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Tattooing Numbers to Raise Awareness for Animal Rights

By Jasmin Singer — November 05, 2012

I have the number “267” tattooed on my left wrist, demonstrating the number of chickens killed every second in the United States, round the clock. I got the tattoo several years ago now, somewhat impulsively actually, as a reminder to myself and others of the horror going on behind closed doors — and a tool for me to remain cognizant of my own great grand privilege. Repeatedly, my tattoo puts things in perspective. Just think about it for a second: 267, bam. 267, gone.

A group of activists in Tel Aviv had a similar idea of using number tattoos to raise awareness about the plight of animals, but they did so in a smashing, large-scale way that made the news, big time. In honor of World Vegan Day, dozens of activists descended on Rabin Square, where they publicly tattooed their arms with (coincidentally) the number “269,” to memorialize a single calf, who bore that number, the only name he was ever given. And last month, on World Farm Animals Day, members of this same group held a similarly-themed demonstration, but this time they used a hot branding iron to permanently attach this harrowing number, this sickening reality, to their bodies. As with any modern-day successful campaign, there was a multimedia component to the protest — a YouTube video that has had almost 185,000 views to date. Speaking to the power of incorporating video to any grassroots or media campaign, as a result of this viral video, companion protests have occurred in  places like Spain, Australia, and England. The activists are trying to make this a worldwide movement, in case you are looking for a project to spearhead — or you’re wondering what your next tattoo should be.


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(14) Readers Comments

  1. Jessica Caneal
    November 5, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Jasmin you are an inspiration. Do you happen to know the number of how many cows are killed every second?

    • November 5, 2012 at 12:28 pm

      Don't know precisely, but this will help you (and haunt you): http://www.animalvisuals.org/projects/data/slaughter

  2. November 5, 2012 at 11:03 am

    So encouraging seeing this movement grows and meeting ppl with the same mindset and determination. names sasha one of the guys who got branded btw ;) will help promote your cause as well via our page

  3. November 5, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    Jasmin, my husband and I are trying to figure out what we want for tattoos (we are going to Portland-SCAPEGOAT!). They will be our 5 year wedding anniversary gift to each other and we want them to represent our commitment to animals and veganism. This is an awesome idea, and so inspiring. If you have any other vegan tattoo ideas or know of a place I can find some, please share!! PS: LOVING the podcasts, as usual. Missed you at Boston VegFest, though.

    • November 5, 2012 at 7:52 pm

      We are getting tattoos there again in a few weeks! :-) Pigeons and "269." Brian did my cow tattoo on my leg, and I love him and Scapegoat. Here's a very old video we made of Scapegoat and of Brian. http://www.ourhenhouse.org/2010/02/our-hen-house-talks-to-scapegoat-tattoo/

  4. JR Morris
    November 8, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    Coming from someone who’s about to start a Ph.D. in Philosophy with a major focus on Critical Animal Studies, what I find striking about the picture of your tattoo speaks to Pachirat’s discussion of the “politics of sight” and how those politics are even at play here (in a place where we might otherwise think it wouldn't be). By that I mean, I think we should use our “vegan powers” to focus on the suffering that’s being bracketed out: in this case, the MacBook Pro in the background. Its unstated presence, the fact that it raises no eyebrows, reminds me of how intersectional and invisible the patterns of suffering can be. To be clear: I’m certainly not criticizing the cause here. I support it wholeheartedly. Instead, I’m simply stating that we should take note of your tattoo and what it symbolizes but that, in doing so, we also make sure that our moral perception, when we decide to zoom it in, doesn’t become too dim or myopic in the process. That we can still take note of the peripheral features and "see" the conditions of the workers at FoxConn and how the overlapping mechanisms and structural features that so often institutionalize suffering make it invisible as well. Restoring the absent referent, as Carol Adams has made clear, is a lifelong project. Since these are mechanisms and features that, in the worst way possible, bridge the human/animal gap in their ubiquity.

  5. November 8, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    I just had to weigh in since I sell technology for a living.... I don't know that you can say that any tech hardware is better or worse than any other hardware. All of it seems to come with the same baggage -- in fact, I think Bloomberg had an article recently about problems with factories that HTC uses. I also just *have* to bring up the idea of being a perfect vegan... As a fairly new vegan (just over a year!) this idea of perfection was my biggest stumbling block. More than my addiction to cheese, more than anything else, PERFECTION -- the idea of perfection -- kept me from embracing veganism. I would think about giving up cheese and then I'd think about my leather shoes and my wool sweaters and then I'd think about how photographic film isn't vegan or about how horrible rubber plantations are or about how the increase in palm oil consumption is hurting the apes and I would throw my hands up in the air and order a double cheese pizza because well, if I couldn't be perfect, why bother? I'm probably an extreme case but I had to get talked down off that ledge of perfectionism in order to find a way to live the best compassionate life I can. So for me, when I'm speaking my truth about how awesome it is to be vegan, I take pains to point out the trap I found myself in -- the trap called perfection -- so that other people who really want to live ethical, compassionate lives don't delay by even one minute because they can't be perfect.

  6. November 8, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    Thanks for this, Beth. And congrats on your 1-year Veganversary! I think you bring up a very wise point regarding the danger of all-or-nothing, and the importance of reaching people in ways they can grasp. For me -- and I've been vegan for 9 years (vegetarian for many years before then) -- it is an ongoing evolution (I imagine/hope it always will be!). I'm constantly learning about new issues that cause me to a) "re-recognize" my privilege, since that is something I try to always be acutely aware of (though sometimes forget); b) question whether "said behavior" aligns with my ethics; c) bend wherever/however I can, within reason, and d) figure out my talking points around the issue, and if/how/when I should be vocal about it. I actually was reminded of something while reading your comment. Something that really resonated with me about it was that you made the entire thing about yourself, "I'm probably an extreme case", "So for me...", "I would think about..." I guess I just wanted to point it out because it touched me very deeply, resonated with me, and you gave me a welcome "poke" about what actually constitutes as effective communication insofar as advocacy. In other words, you rock! :-)

  7. JR Morris
    November 8, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    Hi Jasmin, I deeply regret if my statements in anyway made it seem like I was questioning your commitment to the causes you’ve devoted yourself to, or that I wasn’t being empathetic to the hardships involved in those efforts. Really, I am very sorry. And that’s not what I intended at all. I probably should’ve stated my points more carefully--I’m sure if we were talking about these issues in person, they would’ve have come off as much more empathetic! Originally, I had a rather lengthy writeup trying to salvage some of the finer points of my earlier statements, but I've decided that it’d be best to just leave it at that. Perhaps I’ve become rather jaded as even in academic circles it’s an enormous uphill battle to have these issues taken seriously (so much so that I’ve had professors tell me that I’m significantly lowering my prospects of getting a job in the field by continuing to do the research that I’m doing), so perhaps that’s the vantage point I’m coming from: constantly being surrounded by people who should “know better” and having to argue with them while at the same time defending the legitimacy of what I'm doing. As a result, I’ve probably become tone-deaf in that respect; I don’t spend much time writing comments on internet sites, in fact this was my first time doing so in years, and I can see that I’m probably not suited to it and will stick with what I know best. Again, my apologies. Best wishes, Justin

  8. jodee hurst
    November 14, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    jasmin be careful what ink you use when getting a tattoo. im sure you know all about this. some inks contain animal bone. sincerely jodee

  9. December 8, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    You are such an inspiration! I have been a vegetarian for 7 years now (I am 18 years old) and it is a life choice- one I am very serious about. I do rallies and silent protests at my college for animal rights and against factory farming all the time. I have done speeches and articles for the school newspaper on it as well (I am a journalism major/photography minor) and plan to continue to raise awareness for this issue until the day I die. I am going to be getting my 2nd tattoo soon (my first one is of birds) of the number "120" which stands for the 120 million pigs that are slaughtered every year in the US. I came to this conclusion for this tattoo after seeing yours. Thank you for this wonderful way to help spread awareness. I just know that every time someone sees my tattoo and asks about its meaning, they will get an ear full about animal rights!

    • Jasmin Singer
      December 9, 2013 at 9:12 am

      That's really cool, Alicia! Your tattoo sounds like it's going to be beautiful -- and you sound really passionate! Keep it up! xo

  10. November 8, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Hi JR - Thank you for taking the time to respond to this. I wish I had the time to respond to YOU with the thoughtfulness you gave it, but I am on many deadlines and have much to try to accomplish today. The issues you bring up are indeed ones I am aware of, and I noticed that you did not question where I got my computer. I actually have a really hard time figuring out how to reply to this without being defensive -- without telling you how everything I own is second-hand, how I spent my birthday last week doing a clothing swap, how extremely active I am in many, many, many other areas of social justice besides just animal rights... And perhaps then concluding with a list of ethical choices I make daily regarding my consumption habits, everything from chocolate to packaging. And how I challenge myself every single day to make my life decisions with as much consciousness, and in as much harmony with my ethical beliefs, as possible. I wanted to just say that I hear you, I do. And I think it's great that you are studying CAS. You probably know from our blog what fans we are of CAS, what followers we are of it. To be honest though, I do think that you have to be careful of your tone, of appearing self-rightous, and of assuming that people know what you are talking about. *I* know what you are talking about, but another way to approach this, perhaps for others who are reading these comments, would be to use it as a teaching moment, linking to further reading, and sharing your own evolution -- rather than simply being judgmental. I know what you are talking about with Mac, and I have done research into it, read claims that the problem is much more systemic than simply boycotting these sweatshops, read claims refuting that, and refuting that, and refuting that... And I am very well aware of where I put my money/votes/time/energy/activism. Since you are a student, and a student of philosophy at that, it is my hope that your messaging becomes a little more empathic, because you're clearly smart and have a lot of very important things to say. You just might want to question how you say them. Sincerely, Jasmin

  11. November 14, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    Indeed!! We made a video about vegan tattoos (http://www.ourhenhouse.org/2010/02/our-hen-house-talks-to-scapegoat-tattoo/) and all of my tattoos are not only made with vegan ink, but they are also all designed and done by vegans, at vegan tattoo shops! :-)

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