So my first – and very long-awaited foray into activism finally happened….I went to the second Official Animal Rights March in London two weeks ago!
And although there were literally thousands of us and it wasn’t quite as scary as leafleting in small groups, it was still a challenge to drag myself there, banner and all, and join a 5,000 strong army of revved up animal rights activists.
Thankfully I found out a lovely vegan lady I’d met in Brighton was also going, with who I met and marched among the mass of vegans of all shapes, sizes, colours, ages, races, and of liberal fashion sense. Some of the more offensive costumes included an older lady sporting a rubber bloodied pig head, which personally I thought was taking it too far and in danger of putting onlookers off. But who knows?
Appearances aside, it was a brilliant feeling being able to shout the truth aloud, without fear of inviting challenging conversations or verbal abuse.
Onlookers seemed to act in a variety of ways; some were clearly uncomfortable and refused to acknowledge us, while some simply looked on and others cheered. Tourists on the the open-topped buses delighted in taking photos and waving – probably regarding us as no more than a typical fixture of the London scene – and some chefs wielded a cucumber from a balcony.
These reactions may have been mocking, fraught with discomfort, underpinned with a wonderment reserved for a sub-species cult, or some may have been speculative.
But they were reactions.
I did worry a little that most regarded us simply as a gigantic conga-line of freaks, but hopefully at least some of the signs packed a substantial punch to the consciences of some passers-by. I was lucky enough to be at the side for most of the march, and held it up high to those in cars or buses, and a number of bewildered policeman.
The march ended in Westminster Square where several prolific activists made speeches. Their words stung a little and prickled at my conscience that I didn’t do more. It wasn’t the sensation I wanted to feel going away.
The premise was that we shouldn’t just stand by and let this happen because it’s not helping the animals destined to be abused, degraded and slaughtered.
But, personally I think you can only be effective in certain ways. I’m terrible at talking and arguing. I get flustered at even the most superficial remarks surrounding my compassionate choices.
Some of the more extreme and direct forms of actions (busting into farms and smuggling the animals) might be effective but only in small doses, especially if you wind up in prison.
Perhaps I am just making excuses, but until I get better at speaking to strangers and better prepare my arguments – there is a level of activism I don’t feel ready for (and I don’t just mean prison). But it is certainly something I am willing to work on.
I would most definitely do a march again; if there is any form of activism for a shy vegan then a march – especially the London one – is it!
While I agree we should do more if we can, I do think leading an ethical lifestyle by example, is better than nothing.
Being part of a society commanded less and less by futile traditions and limited choices, and more by compassion and concern for the planet, is not nothing.
But something definitely worth shouting about.