Yesterday I attended my first march, so my first act of activism. I was feeling a lot of things prior. On the train, I felt sick. At the park, while wandering looking for a familiar face in a sea of bright red shirts emblazoned with the words Vegan.Easy.org on them, I felt alone and lost. Until finally locating some friends, I felt a sigh of relief. Knowing I wasn’t going to be alone.
Myself and some girls spoke for a while, about how long we had been vegan for, reasons for making the switch from Vegetarian to the ever so threatening Vegan, and our shared love of not only the dogs we could see running about in the park, but the animals that we couldn’t see. Contained in kill boxes, cages and slaughterhouses nationally and internationally awaiting a sad and painful end to their very short life.
The march began around 1 PM in the Treasury Gardens in the Melbourne CBD. Myself and the other red shirt-clad activists marched in unison forward towards Parliament steps. Around 5 minutes into the walk, a disgruntled elderly gentleman, walked directly through the group smashing into banners and shoulders and mumbling under his breath and labelling us all as morons and various other insults.
Once around at Parliament steps, a speakerphone directed those with banners to the steps, and the rest of us facing the steps. This was an overwhelming sight, around 800 people. Standing in front of a Melbourne landmark, holding images and banners of crippled, malnourished and beaten pigs, hens and cattle. I was beginning to feel overwhelmed, and I had been separated from friends as they held a banner and were standing upon the steps. Patiently, I stood along among strangers listening to the speeches. Patty Mark from Animal Liberation Victoria spoke so passionately with tears in her voice about the trials she had beared witness to. Speaking of police raid on her home, technology and equipment taken as evidence. But, she finished with an affirmation that she would not give up, and regardless of what had happened, she would still continue to fight. At this point, I had been crying for a solid 15 minutes or so. Overwhelmed with emotion and empowered. Surrounded by people I have never met, never seen and I didn’t care. Because, among the crowd. I could see people, hands clasped to their mouths, wiping their eyes, grasping friends and loved ones hands. I was alone, in a sea of red. But I’ve never felt stronger, and connected to a group of people- albeit strangers.
Sadly, I had to leave early as I had to jet off to an information session for the Coalition Against Duck Shooting Information session, as this upcoming weekend I will be volunteering as a duck rescuer. Walking briskly to the tram stop as I was already running later than I should have been. Managed to make the tram and get moving. On the second stop, a man entered the tram very abruptly, throwing his plastic bags and water bottle on the chair opposite me and knocking the woman next to him- with no apology for the inconvenience. As the tram began to jolt forward, he continued to aggressively search through his bag for a lost item and continued to do so right up until I was about to get off the tram as having arrived at South Melbourne Town Hall. Before I do, he arranges his bags and bottles in a way that would be more comfortable to lie down on and proceeds to lie over his items. Blocking off my exit from the tram. So, I hop up step over him, knock him ever so slightly, and apologise to the women opposite me for knocking her a little too. As I ran out of the tram I am just able to overhear him say, “I deserve an apology too” followed by obscenities. No, sir you do not deserve an apology.
Rushing into the town hall and seeing CADS posters everywhere, I know I’m in the right place. I’m greeted by Lynn (an organiser) and given a name sticker and info sheets. I begin to sit down and sift through them all. Myself and the group of people in the small room, sit in the dark for around 2 hours whilst watching devastating, gut-wrenching footage of baby ducks, swans, legal and illegal birds getting shot, eggs stomped on, necks snapped in a way that can only be described as inhumane, brutal and malicious.
Between, leaving the Town Hall, hopping on a train towards Ivanhoe, I don’t speak, I don’t listen to music, touch my phone. I just get on the train, and stare. Emotionally, and mentally unable to comprehend what I have seen and witnessed in 4 short hours. I stupidly missed my connecting train and get off at Rushall, where I book and Uber. I notice a man yelling into his phone after advising the caller of his location. Which I ignore, and he walks past me, about 5 metres before turning and asking me “Hello, what are you doing here”, to which I awkwardly respond, “waiting to get picked up”. “OK then,” Was his response, only to turn around again and ask, “SO, you’re getting picked up. By who?” At this point I have realised the error in my response and said quickly “A friend is picking me up” as calmly as possible as I felt a little threatened and in the middle of nowhere familiar. My Uber arrives and I get home safely. Speaking minimally to my Uber driver about the day, and the events. As I get out, he says, “Thankyou Ashlee, I had never considered the harm that goes into my meals. Can you recommend any websites or books?” So, I respond and direct him to various pages (VeganEasy.org and ALV)
I run into the house, seeing my partner on the bed with my cat snuggled up. To which I snuggle in and just sob, whole body sobs. I cried for the ducks, for the cattle, hens and all the other animals that don’t have an option to be where they are, to have an option or voice to say “NO”. After a few hours of mindless TV watching and copious amounts of red wine, I fall asleep in a ball next to my partner. Only to awake around 5 AM, which for someone who typically sleeps until 10 AM on a good day is a bit of a different change of scenery. Oddly enough, it was a lot colder. Waking to cries, screams and images of everything I had seen in the day. Brutal footage, combined with the abusive shouts of aggressive men.
It is now 2:21 PM and I am still awake. Frightened to snooze off, because my head cannot handle another image for now. So, here I am writing something that no one will probably read anyway. If you have, thank you. If my voice has been heard somewhere, anywhere. Even one person. One more educated person is better than nothing.