courage to make our voices heard?
Direct Action Everywhere
Direct Action Everywhere is an international grassroots network dedicated to the liberation of all animals