Vigilantism Isn’t Brave

The tableaus of severed animal heads in pools of fake blood placed around several Tel Aviv water fountains last week rubbed me the wrong way on a number of levels. Yes it’s shocking, and most certainly a public health hazard, but I think the biggest problem I had was that it was the absolute wrong way to send a message.

I’m all for social protest. The 2011 social protests on the boulevards of Tel Aviv were inspiring, and though they’ve not yet brought about the dramatic change its participants wished to see, it certainly set the ball in motion in certain spheres of government and more importantly, it started a national discussion. These animal heads, along with the public branding in Rabin Square of individuals who are trying to give a voice to the suffering of animals, isn’t initiating the discussion. In fact, I believe these dramatic demonstrations are only turning ears even more deaf about an important issue.

Is it not the definition of irony to protest suffering and cruelty by reenacting it? Sure, I understand they want people to have a visceral notion of the plight of the animal. However, such actions only make me feel disgusted, and somewhat irritated by the air of moral superiority displayed. Anyone who knows me also knows I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 20 years, four of which I was a vegan. I grew up in a house where meat was served for pretty much every meal, and my mother’s response to my vegetarianism at age 11 was, “well, if that’s what you want, you’ll have to cook for yourself.”

So I did. And I still do, all the while preparing meat dishes for my husband and son on an almost daily basis. Because it’s what I believe in and choose to do.

Food choices are personal. Hell, all behavioral choices are personal. Being a vegetarian or more importantly, the decision not to eat meat, shouldn’t be made out of guilt and disgust but rather by an educated decision about healthy eating and a gentler lifestyle. It was discovered over 20 years ago that the methods by which government health authorities attempted to get people to stop smoking didn’t work because they were scare tactics. They never got to the heart of the issue of why people took up and continued the habit in the first place. They simply treated the symptom, not the problem. When people like Allen Carr came to understand that kicking the habit could only come from a genuine desire to do so, employing mindfulness, then we saw genuine change.

Displaying mutilated body parts of animals in public places isn’t going to make people stop eating burgers. It’s more likely to make people stop listening to vegetarians because they come across like a bunch of morally superior radicals who care more about their cause than the effects of their protest on other members of society. When parents can’t take their kid to play in a public square because the water fountain has been contaminated with a dead cow’s head, I can assure you their last thought would be, “oh, I should stop eating meat.”

Members of Free269, you have a very valid point, a point with which I wholeheartedly agree. But your means do not serve your end in any way. Make your point with positivity, not revulsion. We can do more to end suffering by educating others and suggesting alternatives rather than bullying people with scare tactics. Starting the conversation is all well and good but it’s merely a cloud of smoke if you have no means with which to carry on. Put your resources into education, into good vegetarian restaurants. Protest the high costs of fruits, vegetables and meat alternatives. Create an amazing new veggie snack that kids will go nuts for and demand that their parents buy. Please, please, stop displaying violence and mutilation. Start speaking in the affirmative and with encouragement about your worthy cause.

About the Author
Jamie Zimmer is a journalist, editor, Aussie olah and mum.