Kia ora everyone, my name is Deirdre Sims, I’m an animal rights activist with the grassroots group Direct Animal Action.
I’ve been an animal rights activist and a vegan for 15 years in Tāmaki Makaurau – and today – I want to talk to you about women.
Specifically the women in our movement for animals.
Our movement, has always had a predominance of women involved, both here in Aotearoa and globally.
Women have always been leaders in our movement for animals.
When I first got involved in animal rights activism here in Auckland 15 years ago, I was inspired and awed by the amazing women who I saw leading our movement at that time.
I saw that our women leaders were humble and shied away from the spotlight – always putting their work for animals ahead of any attention to themselves that their work might have brought them.
They just got on with it tirelessly, working for years on campaigns to improve the lives of animals – with many also working directly with animals to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome them – and many doing both.
I looked around at my peers in animal activism at that time and I could see that they were also predominantly women – all of whom had so much passion, energy and dedication to progressing animals’ rights.
I look back on my history with the animal rights movement and my memories are predominantly of standing side by side with other women – plotting and undertaking effective strategies to take down animal abuse industries; to expose animal suffering and to make change.
I recall standing on protest lines over the years – side by side with women;
I recall crawling through farm paddocks in the pitch black and removing hens from cages in factory farms – side by side with women;
I recall blockading and disrupting factory farms – side by side with women.
I recall standing up to police, state and corporate repression – side by side with women;
I recall taking down animal abuse industries with successful pressure campaigns – side by side with women.
There are women I see in the crowd today, who were already leaders when I was new to this movement 15 years ago;
I see women here today who were, and still are, my peers – who have become leaders and who stand here today with a wealth of experience and knowledge which they share with our movement everyday;
I see many women here today who are emerging leaders, bringing new energy and fresh ideas to our movement;
And I see many faces of women here today, who will be future leaders in our movement.
I also want to acknowledge that as a woman, the plight of animals has always been incredibly personal to me – and I know this is the same for many of the women activists I have worked with over the years.
The exploitation of the female body is prevalent in our society. As women, we are all aware of this on a daily basis.
The exploitation of female animal bodies by production industries, is really this in its most raw and blatant form.
To see mother pigs and dairy cows enslaved, repeatedly impregnated and their babies taken away, again and again. This resonates with me as a woman.
To see egg laying hens confined to cages and cage-free factory farms alike, existing in suffering and deprivation because of their biology; this resonates with me as a woman.
It’s chilling for me as a woman, to see the lives that female animals trapped in our food production system are forced to live.
It’s like the most blatant form of repression and oppression that a female body could be subjected to – and they’re going through it – every second of every day in all corners of our world.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons why our movement for animals has always been led by, and supported by, so many strong wahine.
And when I look to other justice movements; for the environment, for the whenua, for the people – I also see a predominance of strong, yet humble, women leaders.
So many of our change-makers are women and this is an inspiration to me.
Today I want to thank all the women in our movement for animals and to acknowledge your tireless hard work, your bravery, your skills, your experience, your knowledge, your passion and your worth.
Our movement wouldn’t be what it is today without you.
Thank you. Ngā mihi nui.