It seems to me that for every protest, there is a counter-protest. And I suppose that makes sense because if there’s a need to protest then it means you’re standing up against a group or regime that have ideas strongly different from your own. And when two groups have strongly different ideas then there is bound to be a clash. What I struggle to understand is the vitriol and abuse that comes with it.
I know that people disagree with my beliefs. I know that people want to consume animal products without being made to consider the consequences. When I attend protests or rallies, hand out leaflets, or write articles, I’m not trying to attack anyone – I’m simply trying to raise awareness and share facts that are conveniently swept under the rug by money-fuelled industries. I know I can’t force anyone to be vegan if that’s not what they want, and I certainly don’t go around shouting obscenities at anyone I see eating meat. If I did then I wouldn’t have many friends left.
I felt prompted to write this article because of some of the abusive and disgusting comments that have been thrown at some of my fellow vegans in response to the upcoming March to Close all Slaughterhouses. This annual march is a worldwide event, and in Sydney is organised by Animal Liberation NSW. I attended last year (it was actually the first march I’d ever been on) and found the whole experience to be respectful and entirely peaceful. There were a few tired lines from onlookers such as “mmm bacon” (very original), but most people seemed supportive and interested. For me, the point of these marches is to come together globally to stand up and be a voice for the animals suffering at the hands of humans. I want to stand as part of a growing movement and show the world that there are people who don’t believe in slaughterhouses, and that just because it’s the norm, it doesn’t make it right. Maybe people look at us and pay no heed, but if just one person starts to reconsider their choices then I think that’s a great result.
In response to this year’s march, a counter-group have started a FaceBook page “BBQ to Stop Vegans.” Stop us doing what, I’m not sure, but the description is that they will be having a peaceful BBQ to protest our decision to march against slaughterhouses. Fine. A peaceful BBQ to stop vegans is fine. That’s your decision. What’s not fine is to hurl sexist, homophobic, misogynist abuse at people who have views that differ from your own. If you want to argue the case for slaughterhouses, for your right to eat animals, for your right to kill animals, for your right to abuse animals, then go ahead. Come at me with facts. Come at me with opinion. Come at me with a reasoned argument that doesn’t resort to name calling. I’ll listen to you. I probably won’t agree with you, but I’ll listen to you.
I don’t understand why veganism brings out such vehement rage in some people. Veganism by definition encompasses compassion towards other beings, but we become targets of other people’s frenzied hatred. I refuse to repeat some of the offensive comments I’ve seen because they’re disturbing and absolutely do not deserve airtime. But believe me when I say they’re actually quite frightening. As with many trolling situations, women become particular targets of nasty threats. And that, sadly, is not unique to being a vegan. It’s shocking how many vicious individuals there are who flippantly threaten to rape and abuse women because they disagree with what she’s said. It’s sickening, not to mention, entirely and hugely inappropriate. “I think it’s wrong that we eat meat.” versus “I want to rape and kill you.” That’s not a response. That’s a threat. And if that’s your reaction to an opinion different from your own then you should probably be locked up.
Not all vegans are peaceful, not all counter-protesters are psychotic, and none of us are perfect. But isn’t about time we started showing more respect for one another? I do believe that we shouldn’t be consuming animal products, but I also respect that we live in a world where that’s normal, and that not everyone has made the connection to where their dinner comes from. Or maybe they have and don’t care. I disagree with you but I’m not going to threaten to burn down your house because of it. I’m going to join the march next weekend because I want to see and end to slaughterhouses. Others will go to a BBQ because they want to protest against veganism. Whatever. That’s fine. Let’s just keep it respectful.