Civil disobedience is the active refusal to obey an unjust
law or to accept an unjust practice, without resorting to physical violence. The tactic was popularized by Henry David Thoreau in 1849 and used most effectively by American revolutionaries in 1773, by Gandhi in gaining India’s independence from British rule in 1948, and by the U.S. civil rights movement in the 1960s.
Civil disobedience has been used a number of times in past observances of World Farm Animals Day. There were at least four instances of blocking trucks hauling animals into a slaughterhouse in Smithfield and Timberville (VA) and in Petaluma (CA). There was a blockade of the main entrance to the USDA Washington headquarters and a sit-in in the office of the Secretary of Agriculture. All these actions were designed to create the drama that calls public attention to the tragedy of animal agriculture.
- Selecting a Target. The ideal target would be a meaningful structure or event readily accessible to the media. Unfortunately slaughterhouses and stockyards are distant from major media, and most media cities do not have meaningful structures or events, so a compromise is required.
- Selecting date and time. The date should be a weekday on or about October 2nd, to make sure that both the target and the media are operating at full strength. To accommodate media deadlines, the action should be completed well before 3pm. The event itself, like trucks entering the slaughterhouse at dawn, may dictate a different time.
- Selecting personnel. The arrestees should be prepared to be handcuffed, transported to a local police station, searched, photographed, and fingerprinted, to spend a few hours in a holding cell, to post bail (usually under $1,000), to return to a nearby court for trial, and to pay a fine (usually under $200 or probation). The supporters should be picketing with signs and bullhorns or candles (depending on desired mood), leafleting, talking to the media, taking photos and video of the action. A couple should stick around to bail out and pick up the arrestees.
- Selecting specific action. As noted above, the most frequent actions have been restricting access to people or vehicles or asit-in. Greenpeace has gained fame by climbing large structures for banner drops. Creativity is encouraged, as long as every one stays safe.
- Selecting arrest procedure. The other decision is how difficult to make the removal and arrest. This ranges from desisting when the arrest warning has been issued, through staying and cooperating with the arresting officer, going limp and being carried, to prolonging the process by forcing the authorities to use special equipment to separate the arrestees. Each successive level prolongs the process, increases the drama, elevates the ire of law enforcement, and possibly raises bail and fine amounts. In the past, we have always cooperated with the arresting officers.
- Making the personal decision. Most of us are raised to obey the laws, so committing an illegal act does not and should not come easily. We feel forced to do it to stop the much greater evil of animal abuse and slaughter. We are mindful that the discomfort of arrest, time in a holding cell, and a fine are trivial by comparison with what the animals go through every day. And we remember to bring a photo ID and bail money (in cash).
If the action is taking place on public property, we favor alerting local law enforcement authorities, without necessarily providing all the details. This fosters a gentler arrest procedure, possibly lower bail and fine, and protection from local yahoos who may wish to take law into their own hands.
Law enforcement authorities will generally attempt to prevent the action, so speed and the element of surprise are needed. Typically, after the civil disobedience begins, the officer in charge will issue a warning to cease the action. When the demonstrators persist, arrests begin.
DISCLAIMER: We don’t counsel anyone to break the law, and we can not offer legal advice. The above account is based on our personal experiences, and may not apply in your jurisdiction. However, we are willing to take calls to provide additional details about our experiences.