2016 Voiceless People’s Choice Awards: Animal Advocacy Training Workshop Series

I am happy to say that my application to Voiceless: the animal protection institute grants scheme has been shortlisted for the 2016 Voiceless People’s Choice Awards. The application outlined a project to develop a series of ‘Animal Advocacy Training’ workshops to help people become confident and comfortable animal advocates.

promo-image

Lots of people would like to advocate for animals but don’t know where to start or don’t feel confident or comfortable being an advocate. This is a problem because each one of these people could be helping create a better world for animals. To build a stronger movement working for animals it’s important that there are opportunities for these people to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to become active animal advocates.

Working with others I want to create and deliver a series of six workshops that will:

  1. Facilitate people to become active animal advocates and improve their advocacy through the sharing of skills & knowledge and by providing them with tools & experiences that make them comfortable with and confident about conducting their own advocacy.
  2. Build connections within the animal advocacy movement and create a strong network of people who continue to share advocacy skills, knowledge and experiences.
  3. Increase the number of individuals who are actively working for the freedom of animals.

The workshop series will use an active and self-directed learning approach to ensure attendees are engage and work on tasks that are directly related to their passions and animal advocacy goals. The workshops will focus around the development of a self-directed ‘animal advocacy project’. Attendees will work on their project during the course of the workshop series and will be encouraged to practice what they are learning between workshops. By the end of the workshop series attendees will have developed an animal advocacy project that they will have the tools, confidence and network to implement. Workshop themes will include:

  1. Identifying my place in animal advocacy.
  2. Approaches to advocacy.
  3. Animal advocacy and the Law.
  4. Strategy and Planning.
  5. Connecting movements: Animal, environmental and social advocacy.
  6. Wellbeing and self-care as an advocate.

Open & Free

The face-to-face workshop series will initially run in Melbourne and be used to create and refine a set of learning resources and activities to help people become animal advocates. All materials will then be turned into a freely available online course to help people anywhere in the world become active animal advocates.

Research

During the workshop I will conduct educational research to identify which learning opportunities are most useful. This research will help to evaluate the effectiveness of the workshop series and inform improvements to future advocate training.

Please Vote

Please consider voting for my project in the 2016 Voiceless People’s Choice Awards. Although I am sure that all five projects are excellent so vote for whichever one you think will have the greatest benefit for the animals! Please remember you only have one vote so make it count. Voting is open from 12pm 19th Sept to 12pm 30th September 2016.

Until all are free!

Why the masks? A reflection on Anonymous for the Voiceless

Anonymous for the Voiceless is a crew of animal activists in Melbourne raising awareness about the ‘meat’, dairy and egg industries. Every Saturday for several months they have been in Melbourne’s CBD showing people what happens to individuals in the Animal agriculture industry. To do this they use video footage largely shot in Australian farms (courtesy of Aussie Farms, PETA, and other groups).

In Animal activism the use of footage showing industry practices is pretty standard. Anonymous for the Voiceless have added a unique aesthetic style and meaning to this method through the use of Anonymous symbolism. I think its an interesting form of awareness raising and have joined the group several times to help out.

Somewhat surprisingly I have heard the method and the aesthetic being criticised by people from outside and within the movement. The criticisms commonly include:

  • Showing violent video footage in the streets is possibly damaging to potential viewers, unnecessary and too aggressive. It’s nothing but a shock tactic.;
  • Why use the Anonymous masks, it seems cowardly to hide behind them; and,
  • It’s irresponsible to show the footage in such a way because kids can walk past and see it.

anon-voiceless2As someone who has spent time with the Anonymous for the Voiceless crew I’d like to provide my perspective in regard to these criticisms. I share my thoughts not in an attempt to shut down any criticism (I think constructive critique of our movement is vital in order to do a better job for animals!), but rather to provide a personal account of what I find good about this method of activism.

Critique 1: Showing violent video footage in the streets is too aggressive.

Response

  • Many people have no idea what happens to others to satisfy their food choices and the Anonymous for the Voiceless demonstration helps create awareness. It is an opportunity for people to be exposed to footage that they would otherwise never see. There is no cajoling or goading to make people stop and watch, they are free to do as they please. They have the choice to watch or walk away. Many simply walk past without a second glance, others stop and watch for 5-10 minutes.

Critique 2: Why wear the masks?

Response

  • There are people who deal with public engagement and outreach who are not wearing masks. The masks are symbolic and aesthetic. They represent the thousands of anonymous people who are standing against the violence and oppression of non-human animals in factory farming. We stand there not only as ourselves but as a movement against the atrocities perpetrated against non-human animals.
  • The mask make it more comfortable for the public to stay and watch the videos for longer periods of time. It also hides any facial reactions and possibly judgement that people might feel. The activist becomes an impersonal symbol and prop, rather than someone judging others.
  • Many vegans are intimidated to be involved in advocacy because of the aggression and negativity others express when they speak about the abuse of animals. The mask allows a barrier to protect volunteers from this negativity and to help them become comfortable and confident in their advocacy. There are people who have never done advocacy in the group who started with an anonymous mask and now feel comfortable to interacting with the public without the mask. That is a win in my books!
  • When 8-12 people are all standing in a square with masks on it creates a fantastic aesthetic and spectacle. Many people come from a long way down the street to see what’s going on only to stay, watch and engage with the footage.
  • Another wonderfully benefit of the Anonymous symbolism is that it has helped create a connection with the wider anonymous community. A group of Anonymous activists who support many justice issues have been introduced to animal rights and now include animal advocacy in their repertoire of causes.

Critique 3: It’s irresponsible to show kids this footage.

Response

  • Anonymous for the Voiceless demonstrates in public space and it is up to parents to monitor what their children see. Many families come up and discuss the footage with their kids, others walked straight past. It is their choice. No one is ever forced to watch the videos. Although, my observations suggest many kids get the message more than adults. They often ask their parents questions about what they see, and I will always remember the gentle words of a small boy who said ‘sorry pigs’ as he was moved along by his dad.
  • It is arrogant to think that younger people are not capable of thinking about and comprehending this issue. The abuse being shown in the footage is what most children will be contributing to because of their parents choices. Many parents are forcing their children to become complicit in the mass abuse, torture, oppression and killing of other individuals. If a child sees something they disagree with and then makes a choice to not be involved in it we should respect that choice. I know many vegans who as children learnt where animal flesh comes from and made the decision to stop eating it, from as young as 5!

From behind the mask I have seen many sharp intakes of breath, half turned heads and pained looks of conflict as people recognised that the footage they are viewing is something they contribute too. Most encouraging is when someone makes the decisions to go vegan after seeing the demonstration. That’s what makes it worthwhile for me.

anon-voiceless1

Presenting at the International Critical Animal Studies Oceania Conference 2016

icas_logoOn the 1st of October 2016, I will present at the ICAS Oceania Conference being held at the University of Canberra, Australia. My accepted abstract was titled ‘Diversity in animal activism: Preparing for impact opportunities for the next 10 years’.

During the presentation I hope to begin a discussion about the idea of Vegan Futures. Futures Studies is part art, part science, and is concerned with postulating possible futures and planning for desirable futures. Vegan Futures would be concerned with postulating and planning for a vegan future.

In particular, I will discuss the role of animal activism in the context of Vegan Futures. For instance, if we take a Vegan Futures approach can we highlight gaps in our current repertoire of vegan activist methods and strategies?

You can check out the abstract below.

“The near future promises a range of technologies that could be highly disruptive to established animal industries, for example Perfect Day milk and SuperMeat. With the right support from animal activists this disruption could accelerate the end of animal industries and potentially save millions of lives.  Unfortunately, the lack of diversity of advocacy strategies utilised by the movement means that this potential is unlikely to be taken advantage of. While there are a wide range of strategies employed by the movement, all levels spend a large proportion of time on educational outreach explicitly intended for individuals. Educating individuals is necessary but it largely fails to address social and structural factors that reinforce the use of non-human animals. This strategy has also become the standard form of animal activism, arguably to the detriment of other strategies. Recent examples from the New South Wales greyhound industry and Australian dairy industry exemplify the complexity of achieving industry change, with exposures of abuse in both industries being received differently by the public and each industry experiencing vastly different outcomes. By critically reflecting on these cases it was possible to find gaps in current animal advocacy approaches and identify additional strategies for reducing barriers to change. Identified strategies for the Australian animal activism context include, a targeted approach to educational outreach, community integrated support networks that facilitate transition, and research identifying alternatives to animal industries for dependent communities. Increasing the diversity of strategies employed by the movement will make it capable of adapting to opportunities for impact. If the movement wants to take advantage of the coming disruptions it must forecast what is required and begin to build the capacity now.”

ICAS Oceania Conferencehttp://www.criticalanimalstudies.org/oceania-conference/

 

A great outcome for a plant-based patient with Parkinsonism

A VeganSci Post 

parkinsons_signs

First off, ‘Parkinsonism’ is a set of symptoms of which Parkinson’s disease is one cause but not the only cause (you learn something new every day!). So when recounting this interesting little story to your friends please make sure you’ve got the distinction right. Remember, accuracy is important if you don’t want to come across as an over-reaching uninformed dingus that can get refuted really easily. Now that that is out of the way…

A very interesting case study reported that a 64 year old man had an incredibly positive improvement in Parkinsonism after adopting a plant-based diet. He was diagnosed with Parkinsonism at age 55, having developed bradykinesia (slowness of movement), bilateral rigidity, start hesitation, and sudden transient freezing. Over time he experienced constipation, anxiety, orthostatic hypotension, and gait freezing, all of which were difficult to treat with drugs because of a complex medical history.

The man started a protein restricted diet which produced slight improvements on symptoms. Two months later he to switch a plant-based diet and quickly saw significant improvements in his gait and motor symptoms. The man now enjoys running and ice skating which were basically impossible before (and at the age of 64 certainly puts me to shame).

The authors point to a few possible reasons for the improvements made while on a plant-based diet including, its protein sparing nature, fibre richness, and possible improved bioavailability of the levodopa drug treatment due to better bowel mobility, among other things. They also suggest that a plant-based diet may be beneficial for people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease or related conditions.

Now, before you get all uppity about the sample size of one I want to strongly acknowledge that we can’t draw any conclusions about Parkinsonism and plant-based diets from this case study. However, case studies can provide hints at interesting areas for research. Plus, I thought this was a pretty cool story and a great outcome.

There also seems to be a few other case studies out there that point to similar results, see:

  1. Diets, food and Idiopathic Parkinson´s disease
  2. Pilot dietary study with normoproteic protein-redistributed plant-food diet and motor performance in patients with Parkinson’s disease

It’s important to note that these case studies suggest some positive benefit of a plant-based diet for treating symptoms that some patients of Parkinsonism experience. They DO NOT suggest that a plant-based diet helps prevent Parkinsonism or Parkinson’s disease. So please don’t make that leap when you’re trying to convince your friend how awesome veganism is. There is also a lot of research left to do in this space before we draw any conclusions.

Finally, DON’T take this as medical advice! Don’t convince your friends or family members to go vegan to treat their Parkinsonism/Parkinson’s disease. Convince them to go vegan for the animals, and to seek advice from a health professional regarding their Parkinsonism.

 

NB: You may notice that the case study uses the term ‘vegan diet’ while I use ‘plant-based diet’. I believe the latter is more accurate because veganism involves more than just a dietary change, it is a lived ethic.

 

Title: Dramatic response of parkinsonism to a vegan diet: Case report
Authors: Roger Kurlan, Rajesh Kumari and Ivana Ganihong
Journal: Journal of Parkinson’s disease & Alzheimer’s disease

——————————–

If you can’t access the paper try emailing the corresponding author directly and asking nicely for a copy. Most people will be more than happy to share their research with you. Alternatively, get in touch with me and I can help you out.