This is not just “pretend.” Animal activists in Israel have started a movement where people are branded just like cows destined for slaughterhouse.
Animal rights activism has taken a radical turn with a virulent new movement that has roots in Israel. Sasha Bojoor, 27, started 269life in order to create solidarity with a white calf that was branded with the number 269 within the first few days of its short life. Fattened at a private cowshed in Azor just outside of Tel Aviv, the calf will be shipped to a slaughterhouse for processing just over a month after its first birthday.
With millions of chickens, cows and other animals raised in feed lots across the globe, the industrial food industry has taken on an anonymous character that the activists behind 269life hoped to circumvent by identifying with one particular animal. And so far, they have been wildly successful. Hundreds of people from 40 international cities have either etched or burned the number 269 onto their skin in order to protest animal cruelty.
“This anonymous male calf will be forever immortalized on our bodies, and hopefully this message of solidarity will somehow bring a new way of looking at non-human animals,” the group writes on their website.
“No animal should be exploited to satisfy the selfish needs and whimsical desires of humans, and that is why we chose to use the industry’s own method of objectifying living beings as this symbolic means to convey our idea.”
Ten of the group’s followers have had the number branded onto various body parts. This is usually done publicly as a staged event designed to mimic the food industry’s rough practice of using hot steel to identify animals raised for human consumption.
Getting branded in Tel Aviv:
Tangles Super Tramp had the number branded on the inside of his left arm.
“I had to be pinned down, one person stood on my wrist and holding my body back, when the tool was hovering I knew it would hurt but like a piercing I knew it would be a short pain followed by a rush.”
“Listening and smelling your own skin burning and popping before your eyes is not a good thing,” he continued. “I have no idea how the cows put up with it I just hope they don’t have as sensitive skin as we do.”
Local Israeli paper Haaretz estimates that as many as 1,000 people have had the number 269 tattooed on their bodies – some in discreet locations and others in deliberately visible locations like necks and forearms – either privately or during mass tattooing demonstrations that increase the movement’s visibility.
Other events are also staged. On October 2, 2012, on World Farm Animals day, three animal rights activists were publicly branded as “an act of solidarity” at Rabin Square in Tel-Aviv.
“The display’s aim is to call for empathy towards the most oppressed sector of our society and call into question the deep disconnect we as a society, have towards sanctioned animal cruelty.”
Most recently Israelis displayed the heads of one cow and three sheep in water fountains in Jaffa and Tel Aviv, and dyed the water red with food coloring. The police have subsequently launched a special investigation normally reserved for murder cases.
“You know,” Bojoor told Haaretz, “a few meters from every fountain there is a supermarket filled with carcasses of those animals. I think it’s a bit over the top to set up a special police team for food coloring in fountains. It’s not clear why people are shocked by the sight of animal heads but are perfectly calm when they eat other animal organs.
Veganism has gone viral in Israel over the last year following the widespread distribution of a speech by Gary Yourofsky which lambasts the food industry’s treatment of animals and humanity’s blind acceptance of its practice.
Despite its radical nature, which may alienate some sympathizers, 269life will go a long way to cement conviction among meat-eating Israelis that animals also deserve humane treatment.
All images via 269life.