Op-Ed: A Response to the American Meat Protest From DxE

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

About Op Ed

  • Interarbiter

    Wait! As long as we’re drawing parallels between what you did and the Greensboro Four, shouldn’t you draw a much more closer parallel too? Go sit at some lunch counters! Go protest in a steakhouse, maybe a deli, really everywhere meat is served! I can point you to millions of places that are more directly applicable to your hero narrative.

    There’s a huge problem with the amount of cognitive dissonance you have going on here. What you did is not comparable to the Greensboro Four because the environment you are protesting in is not heroic, nor is it even remotely dangerous. Even as you claim that your actions “were not like those of the Greensboro Four,” you laud yourselves as taking a similar place in history. You are wrong.

    The Greensboro Four walked into the oppressive environment directly; you walked into a lecture hall at an elite university that was open for the purpose of discussing an (oppressive?) environment.

    The Greensboro Four sparked conversation with their actions; you interrupted people attempting to have a productive and informative conversation to try to cram your message down people’s throats.

    The Greensboro Four courageously risked their lives at those counters; you waltzed in and out to be annoying, like a gnat or horsefly.

    You are not brave. You are not courageous. Your message was mistimed, your protest was ineffective, and you galvanized people against your cause (people in support of your cause booed you offstage, by your own admission!) History will not look back upon you as the brave men and women who precipitated change. Your protest was detrimental to progress for your cause; and you need to take the words of the previous op-ed to heart. It was written by the people who you need as allies to succeed (and whom you closed-mindedly deride in your YouTube comments and reaction videos.)

    In short, you have failed, and it’s really embarrassing.

  • Ben

    Quit naming dogs Lisa and they will be much easier to eat! What a pathetic total waste of time you have given your energy too! This article may be an all time low for this crappy “newspaper”.

  • Wayne

    Hi Interarbiter. I was one of the organizers of the action. I actually agree with much of what you wrote. But on one issue, I did want to correct you. We ARE protesting at meat counters.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=w5wffvHafRY

    And many of us have been arrested for such actions.

    Thanks for your feedback.

  • Wayne

    Hi Ben (or should I say Interarbiter… I saw that you just changed the name you are posting under). Thanks for your secondary feedback. We’ll take it into consideration.

  • Wayne

    Hi Ben (or should I call you “Interarbiter” — I saw that you just changed your name for the purpose of the second post). Thank you for your feedback, but I won’t be changing my little girl’s name so that it’s easier for you to kill and eat her.

  • Proud to Be a Human Being

    This is admittedly very interesting, but I have difficulty with your choice to call a dog a little “girl.” While we have to take care of the environment, one thing most militant animal rights activists fail to consider is the inherent difference between human beings and animals. To project dignity equal to that of human beings onto animals is not something we are morally obligated to do, nor is it something even “nice” or “kind.” To equate animals and human beings is to make the grave mistake of completely misinterpreting the dignity of human nature, which–dare I say– is and will always be superior to that of any dog.

  • Carl Sagan’s Ghost

    They laughed at Galileo. They laughed at Einstein. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.

  • Proud to Be an Animal

    I agree with you regarding the anthropomorphizing of the dog as a “little girl.” Humans and dogs are different species, and too many animal rights activists take the easy route of emotional appeals.

    However, I’d like to make a more logical, philosophical appeal against what you’re arguing.

    “To equate animals and human beings” – human beings are animals. How do you define the “inherent differences” between human beings and animals that you reference? Where is the line drawn between human-like enough to deserve dignity, and not enough like us to warrant any regard for their suffering? If infants, senile, and developmentally disabled human beings deserve our love and care (which they absolutely do), can we really justify exploiting our fellow animals just because they don’t exhibit our same level of narrowly-defined intelligence?

  • Eric

    I am sympathetic to animal rights groups, but as an outsider I would like to point out how alienating and weird it is to hear the protesters talk about animals and people as morally interchangeable. That is not an intuition most people have, and, if your movement is going to actually change people’s minds, I think you need to find a way to make the argument people and animals do in fact have the same moral standing. You seem to take that position as a given, and then go from there, but almost no one you will ever speak to about this would even agree to your premise. Without that premise nailed down, the rest of what you say sounds pretty unhinged and absurd.

  • José B.

    The attempt to precisely define the difference between humans and other animals leads to a myriad of though experiments that end no where. For example, if I start switching parts of a human (say cells) by parts of a dog, at which point does the dog becomes human and the human becomes dog? Useless though! But the fact that it is hard to draw a line separating all dogs from all humans, doesn’t mean that the common human and common dogs are not easily separated. They are ! Implying that because we cannot separate all we cannot separate any is a fallacy. And the separation of common dogs from common humans is obvious. For example, the common human is able to question the most obvious things (Human: Am I a dog or not ?) while the common dog never doubts its own nature (Dog: I’m certainly not like this crazy human ! ).

  • Interarbiter

    I’m actually not Ben. The Daily staff can confirm this email address is the same as my earlier comment, and different from the below – please don’t lump legitimate criticism in with people who can’t use the right form of “to” in their comments.

    Also, fyi, y’all can reply below comments… modern technology. Cheers.

  • Elliot Williams

    Oh? You’ve been arrested for your actions? How heroic. Because being arrested(and probably released, or bailed out by your trust fund) is all that it takes for you to be able to compare yourselves to the civil rights movement right? Because Arrests were the worst things to ever happen to those protesting for fundamental human rights? Until you get blasted with a fire hose, shot at, tear gassed, dragged by your hair screaming from a lunch counter, or attacked by the dogs that you so self righteously defend, until you get beaten, dragged through towns chained to a pickup by people who enjoy meat, until you get lynched, tarred and feathered, burned battered and bruised, just for wanting to live without fear, I suggest that you, and every other person in the world trying to draw parallels between you shallow insipid movement, and the Civil Rights Movement, the bloodiest struggle for simple human rights this country has ever seen, shut their fucking mouths. And just so that no one can say I’m trying to be an Internet thug, My phone number is 585-490-3231. Call me if you ever want me to explain to your face how wrong, and racially ignorant you all are.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cherries1 Christopher Herries

    Easy there big fella, you have a point but let’s be civil

  • Proud to Be an Animal

    So… what’s your point? My point was that trying to precisely define the difference between humans and animals is both useless and impossible, so we should reconsider how we treat other animals simply because they’re not human. If our criterion for treating a living creature with respect and dignity, and minimizing its suffering, is purely intelligence (as most people seem to assert as justification for exploiting animals), yet we extend this protection to other humans of varying mental capacity, why can’t we also extend our circle of respect to other animals as best we can? What do we have to lose?

  • Hilary

    Thank you to Wayne and companions for standing up and braving the backlash for the sake of the millions of voiceless victims who, human or no, suffer atrocities for the sake of our eating preferences. Who cares whether there is a “moral equivalency” between humans and other animals – the point is highly sensitive and conscious animals are treated with barbarity at the hands of ignorant and numb humans and I for one, greatly appreciate you bringing this to light so people can begin to reconsider the consumption of factory raised animals.

  • bunbun

    If humans and other animals are morally equivalent, then why don’t we charge a dog with murder when it kills a rabbit? After all, a human killing another human would be charged, and these people seem to want a human killing a rabbit to be charged. Humans are animals, and rabbits are animals, and so are dogs, in fact. I see no particular reason, given this kind of idiotic comparison, that any predatory animal should be given a “free pass” to murder as it wants.

    An attempt to give animals the rights of humans without giving them the responsibilities and accountability of humans is therefore, within this bizarre activist logic, a form of speciesism most dire, in which because of the crime of being born human, certain people must face heinous penalties for crimes which other animals can commit with impunity.

    Therefore, I claim that within their own system, extreme animal rights activists amount to no more than vile anti-human racists, and should be ignored.

  • bunbun

    I know something better for you to do. Why don’t you go to Africa, find a pride of lions, and protest their heinous murder of the beautiful gazelles of the plains. If eating meat is the crime you claim it is, I see no reasons to exempt nonhuman animals from your list of protest targets. After all, animals deserve the same rights and respect as humans, correct?

    Please, go tell those lions to stop eating meat. Grave injustices are being committed against victims whose only crime was being born into a gazelle species. Aren’t you compelled to speak in their defense and fight for their lives?

    Or do you suggest that only humans should be punished? You single out human meat-eaters, and wish to punish them for the crime of being born human?

    It sounds like you people are guilty of the very species-based hatred and discrimination that you protest so vehemently against.

  • bunbun

    The crimes of human meat-eaters can hardly begin to compare to the millenia of horrifying crimes committed by animal meat-eaters. We should give all predatory animals the death sentence for their serial murder of prey animals that have just as much right to live as little baby boys and girls.

    And then, since their bodies would rot otherwise, we should eat them.

    Morally sound.