I protested a lot this weekend. There was a bull riding event at Madison Square Garden, and there were a bunch of activists who went out to demonstrate for three nights. It was extremely cold, and the crowd was pretty brutal. Lots of typical “mmmm bacon” type comments flying around, which we are all used to, but especially at the end of the day on Sunday, the activists were subjected to some hyper aggression from these cowboy dudes in the form of being charged by a man on a horse (on 34th street in Manhattan, no less), and I was grabbed by one of the guys and thrown on the ground. Literally.
I wasn’t hurt, and at the time I was able to just let it go, but the aftershock of the entire experience is pretty dark, honestly.
I spoke to two different cops after the incident, and both were quite apathetic about the fact that I had been physically attacked like this. Several people caught the incident on video as well as the aggressive, lasso-weilding cowboy on the horse who was charging us on the street. The New York City police refused to watch or to take our reports. Why are the police not protecting the protesters? And how is it possibly okay for someone to pick up another citizen and throw them on the ground without any intervention from the police?
I woke up really late yesterday – well, got out of bed that is. Neck tension, massive headache, and… malaise. Is that word as dramatic as it sounds? I found myself kind of fogged over and lethargic most of the day. I often overlook these things, but as I dig in more deeply to my activist work this year, I am finding it helpful to acknowledge this stuff and try to process it somehow. We see some shit as animal activists, and we are surrounded by a society who thinks what we are doing is, at worst, an attempt to deny them their “personal choice” to perpetuate violence against animals, and, at best, laughable and an idiotic waste of time.
This bull riding event is a really interesting concentration of what we experience every day as vegans in a non-vegan world. We are taking a stand, begging people to stop their violence against animals. Ticket holders heading into Madison Square Garden mocking us, flipping us off, screaming in our faces, laughing at us, etc. Then, the casual passersby, ignoring us or subtly rolling their eyes. And of course, the direct aggression of the people after the show, assaulting and threatening protesters while the police did nothing to protect us, or to hold the aggressors accountable for their actions.
Today when I woke up, I realized how dark yesterday was. You don’t always recognize depression and hopelessness while it’s happening, but this morning I knew it had lifted. I feel better, and I can work today without that dark cloud. Even as I write this, though, i think about what these animals are going through. Those bulls are being transported in frost covered trucks to the next location where they will be bullied and exploited. That horse that charged us is probably still as confused and frightened as he or she looked that day on 34th Street. Those animals do not have access to their own will anymore. They probably never have. I had a moment of that while being lifted and thrown by the redneck dude, but that was only a few seconds before I was back on my feet. That’s what these animals experience for their entire existence. They don’t have the chance to back up or regroup like I did. Maybe they don”t know what it’s like to “feel better.”
So, which person will you be today? Will you be the person speaking up for the oppressed and asking for non-violence? Will you be complicit by walking by in silence? Or will you join in with the others, objectifying and harming the innocent in the name of tradition, flavor, entertainment and convenience?
You have the choice today. What will it be?