269life: A Help Or Hinderance To The Animal Rights Discussion

It seems that support for the 269 Life group is slowly gaining momentum around the world. Originating in Israel with a public hot iron branding, there has been a similar stunt in Iowa in the United States, a group tattooing and march on Queensland’s Gold Coast, and there are plans for another public hot iron branding, this time in London in March this year.

I must say, when I first heard about the public branding, and story behind it I thought that it was a good idea, though not one that I would personally get involved with in myself, though still good none the less. I thought that maybe this was the thing that the animals rights movement needed to get activists campaigning for all animals.

A proverbial shot in the arm.

Whilst the public hot iron branding wasn’t necessarily something that I would do myself or be opposed to, I do have the word vegan tattooed on my wrist after all, I thought the event may have been enough of a catalyst for people to consider the overlooked and often forgotten animals from the various high profile regulation/reform campaigns.

When I first read the interviews done with two of the 269life organisers for The Thinking Vegan.com, I was inclined to go along with what they were trying to do, along with understanding the frustration they are feeling. Though more importantly, I wanted to believe that the 269life campaign would be something that would wake up the passionate activist into actually campaigning for animal rights, and not just some sort of incremental reform or new law to regulate animal agriculture, and to move them away from the blatantly speciesist flying pig and other single issue campaigns.

It was only when I reread the interviews and some other articles about the 269life group that I realised it was just actually just another single issue campaign, only a little more dramatic.

Reading the first article it is hard not to miss the obvious misanthropic overtones in it.

I disagree with the claim that people just don’t care about animals. I believe that they do, it is just unfortunate that they either can’t be bothered, it appears too hard, or they are actually concerned about their own social acceptance to do anything regarding an animal rights discussion or becoming vegan.

The interviewees claim to be anti-speciesist, yet the obvious misanthropic comments from them indicate possibly the worst form of speciesism there possibly could be. Holding other species above that of humans.

Despite their claim of being anti-speciestist, the 269life group is still speciesist in their actions. By focusing attention on and sensationalising one aspect of a dairy cows life, and neglecting the way that other animals are exploited the 269life protestors are just as bad as the inactive activists they are trying to motivate.

James McWilliams sums it up succinctly when he says in the article titled Branding The Movement

And this is why I think human branding is a major mistake. It suggests that a human can comprehend the full suffering that a diary cow endures when, if fact, that’s not possible. Branded for life, the human gets up and walks away, forever free and, in the circles he runs in, imbued with greater activist street cred and a media profile. The cow we’re supposed to empathize with goes back to the rape rack, the mechanized milker, and—when she dries up—the slaughterhouse. No human act of protest could capture the complete scope of that horror.

In all honesty I am still unsure, also like James McWilliams, if these activists are taking part in the branding to give themselves some sort of street cred, to prove their level of commitment to the cause, or if it is part of a growing trend of activists who’s actions seem to become part of their sense of identity.

[GARD]Sadly, I do not think that the 269life campaigns can realistically be seen as part of the vegan/animal rights social justice movement, and in actual fact I believe it can and probably is doing more harm than good.

Remember we are part of a social justice movement for a species that cannot campaign or protest for themselves, and are relying on us to do it. With this much riding on the actions and choices we make, we cannot allow the message to be whittled down into one such stunt. Regardless of how much attention the stunt(s) get from a biased and corrupt media.