SIUC Dept. of Communication Studies RSOs
Photo by Nathan Edwards
This is the first blog post in a 3-part series. They can each be read independently, but they do connect together. You can find the other blogs here once they're published: [Second post], [Third post].
The purpose of writing these blogs is to apply the knowledge I’ve learned from working on my degree in persuasion, to the goal of saving as many lives as possible. It is also to share my journey as an animal rights activist. The information and skills I have learned at SIU has helped prepare me for effectively communicating on behalf of other animals and inspiring people to re-evaluate their own relationship with the animal kingdom.
When I was 19 years old, I experienced a fundamental shift in the way I viewed the world, and my place within it. This was unexpected, yet quickly manifested into a life-changing series of events. I became aware of an injustice that had been secured behind a veil of ignorance for most of my life. I did not consciously realize there were billions of unique individuals trapped in intensive confinement, unable to experience even a basic level of freedom or joy. I then realized that I was not only paying for this to happen but was also eating the victims of the atrocity. I had never viewed my actions from the perspective of these animals and doing so changed everything for me.
When I first learned about the scale of modern animal agriculture, I was deeply disturbed. I couldn’t stop learning about what these animals were enduring behind the walls of factory farms and slaughterhouses. I thought to myself: How could this much suffering and death be hidden from us? How could those who knew what was happening, not speak up about it?
After talking with my family and friends I realized that most people live under that same veil of ignorance. Furthermore, when we do see a glimpse into the truth behind our food system, we feel mistakenly disconnected from it. Understanding our role in this system of violence would require us to change. I say this because most people are genuinely good-hearted, and do not wish to cause undue suffering onto others, but humans are vehemently resistant to change. The victims of our diet are an inconvenient truth that we don’t want to accept.
It was a documentary called “Cowspiracy” that first opened my eyes to the fact that my diet had dire consequences on the rest of the world. I found it by chance while scrolling through Netflix. This documentary exposed me to the fact that animal agriculture is the leading cause of rainforest destruction, ocean dead zones, species extinction, and that it causes more greenhouse gas emissions than all transportation in the world. Learning this started me on a mission for knowledge and change.
After realizing the level of suffering that exists in this world, I knew I had to do something about it. I recognized that no other institutionalized system causes as much suffering as humanity’s diet, due to the sheer number of victims involved. Including marine life, we slaughter upwards of 2 trillion animals every year for food. That is around 40,000 beings every second… and their deaths are anything but peaceful. The good news is that every time we help someone realize their own values don’t align with exploiting others, then we can help spare the suffering of thousands of animals’ lives throughout the course of their lifetime. We live in a supply and demand economy, meaning the slaughter ends when we stop paying for it.
My first form of organized activism was with Anonymous for the Voiceless, attending their street demonstrations called a “Cube of Truth”. The premise of these are to educate the public about the industries that exploit animals. This is done by forming a cube of people holding TVs which display the standard practices inside slaughterhouses and farms. We set up in public areas, and as people stop to see what we are doing, we engage them in conversation about the morality of what they are watching.
In May, it will be two years since my first Cube of Truth, and since then I have learned so much about inducing social change. I have taken large-scale direct action, saved individual lives with my own hands, and helped organize events that brought hundreds of activists together. I will continue sharing this journey in my next post.
About the Author
Nathan Edwards is an SIUC student (Class of 2020) specializing in Persuasive Communications. He founded the animal rights RSO, Students for the Voiceless, in the spring semester of 2019. Published here is a 3-part series on his journey as an animal rights activist.