Now you don't need to leave your living room to take part in a vegan protest.
Once upon a time, being an activist meant grafting slogans on walls, waving banners in the face of policemen and throwing paint over rich women in fur coats. Sometimes actions were illegal, often they were very heated, but they were always extremely passionate.
Fast forward (or fast click) to 2016, and activism means something completely different. In the age of the internet the “active” part of “activism” has been forgotten by many. Welcome to the age of the keyboard warrior.
I’m not saying the art of proper protest is dead. There are still many marches, protests and people expressing their views in real life, but the increase in virtual actions cannot be ignored – and the animal rights community is right at the forefront.
Ask any vegan who has a Facebook or Twitter account how many petitions they see daily? The answer will be twenty eleventy – or something close to that figure. If you’re a member of all the vegan groups you can find on Facebook, then not only do you get 6757 notifications a day, but you’re liable to death by drowning in a sea of virtual petitions.
There is some debate as to whether or not such petitions actually work, but they certainly show no signs of dying out.
Government petitions can be debated in Parliament if they receive enough virtual signatures and other online petitions frequently make the Press, so the idea that they are totally pointless is a fallacy – one usually perpetuated by animal rights activists’ mortal enemies – whichever opponent that may be on whichever occasion. We do have many. So, armchair activists need not worry, their efforts are not in vain.
Elsewhere, vegans have the obligatory online polls to keep them occupied. News websites cottoned on to the idea that polls on controversial subjects were the nuclear bomb of a clickbait arsenal. Hunting, vegan diets, or even the sexiest vegan celebrity provokes a furry response of clicks at the end of articles – sometimes two years after the original piece has been published.
Then there’s MPs, councillors and companies to email and express your fury. Typing and emailing is so much easier than writing and buying a stamp.
Of course, it’s the dreaded “link” that really gives the angry armchair vegan activist the real tool to preach to the converted legion of Facebook friends. We share outrage, anger and exasperation on our “private” accounts that can be seen by exactly three non-vegans.
Social media is a vital tool for sharing information, events and giving people ammunition for future debates, but the air of self-satisfaction is sometimes hard to avoid.
Newspaper comment boards are, of course, where the debate really hots up. Here, vegans can really spa on the issues of the day – and, boy, do some of the debates get hotter than a veggie madras. If you think vegans are good at falling out among themselves, you haven’t seen them in action against non-vegans/non-animal rights activists.
Of course, not all vegans wish to be activists – many just go about their daily business content to consume a compassionate diet. Others, like me, like to express our opinions in as many ways as possible (a blog is such a way, incidentally). For some, that involves taking to the streets and debating online. Others can’t physically take part in demonstrations or are not that way inclined. And for those, the internet has opened up a wealth of opportunities, and for that we should be grateful.