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Non-Violence and the Animal Rights Movement

Jerry Simonelli

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Non-Violence and the Animal Rights Movement


*Attorney, former member of Connecticut House of Representatives, former legislative assistant for U.S. Congress, political campaign manager; B.A. (Political Science) - John Carroll University, J.D. ‑ University of Toledo, LL.M. (Taxation) - George Washington University.


 Please feel free to contact me with comments/suggestions:

 © 2003 Jerry Simonelli




he animal rights movement is part of our wider struggle for peace, justice and respect for all beings and creation – what Albert Schweitzer referred to as a reverence for life.  We lose our moral compass when we resort to the same hate and violence of those we seek to change.  We must therefore resist the temptation to believe that force, violence or intimidation is justified – even if our motives are good.


Some in our movement claim adherence to the non-violent philosophies of Mohandas Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. yet participate in and/or condone acts of violence, intimidation and property damage.  We must transcend mere lip service to the teachings of Gandhi and King and commit to their timeless and inspirational aspirations which inevitably lead to the uplifting of the human spirit.  Neither Gandhi nor King advocated, condoned or participated in acts of violence, intimidation of persons, or destruction of property.  Clearly, the civil disobedience strategies advocated by both – especially by King just before his death – were evolving.  However, a careful study of the essences of their actions and words can lead only to their unwavering advocacy of strictly non-violent means. 




Influence of Tolstoy and Thoreau


Leo Tolstoy was a crucial influence in the development of Gandhi's conception of non-violence.  Reading Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God is Within You cured his crisis of skepticism regarding the value of non-violence for social transformation.[i]  According to Tolstoy, the history of mankind is crowded with evidences proving that physical coercion is not adapted to moral regeneration and that the sinful dispositions of men can be subdued only by love; that evil can be exterminated only by good.[ii]  Gandhi modestly disclaimed any originality for his work, attributing its inspiration to Tolstoy and Thoreau among others.[iii]


Henry David Thoreau was also an influence on both Gandhi and King.  In his essay, On The Duty of Civil Disobedience, Thoreau clearly endorses breaking the law when law




contravenes one's conscience.  In it he says:  "It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right."  "…but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law."


In his essay, A Plea for Captain John Brown, Thoreau endorses physical violence and property damage as it relates to John Brown's actions.  In it he says:


"It was his peculiar doctrine that a man has a perfect right to interfere by force with the slaveholder, in order to rescue the slave.  I agree with him." 

"I shall not be forward to think him mistaken in his method who quickest succeeds to liberate the slave.  I speak for the slave when I say that I prefer the philanthropy of Captain Brown to that philanthropy which neither shoots me nor liberates me."

"I think that for once …rifles and the revolvers were employed in a righteous cause."


Both Gandhi and King were influenced by Thoreau's concept of civil disobedience and non-cooperation.  King first read On The Duty of Civil Disobedience as a student at Morehouse College.  In Strive Toward Freedom, he explained that he was deeply moved by the essay and fascinated by Thoreau's idea of refusing to cooperate with an evil system.[iv]  However, both Gandhi and King clearly rejected Thoreau's willingness to sanction violence to achieve desired social justice.


What Did Gandhi Have to Say


Gandhi's belief in ahimsa and satyagraha encompassed dynamic action based on truth, non-violence, self-suffering and willing acceptance of the consequences of one's actions and importantly, with love in one's heart for and consideration for transforming one's opponent.  He was extremely concerned with means to ends believing both must be equally pure, that means were ends in the making and that the ultimate end which is actually achieved grows out of the means used.  He succinctly summarized his belief saying, "…if one takes care of the means, the end will take care of itself."[v]


The usual focus on Gandhi's spirituality often overshadows the fact that he was also a driven, masterful political strategist.  He was constantly evolving and developing innovative social and political experiments utilizing non-cooperation and civil disobedience.  He abhorred passivity (and the label pacifist), cowardice or submission to evil and advocated dynamic, non-violent resistance.  However, he understood the limitations of non-violence as simply a political/social technique and believed society would be truly transformed only through non-violence as a way of life manifesting an internal non-violence of the spirit.  The whole Gandhian concept of non-violent action and satyagraha is incomprehensible if it is thought to be a means of achieving unity rather than as the fruit of inner unity already achieved.[vi]  Further, to him the only real liberation is that which liberates both the oppressor and the oppressed at the same time from the same tyrannical automatism of the violent process which contains in itself the curse of irreversibility.[vii]


Gandhi understood ahimsa to mean a renunciation of the will to kill or to damage and as a rejection of the inner violence of the spirit:


"Not to hurt any living thing is no doubt a part of ahimsa.  But it is its least expression.  The principle of ahimsa is hurt by every evil thought, by undue haste, by lying, by wishing ill to anybody."[viii]


The following quotes provide further insight into his philosophy of non-violence:


"…violence may destroy one of more bad rulers, but …others will pop up in their places, for, the root lies elsewhere.  It lies in us."[ix]

"Let there be no cant about non-violence.  It is not like a garment to be put on and off at will.  Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our very being."[x]


What Did King Have To Say


A review of the essential themes in Dr. King's philosophy of non-violence reveals the Gandhian influence.  Dr. King also adopted many of Gandhi's strategies and tactics.  Like Gandhi, he emphasized that non-violent resistance opposes evil courageously and without hatred, is willing to accept suffering, seeks reconciliation with the opponent, and is confident that the just cause eventually will triumph.[xi]  He stressed active resistance and the moral obligation to resist evil and that the defeat and humiliation of the opponent did not constitute victory.  He believed protests should be directed against the forces of evil at work in the unjust systems, not against the persons who were involved in administering the systems.  He recognized that the willingness to suffer could arouse the conscience of the opponent and he believed in the redemptive power of unearned suffering.[xii]


He consistently instructed his followers in the necessity of a love for all men and taught them that only in this way could they elevate their own soul and creatively transform society.[xiii]  The day of his death, he felt the need to speak to his aids once again of his conviction that the only way to redeem the soul of America was through the power of non-violence.[xiv]


In his Letter From a Birmingham Jail, Dr. King justifies breaking the law under certain circumstances and reconciles any inconsistency in his asking for enforcement of civil rights laws by stating that there are two types of laws:  just and unjust.  A just law is one that squares with moral law or the law of God.  An unjust law is one out of harmony with moral law.  He stressed that one who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty and in this way is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.  In this letter he also makes reference to the Boston Tea Party as a massive act of civil disobedience.  Some have latched on to this reference as promoting the idea that Dr. King condoned property damage and viewed property damage within the realm of non-violence.  I believe this takes undue and unsupported license with his intention.  If we look to every other writing, speech and action of Dr. King, it becomes obvious he never supported property destruction.


Toward the end of his life, Dr. King was clearly evolving in his thinking and tactics, traveling around the country calling for a "radical revolution of values" and denouncing poverty, racism and militarism.[xv]  He spoke of finding some kind of direct action "that avoids violence, but becomes militant and extreme enough to disrupt the flow of a city."  Dr. King never had the chance to further experiment but he was clearly searching toward massive civil disobedience and exploring the edges of non-violent revolutionary action.[xvi]  In the Fall, 1967, he envisioned an ambitious strategy:  "We've got to find a method that will disrupt our cities if necessary, create the crisis that will force the nation to look at the situation, dramatize it and yet at the same time not destroy life or property."[xvii]  In February, 1968, he was planning for the Poor People's Campaign involving mass demonstrations in Washington, D.C.  The demonstrators would first engage in lawful protests and if Congress remained unresponsive, sit ins could take place in offices, in Congress and in the streets. 

As a last resort, he planned to bring the government machinery to a halt by using human barricades to block bridges and highways.  However, he always affirmed his intention to lead protests and engage in civil disobedience without any destruction of persons or property.[xviii]


Below are some of Dr. King's thoughts on non-violence:


"The non-violent approach does not immediately change the heart of the oppressor.  It first does something to the hearts and souls of those committed to it.  It gives them new self-respect; it calls up resources and strength and courage that they did not know they had.  Finally, it reaches the opponent and so stirs his conscience that reconciliation becomes a reality."[xix]

"Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral…it ends by defeating itself.  It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers."[xx]




The anti-war activities and destruction of government property by the Berrigans brings to the forefront the best example illustrating the controversy over whether or not destruction of property can ever be a non-violent tactic within the framework outlined by Gandhi and King.  In this section, I will briefly discuss their tactics and the criticisms and controversies surrounding these tactics.


The Berrigans (Daniel a Jesuit priest, and Philip a Josephite priest, later excommunicated) became well known during the turbulent 1960's for their bold confrontation with the government over its Vietnam policies.  At the Baltimore Customs House, they poured human blood on draft files and at the Catonsville, Maryland draft board they took and then burned draft records in the parking lot with homemade napalm.  This set them on a confrontation course involving continuous acts of civil disobedience and destruction of government property that resulted in Philip spending approximately eleven years in prison and Daniel four.


Throughout, Daniel and Philip always maintained that they were acting in the non-violent spirit of Gandhi and King.  In describing their tactics, Philip in his autobiography, said:

"Was it consistent with the spirit of Christ, Martin Luther King, and Mohandas Gandhi?  We the people who were planning this action, believed it was."[xxi]  Daniel, in his autobiography, also asserted that their tactics were "…ways we inherited from Gandhi and King and above all, from Jesus.  In ways also that we had to invent."[xxii] (emphasis added)


After the Vietnam War was over, Philip and Daniel continued their protests against nuclear weapons and militarism inspiring the Plowshares Movement (from Isaiah, "beat swords into plowshares") which involved high stakes confrontation with the government through destruction of government property, in particular its war making apparatus.  Some of their tactics included hammering nuclear warheads and splashing blood on classified documents.


Philip's essential position on their destruction of government property, as discussed in his autobiography, was:  "Our critics say that attacking atomic weapons with ball peen hammers is an act of violence.  Destroying property, they insist, is a form of violence.  At best, it is a curious argument, one I've heard many times before.  Warheads whose sole purpose is to vaporize cities are hardly to be thought legitimate property.  Bombs that indiscriminately murder millions of men, women and children are not 'property'."[xxiii]  In referring to their destruction of draft files, he said:  "Draft files represented death, not life; therefore, they were not proper."[xxiv]


Daniel, in his autobiography referred to their Catonsville action and the files they burned as follows:  "First and foremost, the files bore witness to the absolute inviolability of legalized violence.  The files were…hunting licenses against humans.  They declared an open season against the living, by the living – or as long a season as might be of advantage, in view of experimentation with use of new weaponry in unarmed populations, bombing of civilian centers and so on."[xxv]  He further referred to the Catonsville action as "…a tiny flare amid the consuming fires of war.  But Catonsville was like a firebreak, a small fire lit, to contain and conquer a greater."[xxvi]  Like Philip, Daniel essentially believed that "some property had no right to exist."[xxvii]


The following, part of a statement Philip made on his deathbed (he passed away December 6, 2002) illustrates the fire of his passion and commitment to the end:  "…I die with the conviction, held since 1968 and Catonsville, that nuclear weapons are the scourge of the earth; to mine for them, manufacture them, deploy them, use them, is a curse against God, the human family and the earth itself.  …our nuclear adventurism over 57 years has saturated the planet with nuclear garbage from testing, from explosions…,from 103 nuclear power plants, from nuclear weapons factories that can't be cleaned up – and so on.  Because of myopic leadership, of greed for possessions, a public chained to corporate media, there has been virtually no response to these realities."[xxviii]


Although the Berrigans never wavered in their insistence that their tactics were in the spirit of Gandhi and King, some of their words and actions may be difficult to reconcile with the fact that Gandhi and King consistently denounced damage to property.  The question becomes can a person or movement subjectively decide whether or not the object of damage or destruction is legitimate property.  The following words and actions may further illustrate times when the Berrigans strayed from non-violent tenants of Gandhi and King.


  • After witnessing the crushing poverty in Latin America in 1965-66, Daniel was quoted in the publication Jesuit Missions as saying:  "…I came back from Latin America much more tentative about the possibility of forging the needed changes apart from violence.  This was true in countries where all the forces of Church and society seemed to be united against change."[xxix]  This statement was significant for its hedge against an absolute non-violence.[xxx]  The note of violence here, paradoxically cradled within the philosophy of pacifism, became more pronounced in Daniel's writing late in the 1960's and early 1970's.[xxxi]  It would also generate an opening to consider that in the struggle with "illegitimate" authority, damage done to property can be properly said to exist within the spirit of non-violence.[xxxii]


  • A main tenant of the philosophies of Gandhi and King was that one accept responsibility and consequences for breaking the law.  However, while awaiting their orders to report to prison for the Catonsville convictions, the Berrigans decided to go underground.  Philip described the action as "…another calculated break with traditional non-violence strategy."[xxxiii]  He went on to say:  "A superficial view of non-violence would argue that you have to take the consequences of your actions.  We've always done that, but sometimes there is a larger point that needs to be made.  By going underground, we were rejecting, totally and unequivocally, the justice system.  We did not respect, and we could not obey, laws that condoned and courts that supported genocide."[xxxiv]  Daniel seemed somewhat more anguished over the decision stating, "On the one hand, it was a strict canon of non-violence that one took the consequences of illegal activity and paid up.  On the other, there was the war.  When would it end, what had we accomplished, if anything, toward its ending?  And the question arose: must we submit to the punishing arm of the same powers that were pursuing the war?  It was a harsh dilemma, an utterly new field of moral decision."[xxxv]  In the end, he opted to go underground describing it as "…a chance to underscore once more, in a highly imaginative way, our opposition to the war."[xxxvi]  This appears to be a departure from his previous thinking where in answering criticism of the Catonsville tactics he stated, "But we stayed and were taken; because we believe our society and our church have no need of a romantic hit-and-run underground.  The need of for at least a few who will act on behalf of public decency and pay up, as I believe the Christian and Gandhian ethics demand."[xxxvii]


  • Philip and his wife Elizabeth McAlister and their children lived in a community house (Jonah House) in Baltimore.  They supported themselves by house painting and repairs and other manual labor.  In the mid 1970's, they obtained food from dumpsters, distributing most of it to the poor and keeping some for their own needs.  When food stores began making access to dumpsters more difficult, they "…resorted to guerrilla tactics…by shoplifting food."  They also stole tools to be used in their painting and repair of homes.[xxxviii]  They quickly agreed with the critics of their tactics and promptly stopped stealing.


  • Philip was involved in discussions to "citizen's arrest" Henry Kissinger as a war criminal and to shut off heat to government buildings in Washington, D.C. since he believed government workers who remained silent about the killings in Vietnam were essentially conspiring with Richard Nixon to pursue the war.  Once the heat was shut off and as the workers left their buildings, he planned to hand out leaflets denouncing the war.[xxxix]  In this matter, Philip and another actually went so far as to enter the tunnels under Washington, D.C. to investigate the shutting off of the utilities.[xl]


Controversy over Berrigan Tactics


Needless to say, the tactics employed by the Berrigans were criticized including strong criticism from within the peace movement.  In June-July, 1968, the following exchange of opinions appeared in the National Catholic Reporter:


Demonstrating the painful signs of stress within the religious left, theologian Dr. Rosemary Ruether's open letter to Daniel Berrigan said:  "I think you are one of the few people…who senses the ultimate proportions of our present evil.  …in your present state of mind you tend to think that all who are not with you are against you and against 'God' as well…It might be easy to say I agree with your vision, but not with your tactics, and that is a part of it.  Even more is a kind of sectarian ethos that emerges in this kind of action, and excommunicates the rest of mankind.  I am suspicious of devil theories, when they are applied too unequivocally, and the New Left way of talking about the 'power structure' is a kind of devil theory…So you engage in symbolic action for the purpose of conversion.  The only trouble is that your symbols don't seem to be very effective in gaining converts."  She went on to say that the acts are neither serious sabotage sufficient to overthrow the system nor eloquent symbols to change the system but rather gestures which only annoy the giant without really getting to him in any way.  In addition to her expressed concern for the us against the world tone and the dismissal of those who oppose the war through other methods, she concluded by saying "Perhaps what it really comes down to is that you don't believe change is possible, either by revolution or by progressive change.  The alternative then becomes apocalypse, the counsel of despair…I am looking for ways to seriously put vision and practical actions together, and this is just where you are not speaking to me."[xli]


In the same issue appeared an editorial that was both critical and sympathetic, saying "…it comes through not as a serious manifesto but as an offensive sort of suggest that all this has come about as the result of conspiracy, and…to say that the draft system exists because the rulers of America want their global wars fought as cheaply as possible is terribly simplistic."  However, it concluded by saying that "When the history of this time is written, incidents such as these will stand out as flames lighting a darkness "and decrying "subservient acceptance of every common decree" and "obedient, docile men."[xlii]


In a reply by Brother David Darst (a Catonsville participant) he confirms a need to safeguard private property and to respect and uphold law but asserts "…there is also another law operative in human affairs, one which requires men to cry out in the face of wantonly inflicted suffering…"  In referring to the justification for taking such extreme action, he says it "…depends in great part on the prior judgment as to whether unjust conditions warrant extreme protest."  In addressing Dr. Rosemary Ruether's assertion that they did not succeed in reaching those they intended to reach, he said:  "…our aim could be more correctly described not as conversion but as inspiration and deepened commitment."[xliii]


Daniel's reply to Dr. Ruether defended the Catonsville action and criticized less dramatic opposition to war by saying:  "…those who roll up their banners and return home after another round of demonstrations must live with the cruel fact of more deaths, and nothing changed."  He went on to say, "No one was injured…." and "We damaged properties which we considered immoral."[xliv]


Dr. Ruether responded saying:  "…all this…simply obfuscates the hiatus between your vision and your tactics, and this is a problem that you constantly avoid.  The simple and tragic fact of the matter is that you really have not accomplished anything more than the banner wavers and marchers.  In fact, in so far as your kind of tactics contributes to political polarization, you probably are contributing to the narrowing of the range of legitimate dissent."  She decried his "inability to conceive of the possibility that a person might be just as passionately involved" as him and yet disagree with his tactics.  She went on to say that her "alternative is either effective revolutionary action to overthrow the system or effective reform within it.  …your kind of action speaks to neither and thus…is simply a waste of time."  She concluded by saying:  "I feel that you are almost incapable of dealing with problems in political terms and that is why you are a liability to the movement.  …there are times when even jail can be a self-indulgence and an escape from the nitty gritty of how you really alter the currency of any system."[xlv]


There were other prominent critics from within the peace movement.  Although Dorothy Day* and Thomas Merton* were outspoken critics of the war in Vietnam, they did not support the destruction of property and worried that such actions could set a dangerous precedent.[xlvi]  They worried whether the destruction of property was truly non-violent and whether such tactics would lead to more destructive actions by less disciplined, more radical non-pacifists.[xlvii]  Dorothy Day was troubled by the secrecy in which the protests were planned and executed as violating Gandhian precepts of openness and truth.  Although she would never join such an action, she did say:  "But I have to admire all those…laying down their lives and going to prison."[xlviii]  Although she may have disagreed with the tactics, she never wavered in her affection saying, "as to the Berrigans…I was a follower of Gandhi…and in spite of the Berrigans' innocently destructive tendencies, loved them both."[xlix]  After his initial condemnation of the tactics, Merton seemed ambivalent.  While expressing concern that elements of the anti-war movement were moving too close to actual violence, he excluded the Catonsville action calling it a "prophetic non-violent provocation."  However, he still believed it "bordered on violence."[l]  He believed that patience and compassion were the hallmarks of Christian non-violence and that without compassion, the protestor tends to become more and more centered in anger and may easily become an obstacle to changing the attitudes of others.[li]  Due to his accidental death in 1968, we will never have the benefit of his further developed thoughts.  Daniel believes that Merton ultimately approved of Catonsville.[lii]  However, the truth seemed to be that Merton was both critical and supportive, troubled yet pleased, and ultimately ambiguous.[liii]


Catholic pacifist and historian Gordon Zahn believes that Plowshares actions and their resulting lengthy prison terms yield diminishing and even self-defeating returns and that getting arrested has been romanticized.[liv]  The late Jesuit pacifist Richard McSorley wondered if Philip Berrigan could have done far more on the streets and in the schools, churches, and synagogues than penned up in government cages.[lv]  He wondered if the Berrigans could have accomplished more through teaching, writing, lecturing, picketing and organizing than they did by becoming professional prisoners.[lvi]  Other criticisms included the necessity to create a new society by convincing people and not just seeking an outlet for one's rage,[lvii] intrigue and quixotic romanticism, the growing allure of violence and the fact that for every trashed draft file, another young man was made available for induction,[lviii] and the overall ineffectiveness in altering the evil confronted.




*Dorothy Day converted to Catholicism and lived a life of voluntary poverty and service to the poor and needy.  She co-founded the Catholic Worker Movement which radically implemented the gospels through social action and service.  The many Catholic Worker houses fed and housed the needy in New York City and elsewhere.  She was a prolific writer and editor of the Catholic Worker and dedicated peace activist preaching and living anti-materialism and anti-militarism.


*Thomas Merton was a Trappist Monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani known as a vocal advocate of non-violence and follower of Gandhian philosophy.  He was an intellectual and prolific writer and a friend of the Berrigans, especially Daniel.  He died by accidental electrocution in 1968.



Any response by the Berrigans cannot be understood by simply focusing on the practical and tactical questions raised.  To them, "Thou Shalt Not Kill" is an imperative and not just an academic exercise or political theory.  They took seriously Pope John XXIII's pronouncement in Pacem in Terris that nuclear weapons should be banned and not just diminished.[lix]  In his autobiography, Daniel Berrigan states that "…good consequences were a small matter to me, compared with the integrity of the action…"[lx]  "…Pre-supposing integrity and discipline, one is justified in entering upon a large risk; not indeed because the outcome is assured, but because the integrity and value of the act have spoken loud.  …success or efficiency are placed where they belong: in the background…"[lxi]  With the effectiveness and consequences of their actions aside, they confronted evil as they saw it to bear moral witness against the injustice and atrocities.[lxii]




Violence Against People


Our movement is comprised of people with varied opinions regarding what is and what is not violence and if admittedly violence, whether it should be embraced as a legitimate strategy.  Some groups (ex: Justice Department) openly embrace violent tactics like letter bombs, poisoned razor blades in envelopes and assassination of vivisectors.  Other groups (ex: Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty (SHAC)) embrace intimidation, harassment, physical attacks and property destruction.


At our movement conferences, we can hear representatives of the ALF and SHAC spew their rhetoric and unfortunately, often get enthusiastic applause.  Conference sponsors and movement leaders seem meekly silent, espousing diversity in the movement, letting all voices be heard, that it takes many divergent strategies to advance a movement, etc.  I am sure we cannot envision Gandhi or King diminishing their moral authority by an accommodation to the more destructive forces and tendencies among some in their movements.


All acts of physical violence must be condemned as both immoral and counter-productive.  Violence only affords a temporary illusion of a solution when in fact, it always sows the seeds of hatred in both the person committing the violence and the target of the violence and it ensures the inevitability of revenge, retaliation and the never ending cycle of violence.  Effective and lasting change requires difficult choices and deep searching for solutions not initially obvious.  The belief that we can ever achieve peace and non-violence towards all animals through violence is illusory and short-sighted.  Addressing the root causes of exploitation and evil are much more complex than simply forcing behavior upon someone or some company.  We must persevere in developing effective messages and strategies that resonate with the public consciousness and help ignite a paradigm shift.  Everything else is chasing the wind.


Destruction of Property


We venture down a treacherous path when property is destroyed.  We can only imagine the result if every individual enforced his/her subjective opinion on what constituted "legitimate" property by destroying someone else's property that was not in conformity.  We can see a strong parallel analogy in the anti-abortion movement.  They believe a fetus is a human and that abortion is murder.  To them, abortion clinics are an abomination much as we view slaughterhouses, factory farms and vivisection labs.  Are we willing to embrace a philosophy that condones and encourages them to destroy abortion clinics?  To them, they may be "liberating" or "rescuing" the life of a helpless and defenseless baby.  However, to others, they are interfering with the legal rights of women and as long as the mandate of the wider society as codified in the law says that a woman has a right to an abortion, the exercise of that right must be protected while also allowing anti-abortion advocates their rights to speech, assembly, political organizing, etc., to potentially change the law.  And, we can envision numerous other physical places/things that some consider evil, not legitimate like commercial sex establishments, sweatshops employing indentured servants, gambling casinos, etc.  Should the zealous opponents of these activities/places be encouraged to destroy them?


Some pose the difficult question of whether destruction of property is justified in the example where someone destroyed railroad tracks leading to the concentration camps.  I believe one answer lies in whether the channels and mechanisms for change are totalitarianism or democratic.  We live in an open society with established, legitimate mechanisms for effecting change where we are free to organize, mobilize and engage in acts of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and other strategies of constructive confrontation to communicate our ideas.  We may not like the fact that most people (at least for now) do not agree with us but destructively confrontational tactics will not change the outcome nor advance a more enlightened consciousness.


Illegal Break-Ins/Rescues


Once we go beyond physical violence and destruction of property, the spectrum of alternative tactics becomes more difficult to neatly categorize as right or wrong and effective or ineffective.  If one breaks the law and does so openly, non-violently and with a willingness to accept responsibility and consequences, and lovingly with the intention of conversion and reconciliation, the principles laid down by Gandhi and King are probably met.


The decision to engage in break ins and rescues should be strictly scrutinized for necessity and effectiveness.  The action may be more likely to elicit wider public support and sympathy if it is done strictly to document atrocities whereby laboratories, slaughterhouses and factory farms are themselves breaking federal and/or state law or to dramatize the inadequacies of laws in protecting animals and to educate the public on the inadequacies and resulting suffering and when proof can only be obtained through trespass.


However, duplicative break-ins and rescues, although significant to the individual suffering animal, may divert attention, energy and resources from real solutions by addressing symptoms of exploitation and indifference to suffering.  By analogy, if abolitionists freed slaves from a particular plantation, it certainly benefited the individual slaves liberated but would it have really affected the underlying institution of slavery which was more reliant on factors like economics, custom, racism, etc.  Also, since illegal activities can lead to prosecution and imprisonment, barring the high profile jailing of a Gandhi or King (which of itself has the potential of consciousness raising due to the publicity), is going to jail not a waste of funds and precious time that could be used in more effective pursuits to alleviate the plight of animals.





Human society constantly struggles with outbreaks of violence and brutality despite universal norms of human rights.  We are faced with an even greater challenge since we are seeking consideration, compassion and justice not for members of our own group, but for other species.  What we are asking people to do is a fundamental shift in the way they view the world and to alter lifetime customs and behavior.  In their own struggles, neither Gandhi nor King had all the answers when each embarked on uncharted waters and experiments in social action and they were often quite anguished over appropriate techniques.  However, with deep reflection and trial and error each devised a strategy that worked while remaining consistent with and faithful to their principles.  As we embark on our journey, we must resist the temptation to violence and hold the lives, teachings and examples of Gandhi and King as a guiding beacon.

[i] Martin Luther King, Jr., Non-Violent Strategies and Tactics for Social Change, John J. Ansbro; p.130 (hereafter MLK-Strategies).

[ii] The Kingdom of God is Within You, Leo Tolstoy, p. 5.

[iii] Gandhi's Passion, Stanley Wolpert, p. 76.

[iv] Striving Toward Freedom, p. 91; cited in MLK-Strategies, p. 110.

[v] Harijan, 11 February 1939; "Dhawan, The Political Philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi", p. 54; cited in Gandhi as Political Strategist, Gene Sharp, p. 290 (hereafter Gandhi-Pol. Strategist).

[vi] Gandhi on Non-Violence, Forward by Thomas Merton, p. 6.

[vii] Ibid., p. 14.

[viii] Gandhi, Non Violent Resistance, pp. 41-42; cited in MLK-Strategies, p. 4.

[ix] Harijan, 21 September 1934, p. 250; cited in Gandhi - Pol. Strategist, p. 52.

[x] Young India, 12 August 1926; cited in Gandhi Pol. Strategist, p. 90.

[xi] MLK-Strategies, Introduction, p. xxi.

[xii] Ibid., pp. 6-7.

[xiii] Ibid., p. 1.

[xiv] Ibid., Introduction, p. xxxvii.

[xv] The Sacrament of Civil Disobedience, John Dear SJ, p. 12.

[xvi] Martin Luther King - The Inconvenient Hero, Vincent Harding, p. 95 (hereafter MLK-Inconvenient Hero).

[xvii] MLK-Inconvenient Hero, p. 107.

[xviii] MLK-Strategies, p. 145.

[xix] The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr., p. 79.

[xx] Ibid., p. 73.

[xxi] Fighting The Lamb's War, Philip Berrigan, p. 91 (hereafter Fighting).

[xxii] To Dwell in Peace, Daniel Berrigan, p. 335, (hereafter Dwell).

[xxiii] Fighting, p. 191.

[xxiv] Ibid., p. 98.

[xxv] Dwell, p. 209.

[xxvi] Ibid., p. 220.

[xxvii] "Resistance and The Warfare State," Philip Berrigan, ASUH Symposia Committee, Honolulu, 1970; cited in Disarmed and Dangerous - The Radical Lives and Times of Daniel and Philip Berrigan, Murray Polner and Jim O'Grady, p. 245 (hereafter Disarmed and Dangerous).

[xxviii] Statement issued by Jonah House, December 6, 2002.

[xxix] "South America: The Church At The Edge," Jesuit Missions, September 1966, pp. 13-19; cited in Disarmed and Dangerous, p. 139.

[xxx] Disarmed and Dangerous, pp. 139-140.

[xxxi] The Writings of Daniel Berrigan, Ross Labrie; cited in Disarmed and Dangerous, p. 140.

[xxxii] "South America," Jesuit Missions, pp. 13-19; cited in Disarmed and Dangerous, p. 140.

[xxxiii] Fighting, p. 117.

[xxxiv] Ibid., p. 118

[xxxv] Dwell, p. 238.

[xxxvi] Ibid., p. 239.

[xxxvii] National Catholic Reporter, June 19, 1968, letter from Daniel Berrigan answering criticisms from Dr. Rosemary Ruether; (hereafter Nath. Cath. Rep.).

[xxxviii] Fighting, p. 168

[xxxix] Ibid., p. 126.

[xl] Ibid., p. 129.

[xli] Nat. Cath. Rep., June 5, 1968

[xlii] Ibid.

[xliii] Ibid., June 12, 1968

[xliv] Ibid., June 19, 1968

[xlv] Ibid., June 26, 1968

[xlvi] Fighting, p. 95.

[xlvii] Disarmed and Dangerous, p. 190.

[xlviii] On Pilgrimage: The Sixties, Dorothy Day, p. 344; cited in Disarmed and Dangerous, p. 191.

[xlix] "A Reminiscence At 75," Commonweal, August 10, 1973, pp. 424-425; cited in Dorothy Day's Writings From Commonweal, p. 167.

[l] Disarmed and Dangerous, p. 210

[li] Ibid., p. 209

[lii] Ibid., Footnote 26 to Chapter 10, p. 377.

[liii] Ibid., p. 211.

[liv] Laws of Heaven: Catholic Activists Today, Michael Gallagher, p. 259; cited in Disarmed and Dangerous, p. 12.

[lv] Fellowship, March-April 2003, p. 33, Obituary of Philip Berrigan.

[lvi] Disarmed and Dangerous, p. 349.

[lvii] Ibid., p. 188.

[lviii] Ibid., p. 245.

[lix] Fighting, p. 176.

[lx] Dwelling, p. 248.

[lxi] Ibid., p. 219.

[lxii] Ibid., p. 291; also, The Progressive, 1996, Interview with Philip Berrigan.

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