Contention Builder (Publication dates unknown, likely 1997. San Diego, CA)
Although the mid to late 1990s brought a resurgence of participation to the animal rights movement, the new generation of liberationists also had an unfortunate tendency towards posturing, machismo, and puritanical language that bordered on the cultish. These newcomers plagued AR culture with cartoonish militant names such as JIHAD (Justice through Insurrection by Humans for Animal Defense), CLAW (Committed Liberation Activists of the West), ARMY (Animal Rights Militant Youth), Vegan Frontline, and the Vegan Militia Movement. It was the latter that brought us two issues of the eclectic, and at times frustrating, Contention Builder.
Many of the members of the Vegan Militia Movement went on to do excellent activism. Their early attempts at publishing, however, were somewhat rough. Packaged between artistic, eye grabbing covers, the interior pages of Contention Builder were filled with reprints, PETA fact sheets, vegan recipes, and the occasionally an original article attacking the credibility of bands like Earth Crisis. Worst of all were the heavy handed admonitions at the back of each issue for people to embrace the “Hardline movement,” a bizarre spin off of Straight Edge that rejected drugs, homosexuality, sex without procreation, abortion, and which later incorporated aspects of Taosim and Islam. Hardliners threatened to use violence against people who abused animals, but these statements were never acted upon and now appear to be the juvenile venting of angry young men.
Issue #1 of Contention Builder came packaged with a tract advertising the mission statement of the Vegan Militia Movement. Chuckle along with these earnest but silly run-on sentences: “WE BELIEVE IN ONE ETHIC- THAT ALL LIFE HAS THE VIRTUE TO LIVE OUT LIFE FROM BIRTH TO NATURAL DEATH – FREE FROM ALL UNETHICAL VALUES. WE MUST STRIFE [sic] AGAINST THOSE WHO ARE DESTROYING THIS WORLD WITH IMPURE AND WARPED VALUES BY VOICING OURSELVES AND TAKING ACTION AGAINST THEM.” Ah, yes, the good old days when hardcore lyrics replaced political discussion and the caps lock was permanently depressed.
But CB is worthy of notice not so much because of its content, but its regional importance to the movement in Southern California. For all the oddball rhetoric and over-reliance on reprints, the magazine still inspired young people to get active and attend protests throughout San Diego and Orange County. Space was given to examining issues ignored elsewhere in the animal rights movement, and violence against women, repression of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, and US Imperialism all received coverage. In the end, the sincerity of many members of this group was proven outside of the pages of the zine. All these years later many of them are still active and contributing to animal rights. Perhaps that is the best legacy of their old publication.