Veganism has long been considered a worthy ethical lifestyle choice, and many believe it has finally entered the mainstream. But are extreme anti-meat tactics doing the cause more harm than good?
The Morning Advertiser reported earlier this month on businesses that have been subject to protests from vegan activists, who have taken their war against the meat industry within the hospitality sector to severe lengths.
In November last year, vegan activists from DxE stormed Touro Brazilian Steakhouse in Brighton, East Sussex, and abruptly put a stop to diners’ meals by playing recordings of animals being slaughtered in an attempt to convince people to stop eating meat.
About 20 demonstrators from the network held placards showing farm animal slaughter and forced diners to “listen to the screams” of cows being killed.
Is this concrete evidence of vegan activists taking their protests too far?
The Vegan Society media and PR officer Dominika Piasecka believes so and said such activists are “giving vegans a bad name”.
“It sounds like we want the same things as DxE but, of course, our approach is drastically different,” Piasecka exclaimed.
“All vegans would like to see is a world in which no animal is exploited, and the most effective way to get there is by empathising with the non-vegans and offering practical solutions to their obstacles to becoming vegan.
“Because of humans’ extreme dependency on using animals, the fact that this isn’t about humans, and the great opposition to our cause, we need different tactics to those used in other social justice movements.”
Piasecka added that, much to her disappointment, while most vegans agree with peaceful activism methods, some of them don’t see the damage made by “ineffective activism”.
“Vegans can speak up for animals more effectively by having a meaningful dialogue with people in a neutral location, where their minds are more open to hearing about veganism,” she explained.
“It’s not ‘us versus them’; most vegans grew up eating animals and we need to show people there’s another – more compassionate – way so they can join us.
“Billions of animals are being exploited around the world right now and they need vegan advocates, to use effective methods through their activism, so they can inspire more people to stop harming animals.”
When DxE was approached for comment, the group denied claims it was taking its protests too far.
“We use non-violent direct action in order to draw attention to the non-human victims of our consumerism and create much-needed social change,” a DxE spokesperson said.
“We are using many of the same techniques that previous successful social justice movements have used, and they too were very unpopular in their time.
“Speaking up for these defenceless animals really is the least we can do, people seem enraged by us highlighting animal oppression, but turn a blind eye to the violence and death inflicted upon these sentient beings.”
When challenged on whether or not the group feels guilty for potentially affecting a business’s trade, the spokesperson explained the reasoning behind the technique of protest has been successful in the past in “creating long-lasting social change”.
“Surely, we should be putting ethics before money?” the spokesperson questioned.
“We have disrupted a range of businesses from large chains to small independents, nothing excuses animal exploitation.
“It's not that we want these businesses to close, we just want them to change so they are not hurting animals.”
Whether or not it’s wrong to kill animals for their meat is a complicated ethical question, and it’s an argument that has raged for many decades.
One thing is for sure, though, vegan activists do have a decent message to sell; but there might be a better way of selling it.