[TRIGGER WARNING: Discussion of rape, sexual assault, self-harm, racism, abuse, assault]
Over the past few months 269life has gained a significant amount of attention from the animal rights movement, gaining many supporters but also attracting criticism of their use of racist, anti-choice and anti-human imagery/views, as well as their provocative publicity stunts.
The latest of which has shocked and disgusted many of us, leaving us no choice but to speak out against this so-called “activism”. The stunt, uploaded to YouTube (with no trigger warnings) – entitled “Women stripped naked and milked in Israel – 269life”, depicts a woman and her baby (yes, a real baby), being attacked near to a protest by a number of people dressed in black wearing balaclavas. The baby is then taken from the woman by one of the masked attackers and placed into a cage on the ground, before the woman is then partially stripped, forcibly milked and then thrown to the ground, while she screams, begging them to stop. This, 269life imply, is in solidarity with cows exploited by the dairy industry.
The blatant disregard for people who have experienced sexual assault, abuse, or rape who may have passed by this performance in a busy public spot in Israel, and for people coming across the video online, is horrendous. Trigger warnings cannot be applied in public to such stunts, and the potential effects this “action” may have had on numerous individuals viewing it is unimaginable. Similar concerns have also been raised over the public branding events, and certain images used by 269life, due to the potential for triggering those who have struggled with self-harm.
The use of analogies in the animal rights movement has been discussed by others before, and this latest stunt by 269life is another awful example. Non-human animals have their own struggles and experience their own suffering, of which we have access to many images and videos of – there is no excuse for appropriating or co-opting human oppression or suffering in an attempt to encourage non-vegans to become vegan.
A number of activists not involved with 269life have asked: Where does this end? Will 269life continue with their analogies to include castrating humans without anaesthetic in solidarity with pigs raised for meat? Electrocuting and skinning each other alive in solidarity with fur-bearing animals on fur farms? Forced artificial insemination in solidarity with dairy cows? Or being shot in the head with a bolt gun before being hoisted up by their ankles and having their throats slit? Or are they limited to carrying out stunts and using imagery involving traumatic incidents that their privilege shields them from?
We hope we won’t be the only activists to call them out on this, and to publicly distance ourselves from 269life and this type of “activism”. To those of you involved with 269life, we desperately urge you to disassociate yourself from them – join your local grassroots animal rights/liberation group or start your own, and look up the long history of the intersectional politics of our movement.
There are many effective, creative ways to confront speciesism and animal exploitation without co-opting the struggles of other oppressed groups. Exposing people to potentially traumatic or triggering events will not do anything for our cause apart from turn people in the other direction.