This was the first time I’ve ever taken part in either of these styles of events for animal advocacy. I’ve done some tabling and leafleting before, but this was a lot of fun to be a part of. Walking in the middle of several hundred people march and demanding the same thing you want is a great feeling.
This event was run in most major Australian cities, and was run for a simple reason – to let people know that we want an end to the use of animals and their excretions as food. This cruel practice has gone on too long. The march went through the CBD and parklands, and ended up in front of the New South Wales parliament building.
A Cube of Truth was also run after the march in the middle of a busy mall. To explain exactly what this entails is hard, so I recommend watching the video above. But put simply, we display footage of Australian factory farms and slaughterhouses and talk to people to educate them on what animals experience, and the impact of something so harmless-seeming as eating animals.
It was interesting to see people’s different reactions to the footage. I saw everything from tears to laughter. One lady put her sunglasses on to hide her tears from her daughter. Another mother tried to pull her young (7?) daughter away, but she insisted on staying and watching. A father stopped and pointed out the footage to his son. One gentleman walked past yelling “Bring me sausages!”
I had a few good chats with people who stopped to watch. One man asked me “Where was this footage taken, China?” He seemed to almost fall over when I told him it was in Australia. He said that he had already mostly stopped eating meat and I gave him some information and tips for going vegan.
Of course, as an effective altruist, I had to have a think about how effective both of these events were, as well as the impact of my marginal involvement. Not an easy endeavour by any means, but it’s worth at least thinking about it. I’m well aware that ideas which sound great can actually make things worse.
First the events as a whole – I think the march has the potential to show people that the treatment of animals is an important issue to a growing number of Australians. Hopefully the government payed attention, though I think it would have been much more effective with more people. Considering there are over 8,000 people in the Sydney Vegan Club Facebook page, I was staggered that only about 200 people turned up. I get that people have work, families and other stuff on. But one thing that frustrates me is how willing people are to share and like pictures of food on vegan Facebook pages, but (it seems to me) rarely get involved in outreach and advocacy.
The Cube of Truth got footage into the forefront of people’s minds for at least a few seconds. From reactions and conversations, it seems obvious that most people just have no idea what the life of a food animal really is like. I don’t blame them, I didn’t either until shortly becoming vegetarian 5 years ago. I struggle to see how this awareness-raising could be a bad thing. The one minor worry I do have is that this might cause people to reinforce their beliefs about animals being capable of experiencing pain (which is definitely possible), but this seems unlikely. If I had to put a number on it, I would estimate that 30+ people said they’d consider veganism as a result of the Cube.
My marginal impact was probably low. By this I mean, if I hadn’t gone to either of these events, I don’t think more animals would suffer. For me, the value was in meeting people, refreshing my dedication to the cause of reducing suffering, and practising my outreach skills. I’m a strong believer in spending time with the people you want to be like. If you want to help animals and make a difference, you should hang out with people who feel the same. And when it’s so easy to make a huge difference in their lives (don’t forget that $1 donated to the right place can spare dozens of animals from suffering!) why wouldn’t you?