This was my second time attending the Animal Activists Forum. I first attended in Sydney last year and it marks a massive point in my life – October 18th 2014 (forum day one last year) was the first day I went 100% vegan.
I chose to go last year because I’d felt for a long time that I needed to involve myself in groups that were fighting for the rights of animals and although I was less familiar with the phrase a year ago, I knew I had to be a voice for the voiceless.
It was quite a daunting couple of days; I really felt like an outsider. Not because I was made to feel that way, quite the opposite, but because I was an outsider. I didn’t consider myself an activist; I wasn’t really as my participation was limited to going vegetarian a few years ago and some petitioning and letter writing prompted by Animals Australia. Not invaluable work, but not enough.
I left feeling like I had found some purpose and I had spent two days with such like minded people. I had big plans – I was going to rally, I was going to petition, I was going to reduce my hours at work to participate in some of the leg work to make these events happen, and I was going to commit to some regular volunteer work.
So a year passed and I found myself reflecting, in the lead up to the 2015 Animal Activist Forum, about my first year as an Animal Activist Vegan.
I was pleased because I had followed through and was active within the movement. I’ve never looked back since my commitment to being Vegan, in fact, I found it easy. I can honestly say I have had no temptations to consume any animal derived products, purchase any animal product clothing or participate in any animal exploitative activities. Furthermore, I was here again, heading to the forum to further integrate into the movement. My desire to participate, my passion for change hadn’t dwindled. The fire is burning more than ever. But had I achieved all I wanted?
Well, no is the short answer. I am still working non-stop (the hazards of owning your own business), have been to a handful of rallies and events, but nowhere near what I had intended. I don’t beat myself up about this though. I feel I have had an awakening into a world where you must work long and hard to succeed and that success is measured and rewarded with money. I am part of that world and I can’t just opt out and be a part of changing it.
What I have done is meet some normal, but amazing people, a combination I find quite inspiring. Being born in South England in the 80’s and raised in the 90’s I didn’t find myself drawn into much campaigning growing up – I had a privileged childhood, not from a wealthy family but I had my family, went to school (sometimes), had summer holidays and was never left wanting for anything really. The concept of campaigning, protesting, petitioning all seemed foreign to me, so I am currently on crash course 101 and the only way to find out is to immerse yourself in it.
I am now post Forum 2015 and I am pondering what has changed. It’s pretty simple really. I now feel very much a part of the vegan and animal rights movement. I have successfully helped two people transition to a vegan diet directly – I’m pretty sure I have a third on the cusp. I talk frequently to everyone close to me about our dietary choices and I see, even in those most resistant, some change. I now believe everyone has it in them. People are compassionate and with assistance, once you make that connection, you can’t look away anymore.
So the main difference for me between 2014, my first experience of the Animal Activist Forum and 2015 is I have gone from an outsider looking in, wondering what it’s all about and where do I fit in, to being on the inside planning my future around it.
The movement isn’t a closed knit group; we are very much open to everyone. Share a compassion for animals and want to be a part of putting that right and you’re in. Whether you’re a pre-vegan, armchair activist or curious bystander, we welcome you all!
And as for the forum itself, it is run really well, with a range of speakers featuring heroes of the movement. I intend to attend next year and continue to develop my own advocacy and left the forum with determination to continue to contribute more. Let’s see how I’ve gone in 12 months time.