Extremely Vegan - Does Extreme Action Work?
We’ve all seen the name-calling and labelling of vegan activism in popular media. “They’re too extreme”, they say. “They won’t listen to reason”. Or the one we see all too often…
“That kind of activism puts people off”.
But does it? Does it really?
In defence of moderation
No doubt, there is a line that most vegans (activist, or not) are not comfortable crossing. In recent news, a group of activists entered a McDonalds and sprayed fake blood over the floor (https://www.plantbasednews.org/news/vegan-activists-storm-mcdonalds-cover-fake-blood).
The reaction from both vegans and non-vegans was largely negative (though not all) and it’s easy to see why. The majority of vegans we spoke to didn’t want veganism to be seen in a negative light. We often receive a lot of backlash when these sorts of things happen.
Similar things are happening now with the ‘Meat the Victims’ movement with new legislation being introduced in Australia to treat activists under the same laws as domestic terrorists. Support for ‘Meat the Victims’ though, is generally more accepted by the community.
We each have a line that we’re not willing to cross and when other people cross it, it can evoke a visceral response in us. It almost always creates some kind of negative response from those who seek to defend the industries we stand against.
But, does it work? Does it actually help our cause or harm it?
The Overton Window
The Overton Window is a concept from political science, named after Joseph P. Overton, which says that there is a ‘window of discourse’ that the public will tolerate. In other words, there exists a range of ideas which people are prepared to talk about and that opinions and ideas which fall outside of that range are considered ‘too extreme’ to even discuss. Ideas outside of that scope are simply dismissed as unrealistic or obtuse.
In the world of politics, the Overton Window is usually depicted on a continuum ranging from ‘left’ to ‘right’, or more accurately, from ‘more free’ to ‘less free’.
If we apply the same thinking to the world of animal rights, our Overton Window (or Voverton Window, if you will), has total animal liberation on the left and the “mmm bacon” crowd over on the right. With the centre, freely discussable territory being occupied by the accepted ideas of animal welfare.
Now, as the theory goes, in order to move the window, you don’t start by making the case for ‘sensible’ ideas. You start with the ‘unthinkable’. Not because you believe the unthinkable will be accepted, but because other, less unthinkable ideas appear more reasonable as a result of starting there.
To understand how this works in politics, here’s a great summary of how Trump has managed to move the window to his advantage…
With that knowledge in mind, is it fair to say that the extreme events related to animal rights you see in the news or on social media, actually help our community push the window closer to our goal of animal liberation? If you believe the theory, then probably yes!
Breaking the law
We have to point out that we do not recommend people commit crime in the name of animal rights. The kinds of things that animals are subject to on a daily basis is horrific and we make no apology for holding the the view that acts of violence to all animals should, themselves, be criminalised. But do not read this as an endorsement to undertake criminal activity.
Voice for the voiceless
Equally, we shouldn’t feel the need to temper our words. As abolitionists, our stance on animal liberation is non-negotiable. The more steadfast and resolute we are in making the case for the end of industrialised cruelty, the more the window moves in the favour of the animals we speak on behalf of.
Street activism is a great way to do that. So is online activism. Every action counts!
And for those who feel uncomfortable with activism, there are other ways to get involved.
Looking back at the Overton Window, you can see that what really matters, if you want to shift public opinion, is unexpected acts. We believe that you can do that without having to protest.
For example, when a group of people go out on to the streets to collect litter or help those in need, the public reaction is very similar to when they witness a protest. Because it is unexpected to see people being selfless, we react in a similar way; our cultural norms shift. If only a little.
With our powers combined…
When you combine acts of protest and acts of altruism into a single event, you send a clear message out which says what you stand for, and what you stand against. That can be a very powerful force for change.
And that’s why we’d love for you to join us.
Together, we will make a difference!