Hundreds of protesters calling for better treatment of animals marched through the streets of downtown Phoenix Saturday afternoon.
The large group walked for hours, stopping at downtown restaurants that have previously come under fire for questions about their treatment of animals such as Five Guys and Chick-Fil-A.
The protesters were a part of the Animal Liberation Movement, a non-violent movement that many say officially started in the 1980s.
Jasmine Afshar, the lead organizer of the Animal Liberation March in Arizona, said that this march was planned by multiple animal rights coalitions over the course of several months.
Some of the coalitions included were the Tucson Animal Save, Direct Action Everywhere Phoenix, National Animal Rights Day in Phoenix and Anonymous for the Voiceless.
People from all over Arizona came to lend their voices to what Afshar claimed was the largest animal rights protest in state history.
“We are here to come together for mass action for the animals and to disband speciesism,” Afshar said.
Afshar explained speciesism as the notion that humans are superior over any other animal and that having speciesism contributes to animal rights abuse and the systemic exploitation of animals.
“We are here today demanding justice for these non-human beings,” said Afshar.
Steven Madler, a protester and advocate for the Animal Liberation Movement, cited “Meatless Monday,” saying if people even slightly reduced their meat intake that it could drastically affect a positive change in the world.
“If you look at people with vegan lifestyles, they have lower rates of cancer and heart disease. You’re not only keeping yourself healthier, you’re also saving animals,” Madler said.
Both Afshar and Madler used the dog festival in Yulin, China as an example of speciesism.
“People are freaking out over how others dare to eat dog meat at the Yulin Dog Festival, or horse meat in other countries. But a pig is just as intelligent and people eat bacon daily,” Madler said.
Afshar agreed, referencing how India’s culture celebrates cows but in America, people eat burgers every day without question.
“If you’re going to be worried about one animal, be worried about all animals,” said Afshar.
Some of the marchers wore animal masks, such as a cow and a rabbit, and donned chicken wire to depict a cage.
“What do we want?” yelled a person with a megaphone, as the group walked. “Animal liberation,” the group responded.
Many of the marchers held signs that said, “Until all are free” and “It’s not food, it’s violence,” among other sayings.
The movement does monthly actions in honor of the animals that have been and are being mistreated, according to Afshar.
However, Afshar says actions are being taken nationwide.
“In two weeks, we will be converging in Salt Lake City, Utah, to stand up against animal agriculture,” said Afshar. “We want to show people that they aren’t living in line with their own inherent values. Our golden rule is to do unto others as others do unto us.”
The Animal Liberation March’s goal is to expose speciesism, get it into public discourse and then have people start unwinding their own speciesism.
“We’re not trying to tell people how to live their lives. But if you have the option, why would you choose the option that causes unnecessary harm? Especially if you yourself have been through hardships in your life,” Afshar said.