When I say that the annual Animal Rights conference
presented by the Farm Animal Reform Movement is an unforgettable
experience, you can take my word for it. I have trouble recalling what I
did at work last week, I can't remember what I watched on television last
night, but I will never forget the three AR conferences I have been
privileged to be a part of. The memories I have of the people I met and
the things I learned are as vivid as if they happened only moments ago.
Animal Rights 2002 was the first time I had ever been
invited to speak at such a major AR conference, and it was due to my
journalistic efforts for this newsletter, and a whisper into the ear of
FARM's Alex Hershaft, by EnglandGal. Thanks, Susan.
On the first night, when I arrived at the opening
reception in 2002, I met longtime online friend Karen Dawn of DawnWatch.
After Karen and I had embraced and expressed how good it was to finally
meet, she turned to the man she had been having a conversation with and
said, "Peter, I'd like you to meet Greg. Greg, this is Peter." I was
stunned to see that his name tag read Peter Singer. His book, Animal
Liberation, had been one of the first books to influence me to go
vegetarian in 1978. Then, amazingly enough, Karen said to the father of
the Animal Rights movement, "Greg is a terrific writer with Animal Rights
Online." Good Grief. I was unable to sleep that night, playing that moment
over and over.
The next morning at 9 A.M., after a vegan breakfast
buffet, the workshops began. Every hour on the hour four different
workshops were offered and we had to decide which ones to attend. The
decision was often very difficult as so many interesting topics were
covered from staging an effective protest to companion animal issues, from
how to be a better speaker to how animals communicate. One hundred and
twenty-two workshops were presented during the week, each one usually
featuring three or four speakers.
At 1 P.M. we broke for a vegan lunch buffet at the hotel's
restaurant, then it was on to more afternoon workshops. After a vegan
dinner buffet, the evening sessions featured talks by some of the famous
names in the movement: Peter Singer, Tom Regan, Jim Mason, Kim Stallwood,
Ingrid Newkirk, Howard Lyman, Karen Davis, Robert Cohen, Paul Watson and
so many others. When the evening talks were over, we had a party with a
band and a vegan late night snack buffet. It seems I have spent a lot of
time during the last two years dieting in-between these conferences.
Every day there was so much to see and hear, including a
huge area of booths and information tables in the Exhibits area with
books, T-shirts and other items for sale, free literature, food samples
and more. We all spent a lot of time browsing those rooms, learning,
tasting, buying and stuffing our AR2002 tote bags with literature. Pangea
had a small store set up, a 7-11 for vegans where one could buy items such
as shoes, non-leather jackets, lip balm, soap and other personal items,
donuts, candy, vegan jerky and other snacks for nibbling on between those
all you could eat vegan buffets.
Last year, there were two AR2003 conferences, the usual
one just outside Washington, DC, and a Los Angeles conference. I attended
both, got together with several old friends and reestablished friendships.
It was incredible to be surrounded by hundreds of vegan animal rights
activists for those two weeks during the year. So many people were so very
excited to be participating. The future plan is for the conference to
alternate between the East and West coasts, being in Washington, DC, in
even years and Los Angeles in odd years.
The Farm Animal Reform Movement's annual conference,
Animal Rights 2004, will take place July 8-12, in Vienna, Virginia, and
will feature close to 100 speakers and I am proud to be one of them.
Imagine hearing close to 100 speakers, leaders in the Animal Rights and
Vegan movements (and me). Imagine spending the week in the company of 1000
vegetarians, vegans, AR advocates and animal rescue workers. Imagine the
parties at the end of the day. Imagine, at the end of the day, hearing
Captain Paul Watson doing his George Carlin routine in the hotel bar.
Imagine all you can eat vegan buffets three or four times a day for a
week. Imagine how you will be dieting when it ends. It's an incredible
experience that you will remember forever.
The schedule packs ten plenary sessions, 63 workshops and
rap and campaign report sessions, and hundreds of videos and exhibits
between July 8 and 12. Intensive seminars, demonstration, and lobbying are
planned for the Monday after the conference.
Nearly 90 speakers have signed up including Steve Best,
Lawrence Carter-Long, Karen Davis, Michael Fox, Michael Greger, Tippi
Hedren, Alex Hershaft, Steve Hindi, Kevin Jonas, Elliot Katz, Greg Lawson,
Howard Lyman, Jim Mason, Lauren Ornelas, Tom Regan, Jerry Vlasak, Paul
Watson, and Zoe Weil. (For a complete listing, visit
The conference will be held on July 8-12 at the Sheraton
Premiere Hotel in Vienna, VA, just outside the Washington Beltway. The
hotel offers a fabulous $75 room rate, $10-12 vegan buffets, and free dog
beds. The $140 conference registration includes access to all sessions and
exhibits, as well as morning and evening snacks. Low-income discounts and
staff positions are still available.
Go to www.AR2004.org for more information. The schedule is
now posted at....
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