Being vegan means reversing the psychosis; you don’t deserve a pat on the back, it doesn’t make you a kind, compassionate or loving person necessarily⏤it merely makes you sane and just. - Paul Bashir, Co-founder, Anonymous for the Voiceless.
Sometimes, I feel disconnected with the vegan world. Not because I lose the passion for veganism or forget why I decided to go vegan in the first place, but because I feel the need to discuss veganism, the environment and animal agriculture with people, and it seems like nobody in my community understands or shares my point of view. But the more I learn about the subject, the bigger this need grows. It feels like I have no one whom I can discuss a documentary I watched or a book I read with, because I always feel like people will judge me, disagree or call me crazy...and it's exhausting! Whether because they choose to ignore it or because they don't believe in the facts, I am sometimes left wondering...If only there were a community of like-minded people around me who kept me engaged with my purpose and encouraged me to make a real, palpable change in the world through vegan actions...
Because there are still a minority of people who follow veganism in its whole, purest form, every now and again even I need reassurance that what I am doing is right: that I chose to live like this because of ethic, moral, environmental reasons, and also because of my love for animals, and that's okay. I sometimes need reassurance that the connection I made to the truth is indeed worthy of my attention, worth cherishing and most importantly, worth fighting for! I believe that my acquired knowledge is worth sharing with others. Veganism is not just a diet, it's a lifestyle; and sometimes, I need to remind myself of the overall purpose, realigning my values with my actions so that my journey with veganism continues to evolve and make sense.
Normally, when I go through these stages, I re-watch documentaries or online videos about veganism and the environment, and the simple task of re-watching gives me the strength to continue fighting for animal rights. But even so, for the past few months I've been feeling like what I'm doing isn't enough. It's not enough to just live my life with my actions aligned with my values. I want to do everything I can to help others 'take off their blindfolds' as well. And right now, it feels like activism is the next logical step.
I started researching about vegan activism a few months ago, and more in depth over the past couple of weeks. From the actual definition of activism and its meaning all the way up to how it's done, who can attend, how to find and join local groups in your community...And this is when I found Anonymous for the Voiceless.
Anonymous for the Voiceless is an animal rights organisation that specialises in educating the public on animal exploitation and fostering highly effective activism groups worldwide. They hold an abolitionist stance against animal exploitation and promote a clear vegan message. It's a worldwide organisation of street activists dedicated to giving a voice to the voiceless, in this case, the animals. They are split into two teams: the cube team (where people stand in a cube formation holding digital devices with footage of what really goes on inside slaughterhouses), and the outreach team - those who approach people who have been watching the footage for a significant amount of time and ask them questions about how it made them feel watching those horrible clips of video footage. The goal is not to tutor people on veganism or impose anything, but to ask simple questions about how the footage made people feel, letting them make the connection themselves. It's not meant to be a pushy form of activism, but an educational one. By watching raw, real images and video footage of a slaughterhouse, people are more likely to make the connection.
A Cube of Truth is a peaceful street activism demonstration that employs direct action with the public.
More than wanting, I needed to get involved in this. It felt like the next logical step. I messaged the organisers of my local group and found out about the next event, which would take place in Sunderland on Saturday, 16th November. I couldn't wait to take my first steps towards activism. The organisers were super friendly and kindly explained to me how the events normally work. I asked if I needed to bring anything and if it would be okay to photograph the event.
I wasn't planning on joining the Cube that day, but I ended up doing it, twice. I honestly thought I would struggle to stay still in that cube, but I was seriously surprised with how empowered I felt making a stand for what I believe in.
I spent an hour in the Cube, then went back to photographing for a little while, before standing in the Cube one last time. I first held a tiny ipad, but the second time I held a big TV screen with a strap around my neck. I was surprised at how much easier it was to actually stand with the big TV screen instead of the little ipad.
While I was in the Cube, I had the opportunity to listen to the conversations that the Outreach team were having with people. I wanted to take it all in and listen to the questions they were asking, and how they would conduct the whole conversation from beginning to end.
I didn't realise the true impact of the Cube until I saw a man literally brought to tears after watching some of the footage. He was talking to a member of the outreach team at the time, and I was wearing a mask and holding the TV while this man sobbed in front of me. I couldn't move or comfort him in any way, because I had to sit still in the Cube. And this was a breaking-point for me, because it was then that I realised the true impact of Anonymous for the Voiceless, and the reason why it is important to help take down the blindfolds that society and governments, meat and diary industries, and even the media put on people. Without realising, we are so used to being brainwashed that we don't believe the truth, or we choose to ignore it. Or sometimes, we don't even know what the truth is, because nobody show us... And this is why Anonymous for the Voiceless choose to show people the horrific videos of animals being slaughtered.
As the hours went by, people walked past us: some lingered for a few minutes watching the footage, others simply kept marching on without even taking a look. Teenagers stopped by, children stopped by. We had parents comment on how we should be ashamed of showing those videos to children and teenagers passing by, but when we asked them if they ate meat, dairy and eggs and they said yes and we explained that the footage they watched is what they're eating, some of them made the connection, while others still didn't.
I was really surprised to hear from the mouth of a police officer who cycled past us a unusual comment: 'Keep up the good work, guys! Well done!' At first, I questioned if he was being sarcastic, but then I realised he was being truthful, and that had a huge influence on the way I looked at the whole Cube of Truth and its impact, yet again.
After the event, we were hungry. So as a group we decided to head over to Greggs for some vegan sausage rolls and then to Café Nero for a hot chocolate. In the café, we talked about the experience. We talked about the concerned teenagers, the crying man, and a few negative comments that people made through the day. We discussed how to get around certain situations and how to reply to certain comments people might make at these events.
At the AV events, the Outreach team always keeps count of how many people they believe were truly convinced to really go vegan. Not just to try vegan, but to really change their lifestyles and go vegan for the long-run. The team also handed out cards with helpful information like recipes and guidelines for veganism, to ensure a smooth transition to a vegan lifestyle.
I was very impressed with the whole experience and how it made me feel; and as I was walking towards the car by the end of the day, after I hugged everybody goodbye, my heart was full.
From today, I literally, physically stand up to animal liberation. What do you stand up to?