Elephant Journal asked its contributors to post our thoughts in honor of this holiday. Sure, the Fourth of July 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 humans, never non-human animals, who feel pain and suffer for our pleasures.
I sit here thinking about the ten billion land animals that are confined, tortured and murdered in the name of taste, tradition and selfishness for American diets.
I think about the 150 million animals that are confined and tortured in laboratories all over the country so Americans can have cosmetics, household cleaners, and pharmaceutical drugs.
I think about elephants and tigers that 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 are locked in stables, raced until they collapse just to entertain human beings?
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?
Animals are clearly not free. And sadly, neither are some of the people who advocate for their freedom.
On July Fourth I also 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. (For an interview with one of his codefendants, click here.)
This is 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. Last November 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 Poke, Adriana Stumpo, Joseph Buddenberg and Maryam Khajavi, have been indicted on the same charges for legal protests against UC Santa Cruz animal research.
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 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?