‘If you’re not vegan, you’re an animal abuser’: How far will Tash Peterson go?

8 Mins read

When it comes to expressing their feelings about dairy and the meat industry, vegans are direct and to the point. The radical and audacious statements are critical in their campaign for change in how animals are treated and, in particular, for reducing the amount of meat people eat.

Vegans seek to expose the meat and dairy industries. Many people are aware of how animals are killed in order to become food; however, the majority are unaware of the process.

Tash Peterson is a full-time animal rights activist based in Perth, Western Australia, and has become known for protesting in a way that is controversial and outrageous in regards to her method she showcases, and the reactions from bystanders have been rather conflicting. 

Tash’s many campaigns showcase the raw detail of what animals are subjected to in the farming industry, and she uses herself as an example to show the significance that “we are all the same, in the ways that matter. We are all animals who are sentiment, have a heart, brain, families, companionship, and the desire to live free from abuse and murder.”

One campaign saw Tash costumed like packaged meat, ‘to reflect what animals are subjected to.’
She uses ‘bodily freedom to bring attention to those with no bodily autonomy.’
Tash uses this campaign to ‘describe and show what animals are subjected to.’

As Tash’s campaigns are bold in creating a statement, this is another example of her expressing her views on the treatment animals receive.

In other campaigns she has worn a dairy cow costume, to draw attention to the issue of cows being “raped and having their baby cows stolen.” In it she speaks for the cows and demonstrates the harmful treatment they go through during milk production.

Tash as a dairy cow with a written poster ‘they raped me & stole my babies, so you can have my milk.’
The campaign involved protesting outside a gelato store.

It was after watching the documentary Food Choices that Tash switched to veganism overnight in 2017; she says the film made her aware of the inherent animal cruelty in the meat, dairy and egg industries that abuse, torture, enslave and murder non-human animals for their flesh, milk and eggs, as well as other industries including animal entertainment, clothing, fashion, racing, breeding and testing. 

“I knew from that moment that I would be vegan forever, because I never wanted to contribute to animal abuse and murder again. I realised that I could thrive on a plant-based diet and live a vegan lifestyle, so it was completely unnecessary for me to continue contributing to industries that subject animals to abuse, torture and murder,” she told Artefact.

“I was so shocked by what I had learnt in the documentary Food Choices, I continued to research and became aware of standard legal industry practices for us to consume, wear and use animal products. For example, in the dairy industry, cows are raped and artificially inseminated to become pregnant (so that she will produce milk). After a nine-month pregnancy when she gives birth, her baby is kidnapped from her so her milk can be sold for human consumption. If her baby is born male, he is murdered just days to weeks old as he is considered to be a waste product to the industry. From that moment, I knew that I needed to speak up for animals to make people become aware of the truth behind these abhorrent industries.”

Tash Peterson
Tash Peterson looks after many animals at home near Perth

Tash’s journey to animal rights activism began on her social media pages and creating her own animal rights clothing brand V-gan Clan. She became involved in animal rights organisations such as Anonymous for the Voiceless and The Save Movement, groups that participated in public outreach holding screens playing slaughterhouse footage and other forms of undercover footage, as well as bearing witness to and documenting animals on trucks out the front of a slaughterhouse. 

In 2018, an animal rights organisation founded in the US, Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), began a chapter in Australia. DxE takes part in disruptive activism and civil disobedience to fight for animal rights. Despite questioning this type of activism and even being resistant to participating, Tash gave it a go and became aware of how powerful this form of activism is. 

A small group of activists are able to generate a significant amount of attention to animal rights via media attention when they disrupt and break unjust laws. This form of protest was the first type of activism where she was able to gain media attention to bring more light to animal rights.

Tash Peterson holding a dead pig head
Tash holding a model of a pig’s head in a supermarket, in front of the butchers’ counter

A year later, DxE inspired Tash to do her own unique form of activism and she dressed in a cow onesie and went into a supermarket. The video generated millions of views and media attention around the world. This is the moment when she discovered the power of solo disruptive activism using creativity and her own voice.

Since then, she has protested alone inside butchers, restaurants, fast food chains, supermarkets, fashion stores and cattle judging events, as well as running onto a football stadium holding a ‘Right to Rescue’ flag to highlight the unjust laws that criminalise activists for exposing animal abuse and liberating animals from places of violence.

“The intention of my activism is to bring mass attention to the animal holocaust, to bring about justice for the most oppressed people on this planet; non-human animals. From doing a five-minute disruptive protest in a shopping centre, I have been able to reach millions around the world with my message for non-human animals. I speak up because they are literally relying on me to speak up for them,” Tash explains.

For the last decade, there has been an increase in plant-based foods available throughout supermarkets, where there is a wide variety to choose from. However, this still does not sit well with vegans. With many supermarkets containing meat butchers and in the campaign to end animal cruelty, some vegans have taken daring yet radical approaches.

I wanted to understand Tash’s view, and if there is a positive outlook on this: “Throughout my almost six years of being vegan, I have seen significant increases in the number of plant-based foods and vegan options in supermarkets, fast food chains, cafes and restaurants,” she said. 

“I think that this is a clear sign that veganism is increasing and it is incredible to see veganism growing so rapidly around the world. Vegan options are abundant in many places now, I mean it always was doable because legumes, grains, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds is a healthy and staple diet. But now we are seeing plant-based chicken, beef, fish, milk ice cream, chocolate and so much more!”

Tash Peterson holding a poster about climate change
Tash holding a poster ‘If you’re not vegan, you’re a major contributor of climate change.’

Tash believes there is no excuse to pay for abuse and murder when you can choose the vegan option instead: “Instead of purchasing the dairy products which caused a mother to be raped and have her babies kidnapped from her, you can purchase the vegan dairy alternatives. Instead of purchasing the flesh of a six-month-old pig who screamed in terror inside a gas chamber (I’ve heard it for myself), you can purchase the plant-based bacon instead,” she said.

“It’s really that simple, and as an individual, you have the power to create the demand for abuse and murder free vegan products rather than paying people to abuse and murder other species.”

While there are numerous plant-based food options, there is some debate about vegans eating ‘fake meat,’ or whether if they are opposed to eating meat, why would they want an alternative that looks, tastes, or even has the same texture as animal meat; which brings the suggestion that vegans may be hypocritical.

“My view is that it isn’t ‘fake meat’ at all, because real meat is vegan meat! Using the term ‘meat’ to describe the body parts of an individual who wanted to live, is a euphemism. It’s a word used to disconnect people from the body parts that they are actually eating. To disconnect them from the brutal murder that individual was subjected to in order for them to eat their flesh,” Tash argues. 

Tash holding a poster ‘Animal agriculture is a leading cause of climate change, deforestation, species extinction, water & air pollution, & ocean dead zones.’

“People become vegan because we don’t want to pay people to rape, enslave, abuse, torture and murder non-human animals, not because we don’t like the taste of flesh. If you can eat vegan meat which has the same/similar taste and texture as flesh, instead of paying someone to stab an animal in the throat, why wouldn’t you?” Tash asks.

“I don’t believe that it is hypocritical at all, vegans are the ones who are in fact acting on the very morals that most people hold. That is, vegans are against animal abuse and have aligned their actions with their morals by not contributing to animal abuse and murder. Most non-vegans would say that they are against animal abuse, but pay people to abuse and murder animals for their taste pleasure, which is hypocritical.”

When sparking a conversation on meat eating, many are fine with the production of it, such as the considerations of free range, ethically sourced, and animals being slaughtered humanely. However, Tash disagrees with this concept.

“The term ‘humane slaughter’ is an oxymoron and euphemism used by the industries themselves to make consumers feel good about their choices to purchase animal flesh and other products,” Tash says, especially given that animals in the dairy, wool, egg, and other industries are all murdered once they’re considered no longer profitable. 

“The reality is, non-human animals are brutally murdered inside slaughterhouses and they scream and fight for their lives until their very last breath. They are sentient individuals who want to live and humans should not have the right to take their lives because they want to eat a ‘steak’ or wear a ‘leather’ jacket.

“I have been to slaughterhouses and witnessed terrified cows and pigs crying and panicking on the trucks before they are forced onto the kill floor. I have heard pigs screaming in absolute terror as they burn from the inside out in CO2 gas chambers. ‘Humane slaughter’ simply does not exist, it’s a myth. Humane means to show compassion and benevolence and slaughter is an act of murder.”

Tash wants people to put the victims of the agriculture industry first

Tash highlights the documentary, Dominion Movement, which is available on YouTube debunks the myth of ‘humane slaughter’. It is a very eye-opening documentary that she would like everyone to see.

Animal products do have some effects. The state of the climate and its current crisis is a major factor from the animal industry.

“Animal agriculture is a major contributor to climate change and is the leading cause of deforestation, wildlife extinction, ocean dead zones, water and air pollution and habitat loss,” Tash explains.

“Each year, 70 billion farmed animals are bred into existence to be abused and murdered for human food consumption. The amount of land and other resources this uses is astronomical. Forests are destroyed and wild animals are murdered in the process to create land for farmed animals to live and food for them to eat.”

Tash believes that veganism is easy when you think of the victims and put them first: “I thought my journey to veganism would be difficult, but I honestly did it overnight. Of course I am still learning and growing to this day and undoing all of those years of conditioning with speciesist ideals,” she said. 

“It’s a journey for all, but just know that every moment you choose not to be vegan, animals are being raped, abused, tortured and murdered at your expense. Veganism is an inaction, it’s simply a choice to not contribute to abuse and murder. Animals are relying on you to stop abusing them and need you to speak up in any way that you can to make their suffering and oppression known!”

You can find out more at veganeasy.org.

All images courtesy of Tash Peterson.
Edited by Rella Jefferies, Sophie Patrick and Isabella Brooks

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