Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Public History Assignment: Ottawa Earthlings March 2016

By Carolyn Harris

Hello everyone!

I am currently taking a public history course in university, and one of my assignments is to write a blog post on a story, event, or object from my own life that I feel is worth preserving in an online exhibit for future public history students. The event that I have chosen is the 2016 Ottawa Earthlings March!
Photo posted by Savannah Greene on Facebook (not taken by me).

The event

On September 3, 2016, I attended Ottawa’s first annual Earthlings March, which is a peaceful protest that aims to raise awareness about animal rights issues and to call for an end to animal exploitation. Earthlings Marches were started by the animal liberation group Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) and have taken place in dozens of cities around the world—from Montreal to London, and from Tel Aviv to Kharkiv. The idea behind using the word “Earthlings” is that all humans and animals are sentient beings who live on the Earth together. Different species though we may be, we all have the right to be free from abuse and exploitation. The word “Earthlings” also is used by the documentary of the same name, which is about the horrors of factory farming.

Ottawa’s march, which was organized by the Ottawa Animal Defense League, started with some speeches by Ottawa-based activists in front of dozens of participants who gathered in Confederation Park. Then, holding signs and chanting, we marched through downtown Ottawa, including past Parliament Hill and the Chateau Laurier. The march lasted for about an hour.

Photo by Carolyn Harris.

Speeches before the march. Photo by Carolyn Harris.


Our chants

These chants were presumably written by (an) animal rights activist(s) involved in the march (but not me).
Freedom for all,
Photo by Carolyn Harris.
Justice for animals!

Humans and animals
We are all equal

No more oppression,
Animal liberation

For the rabbits and the foxes and the mink and the pigs
No excuses
Let the animals live!

For the lambs and the cows and the birds and the fish
No excuses
Let the animals live!

 Not just for Cecil
 Not just for Harambe
We want justice for all animals!

Not just for dogs, not just for cats, no
We want justice for all animals!

Stop exploitation
Meat abolition

One struggle, one fight
Human freedom, animal rights

The march certainly got a lot of attention from passersby, and some onlookers filmed us with their phones as we walked by. Some march participants handed out leaflets to passersby, and/or put animal rights stickers on telephone poles along the route.

Why does this story need to be remembered?

Amazingly, even though dozens of us were there (and we made a lot of noise, believe me!), there was absolutely no coverage of the march by mainstream media. A quick Google search done months later reveals that the only online documentation of what happened at this event is on Facebook, in one YouTube video (published by one of the activists who was there), and on my vegan advocacy blog in a previous post.

Despite the lack of interest by the media, this story is one that needs to be remembered. The 2016 Ottawa Earthlings March is significant because it was the first of its kind in Ottawa, and furthermore, it is representative of the modern animal rights/vegan movement in 2016-2017. The movement has been changing its message to demand an end to the slaughter (instead of merely suggesting that animals have rights), and it is increasing in its reach like never before. Veganism is becoming more mainstream through increased vegan food selection in grocery stores and celebrity figures adopting a vegan diet. It is quite likely that in fifty years’ time, mainstream Canadian society will see animal rights as an important social justice issue.

Did you know...?
Regardless of what will happen in the future, though, remembering this march would be of interest to public history students because it captures a sense of the new direction in which this movement is headed. Fifty years from now, they will be able to compare the movement as it will exist in their time to how it was in 2016-2017.

The fact is, the history of the animal rights/vegan movement is rarely told in museums and exhibits around the world. But as the author of my public history textbook points out, when repositories accept contributions from the public, this can “allow repositories to ‘actively document those whose voices have been overlooked or marginalized’ (SAA 2011). Public engagement might contribute to limiting historical silences in collections” (Cauvin 46).

Through documentation, the memory of this event will not fade into oblivion quite as quickly as it otherwise would, and with luck, future historians will give it attention when they are writing the history of the animal rights movement/the history of Ottawa.

Canada 150 and Canada’s national identity

When talking about Canada’s national identity, animal rights and veganism do not usually come to most people’s minds. But, although vegans, vegetarians, and animal rights activists are still the minority in Canada, our stories are nevertheless worthy of being told.

Besides, I maintain that the animal rights movement is already in line with Canadian values. Canada generally stands for respecting others’ right to live and be free. When one considers the sentience of non-human animals, it becomes apparent that we must respect animals’ rights, too.

Walking past Parliament Hill. Photo by Carolyn Harris.


Closing thoughts

Most importantly, this story needs to be remembered for the billions of animals who are killed every year for human tastes and profit. When we remember this march, we are also remembering the animals.

Photo posted by Savannah Greene on Facebook (not taken by me).

(Please note: The first and the last photos in this blog post were downloaded from someone else's post on this event's Facebook Event page. All the other photos are Copyright Carolyn Harris 2016.)

No comments:

Post a Comment