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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Experiencing my first Cube of Truth

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Someone once told me it’s not enough to simply be vegan. If I want to truly make a difference in this world, I’m going to have to do something more. This is my experience participating in my first Cube of Truth event.

It was those words of wisdom that led me into my first animal rights activism event, the Cube of Truth.

In the past, I’d tagged along for some activism events. From making posts on social media, handing out flyers at concerts, to standing outside slaughterhouses with signs in my hand; I’ve usually stayed on the sidelines. I wanted to do my part, but at the same time remain somewhat anonymous and play it safe.

These types of things always pushed me far outside of my comfort zone.

Just this past week, I found myself standing in one of the busiest foot traffic locations in all of Australia, holding up video footage of animals being slaughtered. There must have been thousands of people who walked through Pitt Street Mall and were staring directly at me.

When it wasn’t my turn to hold up the footage, I would actively approach people, politely stop them from their everyday activities, and explain why we were doing this and what we want them to do about it (have more compassion towards the lives of animals).

With my comfort zone now completely thrown out the window, this was my chance to really build up my courage and speak out for animals who don’t have a voice.

What is a Cube of Truth?

anonymous for the voicelessIf you’re not familiar with what a Cube of Truth is, it is an animal rights activism event organised by Anonymous for the Voiceless. With everybody wearing all black, four members of the group stand back-to-back in a “cube” pattern holding television monitors that display graphic videos of animals being slaughtered.

As Cubes (which they are sometimes referred to as) are held in busy public areas like outside public shopping malls or squares, this opens up the opportunity for people in all directions to see the footage regardless of where they are coming from.

The main purpose of the event is to expose the viewing public to what really happens behind the scenes of meat and dairy production. While many people simply see a package of meat on the supermarket shelves or a jar of butter with a nice farm logo on it, not many people see firsthand what it’s like to witness an animal being slaughtered.

At the very least, passing by this footage will get their attention.

Striking up conversations with strangers

While most people simply walk by, there are some people who stop in front of the television screens and pay more attention to what we are doing. This is when the second group of activists come in and begin to talk to these passer-byers and explain to them why we are doing this — mainly to bring attention to the lives of the animals.

One of the experienced activists at the event, Sam, was very good at what he does. As some of the people walked by the televisions, he stopped them and was able to naturally draw up conversations and build rapport with ease.

I remember one group of teenage boys walked by eating KFC and began mocking the entire group of activists saying: “Mmmm, this KFC tastes so good!” as they held their chicken bones in front of our faces.

“People do this all the time,” one activist told me as she rolled her eyes to their shenanigans.

The conversations begin by asking questions like: “Have you ever seen this before? How does this make you feel?” and then transitions into deeper topics like whether the need to feel satisfaction on your tastebuds justifies taking an innocent animal’s life.

Within five minutes of talking to them, Sam had one of the boys in tears (feeling immense compassion for the animals) and he couldn’t even finish his meal. The effectiveness of activism was top-notch.

What I noticed with the dozen or so activists in the group is that each one of them had their different ways of talking about the footage and how it should lead more people to be vegan themselves.

Many people came up to the group and said that because of these weekly Cubes, they finally made the decision to go vegan.

But mixed with these success stories comes the struggle to get good at what we do.

Read how the Cube of Truth turned Buzzfeed producer Merle O’Neal vegan.

Dealing with nervousness and rejection

cube of truthI must admit, I was feeling very nervous at first. As Sam just wrapped up another successful conversation with two former ranchers, he told me to go out on my own and start talking to people.

At first, this group of three people walk by looking at the screen. I go up to them the same way Sam did asking: “Have you seen anything like this?” only to be rejected as they didn’t even respond to me and they kept walking.

I immediately began feeling self-conscious. Before I could think, another activist pulled me into a conversation with a married couple who only spoke Spanish. “Hey Andrew, you speak Spanish, right? Can you explain to them what’s going on here?” Great. Not only do I not know what to say in English, but now I’m trying to explain it in a language I have 15% proficiency in after living in South America for a year.

I take a few minutes to sit behind the information table to take a break. A few of the activists sitting there told me they don’t actively participate in the outreach anymore because it impacts them too much emotionally. Based on the emotions I was feeling at the time, I could relate to what they were saying.

The struggles are real

In addition to that, there were many other struggles I faced while doing the Cube of Truth.

The first one was that I felt like I was completely outside of my comfort zone. In my career, I know that many salespeople struggle from cold calling anxiety. This is where their fear of making sales calls is so great, they stop in their tracks and it prevents them from even trying. That was the best point of comparison for my hesitation to approach people as I stood around holding flyers not going up to anybody at all.

The only way to get through this obstacle is to push myself to the other side of actually doing the thing I want to do the least — promote my beliefs on another human being.

Finally, this one woman was standing there looking at the screen in disbelief. I go up to her and begin asking her the questions the other people asked: “Have you seen anything like this before? How does this make you feel?” as she was receptive to what I was saying. 

The whole conversation remains a blur, but I remember telling her about how we view the lives of chickens and cows the same as we do with cats and dogs.

As she stood there with tears beginning to form around her eyes, I say this is why we do this and why we make the decision to eat vegan. I handed her a flyer and thanked her for her compassion, not knowing what to do next.

It wasn’t as charismatic as Sam or the other experienced Cubers (if that’s even the right word), but to see that the work we did open up this woman’s heart towards farm animals made this experience worth it.

Making plenty of mistakes

vegan activismThat’s not to say I had the same level of luck with my other approaches throughout the day.

Once I finally got up the courage to talk to people, I was hoping to live up to how well the others were doing with their outreach. But to my luck, it wasn’t as easy as they made it look.

Between the fear of talking to people and not knowing what to say, I eventually found myself talking to one very loud and outgoing man who claims he loves the taste of certain Lebanese foods made with lamb. The way he spoke of the dish, I imagined him being a chef on a television show being very detailed and enthusiastic with everything he said about it.

I honestly had no clue what to say to him, so I froze in place as Sam carried on the conversation from there. At the very least, he at least got through to the man a little bit but probably not enough to change his ways.

The next conversation I had was with a man who worked on a small organic ranch who insisted that factory farming is bad, but he chooses grass-fed, organic meat instead. I found myself compromising with him, saying how it might help to start moving towards plant-based eating a little bit.

After that conversation ended, another activist began telling me that this isn’t something they do here because it might allow them to justify eating animals only part-time. There is a thing called a stoplight conversation. Green are topics we should always talk about, such as the decision to be 100% vegan. Yellow are topics that we can talk about a little bit, such as the environmental or health aspects of veganism, but always bringing it back to the animals first. Red are topics like compromising about eating meat sometimes, but not others. We should stay away from talking about that completely.

I wasn’t completely convinced that this is the most effective form of activism as I feel everybody has to start somewhere. But I admit I don’t know for certain — I could be wrong and we are all doing our best to move the world in the right direction.

Getting better with time

As the sun began to set, I went back to standing in the Cube holding the television screen staring outward into the distance in almost a zen-like state. Here I am, halfway across the world, surrounded by complete strangers, doing my part in this community to help spread awareness for the animals throughout their culture.

I began reflecting on my experiences from the day.

What I’ve noticed is that there are common patterns with what objections people have when seeing the videos as well as the stages Cube of Truth activists go through in their own personal development.

Many of them start off uncomfortable talking to people and then progress through the stages of learning what to say, how to overcome objections, how to say things in a more impactful way, and being better at leading the conversation to a very specific outcome, instead of letting the other person guide the direction the conversation is headed in.

When Sam told me that he comes out every week for months at a time, this is where he built up his ability to get to the level he is at it. All in all, it’s really about the community of activists that made this whole process easier. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have pushed myself this far out of my comfort zone. Hopefully, I’ll have some form of impact on at least one animal’s life.

As the streets got colder and emptier, I placed the screen on the floor and we ended our work for the day. I’ve heard of Cubes of Truth before, and know that somewhere in another part of the world, a group of vegans are picking up the work right where we left off : doing something more to spread our beliefs and work on this common goal together of making the world a better place for the humans and animals in it.

Andrew Alexander
Since 2011, Andrew has been a marketer helping vegan-friendly businesses launch their brands into the marketplace. In 2017, he started his own business, VeganHealthPack.com, which encourages people to be more aware of the effects food has on their health. In his free time, he enjoys going on day hikes, eating at new restaurants, scuba diving, and backpacking through other countries. As a side project, he is filming a documentary called Creating a Vegan World which outlines the work we are doing behind the scenes of the plant-based movement.