Voiceless 365 – James Aspey goes voiceless for animals
Getting through one day without the ability to talk would be difficult for many of us. Imagine the determination of vegan and animal rights activist James Aspey who after discovering the true extent of animal suffering took a vow of silence for a year.
He told Vegan Life: “After learning the truth about what is happening to animals and how completely unnecessary it is, I felt a responsibility to not only stop contributing to it, but also to encourage others to stop as well. They’re voiceless, I’ll be voiceless. I thought. As much as everyone told me it was a bad idea, something inside of me told me I had to do it. It took some courage but I figured even if I failed, at least I will have tried my best to help and do something for those who can’t help themselves.”
James had always considered himself to be a kind, compassionate person but admits before he was vegan he’d never given much, if any, thought to the violence involved in order for him to consume animal products. “After a wise Indian guru once told me that eating animals is bad karma, I considered that there might be some truth to that and with my own self–interests at the forefront of my mind, I decided to stop eating meat for one week.
“I immediately noticed improvements in my energy, digestion and general feeling of wellbeing. This prompted further research and what I learned shocked me. Not only can we be healthy without eating animal products, but we are likely to be far healthier, live longer and reduce our chances of getting many illnesses and diseases. I decided to see what all the fuss was about and I watched a documentary called ‘Earthlings’.
I was disgusted. I had seen similar footage before, but it was when I was under the impression that we needed to eat animals to survive. With my new understanding of the health benefits of cutting out meat there was only one thing that made sense. To be consistent with my belief that causing unnecessary harm to animals is wrong, this meant not eating them, wearing them, using products tested on them, or visiting places that use them for work or entertainment. I realised to live in alignment with my beliefs, I needed to become vegan. And so I did.”
Taking on such an impressive challenge must have been extremely difficult. James said: “It was definitely challenging and surprisingly got harder as the year went on. When I started my vow I was newly vegan and still had a lot to learn. The more I learned, the more I wanted to share but all I could do was write my blog and play charades with the people I encountered on my adventure.” James never questioned his ability to stick to the challenge. “I doubted numerous times in the planning stages about whether I should actually commit to doing it, but I knew that once I’d committed, I would see it through to the end.”
Throughout the year, James was involved with activism and faced a lot of animal cruelty. Although he shared the experiences with other people, he would have loved to be able to talk about it with them. “I did feel like I was being ignored a lot of the time and sometimes felt invisible. I suppose that’s how animals feel every single day and that was kind of the point.”
To begin with, James communicated with body language which he found extremely challenging, so he then started to use pen and paper. “It was very slow and tedious, so I started moving my mouth as if I was talking but without the noise. Most people were good lip readers, some weren’t.” For the people that couldn’t lip read, James would give them a vegan DVD, his card with social media details and hope he at least planted a few seeds.
Whilst completing his vow of silence, James travelled around the world, meeting people, blogging and promoting the abolition of animal exploitation. According to James it was in Bali that he faced one of his toughest situations. “I was getting my arms covered in tattoos representing veganism. It was already hard enough to explain what I wanted with the language barrier. Add a vow of silence on top of that and you can imagine the struggle I faced. Luckily, it turned out well.”
After completing the vow of silence, James agreed to speak for the first time live on Australia’s most popular morning TV show. His message was powerful, thought–provoking and explained exactly why he felt it was important to sacrifice his voice to raise awareness for animals. Footage of the moment quickly went viral and people all over the world were learning all about voiceless365. For him, this was the most memorable and positive experience he had throughout the whole year. He said: “I was contacted by thousands of people from all around the world who were inspired by my campaign and the words I said when I first spoke. It made every single day of silence worth it.”
Having not uttered a word for 365 days, talking again took some getting used to. James said: “I was so happy to be communicating through speech again because towards the end I couldn’t wait for the vow of silence to be over. It took about a month for my voice to fully return and it took even longer to stop forgetting I was allowed to talk. I kept going back into silence by mistake and people constantly had to remind me, ‘what are you doing man? You’re allowed to talk you know.’
Looking back on the experience and all that he has learned and achieved, James said: “I learned huge amounts about veganism and animal rights. I learned that we must be clear in asking for what we want. We want justice for animals. Not bigger cages. Not less painful slaughter. We want the end of all animal exploitation and we should be clear about that. I learned that I can make a difference in this world and there’s nothing special about me. We can ALL make a difference.”
Since Voiceless365, James has given over 100 talks about his journey, free of charge. When discussing his campaigning plans for the future, he said: “I have a couple of big things planned for the next 12 months, so stay tuned.”
You can find out more about James and his vow of silence at jamesaspey.com.au. James also has a YouTube channel where he has posted a number of videos–including interviews–about his experiences–just search for James Aspey. Here you will also find informative videos covering a number of vegan topics. youtube.com.