Every year, as the Fourth of July holiday approaches, I begin to recoil in disgust. I cannot think of a holiday that makes my skin crawl so much (though Thanksgiving is a close second). Between the nationalism, patriotism, pro-war and pro-troop chest-beating propaganda, we also have the hundreds of thousands of nonhuman animals who are murdered to satisfy American’s lust for flesh and secretions.
I find all of this ironic since the holiday is supposed to signify freedom. How many times have we been told that what separates America from ‘lesser’ countries is that we are free? Yet this idea of freedom only extends to human animals, never nonhuman animals, who feel pain and suffer for our pleasure, convenience, entertainment and greed.
I sit here thinking about the ten billion land animals who are confined, tortured and murdered in the name of taste, tradition and selfishness for American diets. The trillions of fishes either raised in land-based or ocean-based aquafarms, those who suffocate in trawler’s nets (including dolphins, birds, and turtles), those pierced by harpoons, the millions murdered as bycatch (the average bycatch worldwide is about 40.4% of the total amount of fish being caught).
I think about the 100 million animals who are confined and tortured in laboratories all over the country so Americans can have cosmetics, household cleaners, and pharmaceutical drugs. I look into the eyes of Malcolm, one of the 14 laboratory beagles recently rescued this year by Beagle Freedom Project, and wonder how the other 75,000 dogs are doing confined in labs during this holiday of freedom.
I think about elephants and tigers who are confined so that Americans can be entertained at circuses. How many wild animals languish in zoos, no longer free? How many dolphins, seals and other sea animals are imprisoned in marine parks across the country, ripped away from their families? How many horses and greyhound dogs are locked in stables, raced until they collapse just to entertain human beings?
How many cows are confined for leather, sheep confined for wool and mink, coyotes, chinchilla, foxes and rabbits for fur?
How many cats and dogs are caged and force-bred in kitten mills and puppy mills so Americans can buy designer pets? And how many millions of unwanted pets are locked up in animal shelters around the country, an estimated five million of whom will be euthanized each year because selfish people prefer to shop instead of adopt?
Nonhuman animals are clearly not free. And sadly, neither are some of the people who advocate for their freedom. I can’t help but think about the animal rights activists who have lost their freedom for working towards the freedom and liberation of nonhuman animals.
On July Fourth I will think of Kevin Kjonaas, who is still in federal prison, serving a six-year sentence after he and his codefendants were convicted as animal enterprise terrorists in a landmark First Amendment case. Kjonaas and his codefendants received an aggregate sentence of 23 years for their opposition to the vivisection lab Huntingdon Life Sciences in New Jersey. Kjonaas was convicted of several charges including conspiracy and interstate stalking for allegedly managing a website with information on Huntingdon protests.
I think about the Spanish 12, who were arrested just a few days ago on June 22, from animal rights organizations Equanimal and Igualdad Animal /Animal Equality. The 12 actvists are accused of ‘criminal association,’ even though Igualdad Animal /Animal Equality and Equanimal are groups whose work includes non-violent direct action and open rescues, all above-ground and legal. Three of the activists are still in custody; the other nine have been charged and released on bail.
These are not the only case of animal or environmental activists being targeted and indicted for terrorism or legal, aboveground protests such as public demonstrations, marching, and drawing on sidewalks with chalk. The U.S. government uses this post-9/11 “terrorism” rhetoric to silence free speech when it interferes with corporate profits. Peter Young served two years in federal prison for rescuing thousands of animals from fur farms across the country. Scott DeMuth was indicted for conspiracy to violate the Animal Enterprise Terrorist Act after he and codefendant Carrie Feldman refused to testify before a grand jury about their political beliefs. Four California activists, Nathan Pope, Adriana Stumpo, Joseph Buddenberg and Maryam Khajavi, were indicted on the same charges for legal protests against UC Santa Cruz animal research. Their case was dismissed, thankfully.
Today, Jonathan Paul is heading home from a halfway house and finally reuniting with his wonderful wife Tami Drake, after serving time for arson at the Cavel West horse slaughterhouse, a slaughterhouse in Oregon that killed 500 horses every week.
I think about Rod Coronado, who was jailed in 1995 in connection with an arson attack on research facilities at Michigan State University as part of ALF’s “Operation Biteback,” attacks on animal-testing and fur facilities during the 1990s. He was imprisoned yet again for four months in August 2010 for accepting a friend request on Facebook.
There are many more activists languishing in prison or awaiting trial for trying to liberate and free nonhuman animals – too many to mention in one blog post.
With the passage of The Patriot Act and AETA after 9/11, we are no longer free to say what we wish or to protest or dissent against the government. More importantly, we no longer have the freedom to rise up against corporations. These designer laws have nothing to do with protecting you and me; they are intended to protect corporate profits and power.
So while you munch down on the BBQ’ed flesh of a sentient nonhuman animal at your Fourth of July celebration, think about the freedom of the animal that was taken away for your pleasure. Think about the brave activists who were willing to put their freedom on the line to liberate animals like the ones you are consuming. And think about the freedoms you’ve already given up in the name of corporate greed. Feeling patriotic now?