Vegan Life talks to activists Jane and Phoebe Frampton, the silent campaigners who aim to share awareness through the Earthlings Experience
Wearing masks and holding laptops the silent campaigners do not talk to passers-by. Some stop and watch the moving images unfurling across the screen while others rush by, pretending not to have noticed the pain playing out before them. The laptop screens play scenes from the film Earthlings. The campaigners are part of a bigger movement to bring the reality of animal exploitation to the masses.
For many the film is the obvious choice when trying to educate about the plight of animals. Hollywood actor Joaquin Pheonix, who narrated the documentary, previously said of the film: “I’ve been a vegan since I was about three years old and involved in animal rights for years. I’ve seen a number of animal rights films throughout the years, none has affected me as profoundly as Earthlings.”
This innovative idea was the brainchild of two London-based sisters-Jane and Phoebe Frampton, founders of the London Vegan Actions group and well-known within the community for their creative and effective campaigning.
“I don’t think we could be anything other than active,” says Jane. “Once we learnt what was going on we became vegan. That was about four years ago. Since then we have worked together on lots of successful campaigns. Having the support of your sister is really helpful and it’s great we became vegan at the same time. We inspire each other and help each other to do more.”
“With this project, we started to think about harnessing the power of moving images. Earthlings is such a moving documentary we hoped it could have an impact, but weren’t expecting it to become the global success it has, with activists all over the world taking part.”
The activists taking part in the demo avoid interacting with the public. “The idea is to not detract away from the images on the screen,” explains Jane. “That’s why we wear the masks-to keep the focus on the film and encourage the viewer to have their own unique and natural reaction. We simply present the film: we don’t talk about it. I think this works well. We usually screen footage from the ‘food’ segment on the movie (Earthlings is divided into sections). Watching footage from animal agriculture is a real shock for a lot of people. Most simply don’t understand how factory farming works.”
One of the great things about the Earthlings Experience-aside from its success-is its accessibility. “It’s a great piece of activism for your first times,” explains Phoebe. “You can do it by yourself but it works better if there are two of you. You don’t need a massive group of people. It’s straightforward and non-intimidating.”
Generally in pairs, one activist will hold the screen and another will hold a sign saying something like ‘watch the video to see why we are here’. The sisters also say you should have a visible label somewhere as a disclaimer saying: ‘WARNING: this footage contains graphic content. Footage taken from Earthlings.com‘.
Jane says: “I have seen some people cry when they start to watch: I think that is a healthy reaction to seeing animals suffer in the most awful ways. When you have those moments, while I don’t set out to upset people, I feel like, as an activist, I am achieving something here. We are really helping people learn about what’s going on, and it is only when they are fully educated that they are able to make a true choice.”
What makes someone push themselves into the frontline of activism in this way?
Phoebe says: “When I became vegan, it was a really positive step, but I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. I felt like I had to be more proactive, really get out there and start to make a bigger difference.
“When I’ve been doing the Earthlings Experience, I’ve had people say they are going to become vegan: that’s it, they have learnt about animal agriculture and they no longer want to be a part of it. That is a great feeling. Playing the film seems really effective. We’re not in people’s faces, they are curious about what we’re doing and a lot will come over to see.”
Jane adds: “There is something really exciting happening with veganism at the moment-I really see the movement growing quickly. Whether for reasons of health or compassion, more and more people are choosing the lifestyle. It’s interesting to see things like the World Health Organisation claiming processed meat is as carcinogenic [cancer-causing] as smoking (in a report released at the end of 2015. The report also labelled red meat as ‘probably’ carcinogenic).”
Anyone who wants to get involved is welcome-the sisters recommend checking their website (londonveganactions.com) and Facebook groups-then just turning up on the day to take part.
“We’ll keep campaigning for as long as necessary,” says Phoebe. “We are privileged in this part of the world to have the freedom to demonstrate and the freedom to speak out. Not everyone has that, and I think we should all engage to try and make the world a better place.”
Jane adds: “Being vegan means you’re not part of the problem-but if you’re not proactive, you’re not part of the solution either. We can all be active in many different ways. Working towards creating a more compassionate society is the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done.”
Sisters’ Success Stories
Laura and Phoebe’s campaigning can claim a hand in lots of significant victories over the last few years-helping create a better world for animals.
- 2015-London Vegan Actions campaigned successfully to have foie gras taken off the menu at numerous restaurants including Le Petit Mason, L’Escargot, Savoir Faire, and Gauthier-among many others.
- 2014-Dedicated activism led to angora (often sourced in excruciatingly inhumane ways) taken off the shelves at United Colours of Benetton, Lacoste, Monsoon, French Connection among others.
- 2014-Helped convince STA Travel to stop selling tickets to bullfights.
- 2014- Shepherd Foods decided to stop selling foie gras after they saw LVA’s footage and information and realised how cruel and inhumane force feeding is.
- 2013-Marks and Spencer, John Lewis, and Gap all said they’d stop selling products containing angora.