Wednesday, June 30, 2010
VeganTHIS is an organization that started in Southern California as a simple myspace account and literature table at punk and hardcore shows. Today, vT has grown into an internationally recognized source for information on the struggle for animal rights and radical activism. Not only do they combat speciesism, but also emphasize the connections that veganism has with environmental and humyn struggles as well. You have undoubtedly seen the now famous "LIBERATE" shirts with a photo of a restrained primate around, as well as one of the several other designs that vT is now well known for. Though many people contribute to vT through artwork, writing and sometimes assistance tabling at punk shows; the individual who started VeganTHIS is assuredly the foundation. His home has been raided, he has been arrested several times on bogus charges, and has had his myspace deleted several times since it's original inception for the alleged "explicit content" contained therein. That content being photos of cows with their throats slit, mink being skinned alive, and baby calves being torn away from their mothers. Of course all of these things are not just simply offensive photographs, but the reality of the fur, meat, dairy and entertainment industries. His drive and his passion has helped countless people adopt a vegan lifestyle and get involved in the struggle for animal liberation. NOW THIS WAR HAS TWO SIDES.
this interview was conducted by Mike XVX in June of 2010.
How about we start with some basic info like, what are the origins of VeganTHIS (name, how you got started etc.) and how long have you been doing this for?
Well, to be honest, the name really just came about because that's the first name I thought of when myspace made me pick a URL address for the account I started, which was the original veganTHIS. It was just a page with horrific animal exploitation pictures and reasons why it's in your best interest to go vegan. After myspace deleted me several times I realized that I needed to make my own website so I wouldn't have to rely on corporate owned social networking web sites to get the message out there. Around the same time the web site was just starting up I began to realize that I never saw any vegan outreach tables at any punk or hardcore shows I was going to. I knew I had to change this. I think punk and hardcore shows are such a good opportunity to do vegan outreach and give lots of cool info to kids. Gather says it best, ''Punk is about doing what's right, even if it means going against the majority''. The punk scene was built by pissed off kids wanting social change. Animal exploitation is happening everywhere in so many different forms, if we don't stop it, who will? I table shows because kids attending shows have the passion, the dedication, and the inspiration to do anything. You just need to help them realize it. I have been doing veganTHIS since 2004, so, around 6 years.
You usually tour the country and table with big name punk bands like The Subhumans, Citizen Fish, The Locust, Conflict etc. Can you tell us a little about these experiences? Things you like/don't like about doing outreach at punk shows? The responses you get from people?
Being able to tour with the punk bands I grew up listening to has been a very rewarding experience. Being able to know them as not just legendary musicians, but awesome fucking people. Traveling from city to city, eating food, seeing rad shows, meeting and talking with punks and activists night after night has solidified the dedication I have for veganTHIS and my hope for the animal liberation movement in the U.S. My favorite thing about touring with bigger bands is that the shows are usually a lot bigger, bringing a lot more people. The more people to see the vT table, the better. Most of the responses we get are very positive. Its either people thanking us for being at the show, or people getting stoked on reading literature, or people just becoming aware about how the animals they eat were treated before being put into their mouths. To be honest, I don't get negative feedback too often. I suppose some people may just keep quiet if they have a negative opinion on the information I give out. Even if a certain show wasn't as receptive to the info table as other shows have been; if one single person took some lit for the first time, or caught a glimpse of the movie Earthlings for the first time, it was definitely worth it. That kid is going to leave the show knowing how serious the war on animals is, and hopefully they are going to want to help fight back in some way or another.
Your t-shirts are worn by people all over the world, all from a simple project you started yourself. Did you ever expect VeganTHIS to become as much as an influence as it has been? What are your personal goals for this project?
I initially didn't have any plans to make veganTHIS more than just a myspace full of graphic animal exploitation pictures on it. People liked the approach that I took, and veganTHIS developed rather fast, and here we are. I had no idea that this project would be as popular as it has become. My current goals for veganTHIS.org are to make the web site a very reliable source of information regarding anything from vegan outreach, animal liberation to government oppression within the animal and earth liberation movements. I am very excited about new vT projects, and am excited about the possibility for the web site to become a better source of information for beginners or long time activists.
Have you had a lot of people over the years tell you that vT specifically helped them go vegan?
I certainly have had countless individuals tell me that they have gone vegan because of the web site. Although veganTHIS has existed for a couple years without having a web site, we did constant vegan outreach across the country with punk rock and hardcore tours; so I am sure we got to a great amount of people that way. The web site has gotten nearly 5 million hits since its start in 2007, so one can only hope that it has made a difference.
I was actually tabling a punk show in the north west not too long ago and someone came up to me and told me that they saw me tabling a show in southern california 3 years prior and had since gone vegan because of their exposure to animal cruelty via veganTHIS.
Hearing stories like that is what keeps this project going. Knowing that we are being effective.
Would you say vT's primary focus is education considering all the outreach you do?
Public outreach is definitely the main focus. We table information on veganism, animal rights, animal liberation, know your rights, and information discussing why the FBI and police are not our friends in this movement. Shit, even the t-shirts we sell are for outreach purposes. Each shirt has veganTHIS.org on the back for everyone to see!
Any advice for activists currently living in the "Green Scare" and are facing state oppression for legal, first amendment protected activism?
We are all the help that the animals have. Don't let the police scare you into settling for facebook activism. Be creative, go out and organize protests, and help the animals in anyway that you can. Every activist should know their rights, its crucial. It helps to make friends with like minded lawyers, they may help you out someday. Protest, Protest, Protest. Never give up, never give in.
Your home has been raided, you're myspace has been deleted several times and you have experienced a lot of police and FBI oppression simply from running a vegan outreach website. Has this deterred you in any way or made you rethink any of your methods? and do you think these tactics have slowed down the animal liberation movement in the past few years?
Being a legal above-ground working activist and having the FBI raid my home, being arrested multiple times, and being a target for police oppression has done nothing but make my determination even stronger. They have let me know that my actions are not going unnoticed, but most importantly, they have helped me realize that I am being effective. I am doing the same things now, as I have been doing when my home was raided, or the first time I was handcuffed and put in a squad car. If my methods have changed at all, they were done to become more creative and effective. Police and FBI oppression on activists have definitely slowed down legal street demonstrations in some area's, people are scared to come to protests due to bogus arrests and jail time, its a really frustrating result of the green scare. If you don't know what the Green Scare is, please check out a web site called GreenIstheNewRed.com. Even though some street protests have slowed down, the green scare hasn't been able to slow down illegal direct action for animal liberation one bit.
It's common knowledge that adopting a Vegan lifestyle is a simple and easy way to reduce animal suffering. But, in your opinion, what are some other ways to help animals that an average person can partake in on a day to day basis?
I highly suggest you find some friends and form a group. Having a group makes it easier to go inform a local fur shop about why they should stop selling fur, or inform people about how the Circus that is in town abuses and exploits animals, etc. Like I said before, animal exploitation is everywhere. Its our job to help the animals by fighting back.
Do you think starting a DIY outreach group is a realistic goal that kids can set for themselves? What kind of resources and websites do you recommend they look into for help starting up?
Not only do I believe that starting up a DIY outreach group is certainly a realistic goal, but I feel as if it is not enough. Why start an outreach group, when you can form a trusted group of friends and go out and make direct action for the animals? I'm not telling you to go out and break windows and burn down a fur shop, I'm just telling you to get active and stay active.
If you want to start out with an outreach group, i know VeganOutreach.org is a good source to get 'Why Vegan' pamphlets. Viva.org.uk is also an excellent source of information. Feel free to google 'vegan literature' and see what pops up!
Police and FBI informants are unfortunately a reality in the animal rights movement, what do you recommend for people who are suspicious of someone in their group?
This is always a hard subject to talk about. First of all, don't snitch jacket someone unless you know for a fucking fact that the person that is in question is working with the cops or not. I am talking about video or documentation evidence. Snitch jacketing doesn't do a damn thing but divide the movement.
Do some investigative work. Study their behavior; are they out of line? Are they pushing the legal boundary? Where are they from? Where do they live? Where did they used to live? Where does their money come from? Can anyone vouch for them? Can you vouch for the people who vouch for them? Get creative and find out who they are.
If they are indeed a snitch working with the FBI or cops, tell them they are no longer welcome in the movement and let them know why. Force them out.
What kind of resources can you recommend to look into security culture and protecting yourself in a legal sense?
My go to source for anything legal related is the Civil Liberties Defense Center in Eugene, OR. You can find them at CLDC.org. One of my favorite sources for Security Culture can be found at: http://security.resist.ca/personal/securebooklet.pdf
Know your rights. Don't talk to cops or the FBI. Be safe
Any last words?
Go out and fight for animal liberation. Whether you work above ground, or under ground. Do something. Why? Because We Must.