What We Do
Over the years, our work has become multifaceted. Our campaigns constantly strive to improve the status of animals in every area of society including the following:
- Animal farming
- Live animal export
- Blood sports
- Animal experimentation
- The fur industry
- The use of animals in entertainment
Outreach plays a vital role in raising awareness and questioning prevailing attitudes towards non-human animals. We have established a wide range of regular events and activities which provide a forum for discourse and which contribute to building a sense of community:
- Animal advocacy in education – Animal advocacy education is one of the VGT's most important activities. Only if we talk to future generations early enough about respect for animals can we hope that at some point something really significant will change in the way society treats animals. Since the mid-nineties, the VGT teaching team has been delivering age appropriate animal advocacy classes to pupils and students from the first year of primary school right through to university level.
- National and international Animal Rights Congresses
- Animal Liberation Workshops are regularly held events throughout Austria and other European countries giving people who want to get involved in the movement the practical skills and information they need to effectively advocate for animals.
- Animal Rights Now! Vigils – Media events to raise awareness of the pervasiveness of animal abuse
- Academic talks given by guest speakers
- VGT summer tours – Each year we choose a topic and tour the major cities with eye-catching information events, like our giant milk carton - a walk-in exhibition on milk production
- Annual marches highlighting issues such as fur
- Consumer guides for cruelty-free goods and services
- Social meet-ups in all provinces for (new) activists
Our Mission Statement
The Association against Animal Factories
is an politically independent organisation with the aim of reducing and eventually ridding society of animal abuse and exploitation.
We see the efforts we make as as part of the wider fight against other related forms of exploitation, abuse, discrimination and oppression and are opposed to all forms of violence in the family, education, the work place, economics, science, state, society and in particular in the relationship between humans and non-human animals. The capacity to experience suffering is the most significant factor in terms of animal exploitation being relevant to society, politics, law and ethics.
During the last century, which saw the development and rapid expansion of cruel intensive methods of farming, no thought was given to what animals experience, let alone their welfare. Then came animal protection regulations which established the norms and the law concerning animal welfare. The design was solely to maximise the animal industry's profits. Not even the slightest consideration was given to the interests of the animals being exploited. There was simply no need to as the general public knew nothing about their situation.
We want to give animals a voice that reaches the public. We want people to be aware of what animals are put through, to sensitise them towards animals. The financial and political superiority of those exploiting animals makes it painfully clear how unequal the balance of power is. As an independent non-profit organisation operating entirely on public donations, we stand in opposition to hugely wealthy corporations from the animal agriculture, food industry, pharmaceutical and chemical sectors. Thanks to the pressure they can exert through their financial resources and economic power there is no obstacle to stop them influencing politics and society to their advantage. They are able to use advertising to awaken and sustain consumers' desire for cheap animal products. Through controlled media coverage, they are able to suppress information and through economical threats they are able to put immense pressure on politics.
To stand up to this concentration of power, all we have is our outrage at the injustice that animals suffer, our dedication and our creativity.
So with an absolute commitment to non-violence, we use modern democratic tools such as civil disobedience, active and passive resistance, research into and disclosure of malpractice as well as awareness-raising and information outreach to carry out our work.
We follow the vision of a socially just, environmentally and ethically responsible form of society in which humans and non-human animals have the space and respect necessary to promote their well-being. We are free of any ideological, religious or culturally traditional blinkers. Instead, we stand for openness and a willingness to cooperate with people from all social, ethnic, cultural and religious groups.
Throughout human history, animals have been part of human society. Only in the last two centuries has the awareness slowly developed that all human beings, without regard to their status, gender, sexual orientation, skin colour, faith or nationality, deserve the same respect for their human dignity. This led to the abolition of slavery, the emancipation of women, universal and equal suffrage, the abolition of inhumane punishments such as corporal punishment and the death penalty, but also to laws for social security, against child labour, for universal health care, etc. In 1948, many states signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights before the United Nations. Even though it is still necessary to stand up for human rights, and many formal advances have often only been paid lip service to, there is now a general consensus that people should not be mistreated and oppressed. There is hardly anyone who publicly speaks out against human rights.
In this steady tradition of progress, almost nothing has changed for non-human animals. Even though the first laws protecting animals were passed at the beginning of the 19th century, the situation for animals today is worse than ever. In farms, labs, fur production, circuses, hunting, everywhere you find animals, they are treated which such thoughtless brutality, it is as if instead of being living feeling beings, they are merely biological machines. But, anyone who has ever got to know or experienced a friendship with an animal knows only too well that they feel in the same way we do. Indeed, we now know that they are far more similar to us than was once thought possible.
Behavioural research carried out by scientists observing wild animals in the field has revealed startling insights into the lives of animals. We now know for example, that many animals make and use tools, that they have culture in the same sense that humans do and that they communicate. They sometimes help each other out, even when they are not related to each other, they enjoy close friendships and relationships which often span their lifetime. They can even suffer so much from enforced separation from a loved one that they simply give up living. Animals can also be far more intelligent than we were once willing to give them credit for, we know that they can solve problems by thinking them through. We also have ample examples which confirm that animals are able to mentally put themselves in the position of another and be aware of or empathise with how the other might be feeling. Animals are not biological machines – on the contrary, each one has their own personality and needs, as well as preferences for how they want to live. Should they then not also have, as we do, appropriate rights and legal protection?
Practically all abuse of animals in our society is unnecessary – serving only greed for profit, vanity and addiction to pleasure. With a little creativity and good will it is possible to find an animal-friendly alternative to all these uses where no animal has to suffer or be killed. Who is really capable of witnessing the suffering of animals and not want to make such changes on a personal level and also support such changes in society at large?
Since the 1970s, the modern movement for the protection of animals and the demanding of their rights has been taking shape – the animal rights movement. In Austria, this movement started really gaining traction in the 1980s and 90s. Today, for the first time the realistic chance of making significant and lasting changes for animals is within reach. We at VGT see our role as exploiting this chance to its full potential by advocating for non-human animals with all the peaceful and legal means at our disposal. The VGT is unconditionally against intensive farming and live animal transport, all animal experimentation, hunting and the mistreatment of animals used in entertainment, for example, in circuses or the capturing of wild song birds such as in the Austrian Salzkammergut. Although VGT continues to advocate for improvements in the conditions which so called domestic animals are forced to live in (for example, free range), we are strongly in favour of and actively promote vegetarianism and veganism and a lifestyle free from the use of animal products, be they food (meat, eggs or milk), clothing (fur, down or leather) or in other areas of life. We consider this as being the most peaceful and healthy form of coexistence between humans and other animals. After such a long period of the most brutal mistreatment and disregard, we owe it to them ...
The exploitation of non-human animals is so widespread and entrenched in society that any progress in the law seems to be either impossible or when it is achieved, so minor that it could even be called counter-productive. This can happen because a slight improvement of no significance in animal law will make no difference for the animals, but can be used by animal industries to promote their products and calm the conscience of consumers. Viewed from this perspective, such laws are bad news for animals. It was considerations like this which prevented VGT from getting involved in campaigning for better laws early on. The mud of everyday politics is not to everybody's liking.
But in 1997, VGT decided to start campaigning for realistic laws. Actually, there is much to be said for good animal laws. It is true that they usually only apply to certain species or groups of animals or to certain uses of animals, but once implemented they usually stay in place for good and mark an advance on which further campaigns can be based. Improvements in animal law seem also to have a ripple effect internationally, from which the movements in other countries can draw support.
In the essay Abolitionism vs. Reformism Martin Balluch, the chair person of VGT, expands on this topic, explaining VGT's approach in response to comment by the well known abolitionist Gary Francione.