It feels like ages since I wrote about activism, so I thought I’d address that. Today, I’d like to show you that vegan activism is something anyone can get involved in, no matter how shy or nervous you are. I’m going to do that by describing several different types of vegan activism, most of which I’ve personally taken part in. Hopefully at least one or two will resonate with you and you’ll feel inspired to try them out.
The classic form of activism! Usually involves lots of standing around with placards, and possibly props like masks. Rallies and marches are variations on this.
- It’s a good one to start with because usually all you have to do is be present.
- Someone may bring a megaphone, which is always good fun.
- It’s a simple but effective way of making a statement.
- It gets really cold in winter! Wear lots of layers and bring a Thermos.
The Earthlings Experience/Cube of Truth
This is really a sort of demo, but it’s a little different and deserves its own section. The Earthlings Experience started out as a couple of people sitting on the Tube in London, showing slaughterhouse and factory farm footage on laptops. They wore black clothes and white masks so they would stand out. The movement quickly spread nationwide and even worldwide, but was generally practised quite informally. It was usually done standing in the street in a line or circle, with some people holding laptops and other signs. Often there would also be a group of outreachers speaking to interested members of the public.
The Earthlings Experience has now been mostly replaced by the very similar Cube of Truth, created by Anonymous for the Voiceless. The main difference is that it’s less casual and much more organised. You stand in a square rather than a line or circle and wear the Guy Fawkes masks favoured by Anonymous rather than plain white ones. But the basic premise is the same.
- Most people are so disconnected from where their food comes from and it’s powerful to erase that disconnection.
- You may see people making the connection right before your eyes. Before now, I’ve seen people break down and cry whilst watching the footage.
- It can be tricky if there are kids around. You’ll need signs warning that the footage is graphic so you don’t fall victim to angry parents.
Chalking is just what it sounds like – writing messages and drawing pictures on the ground with chalk. You can focus on statistics, writing the number of animals killed annually in your country or the percentage of greenhouse gas emissions caused by animal agriculture. Or you may prefer to draw some adorable pictures of farm animals and write messages like “Choose compassion – go vegan”.
- It’s a really fun and creative method of vegan activism.
- It’s very non-confrontational as far as activism goes.
- It generates a lot of curiosity – people will stop to look and maybe even engage in conversation.
- Be careful not to do it on private property or you may get in trouble.
This simply involves placing vegan stickers in prominent places. There are loads of different ones available online. Some of the most effective ones say things like “Watch Earthlings on YouTube”. There are some designed specifically to be stuck on animal products at the supermarket, with messages like “Processed meat causes bowel cancer” or “This is the body of someone who wanted to live”.
- Can be done anytime, anywhere.
- Is not time-consuming, unlike other events which can go on for hours.
- Could potentially be seen by hundreds of people if your sticker isn’t removed.
- Some people consider stickering to be vandalism – I think this reaction is over the top but it’s something to be aware of.
- In supermarkets, you have to be careful not to get caught, and your stickers will probably be quickly removed anyway so it’s doubtful whether it’s worth it.
Vigils involve standing outside slaughterhouses and bearing witness to the animals going in. Activists politely request that the truck drivers stop for a few minutes so they can approach and say goodbye to the animals inside. You may be able to stroke them through the gaps in the sides of the truck or even give them water; they are often transported for hours with no food or water at all. The idea is to show the animals love, probably for the first (and last) time in their lives.
- Even if you’re already vegan, it’s easy to become disconnected from the animals. In a world where animal products are everywhere, you have to do so to stay sane. But looking into those animals’ eyes right before they are killed is a powerful reminder of what we are fighting for.
- You get an opportunity to show love to the animals in their last moments.
- You can film the animals’ plight and share the footage online, so hundreds or even thousands of people may see it. This makes the impact far greater.
- There is a real sense of community at vigils – people may even bring hot drinks to share in cold weather, and everyone supports those who are upset.
- It can be very distressing. Many people break down in tears at vigils. Outside some abattoirs, you can even hear the animals screaming as they are slaughtered. And the animals in the trucks are always noticeably terrified and covered in their own filth, which is also upsetting. (On that note, make sure you wash your hands after touching the animals.) Though it is distressing, I still think everyone should attend a vigil at least once.
An alternative to showing slaughterhouse footage on laptops to use virtual reality headsets. You can set up a stall on the street and invite passers-by to try the headsets. Animal Equality sometimes loans them out to activist groups for free. The phones which slot into the headsets come preloaded with footage of the inside of farms and slaughterhouses. Viewers can look from side to side and are fully immersed in the scene.
- Many people are very curious to try virtual reality, so it’s easy to lure them in! You can also offer yummy vegan treats as a bribe – a sign saying “Free cupcake if you watch this video” can work wonders.
- The footage is filmed from the point of view of the animal, which helps the viewer to empathise with them.
- If you can’t borrow the equipment, it’s expensive to buy.
- The footage isn’t really suitable for kids.
One of my favourite forms of vegan activism is when everyone makes (or buys) some delicious vegan treats and sets them up on a stall in a public place. You can then give the food away to passers-by. The idea is to show people that vegan food is neither bland nor boring.
- It’s so positive! People can become confrontational when shown slaughterhouse footage, but nobody does when you give them free food.
- Many people stop to chat about veganism. They often can’t believe how tasty the food is and it makes them question why they eat animal products.
- It gives the impression that vegans are nice people rather than extremists.
- Some councils don’t allow you to set up stalls without a license, so check.
Cooking for loved ones
It may not seem like it, but this is definitely a form of vegan activism!
- Many people just don’t believe vegan food tastes good. Showing them otherwise can remove that mental barrier.
- Sharing food with people is just really nice.
- None that I can think of.
The simplest form of leafleting is to push them through doors. Alternatively, you can hand them out on the street, possibly combining this with outreach.
- Door-dropping is quick and a good form of vegan activism if you’re shy.
- Outreach on the street is a good way to have conversations with people and address any questions or concerns they have about veganism.
- Prepare to get rejected a lot – many people don’t want to accept leaflets from random people on the street! And others will only take them to be polite, so it’s hard to know if they’ll actually read them.
Online vegan activism
If you can’t or don’t feel able to get out on the streets, there’s still lots you can do. You could start a vegan blog or YouTube channel, sign animal rights petitions or email your MP about animal rights issues.
- Can be done from anywhere and at any time.
- Anyone can do it, no matter how shy.
- You often don’t get to see the impact of your actions, which can be discouraging.
Creating vegan art
If you’re creative, why not make some vegan-themed art, music, poetry etc?
- An opportunity to pursue your passion.
- A non-confrontational way of getting the message across.
- Could become a source of income too.
- Getting your stuff out there can be hard work – but don’t let that stop you.
Being a mentor
There are sites which allow you to sign up to be a mentor for aspiring vegans.
- You get to help someone who otherwise might not succeed in becoming vegan.
- Can be done from anywhere.
- I can’t think of any.
Wearing vegan merchandise
You can get vegan t-shirts, hats, badges, bumper stickers and so on.
- A simple way of normalising veganism.
- Can help to break stereotypes, as with the Vegan Runners shirts.
- I prefer not buy things new for sustainability reasons, and it’s hard to find vegan stuff second-hand.
This one is only for the hardcore activists! Groups sometimes sneak into farms and slaughterhouses to film the conditions there. Some brave souls even get jobs at animal testing facilities to document the conditions.
- A very powerful and necessary way to make a difference.
- Likely to be stressful and even traumatic.
- It constitutes trespassing so you must be prepared to face the consequences if caught.
This involves trying to prevent people from shooting or otherwise killing wildlife. Fox hunting and badger culling are two of the main issues tackled by hunt sabs. Stopping the badger cull can involve anything from mapping sett locations to destroying traps, so there are options however brave you are.
- Good for the thrill-seekers.
- Some activists have directly saved animals’ lives, e.g. by rescuing a fox that’s about to be killed.
- Can be dangerous – farmers and hunters may become aggressive towards activists.
So that’s all I can think of right now (other than more niche kinds of vegan activism like inflatable farm animals!). Just a couple more things:
Can non-vegans do animal rights activism?
It depends. Most groups will accept vegetarians – Anonymous for the Voiceless allows them to be in the cube but not to do outreach. But if you want to do animal rights activism and you’re not vegan, ask yourself why not.
I’m too shy!
I hope I’ve shown you that there are plenty of options no matter how shy you are. But don’t be frightened of street activism – I’m shy too, but vegan activism has actually helped me a lot. I’ve made some incredible friends as a result and got out of my comfort zone in a very healthy way. I always used to stay behind the mask when doing the Cube of Truth, but lately I’ve found the confidence to do outreach too.
Activism sounds hard!
Vegan activism can sometimes involve being cold, rained on or otherwise inconvenienced. It may mean putting yourself out there in ways you find uncomfortable. But at the end of the day, it’s not about you – it’s about the animals. Your discomfort is nothing compared to what they go through, so just tried to hold on to that.
How do I find vegan activism near me?
Find your local activist groups on Facebook and like their pages. Then you should see their events. If you click ‘interested’ then Facebook will likely recommend other similar events to you too. If you don’t have any groups close by, consider starting your own.
A note about private property
If you’re planning an event, always check whether the location is private property. Some shopping centres, for example, are owned by a specific company. You’ll probably be asked to move on if you start showing slaughterhouse footage on their property.
That’s it! I hope you’re feeling inspired to do some activism. I’d love to know what activism you’d like to get involved with, or what you already do to help animals. Let me know in the comments.