A demonstration in Red Square run by vegan group Anonymous for the Voiceless brought awareness to animal cruelty perpetrated by meat and dairy industries.
On April 4, four masked demonstrators stood back-to-back with LCD screens depicting scenes of violence and cruelty animals experience during meat or dairy processing.
Anonymous for the Voiceless considers themselves to be an abolitionist group, meaning that they are in favor of a complete overhaul of the meat and dairy industry, member Kayla Wilson said.
Jacqui Waters, another member of Anonymous for the Voiceless, has been vegan for almost two years.
Since changing her diet, she has lost nearly 100 pounds and is no longer anemic, Waters said.
Waters, who used to eat “like crap,” now owns several chickens, who live inside her house as pets.
“We don’t eat dogs and cats because we get to know them. If we just got to know chickens and cows, we wouldn’t eat them,” Waters said.
For some, the violent images shown were too much to handle. Several students left the site of the protest with looks of shock on their faces, including a group of visiting middle-schoolers.
Wilson said that’s the point of the demonstration.
“I think this is something that everyone needs to see. This is the standard practice. These animals are brought into the world and the only life they know is pain, suffering and fear,” Wilson said.
University police were nearby throughout most of the protest.
Paul Cocke, Western’s director of communications and marketing, said the protesters were cooperative with officers.
“At first, we were confused [by the police presence], because we had set this up in advanced hoping to be respectful of the school and its policies,” Wilson said. “We understand though. The police have to keep the school safe.”
At one point, officers Todd Osborn and Derek Jones stepped into the middle schoolers’ view to hand out stickers. One person in the crowd commented, “You’re blocking the piece!” to which the officers did not respond.
Cocke said the officers handing out stickers is “normal community policing.”
It was not the officer’s intent to block the screens or prevent the children from viewing violent images, he said.
Cocke thought Anonymous for the Voiceless did not receive approval to hold their protest, though Wilson has since stated they went through the necessary channels to register as a demonstration.
“I think this is something that everyone needs to see. This is the standard practice. These animals are brought into the world and the only life they know is pain, suffering and fear,”
member Kayla Wilson said.
In an email, Anonymous for the Voiceless registered their demonstration and received permission from Western’s Event Services Assistant Ash Peers on April 3.
Some people believe Red Square is a free speech-protected zone, though this has recently changed and all demonstrators are required to book time in advance.
According to Western’s rules of Freedom of Expression and Assembly, “the University may reasonably regulate the time, place and manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt the University’s activities or the legal rights of others.”
Regardless of whether or not the demonstration was permitted by the university, it left an impression on students walking by.
Maggie Herriott, a senior who eats vegan, was in support of the demonstration.
“It’s aggressive, but I think that the whole meat industry is a charade that’s shown to consumers,” she said.
Herriott said if she wasn’t already vegan, she hoped this demonstration would have convinced her to change her mind.
Freshman Kayla Sadlier was disgusted, but not shocked, to see the the videos displayed in Red Square. She said she supported the demonstration despite how graphic the videos were.
“Obviously big companies don’t want you to see that because then you won’t buy their products and give them money,” she said.
Although Sadlier eats animal products, she believes there is a way to source it ethically.
“I’ve definitely been trying to not get animal products from places that don’t source their stuff ethically and treat the animals with respect and care,” she said.
A demonstration like this wouldn’t be enough to convince her to go vegan, Sadlier said.
Waters said the goal is never to shame someone into changing their diet, because no one is born a vegan. Every vegan goes through the process of cutting out animal products.
”You can’t shame someone if you were like them once,” she said.
Wilson said though this was Anonymous for the Voiceless’ first demonstration in Bellingham, they have more planned for the rest of the year.