Signing the odd petition or liking a photo of a cute fluffy chick is all well and good, but more needs to happen to wake the world up to the cruelty inflicted on innocent animals. Last year an activist filmed a dairy calf being separated from its mother and uploaded the video to YouTube for people to share. I saw it accidentally and my life changed – less than five minutes after watching it I became vegan. It was something about that calf and mother, so desperate to stay together but so heartlessly separated, that hurt to watch. I then looked down into my cup of coffee, and realised I was to blame. It was my fault – I was buying cows’ milk. I was devastated but made the connection and have not touched milk or any other animal products since. One activist’s actions made me vegan, and I am profoundly grateful for it.
Had I known the truth earlier I would have become vegan many years ago and I’m not alone – veganism is the fastest growing social movement in the UK, an increase of 360% in the last decade. Thankfully the world is changing and the more people who get involved in activism and spread the truth about what is happening to these animals, the faster that change will be, and that’s why I feel it is so important that all vegans become activists. I wish I’d been shown the truth earlier.
But where do you start? You don’t have to get your boobs out and run down your local high street with fake blood on you, have hot cattle-style irons branded on your bum cheeks – ouch – or chain yourself to railings. Although the boob flashing sounds like fun – maybe one day when it’s not so chilly. Here are five peaceful and productive ways to get involved in activism: from quiet chalk activism, leafleting and protests to joining the Save Movement. There is something for everyone, for all ages and abilities, for the time-rich and the time-poor. Everyone’s switch to a more compassionate existence has to start somewhere – being part of that is incredible, and our duty, which is why I feel so strongly that to be vegan means being an activist, a strong voice for the animals.
This is so easy and can be done any time of day, anywhere, without having to put yourself out there too much if you are a bit nervous or shy. I always have some leaflets in my bag and leave them wherever I go – on train seats, in waiting rooms, in shopping trollies or tucked into egg boxes in the shops. Recently, it’s been really great to join in with hundreds of others doing the 100 leaflet Viva! campaign on a set date. Across the country, hundreds of activists go door-to-door leafleting – check out their Facebook page for more information or my previous post on the first challenge we joined. If you are worried about confrontation, simply pick and choose the houses where you think people will be out. I have never had any issues personally, only intrigued people asking what it’s all about. I respect signs that say ‘no leaflets’ on the door and if it’s not raining I pop them on people’s cars. It’s a simple and effective way to spread the message. Leaflets on dairy, eggs, meat, clothing and all sorts of animal welfare subjects can be ordered here from Viva! from 75p for a big bundle. Animal Aid and Peta also have great materials available on their websites.
This is really fun activism, and if you have kids they will love it too. You don’t need to be an artist either, simple text is just as effective. All you need are some wash-away chalks and a pavement, driveway, wall or any surface that you can chalk. Check out the Vegan Chalk Challenge page for some inspiration. Here is one of our messages left on a tree stump while walking the dog!
The Save Movement
For me personally this has been the most important form of activism. The first time, I went on my own, setting off at 5.30am to join a vigil outside a pig slaughterhouse in Essex. I was not really sure what the day would entail – I just knew it was something I had to do for the animals, to really see for myself. To be around people who are equally passionate and caring towards animals is very inspirational and in spite of the horrors of the transportation and death of the animals there is hope as you look around, activists together making a stand against animal cruelty.
Yes, it is incredibly hard to watch the trucks roll by one after an other full of living creatures a few feet away from their inevitable slaughter, but it’s important to observe and bear witness to what these animals are put though. To take photos and be able to write about what you have witnessed is an incredibly powerful tool to raising awareness to others. You can give a few of the animals a much-needed sip of water, a kind word and perhaps the first and last gentle contact with a human they will have. Most of them are just babies at six months old and all scared babies deserve kindness. Be one of the few who offers it to them. There are Save groups all around the UK (and the world) – click here to find your nearest one, you can even start your own with full support given. For more details on the first day I spent with Essex Pig Save click here.
I am lucky to live within easy reach of central London and so there are protests weekly on animal rights in our capital. Log on to Facebook events, join animal rights groups, search Hayevent.com and attend what you can in your area if you can’t travel far. As with most activism it’s such a great way to meet fellow animal lovers and learn more about different animal rights groups, be it anti-hunting or fur, or protesting against the dog and cat meat trades, livestock transportation, etc.
Recently, we marched for the dogs and cat of Yulin, attended an anti-fur rally at London Fashion Week and also a fox hunting protest to name a few. Of course I can’t attend them all as I have a job, animals at home and a family to take care of but when I can I go and that’s what activism is, doing everything you can to exposes what animals are put through for human profit and greed. There really is strength in numbers.
There is a huge animal rights march in London on 2nd September 2017 click here for further information
Stickering is also a very easy way to get the word out. You can sticker anywhere, on the handles of shopping trolleys and on the packaging of products, which people don’t often see until they have brought them home to eat. You can download them from Peta and other organisations, or make your own. As with leafleting you can do it subtly or if you have the confidence you can sticker more openly. Do what you feel comfortable with – just get it out there! You never know who will read it and what conversations or thoughts will result having seen pro-animal welfare messages.