With a growing number of protests – and children’s strikes – we are well aware of the international movement against climate change. But after what seems a bit of a lull over the last 20 or so years, animal rights activism seems to be having more of a resurgence recently. The reason is no doubt that veganism is growing rapidly in the UK, people’s attitudes are changing and, of course, there has been extensive coverage of exploiting animals for profit, through the likes of circuses, puppy farms and, most notably, for food.
As I have described before, I am not particularly inclined to support protests that cause inconvenience or disruption – in other words, harm – to others. For me, education and information are the preferred routes to change peoples’ habits. I do however very much believe in freedom of speech, and the right of individuals to express their beliefs. Animal activism certainly got a bad press in the 70s and 80s, understandably in my opinion, no matter how much you agreed with the objectives. I was therefore interested to read about the resurgence of animal rights activism in Germany, where out of a population of 82 million, there are 1.3 million vegans and 8 million vegetarians – a far higher proportion than in the UK.
It seems that vegans in Germany are aiming to better organise and advance their message through animal rights activism. Tens of thousands are joining Animal Rights March worldwide, including in the German cities of Cologne and Berlin. Thousands of vegans recently marched through the streets of both cities to highlight the plight of the hundreds of millions of animals that are slaughtered and abused each year. With chants of “It’s not food, it’s violence” and “Animal liberation in one generation”, the protesters weaved through the streets to highlight environmental and humanistic aspects of growing global concern.
All very well and understandable. I do not see how anyone could disagree with their message. But an element of menace is creeping in once again, with black-clad and masked protesters, supposedly from the campaign group Anonymous for the Voiceless, showing videos to the public taken inside slaughterhouses in order to shock bystanders into action. Clearly, some vegans are relatively passive, while others are considerably more active. The organisation Direct Action Everywhere engages in animal rescues and disruptions at places where there is violence against animals. Also, following the recent protests, about 50 activists burst into a McDonald’s in Cologne, holding placards and shouting slogans, while one activist doused themselves in fake blood. They claim to want people to care, which I am sure the majority of people already do.
And this is where I have an issue. While I may totally agree with their objectives, clearly there would have been children and other vulnerable people in that McDonald’s, or on the streets where the slaughterhouse videos were being shown – by masked activists. Yes their tactics may have the desired of effect of shocking people into changing their eating habits. But how many were traumatised? Quite a few I suspect. Surely I can’t be alone in thinking that better education and information, through schools, media and the huge number of vegan events organised around the country, along with peaceful protests, is the way forward to accelerate what is already a fast growing appreciation of animal rights and veganism.