I don't usually like animal rights type graphics and posters. I usually think they preach to the converted and alientate those people who dont think about where their food comes from. This one, however, really resonated with me. It's a bit sensationalist, I know, but I think it says a lot. Actually perhaps the reason it speaks to me today is because I read that 12 million Jews were killed during the holocaust. Every 4 minutes in the USA, the same number of animals are killed for food. It's quite something. The holocaust of our time. What will our children say?
Actually, the more I think about it, the less sense this makes. We don't kill animals because we want to get rid of them as the Nazis did the Jews. None the less, we do keep them in the same horrific conditions and subject them to the same torturous procedues and deaths. I suppose, like the Nazis, we kill because our 'rights' and desires are above those of our victims. Hmm...
A heavily used plackard, evidence of an ongoing struggle.
Over the weekend I attended a rally against live exports in Ramsgate, a port from which around 5 lorry loads a week of live sheep and calves leave the UK to be transported to Europe and beyond (see Compassion in World Farming’s undercover investigation into this trade).
The rally was attended by a couple of hundred people, and there were speakers from Compassion in World Farming (head of public affairs, Dil Peeling), the RSPCA (three speakers including one of the officers who inspect the transport lorrys) and the local activist groups. There was also a farmer there, who came to tell his side (with lots of lies, and some truths) who was heavily heckled.
Some of the speakers were very interesting, and inspiring, but for me the meeting was far from positive. I came away feeling sad about not only animal transportation, but the extremism of the minority that reflects so badly upon the majority of animal welfarists who seek to improve animals' lives through positive engagement.
All of the speakers were interrupted with screams of “GO VEGAN! GO VEGAN! MURDERERRRRS!!!!”. The anger in those peoples’ voices was scary. There was so much hatred. But I ask; what image does that portray to the rest of the world? That those who care about animal welfare are psychotic extremists? We are not, we practice only extreme compassion, at a push. Any one who does not know much about animal welfare would, if they had half a mind at all, avoid anyone with an (ironically) blood thirsty scream of “GO VEGAN!”. Why should anyone go vegan? An angry scream is no way to present a rational argument that could change people attitudes towards the consumption of animal products. I'll say this about the extreemists I've seen in the past; you can yell 'MURDERER!' all you like at people coming out of MacDonalds, but you are more likely to actually facilitate change handing out leaflets and having disucssions with people outside Wholefoods. The agression of the few, on this occation very sadly over shadowed the marvelous work of TALE and KAALE who work so tirelessly to keep a watchful eye over every transporter lorry that comes through the port. Of course, I do not disagree with the morals of those extremists, but I will always disagree with their methods. In order to win this battle we must win over the support of the general public, we must make them see that we are caring and compassionate individuals who seek only to prevent suffering. We must not give them any excuse to label us as extreme, because we are not.
All in all, what should have been an uplifting day became, for me, a sad day. Those of us who care about animal welfare have to compete with businessmen, the economy and the general publics’ lack of knowledge or understanding. We must also fight against the madness and aggression of the minority of extremists who achieve nothing through their yelling apart from alienating those who might actually consider cutting down on meat, or maybe even adopting a vegan diet!
Sunday reminded me ever more of my respect for Gandhi and his methods to invoke change. He truly understood that in order to make others practice tollerance and compassion, we must practice it ourselves.
As you nibble on wings that have never flown
and gnaw upon legs that have never known
the feel of grass beneath their feet
nor scratched the earth so dark and sweet.
As you wrap my bones in old news pages
remember my life imprisoned in cages.
As you discard my carcass among rusty tins,
remember just what I have been.
Remember for me what I've never seen.