Category Archives: Speciesism

Discrimination based on species; animal rights and animal liberation issues

Stop ranking oppression

[Image: Section from a panel of a Robot Hugs comic. Words at the top read “No one benefits from being told that their pain is unimportant, or non existant!” Below the words is a scale with a lighter weight reading “Not Harm” and a heavier weight reading “Harm.”]

Today’s Robot Hugs comic in Everyday Feminism is one of the best I’ve seen all year. Please read it now before continuing.

Done? OK. This is what I’ve been dealing with in the year and a half or so that I’ve been involved in animal rights activism. I’ve written here numerous times about the racism, sexism, cissexism, and other human oppression that is either ignored or exacerbated by animal rights activists in the U.S. It’s driving people like me away from activism, and this is not OK.

Often the micro-aggressions faced by activists from oppressed groups (or by those speaking for other oppressed groups) are far more subtle than being told to “shut up.” It frequently takes the form of being told that non-human animals suffer far more than any human. Whether this is true or not, it is still a silencing tactic.

Silencing people who speak up for oppressed humans does not save more animals. It simply strengthens the perception that animal rights activists don’t care about humans. Some activists indeed proudly admit that they don’t care about humans, as they are misanthropists and hate everyone. Many of them deny their own privileges while saying this. Gary Yourofsky comes to mind.

Part of why I have not committed to taking on a more active or formal role with any animal rights group is that I’ve been continually disappointed by the ongoing oppressive language and tactics of other activists. (Coping with depression and fearing the police are my other reasons for being less active.) I do want to be a voice for the animals, and voices are stronger when raised together than alone. But I don’t like being associated with people whose views I find abhorrent, even if they don’t reflect the sentiments of others in the group.

So I will take this opportunity to remind people that while I occasionally participate in animal rights actions and share the writings of various activists, I am independent and speak only for myself. I do not support or condone any views or activities that are oppressive to other humans. I acknowledge my own privileges and mistakes, and ask to be called out if I make statements that are harmful to those in marginalized groups.

This does not mean that I pledge to never say anything that offends anyone. As a queer black trans person, my very existence is offensive to many. I make no apologies for moderating my own spaces as I see fit. Do not confuse calling out oppression with tone policing. I am a pacifist, but I am not passive.

As I’ve written before, a “vegan world” that continues to elevate the voices and needs of able-bodied cishet white men above all others is not a world I want to be a part of. While I will never go back to eating or otherwise exploiting animals – as to me they are people, not property – I will not continue with organized animal rights activism if that means setting aside the concerns of marginalized humans. I am not abandoning the animals, I am abandoning humans with toxic mindsets.

Vegan food

[Image: A pile of fresh fruits and vegetables.]

Today marks the beginning of VeganMoFo, which I participated in last year and in 2012. After giving it some thought, I’ve decided not to join in this year, for the reasons I stated in last year’s concluding post:

I haven’t been as enthused about participating this year because I think my goals, diet, and attitude are too different from those of the organizers and the majority of the participants. The daily round-up posts and giveaways have focused largely on vegan versions of animal-based foods, especially cheeses, and packaged products.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I don’t think there’s anything inherently unethical about eating plant-based substitutes for dairy and flesh, but they are not my focus. Many are expensive, not widely available, and not particularly healthy. And even some “naturally” vegan products, like dark chocolate and palm oil, may be produced in ways that are particularly damaging to farm workers, animals, and the environment.

The idea that “vegan food” is a special class of cuisine contributes to the utterly false notion that plant-based diets are more expensive than those containing animal products. Potatoes and yams are vegan foods. Grains, beans, and lentils are vegan foods. Frozen vegetables are vegan foods. These are inexpensive and can be prepared in quantity, with minimal time commitment.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are, of course, also vegan foods. These can be more expensive and difficult to obtain for some people. This is the main reason I did volunteer work in food justice, growing and distributing fresh produce to the needy. I’ve had to put that work on hold, but I encourage others to explore similar opportunities in their areas, and seek political change to make these foods more accessible.

What about food deserts? What about those who are homeless, have no kitchen access, or work so hard that they have no time to cook? These are legitimate concerns. But they are not going to be solved by funneling more time and money into creating the best-tasting vegan cheese, or vat-grown meat. We should be dismantling the intersecting systems of oppression that create poverty, homelessness, and food deserts in the first place.

As my depression has worsened, I’ve had less energy to devote to cooking, and have been more reliant on prepared foods. So I’m sympathetic to those who value convenience. But I’m not sympathetic to human convenience taking priority over an animal’s life.

Until humans recognize non-human animals as people, not property, veganism will continue to be seen as merely a fad diet for privileged people. And I’m not interested in promoting specialty “vegan foods” for the benefit of humans. Vegans are not an oppressed class. Making healthy plant-based meals more accessible to humans who actually are oppressed is a worthwhile endeavor. But we should never forget that every meal containing flesh, milk, or eggs cost a sentient being their life.

Animals are people, not property

[Image: Lisa, a pit bull with tan and white fur, relaxes on a sofa.]

Edit, June 2016: Since publishing this post I have left Direct Action Everywhere (DxE). My points about animal personhood still stand.

An insightful article about what it means to be human published yesterday on the Aphro-ism site got me thinking about how we define what a “person” is. Since I got involved in animal rights activism a year ago, the core of my philosophy has been that animals are people, not property. I’ve had this slogan as my profile photo on Facebook since soon after it was taken at this year’s DxE Forum (as part of The Faces We Fight With photo directory):

Pax: Animals are people, not property.
[Image: Pax holds a sign reading “Animal Liberation because… Animals are people, not property.”]

But what do I actually mean when I say “animals are people, not property?” Entire books have been written on this subject, with lots of academic jargon that many find inaccessible. I’m a grad school dropout and have no credentials in philosophy or any other academic subject, so I’ll try to keep it simple.

First of all, I’m an atheist, and I reject any notion that humans have a soul or other spiritual characteristics that set us apart from other animals. Anything written in a religious text that states or suggests that animals were created for humans to use is completely irrelevant to me. (I’m aware that many religions have a different conception of human-nonhuman relations, and that many believe that all living beings have souls, but I don’t want to stray into a discussion of comparative religion; I’m speaking from my own perspective, here.)

Second, there is no universal characteristic that humans have that other animals do not. Non-human animals have language (even if we humans can’t fully understand it). They make friends. They have families. Some of them use tools. Many modify their environments. The fact that humans have modified our environment to the point that we’ve taken over the Earth like a cancer does not, to me, merit granting us the exclusive title of “people.”

Many seem to confuse “person” with “citizen,” or at least “civilized person” (which, as the article I linked to at the top points out, is a white European conception of personhood). Some people make ridiculous, derailing statements about animal rights activists wanting to grant nonhumans the right to vote or to marry. The legal right to vote or marry does not define whether a human is a person or not. Societies that have these human rights defined must grant them to all regardless of race, gender, or other irrelevant characteristics, but species is not an irrelevant characteristic here.

A free-living animal has no use for voting or marriage. These are human concepts useful in a human society. Our votes do affect the lives of nonhuman animals, but this is because we insist on treating them as property, and on displacing “wild” animals from their homes for our own human developments.

Justice and equity are the goal of animal rights, not a false “equality” that pretends there’s no difference between a human, dog, pig, fish, or chicken. The most important things all of these animals have in common are the ability to feel and the desire to live, and none of them can consent to be used as the property of another. Until animals are viewed as individual persons, they will never receive justice, no matter how many welfare reforms are put into place to make them more comfortable while they are exploited and killed by humans. A person who is the property of another can never truly be free.

I’m well aware that my view is controversial, and outright offensive to many. Women, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ people who have been viewed as sub-human for centuries often do not take kindly to being lumped in with other animals. As a queer black agender trans male, I am a member of several of those oppressed groups, and speak out frequently against sexism, racism, heterosexism, and cissexism. I hope this might convince others that the argument that nonhuman animals are people, too, is not merely a tool of privileged white veganism. I am an animal, and I am a person, and I seek to liberate all animals from property status.

Stripping “for the animals”

There’s a new post going around about a study claiming that sex, in fact, does not sell, and neither does violence. While, if true, this is interesting to know, it doesn’t affect my attitude toward using sexually provocative imagery in animal rights campaigns. I am opposed to using sex appeal to “sell” animal rights or veganism because I find this tactic to be demeaning to human women.

The usual response to this criticism is that a woman has the right to display her body however she wishes. I absolutely agree. I posed fully nude on numerous occasions myself, before my transition, and I have no regrets about doing so. In fact, at this time most of my nude photos are still available online in various places.

What I am asking is for people to recognize power dynamics, as this comic about empowerment versus objectification shows. When PETA features nude and semi-nude people in their campaigns, they are almost invariably thin, conventionally attractive, able-bodied, white or light-skinned cisgender women. Occasionally male and dark-skinned models are also featured, but white women’s bodies are the primary attention-grabbers. Though in this 2009 Craigslist ad they sought to hire a black model – for no pay – to strip completely nude while reading their annual “State of the Undress.” They wanted a black or mixed-race model to “have her ethnicity resemble Barack Obama’s as closely as possible.”

Anyone who doesn’t see a problem with that Craigslist ad seriously needs to check their privileges. In addition to being racist, this solicitation is emblematic of how women are treated in the mainstream animal rights movement. In this male-dominated movement, a woman’s physical appearance is more important than her voice. And it’s no surprise that when vegan messaging constantly touts health and weight loss benefits to humans – as opposed to elevating the voices of the victims – only slim, conventionally-attractive people are desired to promote veganism.

This criticism isn’t about telling women what they can or can’t do. Nor is it an attempt to be “divisive.” I will work with people from various animal rights organizations even if I don’t completely agree with their philosophies or tactics. But I will not ignore, excuse, or condone campaigns that are sexist, racist, or otherwise oppressive, whether or not people think they are effective “for the animals.” Humans are animals too, and my activism is not limited to liberating non-humans. A vegan world that continues to elevate the needs and voices of cishet white males above all other humans is no world I want to be a part of.

Celebrating black vegans

Yesterday, Aph Ko of the black vegan feminist web site Aphro-ism shared a post about reactions to her list of 100 Black Vegans. In a typical display of white fragility, commenters on the Vegan Society Facebook page denounced a list that dared to celebrate blackness as “racist.” They really couldn’t see how a movement that has repeatedly ignored and excluded black people needed a list like this, that was, as Aph Ko put it, “highlighting black people who were doing amazing work.” (In that vein, I’ve added both Aphro-ism and Sistah Vegan Project to my new Links page.)

Veganism is not a “white thing.” Black folks care about animals, the environment, and human health just as much as whites do. The media’s portrayal of black people as violent thugs who live on junk food is racist and ignorant, and contributes to the idea many whites have that blacks just aren’t interested in veganism. This sentiment also ignores the intersections of race and poverty that can make it difficult for many black people to access healthy plant-based food.

Not all of the vegans on Aph Ko’s list are animal rights supporters or activists, and some activists say that going vegan for health reasons is selfish or invalid, as veganism encompasses much more than a plant-based diet. While I advocate for total animal liberation from the perspective that non-human animals are people, not property, I also recognize that many people who initially come to veganism for health reasons go on to recognize the inherent moral worth of animals. So while I don’t normally share stories about health benefits of veganism or news about the latest vegan celebrities – regardless of race – I do not actively oppose others doing so.

Veganism is not just a rejection of violence; it is a celebration of life. And as the Ko sisters posted in another blog entry, we need to celebrate black Life, not solely focus on black deaths. And one way to celebrate black life is to tuck into some delicious vegan soul food. If you aren’t lucky enough to have a vegan soul food restaurant in your city, check out Bryant Terry‘s cookbooks and whip up some of your own!

The lives at stake

[Image: A human and a calf look into each others’ eyes.]

While I normally advocate in terms of anti-speciesism – disrupting the idea that human animals are inherently superior to non-human ones – I recognize that some people will never accept that message. They may accept welfare reform, or “cutting down on meat,” but will not accept the fundamental idea that all sentient beings are persons and should not be held as property.

Here’s the thing. No matter how you feel about non-human animals morally, if animal agriculture continues, we are not going to have a livable planet left.

Animal agriculture is the leading cause of environmental destruction. Animal farming is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all transportation exhaust combined. It also uses a tremendous amount of water, far more than needed for growing plants. But the environmental damage does not come just from intensive, “factory” farming. So-called “free-range” farming also takes a great toll on the ecosystem, and there literally isn’t enough land to convert all animal farming operations to free-range; it’s inherently unsustainable. The documentary film Cowspiracy lays out the facts.

It frustrates me greatly whenever anyone says that in a vegan world, there wouldn’t be enough land to grow crops for everyone, and people would starve. The exact opposite is true. People who say this seem to think that eating animals somehow does not involve growing crops, but most of the animals whose flesh we eat (as well as those raised primarily for their milk and eggs before they, too, are killed) are fed crops that were grown especially for them. Unless you are a hunter or fisher and eat only the animals you’ve killed yourself, you are almost certainly eating plant crops secondhand when you eat animal products.

Whenever you hear from “official” sources that veganism is bad for the planet or for human health, my advice is to follow the money. Capitalism provides enormous incentives for animal agriculture to continue, and not only in the USA. Hundreds of environmental activists in Brazil have been murdered for speaking out against the destruction of the rainforest by ranchers. And in the USA, environmental contamination from animal farming disproportionately affects low-income communities and people of color.

The idea that we can just “cut down on meat” to reverse this damage is too little and much too late. Would you be satisfied with a single ounce of flesh, milk, or eggs each week? The answer is not to cut down, but to cut it out entirely.

It’s far easier and less risky to tell people to take shorter showers  than to stop eating animal flesh, milk, and eggs, but this advice buries the truth. This cover-up is going to kill us all if it doesn’t stop. The lives of everyone on Earth are at stake. If you care about the future of this planet, please learn the facts and stop the killing.

Sugarcoating supremacy

[Image: The face of Brahma, a steer with dark and reddish-brown hair.]

Sometimes I feel that my entire adult life has been a process of unlearning all the lies that I was taught as a child. As I wrote yesterday, I was ignorant of the pervasiveness of racism for a long time, despite being black myself. There are powerful systems in place in the USA to ensure continued white supremacy, and part of that is convincing everyone, including black folks like myself, that we live in a post-racial society, where everyone can be happy and equal regardless of skin color.

This is a lie. We do not live in a color-blind society. Never have, and never will. Having white skin is a privilege, independent of any other factors. Denying it by saying “Not all white people” is an attempt to bury the reality that yes, all white people benefit from white supremacy.

The defensive response of “not all white people” also gives the person responding an “out” to assure that the charge of racism isn’t being levied against them. Society’s protection of white fragility ensures that the supremacy continues.

In parallel, there are powerful systems in place to ensure people that we need to eat animal products for good health, and that farmed animals are happy, well-treated, and willing to give their eggs, milk, and their very bodies up for human consumption.

These are also lies. The American Dietetic Association stated over ten years ago that a vegan diet can provide appropriate nutrition for humans of all ages. But even though many now accept this nutritional wisdom, most continue to believe that eating meat, dairy, or eggs is simply a personal dietary choice. Even calling an animal’s flesh “meat” sugarcoats the reality that it is someone’s body that is being eaten.

For those who do claim to care about animal welfare, the defensive response of “not all farmed animals” when confronted with the horrors of animal agriculture buries the reality that yes, all farmed animals suffer, and no, none of them consent to having their milk, eggs, or bodies taken from them. This is true whether on a “factory”, “organic”, or “free-range” farm, or even in a backyard. The Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary exposes this humane myth.

A. Breeze Harper of Sistah Vegan Project illustrated these parallels in her blog yesterday, also emphasizing that, as I’ve also written, white vegans need to pay attention to racism. Most black folks are insulted at being compared to animals, and this is totally understandable, as we have been treated as less than human by white people for centuries. As Christopher-Sebastian McJetters has written, we need to compare like systems of oppression without appropriating the struggles of oppressed humans. And always keep in mind who has the power. A black person describing animal agriculture as slavery has a very different impact from a white person doing so, especially when addressing a black audience.

Dismantling the lies we’ve been taught can be painful, but also empowering, because now we can do something about it and educate others. Just as you can fight racism without attending BlackLivesMatter rallies, by calling attention to racist language and oppression whenever you hear it, you can fight speciesism without participating in an organized disruption. You can start by speaking out – to your friends, to your family, in person, on social media – when you see animals being exploited for food, clothing, entertainment, or other purposes.

Going vegan is a powerful rejection of speciesism, but is not currently possible for everyone, and not the only way to help achieve animal liberation. Those who genuinely cannot commit to a plant-based diet due to homelessness, incarceration, or other circumstances can still speak out against the system of oppression, in situations where it is reasonably safe for them to do so. An article by DxE activist Zach Groff tells the story of a homeless man who spoke out at a disruption, despite the fact that he still ate animals.

Many will read this and similar essays, shrug, and continue on as before. This is exactly what the oppressors want. The status quo is rewarded. But the harm is real and will continue, with or without sugarcoating, until we stop believing the lies and take action.

Animal rights, not vegan rights

[Image: Buster, a steer with curly dark brown hair, stands in a field surrounded by smiling human friends.]

Update, July 2016: Since publishing this post I have left Direct Action Everywhere (DxE). My points about animal rights still remain.

Direct Action Everywhere, the animal liberation group I’m currently involved with, has come under fire for (amongst other things) not promoting veganism. This charge is misleading. As my friend and DxE co-founder Wayne Hsiung explains, we do not condone the use of non-human animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose. However, the mainstream conception of veganism puts the focus on humans and our desires and vanity, not on the primary victims of animal agriculture.

Harvey at Preetirang Sanctuary[Image: The face of Harvey, a calf with brown and white hair. A human with long blonde hair is holding his chin and looking into his eyes.]

The original definition of “vegan,” a word coined by Donald Watson and his wife Dorothy, encompassed more than a plant-based diet; it was an ethical objection to violence. Unfortunately, that meaning has been almost entirely lost, and veganism is now largely seen as merely a dietary choice for privileged people. I respect those activists who are trying to reclaim the word, and simultaneously speak out against human oppression, such as Sarah K. Woodcock of The Abolitionist Vegan Society and Corey Wrenn of Vegan Feminist Network and The Academic Abolitionist Vegan. However, I have chosen to focus instead on the phrase “animal liberation,” while fighting for the same goal as the abolitionists: Ending the property status of non-human animals. I believe DxE’s increasing press coverage has shown it is possible to spread this message effectively without using or emphasizing the word “vegan.”

Kush at Preetirang Sanctuary
[Image: The face of Kush, a goat with brown and white hair.]

We activists are allies to our fellow animals, and we should be amplifying their voices, not just promoting the nondairy cheeses and faux flesh products that many see as somehow intrinsic to a vegan diet. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these products (in my opinion), but companies like Whole Foods and Chipotle market them to keep vegans quiet about the bodies, eggs, and milk of murdered animals that they market to humans with healthy incomes. Instead of promoting their humane-washing, activists might consider volunteering with organizations like Food Not Bombs and the Food Empowerment Project, to make plant-based meals more accessible to people who are poor, homeless, or living in food deserts.

Shiva at Preetirang Sanctuary
[Image: The face of Shiva, a steer with curly white hair.]

Regardless, our fellow animals should the focus in animal liberation messaging. Human activists should not be held up as the heroes of the movement. That would be like featuring white allies in promotional materials for #BlackLivesMatter, or cis allies in promotional materials for trans rights. Not that this hasn’t been done before…

Mahalakshmi at Preetirang Sanctuary
[Image: Mahalakshmi, a cow with brown hair, stands in a field chewing hay.]

The photos in this post were taken last November at PreetiRang Sanctuary. (Originally published on Facebook, I have now made the full set available on Flickr as well.) At PreetiRang, I had the pleasure of meeting Buster, the sixteen-year-old steer pictured at the top of this post. He would never have lived that long in the dairy industry, where he was destined to be killed mere weeks or months after being torn from his mother’s side. Buster died last week, sadly, but he was surrounded by loving human and non-human friends. Every animal rights activist should make it a priority to visit a sanctuary if they can, to connect personally with the faces we fight for.

The Art of Survival

[Image: Four women in creative, colorful outfits sing and dance on a stage.]

This Sunday I attended The Art of Survival, a vegan arts, music, and food festival held in San Francisco. I found out about this event only a week ago, and thought it would be a great opportunity to photograph some bands in a non-violent setting. The organizer, Andreas Knüttel, is also a photographer; I’d met him previously at a Direct Action Everywhere gathering. I knew it would be my kind of party when his invitation asked attendees to please “not wear animal products i.e. leather, wool, fur and silk.

Coley 'n Mikki performing at The Art of Survival
[Image: A man and a woman sing into microphones on a stage. The man plays guitar and wears blue-rimmed glasses and a black shirt. The woman wears a black hat and a black shirt with a large black and white design.]

Coley 'n Mikki performing at The Art of Survival
[Image: A man and a woman smile at each other on a stage. The man plays guitar and wears blue-rimmed glasses, a black shirt, and blue jeans. The woman wears a black hat, a black shirt with a large black and white design, black skirt and leggings.]

The opening act, Acoustic Love with Coley ‘n Mikki (aka The Cole Tate Band), turned out to be my favorite set. This was a newlywed couple, and you could see their love for each other in their performance. I especially liked their cover of Come Together, a song I’ve enjoyed singing while playing on the bass (though my voice has dropped too much to sing the lead part well anymore, as I discovered!)

Oinga Boinga performing at The Art of Survival
[Image: A woman with bright red hair, dramatic makeup, and a black outfit with sparkly trim plays bass on a stage.]

Oinga Boinga performing at The Art of Survival
[Image:Two women posing on a stage. One is wearing a black bodice, skirt, and tights, turquoise sleeves and eyepatch, and a very long braid. The other is looking at her, wearing a gray curly wig with pink rollers, black-rimmed eyeglasses, long black bushy beard, sparkly top, and black fishnet stockings with red garters.]

The next act, Oinga Boinga, was an all-female cover band of Oingo Boingo. I could not possibly do justice to describing their fabulous outfits in my extended image descriptions, though I made an effort for the sake of those using screen readers! In the above image and the one at the top of this post, they were doing a performance of Minnie the Moocher, a call-and-response classic.

The Moonsaults performing at The Art of Survival
[Image: A woman with a colorful crop top and full sleeve tattoos sings into a microphone, one hand on her hip. A guitarist plays behind her.]

The Moonsaults performing at The Art of Survival
[Image: A woman with a colorful crop top and full sleeve tattoos sings into a microphone. A guitarist plays behind her.]

Next up was The Moonsaults, in their debut performance. Their name apparently comes from a pro wrestling move.

Secret Cat performing at The Art of Survival
[Image: A four-person band performs on a stage. A guitarist with bright red hair is singing into a microphone.]

Secret Cat performing at The Art of Survival
[Image: A guitarist with bright red hair performs on a stage.]

Secret Cat was a very high-energy, very loud band. Really would have been great to get video of their stage antics.

Cello Joe performing at The Art of Survival
[Image: A man with rectangular glasses sings into a microphone while playing the cello.]

Cello Joe performing at The Art of Survival
[Image: A man with rectangular glasses sings into a microphone while playing the cello.]

Cello Joe, aka Joey Chang, was an artist I had already seen and enjoyed twice previously. He was lucky to be alive and well to perform at this event, as his house burned down last week and he and his girlfriend lost everything (he was able to grab his best cello). Their friends started a fundraiser to help them recover.

Earth Amplified performing at The Art of Survival
[Image: Two men wearing colorful shirts , one with long dreadlocks and one with a cap, sing on a stage.]

Earth Amplified performing at The Art of Survival
[Image: A man wearing a cap and colorful shirt sings into a microphone.]

Earth Amplified performing at The Art of Survival
[Image: A man with long dreadlocks, lit by red stage light, sings into a microphone.]

Earth Amplified closed out the show, with plenty of audience participation. After shooting some last pictures, I finally cut loose and danced. It had been a long time.

It had been years since I’d shot an indoor concert, and it felt good to make use of my special skill at low-light concert photography again. I’ve made the full set of photos available on Flickr under a Creative Commons license for free sharing, with attribution. If you like my work, please consider sponsoring me on Patreon or leaving me a tip so I can continue to do free shoots like this.

Light the path to liberation

[Image: A large group of people wearing blue shirts and holding candles stands outside Macy’s at night. Two people are holding signs reading UNTIL EVERY ANIMAL IS FREE, and one person is speaking into a megaphone.]

Edit, July 2016: Since publishing this post I have left Direct Action Everywhere (DxE)I still remain committed to ending the oppression of all animals, human and non-human.

Last night I attended and photographed my second Direct Action Everywhere event this month, Light the Path to Liberation. This action was part of a worldwide animal rights event, with participation from several dozen organizations and hundreds of individuals. Here in San Francisco, we marched to places where the bodies of animals are sold, lit candles, and spoke out against the violence.

At our rehearsal gathering before the action, I saw faces both familiar and new, including human and nonhuman friends.

DxE Light the Path rehearsal
[Image: Several people stand outdoors holding candles.]

DxE Light the Path rehearsal
[Image: A woman stands outdoors holding a candle. Two people stand behind her.]

Dog at DxE Light the Path rehearsal
[Image: A dog with brown and white fur looks into the camera.]

Our first stop was Whole Foods Market, as part of our ongoing campaign against their humane-washing. As with our previous action, I chose to stay outside the store, but nearly everyone else went inside for the disruption.

DxE Light the Path protest at Whole Foods Market
[Image: People holding candles and wearing blue Direct Action Everywhere T-shirts chant outdoors.]

Leafletters offered information and conversed with passersby about our mission.

DxE Light the Path protest at Whole Foods Market
[Image: A woman wearing a blue Direct Action Everywhere T-shirt offers a pamphlet to a passerby.]

Our next stop was Bluestem Brasserie, a high-end restaurant that was the target of a disruption that went viral, featuring my friend Kelly Atlas talking about her little girl, Snow. I again stayed outside, but the remaining activists filled the restaurant.

DxE Light the Path protest at Bluestem Brasserie
[Image: A large group of people wearing blue shirts and holding candles stand outside Bluestem Brasserie at night. Two people are holding signs reading UNTIL EVERY ANIMAL IS FREE, and one person is holding a megaphone.]

Finally, we stood outside Macy’s at Union Square. My friend Wayne Hsiung, one of DxE’s core organizers, gave a passionate speech about the recent passing of Mei Hua, a hen he helped rescue from a so-called “humane” farm.

DxE Light the Path protest at Macy's
[Image: DxE core organizer Wayne Hsiung speaks into a megaphone, in front of a crowd of people wearing blue shirts and holding candles.]

Friendship is what got me out to this protest, after not leaving my house for a week. Building strong communities is absolutely essential to the success of the animal rights movement. As I posted previously, when I began speaking out about animal rights I lost some friends, but I’ve gained many more. Philosophers like Gary Francione (who is debating Wayne Hsiung on Go Vegan Radio with Bob Linden today at 5 p.m. PDT) say that we don’t need groups, but I need a group. Even though I’m an introvert, and anti-social much of the time, knowing that I’m not alone in this struggle gives me the strength to continue.

My friends at DxE are not people who only care about non-human animals. They’ve helped with my volunteer community gardening, stood with me at a Black Lives Matter vigil, and walked beside me at the Trans March. They are not perfect, but they acknowledge and respond to criticism and make good-faith efforts to resolve differences.

I look forward to continuing to speak out for all oppressed animals – human and non-human – with my friends. I’ve made the full set of photos from last night’s action available on Flickr.

Pax with candle
[Image: Pax, the author, holds a saucer with a lit candle and looks directly into the camera.]