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.

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4 Comments

  1. I personally do not like the 269 campaign. While I agree with the Cameron’s and McWilliams thoughts as the speciesism issue, that is not the reason why I dislike the campaign. I certainly agree that we are witnessing an animal holocaust, however, the connections made by the 269 movement (or those that would talk about it and discuss it) to the Holocaust, are too much for me, and I believe they are disrespectful to those that suffered through that dark time in history. Furthermore, the activists and others who get the 269 tattoo do so by choice, there is no force therefore the action in and of itself is not synonymous with that of a cow (or other animal) who has no choice in the matter at all. I find the thought horrifying, that someone would choose to get this 269 tattoo and then perhaps seek to explain those actions to a Holocaust survivor, if they met one. Just as an animal did not have a choice to be branded for life, so a Holocaust survivor did not have a choice, and for someone to go along and choose to get a ‘trendy’ tattoo which they use to start conversations about veganism with, does not sit well with me. I feel like the whole action completely overlooks one of the long lasting, terribly cruel perpetrations that was visited on humans, and from what I understand, the movement started in Israel, which makes it even less comprehendible to me. Surely we as vegans should consider the emotionality of this, and how it impacts on human survivors of the Holocaust, rather than look at it as a PR stunt. (also posted on facebook group Vegans In Australia)

  2. “I find the thought horrifying, that someone would choose to get this 269 tattoo and then perhaps seek to explain those actions to a Holocaust survivor, if they met one. ”

    Which is likely! Didn’t 269 start in Israel?

  3. Very much agree with your words here, I was also thinking it was a good idea at first (http://ikeygreene.wordpress.com/2012/11/01/questions-for-the-dead/) I have been rethinking this entire thing. To be honest, I had no idea that people will start tattooing themselves. I think that for those who met this actual calf and want to show solidarity it makes sense. But getting tattoos publicly?…
    I would like to mention here that I do not only “have no problem” explaining this to a Holocaust survivor, I think it is our duty to compare the non-human animal Holocaust with the human one. I’m a third generation, my mother is a second generation and as I wrote in my own blog post, I think my Grandmother would very much approve if she was alive today.

    I think that’s hardly the point anymore and *that’s* the problem. The conversation went from “non-human animal suffering is as important as human suffering” to “AR activists getting tattooed”. It’s very dark and I’m not sure it’s so good for PR.

    In any case, I do believe that there’s no way for us to really judge and know what’s best, only time will tell.
    But we should remember that when we look back we have to ask why were people so silent and why are we now so silent. Furthermore, there was never a quiet revolution.

    Israel had this very positive wave (http://freefromharm.org/veganism/the-rise-of-vegan-culture-in-israel-interview-with-ikey-greene/) but just became very dark lately, heads of cows in public fountains etc. But again, I don’t think anyone can say if it’s overall a good or a bad thing.

    Thanks for the post, Cameron!

  4. Israel is the land of PEEYAR & MORE PEEYAR.

    Consider that branding becomes a brand showing “HOW KINDLY ISRAELIS LOVE ANIMALS.”

    Israel does NOT have a “DON’T BUTCHER THE CAPTIVE PALESTINIANS in the Gaza Concentration Camp.”


What are your thoughts?