For many people who become vegans, activism or outreach is the next logical step. Once one finds out about the horrible cruelty involved in the production of animal products, it’s hard not to want to tell everyone about it. Ah, but then you’d be known as the dreaded ‘preachy vegan’. So what to do? You think most people you know and indeed most people in general like animals and wouldn’t want to see them harmed. You want others to make the connection you did. You want to simply communicate with ordinary folk, but know deep down that few people are receptive to your message. Well, there’s one kind of activism that anyone can do, is free and you don’t even need to talk to anyone.
It’s called stealth activism and is super simple. You draw people’s awareness to animal suffering without breaking any laws. How? Well, it has a few forms. The other day there was an article in the press about a young woman who had bought a packet of spaghetti bolognaise from Morrisons. So far, so unremarkable. However, when she took the cardboard off to cook it later, she discovered, to her horror, that a sticker had been affixed to the plastic film. The sticker had a non-graphic picture of a frightened looking cow. With the picture was a message from said cow informing the young woman that her ‘personal choice’ had cost the cow her life. When I read the article I thought the headline should read something like ‘Woman hears truth and feels uncomfortable for five minutes.’ I also couldn’t help feeling that perhaps a seed has been planted and she may return to these uncomfortable thoughts. If a more sympathetic person had been the one to uncover the message, maybe they would’ve seriously considered going vegetarian. Who knows?
There’s a few websites where you can purchase similar stickers and covertly pop them onto supermarket meat (or indeed milk or egg) products. The approach I take is slightly different. For one thing, stickers cost money and I also tend to be a bit spontaneous so would most likely forget to take them with me. What I do is I go into the supermarket toy section, pick up any farm animal cuddly toys (Peppa Pigs are everywhere, but I’ve found cows, sheep and chickens too) and pop them into my trolley. I then wander about getting my groceries until I come to the meat aisle.
I have to be honest with you here, I’m pretty shy and was a bit worried I’d get caught placing them next to the corresponding meat product. It turns out I had nothing to worry about. The meat aisles these days are pretty quiet in general. I’m rarely disturbed as I put cuddly cows next to beef, sheep next to lamb and pigs next to pork. I’ll then take a quick pic and move on, leaving them there.
What do I hope to achieve by this? Well, I just want to assist people in the calmest way possible, to make the connection. I want people to see the irony that we encourage children to love and care for these toys, and yet also encourage them to eat their real counterparts. I want to start an awkward conversation between a child and a parent. I want to make people do a double take. I basically want to encourage people to think, which can never be a bad thing.
As for the supermarkets, they can never tell you you’re out of line. You’re simply taking a product from one area of the supermarket and placing it elsewhere. It’s far less disturbing than when my friend used to find packets of nappies in the booze aisle of the supermarket he worked in. Having worked in shops myself, I can see no reason to object to this tactic. So, if you’re not the outgoing type, don’t feel comfortable ‘bothering’ your friends but still want to communicate with people, stealth activism could be for you. It’s a bit of mischief that might just nudge people onto the right track.