Israeli Vegan Activists to Protest Animal 'Holocaust' by Tattooing Livestock Numbers

Protesters expected to participate in a mass-tattooing display at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, one month after group members branded themselves with a white-hot branding iron to mark World Farm Animals Day.

Neta Halpren
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Neta Halpren

Dozens of animal rights activists are expected to descend on Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on Thursday, to protest against animal cruelty.

The protest, which marks World Vegan Day, was organized by a group of vegan and animal rights activists who plan on tattooing their arms with the number 269 – a number that is branded into calves – as a sign that they identify with the suffering of livestock.

More than 100 people have said they would attend the event, which its organizer, Tal Gilboa, hopes will make a lot of noise.

This is not the first time the 269 group has organized a public display to protest against animal cruelty. On October 2, World Farm Animals Day, members of the group put on a public display at Rabin Square in which they pretended they were farm animals and had other activists drag them – nearly naked – through cages, and branded their bodies with the number 269 using a white-hot branding iron. The activists hoped that by identifying with one calf, they could materialize the pain that animals suffer on a daily basis.

The group filmed their activities and made a YouTube video that crosscuts between their demonstration and graphic images of animal cruelty. Within a fortnight of being posted online, the video attracted more than 100,000 views.

The success of the clip inspired Tal Gilboa to tattoo the number 269 to her body, and sparked the interest of fellow animal rights activists to participate in Wednesday's mass-tattooing display.

"Most of the tattoos will be inked on the outer part of the forearm so as to openly declare that we are representing the present Holocaust, as harsh as that may sound," said Gilboa. "We are sick of the language laundering. The Holocaust had a clear beginning and end, but the end of the current Holocaust is not in sight. It is time to take the gloves off, for the sake of the greatest atrocity in the history of humanity."

The display has caught the attention of people around the world. In addition to the events in Tel Aviv, similar events have been held in Australia, England, Spain and elsewhere in Europe.

Gilboa said she does not believe that Wednesday's display will convince anyone to change their ways, "but the noise that can be generated by people who take radical steps can lead to a more urgent and meaningful public debate. Our activists don't intend to just open the eyes of meat-eaters, but also those of vegans, many of whom keep to themselves. Many vegans say 'There's no way people will stop eating eggs, so we should at least fight for the welfare of chickens,' and by doing so they legitimize killing chicks, abusing cows, and the continuation of slaughtering. Vegans, too, must wake up and take action."

"We only live once and every one of us must know that, in our lifetime, we did everything possible to free the animals. Tattooing our arms will remind you of that," said Gilboa.

An animal rights activist is branded with the number 269 in an act of identification with livestock.Credit: Ira Mac
Tal Gilboa hopes Wednesday's animal rights display will make lots of noise.Credit: Assaf Friedman

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