On “Direct Action”

Recently I was given the opportunity by two media outlets to share my thoughts on last month’s direct action stunts that took place in Australia.

In the article Veteran vegan calls out young activists over direct action: ‘It doesn’t work’ that appeared on 7News.com.au, Tim Oseckas gave his thoughts on why it does work.

After I shared this article on the Vegan Police facebook page, Tim made a few comments.

It is these comments, and claims made that I feel we should be questioning, and looking at deeper.


For those who came in late, this all relates to a National Day of Action that took place in Australia in April 2019.

The biggest was a protest in Melbourne where 100 protestors sit in the intersection of Flinders and Swanston streets in the CBD.

Other protestors took part in stunts at various slaughterhouses around the country.

Which included things like protestors locking themselves onto machinery, and chutes.

It is claimed that these were animal rights and vegan protests.

Except all they did was promote the consumer awareness movie, Dominion

Which makes no mention of veganism or animal rights.

Direct Action Is Necessary For Social Change

This is one of the common claims by those who do it, to justify their actions.

Supporters of direct action use the civil and equal rights movements as proof that direct action works.

In the 7NEWS.com.au article, Tim is quoted as saying, “When we look back at history, at women’s activists and civil rights activists fighting racist laws, we can see direct action is crucial to change,”

He says he was misquoted and what he actually said was “direct action was necessary for social change, that there is no social change without it”.

While direct action may have worked as part of the catalyst for change, it hasn’t worked to get rid of the inequality in either of those areas.

The big difference between the animal rights or vegan “movement” and the civil and equal rights movements is that they were participant led, while ours isn’t.

The other equally important difference between the animal rights movement, and that of the civil/equal rights movements is that by the time the noticed acts of direct action took place, the respective movement were big enough to build on that momentum.

Does Protesting Actually Work?

Now, this bit is based on the observations of protesting in Australia, and things will most likely be different in other parts of the world.

There have been protests against the live export of animals for well over three decades.

This has involved national days of action, protests at the docks, and so on.

There have also been protests against duck shooting in Victoria for almost the same period of time.

Yet very little has changed with either of those activities.

(The number of hunters at this year’s season in Victoria is said to be down, though it is unclear whether that is a result of the protest or the states draconian firearms legislation).

So, if protesting works, why are the still going?

What about other areas?

We have recently seen two national strikes by school children in support of something being done about the climate emergency.

Yet they have had no impact on the policies of the government.

Way back in 2009, Queensland’s newly elected Bligh Government announced a plan to sell some of Queensland’s publicly owned assets.

This was met with massive protests from Queenslanders of all walks of life.

Including the union movement which is a huge financial supporter of the Labor Party.

Despite it being said that a majority of Queenslanders were against the asset sale, privatisation still went ahead.

But The Media Is Talking About Us

Claiming that media attention is a sign of the effectiveness of the protest is nothing more than the participants egos talking.

Our mainstream media is more like a PR machine for the various agendas, than an impartial source of information.

The only thing that appearing in the media means is that they think the subject will get enough views to provide a return for the advertisers.

Think about it for a minute.

Considering how much money industries that use other animals spend on TV advertising, do you really think that TV shows would promote things that would stop people buying the advertisers products?

But It Shifts Attitudes

Tim said:

Direct action works by shifting social attitudes and raising awareness. More people are aware of what’s happening to other animals than ever before. More people have become vegan in the last few years since direct actions have increased.

Yes, direct action has shifted social attitudes towards to objectives of other movements.

Though there isn’t enough evidence to suggest that this is the case with regards to animal rights.

More people may have become “vegan” in the past few years, though the evidence suggests that it hasn’t been due to direct actions.

In this year’s VOMAD survey, 1.4% (185 people) of respondents said they first seriously considered going vegan as a result of public activism.

Then there is the question of what sort of vegan they are.

In recent weeks we have seen a number of influencers who told their audience they were vegan, get caught out or confess to consuming a particular animal.

But It Gets The Animal Rights Message Out There

This has to be the biggest con out there.

I have not seen one protest that presented an actual animal rights message.

Take April’s protests for example.

The sole aim of the protests was to promote a movie, Dominion, and its director, Chris Delforce. (That makes the protests promotional, rather than vegan or animal rights).

If people were to watch the movie, they would see how those particular animals are treated by the industries that use them. (Animal welfare).

As I have said previously, the movie does not mention veganism or animal rights.

The movie only mentions right FOUR TIMES

  • 00:02:28 – and the notion that might equals right.
  • 01:47:21 – Achieving the right level of hunger prior to shows
  • 01:52:13 – Beings in our own right
  • 01:54:54 – we have earned the right to exercise power, authority and dominion

You’d think that if this was an animal rights movie that the word rights would have actually been mentioned.

Then consider the comments that Chris Delforce has made when interviewed.

A majority, if not all of his comments were of a consumer awareness nature. As in, he wants the consumer to know where their “food” comes from, etc. (This makes him a consumer awareness advocate, not an animal rights advocate).

If you have a look at the Dominion website itself, you will see this bit.

What was your motivation behind making *Dominion*?

Industries that profit from the exploitation and abuse of animals hide behind a wall of secrecy – they know that if consumers were to see for themselves what actually occurs in the production of meat, dairy, eggs, leather, etc, they’d stop being consumers and those industries would quickly cease to exist.

In my 7 years as an animal activist I’ve worked to tear down that wall, to force transparency on these truly horrific systems.

Again, this is about consumer awareness and animal welfare, NOT animal rights.

What Are You Doing To Directly Help Other Animals?

This question is asked of anyone who makes a comment that doesn’t support the current status quo within this “movement”.

The reality is that there isn’t one single thing that we can do that directly helps other animals.

Yes, we can go vegan and no longer support industries that oppress them. Though that doesn’t directly help those animals who are already in the system.

We can encourage others to go vegan, which results in them withdrawing their support for the industries. Though that doesn’t directly help other animals either.

What about rescuing an animal? That helps that particular animal, though once again doesn’t directly help other animals either.

Giving to an animal rescue/sanctuary helps the residents there, though it doesn’t directly help other animals either.

For Tim, or anyone else to ask the question points to how little they understand things.

Though, that isn’t the point of asking the question.

Its main aim is to elevate the position of the person asking it, by having their list of things they do be greater than the person they are asking the question of.

It is also intended to put the person being asked the question into a position of defensiveness, by having to defend whatever it is that they do.

What Are We To Do Then?

While veganism as a brand may be trending, veganism as a lifestyle choice doesn’t seem to be as popular as it is made out to be.

So, the first thing we need to do is make it something inviting.

We can do that by working on ourselves first, and becoming the best version of ourself that we can be.

The more that we work on ourselves, the more likely it is that we will become more resilient to the challenges that we will face on a daily basis.

But What About “The Animals”?

The sad reality of life is that the world won’t go vegan overnight.

Though that doesn’t mean we should give up hope.

The more that we present ourselves as normal vegans, the more likely it is that the mainstream will be likely to become curious about who we are.

The more curious they become, the greater the chance is that we will be able to get them to adopt a vegan lifestyle.

The more people who become vegan, the less people there are supporting industries that oppress other animals.

(Though we do need to be prepared for those industries to fight back, which is why we need a clear animal rights message).

At least until the numbers of vegans is greater than the 1 – 2% that it currently is.

And that won’t happen if we insist on doing poorly thought out stunts that alienate the very people we are trying to convert.

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