By James Aspey
I believe the importance of bringing awareness to the current treatment of animals is crucial and one of the most beneficial things we can do to create a positive change. Increasing awareness can help bring a fundamental connection to the animals people love and care for, and the animals people exploit for food, entertainment, clothing and testing.
My name is James Aspey. I’m 27 years old and work as a Health & Fitness Trainer in Sydney, Australia. As the clock strikes midnight and 2014 begins, I embark on a mission of great discipline and unforeseen consequences. My friends are amazed and eager to watch as the journey unfolds. My family is worried that what I’m doing will send me completely crazy. Who knows, maybe they will be right?
Regardless of my concerns about the mission, I am compelled to proceed. There is too much suffering and cruelty taking place for me to just sit by and do nothing. That is all the motivation I need. I must join the other activists in becoming a voice for the voiceless. Though in a very literal way, I am doing the total opposite.
January 1st, 2014 I begin travelling around Australia promoting compassion for animals and raising funds for “Animals Australia” all while maintaining a strict vow of silence for 365 days. In other words, I will not say a single word for one whole year!
Through the Voiceless365 social media pages such as Facebook, Twitter and also my website (www.voiceless365.com) I was able to reach over 1200 people in the first week of launching the campaign. It would probably take me an entire year to promote animal rights to that many people through conversation alone.
And that is where the benefit of taking a vow of silence comes in. It is unusual and intriguing enough to catch your interest, regardless if you have any interest in animal rights. Anyone who visits the Voiceless365 website or follows my blog will find a balance of what the journey is all about and also a message of why we should have respect and compassion for animals.
On the website, I put links to the information I found most eye-opening, convincing, thought-provoking and inspiring when I was making my own transition to veganism.
Most people already care about animals and would be appalled at the conditions in a factory farm. The problem is that all the consumer sees is a neatly packaged piece of ’steak’ with no blood and no hint at the cruelty and mistreatment the poor animal has endured. It is out of sight, and out of mind.
It is easy to see why we should have compassion for animals and treat them with respect and care. They have the capacity to feel many of the same emotions as humans. From love and joy to pain and misery. They have a life and should have the right to be left alone.
Try to imagine if it was you in their place, separated from your newborn child, imprisoned in a cell so small that you can’t even turn around, with no sunlight or access to the outdoors, until your final day, when your life is cut short by a bolt to your brain or a knife to your throat. A factory farm truly is a hell on Earth for these unfortunate animals and they deserve better.
These horrendous conditions are the product of supply and demand. If there is no demand for cheap meat, or better still, any meat, the market will change accordingly. It comes down to each of us as individuals. We have the power to take control and make a change in this world. Every time we make a purchase and choose cruelty-free. Every time we speak up and take action. We are faced with the opportunities to make a difference every single day.
I think Voiceless365 has the potential to reach a great number of people so it was important for me to carefully select who I would raise funds for. I decided on Animals Australia because their social media and television campaigns are some of the best out there at exposing animal cruelty and making people think more deeply about the impact their choices make. They are highly effective in raising awareness and are devoted to making the world a kinder place for animals.
It’s pointless trying to predict how I will cope with not speaking for a year. Will I handle it comfortably and enjoy the experience or will I find it so challenging that it sends me completely crazy? Will I want to speak a million miles a minute when the vow is completed, or will I want to continue for some time in silence? I’m not a Buddhist monk, nor do I know any, so who do I turn to for advice? There is no clear path forwards, the only option is to make my own.
It’s taken a lot of physical work and mental stress to make it this far, and the real journey is yet to begin. The biggest lesson I have learned so far is this- If you want to do something, no matter how far out of your comfort zone it seems, no matter what anyone else says or thinks about it, you owe it to yourself to try your absolute best and do whatever it takes to make it happen. Stay focused, stay motivated, and keep moving forwards until your dream becomes your reality.
My vision is a world where all animals be treated with the respect they deserve and all humans who disrespect animals find compassion in their hearts.
I hope to make a difference through my sacrifice. They say, “Actions speak louder than words.” I hope they are right.