The extremists

He occupies a flat with transgender and immigrant people, tattooing phrases and animal drawings to raise funds for local sanctuaries and help him with the costs of a simple life. She receives a salary from the Animal Save Movement headquarters in Toronto to organize activities in Barcelona. Anarkomonje and Delfina are used to hearing phrases like “You are an extremist! I prefer a less radical path, the balance is in the middle”. “I didn’t become vegan like most people, out of sympathy for animals, but from anti-oppressive, anti-fascist movements,” Anarkomonje explains to me. “I lived in a libertarian art collective and we were all lacto-ovo vegetarians. One day a person told me that eating eggs and cheese was the same as eating meat and that I had a radical political discourse but did not follow it in practice. I realized that he was right, even though he was a carnist (jargon for “person who eats meat”). I perceived myself as a hypocrite and started out as an anti-speciesist while also becoming a vegan. Around the same time, I got married to a girl who was vegan, and hanging out with her helped me make the transition faster. I was aware that dairy products generated addiction, but I found it difficult to quit, so the help of my partner was decisive.”

A protest against the dairy industry in front of the Cathedral of Barcelona, 2022.

Koke and Delfina in a cage replicating hen’s of the eggs industry. Girona, 2023.

Delfina tells me that 2018 was the key year for her to become a dedicated activist, two years after adopting veganism after a lifetime as a vegetarian: “It was when my activism boomed. I participated in a 24-hour demonstration called Cube of Truth with the group ‘Anonymous for the Voiceless’ in Berlin. It was also the year that I went to the Vegan Campout in England for the first time, with thousands of vegans, and an impressive march through the streets of London.” During this time, she attended actions organized by different animal activist groups, especially Barcelona Animal Save, also known as BAS by its members.

But just when she was beginning to become more present in the group, the confinement of Covid19 came, and activism on all sides suffered hard blows. Many activists continue to recover from the mental consequences of this time, to which the movement has not yet recovered 100%, according to Delfina. Added to this is the fact that they are usually sensitive people, activists are sometimes paralyzed in front of a world so opposed to the values they teach. “She is not in a very good period, she complained that nothing would be enough, but that way she stays in a counterproductive place”, she tells me about a fellow activist whom I also know, and who has not attended BAS actions for a long time. “At the beginning of doing activism it is common for one to burn out, you have to take care of yourself too.”

In addition to tattooing people with phrases like “Eat pussy, not animal”, “Vegans are flowers and then spring will come” and “If it bleeds it is not food”, Anarkomonje often also paints graffiti on the streets of the city. “My graffiti usually doesn’t last very long, they take it out in one day. If someone puts ‘Maria and Mateu’ with a heart, it can last 5 weeks, but when I write “Animals also feel”, they take it out the next day. But I go out to write on walls, butcher shop windows, slaughterhouses, trucks, where I can most disturb businesses that make a profit from animal exploitation.”

“Another activism that I do is participate in the Food Not Bombs project, which seeks the decommodification of food and the demilitarization of society.” The project is an international movement that goes to places where there was war to bring food. “We discriminate what we want to give, we choose to give only plants. Sometimes a supermarket gives us food of animal origin. We receive it, we leave it in a separate fridge and it is available for those who need it, but we do not serve anything animal at the community dinner that takes place every Monday, at the Àgora Juan Andrés Benítez, in the Raval.”

“I don’t share a table with anyone who eats animals. If that happens, I tell them “See you later!” and I leave. So do the people who participate in a movement called the Liberation Pledge. Luckily the places where I move there is a lot of respect for veganism. I don’t have much relationship with more normative people.”

Anarkomonje in a protest against animal testing, in front of the Barcelona City Hall. 2023.

Anarkomonje and Delfina meet at a vigil in front of a slaughterhouse, one of the main forms of activism exported to the whole world by the Animal Save Movement. Delfina volunteered to organize the vigils in Barcelona. A cattle slaughterhouse in Sabadell and a chicken slaughterhouse in Hospitalet de Llobregat often receive surprise visits from activists, who negotiate with the drivers for a few minutes to get closer to the animals that will leave the slaughterhouse dismembered. Once brief contact with the animals is allowed, they offer them water, some comfort, and testimony about their lives, acknowledging their individuality and trying to give them back the meaning that society takes away from them. “Sometimes a reporter comes and writes about the vigil, but the impact on the general public was very small.” Delfina felt that the movement deserved more visibility, so as the opening to public activities returned after the first two years of the pandemic, she began to propose a more creative vision to some of the collective’s protests.

Delfina glues posters in the streets, reads the package of hair-dying products to verify if they test in animals, prepares a carrot juice and feed her two adopted rabbits.

After her dance training at the Victor Ullate school in Madrid, she incorporated performances while activists held signs in actions known as “silent lines”. In 2020, she set up a replica of a Christmas dinner in Plaza Angel, in the Gothic Quarter, in which the consumption of animals for celebrations of peace and love was criticized. The following year she repeated the action. Her commitment to her cause allowed Delfina to transition from volunteer to paid organizer for the Toronto headquarters. In 2022 she stopped teaching English to dedicate herself to full-time activism. Delfina is one of the few animal rights activists currently living from activism in the city.

During my visit to her in Sant Cugat, I accompany Delfina to the supermarket and then to her house, where we enjoy some Mexican tacos with her mother, Cecilia. The doorbell rings, it’s her boyfriend, Koke, who goes by to pick up some megaphones for the next action scheduled for this afternoon, a protest against the fur industry in collaboration with another international organization for the defense of animal rights, CAFT.

While Cecilia collects our dishes, Delfina remembers a video that she is editing about the life of a rescued chicken. “I have here the audio that Rubén recorded, do you want to listen to it?” she asks me, and she gives us the voice created for the chicken Mundo whose name she was given after his rescue from a truck when he was about to enter a slaughterhouse. Narrated in the first person, the audio moves all of us present and, without us realizing it, our eyes are dizzy and we want to cry. Cecilia hugs Delfina, I catch the camera in the other dresser, and I take the last photo of this report. An expression of sadness opens space for hope. It is a smile that invites reflection, accompanies the eyes that clear water in the harsh reality continually sustained by the choices of each individual. But there is not much time for tears, the protest in front of Louis Vuitton on Passeig de Gracia awaits you. For them, the animals!

Perhaps Delfina and Anarkomonje are not so extremist just because they live according to a morality of respect for animals. A large part of the people, when questioned, agrees with this vision, but they are not consistent with it in their daily actions. Perhaps, if people like these activists are observed closely, they may deserve another name, that of “coherent”, for example.

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