Activism through poetry: Giving a voice to the voiceless

Vegan activism takes many forms from campaigns, marches, outreach, and public speaking, to making plant-based food for your non-vegan friends. To be vegan is to be active in striving for a world that does not exploit animals, and instead, acknowledges them as sentient beings, capable of thoughts, feelings, and emotions, just like us. 

Creative writing is a powerful tool that can shine a light on worldly issues. Vegan poetry can give a voice to the animals who cannot defend themselves and inspire others to do so. Highlighting this conscious disconnect from non-human animals, as well as providing hope for the future, vegan poetry is a powerful form of activism. We had the chance to interview some vegan poets and discuss the importance of activism through poetry.

J. H. Dickinson

J. H. Dickinson is an author, researcher, therapist, artist, and creative writing facilitator from Northumberland. Dickinson is an advocate for human and non-human animals as well as the planet. Her poetry explores ideas of post-humanist thinking to spark conversation about socially challenging subjects. 

J. H. Dickinson (vegan poet) in a room inside

Dickinson’s collection of poems “I, Animal: Examining the Animal-Human Divide” explores different themes, including hunting, reimagining, and hoping to expose and evolve from the current societal views on non-human animals. Dickinson’s poetry collection is a powerful piece of vegan activism, revealing the truth to the non-vegan about what these animals go through, and reinspiring the already-vegan. 

Julie was inspired to start writing vegan poetry in 2017 in response to the despair she felt after campaigning against the 2017/18 Taiji dolphin drive hunt, spending every night on social media to draw attention to the seasonal drives. She also campaigned to support Sea Shepherd. Julie found herself periodically scribbling away, in desperation to vent. The “Blue Cove” poem in the book was born from this process and experience. 

Julie explains how poetry is fit for purpose in tackling emotive and emotional ideas - connecting intimately with the reader and is a powerful medium for persuading and engaging. 

After seeing footage of a calf trying to get back through a fence to a group of heifers, Julie decided vegetarianism was no longer enough and went vegan. Other images of calves in a state of neglect, what Dickinson coined as the “sobering reality I could no longer avoid,” made her ditch dairy. As for activists, Dickinson was influenced by Jo-Anne McArthur (and her beautiful yet haunting photography), Melanie Joy, Priya Sawhney, Joaquin Phoenix, and going back to Tolstoy. 

Julie’s favourite poem in the collection is “From an old tin roof,” about a pigeon who lands on the poet’s roof with “Grey and white feathers, dehydrated, done.”  

“That little pigeon,” Julie says, “was as important to me as any living thing. . . because we all live and die. . . and there is something precious and vital about that.” 

We took a closer look at one of the poems in the collection: “Earthly Child.”

I breathe deep green thoughts and move 

at a pace uncontrolled.

I refuse to strip bare my home.

To kill the creatures that walk, fly,

swim and slither.

My usual human self falls

away, broken, changed

by evident lack of capitalist consumption. 

I drift in silken rivulets of 




water, surface,

and deep bodied blue.

I am earth and gravel and grit

and bone of ancestor.

I am history and pulse

of memory, 

both human

and animal sentient. 

I connect and feel rooted,

gnarly, and heavy

with plant material.

I sense, I infuse

and touch life

with a deeper resonance.

Earthly infantile, 

they call me ‘child,’

human sentimentalist, 

insane vegan.

But I am falling, 


Humming throng of


To my original heart-casa

I return.

I will guard, protect, 

sing a song of truth

of sentient inhabitants

and earthly home. 

“Earthly Child” is one of the oldest in the collection. Julie wrote it during a walk near Hadrian’s Wall. “Earthly Child,” Julie explains, is about “being symbiotic with the planet, connected, compassionate, with child-like curiosity, senses afire and attuned to everything, becoming free and whole.”

P. G. Holroyd 

P. G. Holroyd writes punchy, unapologetic, and to-the-point poetry. He states, “There is no excuse for animal abuse in this day and age.” 

P. G. Holroyd (vegan poet) outside by the coast on a sunny day

Holroyd started writing poetry in 2021 after protesting at Camp Beagle as puppies were being bred solely for experimentation.

Holroyd’s poetry takes an active stance in exposing humanity for its awful treatment of animals. No animal is left out in Holroyd’s collection, as he tackles speciesism with a provocative voice “to make non-vegans think about their food and the way animals are treated.”

With over 100 vegan/animal rights poems as well as 150 poems on other subjects, Holroyd is constantly writing, explaining, “More poems are still flooding my brain.”

Holroyd shares how his written words read with conviction and have influenced other vegans to start writing their poetry; he has read his poetry at many events, including N.A.R.D in Bournemouth in 2022. 

Holroyd was not inspired by any activists to go vegan, and did his research after giving up most meat in 1985, stating how “4 years ago, something just clicked.” He states he was angry at himself for not realising the horrors of the meat, dairy, and egg industry sooner, and ponders that maybe some of that anger and passion fuels the poems he writes. 

Holroyd tries to make his poems almost songlike, with flow to them, “The V-Word” and “Humane Slaughter” are a couple of his favourites to read out loud. 

V-Land took a closer look at one of the poems, “Poultry Poetry,” in his collection GreenBeard's Vegan Verse: A Collection of 35 vegan and animal rights poems.

Just a few weeks old and you have them for dinner

Does that make you feel proud, do you feel like a winner?

These helpless babies have just been born

And in just a few weeks their bodies are worn

Fattened so quickly they outgrow their legs

Unable to stand, bred for meat, not for eggs

Then turned into burgers and nuggets and things

And you gorge on their bodies, their legs and their wings

Chickens and turkeys and ducks and geese

You suck on their bones, all covered in grease

Their feed funnelled in as if fuelling a truck

You eat the same way ‘cause you don’t give a fuck

Their overstuffed bodies make them look fully grown

Their lives just begun, and to slaughter they’re thrown

You call it a feast and give thanks for your meal

But those lives weren’t given, the true word is a steal

You say it’s up to you, what you eat is your choice

But what would they choose if they had a voice?

They’re sentient beings, they can feel, they can think

And we reduce them to scraps to be washed down the sink

You see them as something, not the someone they are

Some inanimate object, like a bike or a car

If we could see through their eyes, do you know what we’d find?

Monsters do exist in this world, and they’re called Mankind

Holroyd explains how “Poultry Poetry” was written to highlight the fact that these birds are abused from day one, exposing humankind for their violence, and calling them monsters. 

This poem asks the reader to look through the eyes of the birds, and in doing so, simulates this world of enduring violence to make individuals think about the consequences of their consumption. “Poultry Poetry” is a strong piece of vegan activism with its questioning tone and profanity making it extremely provocative, especially when read out loud. 

Both collections are inspiring pieces of activism. Contrasting this ‘vegan voice,’ with the voice of society and giving the animals a voice, Dickinson and Holroyd shine a light on this societal disconnect and demand change towards a vegan world. 

Want to read more about vegan activism? Check out our interview with Earthling Ed who shares why he’s compelled to champion vegan activism and be inspired by five activist artists.

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