On Valentine’s Day, dozens of animal rights activists in New York City staged a silent demonstration in the center of Grand Central Station. Displaying posters with messages of peace, love and nonviolence, activists captured the attention of thousands of commuters and tourists during the afternoon rush hour.
According to the March of Silence, the organization behind the silent demonstrations, participants promote “human rights, animal liberation and environmental conservation.” while silently demonstrating “in solidarity with all who suffer from violence.” The organization’s goal is to “generate peace in the world by bringing awareness to the exploitation of all beings, as well as environmental devastation.” The March of Silence has 19 chapters in five countries, including the United States, France, Mexico, Switzerland and Columbia.
Animal Rights Activists Stage “March of Silence” in Grand Central Station, NYC
“Veganism is not about being angry,” said Kiirstin Marilyn, an organizer with the NYC chapter of the March of Silence. “It really is a love-based movement, so we thought it would be a great thing to come out here on Valentine’s Day.”
Animal Rights activists in New York City participate in a Valentine’s Day March of Silence in solidarity with the human and non-human victims of violence
During the 2019 Climate Strike in NYC, hundreds of students took to the streets to demand that world leaders reverse climate change, but the absence of posters and remarks about the impact of animal agriculture suggested that these students were largely unaware of one of leading causes. During the rally and the march, TheirTurn asked several student participants if they knew about the connection between eating animal products and climate change:
“The student activists aren’t addressing the leading cause of climate change, animal agriculture, and perhaps that is because the advocacy groups for the environment haven’t made it a priority,” said Edita Birnkrant, the Executive Director of the animal advocacy group NYCLASS. “If climate activists aren’t taking the most obvious step to curb climate change, which is adopting a plant-based diet, then how can they expect the mainstream public to take action?”
Climate Strike in NYC, March 15th, 2019
During the rally before the march, Birnkrant asked Jay Inslee, the presidential candidate running on a climate change platform, if he would promote the consumption of less meat. Inslee would not make that commitment. “I’m willing to promote making sure everybody understands this connection,” he said.
Edita Birnkrant asks Jay Inslee, the 2020 presidential candidate running on a climate change platform, if he will encourage Americans to consume less meat.
While most of the Climate Strike attendees were NYC students “on strike” to demand climate action, many adults participated, some of whom were eager to help the students make the connection between animal agriculture and climate change. Among them was Paul Watson, the founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, who spoke to TheirTurn the impact of animal agriculture on the oceans:
“We’re overfishing the oceans. Forty percent of all the fish caught in the ocean is fed to pigs, chicken and domestic salmon. If we put an end to industrialized fishing, that would go a long way in allowing the ocean to repair itself. If the ocean repairs itself, we can solve this [climate change] problem because the oceans is the regulator of climate – single greatest absorption of CO2. Seventy percent of the production of the oxygen we breathe comes from phytoplankton, and we’ve diminished phytoplankton populations by about 40% since 1950. All of these issues should be addressed, but they’re not getting the attention they deserve.”
The New York Chapter of the Climate Save Movement, which advocates for an end to animal agriculture, participated in the Climate Strike
Greta Thunberg, the 16-year old climate change activist whose activism inspired the global Climate Strikes on March 15th, is vegan. Ms. Birnkrant is hopeful that she will use her global platform to promote climate-friendly plant-based eating.
The organizers of Al Gore’s upcoming Live Earth 2015 concert series say they have no control over what food is sold at the venues. But that response is doing nothing to appease Lila Copeland, a 13 year old activist who created a video letter to Mr. Gore and other organizers condemning the sale of meat at a global climate change event.
Live Earth organizers Al Gore, Pharrell Williams and Kevin Wall
“My supporters and I are telling you, not asking you, to . . . take animals and animal byproducts off the event menu, and tell event goers to take animal products out of their diets. Anything less is a slap in the fact to our Mother Earth, who you are killing one hamburger and one hot dog at a time. . . . There are so many delicious, gourmet and healthy meat alternatives you can sell at these events. Instead you ruin your opportunity for change.”
The six continent concert series, which takes place on June 18th, is being staged to “shine a global spotlight” on climate change in advance of the United Nation’s Climate Change Conference in Paris in December.
The musician Morrissey, who has banned the sale of animal products at NYC’s Madison Square Garden on the night of his concert in June, has also sent an open letter to Mr. Gore: “As you know, animal agriculture is a leading cause of climate change . . . responsible for a staggering 51 percent or more of global greenhouse-gas emissions. . . If you choose to serve animal flesh at Live Earth, you’ll be making a mockery of the very concept of the event . . . Serving meat and dairy products at an event to combat climate change is like selling pistols at a gun-control rally.”
Morrissey sings “Meat is Murder”
This is not the first time that environmental activists have compromised the integrity of a high profile climate awareness event. At the People’s Climate March in 2014, the largest climate gathering in history with an estimated 311,000 participants, 350.org invited food trucks that sold meat, fish and dairy products to the post-march rally. Can environmental groups like 350.org and activists like Al Gore expect world leaders to take drastic measures to reverse climate change if even they can’t take the most basic one at their own events?
Climate March participants line up to buy meat and dairy products from food vendors
Howard Lyman, a former cattle rancher who now speaks out against animal agriculture, is often quoted as saying, “You cannot call yourself an environmentalist and eat meat.” If Mr. Lyman’s words of wisdom don’t jolt the former Vice President into eliminating the sale of animal products at his climate events, then perhaps those of 13 year old Lila Copeland will: “Sorry, but we have to get real here . . . It is scientifically impossible to put an end to climate change without stopping animal agriculture.”
According to PETA, which has created a petition demanding that Al Gore and other organizers offer only vegan food at Live Earth concerts, “Serving animal products at events that are supposed to educate people on how they can fight climate change is hypocritical and undermines the effectiveness of people’s efforts to save the planet.”
Wearing t-shirts with slogans like “Climate Justice Starts Here,” hundreds, if not thousands, of Climate March participants in NYC lined up at food trucks at the street fair after the parade to buy meat, fish and dairy products, demonstrating either a lack of awareness or disregard for what the United Nations says is, by far, the number one contributor of climate change and the planet’s biggest polluter — animal agriculture.
How can the nation’s leading environmental groups expect the general public to make eco-friendly choices if their own members engage in the most environmentally destructive activity — and if they themselves don’t promote a plant-based diet? Can we really expect world leaders at this week’s United Nations’ Climate Summit to take drastic measures to reverse climate change if “environmentalists” can’t take the most basic one?
At Climate Change marches around the world, plant-based/vegan participants displayed compelling posters and distributed information about the impact of animal agriculture on the environment, and their efforts will assuredly effect some change. However, as evidenced in the groundbreaking documentary film Cowspiracy, animal agriculture must be eliminated altogether in order to reverse climate change and save the planet.
Climate March participants line up to buy meat and dairy products from food vendors