Last Week’s “Protests”: Constructive Criticism

Last week we experienced what was claimed to be the biggest animal rights direct action the world has ever seen.

Making this claim points to how little the organisers know of this movement’s history and the things that happened in the days before social media.

Do they honestly believe that these stunts were bigger than what the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) did or Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) protests?

As would reasonably be expected, opinion was divided on the “effectiveness” of these “stunts”.

I did write Another Stunt That Does NOTHING For “The Animals” on the day, and this article is supplemental to that.

The reason for this is that the faithful seem to think that it is only carnists suffering from cognitive dissonance and those vegans who are haters and don’t understand social movement theory.

To be clear, I am not professing to be an expert on anything, though what I am commenting on is based on my 26 years being vegan and 46 years on this planet.

We Were Lied To

Let’s start with the understanding that we have all been lied to.

In the lead up to these stunts, we were told this would be the biggest animal rights direct action the world has ever seen.

And what did it turn out to be?

A branding exercise to promote a movie, and the director of it Chris Delforce. (I will go more into this bit later).

Even the participants have little to no idea what the aim of these stunts was.

Some are saying that it was an “animal liberation” protest.

Others saying that it was a “disruption”.

And an “animal rights” protest.

So far, I have only seen one person admit that the goal of the exercise was to promote the URL that the movie Dominion appears on.

Hands up those who honestly believe the turn out would have been as big as it was if they had have said, “Hey, we want you to hold this sign to promote my movie”?

Instead, everyone was LIED to and told that these stunts were going to be something they weren’t.

Mass Protests Don’t Work

The reality of living in Australia is that mass protests don’t work.

Regardless of what they are about, they usually end up being about the participants or organiser and the message is lost.

For example, let’s say that 100 people participated in the Dominion stunt in the Melbourne CBD.

A few days later, 100,000 union supporters protested in the same city.

And how many people, who weren’t sympathetic to their view, have now changed their mind?

Let’s also not forget that Australian’s have been protesting against live export since the 70s.

There were a number of mass protests in Queensland against the Bligh Government selling state-owned assets, yet it still happened.

Or how about the mass protest by school children, across the country, last month?

This Wasn’t a “Non-Violent Protest”

This claim is interesting.

Like the belief that “animal welfare” and “animal rights” are the same thing, too many people now believe that “peaceful” and “non-violent” are the same thing.

As far as I have been able to see, none of the stunts from last Monday was non-violent.

Large numbers of people is a show of force, and cannot be classed as non-violent

Then there is also the act of chaining yourself to machinery. This puts at risk the workers of the factory as well as the other animals who are being exploited there.

Targetting workers in this way is not an act of non-violence or peace.

Wasn’t A “Disruption”

When something is disrupted, it isn’t the same again.

Think about Uber and the taxi industry, or Foodora/Uber Eats and home delivery.

Life has gone back to normal after Monday’s stunts, which means they were, at the most, an interruption.

The Melbourne CBD stunt was, for all intents and purposes a blockade, and not a protest.

Calling it a disruption romanticises what it was, and makes the participants out to be something they aren’t.

Wasn’t About Rights

For these stunts to be genuine rights based protests, they needed to respect the rights of everyone.

Not just those of the participants.

Remember, rights have to apply equally to everyone, and not just a few.

Blocking a public roadway, without prior approval, is egotistical, to say the least.

A few people have decided that the promotion of a movie was more important than other peoples’ right to drive on a public road without hindrance.

The blocking of the road without approval also meant that people were not able to exercise their right to access healthcare.

We do know of one person who was stuck in the traffic jam and pleaded with the performers to move out of the way so they could go to the hospital.

What we don’t or may not ever know is the impact that these blockades had on emergency services being able to attend to them.

If one person died or suffered health complications due to the blockade, would it still have been a success?

That there was the potential for this to happen means that the blockade shouldn’t have been considered in the first place.

All About Chris Delforce

I have seen comments on social media ridiculing the idea that this was all about Chris and to boost his profile.

Though have a look at what actually happened.

He has had a piece in the Australian newspaper all about him.

He has been on various TV and radio programs talking about himself, and the movie’s consumer awareness message.

If that isn’t boosting his profile, I don’t know what is.

Let’s also not forget the egotistical claim that he made that the protestors were “my people” when interviewed on the radio.

Vanity Metrics

The faithful have claimed that the stunts were a “success” based solely on the vanity metrics of a Google trend and movie views.

What this data doesn’t say is:

  • how many people watched the movie we’re already vegan
  • How many watched to simply leave a negative comment
  • How many actually became vegan due to watching it
  • How many watched it for more than a few seconds
  • And so on.

(As people were forewarned about the content of the movie, there is a very good possibility that it will have a reduced impact on them. See this piece by Corey Wrenn for more information).

The reality of things is that we can’t really judge this stunt as a “success” unless we see a spike in the reduction of the sale of animal-based products. Or a spike in the number of people identifying as vegan. (Whether they stay vegan long term is a whole new discussion).

Actually Harmed “The Movement”

A common view is that these stunts hurt the movement and made the divide between those who aren’t vegan and those who are, even wider.

In typical ignorant fashion, the faithful reply that the aim of the stunts wasn’t to make vegans popular.

Except they are missing one important thing.

The vegan movement is made up wholly and solely of people who were most likely consumers of animal products.

When we turn humans away from the idea of animal ethics we are doing the worst possible thing we can do as allies.

We don’t have to be ‘popular’, but we certainly have to be approachable, non-violent and we need to encourage as many non-vegans to join us as possible.

Anything that turns people away from veganism cannot and is not a good thing for the movement.

Let’s also not forget the flow on effect of having all vegans tarred with the same brush as those who participated in the stunts.

Societal Change

Another one of the claims made about the blockade and trespass was that it was done to bring about societal change.

They even reference previous social justice movements as proof that they did the right thing.

Except they haven’t realised that we aren’t anywhere near having societies views changed about how we view other animals.

A point with mentioning in the social justice movements that are mentioned, it was always the oppressed who took a stand and participated in acts of civil disobedience.

This isn’t the case with veganism.

Which means that until such a time as we have society in general on our side, and it is the laws that need changing, we need to be approaching this as a marketing exercise.

And the last thing you want to do in any marketing campaign is alienate potential customers.

Yes There Is No Right Way To Advocate

Though there are a million wrong ways to advocate for something, and the events of the past week may just be a perfect example of one of them.

The spectacles we have seen in the media since then have focused attention on the participants of the stunts, and not the oppressed.

Refusing to even consider that what happened on Monday was the wrong thing to do on a mass scale dismisses the valid concerns and views of others.

Rather than only thinking about things that will kick up the most dust, those who organise and participate in these sorts of events MUST also consider what the shape of the movement will be like once the dust has settled.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Did you find this article useful?

If you think it is worth a cup of coffee, you can shout the author one.

Introduction to Stoicism
Add your name and email address below to learn more about Stoicism, and how it can help you to be and stay vegan in a world that isn’t.

What are your thoughts?