Direct Action Everywhere’s campaign against Sanders ignores human rights in favor of publicity
In the United States, we are living in a time that we never truly thought would happen during our lives, or ever again. Donald Trump, a noted racist, bigot, and enemy of the oppressed, is set to be the Republican Party’s candidate for the upcoming election year. This is no longer a joke, and is definitely not a drill. The United States, whether or not he is elected, is forever changed, as hateful bigots have come out of the woodwork from all corners of the country, newly empowered by his violent rhetoric. For this reason, I find it irresponsible and distasteful that a corner of the animal rights world has decided to use their power to raise angry hysteria against Bernie Sanders and the democratic party. We are all royally fucked here, folks, some more than others, and it’s a dangerous game to run a smear campaign.
On March 8th, Huffington Post Politics published a piece from Direct Action Everywhere members Zachary Groff and Jay Shooster called “Bernie Sanders, Animal Agribusiness Stooge?” It suggested that Bernie Sanders “can’t claim to fight for the vulnerable” because of congressional ties to animal agriculture. It’s apparent while reading the piece that DxE does not quite understand the gravity of the situation, or simply doesn’t care. Am I disappointed that Sanders is not a vegan, and does not outline ways in which veganism can prosper in the United States? Absolutely, and I’ve declared this publicly, so let’s get that truth out of the way. For me, taking down Trump and going with the best candidate available is the priority, no matter who the Democratic ticket holder is. We can’t afford anything short of a best effort on the part of the Democratic party. What I’m shocked by is this furious railing against a candidate who is imperfect, yet our best bet at keeping unfair and oppressive systems in check – or helping to begin the act of dismantling them.
Yes, Bernie Sanders supports animal agriculture, much like the vast majority of United States citizens and politicians. Sanders and those citizens are wrong, and their position is immoral and unethical. Unfortunately, this is the cultural norm, and our fuck-all two party system isn’t at all the kind of system that allows a viable candidate to stray too far off the beaten path. Sanders is not the communist revolutionary he is painted by the media to be, he’s a democratic socialist, and the path he walks on may be different from the status quo, yet it is bound to run parallel to it. To launch an attack on the Sanders campaign is a weak strategy for animal rights. It hardly qualifies as a strategy at all. How many US citizens can we convince to give a second thought to their meat-eating culture within the same conversation as Trump encouraging mobs and violence against people of color? The conversation clashes; nobody wants to hear it. People are literally concerned for their safety, for their lives.
“Friday evening Russell Simmons shocked Bernie Sanders fans, including us, by revoking his January endorsement of Bernie Sanders and endorsing Hillary Clinton instead. Jane Sanders, Bernie’s wife, recounted the conversation Simmons had about the endorsement, in which Simmons made clear that the endorsement depended on Bernie rejecting animal agriculture. The response? Americans like pork, beef, and bacon, so Bernie stands with farmers,” wrote the DxE representatives. How ironic, or rather, appalling is it, that they would use Russell Simmons as the opening example in their piece. Their lack of concern about Simmons, who is undoubtedly a corporate machine, turning around to support Hillary Clinton as his candidate of choice is laughable, as they are writing a piece on corporate ties. Hillary Clinton herself was a New York senator who received and gave the same kind of support to Big Ag that Sanders has, so why not go after her as well? Is she not also a “stooge,” or is she just less interesting?
The following from the op-ed is gold, and is indicative of exactly who we are dealing with when we talk about DxE. “As advocates for both human and animal rights, we have been extremely excited about the Sanders campaign. But for now, every time someone tells us that they #feelthebern, we think of the animals feeling the burn of hot irons searing their property status into their skin. We think of the millions of chickens burned alive in boiling water at the slaughterhouse each year.” That’s fine and fucking dandy, DxE, you’re allowed to feel exactly the way you want to feel. If you want to ignore the American plight under right wing extremism in favor of dramatic language to discredit Bernie Sanders, you go right ahead, but don’t wring your hands too hard when accusations of being naive, or more accusations of being racist through ignorance, are pointed in your direction. I don’t know why I ever expected any better.
The upcoming presidential election of 2016 is not child’s play. It makes absolutely no sense to single out Bernie Sanders when all candidates on the ticket support animal agriculture, no less when he is the only candidate with a truly progressive view on human rights. I’ve fucking had it with DxE’s publicity games at the expense of political dialogue, and their unwillingness to publicly stand up against a racist right wing regime. It’s not a game for millions of Americans whose safety would suffer with a Republican win – whose safety is already suffering – and for that reason, I will continue my unwavering support of the Sanders campaign.