Originally pressed in 1996 PROFANE EXISTENCE is bringing this quintessential anarcho punk masterpiece back in circulation.
In 1996 AUS-ROTTEN released their first LP “The System Works For Them” on an unsuspecting punk scene. It spread like wildfire in a pre internet era within a genre that mostly depended on tape trading. (at least is was pre internet for us penniless punks) “The System Works For Them” was the perfect mix of anger and intelligence that the scene needed at the time (and still does today). It was like a wake up call that opened the eyes and ears to many punks the world over. The messages where crystal clear and most us were hooked as soon as the beginning shouts of “Boycott” bellowed over the speakers. I don’t believe any of us ever expected their message to resonate so well within the scene, but even more surprising is how the songs are just as relevant today as on they the day they were written. Which is why PROFANE EXISTENCE has decided to repress this record. We feel that that messages that AUS-ROTTEN brought to the table are to powerful to ignore. We feel that this LP is important and therefore should be highly available and priced affordably.
PROFANE EXISTENCE has worked out every last detail of this release with the members of AUS-ROTTEN whom have been involved from step one. All tracks have been re-masted by Jay Matherson at the Jamroom studios. To be 100% honest we didn’t want to do a complete re-master of what we already considered a good recording. However when we opened the tracks on protools we noticed a few balance issues that required fixing. These fixes resulted in a tremendous upgrade to the overall quality of the tracks. We painstakingly scanned, puzzled, and photoshopped the original artwork to make sure that it was as close to authentic as it could possible be. We then went for broke by pressing in three different vinyl color combinations! Overall to say that we are pumped to release this would be an understatement, we are absolutely ecstatic to bring you this LP on PROFANE EXISTENCE!
To top this all off we worked with AUS-ROTTEN vocalist Dave Trenga on redrawing the classic “What Good Is Money, When There Is No One Left To Buy” design for a T-Shirt to concede with the albums release. This is a fresh take on an old image to create a new and original design.
Vinyl options are…
1. Standard black vinyl
2. “The Battlefield is Still Red” Bloodsplatter vinyl.
3. See through “Smoke”. – Available at SKULLFEST only
Silence are a highly active post-punk/peace-punk band from Pittsburgh, PA. “The Deafening Sound of Absolutely Nothing” strives (and succeeds) to achieve the perfect balance between peace and post punk. By taking influences from The Mob, Bauhaus, Zounds, Killing Joke, Amebix, Crass, Conflict, Internal Autonomy and Joy Division SILENCE have created what can only be described a brilliant debut LP. At one moment this record is dark, heavy, and atmospheric and then the next moment it makes you want to dance and sing along. Lyrically SILENCE are much closer to the anarcho side of the previously listed influences. Lyrics focus on a variety of topics but often have a strong focus on the way punk and activist communities deal with political struggle in our current political climate.
“The Deafening Sound of Absolutely Nothing” comes with a 16 page magazine size zine containing lyrics, personal writings and song explanations. Designed, printed and assembled by the band themselves in true D.I.Y. fashion.
Silence will be having a record release show in their hometown of Pittsburgh PA at the Rock Room Friday April 22nd with SHADOW AGE and SKELETON HANDS. Then later this month SILENCE will embark on a full United States tour to support “The Deafening Sound of Absolutely Nothing”. Here is a list of dates. Be show to check in with the bands “bandcamp” or “Facebook” page for show updates.
When all that remains is a world in flames. Is that when they’ll say the wars are finally won? That wars are finally done?
They’re beating on the drums again, they’re fueling up the planes. The congressmen fall into line and sing the old refrain. In the name of peace they’ll burn the land and drop a thousand bombs.
Meanwhile we’ll just stay at home and go back to our sitcoms. It’s the same old song, we’ve heard it before. They’re beating the drums and they’re calling for war. What it’s supposed to accomplish, no one is sure But the victims are always the hungry and the poor.
Once the drums of war begin it’s hard to make them stop. The noise silences the dissidents once the bombs begin to drop. All those who call for peace will be mocked and pushed aside. In 10 years they’ll admit we were right after many thousands more have died.
Finally after many delays from the pressing plant the WARWOUND Demo’s LP “A Huge Black Cloud” is out and copies are moving fast!
Recorded in 1983, this record contains 15 songs from 3 sessions. With a few different takes you get a total of 25 blistering tracks. For those unfamiliar with WARWOUND, they are a UK band formed in 82. WARWOUND recorded 3 demos in 83 before disbanding and members went on to join THE VARUKERS and form SACRILEGE. These demos never received an official release… until now! Highly influenced by DISCHARGE, WARWOUND is one of the first bands ever to take D-Beat Punk to a raw and intense level. Recently reformed in 2015, original guitarist Damian is now joined by Ian Glasper on bass and Rat Varuker on vocals. After a few gigs in the UK word is spreading fast of the relentless onslaught of a live show these veterans put on. WARWOUND have also recently hit the studio to record for the first time in over 30 years. Needless to say WARWOUND is back with a vengeance!
For those of you who don’t know DEADLY REIGN, Its time to get with the program! DEADLY REIGN is a 3 piece D-BEAT killing machine with a legendary line up comprised of members from GLYICNE MAX, DOGMA MUNDISTA, SCARRED FOR LIFE, WORLD BURNS TO DEATH, KEGCHARGE, CENTURY OF WAR AND TILL DEATH. These guys have been at it for a long time and don’t fuck around when it comes to bringing you punk rock authentic and true to its sound and with their new single released on PE entitled SLAVE! These guys don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. So let’s get to the brass tacks and see what these guys have been up to. (INTERVIEW BY DUTCH WELCH FROM KRIGBLAST)
PE: So what are your names, what do you play, and how did you guys come together?
(RAYGUNN) I MOVED TO AUSTIN AND RAN INTO GUERINOT AT HIS DAUGHTER’S BIRTHDAY PARTY. UNKNOWN TO ME, MY WIFE WAS AND STILL IS GOOD FRIENDS WITH HIS WIFE AT THE TIME AND HE AND I KNEW EACH OTHER FROM THE PAST WHEN OUR PREVIOUS BANDS HAD PLAYED TOGETHER. WE GOT TO TALKING AND DECIDED THAT WE SHOULD START A BAND. I SAID, WE JUST NEED A BASS PLAYER/SINGER, AND HE SAID HE HAD ONE. HE CALLED HIS FRIEND GUSHAMMER AND HE WAS INTO IT. THEY HAD BEEN WANTING TO START SOMETHING TOGETHER FOR A WHILE. AND EVENTUALLY WE GOT THE BALL ROLLING (OR SHOULD I SAY, THE BEERS FLOWING?).
PE: You guys have all been in some pretty kick ass bands in the past. who played in what?
RAYGUNN – GLYCINE MAX, DOGMA MUNDISTA, KONTRAKLASE, AND SCARRED FOR LIFE.
GUERINOT – WORLD BURNS TO DEATH, AND KEGCHARGE.
GUSHAMMER – CENTURY OF WAR, AND TILL DEATH.
PE: Who came up with the name Deadly Reign?
(RAYGUNN) I USED TO HANG OUT WITH A KICK ASS BAND IN THE EARLY 80’s CALLED BODY COUNT. THEY WERE AN EARLY D-BEAT STYLE OF BAND (BEFORE THE TERM D-BEAT WAS AROUND) AND THEY HAD A SONG CALLED DEADLY REIGN. SO I TOOK IT FROM THAT. (AND YES, I AM AWARE THAT THERE WAS A BAND CALLED DEADLY REIGN FROM NORTHERN CALIFORNIA BACK IN THE EARLY 80’s, BUT THAT IS NOT WHERE I GOT THE NAME FROM).
PE: The music of DR is furious, in your face politically and socially. Whats the motivation behind your song writing?
(RAYGUNN) MUSICALLY, WE JUST TRY TO WRITE MUSIC THAT WE LIKE. THE KIND OF STUFF WE WOULD LISTEN TO AT HOME. NOT SO MUCH TRYING TO BE ORIGINAL OR GROUND BREAKING. MORE OF JUST PLAYING THE HARD AGGRESIVE TYPE OF MUSIC THAT WE LIKE. WE GET IT ALL TOGETHER AND THEN GUSHAMMER WRITES SOME LYRICS.
(GUERINOT) I’VE ALWAYS SAID I CAN’T AND WON’T BE IN A BAND THAT I COULDN’T ALSO LISTEN TO. WHAT WOULD BE THE POINT OF PLAYING SHIT THAT YOU DON’T LIKE? WE AREN’T DOING THIS TO PLEASE OTHERS, JUST OURSELVES.
(GUS) SOME LYRICS HIT RIGHT TO THE POINT, RELIGION. IT’S FUCKING 2013 AND HERE WE ARE STILL DEALING WITH RELIGIOUS NONSENSE! PEOPLE THE WORLD OVER ARE BEING PERSECUTED, MISLEAD, AND OUT RIGHT SLAUGHTERED OVER RELIGION. RATHER IT’S CHRISTIANS, MUSLIMS, JEWS, OR WHATEVER FICTITIOUS BULLSHIT SECT THEY ARE IN. RELIGION IN ANY FORM IS UNCALLED FOR AND DANGEROUS! AND THIS COUNTRY USES IT TO PULL OFF SOME SERIOUSLY HEINOUS ACTS OF PURE AND UTTER VIOLENCE AND WAR. WE TOUCH ON THIS OF COURSE ON THIS RECORD, BUT MORE SPECIFICALLY IT’S DIRECTED TOWARD THE WORKING CLASS FOLKS AND THEIR DAILY STRUGGLE JUST TO PUT FOOD ON THE TABLE FOR THEIR FAMILIES. THE OLDER WE GET, THE SAME STRUGGLE REMAINS, EXCEPT NOW WE MUST NOT ONLY FIGHT TO FEED OURSELVES BUT FIRST FEED OUR CHILDREN AND LOVED ONES AND THEN WITH WHAT IS LEFT OVER, TAKE CARE OF OURSLEVES. SO WE CAN SLAVE ANOTHER DAY FOR A LESS THAN ACCEPTABLE WAGE. OVER THE YEARS I HAVE WATCHED OUR (PUNK) COMMUNITY OF FRIENDS WORK IN HORRIBLE CONDITIONS FOR SHIT WAGES WITH NO BENEFITS AND NO HOPE OF MOVING UPWARD IN THESE POSITIONS. AT THE END OF THE DAY THEY HAVE A SMALL CHECK THAT IS OVER TAXED AND A SORE ACHING BODY, THAT CONTINUES TO GET WORSE. “TELL ME IS THIS THE LIFE I’M FORCED TO LIVE TO PROVIDE FOR MY FAMILY?”…THE ANSWER IS NO! BUT NOT WITHOUT A FIGHT. WE HAVE TO CONTINUE TO POINT OUT THESE CONCERNS OVER AND OVER UNTIL THE POWERS THAT BE HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO LISTEN.
PE: You guys did a split with HELLKRUSHER not to long ago entitled Continuous Warfare. How did this collaboration come about?
(RAYGUNN) I HAVE KNOWN SCOTTY (HELLKRUSHER) SINCE THE MID 80’s WHEN HE WAS IN HELLBASTARD, AND I WAS IN GLYCINE MAX. WE USED TO BE PEN PALS, AND WOULD SEND EACH OTHER TAPES OF OUR BANDS, AND OUR FRIENDS BANDS. WE EVENTUALLY LOST TOUCH WITH EACH OTHER AND THEN YEARS LATER FOUND EACHOTHER VIA THE INTERNET. I SENT HIM SOME DEADLY REIGN AND HE LIKED IT. AND WE DECIDED TO DO SOMETHING TOGETHER.
PE: You guys all have family’s now and continue to tour, play shows, practice, record and work. How has DIY punk changed in your lives and how do you make it work?
(GUERINOT) WELL, I HAVE TWO DAUGHTERS BUT HAVING AN UNDERSTANDING AND SUPPORTIVE PARTNER IS KEY. HAVING KIDS IS ONE OF THE BEST THINGS I CAN POSSIBLY IMAGINE SO IN MY OPINION, THEY COME FIRST. WORKING AROUND THEM AND WORK IS USALLY PRETTY EASY. LATELY IT HAS BEEN A BIT MORE DIFFICULT BUT TRYING TO WORK OUT THE KINKS IN A SITUATION AND PUT PIECES BACK TOGETHER IS PART OF THE PROCESS.
PE: The new single from Profane Existence entitled SLAVE, what can we expect and do you have any future releases coming out?
(RAYGUNN) IT’S A LITTLE DIFFERENT THAN OUR LAST TWO RECORDS, BUT STILL THE DEADLY REIGN STYLE. NEXT WE WILL BE WRITING FOR A SPLIT 12″ WITH OUR FRIENDS KONTRASEKT.
PE: Closing comments, any last words?
THANKS TO ALL OF OUR FRIENDS THE WORLD OVER. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. ALSO, THANKS FOR THE INTERVIEW. AND BE SURE TO PICK UP THE NEW DEADLY REIGN ‘SLAVE’ EP ON PROFANE EXISTENCE! AS WELL AS OUR LP AND THE SPLIT WITH HELLKRUSHER. ALSO, WE WOULD LOVE TO GO TO EUROPE SOMEDAY, IF ANYONE OVER THERE WOULD LIKE TO HELP OUR BROKE ASSES OUT. HAHA! CHEERS – DEADLY REIGN
WARTORN are a whirlwind of thrash punk goodness hailing from Wisconsin. Since 2004, they’ve been hitting the touring and record release circuit with no looking back. Here’s a quick interview I did to let people know about their two latest releases, Domestic Terrorist 7″ (Profane Existence) & Iconic Nightmare 12″ (Southern Lord). – Andy Leffer
(This interview also appears in CVLT NATION)
PE: You know the drill, just give us the basics on who’s who and what’s changed in the past, in regards to any line up changes, etc. Also, give us some insight on where WARTORN is going. We want to know tours, records, riots, protests, arrests….the whole back story on WARTORN’s origins.
Bitty: (Vocals) The band started in 2004, with Ryan, Hart (on drums) and myself as a three-piece. Within half a year I got a call with an offer for our first tour, which was with Municipal Waste. We did a mini tour with them and ever since then we have been able to go on tours with amazing bands each year such as Los Dolares, ATU, CYP, Krang, In Defence, Pyroklast, Hellshock, and up next Raw Power . We have been to 13 countries and have done lots of releases on many different labels.
Ryan: guitar / low vocals / whiskey enthusiast. Well we started as a 3-piece and over a span of over 8 years, have ended up with 6 members. With 3 of us being guitar players we are able to diversify our songs in ways that we could only do in a studio setting. This obviously makes a difference live as well.
Ela: I’ve been the bass player for over the last 6 years. Recently, we came out with an LP/CD on Southern Lord Records called “Iconic Nightmare” and a 7-inch, “Domestic Terrorist”, released on Profane Existence (which is part of their limited edition singles series).
Toban: (Guitar) I think I might have the most arrests out of anyone in the band. Not like its anything to brag about. I did narrowly avoid another arrest a few weeks ago.
Derek: Guitar as well. I’ve been in the band for a few months and have been on two tours so far.
PE: The music is dynamic, to say the least. You’re not getting any half-assed riffs or mindlessly thrown together lyrics or production with your music. Elaborate on the process and what is the driving force for doing such a band. Punk is a political movement, it’s always been a political movement. Are you a part of this fray as a whole, or is this more of a personal, therapeutic outlet?
Ryan: I definitely believe in the power of the riff. Heavy and raging. Punk is a political movement, but I also see it as a community (full of musicians, artists, writers, photographers, open thinkers etc). A lot of us live/ have lived in punk houses and have been booking DIY shows for years. It’s something we do to contribute to it as a whole.
Toban: Ryan is the riff-master general of the band. He does a great job of coming up with some of the most incredible riffs of anyone I’ve been in a band with. Adding Bitty’s smartly composed lyrics and Hart’s hard hitting/tight drum style makes a great concoction.
Bitty: As far as what I write lyrically, I mainly write about personal experiences or historical events. I don’t tell people what they need to think, that is for them to figure out on their own. Also, I could not label myself as more than a realist and a situationalist.
Ela: Well in my opinion, I would say that we are a part of this as a whole, but it also is a personal outlet for me. We have all contributed to the movement in one way or another, but I think of punk as more than just a political movement. For me it is also about a unified community… where people come together, whether it is for political reasons, to share a passion for music, a hobby, art, etc. … and we definitely have that in Appleton, which is awesome.
Hart: I honestly wouldn’t say punk’s always been a political movement at all. The fact that DK, Meatmen, and the Germs, for example, all existed during one heyday suggests more of a harsh musical and broad social changeover than anything to me. For me personally, punk rock, metal and hardcore have always been a therapeutic and vindicating way of life that has consistently solved a lot of my life’s most harrowing, fucked-up times. It had a total bottleneck effect on how I raised myself mentally and emotionally. It was a really great thing to find out about when I was trying to figure out how to express myself when everything just infuriated or bored the shit out of me. Later, after I was free as an adult, I quickly found out it came replete with its own sense of community, and a totally viscous following I was never aware existed at all. This band is fucking great, cause we never throw a blind rhetorical blanket over our lyrical ideals, or even necessarily our instrumentation for that matter. We have a rough format that we’ve stuck to, but we all come from slightly different scenes and upbringings, and I’ve always thought it showed at least a little in our styles. I honestly don’t think the excitement of being in this band has worn off for any of us. Sure, growing pains have slowed our progress a couple of times, but whenever the next lightbulb goes on over our heads, it’s all go no slow!
Derek: For me, this is definitely a personal outlet. That’s what music has always been for me. Being the young’n metalhead in the group, I’ve kind of just been exposed to the world of punk houses and DIY shows recently. From what I’ve gathered so far I can at least say that the sense of community is beautiful.
PE: Your latest singles release on Profane Existence “Domestic Terrorist”. There’s no beating around the bush on this subject matter. Once again, can you elaborate on this specific release and the intention behind the subject?
Bitty: There have been a few times where I had local law enforcement “protect and serve” the shit out of me. As a kid in the 80’s from a small hometown, I’ve had guns in my face from the cops, hammers pulled back and screaming in my face. I have also had an off-duty cop put a gun in my face and ask me if I thought it was funny while he was wasted. You know of all the times I was ever robbed or assaulted, at least I knew if I fought back I stood a chance; I even survived an attempted homicide! But, it’s not so easy when you have to fight back against law enforcement. They just beat your ass and lock you up, even if they are totally in the wrong. I’ve witnessed so much personal corruption; to me it seems to be an extension of an abuse of absolute power. Now that, to me, strikes terror in any citizen.
PE: Bitty, you’re straight edge…maybe not self-proclaimed, but you don’t consume drugs or alcohol. Considering the genre of punk and it’s history of abuse with these elements, has this hindered your views on the movement?
Hart: Total interjection here! Dude, Bitty’s optimism actually astounds me. He’s seen more friends either die or completely lose their vitality as humans due to drug and alcohol use than I’d like to ponder. He’s remained pretty fucking pragmatic in his attitude toward his friends’ choices in that sense. I myself get pretty fed-up at times about my own friend’s use of drugs, especially certain ones. I’ve had plenty problems controlling my drinking in the past. I do believe I have a fairly good idea these days of when to dry out, but it can pull me into a real bad place. I start questioning what even matters anymore, and I start fighting everything that means the most to me. However, that’s where that community comes in again! I’m learning to seek out the right punks or no one at all when the time feels right, and I’ve been keeping up on it for a while now.
Bitty: Not at all. You don’t need to be like me in order for me to like you. The real moment that reinforced my decision was when I came home to a friend that lived with me and I found him in a pool of his own blood. He had tried to cut his hand off with a butcher knife while he was completely wasted and ended up with more stiches then an average shark attack. It really put a bad taste in my mouth about how substances can amplify bad decision-making skills. Although I am aware that most just use it to have a good time, truth be told, I just didn’t like it. It wasn’t my thing. But as long as you’re not hurting me or others in any way shape or form it’s your deal not mine. This is just a suggestion, have fun and do what you need to do to deal with things or get by, but try not to destroy yourself in the process. You might end up missing out on some good things in life.
PE: WARTORN is a great band, so with that….does WARTORN have anything they’d like to say to the world, it’s listeners or the masses in general?
Toban: In the words of country music legend Kris Kristofferson “Don’t let the bastards get you down”. Ryan: Thanks for the interview.
Ela: Thanks for all the support. We can’t wait to hit the road and tear it up again in a couple months!
Derek: May the force be with you. But seriously, I can’t wait to hit the road and I hope to see everyone reading this there.
Hart: As always, start 4 bands tomorrow and eat your fiber!
Bitty: Thanks for the interview Andy and everyone that helped us out and we’ll see you on the road. If you’d like to help us out with booking or have any questions, feel free to write us at email@example.com.
For the last few years I have been giving workshops to activists on prisoner support for movement prisoners. I believe strongly that we have an obligation to do support for people who have been imprisoned for their involvement and dedication to creating positive change in this fucked up world. Why should anyone risk their freedom if we are not going to support our prisoners who get punished by the state for taking actions that need to be taken?
People often tell me they would like to write to prisoners but that they don’t know what to say and are afraid of making mistakes. The reality is it is super simple, so in hopes of stopping any more excuses and persuading you to pick up the pen I figured I would outline the very few things you will want to avoid if writing to an inmate.
# 1 – Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep
Everyone hates waiting for a friend that doesn’t show up to meet you, or being stood up by that cute boy who promised he would call after last night. Well for people locked up behind bars, it is far worse because you may be the only contact they have to the outside world; so if you don’t follow through they become even more isolated. You may have great intentions when you write someone, so promising to write them every week or send them every book by Ursula K Le Guin seems like a sweet thing to do, but when you don’t come through you are not only failing a friend, you are also reinforcing those prison bars and the isolation they are designed to create. You would be far better off to just not promise them anything in the first place. That way when you send them a letter, it is like a lovely surprise that will brighten their day, rather than waiting for something that is never coming. Those Ursula Le Guin books then becomes Gifts, rather than making them feel Dispossessed. The short of it is, only make promises to prisoner IF you know for sure you can live up to them, and if you promise something you must follow through.
# 2 –Don’t Complain – Stay Posi
The point of writing someone inside is to help them feel connected, to help them escape; if not literally them metaphorically (If you try to hide a file in your letter it will get confiscated and the prisoner will get in shit for it). Remember why you are writing. We all have shitty days, and often want someone to wine about it to who will listen, but no matter how long you had to stand in line at the bank or be put on hold by your cell phone company – it will never compare to how much time a prisoner spends waiting in lines. Send your complaints to the editor, not the prisoner. A prisoner doesn’t want to hear about your shitty day and petty drama that they can’t effect; they would likely much rather hear about the awesome dog you played with, the rally you went to, the great book you just read, or the cute baby who beat your ass at chess yesterday. Hell, if you can’t think of anything to write, draw them a picture or cut out some photos of wildlife or cute kitties from a magazine. Some folks also love crosswords or sudokus.
# 3 – Don’t Say Stupid Shit
Maybe that sounds too obvious, but let me explain. Every letter you write to a prisoner is going to likely be read, and especially if you are using email through prisoner correspondence sites like Corrlinks which are recorded and copies are kept. So if you decide to tell Ted Kazcinski you think he is a hottie so your going to make bombs to send to people he doesn’t like, not only will you likely get raided by the FBI, but he will also end up in the hole. Yup, prisons read your letters for a reason, and if you say anything about illegal shit you are involved in or people you know are involved in, the prisoner will get punished for it and it could even be used against them in later court dates. I know this might sound like common sense and thus not need to be stated, but lets be honest here – common sense is anything but common.
# 4 Don’t Be a Creepy
I remember when my friend Kelly went to jail for G20 bullshit, she started getting these letters from some fucking creep hitting on her and telling her she was hot (from the photos the media was using of her from the riot). THIS IS NOT OK. It is not OK to be a creep, whether it is hitting on the cashier at the grocery store who is paid to smile and be pleasant, the waitress at the caffe who needs her paycheck and tips, or in this case, a prisoner. These folks are literally a captive audience unable to smack the fuck out of creeps who deserve it do to their situation. So even if you do think old Uncle Ted is the bomb, keep it to yourself. Sending a letter with uninvited sexual content is like sending them an emotional letter bomb.
If you are truly intent on having that type of correspondence with a prisoner to fulfill some sexual kink that turns you on, OK; there are actually websites for prisoners looking for a flirty pen pal or relationship. In the end it is about consent; if they want that type of contact, let them seek it out. Don’t harass prisoners who are not asking for you to objectify them while they are locked up.
# 5 – Have No Expectations
I started writing to prisoners a few years back now, and I have been lucky to get a few really good pen pals out of it, and to form real friendships that I believe will outlast their prison sentences. I have had prisoners send me artwork, poetry they wrote, books they wrote while inside and of course many letters. However I have also written many letters to which I have never seen a reply – and that is totally OK. The reality is that prisoners have far less access to resources than we do. Even if you are poor as fuck like me, and run out of money every month, or work some minimum wage shit job, you will have far more money than most prisoners. In the colonial nation state that calls itself “Canada”, an average prisoner makes around $2-$3 a day… Yes, you read that right, per day, not per hour. Unlike prisoners south of that imaginary colonial line, all stationary, toiletries, and personal care items must be purchased using what the prison labels “earned income.” What this means is that for a prisoner to write you a letter they must use their prison wages to buy the paper, pen, envelope, and stamp; at whatever price the prison canteen sets for these items since there is not competing businesses inside a prison. On top of that, time might seem like something a prisoner would seem to have an endless supply of, but really from people I have known who served ‘time’, it doesn’t seem to feel that way when you are on the inside. So what I am saying here is when you write a letter to a prisoner, have no expectations. Teat it like you are sending your words on the wings of angels, and if you do get a reply, remember how much that person had to give up in order to return your correspondence. Often many of us tend to take our relationships for granted, you simply can not do that with someone who is a captive of the state.
Beyond that remember the basics, your letter will need to have a return address (I often write my return address on each page in case the prison decides to fuck with them by “loosing” a page, It is also a good practice to number your pages for this reason), as well as the prisoners legal name (and number in the US) needs to be on the letter. Don’t put stickers, stamps, perfume, glue or glitter, on the pages or the prison may confiscate the letter or deny it. A less obvious one is that most prisons do not allow you to send blank paper, art supplies, or extra envelopes or stamps – demanding instead that the prisoner purchases those from the prison itself.
With the rise in popularity of the ideas of urban gardening, deep ecology, and permaculture amongst activists, anarchists, and subcultures such as punk often questions of ethics seem to have become simplified to the equation of SUSTAINABLE = GOOD. Yet often all kinds of cruelty can be hidden behind the veneer of that buzzword sustainable.
The unfortunate reality is that simple fixes rarely offer much beyond false hope and easy ways out. Perhaps they help people to ease their personal guilt by assuming they are not part of the problem (everyone else is), but is this any more than a self serving delusion?
I grew up on a small family run farm in Alberta, 10 miles north of a town you have likely never heard of, with a population under 700. My mother grew up on that same farm with her two brothers. Her dad and his family lived there for many years, they had immigrated up from Nebraska where the family had farmed for a few generations since their original migration from Scotland, where again they had been farmers. It would be fair to say that farming is in my blood, so to speak (or perhaps I have just been reading too many Vampire The Masquerade books as of late?) Either way, I feel at least semi-competent to write about some of the ‘sustainable’ realities of small scale farming, drawing on my personal experiences.
I have many memories from growing up on the farm, from playing in the garden and eating carrots straight out of the ground with the dirt still on them, to collecting eggs from the chicken house, or chasing the turkeys for fun, being chased by the turkeys (which wasn’t so fun), or moving cattle from one pasture to another by horse back. There were some great memories too; picking saskatoon berries, wild raspberries that grew in the coolie, or building forts and campfires in the bush by the ravine. However, there were also just as many memories that were not so wonderful to look back on. Branding cattle with a hot iron as they screamed, or castrating steers — many city folks don’t realize you do not eat cows, and you do not eat bulls, you eat a male who had it’s nuts cut off so the flesh will taste better. All of which could be argued as sustainable.
Now I recognize that not all this is relevant to the popular trends I see amongst self styled alternative people over here on the west coast, as most of the folk punks are more into having pet goats and living on boats rather than farming beef or dairy cattle for auction. So I will try to keep more focused on the aspects of small scale farming that would be more of interest to the DIY crowd with their fantasies of farming and sustainable farming.
One of the more popular trends amongst the urban radicals is having back yard chickens, to collect and eat their eggs. Where I live, in the Cascadian bioregion, it has become almost as cliché to have 6-10 birds pecking around your back yard of your community house as it has to wear Carhardts, have a large dog, and all black clothing, or to play banjo. Unfortunately, I also live in an area where one thing that is not popular is sticking around. The radical community here tends to be quite transient in nature, with lots of college kids, traveler punks, and others folks who often didn’t come from here and even more often don’t have much intention of putting down roots. This is a common frustration to those who are part of long term projects propelled by volunteers, but none the less, it has its pros and cons. However for the chickens pecking the dirt and laying those golden eggs, it is a much bigger problem. An average chicken may live up to 8 years, which is far longer than the school term, or even a bachelors degree. A quick peruse of Craigslist at the right times of year will give you a good indication of just how expendable these animals are to many of the people who are excited in September (at the beginning of the school term) to build a chicken coop for their back yard. But even for those who don’t intend to go traveling or tree planting soon as the summer hits, few want to care for a chicken until it dies naturally of old age. You see, chickens only lay a lot of eggs when they are still fairly young, as they get older they will produce less and less. For many of the urban agriculture enthusiasts, a chicken that doesn’t lay eggs is just work with no pay off.
But the plight of the urban chicken doesn’t end there — or more accurately; it doesn’t begin there. You see, chickens don’t just appear, and they are not brought by the stork to deserving families, they come from somewhere – or in other words, someone breeds them. Few of the breeds of chickens people farm have any resemblance to wild breeds, and wild chickens are pretty rare these days due to our destruction of wildlife habitat for cities and farm land; never mind that there was chickens, like Europeans, are an invasive species to this part of the world. So most of the domesticated birds come from a hatchery; either directly – or indirectly.
I remember how exciting it was for me as a kid to order chicks. We would get a catalog in the mail, with pictures of the full grown birds, and you would select them by recording the order number of which breeds you wanted to buy. A few weeks later, you would get a large cardboard box in the mail which would be chirping. Upon opening it, you would see it packed full of fluffy yellow chicks, divided and layered with cardboard dividers so they could fit more into each box. Every so often a couple would die while in the mail, so you would get a few dead ones in every box.Kinda like two scoops of raisins, right?
An important thing to note is, that they also were separated not just by breed, but also gender. See chicks are born about half females and half males, but most people don’t want to order males. Roosters don’t lay eggs for one, and for two, if you have more than one (or maybe two) roosters, they will kill each other. So the chicks are bred, the females are sold through mail order and the males are killed. Yup, right into the wood chipper. When people get back yard chickens, they often order from a breeder or hatchery. I know some get “second hand” or even call them “rescues”, but where do you think those birds came from before you got them? Buying chickens is putting money into the industry that breeds them for profit. This is the industry of commercial chicken breeders, and they are often the same places that supply big farms, as well as small farms and your average urban gardener with their new found interest in permaculture. And I didn’t even talk about the forced insemination.
The study of words can reveal a lot. If you look at the etymology of the word Garden, we discover it is related to the German word for guard, and to words for walled, or closed lot. It doesn’t take a lot of thought to begin to see the relationship between these terms. As anthropologist Layla AbdelRahim explained in Wild Children – Domesticated Dreams, domestication requires the domesticator to control access to food and land. When you begin to garden a space, you must control what other species have access to that land or you will likely not have much of a crop to harvest. Whether we are talking about other non-human animals that might desire and easy lunch, or even competing plant species, insects, or other humans – gardening requires us to control what species are able to access the space. On an even more basic level, gardening usually begins with removing undesired plant species to prepare the land so we can plant seeds of the species we desire.
It has always amazed me how uncritically many Green Anarchists, Vegans, and Primitivists seem to embrace and support permaculture. Yet permaculture is in its essence another system of domestication rooted in anthropocentric desires. In other words, permaculture might be presented by its proponents as being sustainable (and therefore ethical) and based in local ecology, but in fact it is once again about human wants and needs. As well revered permaculturist Erik Ohlson explained in his interview in the book Tangled Roots: Dialogues Exploring Ecological Justice, Healing, and Decolonization, “Permaculture, which could be permanent—agriculture or permanentcultureis about designing human culture that is beneficial to both the land and to human at the same time.” That might sound great on the surface, but look at it a bit more closely and it follows all the same old patterns; humans are in control, Erik posits us as the managers and designers, and in the end it is about human needs first and foremost. Animals are not even acknowledged in this relationship, even though you would be hard pressed to find a permaculturist who doesn’t argue that domesticated animals are needed in order to maintain a healthy closed circuit. The implicit goal of permaculture is to make this human domination of wildlife spaces, plants and animals – sustainable and thus permanent.
I am fully aware that not every radical out there agrees with the anarcho-primitivist critiques of domestication, which sees domestication as not only the control of the wild, but also as the root of many other systems of domination such as patriarchy. It took me a long time myself to come to a place where I was open to those conclusions and the difficult questions they lead to. However there are many lenses to view the question of ‘sustainable farming’ through. From an animal liberation lens, another set of problems presents itself in that permaculture like other forms of gardening for human consumption involves turning wildlife habitat into farm lands that are exclusionary to certain wildlife, and even further permaculture also uses domesticated animals.
This is where it really becomes a problem for me, as it perpetuates the use and domestication of non-human animals for human benefit. But due to the SUSTAINABLE=GOOD formula, we choose to not see its implications for animals: both wildlife and domesticated. Often when I have presented these arguments to proponents of permaculture design, the response I get is akin to the lesser of two evils. The same argument often used to justify voting for shitty, racist, business friendly politicians.
I am by no means arguing that permaculture is worse for the land than monocropping, factory farming, or industrial agriculture, rather I am arguing that it is not the be all end all simple fix that many seem to desire it to be. Permaculture still means wildlife habitat is destroyed and used for human benefit that does not allow wild species full access and use of the spaces. Permaculture still involves captive breeding and continued domestication of animals for human consumption, whether it be chickens to scratch and turn the soil, or goats, pigs, or other species. Many of those animals will be from commercial breeders, and the care of those animals will continue to support industries that profit off of animal agriculture. Many of those animals will also still be killed in the end either so humans can consume their flesh and bodies, or because they have quit producing at the rates desired by the domesticators. Most of those animals will also be of breeds that simply did not exist in the wild, did not exist until humans interfered with their reproductive strategies to cause them to develop traits deemed more desirable. Did you know that wild pigs were never pink skinned, that sheep didn’t produce a harvestable amount of wool for hundreds of years after domestication, or that cattle bred for meat are different breeds than the cattle bred for dairy production? Wild cattle don’t produce as much milk, the animals we farm today are the product of thousands of years of selective breeding.
It is indisputable that modern industrial agriculture is anything but sustainable as it depletes the infrastructure of the landbase for higher temporary crop yields. Such a system by definition is incapable to sustaining itself indefinitely and would eventually lead to a collapse as once fertile croplands become less and less able to produce, due to nutrients in the soil being depleted. Technological fixes such as fertilizers may increase yields in the short run, but only work to deplete the health of the land in the long term. Permaculture on the other hand aims to be sustainable, which may be its most insidious trait. It seeks to make permanent the ability of humans to dominate the wild, and thus maintain industrial civilization. Advocates often argue that permaculture can allow us to use less land in order to grow crops to feed our populace (which is a population of not just humans, but also of the animals we domesticate for our use). However, promises of abundance aside, we live in a society of exponential growth. Capitalism is an economic system that requires such growth, both in profits and in populace which will consume the products of the capitalists. Permaculture does nothing to challenge or disrupt this growth, and in fact may allow it to continue far beyond the limits of industrial agriculture in its current form.
Capitalism kills animals. Industrialism kills animals. Civilization as we know it is based on the domestication of animals and destruction of the wild. I have no doubt that permaculture may live up to its promise of sustainability, I would even go further and suggest that many older practices of agriculture (such as crop rotation and choosing crops based on soil conditions) can also allow long term sustainability, yet like permaculture these techniques do nothing to challenge the relationship of human dominance, capitalism, growth, or cruelty to animals. The system always seeks to recuperate easy reforms in order to maintain itself. If we do not actively work to disrupt these power relations and include questions of ethics, sustainability will just become another way of hiding our violence and rationalizing our domination of other species.
At the very root of agriculture is the domination of other living beings by humans. At the very core of ethics is the question of domination and hierarchy. For me, any system that perpetuates these historical patterns is a system based on violence. I am always reminding myself that agriculture is a relatively new invention in the timeline of human existence. The world I would like to work towards in one that encourages and fosters the growth of wild species and habitats, not the subjugation of them.
I don’t know what the solution to all of this is, but I do know that if we hope for total liberation it can not perpetuate the oppression of others.
For those of interested in finding alternatives to these oppressive systems we need to consider more than simple solutions. Directness of our relationship to our food, and sustainability of our practices is only one part of the question we need to be asking. Another key question is, what is the outcome for non-human animals and for other species? Do the ‘alternatives’ we are promoting make any difference to the chicken in the cage? How about to the Wolf? the Trout? The Orca? Or Mycelium? Are they better off because of our actions? Or does our liberation continue to come at their expense? How can we begin to foster relationships that benefit wildlife? And how can we imagine our relationships to other species in ways that have the potential to be liberating and symbiotic?
There is a story we never hear. It is the story of the wealthy developer who procures a piece of land to build on, and then upon finding out the land is sacred to local Indigenous people and has heritage sites on it, chooses to not build go ahead with construction. Instead the developer chooses one of many other paths open to them, they try to find other ways to get money back out of their investment or perhaps they go after the previous land owner for not disclosing this information previous to sale. Or maybe they even try to find ways to return at least a portion of that land to the Indigenous.
Yesterday I sat in on the Grace Islet injunction hearing; where an injunction was being sought by a wealthy land owner named Barry Slawsky against protesters – specifically Indigenous people – from being allowed near the site where he is constructing his dream home on top of a native burial ground.
I find that nearly every time discussion comes up about this conflict; someone (generally a white person) will inevitably make a joke that the developer clearly has never read a Steven King novel or watched a horror movie. For the most part I find the joke seems rather tasteless and insulting given that it is easy to joke about for people with nothing at stake, but if it was their own families graves they wouldn’t likely be making bad jokes about it. Yet there is a reason why these classic stories have become such a genre cliché; and the reason is simply because there is such a long history of rich people metaphorically shitting on the sacred sites of Indigenous people. If developers didn’t so routinely say “fuck the Indians,” King and others wouldn’t have made a career out of stories involving people getting terrorized by ghosts for doing precisely that. Perhaps those books should be through of more as wishful thinking…? Or perhaps it’s time to write a new story?
Yet todays court proceedings had more parallels to fiction and TV dramas. The lawyer for Barry Slawsky lived up to every negative stereotype of a lawyer in court today. He came off as utterly despicable, slimy, and dishonest. He was such a caricature he seemed almost like a real life version of the blue haired lawyer often seen representing Mr Burns on The Simpson’s.
His tone was repeatedly condescending, his arguments were colonial and racist, and on a number of occasions he was accused of presenting his speculations as accepted facts. He began by trying to undermine any claims to Aboriginal Title or Treaty Rights and asserting it was simply a case of private property rights and trespass. He was also caught for misrepresenting his own evidence at least once, and on another occasion for trying to cite as evidence a media article quoting unnamed people who were claiming the Cheif’s said something, as proof. In the end he even tried to accuse the judge of bias because the judge lives on Salt Spring Island, where the protests have been taking place. At another point, he claimed that the entire defense was a red herring because if they were trying to stop damage to the burial site – and damage meant work being done – it was a mute point cause the work had already been started. but the one that really got me was when he tried to claim the injunction was necessary for the protection and safety of the protesters who might get hurt…. Yet he was also exceptionally dull to listen to, to the point that I saw two people sitting near me fall asleep. The defense council were far better orators and had a strong case that more time was needed as they presented numerous thick affidavits that had just been filed or were still coming in.
In the end, the judge ruled in favor of adjournment; that the defendants (which included 2 First Nation Cheif’s amongst others) would have 4 weeks to prepare arguments before the injunction hearing moves forward. Many people including myself will be watching to see what comes of this. I am by no means an expert of any sort in the matters of law, nor in the traditions and practices of any of the local indigenous peoples, I presume from my limited knowledge of other supreme court cases that this will be a long and drawn out process, and todays court hearing will be one of many. I also would presume this won’t be the last of the protests, which I hope will continue until work is permanently stopped. It is an interesting time though, with recent court rulings that acknowledge the land as being stolen and sovereignty never having been extinguished which may influence the outcome of this case. While I remain cynical that a court system of a state built on stolen native lands and a history of genocide and ongoing colonization will suddenly rule in favor of Indigenous lands rather than capitalist development; It is only my hope that we as a society can choose to write a different story than the cliché ones we have been enacting for so long.
These are just my observations as an interested and concerned outsider. If you want to learn more about this conflict, the court case, the lands it is taking place on or the history, I highly suggest checking out the Grace Islet facebook page where the people organizing to stop this shit have been posting updates. I am sure that they will be needing support, which can come in many ways
Cooking a good Vegan meal is really fucking easy, yet often people seem completely confused as to what to do to make a Vegan meal. When you are new to anything it can be baffling, even though once you know your way around it will seem so stupidly simple. So here is some simple advice that I hope will help you out so that you don’t have to feel stupid, whether you are a new Vegan, or if you have friends or family who are Vegan and you want to have them over for dinner. Or perhaps that cute boy who you want to impress with the Animal Liberation Front back patch
Start Simple – Most Vegan meals follow this basic format: Choose 4 or 5 vegetables, chop/prep them, boil, fry or bake them, add spices or sauce. There is really nothing difficult about that. Often simpler is better.
You Don’t Need Processed Specialty Items – Stores are full of all kinds of over packaged and over priced “Veggie” items such as fake meats, cheeses, and dairy alternatives. The simple reality is that most Vegans don’t eat that much of this stuff, and if they do it is only now and then. You don’t need it. Stick to vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and legumes and you will be better off than with some heavily processed fake meat wrapped in plastic.
Be Open To New Foods – Often when someone is considering going Vegan people will think that it means you are cutting stuff out of your diet and being restrictive, yet in reality the opposite is what normally occurs. There are tons of foods you may have never heard of that are totally worth trying, such as Chia Seeds, Nutritional Yeast, Quinoa, Hemp Hearts, etc. Experiment with them, be open. There is nothing weird about these foods, most have been eaten by people around the world for thousands of years before the word Vegan was even coined. They are only new to a boring western diet.
Use A Recipe or Ask A Vegan – Especially when baking, it is good to use a vegan recipe at first rather than trying to modify a non-vegan recipe. That’s because baking is all about formulas; mix your dry ingredients, add your fats & sugars, then mix in liquids. But if you don’t understand what certain ingredients do on a chemical level, you may find the baking doesn’t come out quite how you were expecting. For example, in a omnivorous diet recipe, eggs work as a binder. You can easily replace the eggs with other binding ingredients, such as bananas, apple sauce, or boiled flax seeds; however, you may find your baking seems dry or doughy. This is because eggs don’t just bind the ingredients together, they also cause a chemical reaction with other ingredients such as baking powder. If you don’t use eggs, the baking powder won’t respond like normal and your cake might seem heavy. Most vegan recipes compensate for this by adding other ingredients that replicate the reaction that animal proteins usually create – such as adding an acid like vinegar or lemon juice which will cause the baking powder to react as it would with milk or eggs. My recomendation is to either use an already Vegan recipe if you are just starting out, or ask a Vegan for advice. Guess what, most Vegans know how to cook Vegan food.
You Already Know How to Cook Vegan, You Just Didn’t Realize It Till Now – Thats’ right, and here’s why. Pretty much everyone on the face of this earth already eats Vegan foods every single day; they just don’t think of them as “Vegan Food.” Think about it; ever ate falafle? Pakoras? Dahl? Hummus? How about beans and rice? A fruit salad? A Veggie wrap? Bean salad? Corn on the cob? Or pasta with tomato sauce? A pear? Bananas? Grapefruit? Guess what, all these foods are typically Vegan (unless you are doing something really fucking weird with that grapefruit). You don’t need to do anything fancy, stick to what you know. Mashed potatos can be done vegan super simple too, just use olive oil instead of butter. Or the most basic of all deserts, an apple crumble. You can make home made granola or oatmeal Vegan super easilly, all fruit smoothies, etc. This is so easy I am going to stop talking right now.
I know that people have a hate on for soy and tofu, but I honestly think Soy gets an unfairly bad rap.
In part I think it is because soy is often associated as “the vegan food” even though tons of vegans don’t eat soy, and tons of non vegans around the world regularity eat soy. None the less, people who are anti-vegan, including industry – often will attack things they deem as “vegan things.” Another example of that is articles like Can Vegans Stomach The Unpalatable Truth About Quinoa? Which was an odd article since quinoa is eaten by people around the world and vegans only make up a small percentage of those people. Never mind that most the arguments could apply to nearly any industrial crop.
Now I am not saying Soy has no problems, any industrially produced monocropped cash crop definitely does. What I am saying is that soy gets a disproportionate amount of criticism compared to other crops. Here’s the thing, most of the time when people hear you eat soy and reply with a statement like “oh you better watch out, soy isn”t healthy because…” they end up pointing out something that is common in other foods as well – foods which they eat and never think twice of. For example, Soy is known to contain Phytoestrogens… You know what else contains Phytoestrogens? Try: nuts, seeds, oils, breads, oats, grains, legumes and even animal flesh. Flax seed is actually the food highest in Phytoestrogens, and I think any nutritionist or dietitian out there would tell you the health benefits of eating flax far out way any potential disadvantages. In fact, I saw a certified dietitian speak last year who has been vegan for 30 years, and she was asked about soy, she wasn’t too concerned about it. Flax, like soy is also high in tons of important nutrients like EFA’s.
A second weird criticism is this idea that most soy is GMO. Aside from the fact this simply isn’t true – at least not where I live – it also isn’t exactly unique even if it was true. People do this thing where they cherry pick the science they will cite based on what agrees with the things they already want to believe, and I think this is what is happening here as well. I see it all the time, where people will be concerned with GMO’s in some foods, then gorge on junk food or other processed foods that are completely GMO. In the case of soy, read the package. It isn’t that difficult. Where I live most soy sold in stores is labelled GMO free and Organic; and most the soy that isn’t labelled as both is labelled as either GMO free or Organic. And for the record I don’t shop at some fancy yuppy store either.
The other direction that anti-soy rhetoric often comes from is an ecological one, in which the arguments are just as equally flawed. one common one is that soy is causing the rainforest to be cut down to grow soy crops for vegans. This simply isn’t true, the parts of the rainforest being cleared to grow soy are not for human consumption but rather to feed beef and dairy animals. Most the soy we consume here is grown in places like California. Now again I am not saying that makes it ok or there is no issues with it, but rather saying that the problems are not unique to soy. Pretty much every crop we buy from industrial farming is grown with the same problems and then shipped thousands of miles. None of these problems are unique to soy. As much as people might want someone to blame, vegans are not at fault – industry and agriculture are.
Back to the health thing, there is 2 other aspects of the arguments against soy that I find absolutely silly. One is that most the people I have met who ever try and say how unhealthy soy might be, have never actually read any of the studies about it. They are simply repeating what they have heard some where.
The second, well let me tell a short story. When I first moved to Victoria, and got involved with Food Not Bombs, I would meet these people who would tell me things like that I shouldn’t put pepper in my food cause it can be hard on the colon, Then I would see these same people go out to all night dance parties where they would consume MDMA all night, and not sleep for days. I have seen this patterns often, of people who don’t seem to live healthy lifestyles or care much about health who take it upon themselves to lecture me or others about how soy, or pepper is unhealthy. The reality is this, there are more more unhealthy things most of us do than eat soy. In fact, there are far more unhealthy things most people eat than tofu.
Aside from that, I fucking love fried tofu! I can eat an entire pack, 14 ounces, as a snack – 14 ounces is 65g of protein! You can hate soy as much as you like, but I am gonna fry some more up with Cajun spice and sesame seeds! Your loss.
On July 4, 2 activists from Vancouver Animal Defense League locked themselves down to the inner railing of the chuckwaggon race track at the Calgary Stampede. Marley Daviduk and Samantha Baskerville used bike U-locks around their neck, in this inspiring act of civil disobedience. PE took the opportunity to ask them more about what they did, why they did it, and what they hope to achieve.
This interview with Marley and Sam was conducted by Comrade Black
PE: Why are you targeting the Calgary Stampede? It seems far away from home for a Vancouver based group?
Sam: I lived in Calgary for about 7 years and have always thought poorly of the Calgary Stampede. When this opportunity was presented to me, I couldn’t say no.
IMarley: I’ve been a horse person my whole life and my love of horses is what brought me to veganism and activism. Ever since I was young, the Calgary Stampede, specifically the Chuckwagon races, has been on my list of issues that needed to be dealt with. It came to a point where I felt that the Chuckwagon races were vulnerable and lacking public support. I hoped that an action like this would give us the opportunity to bring national media attention to the event and, for the first time, to their sponsor GMC. The Calgary Stampede may take place in Calgary but it’s an event that puts Canada in the public eye.
Sam:Being the largest rodeo in Canada, we knew that this action would raise international awareness and really enlighten people on the deaths and risk of injury during the Chuckwagon races.
PE: Was this action pre-planned, or improvised based on opportunity?
Marley: We started planning this event more than two years ago. This event was actually supposed to take place last year until Calgary was hit with a devastating flood, and much of the downtown core was under water including most of the Stampede grounds. The Stampede adopted the slogan ‘Come hell or high water’ and the show went on. We decided it would have been an inappropriate time to address this issue, the media was rightfully wrapped up in covering the devastation of the flood. There was a MASSIVE amount of planning and preparation involved with coordinating a crew of more than 18 people in 3 locations. In the last two years we have had dozens of strategy meetings, training sessions and fundraising events. Sam and I had locked down to just about every basketball hoop, cat scratching post and fence post in East Van to train for this. We had to be able to get on the track, lock down and dispose of the key in less than 30 seconds, in full view of a crowd of 20,000 people. It would have been reckless to attempt this without serious preparation efforts.
PE: How did you get onto the chuck wagon track without being noticed or stopped?
Marley: All it took was a plaid shirt. Just joking. We paid for tickets to get into the venue and both Sam and I had our bags searched. Our bike locks were in our bags and we had prepared for the search by filling our bags full of tampons and pads knowing most people wouldn’t dig through them. The security guard took one look inside our bags, and basically recoiled in horror and pushed us through. Once we were in the grandstands, all we had to do was hop over one small barrier and we were on the track.
Sam:It was pretty easy. We just ran from the beer garden down the inner track and locked down. It took several minutes before security reached us.
PE: You have a lot of firsthand experience with horses, yet I have read some people are trying to dismiss you by claiming you don’t know what you are talking about…
Marley: It seems like the most common response from Stampede officials in response to opposition is that ‘these dang city folk simply do not understand the ways of the horse’. I understand horses as much as any of them, but it doesn’t take an expert to acknowledge the risk of injury and death associated with the Chuckwagon races. This years death makes it the 10th year in a row horses have died during the event. Denny was a 12 year old thoroughbred, he died of an aortic aneurism near his kidneys, resulting in massive internal bleeding.
Sam: My experience is minimal in comparison to Marley’s but I did have a horse while growing up and took lessons as a child. Regardless, when one or more horses are dying every year from an event that only lasts ten days, you know that something is wrong and change is needed.
PE: Did you have any expectations of the outcome? Were you hoping this would shut down the race?
Marley: We were hoping that our actions would get national media attention and we knew that would happen even if we got tackled before we had a chance to lockdown. It would have been great to have prevented the races from happening that night, but due to unforeseen complications we had to lock down earlier than expected which gave them more time to locate a grinder to get us out.
PE: In the video, the officials with the stampede covered you with a black tarp. What’s the significance of the black tarp?
Marley: They covered us with the black tarp, which is the same black tarp they use when a horse goes down on the track. They use it so the crowd cannot see what’s happening.
Sam: I felt like we were that tragic mess that they were trying to hide from the public. Just like they do with the horses.
PE: Are you facing charges now? What are the repercussions?
Marley: We are facing mischief charges, our court date is on Aug 20th. We are banned for 99 years from the Stampede and we cannot approach within 3 blocks of the grounds.
PE: How can people help?
Sam: We need to keep this momentum going by sharing information, helping the Calgary activists, and by voicing their opinion to GMC to ask them to end their sponsorship of the Chuckwagon races.
Marley: People can help by contacting GMC the sponsor of this event, asking them to pull their sponsorship. @GMCcanada 1-800-263-3777 They can support our legal defense and the cost of this action by donating here. The cost of moving a crew of 10 people more than a 1000km’s to Calgary was pretty expensive and we were not able to find a lawyer in Calgary who was willing to do pro-bono work for us.
PE: What other campaigns are VADL engaged in? Have you had much success?
Marley: For the last 1.5 years we have been targeting Canada Goose retailers with protest campaigns (Canada Goose jackets with wild trapped coyote fur). Our efforts have resulted in 2 (out of 14 Vancouver retailers) dropping the brand and adopting a fur free policy. For a more detailed list of our campaign history please visit www.vancouveranimaldefenseleague.com
PE: Some people feel the tactics employed by VADL are controversial and too confrontational; why do you choose these tactics? Are they proving effective?
Sam: Protesting outside the venue was no longer bringing the attention that we need (although I still appreciate their efforts and encourage them to continue) so we had to amp it up a bit. And look, people are talking and the support has been overwhelming.
Marley: Sometimes I think we get more criticism for our tactics from vegans in the movement than from the opposition we target, especially when it comes to those who are involved with large multi-national organizations. We choose these tactics (pressure campaigns) because they work, and they provide achievable goals; which keeps people involved and motivated. Civil disobedience, like a lockdown, is not something we see very often within the Canadian animal rights movement, and yet actions like this have been such a massive part of AR history. We hoped to inspire activists across Canada and show them that there really is a diversity of tactics available that go well beyond vegan outreach and we hope to see more actions like this happening within our movement.
PE: Where can people get updates on your actions? Is there a way people can get involved with this campaign or VADL in general?
PE: Is there anything else you want people to know about the stampede?
Marley: We want other activists to know that we chose the Chuckwagon races because we felt there was a tactical advantage to isolating this race, not because we are at all okay with any other rodeo events.
Sam: While Marley and I cannot participate in direct protests against the stampede, I strongly encourage Calgary activists to continue the fight. The rodeo consists of events that cause extreme stress to the animals involved and continuous action is needed to bring the abuse to light so that more people will raise their voice against the Calgary Stampede.
PE: Any last advice for other activists?
Marley: My advice to other activists would be to pick a tactic/tactics that you are comfortable with and work at them without condemning the actions of others. I see so much public criticism of campaigns and tactics, specifically coming from people with little or no knowledge of historical campaigns and what has worked in the past. All I can ask of people is to embrace a diversity of tactics, please challenge yourselves, and finally lets learn about the history of our own movement.
Sam: don’t be afraid to push the limits a little bit, as long as it’s done safely and you are prepared to face the consequences responsibly.
More and more people have begun to reject Christianity, Islam, and other monotheistic religions, and are instead turning towards what are seen as older, earth based forms of spirituality.
Meanwhile we live in a society where 90% of the old growth forests have been cut, as the world around us becomes increasingly synthetic, polluted, and urbanized. In response there has been a growing interest in European polytheistic religions as alternative to the hierarchies of the church with it’s gnostic abstracted concepts.
However these polytheistic religions are often just as problematic as what is being rejected. There has been a lot of revisionism, presenting many of these patriarchal religions where male war gods dominate as though they are anything but – where godesses are now talked about as though the original practitioners were matriarchal and the males gods were just minor characters. Ignored also is the inherent heterosexism of these religions where often female goddesses are all based around fertility.
Yet the bigger problem lies deeper. In a blog post I just read about Asatru (Odin worship) the blogger pointed out that these “old” religions developed through “the Iron Age up through the Viking era – that is, a few centuries BCE up through about 800-1200 CE. ” (I acknowledge the problems in using these anthropological stages as markers of ‘progression’). This is preciously my point. The old polytheistic religions of Europe were still religions that developed during a period of violent conquest, early colonization, war, and long after the rise of agriculture where people had moved into dominating the land and living a sedentary lifestyle rather than nomadic or semi-nomadic ways based on relationship and ecology. To then call these polytheist religions ‘nature based’ is like calling Christianity in it’s current context ‘community value based.’
The reality is that before there was polytheistic religions that worshiped symbolic gods of the harvest, war, fertility, or death, there was an older non-theistic religion based in place. If you want to worship nature, you don’t need a sunwheel, pentacle, or a godess to do so – go out and climb a fucking tree, sit in it’s branches, learn ecology, listen to the wind rustling the leaves through the branches, watch the squirrels, strip naked and swim in the river as the sun sets. Then do whatever it takes to stop those fuckers who wanna cut that tree cause all they see is dollar signs. You don’t need a european god or goddes to tell you life is sacred.
I was 16, had just turned. It was my second time on the streets that year. Edmonton Alberta, living in a squat house just off Whyte avenue, 107 st. Now a Condo sits where the abandoned house we called home use to sit.
There was about 7 of us living in one room, the youngest was a kid named Small Fry who was 13 and on crutches. I liked him. I had only been at the squat a few days, or maybe a week; a guy I hardly knew named Justin had shown me the way there a few nights before and I stayed. I crashed hard that night, sleeping through everything that was to happen
Devon wasn’t a very popular guy, in part cause he was one of those guys who can be hard to like. In part cause he was openly bisexual in a very homophobic place. A case of wrong time, wrong tastes. I liked him though, as he was nice to me. About an hour or so after I fell asleep, Devon came ‘home’ quite drunk and ready to pass out. There was a young girl visiting us, I can’t recall her name, but she had a home yet would come to the squat to hang out with the street kids. Everyone liked her. She was drinking with the others when Devon came in. She was using the pallets he slept on as a chair. This is what lead to the argument. I slept through it all, so all I know was from what i was told after I woke up.
When I woke up, people were practically celebrating, partying and bragging about how fun it was to kick the shit out of Devon. They told me “you missed all the excitement!” Glad I did. I was told that Devon had pushed the girl to get her off his bed after she refused to move, and so Justin attacked him, and everyone else jumped in to help in the assault; everyone that is except me and Small Fry of course. They bragged about how he had “turtled like a coward”, and drank in celebration of their assault. They pretended that they beat him for “pushing a girl”, but the real reason was more a mix of homophobia and a desire for violence.
I asked where he was now, and was told quite gleefully how after beating him unconscious, they had drug him outside into the alley way. They left him there then walked to the near by Mack’s store and claimed to the worker that they had found a guy beaten badly in the alley way. They left before the cops got there.
Months later I heard rumor that Devon had been in a coma for a few months, and when he woke up he had no memory of what had happened. I never saw him again, and can;t verify if it was true or not
I feared Justin, and no one dared to stand up to him after that. None the less every so often he would find an excuse to attack someone, turn on someone.A few months after the assault on Devon, Justin beat another kid into a coma for breaking a alcohol bottle in the park and refusing to pick up the glass. He justified it by saying that people bring their dogs there and the dogs could step on the glass.
He left the squat, luckily, and I lived there until police busted it some months later when the parents of a girl named Sarah who had been kicked out decided to claim she had run away because she wouldn’t stay in the shelter where her parents had left her. So they came to find her, apparently knowing for months that we were squatting there. A while after that I was in a car accident, along with that girl, and had to return ‘home’ to Kitscoty do to my injuries. Her parents refused to take her back and told her on the phone from the hospital “It’s just like you to get yourself in trouble.” So she moved in with me and my mom and after she healed enough she went to school with me in the town I had tried so hard to run away from. The town where I had been bullied nearly to suicide.
A year later I heard Justin was convicted of attempted murder after pulling a knife and trying to stab a Sikh guy in Gazebo park.
I was 16 then. I am 33 now.
just over half my life ago.
This is how I remember it. There is not a single person from that scene I have talked to in over a decade. But I remember most of that year like it was just weeks ago.
Today has been a big day for those interested in or involved in Indigenous resistance and anti-colonial struggle. It is also a good reminder of how much work remains to be done.
In an interesting symbolic gesture, the city council of Vancouver voted to formally acknowledge that the land which the city is built on is stolen Indigenous lands that remain unceded. This means that no settlement or land treaties were ever made for the territories; and that the city council is now recognizing the Indigenous people have never given up their sovereignty to the land which Vancouver now occupies. In many respects while this move is only a symbolic gesture, many consider it an important first step down the road to ending colonialism. Yet the mayor of the city went out of his way to make it clear the gesture was entirely symbolic and “wouldn’t effect land owners.” So don’t worry, the white supremacist colonial systems and the institution of property are still intact. I am also reminded that when the Occupy Movement was on the rise a few years back, that even this type of symbolic gesture was considered too much by many of the white activists who were occupying already occupied lands for their own struggles.
In what I hope is a more meaningful act, the Supreme Court of Canada – one of the most powerful bodies that make up the nation state -has ruled in favor of the Tsilhqot’in Nation who have been fighting for legal recognition of their Aboriginal title over their traditional lands. The Tsilhqot’in are a Indigenous nation in what is now called Norther BC in the colonial tongue. For those unfamiliar with the history of BC, colonial settlement began here in the early to mid 1800’s, and when the province became part of the Canadian nation state, there still remained almost no treaties between any of the Indigenous Nations and the colonists. This was a violation of both the British colonial laws for settlement, as well as the laws of the new Canadian nation state. In 1862 Small pox broke out through much of the territories desired by the settlers, radically reducing Indigenous populations to only a small fraction of their previous numbers, which allowed for the colonists to usurp the governance of those lands and settle areas which only months before had been inhabited by Indigenous villages. Many Tsilhqo’tin have always stated that the small pox was brought to them as an intentional act of genocide, and the recent work of author Tom Swanky appears to confirm their story. Today’s court ruling doesn’t go as far as acknowledging that the theft took place through an intentional act of genocide, but it does give a place to begin, and gives much greater legal clout to the Tsilhqot’in in future matters pertaining to their lands, waters, and any potential resource extraction. ‘It only took 150 years, but we look forward to a much brighter future. ” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip in one statement.
This decision also sets a legal precedent that other Indigenous Nations may be able to use in their own land claims and challenges to the state; including possible avenues for those seeking to stop pipelines, mining, fish farms, and other exploitation of the land and animals by industry.
Resistance to fracking, pipelines, and other resource extraction will only continue to grow, as will repression by the state of Indigenous land defenders and any other groups which challenge state and corporate interests in a meaningful way. We need to support those who are inprisoned for their actions to defend the land, animals, and other people. The warriors from Elispogtog, as well as other long time Indigenous prisoners such as John Graham, Oso Blanco, and Leonard Peltierneed our continuing support, as do the various other movement prisoners who have risked their lives and freedom to stop this monster.
I would like to end off by posing a few questions directed towards any non-Indigenous (settler) readers; questions I have been reflecting on myself for a few years.
For those of us who do not recognize the state as legitimate and dream of a world without nation states, capitalism and industrialism; how will we engage with the history which brought us to this place?
If we ever succeed in taking down the monster, the Leviathan, in overthrowing the state will we continue to ignore the terms of settlement negotiated in the previous treaties (where they exist) as the state has done before us?
Will we continue the colonial legacy of occupation and white supremacy that the state was birthed from?
What will the treaties signed between the Nation States and Indigenous Nations mean to the decedents of the colonists who wrote them once the Nation State no longer exists?
If we were to negotiate new terms of relationship, how would we do so while still recognizing the imbalances from which those negotiations begin?
Will Anarchists return lands stolen by our ancestors and recognize sovereignty?
Will we leave a particular territory if we are asked by those who have lived there since time and memorial? Or will we continue to act with entitlement once our common enemy has been defeated?
It’s easy to call ourselves allies, and to claim solidarity in our current context – but what happens when the context has changed and the systems mutually oppress all of us have been overthrown – yet other systems of oppression that may benefit us at anothers expense still exist? If we truly seek to be in actual solidarity instead of just claiming we are, than these are questions we need to be asking ourselves and each other. It would be easy for anarchists such as myself to simply delare that since the treaties were agreements made on our behalf without our involvement by the nation state which we have denounced and declared our enemy, and that we reject their laws as well as the very concept of law – that those treaties do not apply to us. However to do so would be to continue in path set out for us by the existing the legacy of colonialism. If we truly seek to be allies, or accomplices, than we need to figure out how to position ourselves so that our actions and contributions will lead to a future that is different from our current structures in meaningful ways. A world where we don’t dictate the conditions to Indigenous peoples, or benefit from their subjugation and their displacement. Whether we are anarchists, punks, crusties, vegans, animal liberationists, straightedgers, or whatever; we need to answer difficult questions like this in order to ever hope to see a world where our resistance will actually lead to real freedom from oppression and exploitation.
In recent weeks there have been a number of mass shootings throughout North America which is becoming increasingly normalized in modern society. John Zerzan has written and spoken extensively about the phenomenon of shootings, never shying away from the difficult subjects and questions that many others actively avoid.
PE: I remember you once saying on your radio show that when the media talks about mass shootings they use a set of buzz words and often present it as though these acts are incomprehensible. Can you explain what you meant and why this is problematic?
Zerzan: First, let me say that my focus has been on the unprecedented rise in what are commonly called “random” multiple shooting; those that, as you say, are presented as incomprehensible. Of course they are not incomprehensible and speak to the nature of modern mass society. They are deeply symptomatic of the growing isolation, a product of the disappearance of community. Society becomes rapidly more technological and – contrary to the propaganda claims of the tech agenda – people are ever more adrift and lonely. With less and less to hang on to unspeakable things happen.
PE: Often mass shootings get blamed on mental health, yet many of these killers had no history of known mental illness?
Zerzan: Yes, most of the shooters have no history of mental illness. More often one reads what has become a kind of cliche description: ‘he was the quietest guy, very nice, never missed work or made trouble, etc’
PE: A while back there was an article about kids being bored by mass shootings. Do you think they have become part of the spectacle? Or are they the cracks?
Zerzan: It’s possible that as these multiple homicide acts become almost daily occurrences events they are tuned out or even become boring. Think what else is routinely tuned among the common horrors of civilization…
PE: I saw a feminist blogger recently write that all these shootings have one thing in common, that the perpetrators are all men. What’s your take?
Zerzan: Not all the shooters are male. A horrible part of of the phenomenon in recent years has been family slaughters, including mothers murdering their children.
PE: I have heard you say that mass shootings are a phenomenon that appears to be unique to both the modern times and certain parts of the world? What is the connection between privilege and this type of violent act?
Zerzan: Roughly speaking, these rampage killings happen in the more technological societies and are spreading from the US to other technologically advanced countries. Thus one wonders how ‘advanced’ or ‘privileged’ these places really are. In terms of individuals it is less often poorer people committing theses acts, more likely white suburbanites, with some exceptions.
PE: Ever since Chris Dorner opened fire killing a couple cops, more people are beginning to target the police. As an anarchist, what do you make of this?
Zerzan: Police brutality and the militarization of the cops seems to be increasing. So, not a big surprise that more folks would strike back.
PE: Another interesting aspect of the more recent shootings, starting with Dorner – is that the killers used facebook or other social media to post statements before committing their killings. I am certain this will justify increased profiling and surveilence. What’s your thoughts on this?
Zerzan: Social media usage is of course extremely widespread so we see more use of it by shooters e.g. the Isla Vista killer recently.
PE: Layla AbdelRahim writes about how politeness and manners are a form of civilized violence that helps to hide the violence of our society. We live in a horribly violent culture that pretends the violence doesn’t exist; what do you make of these outbursts of very public violence in the spectacle of polite society?
Zerzan:Layla refers to how domestication represses the violence, if less effectively these days, eh? The violence is less hidden than ever but denial reigns and the ‘solutions’ put forth are very superficial. For example, gun control laws which miss the basic reality. That is, guns have always been very prevalent in this country, since colonial times in fact. But the shooting rampages as a common phenomenon is quite recent historically. A year before Adam Lanza killed twenty-some children at a school in Connecticut he called Anarchy Radio to tell of a chimpanzee who attacked its owner. The chimp had been dressed in human clothes, fed human food, provided with TV – and snapped because of the degrading domestication it was subject to. The bitter irony was that Lanza himself snapped and killed two dozen people about a year later.
PE: When Ted Kazcinski was arrested as the Unabomber, you wrote him letters and visited him in jail; how do his acts of violence differ from these others? Is it simple a difference in ideology?What can we learn from “Uncle Ted’s” actions?
Zerzan: Kaczynski’s acts were in no way random. They were part of an exclusively anti-technology campaign.
PE: Is there a connection between how we as a society treat animals and the land with this type of violence?
Zerzan: I think it’s quite reasonable to see the mass cruelty of industrialized agriculture – to use a big example of how animals are treated – as cheapening life in general and thus contributing to these explosions of violence among humans.
PE: I remember when the Columbine shooting happened which seemed to be one of the first; followed by another highschool shooting in Taber Alberta not far from where I grew up only a week or two later. As a kid in a highscool that was tormented and bullied nearly to the point of committing suicide myself; having a couple kids pick up guns and shoot back was something I paid close attention to. But things didn’t seem to get better in the aftermath, rather kids like me were treated like we were all potential psychopaths and nothing else really changed.
Zerzan: Bullying is one triggering factor in some of the mass killings. But bullying is nothing new whereas there is something unprecedented going on as mass society shows such pathologies. I went to a rough high school where, in addition to beatings by some of the priests, there was a fair degree of bullying. No-one brought a gun to school and started blowing folks away.
PE: Fredy Perlman described civilization as a monster that keeps growing and consuming, while telling the story of people who either resisted by running away until the monster caught up to them or by fighting back – often becoming more like the monster they resisted in order to stop it until it collapsed and they took it’s place as the new monster. How do we resist without becoming recuperated into the machine we seek to destroy?
Zerzan: Civilization must be attacked at a deep enough level to hit its target. Activism that lacks critique, lacks a qualitatively different vision or paradigm is doomed to be quite limited in my opinion. This means, among other things, that we must not shrink from embracing property destruction, which is hard to co-opt.
PE: You have argued that technology alienates us further. Are these shootings a symptom individualism? Capitalism? Lack of nature? Or something else?
Zerzan: It’s all these things even if technology is major – and generally overlooked. Domination is a totality and needs to be seen as such to avoid single-issue reformism.
As Adorno put it, in terms of causes: “It is idle to search for what might have been a cause within a monolithic society. Only that society itself remains the cause.”
PE: You have written about hope, where as the trend seems to be moving towards nihilism. Where do you find hope in times like these?
Zerzan: I am hopeful because I see the energy of resistance alive in many places. It has not gone away. And because I think that the system of domination is actually quite hollow and weak. It is plainly losing the allegiance of many on many levels, has no answers to the myriad problems it has created.
If you are interested in more of John Zerzan’s work check out his radio show Anarchy Radio, live every tuesday at 7pm PST. You can also read many of his writings at: http://www.johnzerzan.net/articles/