With the 2018 global March to Close All Slaughterhouses around the corner, I thought I would revisit and share with you my words from the Adelaide March in early 2017. As part of the grassroots activist team I co-coordinate (Animal Rights South Australia), we brought the March to Adelaide for the first time last year, in the hope to fuel the fire in animal activists to keep using the most powerful tools they have in protecting animals – their voices.
We also marched to keep the public reminded of the plight of the greatest victims of our daily habits, the animals who go vastly unseen and unheard. To emphasise that the very concept of a ‘slaughterhouse’ is inherently violent.
You may think to yourself, how will marching close slaughterhouses? In and of itself, of course marching will not end such a practice. But marching has been a powerful symbol of historical social justice movements over decades, and the animal rights movement is no different. We don’t march to just make noise and go home, we march to embody a powerful message for the public who are at the heart of influencing this system, to shine a light on the darkness that is slaughterhouses, we march to show solidarity for animals and for others around the world who yearn to see them liberated, and we march to remind ourselves that we are not alone; that in fact, we are part of a rapidly shifting worldview.
Speech transcript from the Adelaide March To Close All Slaughterhouses:
– 11th March 2017, Apoorva Madan
When I first became an activist, I felt as though trying to make change in the lives of animals was like holding back a tidal wave with the palm of my hand. I had not only experienced a vicarious trauma from discovering the breadth of our dominion over animals, but it was followed with a sense of not knowing what on Earth I could possibly do.
And then I discovered the movement; I discovered I wasn’t alone in this battle. Forward in time 7 years and here I am, feeling incredibly humbled to be standing among the voices that form that very movement (and this is just a fraction of it!).
We are here today because of something so incredibly important. We are not here because of a diet, a trend, or some nonsense belief. We’re not even here because we love animals. This isn’t about love, or kindness. We’re here because we’re demanding justice. We’re here to remind people of the billions of forgotten victims that exist because we have called them food, clothing, test subjects or entertainment. We’re here to help people make the connection. That in our treatment of others – we can be better than this. We are better than this.
As a psychologist, every day I work with people suffering from trauma, grief, despair, and feelings of helplessness. Suffering that most if not all of us have experienced to some degree. It is this very reason that standing for animal rights became such a central part of my life. I know what it is to suffer – so how can I willingly inflict it on someone else?
Every mother pig who has spent years of her lifetime in a sow stall unable to turn her body, will experience learned helplessness. Every mother cow in a dairy farm whose newborn calf is taken away from her, will experience grief. Every animal who waits in line at the kill floor, listening to the cries of the one slaughtered before them, will experience trauma. In our ability to suffer, we are undoubtedly equal.
I am sometimes asked the strange question of why I am an animal activist when there are so many people suffering in the world? Why am I putting my energy towards animals of all things? It is because of questions like this that I believe we need to keep fighting for animals.
The greatest injustices have always been underlain with this mentality of ‘us and them’ where others are seen as ‘lesser’ because of some arbitrary difference. I am an animal activist not because I care more for animals than I do people, but because I believe our treatment of animals is the epitome of this mentality.
Once you extend your respect to all beings with the ability to suffer, discrimination of any kind is easily recognised as unjust. I believe veganism sits at the foundation of all branches of social justice – which is why ‘animal rights’ does not concern just you and I, or even those who care about animals, but rather, animal rights concerns everyone.
Admittedly, I was scared when I first considered speaking out for animal rights – scared of judgment, rejection, ridicule. So for some time I stayed silent. Until I realised that my fears were nothing held up to the fear of what each and every animal faces every day in those labs, those concrete cages, and on those kill floors. I realised, an unpopular view does not mean an unsound one. In fact, significant change almost always comes with discomfort.
If you are vegan – you have already taken that discomfort and turned it into action. You have taken a stand in respecting animals and their rights. But please – don’t let the apathy and active resistance that we so often face stop you from standing for something so important. Keep fighting. Keep talking. Keep educating. Keep having those conversations. The plight of animals depends on our silence, and their emancipation depends on our voice and our conviction.
Do not forget that we are creating change. Over the 8 years that I have been vegan, vegan businesses have thrived in my hometown; regular businesses have begun incorporating vegan menus, and we can buy almost any product we need and want in its vegan form. Animal exploitation industries are now threatened by us as a market, so much so that they make ads to ridicule us, and the stereotyped connotations that come with veganism are changing more than ever.
We are not alone and we will never be alone. Our movement will continue to grow. We may not see the end of animal exploitation in our lifetime, but this is what makes our role even more noble.
I truly believe, that one day our treatment of animals will be looked upon as a deep taint in our history of moral progress. But we are at the foundation of this monumental shift in moral perception.
We are creating history.
And while it may seem overwhelming, please remember that we are not just changing numbers, we are changing lives. So don’t stop fighting.
See a video of the March, Never Be Silent, here