Liberty and Justice for Some.

Via on Jul 4, 2010

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 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?

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?

About Gary Smith

Gary Smith is co-founder of Evolotus, a PR agency working for a better world. Evolotus specializes in nonprofits, documentary films, animal advocacy campaigns, health/wellness, natural foods and socially beneficial companies. Gary blogs at The Thinking Vegan and writes for elephant journal, Jewish Journal, Mother Nature Network and other publications. Gary and his wife are ethical vegans and live in Sherman Oaks, CA with their cat Chloe and two beagles rescued from an animal testing laboratory, Frederick and Douglass.

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11 Responses to “Liberty and Justice for Some.”

  1. Doris says:

    Absolutely, Gary! We don't like to think about our part in the oppression of others, but if we truly believe in freedom, then we must.

  2. Wonderfully written and well researched!

  3. As Always Gary, you put into such well written words what we are all thinking. Thank you for writing this.

  4. mike says:

    your cat would eat you if it was hungry enough.

  5. Mercedes says:

    Thanks Gary for this fantastic article. You’ve said it all, very clear there should’nt be any excuse left for ignorance. It is a choice to stay ignorant or to become part of the positive solution.

  6. ARCreated says:

    Amen brother!!! I had a difficult time the other day when I attended a picnic for an animal rescue group I volunteer for…and they were serving burgers and dogs…the woman in charge couldnt' understand how i felt the menu was in direct contradiction to our mission…it's hard to reach the masses when even those who say they love animals are only interested in saving and caring for certain animals…I'm working on getting them to at least go local organic ….but IMHO all rescue groups should have at least vegetartian menus…it's a step anyway :)
    Thanks for the great article.

  7. [...] Buy a Puppy (buy it here, then get frustrated without even bothering to watch Dog Whisperer and the dog mysteriously goes [...]

  8. Heather Lounsbury Heather says:

    Once again, Gary gets it right. Thanks!

  9. [...] less philosophical—maybe I just like seeing the “behind-the-scenes” of nature. At zoos, we only see living, bored, and placid animals. At Disney, they feed the lions USDA approved [...]

  10. pranalisa says:

    for me, it begins with mindfulness and awareness. Once I discovered the horrors of factory farming, I immediately ceased eating factory farmed animals. Even "free range" conventional animals and their eggs are generally treated miserably. While I do not advocate everyone being a vegetarian or vegan..I was a raw vegan for years and failed to thrive due to my own biochemical makeup..however, as a holistic nutrition consultant, I urge most of my clients to adopt a plant based diet and to choose animal products, if at all, with the awareness of where these animals came from and what kind of lives did they live. There IS a way for animals to have pleasant lives just as for humans, our lives are not defined by the way we die but rather than the way that we live. If humans treated animals in a dignified and respectful way during their lives and if factory farming eventually became a thing of the past, the world would be a better place.

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