Q&A with Anonymous for the Voiceless

Written by Kajsa IngelssonMarch 21, 2018

I met a truly amazing vegan activist here in Cape Town. His name is Mike. When he told me that him and his friends go standing outside of the entrance to the slaughterhouses simply to show the animals going in to meet their death a last act of kindness; a touch, some water or just sending light and love, I cried. When he told me he was part of an organization called Anonymous for the Voiceless and that this organized act of kindness is part of another amazing org called the save movement, I knew you guys would be as interested as I am to read about it. So without further ado, let’s dive into the world of vegan activism!

First off, what is street activism? Is there a specific meaning to the phrase when it comes to discussing animal rights?

Everyone wants to live in a better world, which means we should all be seeking ways to limit our negative impact. One of the first things we want to do when we receive important new information is to share it to the people around you such as family and friends. However, when it comes to something as serious as the extremely dire cases of the approximately 70 billion land animals who are bred to be killed for their flesh every year, we need to inform as many people as possible to change their hearts, minds, and perceptions as quickly as possible.

This is were street activism comes in. The meaning is quite literally; we speak directly to the public, on the streets. We speak to anyone and everyone who is curious in what we do, or interested in veganism or animal rights. One of the most effective methods is called a “Cube of Truth” due to its fantastic aesthetic, which is created by the group of people standing in a square wearing masks which many people already associate as being a voice against injustice.

Street activism is a powerful tool because people have the choice whether to engage or not, which means those who do stop to speak to us are generally open to hearing the message. It goes against our ethic to attempt to engage with anyone against his or her will or to goad people into watching the footage we show.

Cubes of Truth are one of many forms of street activism, other forms include leafleting, free food handouts, community projects, etc. This allows us to connect and educate the public in an authentic way, and on a more personal level. It empowers each individual, as the consumer, because we affect supply and demand, and so it is within our power to make the necessary changes towards a more compassionate world.

Give us the background, how did your organization come together in 2016?

Anonymous for the Voiceless (AV) was established in April 2016 in Melbourne, Australia by Paul Bashir and Asal Alamdari. Within the first year, AV had hosted over 296 demonstrations worldwide and conservatively tallied over 10,000 bystanders taking veganism seriously.

Due to its effectiveness as a model, and through the incredible hard work of the globally growing AV team, we have now hosted over 2,308 demonstrations in 404 cities in 56 countries around the world, convincing at least 81,965 bystanders to take the needless violence in their diets and lifestyles seriously. The growth is almost unbelievable and we can already feel the effect it is having on people’s awareness.

Being a somewhat of a new organization, what have been some hardships and other positive moments that the organization has experienced in its 2 years?

We are currently operating in over 400 cities, and each chapter has varying challenges to deal with depending on how deeply ingrained the cultural cruelties of each place are. That said, the positive stories definitely outweigh the negative ones. While we do get the occasional hate mail, we are regularly inundated with positive comments from caring people who had never previously had the time or opportunity to really think about the effects that our everyday choices have on animals.

The African chapters, which are currently located in Namibia, Mauritus, Cape Town, Limpopo, Durban, Johannesburg, and Mossel Bay, face some unique challenges in that often we are dealing with more than just the fact that animal use is heavily engrained in our various histories and cultures. But also that the majority of our populations have been historically oppressed and have to work and fight that much harder to overcome their individual hardships on a daily basis. We believe that it is important to note that everybody deserves to know the truth if they so choose, regardless of their background, and the amazing thing is that it is often the less privileged people who take the unnecessary plight of our fellow earthlings the most seriously, and we have many positive memories of all of these conversations that narrow our differences and deepen our respect for each other and for our planet.

Some notable moments are the world record largest Cube of Truth in Sydney in October in 2017 where, throughout the day, around 140 AV members managed to have 569 of the thousands of passers-by begin their path to becoming vegan. Another notable moment was the first ever “International Cube of Truth Day” on 5 November 2017, which comprised of over 190 events around the world, tallying 6,959 meaningful conversions in a single day.

How do the actual cube of truth look when being preformed?

A cube of truth looks the same in every city around the world. At its smallest it could be just two people – one holding a screen, the other engaging with any bystanders – but ideally the cube would have 4 sides, with an evenly distributed number of people standing shoulder to shoulder in a square formation (so 4, 8, 12, 16, 20 people), leaving enough activists to engage with the public. Everyone involved is dressed in black, and those who are in the cube wear Guy Fawkes/V for Vendetta masks, in line with the Anonymous aesthetic.

The masks represent the rapidly growing number of people who stand up against injustice – in this case the violence and oppression inherent in farming and killing animals – and simultaneously serve to make it more comfortable for people to view the footage without feeling watched. The members of the cube who are holding screens display standard-practice footage from animal agriculture, while those on outreach engage with the public in an attempt to illustrate the abolitionist stance on animal exploitation, and equip anyone who is interested with everything they need in switching to a vegan lifestyle.

Something which is quite apparent, and highlights the importance of what we do, is that the (a) majority of people have no idea what happens to others (humans and animals) to satisfy their food choices, and/or (b) their understanding of the nature of these industries is not based on propaganda and advertising, rather than reality.

How can you participate in a demonstration? Do you need to be trained or have a certain level of education on the environment?

Anyone can join his or her closest volunteer Facebook group. Each Chapter is listed on the AV website, which are each linked to a Facebook group. Here in Cape Town, as in many other cities, we hold regular workshops to help those who wish to get involved and do outreach.

What other cities do you plan on taking on in 2018?

Any city or suburb that does not yet have a chapter set up can be initiated by anyone who is passionate and has the drive to be an organiser. We give the necessary support to get things up and running. If you are interested in starting up a chapter in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact us via our website, or on Facebook.

When do demonstrations usually take place, and how frequently?

We currently host between 3 and 5 month, but we are hoping to increase this in the upcoming year as our numbers grow.

In the opinion of your organization, how does veganism impact animal rights on a large scale?

Every day we make a series of small decisions about the foods we put in our bodies. The all-important first step in striving for animal rights is for each person to recognize that there is no need to exploit animals for us to survive and thrive. We alone decide which industries bloom every time we eat – the industries of life giving nutrients, or those of life-taking nutrients – due to the nature of our supply-demand world… when the demand for animal flesh and secretions diminishes, so too will the widespread suffering of animals.

When we view cows, chickens, pigs and other “livestock” as the highly intelligent, social creatures they are, avoiding the use of their bodies as products is the entirely logical choice.

How has technology helped your organization grow? I noticed you’ve expanded the outreach in using virtual reality equipment!

Technology has been extremely helpful and is a vital part of our demonstrations. We use laptops, notepads, I-pads, or flat screen TVs to play the footage. Some chapters have VR headsets which are incredibly effective because they take the person into a slaughterhouse to see subjectively what it’s like for the animals. Of course, social media has been vital in growing the movement so quickly and deserves an honourable mention.

After a successful demonstration, do you also give people alternative options to their meat based diet? Do you present them with Challenge 22?

During a demonstration, we might ask people what they might find challenging about avoiding animal products and we try to address their concerns as best we can in the moment. Of course, it is vital to provide follow-up information and support, and so after each successful conversation with a bystander, we hand him or her a business card with a link to the AV website which has resources, “must sees”, sources and references for individual research, and a link to #challenge22.

For anyone who does not know, challenge22 is a free support platform for those who would like to experience what it is like to live for 22 days without harming animals. The support group is moderated by mentors from all occupations and lifestyles of varying ages and includes mothers, fathers, lawyers, doctors, sports people, business professionals, and more, which means there is always somebody who will be able to help you or to provide insight. Furthermore, everyone has free access to clinical dietitians and registered nutritionists, should they have specific dietary concerns.

Each person gets a mentor, group support and inspiration, meal plans, shopping lists and access to dietitians and nutritionists, all for free!

We do this partly because people often feel alienated by society when they go vegan because suddenly they are aware of how widely supported the industries of animal cruelty and exploitation are. To make matters worse, because veganism is (falsely) characterised as extreme, vegans are often the target of criticism or jokes. The level of support in #challenge22 is an absolute lifesaver in this regard, enabling each participant to get the personalised support they need in order to make the transition as easy as possible.

In your list of resources, which ones help newly decided people with the transition to veganism?

Eat like you care” by Gary L. Francione, “How not to die” by Dr. Michael Gregger and “The China Study” by Dr. Collin T. Campbell.

How’s the future looking for you guys? How do you intend to grow?

Exposure through social media has helped AV to grow tremendously and it is certainly thanks to Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube for our rapid expansion. Social media brings new and old vegans who want to join and be a voice for those whose voices are ignored and/or silenced. We do have some new tricks up our sleeves too though, but they aren’t quite ready to be shared with the public just yet…