12,000 march in London to highlight cruelty – and environmental destruction – of industrial farming

Did your food scream?

I’m not a great one for being in a crowd; not much of a “joiner”, full stop. And yet yesterday I happily found myself joining the 12,000-odd vegans walking through London for this year’s Animal Rights March.

I went along out of interest, as a way of getting out of my comfort zone, and ended up loving it. It felt like the right thing to do, being part of this big transient community made up of people from many walks of life but with this one thing in common: a desire to end the industrial-scale slaughter of sentient beings to satisfy the taste buds of people socialised to believe that the flesh and secretions of animals are essential to their health.

But what’s the point of a march like this? It’s not as if the government and its paymasters in the highly subsidised agriculture industry are going to say, yes, of course, it’s madness, how could we not see, let’s stop it. And it’s not as if people are going to turn vegan en masse. This is a long haul.

Animal Rights March London 2019

The point is simply to highlight the cruelty of the meat and dairy industries in public, demonstrating in our thousands that this vegan thing is not some trendy, passing bullshit peddled by an irrelevant minority of hipsters and freaks.

We march down the streets of the city centre, a colourful, noisy spectacle, from toddlers to the very old, and people on the pavements whip their phones out and film and take photos and wonder what the hell’s going on. Some mock, but not many. And some appear to be discussing what they see.

And if just one of those people is inspired to find out a little more about why a few thousand get off their backsides on a Saturday afternoon to call for an end to the barbarism of industrial farming, and perhaps even ends up living a plant-based life, I’d say that’s enough, job done.

Animal Rights March London 2019, Trafalgar Square

But I suspect the seed gets planted in more than just one mind. I certainly hope so. Because this is not just about cruelty and the hope of a more compassionate world. It’s increasingly about our ravaged planet; the big business of industrial farming is making a significant contribution to global warming, and giving up meat and dairy is one of the easiest ways to help do something about that, if only it could be done on a large enough scale.

So yes, for this natural loner, helping to plant maybe one little mind seed is a good enough reason to get up and join in for a change.

If you’re not a vegan, I’d encourage you to investigate a bit. Maybe check out this article  and Google out from it, exploring some of the questions it might provoke in you. The films Cowspiracy (it costs a small amount to download but is available on Netflix if you use that service) and Dominion (free to stream) are also worth a watch, as is this five-minute look at the dairy industry.

Animal Rights March London 2019, Trafalgar Square

Of course, for all the pro-vegan information out there, you’ll find plenty from the other side, particularly with the well-funded meat and dairy industries feeling beleaguered with the growth of veganism and fighting for their lives. Consider it all. Absorb lots of information. And most of all, think for yourself as you assess it.

If you have pets, it’s interesting to meditate on what the difference between a dog, say, and a cow is. It’s hard to break free from the cultural programming to which each of us is subjected from birth on, but there’s a certain liberation to be had in at least trying.

And even if you end up dismissing veganism, no worries. The most important thing is that you base your decision on consideration of facts, not simply what you’ve been brought up to believe.

Animal Rights March London 2019

If you’re interested in participating in direct action, the next wave of climate-change protests in London will involve a blockade of the UK’s largest meat market; more information here.

2,500 to 10,000 in two years: growth of veganism reflected in annual march

Karen was one of the estimated 10,000 protesters at this year’s Animal Rights March in London. Here, she reflects on its growth over the past two years and its contribution to highlighting the cruelty of killing animals to gratify human consumption

Animal Rights March, London 2018

Last year I joined 5,000 vegans on the Animal Rights March across London, an emotive annual event founded by the UK animal rights organisation Surge. At the first such event in 2016, the number of people protesting against animal cruelty of all kinds had been half that, at 2,500.

As a vegan for three years, and vegetarian for more than 40, last year’s march was a powerful and uplifting experience for me. I’d gone alone, I didn’t make new friends or spend time chatting, and I was anxious as hell before the event, with no idea what to expect. But from the moment I arrived I was part of something impassioned and heart-warming that simply felt right.

What overcame my nervous, lazy side was the notion of being a voice for the voiceless, and once there I was swept along and inspired by the slogans, banners and chants; and as a result of the speeches at the end, I left determined to become part of a wider vegan community.

And so it seemed inevitable that I’d be there again this year, and all the positive changes I’d seen over the past 12 months – a rapidly growing acceptance of veganism as a way of life, articles in the mainstream media, plus tons of cash being pumped into plant-based merchandise – made me suspect it’d be a much bigger affair.

As we gathered at Millbank on Saturday (August 25) I was aware that the crowd – people of all ages – felt bigger, but it was only as the march rolled out on to the streets near Westminster that it became obvious just how many of us there were. Later that night the figures were confirmed: 10,000 people had taken part, and once again participant numbers had doubled.

I’m delighted, humbled and honoured to have been part of the protest, but added to this is the shame that I live in a society that condones horrific acts of violence against millions of our fellow Earth creatures every day.  The posters and placards around me on the rally reminded powerfully me of the enormity of this brutality – I often forget the details. as I come from and live with a family for whom eating dead animals was never really an option.

The two marches I’ve attended have been deeply emotional experiences for me – on the one hand, there is pride and a sense of belonging at being in so like-minded a crowd; on the other, crushing sadness at the reality of the wider society around me and the practices it accepts as normal when it comes to taste buds. These issues are highlighted when the march passes eating establishments that serve carcasses of dead creatures as a matter of course.

You need to experience the uplifting vibe of the marches to truly appreciate their power, but here are a few shots I took on the day in the hope of conveying something of what it feels like to be there.