Editorial: Drawing the Connections in Activism
From the Editor
by Craig Mazer
Drawing the Connections in Activism
The activist movement is a fragmented bunch. With so many goals, the message is often watered down or spread too thin. It's a real shame, because if we activists could pull together, we'd be a much stronger bunch. The problem is that many movements fail to recognize or incorporate other messages within their own endeavors.
I have a few examples of this problem that should help put this in perspective. I realize that someone fighting for corporate welfare reform may very well not see the point behind the animal rights movement. But there are several ways that messages could be combined to have a greater effect or avoid having a negative effect.
In late February, I attended a fantastic Animal Rights conference. The conference had speakers from Farm Sanctuary (read the article by one of the founders), the Humane Society, PETA and more. However, the event, while commendably serving only vegan food, used some styrofoam. I realize that cost is always an issue when putting together an event, especially one as affordable as this one. But a bad message is sent when animal rights and vegetarian/vegan activists allow environmentally detrimental products to become a part of their message. I know this was unintentional, but it needs to be given more thought.
Relatedly, a friend of mine told me of the same problem with Food Not Bombs in San Francisco. They, too, have been known to use styrofoam when serving the less fortunate. Of course, money is a big issue for them. So, again, I understand the situation they are confronted with. But sometimes I wonder if groups fail to consider these other important issues when focusing on their own agendas. It's essential that they be combined.
A couple of years ago, I participated in a Reclaim the Streets rally in New York City. After an eventful day of protesting corporate dominance and the World Trade Organization, among other things, a large group of us marched to a police precinct where those arrested had been transported. On the way, one of the more vocal leaders of the rally decided he was thirsty. He popped into a pizza joint and bought a Coke. What a freakin' idiot! It blew my mind. Here we are risking arrest to get across the point that mega-corporations are evil and this numbskull goes and supports one of the worst.
My final example is reflected in PETA's "Shopping Guide to Nonleather Products." While this is a great reference for companies that have nonleather goods, it fails to address some important issues. The first four pages are great, featuring listings of vegan-only companies. However, the remaining 12 or so pages include companies that sell leather alternatives besides their animal-based goods. Included in the list is Nike, one of the most despicable corporations around, a well-known user of overseas sweatshops to produce their goods. While PETA does acknowledge, in the back of the guide, that "inclusion in this guide does not imply endorsement," I wish they had avoided listing any company as obviously evil as Nike.
So where does this lead me? Well, first of all, try to combine the many important issues facing the world when you spend your money, attend protests and participate in activist activities. The environment, cruel business practices and a healthy, humane diet are all things we should consider on a daily basis. Obviously, doing something is better than doing nothing and I don't expect every activist to embrace all of these things. But I think that the activist movement, as a whole, could stand to incorporate some of these important issues in the way they approach their own agendas, or at least give them greater consideration.
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