Posts Tagged ‘animal rights conference’

During the Midwest Animal Advocacy Conference in June (yes, I’m a little slow on some of my posts!), a lot of the things the speakers said really stuck with me.  One of those things came from Paul Shapiro, the Senior Director of the Factory Farming Campaign at the Humane Society of the United States.  To paraphrase, he basically said that at some point in his journey to becoming vegan, he realized that just because he wasn’t physically killing the animals he was eating, it didn’t mean he wasn’t responsible for their pain, suffering, and ultimate deaths.  He likened it to hiring a hit-man, only instead of hiring that hit-man to kill another human (which is how we typically think of hit-men), he viewed meat eating as paying someone to kill an animal for human consumption. If you are doing that, does that make you any less guilty than the person who’s actually slitting the throats of those pigs, cows, chickens and other animals?  He determined that it didn’t and stopped eating animals.

I think it’s an interesting analogy: hiring a hit-man.  I mean, it really makes sense.  If you hired someone to kill a human, you’d be held responsible in a court of law–just because you didn’t pull the trigger doesn’t absolve you of guilt, so why should we feel any differently about paying for meat at the grocery store?  Sure, we’re a few more steps removed – we don’t even meet the person who kills the animals we eat, but that doesn’t mean we’re not responsible for it.  In fact, when it comes down to it, if you’re eating meat, you’re more responsible than those slaughterhouse workers – if you didn’t create the demand, they wouldn’t be there doing your bidding.

Something to think about…

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So, I still have a lot more to say about the Midwest Animal Advocacy Conference I attended last month, “Their Lives, Our Voices“. I have all these notes I took during the speeches and in the workshops just staring at me waiting to be written. The guilt! Okay, guilt is a little strong, but I really have meant to say a lot more. So, let’s start with one of the discussion groups I attended: Dealing with Grief & Stress.

Let’s face it, we animal rights activists aren’t dealing with super-duper-happy-topics every day. It’s incredibly difficult to see pictures or watch videos of humans abusing and killing non-human animals. It’s depressing to think about how many animals are killed every second while I sit here in my comfy chair writing a blog post. It can get a person feeling down and out, let me tell you. Lucky for those of us who attended TLOV, the coordinators planned a discussion session on how to handle grief and stress so that we can be the most effective activists possible.

The discussion was moderated by the very down-to-earth, smart, and thoughtful activist/author/blogger/eco-feminist Pattrice Jones. I’m not gonna lie: things got a little emotional. We all talked about the things that hurt us the most–sometimes it was how our veganism and our passion for animals had affected our personal relationships. Often it was about how our efforts sometimes feel futile and hopeless, like no one is listening and no one cares. Yet there we all were, sitting in a room full of people who do care and who keep trying to get people to listen despite what feels like the many failures. There was something that was just incredibly comforting about being in that room and knowing that we had a lot in common, and it was so nice to have an outlet to be able to talk about how we felt with people who really wanted to listen. I think Pattrice summed it up nicely in her blog about this session:

Activists do hard work that brings up hard feelings and have the tendency to subordinate self-care to what always seem to be more pressing goals. Over time, pent-up feelings build up, so much so that sometimes people start to cry even before the discussion gets going, just from the feeling of being in a place where it might be safe to say anything. Once it does get going, people have different things they want to hear, different things they want to say, but almost everybody learns the same thing: I’m not alone.

Speaking of not being alone, this weekend I hung out with the vegan women’s group again, and we were discussing this very issue–how nice it is to be surrounded by people who don’t think we’re crazy! That is seriously one of the best things about hanging out with all of them, in addition to the fact that they’re just a solid group of people. I think we all agreed though: it is nice knowing we are not alone!

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I promised I would tell you more about The Midwest Animal Advocacy Conference at the University of Minnesota that took place from June 6th-8th. It’s time to make good on that promise.

I’d like to talk a little bit more about some of the things Colleen Patrick-Goudreau discussed in her “Being a Joyful Vegan” speech, and it’s especially relevant to me at the moment because someone recently asked me if I would compromise what I eat in order to be polite. Specifically, let’s say I’m at a wedding: would I eat what the couple served to avoid being an inconvenience? I didn’t even have to think about the answer: no. Does that mean I’m going to throw a big fit about it? No. I would just quietly excuse myself and find something more suitable to eat and/or plan ahead and bring something with me that I could eat. I don’t really care if people notice or if they think it’s rude. This brings me to what Colleen said (I’m paraphrasing here): “Don’t apologize for your values just to avoid making someone else uncomfortable. How people react to your values isn’t your problem, and someone else’s comfort level isn’t more important than your principles.” Sooooo true.

All I can control are my own actions, and the way I choose to live my life. I cannot control how others react to my choices. Living in a constant state of worry over how someone will perceive me or feel about my choices – my choices that don’t hurt anyone, to be exact – doesn’t seem like a very healthy way to go about life. I admit that I do sometimes worry about people having to accommodate me, and I try not to be a total pain in the butt, but at the same time, I know that I would sooner inconvenience other people than compromise my values.

Bottom line: stick to your guns! As Colleen said: There are no neutral actions. Kind of scary, isn’t it? Scary, but also incredibly powerful if you just stop and think about that for a minute.

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One of the highlights of the Midwest Animal Advocacy Conference this weekend was a standing ovation-worthy keynote address given by author and animal rights activist Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. It. was. amazing.

The speech titled “Being a Joyful Vegan in a Non-Vegan World” was inspiration, tips and tactics for doing just that. Let’s face it: it can be easy to lose steam or feel down and out about the animal rights movement. On top of it, vegans sometimes get a reputation for being negative – but Patrick-Goudreau’s approach emphasizes the importance of being a positive representative for the movement. That doesn’t mean we can’t talk about the horrors of the pervasive cruelty against animals—just the opposite, in fact. We can talk about that, but we can and should also show non-vegans that it truly is a joy to be vegan.

There has been nothing more powerful for me than adopting a vegan diet and removing myself from the violence committed against “food” animals. Contributing to the suffering of animals became such a source of crippling guilt in my life that I needed to make a change. As an example, I remember the moment I gave up eggs. I went to the grocery store to pick up ingredients to make cookies. MA rescued heny grocery list took me to the egg section—organic, cage-free, mind you, but eggs nonetheless—and there I stood. I stood there for several minutes just staring at the cartons of eggs. I put a half dozen in my basket, looked at them sitting there, and put them back. I did it again. And then again. I looked at them sitting back in the refrigerated case and asked myself if I could continue to support an industry that tortures so many hens (see right) and kills billions of “useless” male chicks each year. I just couldn’t do it—the guilt became too overwhelming. I gave up eggs in that moment and felt a huge wave of relief wash over me. Then I went home and made some vegan peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. Not only were they delicious, but I felt so happy for having removed myself from the violence of that industry.

Anyway, Colleen had a lot of really great things to say, and I’ll blog about more of them later, but this message really stuck with me. Showing people that being vegan isn’t about deprivation or negativity is important for the movement. If the only thing omnivores see when they meet a vegan is crankiness, they’ll never understand the joy we have in not exploiting animals for food, and they’ll never want to join us. I plan to remember this next time I’m feeling not-so-joyful, and I encourage other vegans out there to do so as well!

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I’m happy to report that it looks like Oprah is still doing her 3 week vegan cleanse.  She didn’t blog about it for a couple days (what on earth could be more important?!), but she’s been pretty good the last few days.  In Monday’s blog this week, she said this:

I’ve had no cravings or food issues—I’m in harmony with life. The rest of the group is doing better, no headaches this week from caffeine or sugar withdrawal.

I love it!  People ask me if I ever crave things, and honestly, I really don’t anymore.  I think once you start to look at things like cheese (something I used to LOVE) as bad for your health, or cruel to animals, it’s not that hard to let it go.  It just takes a shift in your perception, I think.  In Oprah’s case, I think it’s probably more an experiment to see if she feels healthier, but I like that she has already acknowledged that there is a lot of cruelty involved in raising animals for food.  I am hopeful it will make a difference in her long-term eating habits, and possibly affect others.

I know people have claimed that it’s only easy for Oprah because she has a chef.  I don’t deny that having a professional chef on the payroll would make eating a healthy vegan diet much easier – of course it would. But I think saying it’s too hard to eat vegan UNLESS you have a chef is kind of a cop-out. It just takes a little planning, and any average person can do it. Trust me, I am exceedingly average when it comes to cooking – just ask my sisters!


I blogged about this once before, but in case you missed it, I need to mention it again.  Tomorrow night kicks off the Midwest Animal Advocacy Conference that has been organized by Compassionate Action for Animals.  It promises to be informative, interesting, and fun.  I’m really excited about it.  Check out my old post for more information – or go straight to the conference’s site.  There’s still room for more attendees, too, if you’re interested in joining – and you should!

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I am so excited about an upcoming animal advocacy event scheduled to take place here in the Twin Cities from June 6 – June 8. It’s called Their Lives, Our Voices:

Their Lives, Our Voices 2008 seeks to bring together individuals from across the region for a hands-on, high-quality conference focused on helping animals. Our goal is to make the conference as inclusive and accessible as possible for both new and veteran activists in the Midwest region, with a focus on farmed animal advocacy efforts.

There will be some amazing speakers, including Gene Baur from Farm Sanctuary, baby lambsCarol Adams, author of Beyond Animal Rights: A Feminist Caring Ethic for the Treatment of Animals, and Paul Shapiro from the Humane Society of the United States (just to name a few). I went to see Gene Baur speak once, and was able to visit with him afterwards and I have to say that he is truly inspiring. I left that evening feeling so much more positive about my ability to effect change for farmed animals. What amazes me about him is that despite all the horrible things he’s seen, he is still so optimistic and determined. For me it is all too easy to get depressed when I read about or watch a video on factory farming cruelty ….but somehow he manages to keep a positive attitude, and is such a great example for the rest of us. I can’t wait to hear the other speakers as well, all of whom I imagine will be just as energizing as Gene Baur.

If you live in the Midwest or feel like visiting, you should totally register for this conference. You can find all the details here. I am really looking forward to it!

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