I saw a video come through my feed a few days after World Farm Animals Day. I don’t generally click on videos, but the words “branded by hot steel” in the title intrigued me. I was immediately mesmerized by what I saw. There was a man with a numbered tag on his ear, similar to the tags I’ve seen on cows. This was followed by three men sitting in a barbed wire cage.
Three men wearing all black entered the frame. When they whipped out a blow torch, I started to get nervous. Were they really going to brand themselves? And why? Why would someone permanently mark themselves and in such a violent and painful manner? I had to click onto the 269 website. After learning a bit about who they are and why they put themselves through this pain, I had to reach out and interview them.
The interview below is part one of a two-part series with a representative of 269. This interview focuses more on 269 – the why and what. The second part will be more controversial, focusing more on philosophy of the animal rights movement.
I was asked by the representative to mention that some of the interview may not be pleasant, but he and his friends in 269 are “only committed to the animals and we believe that we must say the truth about the struggle for animal rights even if it is hard to hear, otherwise we cannot progress in our fight.”
269 is a group of animal rights activists who started a campaign and has a website and a facebook page. To quote one of the activists who got branded, “The Number 269, which was burned on our skin, was the designated number of a calf we encountered in one of Israel’s factory farms. This anonymous calf will be forever immortalized on our bodies, and hopefully this message of solidarity will somehow bring a new way of looking at non-human animals. No animal should be exploited to satisfy the selfish needs and whimsical desires of humans, and that is why we chose to use the industry’s own method of objectifying living beings as this symbolic means to convey our idea”.
The main reason we did this kind of demonstration is that the animal rights movement cannot continue in its conventional, soft way. When we examine the animal rights movement’s accomplishments through history, we realize they are too little and too late. We can’t wait any longer because every second means horrific exploitation and murder of many innocent animals. We need to act more, act harder, better and to start making waves in the world. The Holocaust cannot continue while we sit and smile at the people causing it. This horrible situation requires a more creative and faster solution than delivering another pamphlet to a pedestrian, liking another Facebook page, or joining another animal rights parade.
This demonstration is an example of trying to make a wave, worldwide. But it’s far from enough.
This demonstration is also an example for a global action, not local one. The Animal Holocaust is enormous, and in every country and every culture. We must start to think and act globally, and not locally – otherwise, nothing will ever change. We have to be as efficient as possible. We must do everything we can for the animals.
The truth is that we decided to do the demo in a non-crowded place, because the branding procedure is pretty sensitive, and many things could have gone wrong and the whole demo would be ruined, especially since we have no experience in branding. So there wasn’t that much of a crowd there. From what I did notice, the people who walked by stopped, and were pretty shocked.
Actually, we did. We believed it could make a worldwide shock-wave, and we think that this video will rise up much more in the next few months. Our aim is for at least ten million viewers this year, that’s the potential we believe it has and we hope to fulfill it. We believe it’ll get much more media coverage than it has got until today – 10 days after the event. We also hope to get some money from our online shop that we opened in order to finance advertisements of this campaign, so that the videos and the follow-up events will be known all around the world. We are aiming to reach as many people as possible, and fast.
Well, first I have to say that there were too many responses on Youtube so we didn’t go through every one. But in general the comments were divided in two: “Great demo, I support you” or “You are fanatics. I love steak.”
We need to understand that the potential of someone to become vegan and an animal rights supporter is not up to the actions we do. In every type of action you will encounter opposition, even for a quiet demo, or to delivering pamphlets in the street. The point is that people who don’t care for the animals (most of the human population) will be against you almost no matter what you’ll do, and you won’t succeed in turning them to vegans, and people who have the potential to become vegan will also be convinced no matter what you do (let’s leave aside violent actions). This is my ground point of view, and why I chose to participate in this action, because I don’t think that it can turn away people who have potential, and with these kinds of actions you can get worldwide exposure with minimum time and money.
The animal rights movement always blames everything else beside the real guilty party. We blame our message, we blame culture, we even blame education, just because we don’t want to face the truth – that people just don’t care. We always complain that people should open their eyes and face the truth about the holocaust of animals, well it’s time for the animal rights movement to do the same. You don’t antagonize people by your actions; people don’t care for our ideology in the first place, so it is important to stay united as a movement behind hardcore actions, and to keep a strong ethic ideology for animal rights, with no compromises.
One of the purposes of this campaign is to “speak” to animal rights activists. This shocking demo has a message for the animal rights activists who consider themselves as non-speciesist, committed activists. True activists are not just looking to feel good about themselves, but are really determined to look for animal liberation solutions. We speak to activists who joined the movement neither for social reasons nor dietary ones – but for justice. We want to reach activists who won’t stop thinking of revolutionary ideas to promote animal liberation as soon as possible. About 95 to 99 percent of the population just doesn’t care and will never become vegan willingly. So yes, we still have to work to reach the few who have potential, but let’s not delude ourselves – something has to change.
The animal rights struggle is at rock bottom. There is not enough money, not enough committed non-speciesist vegan activists, and worse of all, the most vicious enemy, people, 7 billion of them, who have many interests in keeping animals enslaved, and who are inherently so selfish, that even the awareness campaigns we have done for many, many years haven’t affected them.
The first step towards solving a problem is acknowledging it. Maybe we don’t have the perfect and easy solution right now, but we know for sure what will not liberate animals – and that is to continue using the same methods. Increasing awareness will not solve the problem. It’ll just recruit some more people who weren’t aware until now, but that’s only a negligible part of the human population. Let’s not forget – almost all humans are aware of The Animal Holocaust but they just don’t care. So please, for the sake of the animals, let’s stop pretending because it only hurts them.
We hope that this branding action, besides spreading the word for animal rights globally, will encourage each and every one of you to start and be more active for them, and in non-conventional ways. If things stay the way they are, the animal holocaust is here to stay.
The second purpose of this campaign is to spread the word for animal rights so that more people will hear about this issue, especially in places where they haven’t heard about it before. That is why we aimed for global distribution, and in the Youtube statistics we did get views in almost every country in the world. Now we just need to continue to maximize the number of viewers in every place.
If these purposes are accomplished, we believe we’ll get more vegans who became vegans for ethical reasons, and which we believe have more probability to stay vegan all their lives, and become active for animal rights.
Also, we believe that we’ll get an increase in the amount of vegans that will take part in more hardcore and global actions, and that will try to look for non-conventional activities for animal liberation than doing another soft demo/stand/lecture etc.
I hope that it’ll spread globally. Right now activists around the world are gathering and doing follow-up events, like this one. I hope that it’ll open the eyes of the potential meat-eaters to become vegans, as well as the eyes of the vegan activists to become more active and especially more effective. Campaigns such as 269, which is not conventional in its actions and deals only with the moral aspect of animal rights – is the path animal rights activists should go in, if they continue in the propaganda direction. I hope we’ll see much more actions like this one, and especially more activists who start to choose other ways than propaganda to try and end The Animal Holocaust.