Yesterday (18.3.17) I went to Swansea for the day to meet a group of vegan activists taking part in the Earthlings Experience. The Earthlings Experience is a growing form of peaceful activism based around the Earthlings documentary which highlights the different ways we as humans exploit animals and the horrors the animals go through in order for us to do this. It is graphic, but unfortunately it is happening every day in the UK and needs to be seen in order for people to connect what is going on to the food they are buying.
I got the train from Carmarthen with a few friends from.Carmarthen Vegans – there were four of us. Once in Swansea we went to Brontosaurus – a new all vegan stall in the market – and oh my God it was amazing! The freezer was full of ice creams, chocolate, frozen pizza and more, the fridge full of vegan cheeses that I’ve only dreamed about! My friend RM and I are both quite poor (she is a student and i am unemployed) shared some marshmallows and a wagon wheel style biscuit and had a vegan creme egg each. AMAZING! My other friend K bought a mushroom sausage roll which she graciously shared, and her husband P bought some wotsit style crisps which tasted amazing too. I could have gone home right then and it still would have been an amazing day!
We met the others in Potters Wheel, a Wetherspoons pub near the centre of Swansea. I hadn’t met anyone before but everyone was really nice. There was a mixture of middle aged and young which is always nice, although the group was heavily female with P being the only male to join us. We had a quick chat about the plan for the day, who had what role and what to do in certain events (ie if we were asked to move on, if people were rude – none of which happened on the day!) and then we set off to our destination.
We weren’t really sure of where to stand as it was raining slightly and we didn’t want to get our laptops wet. We ended up in the perfect location outside a closed down bhs store – it was on the main path through town which meant lots of people walked by, and we were close to mcdonalds which was a bonus. We sorted ourselves out, got in a line and put on our masks and within a couple of minutes we had people coming over to see what was going on. I really didn’t expect many people to come over but we had a constant flow for the whole two hours we were there. it was really great, the time flew by and I was still buzzing when I went to bed last night!
As you can see above there were three of us with laptops and three with signs, then there were five people handing out leaflets and speaking with people. Those of us wearing masks were silent, which was really hard at times actually. I’d not wanted to be a speaker because I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to answer all questions but actually I had an answer to all of the questions I heard people ask. Wearing the mask for two hours was a bit gross as all of the condensation from my breathing kept accumulating around my mouth and chin. By the time I took my mask off there was so much it all dripped down all over me – the most disgusting thing ever!
It was really great seeing in peoples’ eyes the moment of realisation that this is what happens in the animal industry. So many young people came over, often in groups, and although at first they were just acting like gobby teens and tweens, once they actually saw what was going on many of them seemed really concerned and had lengthy conversations with our speakers. One girl looked about 13 and came over with a lot of friends waving around a burger from mcdonalds – each person watched a bit of the documentary and one by one they quietened down. This girl was showing off a bit and taking the mick, but when it was her turn to watch she suddenly became solemn and actually offered her burger to someone else because she didn’t want to eat it anymore. That realisation that in buying these products people are actually contributing to the mistreatment of animals, and the moment people start to see the animals as individuals is really the reason I did this in the first place and it was so uplifting to see us make a difference.
Of course there were some people, and always will be, that the footage just didn’t make a difference to. One example is a man who watched and was quite moved by what he saw, but he had disconnected himself from what he was seeing and as he was walking away his partner asked if he would still eat meat and he said yes. Another example, and one that quite disturbed me actually, was a father and daughter who just made jokes with eachother about it the whole way through. It was hard to keep my mouth shut then. But then there were others like a boy who watched the video and then came back a while later to show his friends because it had made him think about where his food came from.
One thing I noticed was that as soon as some people saw or heard the word vegan they instantly shut themselves off from us. People on the verge of taking a leaflet saw that word on the front and changed their minds. I dont know what it is about the word vegan but it turns people away. Another thing I noticed is that when groups of people watched together the footage itself didn’t make too much of a difference, but when they had the earphones on and could hear the commentary and the sounds of the animals the message started to sink in. As headphones were passed around one by one the people would change, and those that didn’t ever use the headphones often didn’t seem that affected. The headphones added with a chat from one our speakers really seemed to open their eyes. I can’t wait to do it again!
I felt strange at first allowing children to watch the footage, even though there was a warning on each laptop about graphic content, but it occured to me that these children are out in town by themselves spending money and therefore are able to contribute to the industry so they should see the effect their actions have.What I actually struggled with the most was when parents, who had allowed their children to watch it in the first place despite the warning for graphic content, dragged their children away who actually wanted to learn more, and I heard one that as they were walking away making excuses and on the verge of lying to her children about what they’d just seen.
At 3.15 we packed away (fifteen minutes later than planned) and went as a group to brontosaurus (again!) where each of us bought a little something. I bought a mushroom sausage roll of my own, a chocolate cup (beautiful), a pack of the cheesy wotsit style crisps and a mushroom pie by Mr Nice Pies. I ate the roll and the chocolate straight away and have the pie to eat later for my tea. It was such a lovely day and I can’t wait to take part in the next earthlings experience, or any form of activism to be honest!
One of the things i like the most about Earthlings Experience is that we don’t bother people or intrude on their day. They choose to come to us, they choose to press play and they choose to ask questions afterwards. I think it’s a great way to get across to people and I have so many ideas on how to improve my message next time. There is so much that I haven’t written about that happened yesterday but it was so great to meet so many like minded people and to hopefully have had an impact on at least one person.