Animal Rights 2003, a conference presented by the Farm
Animal Reform Movement, took place in Los Angeles between August 1 and
6. Alex Hershaft and his staff did a great job of running this event.
Steve Best and I were two of the more than one hundred speakers. Also in
attendance were three other friends from El Paso. We were referred to as
the delegation from Texas. We met several other vegans and activists
from the lone star state. Texas was well represented.
It was a wonderful week of workshops, speeches and vegan
food during which we shared our experiences with newcomers to the
movement, learned from others, made new friendships, renewed old ones,
recharged our batteries and gained a few pounds. When it's an all you
can eat vegan buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you tend to go
back for seconds.
Every day, from 9am until 5pm, we had to select which
workshops we wanted to attend of four different ones presented every
hour. After dinner, the evening speeches went until 10pm, then there was
a party with a band and the late night all you could eat free buffet.
It's a good thing I dieted for a couple of weeks before this conference.
I was really impressed by a workshop in which Carol
Adams discussed some concepts from her book Living Among Meat Eaters,
which I highly recommend. One of the basic ideas from the book, which
she shared with the workshop attendees, is that meat eaters are just
blocked vegetarians. Once you realize that, it becomes much easier to
deal with the teasing we vegans and vegetarians often face. Blocked
vegetarians are operating from a sense of guilt, and joking about our
eating habits is a way for them to avoid dealing with the fact that they
eat animals. If you are provoked by meat eaters, read Carol's book, it
has many insights.
Steve Best gave a very good evening talk. Several people
told me what a great speaker he was and someone specifically quoted to
me the best lines from that speech: "What we owe to the animals is
this....that we restore their habitat and then leave them the (expletive
deleted) alone." It was obvious from the audience's applause and
cheering that they agreed with him.
I was fortunate to give four talks, two about the annual
slaughter of the bison of Yellowstone, and how, as a National Park
Service Ranger, I am very concerned about this issue. One of my talks
was about the Vegetarian Society of El Paso in a workshop called Running
a Local Group. My fourth talk was about Animal Rights Online, my work as
a journalist for ARO, and the program ACT Radio, Animal Concerns of
Texas that Steve Best and I do. That workshop also featured Bob Linden
who has been doing Go Vegan Radio in Los Angeles for the last two and a
Three of the most enjoyed speakers were Bill Maher of
Politically Incorrect and Real Time on HBO, actress Linda Blair, and the
first vegan democratic candidate for President of the United States,
Dennis Kucinich. It is said that Dennis is the only vegan member of
congress. It's difficult to believe that there is only one vegan member
of congress. Dennis delivered a fiery speech and was granted more than
two standing ovations. It was an incredible experience for all who
attended. It is a thrilling idea that such a progressive thinker (and a
vegan) is so close to becoming the leader of our country. I am also sure
that it was an incredible experience for Dennis, to be so
enthusiastically received by a roomful of hundreds of people who share
his concern for animals and so overwhelmingly support him.
It's hard to describe the depth of emotions I felt,
being with 700 other vegans, vegetarians and animal advocates for a
week. It was something I will remember forever, sharing the stage with
leaders of the animal rights movement. I laughed a lot, I smiled most of
I only cried three times, once for joy at arriving
there, once during a slide show of the bile extraction from black bears
in China for Chinese medicine, and once again, when it was over, when I
landed at the El Paso airport.
I wanted to share a bit of Dennis Kucinich's speech with you which I
transcribed from a tape. You can learn more about Dennis at Dennis
Kucinich for President Campaign, 2004 - Official Website
From his speech at Animal Rights 2003 West...
"We recognize that we are in a world which truly needs
compassion, that we need to extend compassion to one another and to
everything living. And that our cause can truly be to lift up this world
from a condition of suffering and cruelty to all the creatures of this
planet, and through elevating the cause of every creature, we elevate
our own humanity.
We lift up the cause of humanity by reaching out and
connecting with all things living. It is our sense of interconnection
with all living things that brings us to respect the rights of animals,
that we understand that animals are not to be lower than, that animals
should not have less of a claim to existence, less of a claim to the
possibility of survival, less of a claim to dignity.
And your commitment translates into specific action, in
raising the questions that must be raised about the use of animals in
research, in raising the questions that must be raised about the use of
animals in testing, in looking at the conditions in which animals are
placed on farms, in challenging a corporate ethic which sees animals as
things to be exploited and not beings which in and of themselves have
some basic rights.
Your presence here serves as a reminder to this country
that our presence on this planet has a higher calling. That we can
through our activism, make light in this world, that we can through our
activism, lift up the cause of the humblest beings, that we can through
our activism, open up not only our own hearts, but the hearts of people
everywhere so that our society can become more compassionate, so that
our society can be more loving, so that our society can create policies
which are caring for animals.
Everyone of us knows a story of animal cruelty, everyone
of us knows how in one way or another official policies have sanctioned
cruelty to animals. I will work with you, to put compassion into action
in our policies with respect to animals in this country and I will work
with you to have America set a higher standard, not only for this
country, but for the world, to make sure that all of God's creatures,
that all animals are given a chance to have dignity in our society and
are given a chance to experience the appreciation they should have as
Go on to Tiger Fleet
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