“Activists from all over the world regularly come up against aggression, violence and even death” Interview with vegan activists.
Plant-based activists Nicola Harris and James O’Toole from The Animal Save Movement on the tragic death of one of their protestors, promise made to the pigs and global fight for animal rights.
The Animal Save Movement is a plant-based community, which works towards saving animals from the slaughterhouse by holding vigils and fights against any kind of animal oppression. By spreading the message to the World about beneficial effects of a vegan diet on health and preventing the disease they try to reverse disastrous climate change. Recently on Birmingham Motorway, local activists displayed the banner “Why love one and eat other?”, which was a part of global campaign GoVegan4Regan.
The Animal Save Movement is a worldwide network, in what counties do you operate?
We have over 1000 Animal Save Chapters (Movements) across six continents and are present in 73 countries.
The Movement hold vigils, bear witness to exploited animals, promote a plant-based diet so where this idea came from?
The Animal Save Movement was formed in 2010 by our Executive Director, Anita Krajnc with the inception of Toronto Pig Save. Anita adopted a dog called Mr Bean and on their daily walks would witness sad and frightened pigs on their way to a slaughterhouse in downtown Toronto.
They made a promise to those pigs, not to turn away, but to reach out by holding a minimum of three animal vigils each week to bear witness to their suffering. Leo Tolstoy defined the moral duty to bear witness as:
“When the suffering of another creature causes you to feel pain… come closer, as close as you can to him who suffers, and try to help him.”
When people come face to face with the victims and see animals as individuals, it’s a powerful wake-up call.
Over the last decade, we have expanded to over 1000 chapters worldwide and use a loved-based approach to activism. Our mission is to end animal injustice and build a love-based community working towards a fair and liveable planet for all.
Could you tell me why peaceful activists, who protest against exploiting animals experience aggression?
The stark reality is that activists from all over the world regularly come up against aggression, violence and even death. It is something that most, if not all social justice movements face. We are trying to dismantle oppressive systems and societal structures to build a better world, and as history has taught us there is often violent resistance, particularly from those who feel they have the most to lose from system change.
In 2019 alone, more than 300 human rights defenders working to protect the environment, free speech, LGBTQ+ rights, and indigenous lands in 31 countries were killed, and Regan is not the only activist to have lost her life fighting animal injustice. Her death has haunting similarities to that of Jill Phipps who was also killed by an animal transporter whilst protesting against the live export of calves near Coventry Airport in 1995. Many others have been killed during protests or in some cases even assassinated by those connected to oppressive industries, and countless others seriously injured.
One of your activist Regan Russell was killed during vigils giving pigs water. In response, you created project #GoVegan4Regan and displayed bridge banners all around the world. Do you fight for her justice by asking people to go vegan?
Regan Russell was violently killed in June 2020 during a pig vigil at Fearmans slaughterhouse, Ontario. She was there to protest against a controversial piece of legislation that was passed just two days prior. Dubbed an “Ag-gag”, Bill 156 is a dangerous and undemocratic piece of legislation preventing undercover investigators, whistle-blowers, journalists, and activists from exposing the horrific treatment of farmed animals, it also allows farmers to use “force” against them. In an attempt to hide unsanitary and unhygienic conditions, filming inside farms or slaughterhouses will bring with it criminal sanctions, including prison. It specifically targets love-based community organising groups such as the Animal Save Movement by preventing peaceful protests on public property. To offer water to an overheating animal who is minutes away from death will be criminalised.
In reaction to her tragic death, activists around the world have mobilised in her memory and are encouraging people to “GoVegan4Regan” by raising awareness and sparking conversation. However, Justice for Regan takes many forms, and as well as going vegan for Regan, the Animal Save Movement have the following demands:
· The Ontario Government must Repeal Bill 156 with immediate effect
· They must implement Regan’s Law, a bill of rights seeking legal recognition of personhood and protection for farmed animals
· Defund the animal agriculture industry and re-direct subsidies to revolutionize a plant-based food system for the benefit for animals, people, and the planet
What is already happening with obtaining justice for Regan?
Actions are happening all over the world for Regan. Within days of her death, activists in London glued themselves to the streets outside the Canadian Embassy to call for the repeal of Bill-156 and justice for Regan. In Portugal, vegan political party PAN requested a moment of silence in Parliament which was accepted and held to honour her life.
In India, Animal Save Movement teamed up with Million Dollar Vegan India to distribute delicious vegan meals to 4000 people in the Dharavi Mumbai India slums as part of a ‘Food Justice for Regan’ initiative.
In the US, PETA rescued two six-week-old pigs from a farm in Iowa and named one Regan and the other Russell. They will live out their lives in an animal sanctuary in upstate New York.
Activists occupied a slaughterhouse in Berlin to demand a transition to a healthy, sustainable food system, Regan Russell banners were hung from the rooftop in an action which saw peaceful activists carried away by police.
Actions have taken place across the world including Argentina, Austria, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, Israel, New Zealand, the UK and USA. Our most recent action saw our global community coming together to co-ordinate 120 banner drops in their local communities to raise awareness for Regan and veganism.
What changes have you noticed after launching The Save Movement?
The movement grew gradually over the years until 2016 when Anita Krajnc was charged for giving water to thirsty pigs, and initially faced up to 10 years in prison. The following ‘pig trial’ caught the imagination of the public and garnered worldwide media attention and the hashtag #compassionisnotacrime went viral on social media. The attention propelled Animal Save Movement forward and led to the formation of many new groups. At the time that Anita was charged, there were about 50 groups, now we have around 1000.
In 2016, Save launched Animal Save Tours to build a global movement. By 2019, there were 900 chapters in over 70 countries. Find a map of Animal Save chapters by country.
Beginning in 2018, the Save Movement expanded to include three branches: Animal Save, Climate Save and Health Save. We evolved from a largely single tactic organization holding animal vigils to a campaign oriented movement with multiple, escalating tactics based on the book This Is an Uprising.
How many animals did you save?
It’s hard to put an exact figure on the number of animals saved, but because an average person in the UK could consume over 10,000 sentient beings in their lifetime, every person that adopts a vegan diet makes a difference. Between 2014 and 2019 we have seen the number of vegans in the UK quadruple.
Animal Save Movement Chapters are also often engaged in hands-on animal rescue and sanctuary work. For example, Montevideo Horse Save in Uruguay set up a fallen horse rescue initiative this year. In Toronto, Canada and Bolton UK, dozens of chickens have been rescued from slaughterhouses over the years.
How can I get involved?
Millions of animals are being needlessly slaughtered every single day and urgently need your help. An important first step is to adopt a healthy vegan diet that will not only save animals but help prevent catastrophic climate change and benefit your health and well-being.
One of our main objectives is to mobilize people to become grassroots activists and if we come together as agents for change we can build a strong globally representative mass movement to fight animal injustice. By joining your local Animal Save Chapter you can attend vigils, take part in vegan outreach, join pressure campaigns or even take part in civil disobedience and direct action. We have a whole range of tactics and tools at our disposal and there is something for everyone.
Animal Save Movement will also create The Regan Russell fund to help activists worldwide fight animal ag-gag bills that prevent them carrying out their moral duty to bear witness and expose the horrific slaughterhouse operations that are usually hidden from us all.