Vegan Outreach: My First Cube of Truth
Saturday night, I participated in my first Cube of Truth with the animal rights outreach group Anonymous for the Voiceless. I had watched countless hours of footage from previous cubes of truth and I was anxious to get involved and start sharing the vegan message.
Many people think they know what the vegan message is: Don’t eat animals or their by-products because it’s bad for the animals, ourselves, and the planet. The vegan message is so much more complex than this. It’s about introducing speciesism: where one species believes they have more value than another, which then gives them the right to exploit other species for their comfort and convenience. As vegan activists, we don’t just want the world to stop eating animals, but rather make the connection as to why we should not eat, wear, test on, be entertained by, or use animals in any way. We want for people to realize that animals have personalities, are capable of experiencing joy and suffering pain, want to live their lives and are INDIVIDUALS with more in common with humans than what separates us.
So how do we get this message across? A cube of truth consists of a number of volunteers with a few different roles.
Several volunteers stand in a cube formation and hold or wear monitors to display footage from slaughterhouses and factory farms, depicting what standard procedures look like in the animal agriculture industry. Others hold signs that read “Truth.” All volunteers in the cube wear a mask, so that people are compelled to look our way, but also feel safe to approach the screens without fear of judgement by the people holding the screens. Because the people in the cube are anonymous. Anonymous for the voiceless.
The remaining volunteers stand outside the cube and wait for people on the streets to approach the screens. Many of the onlookers, don’t know what their looking at. The volunteers on the outside of the cube are there to answer any questions. The skillful volunteers on the outside take it a step further, by asking questions themselves. These questions allow meat, dairy, and egg consumers to look inward for the answers. Why are they participating in this cruelty and violence ? Because they always have? Because it tastes too good? Because they think they need to for their health? Because it’s easy? Because not consuming these things would be too hard? Because they’ve never thought twice about it. Until now. Until that moment.
There are organizers for each cube of truth. They keep things running smoothly. They make sure that people in the cube get breaks whenever needed. They also make sure someone reaches out to each person that has been drawn in by the footage.
This being my first Cube of Truth, I knew that I would just have the role of holding TRUTH signs or one of the monitors. I felt good about this role because I wasn’t comfortable speaking with strangers yet. I didn’t want to say anything that would hurt the cause, or shame a bystander.
It’s 5pm, before we’ve relocated to a spot we know is public land and we won’t be asked to move from. The organizer hands me a mask and asks if I will go in the cube first. I am given a strap to wear around my body and someone attaches the monitor. I stand still. I can see out, but no one can really see in. I am anonymous. It’s crazy the amount of energy I feel from wearing a mask on busy streets. Most people turn to look, but I don’t feel embarrassed or small. I actually feel very big. I even felt the biggest I have in my whole life. Because behind that mask, clothed in all black, holding the screen... I wasn’t just Victoria anymore. I was something much bigger; I was a part of the collective efforts. I was apart of all the AV team surrounding me and every AV member around the world.
The perspective I was granted was also a new experience for me. I could witness people seeing footage like this for the very first time, without them even being aware of me seeing them, so their looks were unaltered and genuine. I didn’t have to respond to their looks of terror. I just could empathize with them, because I had once been in their shoes. Not on the streets, but alone in my home in front of my computer screen.
From behind that mask, I witnessed conversations that were moving, enlightening, frustrating, slow-paced and fast-paced. I saw people’s minds shift and I saw others stuck in their ways (for now.) I remember when one woman reached out to hug the volunteer that had spent several minutes talking with her. She left with tears in her eyes, and I saw the smile her hug left of the man’s face. His smile made me smile, and he couldn’t see my masked smile, but I think he caught the glaze of my eyes and we acknowledged the special moment.
I didn’t stay in the cube for long. I was subbed out and subbed back in. When I was outside of the cube, I wore my mask on my arm and watched the footage on the screens or observed others conversations, trying to learn how to do it “right” myself one day.
I also met the members of this particular chapter. Telling them bits about my vegan story, about van life, and just chatting about life in general. I was shocked to learn so many of the woman there had husbands that were not totally vegan. I felt very lucky to find veganism before love, and struggled to fathom how hard it would be if I had done it in reverse. But I think love and veganism have a lot of similar qualities. One day they enter your life, often unexpected and from that day forward, you don’t want to part.
I was in the middle of a conversation with one of the outreach volunteers when two individuals stepped up to the cube. One of the organizers made eyes with the guy talking to me and we stopped our conversation and he calmly walked up to the onlooker. The organizer then looks to me and says can you go talk to her, referring to the other woman who had walked up at the same time. I was about to say, “I don’t know how.” Or “No, you’ve got the wrong person” but before I could object I was walking towards this woman, sure that I WAS the right person. In that moment, the only person.
I asked her if she had ever seen footage like this before. She hadn’t. She wanted to know what is was from. I explained that this was standard industry practice as to how we get food on our plates in restaurants or products on shelves in the grocery stores. She looked shocked. I let her watch. We talked about the health benefits of a plant-based diet. We discussed the environmental impact that animal agriculture has on our planet. We discussed where she could get protein outside of animal products. What we didn’t discuss, directly anyways, was the morality of paying for violence to sentient beings. This was my fault. I just felt too weak to ask her what she thought about it. I felt like I couldn’t handle her realizing how awful it is, because I remember what a heartbreaking realization that was for me. I also felt like I couldn’t handle her NOT realizing the injustice. So the footage spoke for itself. She learned she could be healthy without animal products. She learned that she would be helping the environment by switching to a plant-based diet. And she took a card. Told me she would watch a couple of the documentaries I pointed out. She said she would consider going vegan. She thanked me for my time.
Even though I didn’t converse as perfectly as I had seen others do, or as perfectly as I had imagined I would; it was a good conversation. I planted a seed. I also had planted a seed within myself; knowing that this would just be the first of many conversations with strangers.
I gave three cards out that night, after three good conversations with curious, compassionate people.
As a vegan, I often feel the odd one out. I don’t feel understood. I feel lonely and isolated. I felt none of those things when I went to the cube of truth and was immediately a part of a group of about 15 vegans. It was relieving and revitalizing to spend time with people who shared the same outlook on life as I did.
For such a long time, I have desperately wanted my friends and family to become vegans because I love them so much, but am so against the actions that they all participate in. Every vegan knows this struggle. I realized I don’t have control over my family and that they are just as desensitized and conditioned as the majority of society and one day their time will come, the lights will flash on in their minds and they will join me in this peaceful living- but until then I need not feel isolated and alone.