Social Media is a powerful tool for getting the word out about veganism and highlighting the role consumers play in the continued exploitation of animals for our wants not needs as well as the resulting and ongoing devastation of the environment and our health. And I use it, boy, do I use it. I find Facebook to be the most effective Social Media tool for me in my advocacy, so it is definitely my go to source for posting about all that resonates with me. I also have learned about animal rights advocacy events going on in my neck of the woods, garnered some valuable information, connected with many like minded people, and not so many not like minded people. I share the articles on my website hoping to widen the circle of connection, so that we become a much bigger force, an ocean filled with the tides of change. rather than a pond.
I have witnessed all types of advocacy, some of which I agree with and some of which I don’t. Some positions are very strident and I disagree with them mainly because I am not sure how effective they are. I am not an expert in the field of human behavior, but it has been my experience that people will tune you out if they think you are accusing them of something. The defensive walls go up and you have literally no chance of breaking through. But hey, I get the it, those of us who are vegan have exposed ourselves to the atrocities perpetrated by the industries which enslave, manipulate, abuse and eventually murder animals. We know what is at stake and we want people to stop, just stop.
We may not have been in the slaughterhouses, on the farms, in medical labs, and so on but there is plenty of footage out there that documents the horrors that go on behind these walls. We are a passionate bunch and I would hazard a guess that this is so, in part because we have connected on a visceral level with the 65 billion land animals and the trillions of aquatic animals who die every year at the whim of humans. We can look into the eyes of a caged animal at a zoo and see into his or her soul and the hopelessness there. We can imagine what it feels like to be born into slavery, to be forcibly separated from our children, to be experimented on and to be hunted and trapped and ultimately to die, never having lived.
This does not make us special, it only makes us more aware. We have looked at the man behind the curtain, we continue to debunk the myths spun by industry leaders and governments, myths designed to keep us in the dark. Animals do not live good lives in these industries, just by virtue of the fact that they are enslaved. There is no such thing as “humane meat”. Cage free hens do not enjoy better living conditions, grass fed beef is not better for the environment, organically raised animals are denied antibiotics when they are sick, cows are not happy to give their milk to us, horses do not like being ridden because they love to run and “milk definitely does not do a body good”.
I think constantly (no exaggeration) about how best to raise the level of awareness and consciousness of non vegans and ultimately to change their hearts and minds, with a view to liberating all enslaved nations of animals. I think about the graphic pictures and videos, documentaries that I have seen and those I cannot bear to watch, such as Earthlings. I admire those who can bear witness, but I feel that watching them would leave me sitting in a corner, paralyzed, unable to move or be productive in any capacity. This is why I don’t usually share them on my Facebook Page, nor post them in the articles I write on my website. I cringe and quickly scroll past them on my news feed, with the little snippets I do see seared into my heart and mind. Does this failing make me weak? – maybe, but it just is what it is.
So when I saw this meme on Facebook the other day, I decided to ask my friends and vegan and animal rights groups what they thought of its message and whether or not they believe posting graphic material is of value in our advocacy. I did not expect the number of comments I received. They were respectful for the most part, which is not always the case and heartfelt and passionate which is always the case.
Here is my takeaway.
1) Censorship is not an option even if people do not like seeing this material. People are free to make a moral judgement about whether or not material is appropriate to publish themselves, but may not restrict others from doing so if the actions documented in said material are deemed legal.
To quote a valued family member regarding censorship and the law pertaining to the abuse featured in materials:
Unless something is illegal people should be allowed to post whatever they want, regardless of what someone else thinks of it.
Censorship equals fascism. If it’s not illegal then it’s legal. If one doesn’t like the laws then pressure government to change them, but censorship is never the answer.
2) People have control over their own pages and admins over their own groups and may delete whatever they find offensive and inappropriate and even block or unfriend people if they so wish. If anyone witnesses or views published material containing illegal actions he or she can to report them to Facebook and the proper authorities. They may also report images and material that fall outside of the accepted guidelines of Facebook.
3) The problem is not the graphic material, the problems is the abuse. If one cannot stomach the pictures, then one must end the abuse.
4) Most of the people who commented agreed that a graphic image or video was the catalyst for them becoming vegan, thereby confirming the value of continuing to post the abuses in all of the various animal death for profit industries.
Shirin Zah has this to say:
They are eye opening and the best way to pass on a message. I have changed because of these graphic posts. It’s the truth and if we don’t like it imagine how much they don’t like it. Animals are in desperate need suffering every second of a day and night. We owe it to them to get the truth out and have more people become compassionate about them. Truth is the truth, if we alter it it’ll become a lie!
5) It was pointed out to me that there are people who profit financially and psychologically and emotionally from the online posting of abuse. I have no doubt that this happens, but I think we are on a very slippery slope when we let a few abusers dictate what is posted online. There are always users and abusers within every segment of society. They will continue to do what they do regardless of what is posted online. To me this is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater – never a good idea. Having said that, I think that it is very important to check or know the source of the material you are sharing to avoid that of which Vicki Rambo speaks:
Profiting from making photos for the internet, another reason not to share violence.
6) The photographs of animal rights photojournalists like Jo-Anne McArthur of We Animals are well worth using and sharing. They are evocative, telling, sad, soulful, rarely extremely graphic, but very effective in portraying the cruelty and confinement and resulting hopelessness for the animals for whom we all advocate.
Annie’s Vegan View
This is how progress is made.
May all beings be happy and free.