Campus

We Asked An Animal Rights Activist How She Balances Volunteering With Uni

It's nice to see people give a damn about stuff.

Our generation cops a lot of heat for being “lazy” and “apathetic”, but we reckon that’s bullshit. As part of our I Give A Damn series, Uni Junkee is speaking to a bunch of young volunteers who give up their free time to do some good in the world. Take that, boomers.

Emily Duncan is a 22-year-old Music, Media and Communications student at the University of Wollongong. She’s recently taken on the role of co-organiser of the Illawarra chapter of Anonymous for the Voiceless, an animal rights activist group. The group performs public demonstrations, known as The Cube of Truth, to engage people in conversations about changing to a vegan diet.

We had a chat to Emily about her passion for animal rights.

Uni Junkee: How did you get involved with this group?

Emily Duncan: I’d heard about Anonymous for the Voiceless for a long time. Essentially it’s a group that was formed around two years ago in Melbourne. Since then it’s spread to over 400 cities worldwide. I wanted to get involved because I became vegan and realised it wasn’t enough for me to just stop what I was eating. I had to get out and tell people about it because I was angry. And being able to express what I felt was not just a good thing for the environment and for the animals, but for my own conscious.

What kind of stuff does this work involve?

During a demonstration we show footage of slaughterhouses, which is the standard practice in Australia and we show these on screens. We’re in a formation of a cube, with each person wearing an anonymous mask. We wear the masks so that the people walking passed don’t feel like they’re being judged by us. We will only talk to people that stop and engage with the work. We’re not trying to chase people down in the street. 

A post shared by VegEm (@vegemvegan) on

Why do you give a damn about this cause?

I was vegetarian because I looked at the environmental impact of the meat industry, particularly the beef industry. I went vegan because I realised what was happening to the animals was not just confined to the meat industry. Perhaps an even more cruel industry is the egg industry. It goes beyond just not eating meat, it goes into me being able to consciously live with what I’m eating. 

What’s your secret? How do you balance uni/work/volunteering/social life?

I have come to the realisation that I work so that I can sustain the volunteering that I do. So my real passions are the organisations that I’m working for. I’m utilising my university work and assignments to put emphasis on the causes that I’m working for. It all compliments each other. Time management is hard, but saying no to things as well is a pretty big way to manage that. You can’t be involved in everything.

A post shared by VegEm (@vegemvegan) on

What’s the biggest hurdle you’ve faced?

When I first initiated our chapter, I didn’t really realise how much responsibility was on me. From a legal stand point. We do things in a completely legal manner, but I didn’t realise this sort of thing would cause so much community outrage.

What have you accomplished?

Our first Cube of Truth in Wollongong, we reached 76 people who told us they would consider going vegan and that’s in a regional area, where people have never really been exposed to animal rights demonstrations before.

What do you think about the stigma surrounding millennials that claims us to be lazy/unconcerned/self-obsessed?

I think a lot of older people, see social media as a lazy aspect of our lives, but millennials are really using that to get their points across and I think that’s the generational divide. The amount of people that I know that are involved in something bigger than themselves, just purely for the act of that cause, not for themselves, not for anything else, but purely because they feel passionate about something. It’s a huge percentage of people I know, personally.

(Lead image: vegemvegan/Instagram)