This week, Shaun Monson — who wrote and directed the hard-hitting documentary Earthlings — posted an insightful blog on the Huffington Post called “Legitimate Animal Activism.” Shaun’s post is in response to a June post by Richard Spilman, in which Spilman accuses the group Sea Shepherd of eco-terrorism.
It has become common these days to call animal activists terrorists, and frankly, I think it’s a cop-out — a convenient brush used by too many pundits to vilify and discredit the work of activists. It’s as if these writers don’t want to spend the time actually considering why animal activists must do what they do; they’d rather use a word that is quickly becoming the 21st-century equivalent of a racial slur. Referring to the popular show on Animal Planet that features Sea Shepherd activists confronting Japanese whalers, Spilman writes, “In the end, ‘Whale Wars’ is a highly dangerous sideshow, which may make for diverting ‘reality TV’ for the couch-bound, but has nothing meaningful to do with ‘saving the whales.’”
Shaun calls Spilman’s post bold and reckless. “After all, it is a curious terrorist organization that hasn’t actually killed anybody,” he writes. Shaun goes on to observe: “The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer is credited with saying there are Three Stages of Truth: first, ridicule; second, violent opposition; and third, acceptance. This was certainly true for the abolitionists, who were told that to abolish slavery would threaten the entire economy of the United States. Indeed they were ridiculed and violently opposed long before there was any acceptance. We look back now at human slavery as one of the darkest periods in American history. Women seeking the right to vote, known as the suffragettes, experienced a similar fate. They too were ridiculed, and violently opposed, until finally, after long grief and pain, they were accepted.”
These social justice movements have become inspirations to animal activists, who, as Shaun points out, are often ridiculed and violently opposed. He ends his post by reminding us that it wasn’t the government that set out to end to slavery or give women the right to vote; rather, it took agitators — like today’s animal activists — who recognize an injustice and then battle the odds to win acceptance.
By the way, Shaun is currently working on volume 2 of the Earthlings trilogy, Unity.