Education as activism. Leafletting, writing letters to the editor, discussing vegan and animal rights issues with our coworkers…these are all aimed at educating our audience. But what about educating ourselves?
I was lazy about it, myself. Vegetarian for years without reading a single thing on vegetarianism. I didn’t even have a cookbook for most of that time. It took only a vague reference to cruelties in the egg and dairy industry for me to go vegan, finally. And still I read nothing on the issues. Being vegan was enough, wasn’t it?
A few years later I agreed to participate in a fur protest. “We have to do more,” I thought to myself after my first protest, “simply eating vegan food and avoiding exploitation in my purchases isn’t enough. It isn’t just about our personal consumption. It is bigger than that.” And so I became more involved in activism, participating in weekly fur protests and other periodic demos, starting a (short lived) brunch revolution. Yet I read nothing.
I watched Earthlings and it changed me, a bit. I didn’t really understand the cruelty of the dairy industry before that. Knowing it is wrong, and seeing the horror of it are two different things, I found. You know on a much deeper level just how wrong it is after watching it. And that is just one example of the education Earthlings provided. I was motivated to do more after that, though I had no solid direction in mind. And still I didn’t think to continue my education.
However I was also involved in an online community, VeganFreaks, and listened to their podcasts every week. It was obvious how much reading Bob and Jenna had done, as well as many people on the forums. I started listening to other podcasts as well, such as animal voices, and there again it was clear how much more others knew about various issues than I did myself. I went to AR06 and absorbed as much information as I could, knowing it was barely scratching the surface. I knew there was a welfare versus abolition debate within the movement, but I didn’t really understand why people argued about it. I knew I was against vivisection, but was uncomfortable talking about it because I didn’t know much about it. I certainly was not prepared for the debate that is sure to result from an anti-vivisection stance, namely the presupposed need to choose between non-humans and humans. Finally I realized what I should have known all along – I need to get off my ass and start educating myself. How can I be effective if I don’t fully know the issues I’m trying to talk to people about?
So I started reading. I have a lot of catching up to do. In the few months since I started the process, I have managed to read only a handful of books, but already I can feel the effects. These are important resources, these books, this information. And we need to make use of them.
My have read list:
Terrorists or Freedom Fighters
Sacred Cows or Golden Geece
The Dreaded Comparison
Rain Without Thunder
Capers In The Churchyard
And in the ever growing pile of books waiting to be read:
Igniting A Revolution: Voices in Defense of the Earth
Rattling The Cage
There are so many other books out there that I should read as well. “Slaughterhouse” is one that comes to mind, but I’m not sure I can read it – I’ve read a few quotes from it, and they haunt me. Other suggestions are welcome, though even more useful would be an extra few hours every day so I could make some progress.
Many AR titles can be found at your local library, or could be ordered through them. (Getting your library to carry more AR books is a form of mini-activism all on its own.) If you are interested in purchasing the books, I have found AK Press, Lantern Books, and Friends of Animals to be great sources. Always try to order from the publisher if you can.
There are many excellent videos out there as well, well worth seeing. I’ve only seen Earthlings, myself. I find videos very difficult to watch, and I think their educational focus is a bit different as well. Just as words can’t adequately describe the horror of animal exploitation (though I think Slaughterhouse probably does a disturbingly good job), videos can’t fully explore the arguments for animal rights.
We need to educate ourselves on animal rights if we are to be as effective as we can be. It is a big job, but an incredibly important one. I didn’t realize just how important it was until I started on this path. These videos and books, these thoughts and arguments, are our tools. ‘Every tool is a weapon if we hold it right’ (ani difranco), and so we need to arm ourselves with the knowledge, the critical analysis, and even the Bizarro type humor. Self-education is so important for us, for the movement, and thus for the animals, that it becomes a type of activism itself. And now no one has an excuse for not being an activist! Read, watch, and learn.