Pamela Nova, founder of Animal Justice Emergency, talks about her journey into animal rights activism, and discusses the state of vegan activism in Bristol.
When I first arrived in Bristol three years ago, as a relative newcomer to veganism, and an activist of several decades, I was keen to dive into the vegan activist scene.
Returning from living in Malaysia, where I’d gone vegan and set up my own outreach group Life Love Vegan, I’d developed a strong case of activism envy watching Facebook posts of Anonymous for the Voiceless (AV) and actions like “Cube of Truth,” “Saves” marches and, it seemed, a thriving Bristol activist community.
However, I was soon left disheartened with what I found.
we are looking to educate on the links between the animal death industry and climate change and to build community resilience in the challenging times we live in
In my journey into veganism, I have found that Veganism broadly falls into two camps.
This is an abolitionist and liberatory approach based on the work of Vegan Society founders, Dorothy and Donald Watson. Conscientious objectors in the second world war, they came to the conclusion that all oppressions from racism and sexism to speciesism are linked.
Based on this and the horrors of living through
The second vegan camp is welfarist, which advocates an individualised approach to animal rights, for instance through consumer choice (think: “vegan options at Mcdonalds”).
This is the approach espoused by most vegans, the big vegan charities and many YouTube influencers.
Abolitionist vegans, with their more complex and radical approach, seem to be a minority, hardly surprising given the media soup promoting consumerism, capitalism and individual choice as the only sensible way of existing despite all the evidence to the contrary.
I hadn’t realised any of this the first time I joined an AV Cube action in Broadmead (in which activists stand back-to-back, displaying images of slaughterhouses and other animal abuse to passers-by), though I was baffled by the rationale that showing slaughterhouse footage and chatting with passers-by was an effective way of spending time.
Similarly with the Saves actions, where participants stand with placards outside a slaughterhouse (usually Tulip, at Westerleigh just outside Yate) asking the lorry drivers to stop for a couple of minutes so we could “pay our respects” to the animals on their way to slaughter, and to film and take pictures for social media.
Surely as vegan activists we could do more?
Finding New Forms of Activism
Both the Saves and AV seemed to me to rely on a performative version of activism, with questionable success or tangible results, as do some newer animal rights groups..
Aware of the huge contribution that the animal death industry makes to climate breakdown and searching for more effective form of activism, I joined XR (Extinction Rebellion), anticipating that if these dedicated activists were serious about tackling climate breakdown, they’d certainly be open to conversations about animal liberation and the role of animal ag in climate change.
Despite excellent vegan meals at the reception, when I brought up veganism the response was at best lukewarm, and at worst a kind of glazed stare, something I’ve found in other supposedly progressive activist groups.
Although, XR offshoot Animal Rebellion have recently come up with more innovative and, perhaps, potentially effective actions like sit-ins at Mcdonalds and blockading the burger factories.
Striking Out Alone
Exhausted and concerned with the haphazard and consumerist approach to animal liberation and a general lack of awareness around issues of oppression and privilege, I started Animal Justice Emergency, a local activist group and YouTube channel.
So what does Animal Justice Emergency do? We are a rights-based, abolitionist group focusing on outreach education such as talks at numerous vegan festivals, including London Vegfest.
The Animal Justice Emergency YouTube channel examines issues like neoliberalism, sexism, language and structural issues within the vegan/Animal Rights/anti-speciesist movement as well as being a contributor to The Animal Rights Show
Most recently, inspired by a series of interviews we did with ALF founder, Ronnie Lee, the activities of the group have broadened to include working towards building alliances with community groups to include outreach to non-vegans with the emphasis on community involvement based on shared values and mutual support.
How to Get Involved
Our latest project is a pop-up community cafe serving free vegan meals while promoting a strong abolitionist message within a climate breakdown framing. We have had an enthusiastic response from Friends of Eastville Park and Eastside Community Centre, with potential funding and banners plus (hopefully) flyers from Animal Aid.
We are looking to work with other community hubs, parks, church halls, community groups and growing projects to raise awareness of the horrors of using other animals, educate on the links between the animal death industry and climate change, and to build community resilience and support in the challenging times we live in.
We welcome new members to do flyering and stickering as well as helping at the community cafe (so if you’re a vegan cook, cyclist, artist or just want to join in the fun, do get in touch!).
Correction. This article was corrected on 06/10/21. A previous version stated the name of the group as “Animal Justice Rebellion” whereas the correct name is “Animal Justice Emergency.”
For more information on Animal Justice Emergency visit their Facebook page.
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