This year has begun not only with a boosted rise in Veganuary participants but also with much furore surrounding the growing culture of activism against animal use and abuse worldwide.
The latest mainstream media stories of 'vegans versus farmers' are, of course, inflammatory for both sides, as well as poorly reported.
We expect nothing less or more from those institutions and should regard them with the contempt which they deserve. With publicity comes bad publicity, it is the human condition.
Given the vast interest in vegan living, at present in 2018 that figure has already doubtless increased.
A very tiny proportion (sadly) of those vegans are animal rights activists, who are working, in their own time and certainly for no personal gain, to end the use of non-human animals for food, clothing, testing and entertainment.
All of these people are vegan or activist by choice.
2016 figures from a DEFRA paper show us that the total labour force in UK farming (which includes arable) was 466,000.
Many of these people have long generational histories in agriculture, and many are labourers from non-farming backgrounds.
But let us not forget that every one of us as citizens of the UK is fortunate that our means to make a living involves a choice.
Activist Joey Carbstrong has been accused of being militant
That DEFRA document also tells us that in the same year on UK farms there were 10 million cows (including 1.9 million dairy cows), 33.9 million sheep, 4.9 million pigs and a staggering 173 million 'poultry' birds.
The vast number of these animals are or were living in environments which are unnatural to them, and all, without exception, are slaughtered at a fraction of their natural lifespan.
They are artificially bred into existence for one sole purpose, the exploitation of their bodies.
Not one of these animals has any choice.
We are told by the media that 'farmers are living in fear'.
Fear of animal activists. Let us compare that to those 221.8 million animals living in fear, a very real fear which will end in the brutal taking of their lives.
They say farmers feel 'intimidated' by activists.
All of those animals – plus the countless millions used for testing, clothing and entertainment worldwide - are living lives of perpetual intimidation, endless exploitation, and violence.
We are told that 'vegans are angry'.
When our eyes were opened to the truths of animal use we felt horrified, disgusted at the systematic legalised abuse happening to animals every second of the day and often hidden in plain sight.
It sickened us to think we had lived those lies and caused suffering to other beings until we chose to be vegan.
Those truths can make you despair, they can make you depressed, and they can make you angry.
As advocates for animals, we are trying to break through generations of indoctrination to the belief that we need to use animals for our survival.
We are talking to those who have been conditioned, as we once were, to believe the lies, that we need to use other species and that this is normal.
We are trying desperately to remove those anthropocentric beliefs which have led to the vast majority of humanity believing that non-human animals exist for whatever purposes we see fit.
Veganism is a growing movement
The frustration of trying to break through those dominant ideologies, the passion with which we speak of the suffering of those animals, can make us seem angry.
But we do realise that we were all there once, and we have to see the people whose eyes we are trying to open as our former selves, so we may empathise and find the route for them to change.
Mainstream media outlets are aware how strongly they hold in thrall a vast majority of the population.
Many people will not look past the words they are being fed.
In using lies and propaganda to defend farmers they are of course defending themselves as well as their audience.
There is an invisible connection and solidarity with all those who refuse, or are too afraid, to take a peep at the truth and then make a change.
We just cannot let them distract us or our audience from the importance of the message.
While they are busy riling us with taunts they attempt to cover up the vital truths which we need to share if we are to stop the insidious violence towards other animals in our society.
Animal rights is commonly recognised as a social justice issue, which in my experience comes as a surprise to many.
As history has shown us time after time, activists for any social justice issues are met with ridicule, resistance, and attack.
Anyone well versed in the justice they are fighting for should be aware of that and stand prepared.
Vegans are being attacked in the mainstream media
Truth can seem dangerous, and change can be challenging, and as activists we need to stay true and strong to our cause.
The animals do not have time for us to be quietly standing aside and wishing the violence towards them would stop.
We have to make a noise and I am so proud of those who are putting themselves in the firing line, their faces on television, their voices on radio, and often their personal stories in print.
I am so proud of those who I stand with at slaughterhouses and animal markets as we peacefully challenge the status quo.
We will keep sharing the truth, keep sharing the stories of the individuals whose whole existence is suffering.
So if people think activists are angry, well yes they are right.
Without the anger we are passive and apathetic.
Anger is the spark which ignites the fuel which calls us to action, and we aim to make our actions heard, seen and understood for what they are.
A call to end the exploitation of other species.
Helen Barker, who has been vegan for 22 years, lives in Essex. She is an artist/artivist, member of The Art Of Compassion, supporter of The Save Movement, and co-organizer of Essex Pig Save. She cares for a micro-sanctuary of chickens in her garden (nine at present). Animal rights advocacy and activism is everything to Helen, who is always looking for the most powerful way to get those personal stories about animals into people's hearts. She also creates activist T-shirts.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are prepared in the author's capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Plant Based News itself.
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