A statement I hear quite often is “The Save Movement doesn’t actually save animals”.
Having been closely involved with the movement from it’s UK birth in 2016, I decided to share my thoughts on the movement and what came out of my involvement with them.
A Time For Change…
The first training is Reverence for Life –
Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating the insight of inter-being and compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, or in my way of life. Seeing that harmful actions arise from anger, fear, greed, and intolerance, which in turn come from dualistic and discriminative thinking, I will cultivate openness, non-discrimination, and non-attachment to views in order to transform violence, fanaticism, and dogmatism in myself and in the world.
Make That Change…
Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) advocates veganism. As I was already vegetarian many parts of the first training came very naturally to me and made perfect sense. How can we cultivate true compassion within us for all living beings if every time we sit down to a meal we are dining on the corpse of another once living, innocent and loving being who was killed on our behalf?
As a lifelong vegetarian I had truly believed I was doing my very best for the animals. I have now reached the conclusion that often when we believe we are doing our best, it is easy to then become complacent and often our desire and hunger to learn further can be limited; because we already implicitly believe we are doing our best, so often we feel no need to change or even re-educate ourselves.
Vegan is The Only Way
However, when I heard Thich Nhat Hanh giving a talk about the many varied benefits to living a vegan lifestyle (and they were not all about animals), I knew I simply had to learn more.
He explained with ease how when we ingest the flesh of beings who were filled with terror, anger and fear in the moments before, and as they were killed, we ingest that negative energy within us when we eat their flesh. That made perfect sense to me.
He touched on the dairy and egg industry, and quickly and easily made me understand how these industries were just as full of terror (if not more so) as the meat industry itself. He talked about how we also consume anger and violence in a glass of milk or a piece of cheese, just as we do in a piece of meat. I then went away and did my own research, and what I learned was truly devastating. Now all of this also made perfect sense to me. We are what we eat!
For more dairy insight read this The Real Handmaids Tale
He spoke about the huge impact animal agriculture has on our fellow human beings who suffer and die in this world on a daily basis from starvation and malnutrition. Check out www.awfw.org Humans breed “farm” animals – they bring them into this world and those animals need fed and watered and space to live. We use a massive proportion of the land on our planet to house these animals and of course to grow crops to feed to the animals who are known as “livestock”. Instead of us using this food to feed to these animals, the food they receive could easily be used to fight world hunger – it seems pointless to feed and water animals only to then kill them and eat them – surely we could cut out that “middle man” and live on the crops ourselves? After all, the animal’s humans most commonly eat get all their nutrients from plant-based food themselves, so we are eating their flesh to get protein built by plants!
Thriving on a plant-based diet
There’s a massive amount of research to prove that humans cannot only live on a plant-based diet, but can thrive on one. The biggest piece of nutritional research ever conducted was completed by Dr T Colin Campbell and is called “The China Study” – that was first published back in 2005.
Since then there have been countless pieces of research completed to back this up – just google it yourself and you find a wide variety of options that you may peruse through at your leisure. If you’d like a book go for “How Not To Die” by Dr Michael Greger – there’s an App available to go with that book too called “Daily Dozen”. If you would rather watch as opposed to read, watch “What The Health”, “Vegucated”, “Forks Over Knives” & “Food Inc” – that’s to name just a few of the educational documentaries available on Netflix. Look into the amount of amazing vegan athletes all our there proving we can be fit, healthy and very strong without animal protein. People like Fiona Oakes, Patrik Baboumian, Robert Cheeke, The Vegan Mr Universe Barny du Plessis, and his wife, the UK’s strongest woman Josie du Plessis. Arvid Beck, Tim Shieff, Torre Washington, Mac Danzig, Carl Lewis & Tia Bianco – again, to name just a few! Check out www.greatveganathletes.com for more information on that.
Our Environment – Cowspiracy
During Thay’s talk in 2010 he also discussed the harm animal agriculture causes to our planet, and described how it causes more destruction than all our transport combined. It uses about 70% of our agricultural land, and is one of the leading causes of deforestation, biodiversity loss and water pollution – it is simply choking our planet! In his book The World We Have, Thich Nhat Hanh acknowledges the many ways in which humans are destroying the planet, and he emphasises how important it is that each one of us should make our own, personal commitment to the Earth. Watch Cowspiracy on Netflix for more info and/or check out www.worldwatch.org
The points Thay made during that talk touched me deeply and made me think about my lifestyle and changes I could make. I looked into all he had said, and I was extremely saddened at my findings. However, being sad doesn’t help the victims, action is what was and still is required. I went vegan and decided to become active in also spreading the word.
I believe my complacency as a vegetarian proves how important it is for us to stay in touch with the suffering within the world. We need to continually nourish that awareness through many means — sound, touch, sight, smell, energy and so on. I am eternally grateful to have had the opportunity to learn further and try to do the best I can with my life to raise awareness of the suffering of others.
The very reason I felt at home in Engaged Buddhism was because it teaches us to get off our meditation cushion and go out into the world and put into practice what we learn from our dharma teachings, and to apply the insights of our meditations in relation to situations of political, social, environmental and economic suffering and injustice.
Back in 2010 we were not in a position to have access to so many varied vegan/animal rights groups which we could choose to support and work with as we do today. The most prominent groups in the UK were PETA and Animal Aid. I decided back then to get involved with Animal Aid and I became their Scottish contact for anyone looking to become involved in animal rights groups north of the border. Animal Aid was set up 41 years ago in 1977, and PETA 38 years ago in 1980 – so both becoming closer to being established for half a century!
The Impact of Social Media
The rise of social media channels like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram really started to help the cause massively, and the movement began to grow in a way it never had before. We began to forge friendships with people all around the world, simply because they were vegan. Soon we had created an online vegan network, community, and almost family. The internet documentaries and DVD’s like “Earthlings” and “Cowspiracy” were making a huge impact in helping people to make the connection, and then gradually Netflix began to add documentaries of truth like “Forks Over Knives” to name but one.
Vegan festivals slowly began to happen and in December 2015 we had our very first Vegfest in Scotland where I held a stall for Animal Aid. It was held in the SECC in Glasgow and it was a massive success attracting over 7,000 visitors. However, just one year later at VegFest Scotland 2016 (which was again held at the SECC in Glasgow), the vegan/animal rights movement had exploded and what had happened on the scene in those 12 months was truly incredible.
Earthlings Experience & The Save Movement
During those 12 months, many animal rights/vegan advocacy groups had begun to form throughout the world and the UK. Two of the most prominent at that time were Earthlings Experience and the first UK Save Movement group which formed in Manchester and was known simply as Manchester Pig Save – MPS held their first vigil in February 2016. This group was born on the back of the first ever Save group which was formed in Toronto and became known as Toronto Pig Save. TPS began and evolved through group founder Anita Krajnc witnessing trucks full of innocent animals being taken to slaughter. This was something she would see regularly while out walking her dog Mr Bean. Through being vegan and her deep love for all animals (not just dogs), she felt compelled to do something, so she began to bear witness to the suffering of these animals crammed like objects within these often 3 tier trucks. Her aim was to show love and compassion to the animals in their final moments and to document and report their plight and suffering. It was her true belief that if people could learn and actually see the truth, they would cultivate compassion towards these innocent and defenceless animals and through that cultivation of compassion, they would come to realise they no longer wanted to be part of the violence and would choose a compassionate lifestyle by going vegan. It was also her hope that people would feel the need to be active and become a voice for these voiceless and innocent earthlings. Her hopes came true and it wasn’t too long before other activists began to join Anita in bearing witness, and in 2010 Toronto Pig Save was born. Little did she think from those days of walking Mr Bean that her hopes for activists would continue to multiply and the movement would manifest into what the massive worldwide movement it is today!
Toronto Pig Save & Manchester Pig Save
The scene was really just starting to flourish at this time and Toronto Pig Save started to make regular appearances on our social media channels – I was intrigued to know more. I had already connected and met with a very small group of Scottish activists through Animal Aid. The handful of us met up in early 2016 and discussed setting up a Scottish Save group. With the backing and help of MPS & TPS we set first up the first Scottish Save group, and on August 4th 2016, Save Movement Scotland held their first vigil at Sandyford Abattoir in Paisley.
After Anita Krajnc was arrested in 2016 for simply giving water to thirsty pigs, the media coverage catapulted the movement into a global success story for activism.
The events the Save groups hold at slaughterhouses are known as vigils. A vigil is a peaceful event whereby a group of people come together to simply bear witness to the suffering of the animals. A vigil is never about causing trouble or a disturbance of the peace, in fact it is the opposite, it is a peaceful and all activists are expected to follow the peaceful code of conduct as laid out by the movement. The vigil is not about interacting in any negative way with any of the industry workers; its main focus is always only about the animals. In fact it is such a peaceful event that Strathclyde Police have not only upheld the behaviour of the Scottish group as being peaceful, but on many occasions it can be seen in the online videos on SMS Facebook page, where police officers have actually aided the activists in stopping the trucks.
Activists hold placards displaying pictures of suffering farm animals; each placard carries a small amount of text in the form of quotes such as “They Trust Us, We Betray Them” or “Why Love One But Eat The Other”. On the day the gathering of the activists’ draws attention to the fact there is a slaughterhouse at this location, and makes people think about what happens inside there. This can be with passers-by, the police, industry workers and the press. The activists will interact peacefully with anyone who cares to discuss the reason for the vigils.
The activists peacefully and safely stop the trucks. The activists who take on the truck-stopping role wear hi-viz vests and hold large placards which politely request the driver to stop for 3 minutes. Often activists will liaise with drivers in relation to stopping. Occasionally drivers may get angry, and in my personal experience, on those occasions we would feel it best to let the driver move on his way rather than cause too much of a disturbance. I am aware there have been occasions when there has been some friction from the driver and even occasions where the driver has rolled the vehicle forward in an attempt to intimidate the activists. However, there have also been many times when drivers have stopped without issue, and in Manchester they even had come to an agreement with the slaughterhouse to stop for 3 minutes on vigil days. The hi-viz vests ideally should never be seen by the animals, as these should only be worn by people in front of the trucks, not around them. When the truck comes to a stop the activists capture footage of the animals inside the trucks. This is done with the cameras on mobile phones attached to selfie sticks; the selfie stick enables activists to elevate their phone upwards and when viewed at the correct angle the cameral can capture images of the animals through the open spaces in the trucks – this is the only way activists would capture footage. This part of the vigil should always be done with the utmost respect towards the animals, in silence and with only a small number of activists (4-6) around a truck at one given time. Any lone animals are not filmed as they are already more stressed by being alone and not with their herd. Activists are quiet, gentle and respectful at this time. I think it’s clear to see from the below video how peaceful and gentle vigils can be.
The activists may lay flowers and light candles in respect of the lives lost at that location. Another activity is chalking on the pavements known as “chalktivism” – this is simply writing website addresses, documentary names to watch, short quotes and messages on the pavement for passers-by to read. Typically words like “Nothing humane happens in a slaughterhouse”, “Not your mum not your milk”, “Watch Earthlings” etc.
Documenting & Reporting – The Ripple Effect
After the vigil the captured footage is then collected and edited into one short video and posted online with a small amount of well written text describing the event. That footage is then permanently available for thousands and thousands of people to view. This footage allows people to witness for themselves these animals in their final moments. This online presence allows the work of every single vigil to have a massive ripple effect long after the event itself has long finished. It promotes online discussion and gives rise to the opportunity for online advocacy.
The Save Movement draw on inspiration from the likes of Leo Tolstoy, an ethical vegetarian who openly discussed the morality of eating animals, also Mahatma Gandhi who said “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animal are treated” – The Save Movement always promotes a peaceful approach only.
After the first few groups set up in Toronto and the UK, the months that followed saw many more Save groups forming all over the world. Today there are over 330 groups in Canada, USA, UK, continental Europe, Ireland, Australia, Hong Kong, South Asia, East Asia, South Africa, Mexico and central/south America. The Save Movement has made news headlines all over the world and is discussed regularly in the animal agriculture industry magazines and newspapers. The Save Movement has evolved into a massive worldwide network of groups bearing witness, advocating veganism and the rights for all animals,
Why Guest Vigils?
Bitesize Vegan Emily Moran Barwick attended a guest vigil in September 2016 with MPS and in February 2017 James Aspey attended a guest vigil with SMS and then MPS too. Earthling Ed has attended countless vigils including the MPS one with James Aspey. These guest vigils serve as a platform to raise a much higher awareness due to the sheer volume of followers these global activists attract. Joey Carbstrong attended a guest vigil in 2018 with SMS also. These activists have made veganism and animal rights more of a hot topic in the mainstream media. James Aspey got a spot on Australia’s breakfast show Sunrise after taking a 365 vow of silence to raise awareness of the voiceless victims of our planet. During his UK visit he did an interview with Kaye Adams on BBC Radio Scotland and made an appearance on local Scottish Television TV show Live at Five. Already in 2018 Joey Carbstrong has made appearances on BBC Radio 2, This Morning, and Good Moring Britain involving discussion with people like Jeremy Vine, Philip Schofield, Holly Willoughby, Piers Morgan, Susanna Reid and Anthony Worrall Thompson. He has also had this coverage in The Sun newspaper. By securing mainstream media attention of this level, these global activists are helping us to reach a whole new audience, and their appearances on such shows have actually helped more new people to wake up to the truth and go vegan.
There was of course that amazing Animal Rights March in 2016 which saw 2,500 vegans take to the streets of London, it was a truly amazing march to be part of – something of this nature we had never seen before, but now with every march and event, numbers keep growing and growing.
So now you can see why VegFest Scotland 2016 was a very different scenario from VegFest Scotland 2015 – so many positive things had happened in that year. These groups like Save and EE along with the global activists began to make animal rights more accessible to anyone who wanted to become part of the movement.
Just looking at 2018 – UK Vegan Camp-Out 2018 has sold out of all their 5000 tickets, and the Big Animal Rights March 2018 is set to be the biggest animal rights march the UK has ever seen – 2017 was over 5000…times really are a changin’!
The Time is Now
Going back to that 2010 talk from that amazing vegan advocate Thich Nhat Hanh – I had gone home full of hope, motivation and inspiration. I somehow wanted to help to spread that word and wanted to help Thay, the monastics and our worldwide sangha to make a difference, no matter how small. In 2010 I made a vision board and on it I placed pictures of the ideas that came to mind while travelling home from my retreat with Thay. Anything I thought I could possibly do which might help make a difference, I put on that board. When we know better, we can do better! We would live in a very different world if everyone who learned something believed that they as that one person CAN make a difference in this world – even just by making small changes to their own daily lives and sharing lessons and knowledge they learn with others. I had made a promise to do this, and I was determined I would do it.
First of all I set up a local Sangha based in the tradition of Engaged Buddhism and Thich Nhat Hanh – I named the group “It’s Now”! We must cherish the present moment, as that is the only one we truly have, we cannot live in the past, we cannot live in the future, we can only live in the present moment – we can only live in the now – that’s the only one of great importance. This serves as a reminder that we should not put things off until tomorrow – we should do what we need to do today…right now.
Reigniting a Vision from Bearing Witness
At that time in 2010 I was working as a Holistic Therapist & Stress Manager. On this vision board I placed pictures of myself doing these therapies in a sanctuary setting. The vision was that the sanctuary that would be a place of healing, not just for people, but animals too. My holistic business was called Lotus Holistic Healing and was named so due to the symbolism of the lotus in Buddhism. I had decided to stick with Lotus for the sanctuary too as it seemed very appropriate. That vision board stayed on my wall all these years, and as time went on and life happened (as it does), I seemed to grow a little further away from that vision with every passing year – but I never took it down!
In 2016, six years after I made that vision board, I was regularly bearing witness to the suffering of innocent, voiceless and defenceless animals at vigils. Looking into their eyes I could see their fear. Bearing witness reignited that 2010 vision within me. Looking directly into the eyes of those animals I was filled with deep sadness and was truly heart-broken – I HAD to do more! The animals make eye contact with us, and although they cannot speak our spoken language to us, their eyes speak in haunting volumes. I could always sense their pain, I could feel their energy and smell the terror that came from deep within them. During my time bearing witness I realised it was time to take that vision board off the back burner and at least attempt to put it into practice – for the animals and for people.
I knew deep down the reason I’d not moved forward with this vision was through fear. Fear at the enormity of the task, fear of failing, fear of the responsibility that came with it. However, those animals I bore witness to made me realise my fear was a mental formation in my head; their fear was real, their pain was real and their death was real and was coming to them shortly after our meeting and goodbye. The time is NOW! These animals didn’t have time for people to be stopped in their tracks through fear, they needed ALL the help they could get, and they needed it now! So I began to do more – a LOT more – and that all came about from bearing witness. I began to rescue animals and I launched a crowdfunder to raise money to open an educational animal sanctuary! Since then to now Lotus has been involved with a “lost count” number of rescues/saves in the UK – it’s been a lot. We are also
closer now to finding land for the sanctuary – ALL of this happened through bearing 1 person bearing witness. This is just one story from one activist! The Save Movement itself came from “one” person bearing witness. Don’t ever think YOU cannot make a difference, because you can!
What Would The Animals Say?
After bearing witness I always used to try to put myself in the position of the animals. I would ask myself a series of questions from the animals’ perspective.
So…if I was an animal inside that truck would I –
Want someone like me fighting my corner
Would I want my life to count in some way – to help in some way of exposing this?
Would I want footage of me and my story shared for other humans to see?
Would I hope that because of my life story being shared, maybe I could help to raise awareness?
If people saw this and went vegan and became active, could I maybe help save a tiny number of the billions of other animals across the planet in the same plight as me?
Would I want my story to expose the truth?
Do I want more people to go vegan and become active? I have no voice but there are people here who clearly understand that what is happening to me and billions like me is wrong – do I want them to use their voice on my behalf?
Can what these activists are doing right now expose the truth and share our story?
The answer to all these questions was always a definite yes. ? I knew then and I know now, that if any of those animals could communicate with us, they would tell us they would much rather see us doing something for them, than doing nothing. As it’s such a colossal global problem, that something these activists would be doing had to be something pretty huge and impactful.
As vegans we do not believe “some animals are more equal than others” – we would say that is speciesism – and it absolutely is!
I think most people agree that very many animals are extremely clever. If you care for a dog or a cat, you’ll know that they can pick up on your mood – they know when we are angry with them, they know when we want to play, they understand when they see certain objects– like when they see their lead or food bowl they know it’s walk time of dinner time. They know when we are sad, they know if we are in pain (emotional or physical), they know when we are giving them love, many even know if we are unwell. Animals are clever beings; they pick up on our emotions and our energy, just as we can pick up on theirs and on each other’s.
Having been around many animals in my lifetime, I truly believe they have a deep awareness of those who mean harm, and those who do not. Marc Hauser is a Harvard professor in psychology and has studied animal cognition for almost 40 years. He believes that animals conceive the world in similar ways to us humans do. Human babies do not know either what we talk about when we communicate with them, but they can pick up on tone and rhythm of our voice – as can animals. Therefore, I believe when we are bearing witness and speak with love, gentleness and compassion to the animals they inherently know the difference to when industry workers communicate with them. Many of the animals will take water from us, come closer to us and lick our hands. When I shout on Prince (who is a bullock) or mention biscuits, or rustle a biscuit wrapper, he’s over in a shot. Pigs have been proven to be extremely clever animals – more advanced than dogs or even a three year old human child.
I think we must always give animals credit for having that innate ability to understand much more than we maybe even think they can. They are sentient beings and experience a vast range of emotions also just like us, and cats and dogs. They know how to give and receive love.
Code of Conduct
It is important to always follow the Save Movement’s code of conduct when bearing witness, and always put the feelings of the animals first, whilst remembering the very reason vigils happen is to offer love, compassion and respect to the animals in their final moments. However, a massive part of a vigil is to report and document their plight and suffering. Every vigil is different. It is our duty to do all we can for animals, and that does not stop the minute the vigil is over. Every time footage is posted online it provides activists with a perfect platform to do great online advocacy. The public react in many different ways, but this is a chance to speak up for the animals. It can be frustrating when we are constantly bombarded with the same old comments all the time, but I am pretty sure there was a time in your life when you may have had similar thoughts at very least. None of us are perfect, (vegan or non-vegan) and we need as many people to transition to a vegan lifestyle as possible, it is not an elitist club – and anyone is at liberty to join at any given time – the more the merrier – literally that’s surely all we want?
Many people say they cannot attend vigils but support the work of Save. If you want to support the groups you can always help with peaceful and informative online advocacy by replying to comments on the public social media pages. Positive, calm and informative comments are the only way to try to help people make the connection. As soon as you get angry you have lost the possibility of any success. If you feel anger making an appearance within you, try to take a breather and go back to it later with a fresh mind. Don’t take anything personally, the people commenting don’t know you – remember this is not about you, it’s about social justice – so try to keep calm for the victims you’re using your voice on behalf of.
The Rise of The Movement
We must ask ourselves why veganism and animal rights has grown so much these past few years? Like I said Animal Aid established in 1977 and PETA in 1980 – yet it was 2015 before we really started to see this huge explosion happen. Whether you agree with certain forms of activism or not, the fact of the matter is that we need all types of activism and so do the victims. What works for some activists and audiences will not work for others. We need local grass-roots advocacy groups, online advocacy, media, social media, billboards, sanctuaries, and of course we also need global activist groups like ALF, Save and EE – there is a place for all work.
Does The Save Movement Actually Save Animals?
So in answer to my title question – does The Save Movement actually save animal lives? In my opinion, yes, it absolutely 100% and wholeheartedly does! Here are the beliefs I hold in relation to that answer.
- Save’s online presence provides a platform for online advocacy with non-vegans
- Save’s online presence exposes the truth to non-vegans and helps people to make the connection
- Save’s online presence, vigils and Awakening Compassion stalls opens the eyes of the public, industry workers and the police
- Save’s online presence, vigils and Awakening Compassion stalls help people go make that decision to go vegan
- Save’s online presence, vigils and Awakening Compassion stalls helps to make vegans get involved in activism
- Bearing witness makes activists want to do more to help the victims
United We Stand – Divided We…don’t do quite a s much
There definitely are a wide and varied choice of approaches in this massive social justice movement, but ultimately we as vegans/activists are all aiming for the one end goal – a cruelty free vegan world.
We as vegans advocate peace, love,compassion and justice, we use these words on a daily basis on social media and in conversations – we even wear them on our clothing and have them inked permanently on our skin. Let us put our money where our mouth is and generate peace, love and compassion to all our fellow earthlings – human and non-human! We will definitely be stronger and achieve more by being fully united and supporting the work of all our fellow activists and advocates.