Leeds Animal Rights March 2019 – first ever!

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.

RIP nameless pigs, slaughtered Friday 21st of June 2019

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.

Crowd of vegans gathered at Albion Place!

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.

“Milk you buy I die!” In the dairy industry calves are taken away from their mothers just days after birth, male calves are usually slaughtered straight away or raised for veal and slaughtered at a few months old.

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

RIP nameless pigs, slaughtered 21/06/2019

An update for those of you following the petition to save the pigs at Farfield school from slaughter.

On the morning of the 21st of June 2019, the pigs were sent to the slaughterhouse. They died along with 124,00 farmed animals that are slaughtered every minute.

Image credit: Marie Youngs

In this article about the memorial for the pigs headteacher, Peter Harris, is quoted:

“The pigs did leave the school farm on Friday morning as was always the plan. They were slaughtered later that day and have been sold to the wholesale pork market.

“The pigs had twice as long a life as most commercial pigs and had a healthy free range life at school. The meat won’t be available to our families due to the trouble that could cause with protesters.”

I was recently told by Pigs in the Wood sanctuary that pigs of that age will probably make the farmer a profit of £40 and their meat will only be sold as sausages; which are a level one carcinogen.
Pigs can live for twenty years if they are well cared for, so whilst the pigs at Farfield may have lived a life twice as long as most commercial pigs, they still only lived 5% of their natural lives.
It sounds like Harris thinks it’s a shame that the dismembered carcasses will not be available for families to purchase due to trouble with protesters, it’s a shame he never considered the trouble it would cause the pigs.

He goes on to say:

“There is no shrine outside school. There were some things left outside the school gates on Sunday but they were removed within a couple of hours. 

“The school community has been overwhelmingly supportive of our farm project and have felt intimidated by some protesters and the messages that they have left.”

If someone had been hit by a car outside school and someone left flowers which were then removed by the school, I would say that’s pretty fucking disrespectful. Same logic applies here. You want to kill the animals and you want to “teach” the children about where “meat” comes from but you don’t want to acknowledge the death and slaughter and deny people the right to grieve.
Saying the school community has been overwhelmingly supportive yet again glazes over the ethical and religious beliefs of many parents and staff that this “project” has been a bad idea from the beginning. I have had many conversations with parents who said their children are traumatised and that they signed the petition, and even spoken to a member of staff who had considered leaving their job when they found out what Harris and the governors were planning.
If the school community find the truth intimidating I wonder what rock have they been living under? We have never been aggressive or instigated any arguments or fights, all we have done was try to educate people on the truth about veganism, farmed animals, the environmental, ethical and health repercussions of carnism and slaughter.
I have been at every single protest from the beginning and found that the only people being intimidating were the parents who decided they didn’t want us there before even having a conversation with us. One grandparent was threatened with arrest by a police officer and last time we were outside school the assistant headteacher stood not even a metre away from me whilst I was literally being screamed at by two parents (one of whom tried to attack my friend but had been dragged away by the assistant head) claiming that “everyone is a kiddy fiddler these days” and that we scared their child- who was walking home alone. (Why would you allow your child to walk home unaccompanied if you believe that every single adult in the world is a paedophile?)

“It is a shame that some of the educational messages of this project – that the welfare provenance of meat is important and that the climate emergency means that meat consumption should be reduced – has been somewhat lost in the furore caused by a small minority from outside our school community.

I believe that if you do not seek the whole truth then you choose to believe a lie. The educational message of this ‘project’ has been skewed and grotesque from the beginning. The reality is that there are zero laws and regulations regarding “free range” farmed pigs in the UK, so to teach the children that “free range meat” is better than factory farmed is useless.
The reality is that vegan living is the way forward, it has far more benefits for your health, for the environment, and obviously for animals who want to live and who feel, love and suffer just like we do. The reality is that the biggest way to reduce your impact on climate change is to go vegan, a vegan lifestyle has the lowest carbon footprint diet over any other.
The reality is that pigs are animals just like us, who are not dissimilar from dogs, who feel pain and joy.
The reality is that the slaughter of pigs has a two part process: stunning and sticking.
The ways that farmed pigs are stunned and sticked include

  1. penetrating captive bolt a gun fires a metal bolt into the brain of the animal which is supposed to cause it to lose consciousness immediately but this method does not always work.
  2. electrical an electrical current is passed through the brain using a pair of tongs which causes the animal to temporarily lose consciousness, sometimes they do this to the heart so the animal dies
  3. gas stunning/killing pigs are put into gas chambers where high concentrations of gases are released (currently carbon dioxide) which cause the pigs to asphyxiate and eventually die of hypoxia
  4. sticking it is recommended by the “humane” slaughter association that, once stunned, a knife of at least 120mm long should be inserted into the neck of the pig and that once the penetration has been made the knife handle should be lowered so the blade is in a near vertical position and pushed upward to sever all the major blood vessels which arise from the heart

Watch the video below by the “Humane” Slaughter Association to learn more about how animals are bled out and killed in slaughter houses.
WARNING: CONTAINS GRAPHIC FOOTAGE OF VIOLENCE AND MURDER.
I didn’t manage to watch past the first couple of seconds, I have heard many people describe “age appropriate” education on slaughtering animals, I don’t think this footage is appropriate for ANY age. So how can we teach children that this is okay if it we cannot stomach the violence? How can we pay for it if we are unable to see it happen or do it ourselves? How can something so cruel, so unnecessary, so traumatising and evil be acceptable and commonplace in society. 124,00 animals are killed EVERY MINUTE.

WARNING: CONTAINS GRAPHIC FOOTAGE OF ANIMAL SLAUGHTER

Also, I would not call the resistance to the slaughter of animals a “furore caused by a small minority from outside the school community.” For a start off, there are people within the school community who have always been against the “project.”
Secondly, I would not call 117,080 people a “small minority.” As I’m writing this the original petition on change.org has 7,080 signatures, and the petition on thepetitionsite has 110,000.

“The governors have decided that we will now have a time for reflection and further consultation before deciding whether we will repeat the project next year.”

If you’re really stupid enough to go ahead with this next year, I can guarantee you’ll regret it.

Friends not food, RIP.

Setting things straight

I am writing this post in response to all the media attention and misinformation relating to a petition I made in October 2018.

You can read and sign the petition via the petition page, or through clicking this link.

Articles have been written about the petition in the Yorkshire Evening Post, the (shitty) Daily Mail, The Metro and in international papers. I was recently approached by a journalist who wanted to write an article for the times. In their email they wrote: “The headteacher has been called a ‘murderer’ in international newspapers from the UK to Russia to Belgium, there have been fake news stories about ‘outraged parents’ and ‘school trips to the abattoir’ that have no basis in fact,”

When I read the story this morning it got me thinking about “fake news” and media bias. I was happy to talk to the press hoping my side of the story would be heard but I was disappointed. So I want to set things straight, I’m going to publish here the questions I was asked and copy and paste my full answers.

  1. Why did you set up the petition?

I set up the petition because I saw an opportunity to save the lives of these pigs. As I went to this school myself eleven years ago, I already knew the headteacher was a vegetarian. I couldn’t understand why this would be happening at a school that has vegetarian teachers, students and people of various faiths who are against this kind of thing. I don’t see why the pigs need to die in order to teach the children a lesson, anyone can look at a photo of a pig online and go “yep that’s where bacon comes from.”

2. Did you contact the school directly before setting it up to express your concerns?

Before setting up the online petition on change.org I actually made and printed out a simpler petition which I brought to the school gates at home time one afternoon in either September or October last year (which was before the pigs were even at the school) hoping to get signatures from people there. I only spoke to two parents who were with their children at the time and, though I had been feeling positive, they were extremely rude and aggressive in their tone and later they called the school to complain about me “being violent and aggressive.” So the school actually found out through those parents I imagine, though I do actually know one of the teachers there and they were one of the few people to sign the original petition. I did contact the school by email a few weeks after this when I made the new petition on change.org. I wanted to open a dialogue with them and get them in touch with a local pig sanctuary; the headteacher replied to one of my emails and I have not heard anything from him since.

3. Were you aware of the school’s work on their farm with chickens, vegetables plots, beehives, learning about sustainable eating, ethical farming, reducing meat and the fact that there had been a long consultation process with parents and kids before you set the petition up?

As mentioned in the petition text, I used to go to Farsley Farfield school myself so I was already aware of “the farm.” When I went to school there, the farm consisted of poly tunnels and vegetable plots, as well as the beginnings of an orchard. Because of my links to the school I know that since I left they now have a wind turbine and keep chickens but I was only made aware of the beehive recently when chatting to a parent outside school a few days ago. I was aware to some extent of the consultation process, and if I hadn’t been told about it months before even setting up the petition I would have assumed there would have been some kind of meeting regarding the pig project.

Most of the parents I have spoken with oppose my view, but some parents (and teachers) are (quietly) not happy about the pigs going to slaughter. Mr Harris wrote to me in response to an email: “I have had many more positive comments from families and only one, very recent, objection letter from a child. The proposal went through school council last year and was raised in newsletters previously. I have gone out of my way to pro-actively consult with Muslim families: typically their attitude appears to be that they will observe from afar but don’t want to be involved.”

On Tuesday I spoke with several parents (quite a few of them religious) who said they had signed my petition. One parent said that her children were very upset about the whole thing and that she wasn’t happy either, I recommended she write to one of the local papers because it definitely seems to me that people who disagree don’t feel like they can voice their opinions. I know for a fact one teacher doesn’t want the pigs to be slaughtered but is reluctant to be more outspoken on the issue for fear that they will lose their job. So, although I have been assured that the consultation process was thorough, it definitely seems to me that some people don’t feel like their objections have been heard. Schools are for children not parents, governors, or butchers, if I was Mr Harris that one objection letter from a child on an ethical issue such as this would be enough.

4. Were you surprised by the fact that it went viral recently- despite being set up six months ago?

I am not surprised the petition went viral, I was informed by a local animal rights activist that someone who had signed my petition had gone to the Yorkshire Evening Post about it. I think that was the first article written on the petition. I’ve read about similar stories and similar things have happened to me before, people love a controversial story. With veganism being one of the fastest growing lifestyle choices in the UK there’s almost always a story about it; people love to get angry about animal rights issues whether they’re vegan or someone who eats animals.

5. There have been very real life and potentially dangerous consequences for some very young children as well as for an award-winning school. The headteacher has been called a ‘murderer’ in international newspapers from the UK to Russia to Belgium, there have been fake news stories about ‘outraged parents’ and ‘school trips to the abattoir’ that have no basis in fact, there has been a protest at gates of a primary school during home time, hate mail was posted to one of the children at the school. Do you feel any responsibility for what has happened to the children and school?

 I do not condone sending hate mail to anyone, especially children, I think it’s an appalling response. If people are angry they should look at their own lifestyle choices and ask if they are in line with their morals, and ask themselves what they can do to make the world a better place. Sending hate mail or saying/doing anything abusive is wrong and brings about nothing good, just more anger and division. I can’t be responsible for the things other people say and do. If people share things that are factually inaccurate it only makes me angry because it makes my claims look invalid. If people send hate mail to children they cannot align themselves with me, my values, or any reasonable person. If the pigs are saved and allowed to live out their natural lives then I won’t be responsible for that, it ultimately rests upon the school whether or not these beautiful animals live or die. I think the school could use this as an opportunity to make themselves look great, I do think they’re a good school, but imagine the good they could do if they chose to let the pigs live; if they taught lessons on permaculture, ecosystems and the reality of the destruction of the animal agriculture industry; or if they had free vegan school dinners. I think they would definitely win more awards. There has been ‘fake news’ on both sides, the so called National Pig Association (how can you be the association for pigs when you’re pro killing pigs?) wrote an article saying my petition was “factually incorrect and misleading vegan propaganda,” but, as a vegan of almost four years, I like to think I am well informed about the problems of the animal agriculture industry. My petition includes several links backing up my claims including the WWF “Appetite for Destruction” PDF and the World Health Organisation’s article on processed meat being carcinogenic.

I am aware of the protest, I have been going to the school once a month with friends to hold up my “friends not food” poster outside the school. The original protest (if you can call it that) was just before Christmas and I made myself a pig snout which I wore with a blanket wrapped around me. The message I wanted to get across was pigs in blankets are friends not food! I want to keep the lives of these pigs in their minds, I want to remind people that I do actually care about the pigs, I’m not going to just sit back and hope the thousands of signatures on my petition do the job. Last week I asked my friends and local animal rights campaigners to join me outside the school, so on Tuesday we had more banners and more power than before because I really don’t think these pigs have long left.  Though we had a lot of great conversations with parents who were willing to have an open conversation with us, as well as parents who agreed with our stance that the pigs should not be killed, there was a lot of abuse. I am used to receiving heckles from across the street but this time it was far worse: one parent shoulder barged my friend; we received patronising snickers and snide remarks calling us “vile,” “a disgrace,” or “disgusting;” and one child’s grandmother was extremely aggressive towards us and the police officer- who we had been chatting to and was about to leave us when she turned up and started shouting at us. The police officer, Sgt Baldwin, asked her to calm down and she tried shoving past him on multiple occasions and he actually said to her that he would have to arrest her but she calmed down a bit after this point- it’s all on the police bodycam. The child this woman was accompanying was crying throughout and pleading with her to walk away but she carried on shouting at us and being aggressive, at several points I thought she might attack me or my friends. We did nothing to provoke this at all, we were just stood holding our signs, one of my friends said “save the piggies,” and that’s it.
On Tuesday one parent stood for a long time (before school finished) arguing with us saying that we would be intimidating the children, which is not true at all. In all of my little protests outside the school the worst response I have gotten from a child is them shouting “bacon” at me, at other times I have had children wave, do peace signs, smile, ask questions, laugh/point at me, a few months ago one kid did that flossing dance from across the road at me. The only people who have been intimidating and nasty have been a few parents (usually the same people every time) who make random accusations whilst their children stand and witness their aggressive tone and body language towards me and my mates.
All that being said I don’t want to point fingers but I think some parents are setting a poor example for their children: shouting at strangers for protesting against killing animals. It’s not really fair for vegans to have this misrepresentation of being aggressive, violent and forcing our views upon other people when we are often met with a lot of abuse for just being against the exploitation and murder of animals.

Thank you for reading,

Max

Friends not food!