All ethical vegans fighting for animal rights want the same thing — total animal liberation — but our paths to achieving it take us in different directions. In the past two years, a new and confrontational approach has gone mainstream in the U.S. and is spreading globally. Does the approach reflect the natural evolution of all social justice movements? Does it stem from the desire to expedite change for animals? Did it emerge to help activists stand out in an era of information overload? Whatever the motive, the approach is breathing new life into the animal rights movement, jolting consumers where they least expect it; capturing the attention of the media; and triggering activists to exit their comfort zones on behalf of animals.
The big change, propagated by the global organization Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) and embraced by NYC-based Collectively Free, is taking the protests inside of businesses that exploit animals. Let’s face it: many people pay no attention to activists demonstrating on a sidewalk, but they are a captive audience when seated in a restaurant or waiting in line at the grocery store. It’s an approach that, on the surface, appears ineffective or even counterproductive to some people. But in a compelling article about the approach, DxE’s founder, Wayne Hsiung, explains why disrupting and agitating inside are key ingredients in any successful social justice movement.
In his blog, Hsiung writes that Naomi Wolf, the pioneering feminist who studied dissent and protest in America, argues that, throughout history, activists have succeeded only when they disrupted “business as usual” and that today’s protests have become so “bureaucratized, institutionalized, and integrated into the fabric of ordinary life” that they are no longer disruptive.
Following are a few short excerpts from Hsiung’s blog:
“Dissent is vital to achieving social change, and that dissent is only effective if it is powerful, confident, and . . . disruptive.”
“Passersby, customers, and even multinational corporations can easily dismiss and write us off, if we do not push our message in the places where it is most unwelcome. But when we transform a space where violence has been normalized into a space of dissent, we can jolt, not just individual people, but our entire society into change.”
“Because we have expressed that our cause is important enough to violate a powerful social norm [dining], we leave a mark on people: “Wow, what the heck was that! They’re so outraged by something that they felt the need to come into the store to register their complaint.”
“Speaking loudly and proudly in defiance of social convention . . . inspires others to do the same. And that is why we encourage our activists to step outside of their comfort zones . . . and into the stores that are selling the dead bodies of our friends.”