In September, 27-year-old Tash Peterson, known online as V-gan Booty, ducked under a fence and paraded into a cattle judging event at the Perth Royal Show in Western Australia. She held a photo of a cooped-up cow above her head and yelled, “These gentle and innocent beings are going to be brutally murdered!” The black T-shirt she was wearing proclaimed her cause in no uncertain terms: “End the animal holocaust.”
Seconds later, like an enraged bull, a bearded man wearing a dark brown cowboy hat grabbed Peterson by her shirt and shorts, gave her an atomic wedgie, then wrestled her to the edge of the livestock pen. “At that moment when he threw me and pinned me against the fence, I thought, ‘This is it, he’s going to beat me,’” she says. “He did that in front of family and children at a public event, so I don’t want to imagine what he would have done in a more private space.”
While Peterson describes the encounter as “one of the scariest protests I’ve done,” she’s no stranger to confrontation. She’s been dragged off of soccer fields, pushed out of butcher shops and banned from grocery stores, restaurants, bars, venues and even all of Western Australia. She’s been doxxed, stalked and sent photos of her home from online strangers. To this day, she receives a steady stream of death threats, all because of her public (and what some would deem extreme) stance against the meat, dairy and egg industries.
In fact, Peterson says it feels as though the police, usually threatening more bans, visit her home several times a week. She was also recently charged with disorderly conduct after slathering herself in her own period blood and going topless in a Louis Vuitton store to protest leather, wool and other animal products used to make clothes and fashion accessories.
Peterson’s road to hardcore animal rights activism isn’t a long one. She became vegan overnight after watching Food Choices, a 2016 documentary about the impact of what we eat. “It made me realize that I was going completely against my morals and values,” she says. The film opened her eyes to the fact that animal agriculture is among the leading causes of climate change and deforestation. It also showed her just how cruel the meat, dairy and egg industries can be. “I had no idea that dairy cows were raped,” she says. “I had no idea that their babies were taken away from them.”
Not long after going vegan, Peterson started posting about animal liberation on social media, amassing thousands of followers. She also founded an animal rights clothing brand, V-gan Gang, which sells the same “end the animal holocaust” shirts she was wearing at the Perth Royal Show and sends its profits to animal sanctuaries. However, the more invested Peterson became in animal rights, the more she felt as though working as a lifeguard and swim teacher was taking up precious protest time. So, in May, she started an OnlyFans account, hoping that it would cover her monthly expenses so she could devote more energy to spreading the vegan gospel. It far surpassed her expectations: Now, she pulls in roughly $40,000 a month. “It’s been quite an awesome journey,” she tells me.
Likewise, Peterson has increasingly taken to using her sex appeal as a tool to push her agenda. Over the summer, she and model Stefania Ferrario, who has more than a million followers on Instagram, dressed up in lingerie to protest across Melbourne, and the response was larger than ever. “We had hundreds of people taking photos of us,” she says. “I’m using my body — because I have complete freedom over it — to bring light to those who have no freedom or bodily autonomy.”
The fact that so many people are willing to pay for Peterson’s lewd content stands in stark contrast to the hate she receives elsewhere on the internet. Her YouTube channel, for example, is an absolute cesspool of animosity. Under the video of her violent encounter at the Perth Royal Show, the majority of comments are something along the lines of, “You got what you deserved.”
According to Peterson, all that resentment — the negative comments, death threats and general hostility — comes with the territory of being an outspoken vegan. She suspects that it’s because, deep down, meat eaters know that her message is true, and therefore they get defensive about their actions. “Animal violence is so normalized in our society,” she says. “It’s everywhere around us.”
As such, Peterson takes the bitterness in stride. In fact, she believes it’s a sign that her protests are working. “This is how social change works,” she says. “Some of the greatest social justice activists in the past were highly criticized and hated by society.”
Regardless, Peterson knows she still has a lot of work to do if she expects to convince the world that animals aren’t here for us to eat and wear. “We’ve all been fed lies and propaganda by the meat, dairy and egg industries,” she says. “My goal as an activist is to abolish all of these industries.”
If that means showing ass on OnlyFans, she’s more than happy to do so.