Performance of the Israeli animal protection campaign “269”: 4 days of voluntary confinement in the “torture chamber”


The international animal protection movement 269 began to gain momentum after in Tel Aviv in 2012, three activists were publicly burned with the stigma that is usually applied to all farm animals. The number 269 is the number of a calf seen by animal rights activists at one of Israel’s huge dairy farms. The image of a defenseless little bull forever remained in their memory. Since then every year on 26.09. activists from different countries organize actions against the exploitation of animals. This year the campaign was supported by 80 cities around the world.

In Tel Aviv, probably one of the longest and most technically difficult actions called “Cattle” took place. It lasted 4 days, and it was possible to observe the actions of the participants online. 

4 animal rights activists, previously shaved and dressed in rags, with “269” tags in their ears (in order to erase their own individuality as much as possible, turning into cattle), voluntarily imprisoned themselves in a cell symbolizing a slaughterhouse, a laboratory, a cage for circus animals and a fur farm at the same time. This place has become a collective image, imitating the conditions in which many animals have to exist all their lives. According to the scenario, the prisoners did not know for sure what they would do with them, “beat”, wash with water from a hose, “test medicines on them” or tie them to sticks on the wall so that they stood quietly. The naturalism of the action was given by this effect of surprise.

“In this way, we tried to follow the transformation that happens to a person, a creature with rights and freedoms, in similar conditions, turning him into an animal,” says Zoe Rechter, one of the organizers of the campaign. “So we want to shed light on the hypocrisy of people who support the production of meat, dairy products, eggs, clothing and animal testing, while perhaps considering themselves good and positive citizens. Seeing a person in such conditions, most of us will experience fear and disgust. It is clearly unpleasant for us to watch our brethren chained to hooks in the canvas. So why do we assume that this is normal for other beings? But animals are forced to exist like this all their lives. One of the main goals of the action is to bring people to the discussion, to make them think.

– Could you please tell us about the situation in the room?

 “We put a lot of energy into the design and preparation process, which took several months,” Zoe continues. “Walls and dim lighting, creating a depressing impression, were all to contribute to a greater visual effect and reinforce the main message. The indoor setting combined various aspects of contemporary art and activism. Inside, you could see dirt, hay, a laboratory shelf with medical equipment, buckets of water and food. The toilet was the only place that was not in the camera’s field of view. 

– What was the scenario, could you sleep and eat?

“Yes, we could sleep, but it didn’t work out because of constant fear and uncertainty about what will happen next,” says Or Braha, a participant in the action. – It was a very difficult experience. You live in constant fear: you hear quiet steps behind the wall and you don’t know what will happen to you in the next minute. Tasteless oatmeal and vegetables made up our meals.

– Who took on the role of “jailers”?

“Other members of 269,” continues Or. – And I must say that this was a real test not only for the “prisoners”, but also for the “jailers”, who had to do everything naturalistically, while not causing real harm to their own friends.

– Were there moments when you wanted to stop everything?

“We could do it any minute if we wanted to,” Or Braha says. “But it was important for us to get through to the end. I must say that everything took place under the supervision of a doctor, a psychiatrist and a team of volunteers. 

Did the action change you?

“Yes, now we have physically at least remotely experienced their pain,” Or admits. “This is a strong motivation for our further actions and the fight for animal rights. After all, they feel the same as we do, despite the fact that it is so difficult for us to understand each other. Each of us can stop their torture right now. Go vegan!


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