Julie Rosenfield

My journal

RE-BRANDING: 269 CAMPAIGN

These days when some certain sections of society talk about branding, they’re often referring to designer labels eg that little Gucci dress, Jimmy Choo shoes etc.

Or you’ll hear long, heartfelt pleas from parents unable to afford the latest Nike branded trainers for their children and who fear their offspring may encounter bullying at school if they sport inferior brands.

Other times, you may be surprised to discover that the superior brand of baked beans you buy in the store is nothing more than a souped-up version of the identical, supermarket own-label, baked beans but with a nice new label and a charming hike in the price thrown in for good measure.

Guys, it’s a jungle out there!

So, it was quite a surprise when news reached me of a brand new initiative in the Vegan world. What could this possibly be? Was vegan celebrity, Russell Brand, going to have his portrait featured on one of Ms Cupcake’s delicious, hand-made vegan cupcakes? Was racing track Brands Hatch going to be given over to a day of organic vegetable box car racing? Were Sainsbury’s giving away free bottles of vegan brandy?

No, it was explained patiently to me.

“We’re talking about human branding.”

“Human branding?”

“Yes, you know how cows get branded ….”

Visions of red-hot branding irons appear in front of my eyes, followed by the awful, sizzling sound of the scalding of the flesh of a poor, innocent animal…

“Yes, but when you say human branding, you don’t mean people are actually going to line up and …?”

I must say at this point that I hold the current titles for Miss Squeamish and Miss Zero Pain Tolerance. To me, you’re a hero if you get your ears – or for that matter any part on your body – pierced or tattooed. Even having acupuncture gave me the needle.

“So, run this by me again,” I asked uncomfortably.

“There’s a video,” it was explained. Through nervous gaps in my fingers I watched a video of activists in Israel being branded with red-hot irons for their new 269 campaign. http://www.269life.com  Not easy for me to watch or for them to endure but it’s something that cattle collectively and unwillingly have to go through every day.

The 269 campaign first came about, I learned, when some animal rights activists in Israel were moved by the sight of a little calf on a dairy farm, branded with the number 269. This doomed little calf made an impression on the guys as deep and indelible as the mark of the branding iron on the calf’s flesh. As a sign of solidarity with farm animals and to highlight the cruelty of the dairy industry, the activists started the 269 campaign. They subsequently took the brave but painful move of having the number 269 branded on their own skin, using a red-hot branding iron, in Israel on 2nd October 2012.

The point of the 269 campaign is to highlight the cruelty of the dairy industry: an industry where male calves are unwanted by-products because they don’t produce milk. The calves are then either shot shortly after birth or sold to the veal industry. It could make you weep even more than being at the end of a branding iron just thinking about it. At least, the physical pain of the branding will heal eventually. The pain of dairy animals just goes on and on…

Of course, a more painless and equally long-lasting way to show your feelings against the dairy industry is simply to go vegan, and that really is what the campaign is all about.

The red-hot irony is, of course, that humans don’t even need to drink milk from cows at all. Cow’s milk is designed for baby cows. It makes them big and strong and turns them into grown-up cows. It was never meant for humans – being full of saturated fat and growth hormones – any more than giraffe milk, gorilla milk or tiger milk would be. Hardly surprising then, that a huge majority of people on the planet are actually lactose intolerant.

And, of course, there are many kinds of delicious, plant-based alternatives to milk available such as soya milk, rice milk, oat milk, almond milk and hazelnut milk. Also there are vegan cheeses from companies such as Vegusto, Redwood and Bute Island; vegan yoghurts from Alpro and much, much more.

The Vegan Society have lots of information about all the different kinds of dairy-free products out there and about how to go vegan. www.vegansociety.com.

The 269 campaign is now coming to different cities in the UK later this year, with volunteers who feel strongly about cruelty to dairy animals already lining up to take part. In London, two women and one man are already planning to have themselves branded on 21st March 2013.

I’ve no doubt that the people volunteering to do it have already had enough lectures about how painful it will be. As one concerned lady on a BBC radio phone-in said yesterday, when asked about one volunteer who is planning to have himself branded: “Oh no, he shouldn’t do that, he’ll feel so poorly after it.” This was a lady, who although compassionate enough about animals herself to abstain from eating cows and sheep, sorrowfully admitted that she did “eat the poor pig”.

Of course, some people will even claim that the whole 269 branding exercise is nothing more than a publicity event. One which the press will run with one day and run away from the next, in search of something even more eye-catching and eye-watering. No doubt, some critics will ask if the same effect couldn’t have been achieved by the participants dyeing their hair red, wearing yet another armband, or having a nice, sensible, washable tattoo of the number 269 instead?

Maybe, but then haven’t people always done desperate things to highlight injustice? It’s only a century ago that women were chaining themselves to railings, enduring force-feeding and throwing themselves under horses to earn voting rights for women. Some people may argue that that wasn’t the reason that women were finally given the vote, it was for their invaluable work during the war. But, once the seeds of an idea are planted, who knows where they might lead?

So I, for one, am not going to debate the rights and wrongs about whether people should volunteer themselves for this human branding exercise. The guys are adults, they’re over 18, it’s their bodies, and it’s their right to protest against a wrong and cruel industry.

At the end of the day, you’ve got to admire those guys. After all, they have got bottle and, happily, not one single drop of it comes from a dairy cow.

For more information about the 269 campaign, please visit

 http://www.269life.com

 http://thethinkingvegan.com/interviews/269-the-interview/

 For information about going vegan, visit the Vegan Society www.vegansociety.com

269

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