As an activist with the animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere, I often cross lines I’m not supposed to cross: sneaking into farms, surveilling slaughterhouses, and even smuggling dogs out of China. But my most recent episode of line-crossing left some baffled: running onto the field at a Giants-Dodgers game in San Francisco to offer flowers to the players.
My demonstration had a simple purpose: to bring attention to the suffering of animals used in our food system. I brought ten flowers in total, one for each of the 10 billion animals killed every year in this country, and asked the players on the field to take a flower to remember the animals we use for food.
This action was just the latest in a series of nonviolent disruptions of the Dodgers executed by Direct Action Everywhere activists across the nation, in the wake of an investigation exposing sickening conditions and dangerous antibiotic usage at the supplier of the famous Dodger Dogs. While many have dismissed our actions as ridiculous or extreme, consider another example of disruptive action I took a world away: the Yulin Dog Meat Festival.
In Yulin, I disrupted an infamous festival where dogs were being eaten. The American media, including ABC’s Nightline, cheered for us when we came home, bruised and battered by the festival’s security.
Compare this to our protest in San Francisco. At AT&T Park, I also disrupted a famous event where animals were being eaten, getting roughed up by Giants players Buster Posey and Angel Pagan in the process. The American media, in contrast, laughed at us, encouraging violence and deriding us as “dumb fans.”
But what, exactly, is the difference between my actions in Yulin and San Francisco? Was it that the former targeted foreigners rather than our own traditions? Was it that in Yulin we sought to protect dogs rather than pigs? The basic principle of equality undermines these rationalizations. Singling out the Chinese for special condemnation, after all, is a classic example of xenophobia. And it is well established that pigs, along with most other vertebrates, have the same feelings as our dogs or cats.
The differing reaction, then, has little to do with logic and more to do with our lack of thoughtfulness about the violence (against both humans and animals) in our food system. And therein lies the rationale for our protests. When the world has ignored a form of oppression, nonviolent disruption has always been the most powerful tool to expose abuses and cause our society to stop and think.
When they do stop to think, I have confidence that the people of Yulin will come along. They will see that disruption is sometimes the cost of justice, and realize that dogs need not be terrorized. But I have just as much confidence that the people of San Francisco will eventually come along, too. They will see that nonviolent protesters for animal rights — like nonviolent protesters against homophobia, racism, or environmental devastation — have a point. And they will begin to treat animals as, not things, but as the living, feeling beings they are.