This March 21st, Becky Folkard, a 34-year-old senior manager at a wealth management company in the UK, will pick up a scalding hot brand and press it into the chest of a restrained male volunteer. After a brief searing of the skin resulting in unimaginable pain, the numbers 269 will be left behind - a designation often given to male dairy cows destined to become veal or leather.
Folkard, a vegan, is part of a growing number of animal activists going to extremes to try and raise awareness for their cause. In this case, she hopes people might see the suffering animals endure daily and think twice about eating meat.
"If one person goes away and researches a vegan lifestyle because of this it will have been worth it," she told The Daily Mail
. "We’re taking a huge risk because so many people will see what we’re doing as extreme, but in the past you had suffragettes, which was hugely controversial. Females only have a vote now because women chained themselves to railings and ran in front of horses. We have to move with the times."
The demonstration, part of the day-long "We Are All 269
" campaign, will happen at roughly the same time as other public brandings set for cities like Leeds, Washington DC, Hamburg, Buenos Aires, Melbourne, Prague, and Iowa City, Iowa. The London group has already been in contact with police to make sure what they're doing is legal; a rather grey area since public brandings aren't exactly common. "If consenting adults in a non-sexual context decide to brand themselves it is probably not illegal," said one criminal barrister to the paper. See? There's your fun legal fact of the day.
The inspiration to brand started last October after a similar stunt in Isreal went viral online
. The group on Facebook
has since grown to over 15,000 likes.
"My initial reaction to seeing the Israeli film was admiration," Folkard said. "I don’t see it as a particularly shocking, although of course I accept that others will. But I’ve been desensitised because of research I’ve done on the dairy industry."
Speaking with the UK Guardian
, Joseph Keating, a National Farmers Union's livestock adviser, said branding in the United Kingdom has long been a thing of the past.
"I've never seen hot branding done in this country," he said. "It has been outlawed for a generation. I've only seen it in old western films. Cattle are now identified with ear tags from birth, as are sheep. They are applied with plier-like tools. There's no anaesthetic but the process is very quick and the animal barely notices. It's just like an ear piercing. Pigs get 'slapped' with an ink mark, but again, this is only momentarily painful."