July 26, 2011
I Love Direct Action
I’ve been wanting to attend AR2011 for 2 years, so I cashed in my AirMiles and went for the weekend (United Airlines is a suckfest with planes from the 70s still with the ashtrays that will probably kill you and your family in a horrible plane crash if you fly with them, just saying). I was immediately greeted by friendly (albeit drunk) vegans in the lobby, and there was that familiar sensation from Let Live that everyone had a secret we all shared: we are all vegan(ish) and we are all on a path we feel inwardly very proud of but can’t always express in the animal-consuming world.
Shirts read: “Ask Me Why I’m Vegan”, Or, “Don’t Ask Me Why I’m Vegan, Ask Yourself Why You Aren’t.” Or “Compassion is Not Terrorism”
The plenary began on Saturday morning with a strong speech by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau of Compassionate Cooks. She expressed an importance of not using the terms ‘fake meat’ or even ‘meat alternatives’ for things like Tofurkey and seitan, etc. because vegans don’t see them as alternatives – we see them as the only ideal way to eat – plant based. She referred to items like dairy and eggs as ‘animal secretions’ (I will so be using that). And she closed with a statement that we can use the traits of animals to win the animals their rights back. This induced emotion (even in me). The animals are brave in their struggle and we can use their bravery as our inspiration.
Also featured as a speaker was vegan Simpsons creator (!) Sam Simon, who was effortlessly funny and talked about how Real Housewife, Kyle Richards, was recently made aware of the elephant abuse that occurs in Ringling Bros. circuses via Twitter. (Sidenote: 600 activists showed up to protest the circus in downtown L.A. on July 20th and there was an activist presence all week, right up until they ran the elephants back into their trains/trailers – whatever insufficient transportation device.)
For those who know me, I’m not the best passive listener, so I only did the conference one day. I went to a great talk on speaking our message by Josephine Bellacomo, a super fantastic speaker and activist. I want to be prepared to speak to media (and other interested parties) so this was very useful and Josephine was inspiring in her clear, sincere speaking manner. And I also went to a great discussion lead by Stephan Kaufman (who I see now is from the Christian Vegetarian Association… interesting cause I was bashing anti-abortion) on the grey areas of animal rights ethics: Can we ever justify cheating, stealing, subordinating other social justice goals?
This was a pertinent talk because we had all types of activists joining in from marines to teens, some preferred direct action, others preferred outreach. We talked about the new Pig Farm Investigation video from Mercy for Animals and discussed whether it is ever okay for an activist to kill and abuse animals (even if for the sake of capturing the realities of the industry on film). Very interesting because I often say: healing can never come from violence. But how would this video have come to be without an infiltrator? I can honestly say that I’m still mulling this one over.
We also talked about using women as sex symbols to get attention for animal rights issues (Peta, we’re talking about you). It seems almost silly to confuse the issues – animal abuse and sexual arousal, but on the other hand, veganism is the sexiest thing out there. Being healthy, compassionate, and self-respecting truly radiates beauty and sex appeal, and maybe some want to show this off while backing important issues. Not all sexual displays are degrading.
We also discussed whether animal rights can clash with other social issues, putting animals before people. But most activists in the room agreed on this: treating animals with kindness leads to treating humans with more kindness, whether it be the slaughterhouse workers (ending cycles of violence and oppression), the consumers (reducing food-borne illnesses and dietary diseases caused by animal products), or those facing issues of poverty and hunger (veganism can provide more food for more people).
Saturday evening ended with four successful home demos against L.A. based vivisectors. Edythe London, a UCLA primate abuser, stood outside and watched 66 activists express sorrow and outrage at her practices while DRINKING A CORONA AND LAUGHING WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY. Her neighbours did not take the matter as lightly. I didn’t take pictures as I didn’t want to have any trouble at the border (one of my friends is currently flagged as an eco-terrorist for having activist literature with her while crossing the border).
Conferences are great to remind us that we are not alone in this growing movement, which is the epitome of all non-violent movements. So many amazing hearts and minds were there building an indestructible energy – Will Potter, Nathan Runkle, Vancouver’s Brian Vincent, to name just a few. (A complete stranger from Band of Mercy lent me his Prius to hit the Ringling demo – what a guy.) All types of people (and animals) are now connected at a closer level and have new ideas for how to give the animals of this planet the freedom and joy they deserve.
But I just found this quote: As Dylan Powell from the Vegan Police is fond of saying “Talk – Action = Nothing”
As we convene, we must remember to act on what we’ve learned. As my new sticker says: “I <3 Direct Action”.
What we feel compelled to do, we must follow through
Git. Er. Done.