I am feeling extremely inspired this week as an activist. Earthling Ed, an animal rights activist from the UK, came to visit the University of Waterloo. He was an extremely down-to-earth guy and I value the harmony he portrays between being compassionate but standing firmly for the rights of animals. He touched on many points that deeply affected me.
Ed described a time when he visited a pig slaughterhouse. He talks about how the pigs are loaded onto a machine, where they are slowly ushered through a gas chamber. He recounts that he can hear the typical pop music on the radio. But not for long as the screams and squeals for these pigs, being burned from the inside-out, overtook the radio music. Instead of leaving or turning away, he bare witness to this occurrence. He said if he was in that situation, he wouldn't want people to walk away. He would want them to be there and understand their hurt. The gas chamber goes silent, and in go the next three pigs.
This brought me to tears. As an activist, I am invited to many bear-witness events to see pigs and chickens enter the slaughterhouse grounds in large trucks, stuffed to the brim. I have never gone. I probably never will go and here are my reasons why.
Ed spoke about how it is important to remind ourselves about why we do what we do. It's not simply enough to be vegan. It's not simply enough to pay for animals to be killed. We must be out and active and telling people about the gross injustices happening all around the world to trillions of beings. I know that as an activist, I constantly have animals on my mind. I am vegan for animals through-and-through, which makes me not one of those people who might have a "cheat day" and eat a cheeseburger. Due to this, I don't think it is necessary for me to bear witness in regards to the feeling of not forgetting what I'm fighting for.
If you know me, you know I am a very emotional person. I try to keep it together most of the time, but I am typically up in my feels. Personally, if I was in my pre-vegan state and I was shown slaughterhouse footage, animals begging for their lives, still being alive but bloodied and in terrible conditions - that would not convince me to enact a change. If anything it would drive me away.
I don't want you to think that I believe that this form of activism (such as cubes of truth) is ineffective. It IS effective, but only for some people. Some people require the shock and the horror in order to feel as though they must make a change. However, we must consider our audiences.
With the massive lists of ways one can be an activist, no one is better or worse at activism based on their type. What I do are a few things.
1. Lead by example
I constantly live a compassionate lifestyle, let people know about my ethical choices when they ask and ensure that it looks easy (because it is).
2. Make some bomb food
I'm Italian. I know first-hand how important food is in most settings. Through my activism, I teach people how easy it can be to make vegan food. I let them make the connection between their "steak" being a cow or their "veal" being a small baby calf that was taken away from it's momma.
3. Online activism
Through my online... presence? I hardly have a presence but whatever. I try to influence people through my social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but also through avenues such as this blog. I've made videos, posters and advertisments for my digital arts courses. Joining UW Animal Rights Society has given me a direct way to promote activism through our Instagram and Facebook pages as well. It reaches SO many people, which is why it is also an effective form of activism.
We must think about diversity in the activism community. It is so important to be able to approach different types of people through different means of activism to help our planet and the animals. If we have LGBTQ+ vegans answering concerns from LGBTQ+ community members, they feel a connectedness and can answer questions a non LGBTQ+ person couldn't answer. Similarly, when someone asks me how I can eat Italian food AND be vegan, I show them what my Italian mom makes - we share a connection that someone of a different culture may not feel, which helps the cause.
My main takeaway from this is that in order to be an activist, you don't need to participate in events that make your uncomfortable or you feel won't be effective in certain situations and for certain groups of people. Learn about your audience, be prepared to offer alternative forms of activism (through referrals, for instance) and make sure you can drive that point home without making the movement or yourself look bad. Someone else's form of activism isn't "better" or "more vegan," it's just different and that's okay! We need this diversity to prosper.
I love what we do. We're changing the world every day by what we do. I can't wait to see where we go.
To watch Earthling Ed's talk and Q&A session, check out the video that was live streamed.