Animal Rights National Conference 2015 Wrap-Up :: Part 1
Last weekend Katelin, Joseph, and Jessika attended the Animal Rights National Conference in Washington, DC. We were just three of 1,600 attendees from around the world.
The Opening Ceremony on Thursday was uplifting. It was amazing to see so many animal rights activists gathered in one place to learn about how they can help animals. The Opening Plenary included “Animal Rights Yesterday & Today (Historical development, differing philosophies)” Presented by Alex Hershaft and Lisa Kemmerer. We’ve come a long way thanks to the activists before us, and we have a long way to go. But progress is happening and we’re saving more animals than ever!
Below are summaries of what we learned throughout the first full day of the conference on Friday, July 31st. Check back over the next few days for wrap-ups of Saturday and Sunday sessions. Each summary is written by the volunteer who attended the session. If you’d like to learn more about the speakers referenced in this summary, see the Conference Speaker List.
The Impact of Animal Use on the Environment
Dawn Moncrief from A Well Fed World spoke about the myths surrounding chickens – such as the belief that they are more efficient from a food production and output perspective. Chickens’ life cycle conversion and food conversion ratios are low. Bottom line – animals consume much more food than they produce, along with energy and water consumption. The impact of methane gas reduction is more immediate than reducing other greenhouse gases. Methane over time is 85% more powerful and the half life of methane is shorter. Grass-fed beef generates four times more methane and greenhouse gasses than factory-farmed beef. The third most greenhouse gas-forming food is cheese. Dairy cows live longer and cheese is the most concentrated form of dairy. We must be careful not to make the case for factory farms – because they are slightly more energy efficient than “humane” farms. Deforestation is the result of land cleared for grazing (grass fed) and growing feed (factory farms).
Raising Funds for the Cause
Only 3% of money going to charities goes to “Environment/Animals” (source). So of the portion of that going to animal charities, the majority goes to animal charities focusing on traditional pet species. It’s no secret that the animal rights movement is so poorly funded. However, we’re passionate to raise more money because the more resources we have to work with, the more animals we can save. This session, ran by Carrie LeBlanc of CompassionWorks International, focused on the fine details of how to find donors, how to track money, and how to use it responsibly.
Know Your Rights 101
Jeffrey Light demonstrated ways to handle law enforcement, specifically in the context of a protest. He walked us through what you should and should not say if you are arrested while engaging in animal rights activism. Rachel Meeropol talked about how the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) affects animal rights activists. While this law is written with very vague language and could be interpreted to say many of us are terrorists, in reality it’s only been used on people who actively rescue animals from farms, laboratories, and other places animals are imprisoned. At the conference, an activist who just got out of prison the day before spoke about why she took the risk to do a live animal rescue. Humbled is the only word I can use to describe how I felt in her presence.
Advocating for Change: An overview
Alex Hershaft spoke for about an hour about cognitive and behavioral theories, including cognitive dissonance. He spoke about the most effective ways to modify behavior – emotional appeals and intellectual appeals, and direct behavior modification (appeals to power). He spoke about frames – or the contexts in which people receive our messages, and how important it is to consider them as we develop messages for target audiences. (we have handouts to share if anyone is interested)
Organizing for Change
Hershaft spoke first about having a clear definition of our vision, mission, strategies and tactics – essential elements of effective activism. (we have more handouts). Pattrice Jones then broke down the phrase “everybody is somewhere” – an appeal for us to consider everyone in the situation including allies and even those affected economically by meat production. She stressed that place matters and ended by saying that we need to break out of copycat activism. She writes about feminism, LGBTQ issues and activist strategy. She was one of our favorite speakers at the conference and you can check out her blog here.
Becoming Great at Doing Good
Some take-aways from Nick Cooney’s talk: Place a pricetag (associated with animal lives) on everything you do. Example: you can spend a thousand dollars to save one animal that you find on the side of the road, or save 1,000 animals using other tactics. When it comes to animal charities – make sure they spend money to save the greatest amount of animals. This of course doesn’t mean “don’t save an animal that you find on the side of the road”, but in terms of the activism we can do as a community, we might want to consider what can do the “most good”.
Abuse of Fish and Marine Mammals
Broad overview of abuse of all marine life, different types of damaging nets and contraptions, and the huge amount of “by catch” that is caught and discarded for every pound of marine life intentionally caught. (Ex: for one pound of shrimp, 20 pounds of by catch is discarded as trash). Fish are not covered by the Humane Slaughter Act. They are brutally killed in painful ways. Another issue – the large amount of wild-caught fish turned into feed for farmed fish. Food conversion ratio is low. Human slavery is also an issue on Thai fishing boats. Often people are tricked into jobs, then end up working 18-20 hrs/wk, sometimes kept in cages. First speaker from Fish Feel also covered the human hazards of animal seafood including parasites, pathogens and toxins including mercury, antibiotics and pesticides. Vegetarians save about 225 fish per year. Ethan Wolf from Sea Shepherd spoke about their most recent campaigns, including his experiences in Taiji, Japan. “If the ocean dies, we die” –Capt Paul Watson
Garnering Media Attention & Press
This session was a very helpful guide to writing letters to the editor, and getting news out to the public. Our activism efforts are great, but just by getting some media attention our message is amplified and, you guessed it, more animals are saved! I think IARA has done a great job of spreading awareness through the media, but there’s always room for improvement. I’m excited to use this information for IARA.
Managing a Local Group
So many great ideas! All IARA volunteers attended this session. Some promotional ideas we plan to implement: post a call for volunteers at local restaurants with vegan food selections, send out a volunteer newsletter with volunteer opportunities and upcoming events (if you aren’t on our newsletter, sign up now!), match volunteer jobs with available skill sets. We also got some ideas for communication among the key IARA volunteers and how to prepare volunteers for events. This was a wonderful session for us to attend and we expect for our effectiveness to skyrocket after we implement some of the new tools we learned!
Tags: Animal Rights