The Surprising Success of Animal Advocacy in Jail
Even in jail, Wayne is getting people on board with veganism.
This blog was originally published only on our website on November 26. (Message from Wayne’s team)
Veganism is hard in jail — no Beyond Burgers, lucky to get cold beans!
But I’ve been surprised how easy it is to get people in jail on board with animal rights. And after a week, I’m learning two reasons why.
The first is that a lot of people in jail have worked in slaughterhouses and factory farms — so they know how bad it is. Working in a slaughterhouse is one of the filthiest, most dangerous jobs in America. So, it’s no surprise they recruit from a labor pool that literally has no other choice, former inmates and convicts.
I’ve already met half a dozen people who’ve worked at Petaluma Poultry, a massive slaughterhouse. And they are always the people in jail who give me the biggest high five for my work — because they have seen how their companies treat animals and human beings. But when other inmates hear their stories of sick, injured animals covered with tumors and lesions, it makes the case against factory farms even more credible. This is the turncoat effect — when we can get people from inside a corrupt system to blow the whistle, it has particular power.
The second reason jail advocacy has been great is that everyone here knows the feeling of being trapped by a cruel system. When I got into jail, I had a wound on my arm that quickly became infected, spreading blood and pus all over my armpit. But while I begged for care for a week, nobody came. Everyone I’ve met — literally everyone — has a similar story. My cellmate, for example, was experiencing excruciating back pain that made it difficult to walk. After many weeks, they finally came for treatment — but took his blood to test for diabetes instead of treating his back!
When I tell inmates about a massive, industrial system that’s indifferent to the suffering of sentient beings, they get it. But everyone, not just inmates, has an experience of being trapped or cornered by big systems that are working boldly. Tapping into those experiences — e.g., by asking, “Have you ever felt trapped by a system that felt broken?” — is a powerful way to get people on board.
I just had my first little “win” in jail — my cellmate sent in a request for soy milk. I don’t know if it’ll be possible to turn the entire jail in the direction of animal rights — but my experience here already proves this message has power everywhere.
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