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Quotes about Rights and Justice

A compendium of important and relevant quotations of authors, activists, and others, from the 6th century B.C.E. to the present day

TOP ROW: Pythagoras of Samos, Albert Einstein, Frederick Douglass, Brigid Brophy, George Bernard Shaw, Henry Stephens Salt • MIDDLE ROW: Mark Twain, Anna Sewell, Voltaire, Plutarch of Chaeronea, Malcolm X, Clare Boothe Luce • BOTTOM ROW: Mohandas K. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Albert Schweitzer

All images on this webpage are courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, and are in the public domain. Where special attribution is required by the Creative Commons Attribution license, such attribution is provided in the tooltip, which can be viewed by simply rolling your cursor over the image.

Bust of Pythagoras at the Musei Capitolini in Rome • Photo by Galilea

“As long as humans continue to be the ruthless destroyer of other beings, we will never know health or peace. For as long as people massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, those who sow the seed of murder and pain will never reap joy or love.”
Pythagoras of Samos, ca. 530 B.C.E.

“Men dig their graves with their own teeth, and die more by those instruments than by all weapons of their enemies.”

“All beings tremble before violence. All fear death. All love life. See yourself in others. Then whom can you hurt? What harm can you do?”
Prince Siddhartha Gautama the Buddha (563 to 483 B.C.E.)

“But for the sake of some little mouthful of flesh, we deprive a soul of the sun, and light, and of that proportion of life and time they had been born into the world to enjoy.”
Plutarch of Chaeronea, Greek biographer ca. 100 C.E.

Bust of Plutarch at Chaeronea, Greece • Photo by Odysses

“A human body in no way resembles those that were born for ravenousness; it hath no hawk's bill, no sharp talon, no roughness of teeth, no such strength of stomach or heat of digestion, as can be sufficient to convert or alter such heavy and fleshy fare. But if you will contend that you were born to an inclination to such food as you have now a mind to eat, do you then yourself kill what you would eat. But do it yourself, without the help of a chopping-knife, mallet or axe, as wolves, bears, and lions do, who kill and eat at once. Rend an ox with thy teeth, worry a hog with thy mouth, tear a lamb or a hare in pieces, and fall on and eat it alive as they do. But if thou had rather stay until what thou eat is to become dead, and if thou art loath to force a soul out of its body, why then dost thou against nature eat an animate thing? There is nobody that is willing to eat even a lifeless and a dead thing even as it is; so they boil it, and roast it, and alter it by fire and medicines, as it were, changing and quenching the slaughtered gore with thousands of sweet sauces, that the palate being thereby deceived may admit of such uncouth fare.”

“Can you really ask for what reason Pythagoras had for abstaining from flesh? I, for my part, marvel at which man was possessed, who was the first to pollute his mouth with gore, and to allow his lips to touch the flesh of murdered beings. How could his eyes endure the spectacle of the flayed and dismembered limbs? How was his taste not sickened by contact with festering wounds, with the pollution of corrupted blood and juices?”

“It was the saying of Bion, that though the boys throw stones at frogs in sport, yet the frogs do not die in sport but in earnest.”

“Wherefore I say to all those who desire to be disciples, keep your hands from bloodshed and let no flesh meat enter your mouths, for the Lord is just and bountiful; who ordains that man shall live by the fruits and seeds of the earth alone.”
Jesus, Gospel of the Nazirenes, Chapter 38, Verse 4

“There is not an animal that lives on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, that does not form communities like you. They all shall be gathered to their Rabb (Lord) in the end.”
Qur'an, Sura 6:38

“A disciple of the Buddha should have a mind of compassion and cultivate the practice of liberating sentient beings. He must reflect thus: throughout the eons of time, all male sentient beings have been my father, all female sentient beings my mother. I was born of them, if I slaughter them, I would be slaughtering my parents as well as eating flesh that was once my own. This is so because all elemental earth, water, fire and air—the four constituents of all life—have previously been part of my body, part of my substance. I must therefore always cultivate the practice of liberating sentient beings and enjoin others to do likewise—as sentient beings are forever reborn, again and again, lifetime after lifetime. If a Bodhisattva sees an animal on the verge of being killed, he must devise a way to rescue and protect her, helping her to escape suffering and death. The disciple should always teach the Bodhisattva precepts to rescue and deliver sentient beings.”
From the Brahma Net Sutra

“Cow-killers and cow-eaters are condemned to rot in hell for as many thousands of years as there are for each hair on the body of every cow they eat from.”
Sri Caitanya Caritamrita adi lila, Chapter 17, Verse 166

This photo of Dick Gregory was taken on August 8, 2015 while Gregory was participating in “Shutdown for Mike Brown,” a rally in Washington, D.C. to protest police brutality • Photo by Elvert Barnes

“When I look at animals held captive by circuses, I think of slavery. Animals in circuses represent the domination and oppression we have fought against for so long. They wear the same chains and shackles.”
Dick Gregory, comedian, civil rights activist, humanitarian, vegan

“If you had to kill your own calf before you ate him, most likely you would not be able to do it. To hear the calf scream, to see the blood spill, to see the baby being taken away from his momma, and to see the look of death in the animal's eye would turn your stomach. So you get the man at the packing house to do the killing for you.”
Dick Gregory, The Shadow That Scares Me

“Animals and humans suffer and die alike. Violence causes the same pain, the same spilling of blood, the same stench of death, the same arrogant, cruel and brutal taking of life. We don't have to be a part of it.”
Dick Gregory

“Kindness and compassion towards all living beings is a mark of a civilized society. Racism, economic deprival, dog fighting and cock fighting, bullfighting and rodeos are all cut from the same defective fabric: violence. Only when we have become nonviolent towards all life will we have learned to live well ourselves.”
Cesar Chavez (1927-1993)

“It is a matter of taking the side of the weak against the strong, something the best people have always done.”
Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin (1811-1896)

George Bernard Shaw, 1925 • Photographer unknown

“People ask me how I look so young; I tell them I look my age. It is other people who look older; what do you expect from people who eat corpses?”
George Bernard Shaw, British playwright (1856-1950)

“Animals are my friends. And I do not eat my friends.”
George Bernard Shaw

“If a group of beings from another planet were to land on Earth—beings who considered themselves as superior to you as you feel yourself to be to other animals—would you concede them the rights over you that you assume over other animals?”
George Bernard Shaw

“Custom will reconcile people to any atrocity.”
George Bernard Shaw

Portrait of Voltaire (née François-Marie Arouet (1694–1778)) by Nicolas de Largillière, currently in the Carnavalet Museum

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”
Voltaire (1694–1778)

“People must have renounced, it seems to me, all natural intelligence to dare to advance that animals are but animated machines. ...It appears to me, besides, that [such people] can never have observed with attention the character of animals, not to have distinguished among them the different voices of need, of suffering, of joy, of pain, of love, of anger, and of all their affections. It would be very strange that they should express so well what they could not feel.”
Voltaire, Treatise on Tolerance

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948)

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948) • Photographer unknown

“It ill becomes us to invoke in our daily prayers the blessings of God, the compassionate, if we in turn will not practice elementary compassion towards our fellow creatures.”

“There is no religion higher than truth and righteousness. If we commit sins with the name of God on our lips, can we hope to win the grace of God? Suppose one man admits the existence of God, but lives a life of falsehood and immorality, while another knows not the name of God but lives a life of truth and virtue. Can there be any doubt as to which should be regarded as truly religious as well as moral?”

“I do not regard flesh food as necessary for us. I hold flesh food to be unsuited to our species. To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body. The more helpless the creature, the more it is entitled to protection from humans from the cruelty of humans.”

“The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may come one day to be recognized, that the number of the legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum, are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate. What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason, or, perhaps, the faculty of discourse? But a full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day, or a week, or even a month, old. But suppose the case were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not, ‘Can they reason?’ nor, ‘Can they talk?’ but, ‘Can they suffer? ’ ”
Jeremy Bentham, British philosopher (1748-1832)

“The position we hold is often said to be ‘extreme,’ and those of us who hold it are said to be ‘extremists.’ The unspoken suggestions are that extreme positions cannot be right, and that extremists must be wrong. But I am an extremist when it comes to rape—I am against it all the time. I am an extremist when it comes to child abuse—I am against it all the time. I am an extremist when it comes to sexual discrimination, racial discrimination—I am against it all the time. I am an extremist when it comes to abuse of the elderly—I am against it all the time. The plain fact is, moral truth often is extreme, and must be, for when the injustice is absolute, then one must oppose it—absolutely.”
Tom Regan, philosopher, animal rights advocate

“It is not an act of kindness to treat animals respectfully. It is an act of justice. It is not 'the sentimental interests' of moral agents that grounds our duties of justice to children, the retarded, the senile, or other moral patients, including animals. It is respect for their inherent value. The myth of the privileged moral status of moral agents has no clothes.”
Tom Regan, The Case for Animal Rights

“Housing animals in more comfortable, larger cages is not enough. Whether we exploit animals to eat, to wear, to entertain us, or to learn, the truth of animal rights requires empty cages, not larger cages.”
Tom Regan, Empty Cages

Engraving of Leonardo da Vinci by Everard Hansen

“Veganism acknowledges the intrinsic legitimacy of all life. It recognizes no hierarchy of acceptable suffering among sentient creatures. It is no more acceptable to kill creatures with primitive nervous systems than those with highly developed nervous systems. The value of life to its possessor is the same, whether it's the life of a clam, a crayfish, a carp, a cow, a chicken, or a child.”
Stanley Sapon, Ph.D.

“As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields.”
Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)

“A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral.”
Leo Tolstoy

“Truly man is the king of beasts, for his brutality exceeds theirs. We live by the death of others: we are burial places!”
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

“As long as people will shed the blood of innocent creatures, there can be no peace, no liberty, no harmony between people. Slaughter and justice cannot dwell together.”
Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904-1991)

“People often say that humans have always eaten animals, as if this is a justification for continuing the practice. According to this logic, we should not try to prevent people from murdering other people, since this has also been done since the earliest of times.”
Isaac Bashevis Singer

Isaac Bashevis Singer, 1988 • Photo by MDCarchives

“What do they know—all these scholars, all these philosophers, all the leaders of the world? They have convinced themselves that man, the worst transgressor of all the species, is the crown of creation. All other creatures were created merely to provide him with food, pelts, to be tormented, exterminated. In relation to them, all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka.”
Isaac Bashevis Singer, The Letter Writer

“In their behavior toward creatures, all men are Nazis. Human beings see oppression vividly when they're the victims. Otherwise they victimize blindly and without a thought.”
Isaac Bashevis Singer

“In their behavior towards creatures, all men were Nazis. The smugness with which man could do with other species as he pleased exemplified the most extreme racist theories, the principle that might is right.”
Isaac Bashevis Singer

“Man prays for mercy, but is unwilling to extend it to others. Why should man then expect mercy from God? It's unfair to expect something that you are not willing to give. It is inconsistent. I can never accept inconsistency or injustice. Even if it comes from God. If there would come a voice from God saying, ‘I'm against vegetarianism!’ I would say, ‘Well, I am for it!’ This is how strongly I feel in this regard.”
Isaac Bashevis Singer

“Auschwitz begins wherever someone looks at a slaughterhouse and thinks: they're only animals.”
Theodor Adorno, German philosopher (1903-1969)

Albert Einstein, 1947 • Photo by Oren Jack Turner, now in the Library of Congress

“Our grandchildren will ask us one day: ‘Where were you during the Holocaust of the animals? What did you do against these horrifying crimes?’ We won't be able to offer the same excuse for the second time: that we didn't know.”
Dr. Helmut Kaplan (b. 1952)

“Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”
Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

“If a man aspires towards a righteous life, his first act of abstinence is from injury to animals.”
Albert Einstein

Albert Schweitzer, 1952 • Photographer unknown; from the Nobel Foundation

“Until he extends the circle of compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.”
Albert Schweitzer

“What an amount of suffering and cruel punishment the poor creatures have to endure in order to give pleasure to men devoid of thought.”
Albert Schweitzer, on the training and exhibition of animals in circus acts

“Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.”
Albert Schweitzer, on exploiting and slaughtering animals for food

“If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow man.”
St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226)

“You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer, philosopher (1803-1882)

Anna Sewell (1820-1878) • Author unknown • Source:

“My doctrine is this, that if we see cruelty or wrong that we have the power to stop, and do nothing, we make ourselves sharers in the guilt.”
Anna Sewell, author of Black Beauty (1820-1878)

“Dave Scott, considered the world's greatest tri-athlete, holds a degree in exercise physiology. In his words, it's a ‘ridiculous fallacy’ to think that athletes need animal protein. He is joined in his views by such Olympians as Edwin Moses, the gold medalist who went eight years without losing the 400-meter hurdle competition, and Murray Rose, who, at age 17, won three gold medals in the Olympic swim competition. This year, I was glad to see Olympic champion Carl Lewis crown his career with his best long jump in two years to win a record-tying ninth gold medal. Lewis, of course, is a longtime vegan whose dietary changes developed out of his moral and religious convictions. Several years ago Leroy Burrell and Carl Lewis traded titles back and forth when they were being hailed as the fastest sprinters in the world—and both were vegetarians. Whether you are a world-class athlete, a weekend athlete, or simply a recreational exerciser, we know that you can meet your performance objectives, and improve your health by eating a plant-based diet that meets your energy needs. Even at my present age of 93, I found that switching to a plant-based diet improved my health dramatically.”
Dr. Benjamin Spock, world's foremost pediatrician; author of Baby and Child Care (1903-1998)

“Animals have done us no harm and they have no power of resistance. Cruelty to animals is as if man did not love God. There is something so very dreadful, so Satanic, in tormenting those who have never harmed us, who cannot defend themselves, who are utterly in our power.”
Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890)

“We have enslaved the rest of animal creation, and have treated our distant cousins in fur and feathers so badly that beyond doubt, if they were to formulate a religion, they would depict the Devil in human form.”
William Ralph Inge, Deacon and Professor of Divinity, Cambridge (1860-1954)

Henry Stephens Salt (1851-1939) • Photographer unknown • Source:

“...the very fact that an animal is going to be eaten seems to remove it from the category of intelligent beings, and causes it to be regarded as mere animated ‘meat.’ ”
Henry Stephens Salt, British social reformer, animal rights activist (1851-1939)

“Take the case, as it stands, between the Philosopher and the Pig. Is it not adding insult to injury that this much-massacred animal should not only be eaten by the Philosopher, but should also be made the subject of a far from disinterested beatification—‘Blessed is the Pig, for the Philosopher is fond of bacon.’ We can imagine how the Philosopher, when he passes a butcher’s shop, which, according to his showing, is a very shrine and centre of humaneness, since without it there ‘would be no pigs at all,’ must pause in serene self-satisfaction to felicitate the pallid carcase laid out there, with the mockery of an ornamental orange in its mouth. ‘I have been a benefactor to this Pig,’ he must say, ‘inasmuch as I ate a portion of his predecessor; and now I will be a benefactor to some yet unborn pig, by eating a portion of this one.’

This, then, is the benign attitude of the Philosopher towards the Pig; and what shall be the reply of the Pig to the Philosopher? ‘Revered moralist,’ he might plead, ‘it were unseemly for me, who am to-day a pig, and to-morrow but ham and sausages, to dispute with a master of ethics, yet to my porcine intellect it appeareth that having first determined to kill and devour me, thou hast afterwards bestirred thee to find a moral reason. For mark, I pray thee, that in my entry into the world my own predilection was in no wise considered, nor did I purchase life on condition of my own butchery. If, then, thou art firm set on pork, so be it, for pork I am: but though thou hast not spared my life, at least spare me thy sophistry. It is not for his sake, but for thine, that in his life the Pig is filthily housed and fed, and at the end barbarously butchered.’ ”
Henry Stephens Salt, “Logic of the Larder” (1914)

“Philosophers...have been emotionally stroked for their intellects. They often think that logical debate is the highest mode of living. It boils down to an ego problem. I'm so glad I no longer think that the intellect is what matters most. I'm very clear that compassion is a far better quality to cultivate than intellectual acumen. The latter can be used to make life, all life, worse for the entire planet. Compassion cannot be misused in such a harmful way.”
Judy Barad, Professor of Philosophy, Indiana State U.

Brigid Brophy (1929-1995) • Source: AZ Quotes • • Copyright status unclear

“The victim feels the suffering in his own mind and body, whereas the victimizer...can be quite unaware of that suffering. The sword does not feel the pain that it inflicts.”
Philip Hallie, From Cruelty to Goodness

“Whenever people say ‘we mustn't be sentimental,’ you can take it they are about to do something cruel. And if they add, ‘we must be realistic,’ they mean they are going to make money out of it.”
Brigid Brophy (1929-1995)

“One day, I reached out to eat something and he ran away. Obviously, he didn't want to be eaten.”
Dave Allen, musician

Mark Twain, ca. 1872 • Photographer unknown • Originally published in “American Portraits” by Bradford, Gamaliel, 1922 edition

“It is just like man's vanity and impertinence to call an animal dumb because it is dumb to his dull perceptions.”
Mark Twain (1835-1910)

“Damn these human beings. If I had invented them, I would go hide my head in a bag.”
Mark Twain, in an 1899 letter to W. D. Howells

“A missionary was walking in Africa when he heard the ominous padding of a lion behind him. ‘Oh Lord,’ prayed the missionary, ‘Grant in Thy goodness that the lion walking behind me is a good Christian lion.’ And then in the silence that followed, the missionary heard the lion praying too: ‘Oh Lord,’ he prayed. ‘We thank thee for the food which we are about to receive.’ ”
Cleveland Amory

“Because the heart beats under a covering of hair, of fur, feathers, or wings, it is, for that reason, to be of no account?”
Jean Paul Richter, German Romantic writer (1763-1825)

Portrait of Arthur Schopenhauer by Jules Lunteschütz, ca. 1855 • Source/photographer unknown

“The assumption that animals are without rights, and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance, is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality.”
Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher (1788-1860)

“Compassion for animals is intimately associated with goodness of character, and it may be confidently asserted that he who is cruel to animals cannot be a good man.”
Arthur Schopenhauer

“To a man whose mind is free there is something even more intolerable in the sufferings of animals than in the sufferings of man. For with the latter it is at least admitted that suffering is evil and that the man who causes it is a criminal. But thousands of animals are uselessly butchered every day without a shadow of remorse. If any man were to refer to it, he would be thought ridiculous. And that is the unpardonable crime. That alone is the justification of all that humans may suffer. It cries vengeance upon all the human race. If God exists and tolerates it, it cries vengeance upon God.”
Romain Rolland, Nobel Prize-winning essayist, mystic (1866-1944)

“The wild, cruel beast is not behind the bars of the cage. He is in front of it.”
Axel Munthe, Swedish psychiatrist, animal rights activist (1857-1949)

About Vivisection

“Those who won't hesitate to vivisect, won't hesitate to lie about it as well.”
George Bernard Shaw

“Atrocities are no less atrocities when they occur in laboratories and are called ‘medical research’.”
George Bernard Shaw

“I would not want to promote research on animals. Fortunately, only my back is twisted, not my mind.”
Linn Pulis, polio victim

Clare Boothe Luce (1902-1987) • Photo by Carl Van Vechten; now in the Library of Congress

“The reason why I am against animal research is because it doesn't work. It has no scientific value. One cannot extrapolate the results of animal research to human beings, and every good scientist knows that.”
Robert Mendelsohn, MD, late Professor of Pediatrics, U. of Illinois College of Medicine

“The cruel experimenter cannot be allowed to have it both ways. He cannot, in the same breath, defend the scientific validity of vivisection on the grounds of the physical similarities between man and the other animals, and then defend the morality of vivisection on the grounds that men and animals are physically different. The only logical alternatives for him are to admit he is either pre-Darwinian or immoral.”
Richard Ryder, former vivisectionist

“It is difficult to entertain a warm feeling for a ‘medical man’ who straps dogs to a table, cuts their vocal cords, and spends an interesting day or week slowly vivisecting or dismembering them.”
Clare Booth Luce, author, publisher, former Ambassador to Italy (1902-1987)

“My own conviction is that the study of human physiology by way of experiments on animals is the most grotesque and fantastic error ever committed in the whole range of human intellectual activity.”
Dr. G. F. Walker, Medical World, Dec. 8, 1933

Leo Tolstoy, 23 May 1908 • Photo by Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky • This is thought to be the first color portrait ever filmed in Russia

“The question was, can we give up animal experiments without halting medical progress? My answer is not only can one [give up vivisection] but that one must give up animal experiments not to halt medical progress. Today's rebellion against vivisection is no longer based on animal welfare. We have to speak of a scientific rebellion out of consideration for human beings.”
Pietro Croce, MD, College of American Pathologists

“There will come a time when the world will look back to modern vivisection in the name of Science, as they do now to burning people at the stake in the name of religion.”
Henry J. Bigelow, MD

“I am not interested to know whether vivisection produces results that are profitable to the human race. The pain which it inflicts upon unconsenting animals is the basis of my enmity toward it, and it is to me sufficient justification of the enmity without looking further.”
Mark Twain (1835-1910)

“What I think about vivisection is that if people admit that they have the right to take or endanger the life of living beings for the benefit of many, there will be no limit for their cruelty.”
Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)

Eleanor Roosevelt in one of many pictures taken with her dog Fala, November 1951 • Source: FDR Library; photographer unknown

“I abhor vivisection. It should at least be curbed. Better, it should be abolished. The whole thing is evil.”
Charles Mayo, MD, founder of Mayo Clinic (1865-1939)

“It seems to me of great importance to teach children respect for life. Towards this end, experiments on living animals in classrooms should be stopped. To encourage cruelty in the name of science can only destroy the finer emotions of affection and sympathy, and breed an unfeeling callousness in the young towards suffering in all living creatures.”
Eleanor Roosevelt, writer, diplomat, former First Lady (1884-1962)

“I abhor vivisection with my whole soul. All the scientific discoveries stained with innocent blood I count as of no consequence.”

About Law-Breaking and Radical, Revolutionary Activism

Portrait of Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) • Engraving after the fresco in Bargello Chapel, painted by Giotto di Bondoni, 14th century

“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”
Albert Einstein

“If we are trespassing, then so were the American soldiers who broke down the gates of Hitler's death camps. If we are thieves, then so were the members of The Underground Railroad who freed the slaves from the South. And if we are vandals, then so were those who destroyed forever the gas chambers of Buchenwald and Auschwitz.”
Animal Liberation Front

“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises maintain their neutrality.”
Dante Alighieri, Italian author and poet (1265-1321)

“Take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
Elie Wiesel, concentration camp survivor

“When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent; I was not a communist. When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat. When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist. When they came for the Jews, I remained silent; I wasn't a Jew. When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.”
Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892-1984)

“Pacifism is generally considered to be a morally unassailable position to take with respect to human violence. ...While it can seem noble enough when the stakes are low, pacifism is ultimately nothing more than a willingness to die, and to let others die, at the pleasure of the world's thugs. It should be enough to note that a single sociopath, armed with nothing more than a knife, could exterminate a city full of pacifists. ...Here we come upon a terrible facet of ethically asymmetric warfare: when your enemy has no scruples, your own scruples become another weapon in his hand.”
Sam Harris, The End of Faith

“I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood. I had—as I now think—vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed it might be done.”
John Brown's statement before he was executed on December 2, 1859

“I never did give anybody hell. I just told them the truth and they thought it was hell.”
President Harry Truman (1884-1972)

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
John F. Kennedy, in a speech at the White House, 1962

Malcolm X (1925-1965) • Photo by Marion S. Trikosco, March 26, 1964, now in the Library of Congress

“I am anti evil, anti oppression, anti lynching. You can't be anti those things unless you are also anti the oppressor and the lyncher. You can't be anti slavery and pro slavemaster.”
Malcolm X (1925-1965)

“Revolutions are never fought by turning the other cheek. Revolutions are never based upon love your enemy and pray for those who spitefully use you. And revolutions are never waged singing, ‘We Shall Overcome.’ Revolutions are based upon bloodshed. Revolutions are never compromising. Revolutions are never based upon negotiations. Revolutions are never based upon any kind of tokenism whatsoever.”
Malcolm X

“Who ever heard of angry revolutionists all harmonizing ‘We Shall Overcome Some Day’ while tripping and swaying along arm-in-arm with the very people they were supposed to be angrily revolting against? Who ever heard of angry revolutionists swinging their bare feet together with their oppressor in lily pad park pools, with gospels and guitars and ‘I Have a Dream’ speeches?”
Malcolm X

“I am only effective as long as there is a shadow on white America of the black man standing behind me with a Molotov cocktail.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr., 1964 • Photographer unknown; from the Nobel Foundation

“I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to rouse the conscience of the community over its injustice is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

“There are some things so dear, some things so precious, some things so eternally true, that they are worth dying for. And I submit to you if a person has not discovered something that he is willing to die for then that person isn't fit to live.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it polite?’ Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a point when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor polite, nor popular, but one must take it because his conscience tells him that it is right.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

“If he doesn't put you in jail, wonderful, nobody within his sense likes to go to jail. But if he puts you in jail, you go in that jail and transform it from a dungeon of shame to a haven of freedom.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

“We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws and abide by the unjust system, because non cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as the truth and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think or speak or write with moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her baby from the fire into which he has fallen; but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present! I am in earnest. I will not equivocate. I will not excuse. I will not retreat a single inch. And I will be heard. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal to hasten the resurrection of the dead. It is pretended that I am retarding the cause of emancipation by the coarseness of my invective, and the precipitancy of my measures. The charge is not true. On this question, my influence, humble as it is, is felt at this moment to a considerable extent, and shall be felt in coming years—not perniciously, but beneficially—not as a curse, but as a blessing; and posterity will bear testimony that I was right!”
William Lloyd Garrison, slave abolitionist and orator (1805-1879)

Frederick Douglass, ca. 1866 • Photographer unknown; from the Collection of the New York Historical Society

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. ... Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
Frederick Douglass, American abolitionist (1818-1895)

“I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.”
Frederick Douglass

“There can be no doubt as to which side is right and which side is wrong, for compassionate defense of life is a force of good and sadistic mass destruction of life is a force for evil.”
Paul Watson, founder of The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

“The victim is nothing to the vandal. The vandal doesn't care what any ONE victim thinks, any more than what the next victim thinks. The victims are interchangeable.”
Author unknown

“I'll be the self-determined damned before the blessed lump of clay. I'll be the self-reliant idiot before the learned led astray. I'll be the unruly over-reactor before the smiling unaffected. I'll be the laughing stock revolutionary before the dignified slave.”
Culture (a vegan band)

“Night of justice, knight of justice. Liberation's crusade has begun. Your laws will have no meaning past the setting of the sun. Demons feeding off of the innocents' pain. Generations of oppression, one generation will break this chain.”
Earth Crisis (a vegan band)

“What sick, ridiculous puppets we are. What a gross little stage we dance on. What fun we have. Dancing. Fucking. Not a care in the world. Not knowing that we are nothing. We are not what was intended.”
Kevin Spacey as Jonathon Doe in the movie Seven

“You may torture my body, break my bones and even kill me. And then you can have my dead body. But not my obedience.”

“This is the customary time when the defendant expresses regret for the crimes they committed, so let me do that because I am not without my regrets. I am here today to be sentenced for my participation in releasing mink from six fur farms. I regret it was only six. I'm also here today to be sentenced for my participation in the freeing of 8,000 mink from those farms. I regret it was only 8,000. It is my understanding that of those six farms, only two of them have since shut down. I regret it was only two. More than anything, I regret my restraint, because whatever damage we did to those businesses, if those farms were left standing, and if one animal was left behind, then it wasn't enough. I don't wish to validate this proceeding by begging for mercy or appealing to the conscience of the court, because I know that if this system had a conscience I would not be here, and in my place would be all the butchers, vivisectors, and fur farmers of the world. Just as I will remain unbowed before this court—who would see me imprisoned for an act of conscience—I will also deny the fur farmers in the room the pleasure of seeing me bow down before them. To those people here whose sheds I may have visited in 1997, let me tell you directly for the first time, it was a pleasure to raid your farms, and to free those animals you held captive. It is to those animals I answer to, not you or this court. I will forever mark those nights on your property as the most rewarding experiences of my life. And to those farmers or other savages who may read my words in the future and smile at my fate, just remember: We have put more of you in bankruptcy than you have put liberators in prison. Don't forget that. Let me thank everyone in the courtroom who came to support me today. It is my last wish before prison that each of you drive to a nearby fur farm tonight, tear down its fence and open every cage. That's all.”
ALF liberator Peter Young's speech to the judge before his November 8, 2005 sentencing (two years in prison). See his website,
Animal Liberation Frontline

“I understand the serious nature of the offenses to which I have plead guilty. I accept responsibility for my actions. At the time, I feared there were dire and immediate threats to both human and non-human lives and that the health and safety of human communities, as well as the ecological integrity of the Earth, were in jeopardy. I care deeply about my fellow human being and the other living creatures with whom we share this planet. I felt responsible to take extreme action in the hope that it would save lives and halt deadly practices that directly threatened living beings and contributed to the degradation of the environment. I thought that what I was doing would shine a light on these dangerous policies so that an informed public dialogue would ensue and policies would be changed. For more than twenty years, I participated in every legal avenue open to me as a private citizen to educate and persuade government officials and corporate representatives to reconsider policies. I have also participated in civil disobedience in the style taught by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. I want to explain that the more I learned of the consequences of deforestation and genetic engineering, the more desperate I felt. I am not opposed to conducting research in the interests of expanding knowledge and bringing improvements to health and well being when it is conducted in a responsible and humane way. But genetic engineering research is often conducted in open-air situations that release contaminated pollen into the environment with devastating effects, as in the case of the terminator seed plants. Communities should have the right to choose or refuse the risks that come with GMOs. What I was more and more aware of in my research and in my dealings with indigenous activists' work around the globe is that the use of GMOs forced on communities by collusion between banks, companies and governments was causing starvation, debt and environmental damage through contact with these GMOs. My actions were individual acts of conscience and I take sole responsibility for them. The property damage was intended to be symbolic and theatrical in nature, not dangerous or threatening to any individual. I hope to protect my community and the Earth, to respond in defense of the living systems of animals, land and water. I tried to preserve the natural world from destruction because it is all of our home, because its health is necessary for all of us to live well.”
Excerpts from ELF/ALF liberator Marie Mason's speech to the judge before her sentencing on February 5, 2009 (22 years in prison).
Support Marie Mason

“I'm here today because of the arsons I committed at the Tandy Leather Factory in Salt Lake City and the Tiburon restaurant in Sandy, Utah, which sells the incredibly cruel product foie gras. The U.S. attorney wants to give me the maximum sentence and beyond not because of my "crimes" but because I am unrepentant and outspoken. My intuition tells me that this court is not going to show me mercy because I become suddenly sorry. So instead of lying to the court in a feeble attempt to save myself, as I'm certain many do when they face their sentencing day, allow me instead to tell you what I am sorry for. I am sorry that when I was 19 years old I built two slaughterhouses that are still killing animals even now as I speak. I am sorry that Tandy Leather sells skin that has been ripped from the dead, and often live bodies of such animals as cows, ostriches, rabbits, snakes and pigs. I am sorry that the leather tanneries that supply Tandy Leather Factory poison the earth with dangerous chemicals. I am sorry that the restaurant Tiburon profits from the force-feeding of geese and ducks until their livers explode so that rich people can then use that as a pate for crackers and bread. I am sorry that they make a living from the dead bodies of wild and exotic animals. I am sorry that we live in a day and age where you can rape a child or beat a woman unconscious and receive less prison time than an animal liberation activist who attacked property instead of people. I am sorry that my brother was so desperate to get out of debt that he flew from Iowa to Colorado just to get me in a taped and monitored conversation for reward money. I am sorry I am biologically related to such a worthless little snitch. I am sorry that I waited so long to become an Animal Liberation Front operative. For all of these things I will always have some regret. But as far as the arsons at the Leather Factory and Tiburon, I have no remorse. I realize that the laws of the land favor a business' ability to make a profit over an animal's right to life. It also used to favor white business owners' ability to profit from a black persons' slavery. It also used to favor a husband's ability to viciously attack his wife and act on her as if she were an object. Those who broke the law and damaged property to stand against those oppressions were also called "terrorists" and "fanatics" in their time but that did not change the fact that society progressed and is still progressing along those lines. So today I'm the bad guy. That is just a matter of historical coincidence. Who knows, perhaps a less brutal and less violent society will one day exist that will understand that life and Earth are more important than products of death and cruelty. And if not, then to hell with it all anyway! Whether my supporters or detractors think I am a freedom-fighter or a lunatic with a gas can makes no difference to me. I have spent years verifiably promoting, supporting and fighting for Animal Liberation. I have seen the animal victims of human injustice, thousands of them with my own eyes, and what I saw was blood, guts and gore! I made a promise to those animals and to myself to fight for them in any way I could. I regret none of it, and I never will! You can take my freedom, but you can't have my submission.”
ALF liberator “Lone Wolf” Walter Bond's speech to the judge before his sentencing on October 13, 2011 (12 years in prison).
Support Walter Bond

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