Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) wants to make your lunchbreak as uncomfortable an experience as possible. Case in point, casual lunch conversations had to compete with black-clad eulogists at various Oakland, California, establishments, and shoppers in line at the deli counters of a couple Bay Area grocery stores might have had to sidestep open caskets filled with meat in order to get their weekend sandwich fixin’s yesterday when DxE protesters held funerals services for the animals that have given their lives for the sake of the American appetite. The overall effectiveness of such protests can be called into question by noting the generally jaded attitude of the public body that harbors that appetite for flesh, not to mention that using coffins as a tool for commentary this close to Halloween risks the intended message getting lumped together with ubiquitous holiday-themed displays. That doesn’t appear to faze DxE, however.
“We tend to see a package of flesh in the grocery store as just a meal,” explained Kyana Jones, one of the DxE activists, in a press release issued yesterday. “But we must see the other side of the story –– billions of lives taken through violent means.” Whether or not this can be spun into a compelling narrative seems less important to DxE than making provocative and visceral connections that might take root in the minds of listeners. Operating on social media under the hashtag #disruptspeciesism, the group believes that polarizing spectacle is perhaps the best way of going about protecting the animals whose rights DxE feels are being abused.
That is one of the stated purposes of all the protests aligned with the animal rights advocacy group’s “It’s not Food, It’s violence” campaign, which manifest as borderline performance art. The group has gained media traction of late for the viral video featuring activist Kelly Atlas entering a restaurant, demanding the attention of the patrons inside and issuing an emotional plea for her “little girl,” who has been “abused her entire life.” The video’s reveal is that Atlas’ little girl is, in fact, a chicken.
Though it is difficult to imagine that antics such as these aren’t met with as many groans and eye rolls as they are rapt attention (and this ignores the diners who simply return to their burrito bowls and chicken paninis), the protests do meet the minimal expectation of disruption. Implicit in the intrusive nature of the protests is that people stop, even for a moment, to consider what it is they’re doing. From there, it seems, DxE hopes its message is allowed to take root in the hearts and minds of meat eaters everywhere. That message, which includes exposing as arbitrary the distinction people make between meal-worthy creatures like pigs and chickens and snuggle-worthy pets like dogs and cats as well as promoting awareness of the quality of life enjoyed by animals that are raised to become food, is not a new one. The group’s aggressive, intentionally polarizing rhetoric, has garnered DxE a little attention, though.
Currently, DxE’s Facebook page has over 8,000 likes and they have almost 500 followers on Twitter. With the uptick in attention generated by headlines featuring the phrase “meat coffins,” who knows what those numbers will be come tomorrow. Until then, be aware that if the meat you’re looking at is in cardboard casket and isn’t clearly marked for purchase, it is more likely a protester’s prop than the ground beef special you read about in your local PennySaver.