On the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend, one of the busiest days for foot traffic at the Malibu Pier, animal rights activists staged a disturbing demonstration to catch the attention of potential supporters to their movement. The group, which calls itself Anonymous for the Voiceless, set up camp at the pier entrance with its display entitled “Cube of Truth” that tries to persuade people to turn to veganism that eschews all animal products.
Donning “Guy Fawkes” masks—used in tribute to the rebel who tried to blow up the British Parliament 400 years ago—the demonstrators wore battery-operated video screens broadcasting disturbing images of animal cruelty. This was the first demonstration of its kind in Malibu; however, Anonymous for the Voiceless claims this same presentation has been staged more than 4,000 times in 700 cities worldwide.
The demonstrators wear the grim masks as a symbolic aesthetic that they say represents thousands of anonymous people who are standing against violence and oppression of animals and factory farming. One of the organizers, 31-year-old Zafir Molina, said the masks also make it more comfortable for passers by to get up close and watch a video, “so they don’t feel like someone is staring at them and so they don’t feel like they’re being judged.”
The vegan activism organization, not associated with world-famous PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), was started in Australia two years ago. It quickly grew to more than 600 chapters worldwide. One of the organizers of Sunday’s demonstration is a Malibu local, 21-year-old Ariel Levenson.
“The monitors show animal agriculture, factory farming, vivisection—gruesome tapes of the process animals go through before they are put on your plate for eating,” Levenson described.
“A lot of it is gruesome. It shows how the animals are killed and how they are treated up until that point,” Levenson continued. “Some tapes depict artificial insemination, overcrowded conditions, slaughter houses and cattle prodding. It’s hard. A lot of people are struck by it because a lot of people have never seen anything like this before. The industry is so good at covering all these details up. They don’t want people to know where the animals are coming from that are on your plate. Ninety-five percent of the people I talk to have either never seen this footage or have never thought about it. It’s a peaceful demonstration.”
He also said participants were more interested in spreading information than shocking or disgusting people.
“The organization is all about human and animal rights. We’re not trying to cause a ruckus. We don’t approach people,” Levenson described. “We only talk to those who stop and watch the videos. Then we ask if they know that this is standard industry practice. A lot of the videos then go into health, showing deforestation and environmental practices like tearing down the rain forest and how most of greenhouse gas is caused by cow poop. A lot of the videos show factual data.”
The outreach also appeared to be a success.
“Five out of seven times, people are interested. It’s just bringing awareness to the atrocities in the industry and how corrupt it is and how they do everything they can to cover up these details. There are “ag-gag” laws that stop people like us from filming this stuff. It’s crazy. Our goal is to inform and for people to take veganism seriously. We grew up with it being culturally acceptable to eat meat, but the industry has neglected to show us what actually goes on behind the scenes. A lot of people are very moved by what they see.”
Some are not. While on scene Sunday, many passersby uttered comments such as “Oh my God,” “This is absolutely horrible” and “But, I can’t stop eating meat.” One visitor to the pier, 26-year-old Greg—who didn’t want his last name used—said he was moved enough to take one of the group’s cards. Helene Henderson, who owns the two restaurants on the pier, seemed unfazed by the commotion going on just steps from her business, which was bustling with customers.
Levenson, who has an auto-immune blood disorder and has been a vegan for one year, claimed his health has improved dramatically since he switched to a plant-based diet.
“I feel the best I’ve ever felt,” he said. “The world needs this to happen—if not for animal liberation, then for environmental and health reasons—even world hunger. Animals are being fed plants that could easily be fed to the two billion hungry people in the world.”