Are We Really Sure About Full Time Paid Activism – For The Animals?

There are many ways to help reduce the suffering of animals which can broadly be separated into two categories: direct care and advocacy.

Those working in animal advocacy act as an ally for animals, speaking up on the myriad of issues around animal mistreatment or political rights, or by changing minds and behaviours in humans to reduce the numbers of animals experiencing suffering and disenfranchisement.

Effective animal advocacy tactics can spare an even larger number of animals from suffering, and with a discovery for myself these few days, learning we now have a whole new brand of activism -full time job activism- I am left searching for an answer as to what qualifies full time advocacy, what it entails, to whom is this advocacy is attracting, and what is the measurement and impact of such.

So what does a self nominated individual who is seeking or living a ‘full time activism’ lifestyle look like? Well, I dived into Patreon and it really didn’t take much time at all to quickly identify a certain demographic of those in their realm of this work.

Earthing Ed naturally came first, I wasn’t at all surprised, this is someone who I understand to have a huge following across all social media platforms, who has spoken at events, has a popular YouTube channel, provides frequent updates and content, and as he said in his bio, he has received feedback that his audience is receptive to the way he communicates. I already know this to be true, as I’ve watched his ratings and celebrity increase over time.

So it’s no surprises to me that someone like this could move seamlessly into a paid activism ‘full time’ role, as I can understand why his following might say, I like the work that this person does. If I give this person $10 a month, I feel that will save animals and I’m cool with that.

On further investigation which took no time at all in contrast to the time it took to type the Patreon http link, I stumbled across more curious full time activists

James can’t stop thinking about Injustice, which is entirely relatable!

Chase wants to work less hours, preachhh!

Brian wants living costs covered, pipeline dream for us all! Sign me up!

and The Vegan Activist dude wants either more sleep or lucrative justification for why he’s not managing his self care hours better.

Until 48 hours ago, I had no idea about this underworld of paid activism, and I wondered what my own Patreon would look like. Some what similar, as I can say I’ve also been doing everything they have!

– rescued animals

– caring for rescued animals

– paid for leaflets and printing materials to distribute

– spent hours educating others

-organised events

-writes vegan related blog

-runs a self made organisation in food empowerment

-created and paid for stickers, and tees

-manages vegan related accounts on social media

-attends vigils, marches, disruptions uploads content with own data and time

-cooked vegan food for non vegans on many occasions which planted ‘seeds’

-cleaned beaches

Just a few I can name for the purpose of this exercise in imagining what my resume would look like for public employment!

Try out yours! What would you get paid for?

To be honest, looking at mine I think it’s fair to say that even I could sit at this table. Seems like I do the same things.

Although I am missing a key component for sustaining my potential employment; being that I don’t ever video blog about what I’m thinking, what conversations I’ve had today, how I’ve helped people today, or a play by play of my live reactions outside a slaughter house. I’m not outwardly promoting veganism through these channels and as such an not growing an audience to inspire me or motivate me to keep it up!

And when I think about being motivated to video blog I begin to wonder if paid activism is a trickle down effect of the YouTube social media era, as activists realise their content can be monetised the same way every other content creator does. But the only way to make a living full time out of the Internet and into the bank is by means of continuous content which as we know needs to be controversial, confrontational and competitive and loud. It needs to be view worthy.

Realistically individuals will only be able to make an earning of a full time worker if they work for the fame and are contingent in making content to reach the numbers.

From what I understand about how youtube works, and I’m happy to be wrong but a successful channel when we look at YouTube stars, or just content providers the prerequisites for success (unless you have already gained a following of supporters previously) blanketly require

-reaction videos

-‘beefy’ debates

-objectification

When I read the descriptions of the work that will be provided in the exchange of cash, to me it appears vague in its goals and aims, summarising as “give me money and I will do activism.”

So, where does this put an animal activist looking to pocket on Patreon for their work, and will they now, as content creators; weather its live streaming, or YouTubing or video blogging in various other video streaming media’s, follow these hacks within their animal advocacy to make enough to bank? Will it be effective advocacy? Will animals benefit from it? How do we measure that? will it be offensive? Who will hold them accountable? Their donators? Let’s say it becomes profitable, and donators offer support with out any expectations as to what they are required to do, will the ‘full time’ paid activists be discouraged from changing their advocacy if improvements were identified in their work or if critics are brought up against them.

Maybe this is too much of a reach but imagine over time, we have people being paid to be activists and they do end up making good money.. to live comfortably, what happens if the world does go vegan. Will they be satisfied with the redundancy that comes out of it, and as such will keeping up their brand take priority?

In the animal liberation movement, where do we begin to ever reassess what we do in the praxis of animal liberation which is undoubtedly well and truly alive and evolving -if now even activists have found a way to monetise on animals.

And will it eventually filter out other types of activism that’s least sexy, less confrontational, less loud less popular.

All these questions come to mind, but the biggest question I think we have to ask, is “it’s for the animals” enough information that will measure why funding this at all is good in our current capitalist system that keeps people either unemployed, under employed or employed in the informal economy that is largely surplus capital, and unregulated. I truly believe everyone deserves to be compensated for labour, no one should be working for free, we should all have access to money in our current system where it’s required for our basic needs to be meet. Yet, these are people who do fortunately have this already.. but putting that aside, and thinking about how the movement continues to celebrate the notion of self sacrifice, and doing the most looks like activism needs to always be or appears to be selfless and always giving up something, would it just be classist to expect activists to do work for free?

If so, I think it’s worth looking at the demographic breakdown of the vast majority of people who this appeals to being white and male. So unless every other animal rights activist can join in and also fill their pockets, is it just perpetuating classism when this specific group of people don’t ever have to experience disenfranchisement based on skin colour, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or disabilities. Right of the bat, without any real critical application, that should be enough information to say hang on, this can’t be right.

Give me money and I’ll do activism

Given the times we live in today and the ever growing linguistics we have now to articulate our behaviours. Would it be so to bold as to say- could this be paid mansplaining “for the animals” now that we can see this type of advocacy is appealing to a specific type of person.

We feel like we are in a constant state of emergency as ally’s, so I understand urges to help move it along.

I do see value in people being out there full time, it’s certainly not bad. I happen to be a huge fan of Christopher Sebastian advocacy, as he is a scholastic speaker and author. As I searched through Patreon, I realised I could donate towards his work and absolutely feel comfortable and happy in doing so, knowing who he is, and what his body of work has achieved so far!

So I think we need to also ask,

Is the money going to the animals? Or is the money going to a person who will hopefully use it in a way that will hopefully have an effect?

I think measurement is important here, and I realise that measurement is subjective so it seems all we can really do about this is be discerning in terms of who we sponsor and give money to. Pay attention to the all the things they do through a critical lens as our goals should always be rooted in a foreseeable pathway forward that is both ethical, sustainable, transparent, and morally right.

Veganism is a collective action of justice. Never a one man show. As a collective, advocates need to value accountability for our tactics, our theory, and our behaviour toward one another. This requires from us the rejection of popular public figures with only individualised solutions as their goal. Because despite the considerable growth in the animal rights movement and non profit orgs, liberation remains slow-going, vegan numbers remain marginal and sanctuary’s are struggling to support their residents.

Build your own evidence based approaches to animal liberation efforts. Be mindful, be intersectional and operate within an anti oppressive framework.

“Our mainstream social justice movements are doomed so long as Eurocentric theory is used to structure the logic of these movements” – Aphro-ism Essays on Pop culture, feminism, and Black Veganism from two sisters

And just incase anyone was wondering, it also took me zero effort to find an activist resource center, that “empowers vegan activists worldwide by funding and supporting effective outreach activities that inspire people to choose and maintain a vegan lifestyle.”

http://www.vegfund.org/about-vegfund.html

If you ever need funding, for your work maybe research first what are the other avenues I can take. How can I add value to what I’m doing, in a way that is ethically resourceful for our community and the animals.

This article is in addition to conversations you can find on The Bearded Vegans podcast ‘Should animal activists be getting paid?’ https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/the-bearded-vegans/id1030461709?mt=2&i=1000409137709