»Not a sacrifice, a commitment«
In their behavior toward creatures, all men are Nazis. Human beings see oppression vividly when they're the victims. Otherwise, they victimize blindly and without a thought.
Isaac Bashevis Singer
“In my past, I was hunting. Before a year ago I was not even into tattoos.” Those were the words of Alfredo Meschi at the International Animal Rights Conference in Luxembourg. He wears a big yellow tag in his ear. Just like cows are marked. As a property and a number. Living beings with no right to be with their children, to move and experience life or even touch the earth and see the sun. There are billions of such beings, we torture and kill every day that is why Italian animal activist has 40,000 tattoos - this is the number of animals humans kill every second. Yes, it is happening to them right now, just because they are animals. Meschi is a dedicated vegan and anarchist. Meeting him can change your life. Without many words or fiery lectures, just because the way he is. Meschi walks before he talks. His entire life is dedicated to those who suffer the most. Human and non-human animals are dying because of our greed and vanity. Nothing else.
As I read you just performed in Rome?
Yes, it was a very great experience but in a sad place, because the hall of the museum MAAM is a former pig slaughterhouse. You can still see all the machines and what they were doing to animals. It was a guided visit to the museum with many people attending. The museum is dedicated to modern and street art.
I was asked recently if the world without slaughterhouses is possible? All I could say is that I have a dream. What would be your answer to the question?
There are some signs worldwide that political agenda could go in this direction. Not because they would become more ethical, but because of economic and environmental reasons. The world cannot be based on meat, fish, and dairy, there is literally no more space left. Rich and poor people share the same planet that might be the reason for the vegan orientation. I would not consider that a real victory. In anti-speciesist movement, we aim for the world with no oppression, violence, and poverty. This does not include only non-human but also human animals. I also have a dream and it is taking us too long.
Poverty is a structural violence. Humans often share the destiny with animals. We tend to forget that military industry is the biggest polluter on the planet. Military and politics are connected. But does any political party in Italy support the vegan cause?
Unfortunately yes. I would not consider political involvement as the most important; it is that people have to raise their consciousness. The political party that will support veganism in Italy is connected to Berlusconi. It is happening in the Europe that right-wing parties are supporting animal rights. The problem is that on the other hand, they are considering black people, gays, and immigrants as “animals”. While they are claiming they will protect animal rights, they do not respect human rights. I do not like it very much of course.
Vegans tend to be accused of being “pushy” with the message about animal cruelty, which is a paradox. You described your artivism, Project X not only as a statement describing the terrible situation of non-human animals but also as a possibility of a dialog.
Every day, wherever I go, people ask me about the meaning and reason of my tattoos. When I was traveling on the train from Rome, I was talking all the time. Nine out of ten people I meet express a genuine and sincere interest, some are very moved and some disagree, but are open and the interaction is positive. Online the situation is different; people hide behind anonymity and write insulting comments. I do not care and of course, I do not respond to them. I also receive a lot of support on Internet from all over the World; many people are joining Project X, by tattooing one X or more of them with vegan ink. Some people because of the project X become vegan. This is the aim and my hope for the project.
To you think people are moved by your personal sacrifice in the Project X?
Maybe a sacrifice, but I think they recognize a commitment more than the sacrifice. My commitment to this cause is 24 hours a day, 7 days of the Week. We should be like partisans. They were not fighting Nazis and fascist just on afternoons or at the weekends or when it was a nice weather. No, you have to fight all the time. What is happening to animals is like a war, and we are joining to fight against that. It is actually a much bigger war than the war against Nazis. In Luxemburg, a girl from U.K. was very inspired by the Project X and she committed herself to the 365 days of doing something for animals each day. She is writing a blog about that and this is a very nice response how the message of commitment is spreading. She is now inspiring others. That is a big gift for me.
When did the Project X start?
In July 2016.
In a very short period of time, you had an immense impact, I have already read many interviews.
There are already more than 100 people with X tattoos. Now I am leaving for an event in Milano where people will get tattooed and I am really looking forward to this. All the process will be documented. If you have X tattooed in a hidden place on your body it has a personal meaning of commitment, but of course, it is not artivism. If you do in on your face it is different, one beautiful vegan woman chose to have seven times X tattooed on her forehead. I met a vegan chef from Argentina working in Italy; he owns a restaurant that is the 6th best in the World. He already has one upper arm covered in marks of X. Let me say it is not about only tattooing X. It is about spreading the message. For an example, I started talking with one girl about my artivism and she told me, how she decided for a big tattoo on the subject of animal liberation. Everyone finds his or her own expression.
Is it possible to participate in Project X with henna “tattoos”? Some people for various reasons do not want or can’t have a tattoo, but would like to raise awareness about animal oppression.
Yes, it is possible. My wife Ilaria is also doing a performance with henna on this subject. Henna is suitable also for parts of the body on which making a tattoo would be too difficult or painful. It is up to the person how will you express and show X.
One thing is what we eat, but the main problem is that we are caught in the perpetual consumerism.
That is true, being vegan is important but also how we live our lives every day. Everything that we buy has an impact on the planet and animals. Even if we would live in a vegan world with this level of consumerism we will destroy the environment. That is why my entire possessions are in my backpack. I do not miss anything. I feel rich and privileged that I was born in the West. I have shoes and trousers; I do not need much more to go forward with my commitment. It is called minimalism, or sobriety you can call it with many names. Until we do not live in a just society we have to try and make an impact and act coherently: to walk our talk. But it is important to know that this is not about being pure or about perfection because we live in an imperfect world. The aim is to have respect for animals and all others. My fifth book will be published soon and I invite you to read it. Online it will be available for free, the publisher Terra Nuova agreed on that. In the paper version, you can buy it and support our commitment. This book is called Vegan Revolution it is also a reply to the film Food Revolution, which is about vegan food but with marketing intentions, which should not be the main point in saving animals.
Apart from being a vegan writer and artivist, I read that you are involved with theatre education?
Yes, I lead workshops and theatre, which is a very powerful form of social theatre called the Theatre of the Oppressed. It started in South America because of the extreme military and governmental violence against people. It is not a classical form of theatre; it empowers people to be active and teaches them how to react in everyday life when they face violent circumstances. They learn how to speak and move in difficult situations, we have many such situations today. I also teach theatre to animal activists. The Theatre of the Oppressed is a real-life rehearsal for the revolution. The initiator of the theatre is Augusto Boal, a veteran activist from Brazil. There are many people who teach this theatre, some even for 1500 euros for a workshop; I don’t think that was the original aim of the method. One has to live of course, but the oppressed communities and persons can never pay such amount. I offer workshops for voluntary contribution; one can give what they have or nothing at all.
I do hope you will come to Slovenia with your workshop and performance.
It would be nice to organize something; you have also well known strong tattoo convention in your country and very interesting artistic and social movement.
Cover photo: Sara Morena Zanella
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