You may have been surprised to see video evidence of me holding a sign and shouting "Animal Liberation" at a recent DXE protest because of this essay. Yes, that's me in the corner. That's me in the spotlight, losing my religion. What was I doing there?
On Sunday, September 28, 2014, I decided to go down to Chicago to join the World Farmed Animals Day protest organized by my friend, fellow activist Alex Corrigan. Alex at the ripe old age of twenty is doing far more for animals than I ever did as a twenty year old a severely depressed ova-lacto vegetarian. For this reason and many more, I decided to participate in a protest she spearheaded in order to support a young activist hero and role model.
At any rate, the protest was joined by DXE members and I was introduced to several of them personally. I was not surprised to find they were as passionate about animal liberation as I am, nor was I shocked to discover we had a lot in common. These people are my tribe. They are the brothers and sisters I wish I had growing up. If they are members of a cult, then so am I. Though I may not agree with their unique methodologies all the time, I no longer perceive our approaches to activism as diametrically opposed as I once did.
The way I see it is DXE's brand of activism, which can be described briefly as "in your face", is simply a more direct form than I am accustomed to or am normally comfortable with. DXE prefers the no-holds-barred method of confronting speciesists and necrovores in a way that can be very unpleasant for both parties.
At the World Farmed Animals Day protest, we stood in front of a small, independent grocery store that slaughters chickens on the premises. We could hear the cries of the suffering birds as we stood on the public sidewalk in front of the place with our signs. The owners of the store were, of course, quite irate with us and brought in the police to make sure we weren't blocking their driveway or preventing customers from entering their store. (I would like to note here that it wasn't exactly a bum rush to shop at their grocery. Even in a busy, thriving neighborhood on a beautiful day, not a single customer wandered into their establishment on purpose or by accident.)
Later on, I accompanied DXE protestors as they disrupted the necrovorous diners at Umami Burger, where a bunch of pathetic yuppies chose to gnaw corpses despite being right next door to the affordable, delicious vegan chain Native Foods. Perhaps it is because these diners had a clear and obvious alternative to killing themselves and the animals, I lacked sympathy when they shut their doors to our cries of "It's not food, it's violence." I chose not to enter the restaurant myself, because I feel it is trespassing and I still don't agree with the tactic of going into a privately owned establishment and shouting, regardless of how much the patrons or owners of the restaurant in question deserve it. However, I am and was perfectly fine with protesting legally on public property, which is where I remained with most of the other activists.
DXE is what I call "hot" activism. In contrast, I tend to promote and prefer "cool" activism, which covers a wide range of approaches from hosting vegan potlucks and bake sales to broadcasting videos about the health benefits of eating plants or how to make delicious, fish and egg-free sushi. The jury is out on which approach is more effective. For every person who listens to a cool Colleen Patrick Goudreau Joyful Vegan podcast, there is another for whom a podcast simply does not do the trick. Maybe that person is a five year old who has never met a bona fide nonconformist before and sees a DXE demonstration or a loud, in your face protestor making people aware of whale slaves in front of SeaWorld. All of the above approaches wake people up to the plight of animals because of one simple reality: different strokes for different folks. I told Alex that her entire protest was worth it if just one person stopped eating and using animals because of it, and I think she reached far more than one.
As an aside, I would like to introduce a not-so-revolutionary idea. It is my opinion that hot activists would do well to harness the power of cool activism. How? I would suggest not barging into private restaurants but instead handing out pre-packaged food samples right outside their door at protests, along with a pamphlet with vegan recipes or information on where and how to get delicious alternatives to health-destroying, bloody flesh and vaginal/tit secretions in the forms of eggs and cheese. Meaning, throw in a benefit to necrovores (who love free shit just as much as anyone) as a "favor" for walking by the protest. Another example: as PETA stages a protest of exploiting mostly naked young white women in a desperate bid for the attention of fur-wearers, how about staging a counter-protest fashion show with super-warm vegan coats, like the ones so beautifully crafted by Vaute Couture?
In summation, I no longer think DXE is all about Chipotle and I think they are doing important work, regardless of my preferences when it comes to soft-selling veganism. We cannot say who frees more animals from suffering and slavery, only that both approaches to vegan activism lend a voice to the voiceless.