Vegan group holds vigil at livestock market

OKEECHOBEE — The animal rights group Okeechobee Animal Save held what they called a vigil at the Okeechobee Livestock Market on Jan. 2.

Okeechobee Animal Save is part of The Save Movement, a network of groups dedicated to promoting vegan causes. There are five chapters of the Save Movement in Florida, including Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, Miami and Okeechobee.

Okeechobee Animal Save members stand alongside U.S. 98 in front of the Okeechobee Livestock Market holding signs that call for the end of killing animals. Photo by Richard Marion.

Many of those at the Jan. 2 vigil had made the trip to Okeechobee from Orlando.

Kayla Leaming of Okeechobee Animal Save spoke to Lake Okeechobee News shortly after the group arrived at the Okeechobee Livestock Market.

“We do vigils, we don’t call them protests,” explained Ms. Leaming. “We’re a love-based organization. We’re not here to be rude to anybody or cause harm to anybody. We’re simply here to show compassion to the animals.”

According to The Save Movement’s website, members at their vigils show compassion by bearing witness to actions that, in their eyes, are cruel or cause suffering. In this case the activists were bearing witness to the cattle being transported into the Okeechobee Livestock Market for sale.

The vigil consisted of about a dozen people, who stood outside the Okeechobee Livestock Market and observed cattle trucks as they entered the market. The group held signs that read ‘Stop killing animals’ and ‘Compassion over killing.’

Members of the animal rights group Okeechobee Animal Save pose for a photograph in front of the Okeechobee Livestock Market. Photo by Richard Marion.

Prior to the group’s arrival the Okeechobee Livestock Market placed signs in front of the market that read, “This facility strictly follows humane animal handling protocols.”

Ms. Leaming was aware that promoting a vegan lifestyle in a strong agriculture community like Okeechobee wouldn’t exactly be an easy sell, but was hopeful that their message could reach a few who could be sympathetic to their cause.

“We get a lot of opposition from the farmers,” said Ms. Leaming. “We had a lot of people threaten to come cook steaks or hamburgers in front of us, things like that. But we always remind people that we’re not here to attack them. We’re here for the animals and to show compassion to them. We’ve had a few people stop and talk to us. At our last vigil in Okeechobee we had someone pull over who was a vegetarian and after talking to us decided to become vegan. So we’ve had people that have listened to what we’re saying.”

Okeechobee County Commissioner Bradley Goodbread helped rally residents of Okeechobee to show support for the local farmers and ranchers attending the sale on Jan. 2.

“The Okeechobee ranchers and dairymen as well as others in animal agriculture are under attack from an ultra radical vegan group by the name of ‘Okeechobee Animal Save’ from Orlando,” stated Commissioner Goodbread in a public post on Facebook. “I ask everyone who supports our ranchers and farmers to show up and show their support for Okeechobee.”

The post racked up over 40 likes and shares in the hours before the vigil was scheduled to begin as well as many comments decrying the vegan group.

Many of the members of the animal rights group Okeechobee Animal Save traveled from Orlando to hold the vigil at the Okeechobee Livestock Market. Photo by Richard Marion.

“How about charging them for an expensive protest permit,” read one comment. “That way they can at least pay the county to harass it’s residents and patrons.”

“I have the right to eat meat,” read another comment on the post. “These people need to understand that. You don’t want to eat it? Don’t eat it. Simple.”

When asked what should happen to the many cows being sold that may or may not go on to be slaughtered, Ms. Leaming stated that ideally they would be allowed to live out their lives on animal sanctuaries.

“We receive a lot of good feedback but there’s a lot of opposition as well,” Ms. Leaming said. “But we’re going to keep standing up for the animals until their exploitation doesn’t exist anymore.”

Commissioner Goodbread said he plans to keep providing opposition to any other protests or vigils the group plans to hold.

“I disagree with the misinformation these groups put out, the negative image they give to our farmers as well as the tactics they use,” explained Commissioner Goodbread. “They’re doing their best to hurt the lifeblood of our economy. Their goal is to totally do away with animal agriculture on this planet. I don’t begrudge them for having their view, if they don’t want to eat meat that’s fine with me. But when they try to force their agenda on people that don’t want it, that’s where it crosses the line for me.”

Richard Marion is a staff writer and photographer at Lake Okeechobee News and can be reached at rmarion@newszap.com.

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