This weekend, a small butcher shop in Berkeley posted a confusing sign to customers condemning animal slaughter as “violent and unjust,” a concession made to local animal rights activist group Direct Action Everywhere, who will stop their disruptive demonstrations at the shop in exchange for the sign’s display. Since April, the four-year-old, Oakland-based activist group has held weekly protests in front of The Local Butcher Shop at 1600 Shattuck Avenue during its Sunday evening butcher classes. Eventually, Direct Action Everywhere approached the butcher shop’s owners with a list of demands, and they agreed to display the 15-by-15-inch sign.
“Attention: Animals lives are their right,” it reads. “Killing them is violent and unjust, no matter how it’s done.” In a press release, Direct Action Everywhere adopted a tone of surprise, calling the sign — placed “by [The Local Butcher Shop’s] staff” — “most unexpected.” In fact, the sign was written by Direct Action Everywhere.
Direct Action Everywhere, whose goal is “total animal liberation,” has attracted attention to its cause through sometimes disruptive tactics. Last Fall, Chez Panisse called the police after a group of protesters burst into the restaurant’s dining room “screaming and yelling.” In May, a co-founder of the group, Wayne Hsiung, was arrested for trespassing after attempting to remove live chickens from a poultry store in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
At The Local Butcher Shop, Direct Action Everywhere protesters would shout speeches, sing songs, hold vigils, and cover themselves in plastic wrap and fake blood as if they were meat. “It’s a pretty moving experience,” says Direct Action Everywhere organizer Matt Johnson. Shop customers and neighboring businesses — who pressured The Local Butcher Shop to make the demonstrations stop — disagreed. The shop’s owners, a husband and wife team who emphasize sustainable meat, declined to comment.
“We certainly don’t relish making people uncomfortable,” says Johnson, “but if you want to talk about intimidation, or the word bullying, which is sometimes used, well, we’re talking about a world in which animals are languishing in captivity and suffering horrible fates completely unnecessarily.”
Direct Action Everywhere considers the sign agreement a “victory,” and seeks to continue this course of action, with Berkeley as its ground zero. “That’s how social movements throughout history works,” says Johnson. “The general model is you make a request… that the violence or injustice stops, then you resort to nonviolent protest.” Direct Action Everywhere may still protest at The Local Butcher Shop, but “drastically” less often according to Johnson — perhaps once or twice a year.
“We very much intend to take this [tactic] to other [meat-selling] locations, and have the same process,” says Johnson “If you put this up, then we’ll dial back the pressure.”
Yesterday, after protesters came to 1600 Shattuck to confirm the sign had been posted, they left the shop alone, heading across the street to Safeway to protest in the meat department.
- Animal-rights activists disrupt Chez Panisse service [Berkeleyside]
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