Members of an animal rights group called 269Life are volunteering to be branded in the flesh with hot iron as a way of showing solidarity for farm animals around the world. AP reports that 11 people were branded in the Czech capital Prague on Wednesday.
A group of 11 activists participated in a public branding event that took place in central Prage. The group, which included four women, branded themselves with hot iron on various parts of the body. Wearing only black trunks and chains around their necks, the participants sat behind a barbed wire enclosure while awaiting their turn to be branded before a small crowd.
According to AP, one of those who was branded by men in black masks was Sasha Boojor. He said after the operation that although the sight and smell of his seared flesh was disturbing, the sacrifice was worth it.
Boojor is reportedly one of 30 other people who have been branded as part of a global effort to draw attention to the plight of farm animals. Although the group says that the members who have been branded enjoy support of thousands worldwide, critics are saying that the animals lovers might have gone too far in their show of enthusiasm for the "great cause."
AP reports this is not the first time that Boojor has been involved in a sensational act to draw attention to the sufferings of animals. He and two other activists wearing tags bearing the number 269 were caged in a barbed wired pen in a central square in Tel Aviv last October. A crowd watched in disbelief as masked men brought them out of the cage, held down like farm animals and branded them.
A YouTube video (see video above) shows Boojor being branded in his forearm with the number 269.
The 27-year-old from Tel Aviv, said: "What's really unpleasant is the sensation – a feeling of the skin being torn off – and you can smell the flesh burning. You feel out of control, and it's easy to understand how animals feel when they are in that situation."
The Tel Aviv public demonstration was the group's first public event and since then public demonstrations have also been carried out in Italy, the United States, Argentina and the UK.
The name of the group, 269Life, recalls the ear tag on a male calf filmed at a dairy farm in Israel.
According to the group on its website: "We aim to bring the pain and horror other animals face each and every day out of the suppressed darkness and into the realm of everyday life."
Digital Journal reported that the group in the UK also staged a public demonstration to protest cruelty to animals as part of 269Life worldwide protests in March.
Becky Folkard, a senior manager at a wealth management company, and a dedicated vegan, said she was participating in the demonstration because "The more I looked into the dairy industry the more I thought it was absolutely foul and abhorrent. There’s an animal holocaust – that’s the only way I can describe it. By supporting the dairy industry you’re supporting cruelty and everything that is wrong."
She said that the first time she learned about the 269Life movement, "My initial reaction was admiration. I don’t see it as shocking, although I accept others will. I immediately wanted to be involved and thought, 'I couldn't do the branding, that sounds terrifying.' But then I thought about it more and realized why not?"
According to The Independent, three men were branded with hot irons at the Leeds event in March 2013, in spite of police warnings that "causing people injury in this way could be interpreted as breaking the law. It could also be interpreted as a threat to public order, or outraging public decency."
The men had "269" burned on their arms.
One of the men Aran Mathai, 23, a law student, said he allowed himself to be branded to draw attention to animals' "pain and suffering caused by human greed." He said: "Whether it be the animals used for milk, meat or eggs, all of them go through pain and suffering because of human beings. This was a way to emphasize that pain and suffering and to raise awareness about the way animals are treated."
Folkard had commented before the demonstration that "We’re taking a huge risk because so many people will see what we’re doing as extreme, but in the past you had suffragettes, which was hugely controversial. Females only have a vote now because women chained themselves to railings and ran in front of horses. We have to move with the times."
Digital Journal noted that "In spite of what appears a morally and ethically objectionable act of subjecting humans to extreme suffering to make a point about farm animal suffering, the protest is not illegal because the volunteers are adults who are consenting freely to being treated in this shocking manner."
According to AP, the public demonstrations have forced public attention on the group. The group's page has more than 33,000 likes, suggesting that thousands support their extreme methods as objectionable as they might appear.
Members of the group from other parts of the world attended the public branding in Prague to learn how to stage their own public demonstrations in their countries.
One of the activists from Holland, Ondrej Kral, said: "As I expected it is a very intense experience. Now, I feel even more motivated to fight for the rights of animals."
The group in Israel is currently under investigation after an incident in which members poured animal blood into a fountain as part of a protest. According to AP, Israeli Police spokesman Micky Rosenfel, described the group as a cult.
Boojor, however, said: "Going to jail doesn't disturb me. The captivity of animals is what disturbs me."
Public branding may come with a significant meaning in Israel than in other countries. The act is reminiscent of Nazi branding of Jewish concentration camp inmates. Some Israelis have expressed outrage at the group's public brandings for this reason, feeling that it mocks the memory of Nazi Holocaust victims. But Boojor and members of his group think otherwise.
According to AP, Israel has a number of active animal rights groups whose campaigns have led to some progress in animal rights issues in the country. Last year a TV program exposed shocking animal abuse at a slaughter house in northern Israel. Workers were filmed beating lambs and subjecting them to electric shocks.
Israel passed animal welfare law in 1994. The law protects animals from abuse but allows slaughter of animals for food. It is certain, however, that for the likes of Boojor, convincing everyone else to go vegan is the ultimate goal.
AP reports that Ben Baron, a spokesman for an Israeli animal rights group, Shevi, expressed reservations about 269Life's methods, suggesting that educating people could be a more effective approach. He said: "I understand and relate to the pain, but I don't think that is the way, personally."
It isn't surprising that People for The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has hailed the demonstrations as an effective way to spark discussions about animal rights issues. PETA is also known for its extreme methods in the fight for animal welfare.
According to AP, Ashley Fruno, a senior campaigner for PETA, said: "It's an eye-catching and a head-turning way to draw attention to a very serious message."