Everyday Vegan: Deno Stock

The Agitator

When it comes to standing up to industries that hurt and exploit animals, activist Deno Stock says he’s willing to give anything a try — and he’s got the track record to prove it. 

Not for the first time, Deno Stock is making headlines. The day before he sits down to chat with Aotearoa Vegan, the activist has caught the attention of the mainstream news by visiting local supermarkets and spilling cow milk into the aisle. It’s a disruptive action to support similar protests happening in the UK, bringing attention to animal treatment and environmental issues in the dairy industry. And it certainly got a reaction.

Predictably, the online comments sections are atwitter, with hot takes running the gamut from shocked admonition to enthusiastic support. Even within the enclaves of vegan social media the reaction is mixed — some appreciate the necessity of direct action, others worry the protest simply creates ill will towards vegans. Deno is firm in his stance

“Everything I do like that starts a conversation. People learn things. I think there’s no one way to do activism. Some people don’t understand it, some people don’t like it, but I think it does work.”

Deno speaks with the sort of conviction needed to back up a protest so bold, but the agitation of his actions belie a calm demeanour and thoughtful pace. It’s clear he knows from experience exactly what to expect following such events.

That experience, however, is relatively newly acquired; at 71 years old, Deano has only been involved in activism for the past five years. Online research opened his eyes to the horrors of animal exploitation industries and he promptly dedicated his energies to advocating for animals. By the time Aotearoa’s first Covid lockdown arrived, Deno had resolved to pack up his lawn-mowing business of 14 years and become a full-time activist.

“I sold my business, sold my house, and bought a caravan. It gives me freedom, I try to do something everyday. It’s going OK so far — I’ve made a lot of friends and made a lot of enemies,” he says, with a chuckle.

While Deno might be something of a latecomer to activism, he is certainly making up for lost time. In the days following his milk-spilling protest he helped organise a march against speciesism, dressed up to protest horse abuse for the Melbourne Cup, rallied to ban fireworks on behalf of terrified animals, and ran a Cube of Truth event on Auckland’s Queen Street.

The Cube of Truth events helped Deno first get his start in activism. An outreach tool pioneered by animal rights group Anonymous of the Voiceless, the Cube of Truth involves activists wearing Guy Fawkes masks standing in a square and holding screens. Walking by the display, the public sees footage from slaughterhouses — other, unmasked activists then approach viewers to discuss the principles of veganism.

“The prop of having the visuals from the slaughterhouse is just so strong,” says Deno. “I’d say every time we do a Cube of Truth, at least one person I’ve talked to goes away considering being vegan. Every single time.”

Over his time doing these actions, Deno has already noticed a significant change in public attitudes. He describes the experience when he first started as “argument after argument after argument”. Now, people seem much more aware of the issues, and young people in particular are receptive to combating the suffering of animals and damage to the environment.

While the winds of change may slowly begin to blow, there is still resistance to this kind of work — sometimes violently so. Deno recalls being pushed to the ground and kicked in the back at one outreach event, which required a hospital visit, as well as almost being run over by truck driver while holding a vigil for animals being taken to slaughter.

“I rang the company to complain about it and the guy said: ‘Oh, are you part of that protest group? We’ve been told just to run you down, we’re not going to stop.’ I wish I had recorded that.”

On balance, however, the interactions Deno has are valuable. Sometimes it’s him educating members of the public about the suffering of animals, while other times it’s the protester who gets to learn something about the people he’s talking with.

“I spoke to a guy that used to do the bolt-gunning at a slaughterhouse. He said it changed his whole life; it was the worst thing he ever did. He lost his marriage, he lost his children, he lost his job, he still has mental health problems from doing that job.”  

Deno is passionate about supporting animal rights groups throughout the country, driving a seven-seater he has dubbed the Freedom Bus to help ferry Auckland-based activists to various events across the land. And he’s always on the lookout for new recruits. For those interested in getting into animal activism, he recommends going along to local groups — such as Deno’s Auckland chapter of Anonymous of the Voiceless — meeting people and attending events. 

Those looking to connect can find the closest chapter of Anonymous for the Voiceless using the interactive map at www.anonymousforthevoiceless.org. 

Aotearoa Vegan and Plant Based Living Magazine
This article was sourced from the Summer 2023 edition of The Vegan Society magazine.
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The articles we present in our magazine and blog have been written by many authors and are are not necessarily the views and policies of the Vegan Society.

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