To Protest Or Not To Protest. That Is The Question

This time last week, Sunday 10 March 2013, somewhere between 30 and 70 people, depending on who you listen to, gathered to attend a protest on Australia’s Gold Coast organised by Coast To Coast Animal Friends, against Lennon Brothers Circus‘ use of exotic animals.

As you can imagine with this sort of protest, there were placards, shouting, people in cages, slogans on t-shirts, an over the top police presence, and they even had a chant going.

It should be noted that the excessive police presence was explained away in the local media as a result of the organisers overestimating the number of people that would attend, and falling well short of that number.

Whilst I am unsure what the intent of the protest was, apart from getting media exposure for Coast To Coast Animal Friends and maybe air time for some of its members. I would like to think that they believed that the protest was about increasing awareness, and getting people to think about the treatment of animals in circuses. Except I would be guessing, as they were unwilling to respond when I approached them for a comment.

I was told by some of the attendees that the wearing of ‘vegan t-shirts’ was expressly forbidden, with the colours of the day being black, red or white, or their own anti-circus t-shirts —  which also happened to be available for purchase on the day.

Allegedly, the reason for not wanting vegan t-shirts worn on the day was to prevent the protestors from being portrayed as extreme, or possibly confusing the issue. This is a sentiment backed up by Animal Liberation Queensland President, Chay Neal, who added “It also draws attention away from the issue of animal circuses” (Animal Liberation Queensland are the organisers of a similar protest to be held on March 24 at the same location.)

I am a bit baffled as to how wearing a vegan or animal rights t-shirt could label an individual as extreme, whilst 30 people standing together with posters, shouting at circus goers doesn’t.

As for confusing the issue, I do believe that it is BOTH Animal Liberation Queensland, and Coast To Coast Animal Friends themselves who have confused the issue.

For example, in December of 2012, Coast To Coast Animal Friends arranged a group tattooing and march through the Gold Coast as part of their 269life campaign. The following excerpt is taken from 269life’s about page “Veganism is an essential step that any responsible and sensible person must take. Yet it is not enough.” Emphasis theirs. 

Animal Liberation Queensland seems to be just as confused too, because in January of this year in conjunction with Coalition For the Protection of Racehorses, participated in a protest against the Magic Millions Horse sale and race. Now they are protesting Lennon Bros Circus’ use of a small number of animals, yet are eerily quiet with regard to the show Cavalia’s use of 44 horses.

The media don’t care what the message is, whether it is one of veganism, an end to all animal use, or even one of increasing cage size, they will happily label anyone involved in any sort of animal discussion as an animal rights activist/group. When I asked NBN ‘journalist’ Anna Rosendahl why those attending the protest were labelled as animal rights activists when they clearly weren’t, she told me that they were because they wanted animal to be ‘safe’. When I explained to her that that had nothing to do with an animal rights based discussion, she told me that I was getting into technicalities.

I am sorry, it is these technicalities that mean the difference between an animal living in a cage or no cage at all.

It is these technicalities that when Coast To Coast Animal Friends make comments on their Facebook page such as “THERE HAVE BEEN A FEW LOUD MOUTH SLURRY FACED ,uneducated DESPERATE UNINTERESTING circus going GULAGS with shit for brains on our event page …….really sad sad individuals …well by have a nice day …” (This has since been removed), and one by their spokesperson Simone Hewitt, in reference to Goal Coast Councillor Dawn Crichlow “Dawn is mentally unstable, only be concerned when intelligent people ridicule you.” That further alienates those who are yet to ‘hear’ the vegan message, possibly turning them away from it forever, and branding us as extreme. (emphasis theirs)

I am also confused as to why these groups think that the ‘general public’ is that stupid or unintelligent that they wouldn’t realise or understand that veganism is a total boycott of animal use and oppression, yet they would be ‘smart enough’ to understand that it is ‘cruel’ to keep exotic animals in cages for the purpose of entertainment, by a few people standing around waving placards and shouting at them.

Why do these groups arrogantly believe that wasting a vegan activists limited time to protest against a circus that has ‘exotic’ animals in cages is more important that promoting veganism?

Is it more of a victory to say that they got x people to not go to the circus or ‘think about it’, than it is to say they got y people to go vegan?

Are these groups really that ashamed of being associated with veganism that they cannot openly and honestly promote it to the public? Instead believing that as alleged animal rights groups that they are beyond reproach and can promote or campaign for anything they like so long as it has something to do with the animals.