After attending the Humane Society of the United States’ (HSUS) Taking Action for Animals (TAFA) Conference. I was convinced I knew what to expect from a trip to Los Angeles to attend the National Animal Rights Conference but, I was wrong.
The first indicator of this was seeing the same presenters from TAFA, representatives from all the animal rights organizations “greats” who were previously dressed in business attire now bare armed in “hipster” clothing. It made sense though; they undoubtedly matched the Animal Rights Conference attendees. In Los Angeles the attendees were mostly of the younger generation and “non conforming” individuals who proudly dawned “Meat is Murder” and “Vegan” tattoos.
The tone of this conference was quite clear as we attended sessions entitled Promise of Civil Disobedience, Applying Direct Action and Know Your Rights 101. This group of ‘animal activists’ were clearly antimilitary yet, pro-militant as they proudly boasted their arrest from anti-war protests and successful animal ‘rescues’ from farms.
These ‘activist’ believe they are fighting for civil rights as one speaker claimed “animal rights is the final frontier.” This mantra was recited time and time again; that the new racism is “specism” as Ingrid Newkirk put it “to discriminate against animals is racist.”
Not only were the mostly California based activists way more radical then their HSUS ‘cousins,’ they also have a different opinion on Meatless Mondays. While those at TAFA saw MM as a gateway into a vegan lifestyle here in Los Angeles speakers addressed the campaign as “why would you base your moral character on something you do one day out of the week” accompanied by audience support.
Yet, there was some confusion in their “message.” Simone Reyes, esteemed assistant to business mogul Russell Simmons, for example labeled PETA as the creator of the ‘animal rights’ movement and Ingrid Newkirk a “freedom fighter.” Others, however, did not give her quite the same honor. As Alex Hershaft,. President and co-founder of the Farm Animal Rights Movement (Farm) shared that the ‘movement’ lacked a true leader and he listed off potential leaders Ms. Newkirk’s name was not included.
Hershaft quite interestingly noted: “If our opponents know how little we communicated – they would be amazed.” Numerous speakers noted that the disagreements within the ‘movement’ should stop, it was hurting their ‘cause’.
Erica Meier, executive director of Compassion Over Killing attempted to provide comic relief at the beginning and end of both or presentations at both conferences. She began by asking: “
How many factory farmers does it take to change a light bulb?”
“None, because they want to keep you in the dark.”
She wrapped up her sessions with:
“How many animal activist does it take to change a light bulb?”
“It doesn’t matter, we are not here to change a light bulb, we are here to change the world.”
While the audience got quite a few chuckles out of Ms. Meier’s “comedy”, I found it difficult to plaster on a fake smile and laugh along. Afterall, Ms. Meier, Newkirk and Mr. Hershaft all have one goal: to make sure that the bright light of family farming is extinguished.
It’s disturbing to me that I’ve now attended two conferences dedicated to bringing about the end of an industry, and a community; conferences dedicated to destroying a way of life their speakers, attendees and sponsors have never experienced nor attempted to understand.
And personally, I don’t find that very funny.