Sunday, November 19, 2017
3 part plan for successful activism
It was brilliant to be given the chance to do a talk at the Oxford Vegan Festival. I had said I would talk about animal issues that jointly affect Ireland and the UK. I would include animals in laboratories, puppy farms and live export. I started by giving credit to Oxford for being a leading light in animal-free research because of the Hadwen Trust that started there. It has now moved and is called Animal Free Research but I went on to outline the questions that I put to them:
Thank you for all the work you are doing. Please could you help with any of the following:
1. Is there any list or directory of a) existing medicines that have not been tested on animals b) the conditions that can be treated by them and c) their accessibility (to doctors or on request from patients).
2. Are there vaccines that do not use animal ingredients and are not tested on animals?
3. Are there dentistry alternatives?
4) Are there any common remedies available to the public, from chemists (parallels to say paracetemol) that have not been tested on animals?
5) How would you answer the argument that animal free research methods are 'too expensive'? Are there simulator computer programmes, machines or software that could/should be subsidized to encourage companies to switch?
I said that I had left a piece of paper for people to leave their email addresses if they wanted to hear the answers to these enquiries and I will obviously post them here as well.
I summed up the scale and intractability of the problem in 3 sentences. Ireland’s testing on animals has increased by 800% plus. In the UK, the pharmaceutical companies have an industry worth 16 billion annually. That worth is going to always be a lot more powerful than a wave of public opinion.
In Ireland, when research companies are caught breaching welfare legislation, they are not prosecuted and not even penalized: The cost and responsibility for rescuing the animals if a facility shuts down, goes to the ISPCA, the equivalent of the UK’s RSPCA.
In the UK there is no attempt at accountability at all. The pharmaceutical industry made a statement to the government that, if they did not criminalize animal advocacy actions (under a pretext of economical sabotage), and essentially get pressure groups off their backs, they would withdraw their multi-billion pound industry from the UK. They did not make even an empty promise of better working practice, or higher welfare standards…let alone make a commitment to explore less severe testing methods. Some of the people present did not know about toxicity tests that increase dosage of substances until 50% of the sample group are dead. Then they register that amount as the lethal concentration of the substance. Oh yes, then they put down the survivors as they are too sick to test another product on.
I didn’t elaborate on any gruesome details as everyone there was vegan and were probably aware of enough painful scenarios happening for animals, already. This led on to a suggested 3-part daily plan for activism.
3 part daily practice for activists.
1) Work on inner wellbeing and maintaining it
2) Do a dispassionate assessment of the external situation arising – this could be a local supermarket with factory farmed animal products or the threat of a badger cull mentioned in the newspaper. Or it could be something national or international, like a massive public subsidy going to a cruel industry/sport like bull fighting or greyhound racing.
3) Followed by taking action, with clarity but without accompanying anger.
I gave two examples. As the Brexit revision of UK policies has started, the clause stating that animals are ‘sentient’ has been omitted. This is a very important clause as, in animal cruelty legal cases, there will be no way to win protection for animals if the precedent is not there, that they can suffer.
I was anxious about this but let that anxiety go and contacted the Oxford Animal Ethics Centre where there are some very influential people and asked them to write and insist that the clause be returned to law. I also contacted Compassion In World Farming and found that they had been on the case for months trying to raise awareness that animals’ sentience was at risk of being lost.
This shows how each communication strengthens the network of awareness.
Then I suggested how to tackle the individual response. I suggested that in every shop you visit, you always look for the leaping rabbit on the things you buy. This symbol means cruelty free and not tested on animals. If you don’t see it, ask the shop assistants. Do you have any cruelty free products? Always ask in a relaxed fashion and be faintly surprised and shocked if they don’t have any but talk about it as if the assistant themselves is probably shocked too to find out there isn’t any!!! This conversation will get them looking for the rabbit symbol too and no doubt they will order one or two the following week.
Looking for ethical sustainable products, writing letters, turning up to vegan information days and rescue fundraising events are all things that can be done a little every day. And then PUT IT ASIDE, live your life with enthusiasm and be satisfied because, once you are vegan, you are already doing a lot. You are making conscious choices all the time, what to eat, to buy, to wear, to visit and to support. You are already educating by your conversations, articulating why you are doing this and that and NOT doing this and that!
However, we are disempowered as activists by any anger or upset we are carrying around. Energetically speaking, we are creating more suffering by reliving it and paying attention to it. Unfortunately, those that might even deserve our resentment for their exploitation of animals don’t ever RECEIVE the resentment. It is only the person carrying the resentment that suffers. It is a big part of the demoralization of our humanity and we must not let ourselves fall for it. Equally, we must not justify, to ourselves even, any lingering upset and anger. We must keep ourselves well and happy. Only that way can we be powerful and purposeful at the same time. This is the greatest danger for vegans that we become de-energized by the magnitude of the problems
I had to rustle up some things to be grateful for and the first was that you can trust yourself once you’ve made that change in your life as you have proved to yourself that you can respond to new information and live according to it, rather than just continue with what you used to do out of bloody mindedness, laziness or fear of change. You have proved as well that you can live with compassion and still do well, without being too ‘go getting’ and risk someone else’s wellbeing.
So I went on to talk about puppy farms and the how and why of export and all the God forsaken creatures that are exported but I will try and remember more about that tomorrow. For today, I think that was the main vision. Be content inside and generate loving feelings amongst your nearest and dearest people and pets. Then trust your intuition that the particular causes you need to pay attention to will show up for you. Then take some action, a little every day. Sign petitions and put companies and ministers under pressure to disassociate from cruel revenue streams.