On Saturday the 17th of August we had our first ever animal rights march in Leeds. Surge started The Official Animal Rights March in 2016, “The Official Animal Rights March is an annual vegan march founded by the animal rights organisation Surge in 2016. The purpose of the march is to unite the vegan community globally and to inspire vegans to speak up for animals in their everyday lives and get active in their local communities. “
Veganism is a compassionate, counter culture social justice movement; we seek to promote the truth and shine a light on the moral inconsistencies of carnism. We must use our privilege to fight for the rights of those who cannot fight for themselves, not to do so would be to be complicit in the slaughter. We also want to create an inclusive environment of solidarity, veganism must be about all animals which means people too. The vegan community must be one free of discrimination and harassment. We have more legal rights than non human animals, but the human playing field is by no means level.
This year in Leeds we decided to have our own march, for those who either didn’t want to travel to London or were unable to due to the cost, time, commitments or accessibility needs.
We had a great turn out of about sixty or so people, travelling from all over the north- one person even came all the way from London- people brought their families, including their dogs!
We began at Albion Place (we had two venue changes because it was a lot going on in Leeds that day and Victoria Gardens and Dortmund Square had other events on) and listened to a speech from friend and vegan animal rights activist Marie Youngs, then had a minute’s silence for the two pigs raised at Farsley Farfield primary school who were slaughtered (after months of campaigning for them to live out their lives in a sanctuary) in June earlier this year.
After we took a few group photos we marched in the lovely sun up onto the Headrow, down Park Row, then along Boar Lane, up Briggate and back along the Headrow to return to our starting point.
We did get quite a few heckles but most of them couldn’t even be heard over our chanting
“Do not buy the humane lie, animals do not want to die
Their bodies- not ours! Their babies- not ours! Their milk- not ours! Their lives- not ours!
Go vegan for the animals!
What do the animals want? Animal liberation! When do they want it? Now!”
I did stop to chat to one bloke heckling us outside McDonalds who was angrily shouting “what about the homeless?” at us. I told him, we can care about more than one thing at once, and we do care about homeless people. After all, animal rights are human rights.
He gave some retort about how we obviously don’t care otherwise we’d be marching for the homeless. We have had marches for the homeless in Leeds, You can care about two things at once, and veganism is an intersectional movement just like feminism but you can only do one march at a time.
He also said that his mate went vegan and wasn’t healthy at all, so I told him I’d been vegan for four years and I’m perfectly healthy- never been better. He asked me how many vitamins I take and when I said “none I get all my vitamins from food” he got even more vexed so we moved on.
Much of the march was live streamed by someone from the Yorkshire Evening Post. At one point in the video they say something along the lines of “some of the chanting is quite aggressive so don’t join in if you don’t agree,” which, honestly, made me laugh. How can you call chanting aggressive when farmed animals in the livestock industry are being slaughtered in their thousands every day? What is more aggressive, shouting “animals do not want to die” or being put in a “rape rack” and artificially inseminated.
After the march we hung out at Albion Place for a few more speeches and did some chalking; then we headed over to Wharf Chambers (my favourite bar in Leeds for the laid back vibe and inclusivity) for a vegan BBQ raising money for West Yorkshire Hunt Sabs.
It was so great to feel real solidarity between vegans for the animals, compassion unites us all! Thank you so much to everyone who made the day amazing. Can’t wait for next year!
And special thanks to the dream team Maureen and Marie! Marie thank you for your powerful voice and the extra placards. Maureen thank you for baking a fuck load of vegan cookies to share with everyone, thank you both for your support and your hard work for animal rights. You make the world a better place, and you changed my life.
will you put me in a cage and ask me to sing?
will you expect me to perform when i’m stood in the ring?
will you throw away the key, then ask me to dance?
will you offer scraps and expect to receive thanks?
will you throw me in the deep end? swimming circles in a tank
will you strike me down and watch me struggle to fight back?
will you lock me in shackles, reassure me that I’m safe?
will you tell the audience that I cannot be replaced?
will you capture another like me, lock him in a cage and throw away the key?
will you say “I’m sorry but I cannot set you free”?
after all, we’re just animals.
– Max Power, for the animals x