Conference Orientation 2003
An Animal Rights Article from


Veda Stram
Summer 2003

Hello. My name is Veda Stram. I work for

First and most importantly, I want to thank you for being here. Thank you for doing every single thing you did to be here, from rearranging your time and your money and your schedule and your clothes and your furry, feathered and finned roommates. And of course for dealing with the humans in your lives. From those of us who have been at this for a LONG time, you have no idea how happy we are that you are here, that there are more people every day wanting to go to work to help animals. You are the possibility of a compassionate and honorable world.

If this is your first or fifth or tenth conference for animal protection, over the next hours and days you're about to be inspired, educated, enlivened like you NEVER believed possible... And if you have been around a while or think you have heard it all and have nothing more to learn, you should go home now. Be willing to be blown away by new information...just like you hope for the people in your lives.

I don't want to talk to you about animals right now. I want to talk to you about the people in your lives, about using everything of value to help animals no matter the source, about thinking for yourself.

The people in your lives... those vegans, vegetarians, trappers, carnivores, lacto-ova vegetarians, raw foodists, environmental activist carnivores, dry cleaners, bank tellers, hunters, neighbors, legislators, reporters, sisters, mothers, uncles, fathers, brothers, bosses, coworkers, those people in line at the grocery store. Those people in your life are exactly where the work gets done. And I AM really glad to let you know that you are an ambassador for the animals in YOUR life. You have an opportunity to make a difference for animals every minute of your life with THOSE people. that's the great news. The BAD news? If you have a one-minute exchange with somebody in line a the tore about the weather and you're rude or unkind, they see you in the parking lot five minutes later and look at your bumper sticker promoting compassion or whatever, and guess what they'll remember? Just like you and me, they'll remember your rudeness, not your bumper sticker. I'm always asking myself, What can I do NOW for animals?

Finding a human being who agrees with you on half of the things you care about is absolutely miraculous. You don't necessarily adore somebody just because they're a vegan activist. Have you noticed? You will meet people who you think look like hell and speak eloquently and brilliantly. You will meet people who you think are terrible speakers and an embarrassment to animal defense and suddenly they touch your heart and move you in ways you didn't know you could be moved. If somebody you really dislike is talking, listen and use whatever you can to help animals. If somebody you really like is talking, listen and use whatever you can to help animals. And just because an individual or a group has said or done nine things that you think are brilliant and make a difference, it doesn't mean the tenth thing will be that way. And vice versa, maybe the first nine things you heard were terrible...but the tenth is remarkable! Think for yourself.

If you aren't willing to think new thoughts, to take on new points of view, to consider outrageous concepts, to be willing to change a gazillion things about your lifestyle, how can you expect anybody else to listen to you and do those things? There's ALWAYS something to learn.

Another part of this has to do with how we present ourselves. We need to seriously examine every aspect of how we speak, dress, present ourselves, manage projects, because we risk people not listening to us. There are times when sweats and AR t-shirts are going to cause more people to listen to you, and there are times when sweats and AR t-shirts are going to cause people to NOT listen to you. THINK for yourself.

What's more important to you... expressing yourself, your unique identity or being responsible for being heard? And of course trying NOT to be malicious or trying NOT to be mean-spirited, we sometimes DO end up defending our opinions and points of view rather than talking about what will make the most difference in THIS moment for animals.

And we mess up with other activists as much as we mess up with all those people who aren't activists. There are individuals and organizations who are not at this conference because they don't like other people's style or message or methodology or tactics or literature or demos... or something. These are not petty disagreements. There are serious philosophical and methodological divisions in this movement.

THINK for yourself. There are people who will not go to grassroots meetings because they don't agree with some people at those meetings. Get over yourself or find another group to work with.

My advice to you is to be involved AS LITTLE AS YOU CAN in gossip. Every second spent gossiping, nattering, chattering about what people think bout other people is time NOT spent helping end the exploitation of animals. Please spend your resources (your life, your time) on creating a world where abuse is something in the past.

We don't know how to do this. There has never been a movement like this in human history. This is huge. And it's new. And there are millions of us who have already created miracles for animals and have already invented the wheel, so please use other activists at every opportunity.

One of my favorite memories of my life before animal rights keeps me humble and on purpose. I remember looking forward to those two or three days a month in the summer when a day's work was done well, the house was clean, the car had been washed, shopping was done. I'd sit in the backyard watching the sparrows and doves and pigeons twittering around the bird feeder I kept filled. Watching lady bugs and butterflies and bees doing their thing. Of course my kitties lounging and bathing and patrolling the wild beasties. I was so content and thrilled with the life and the lives around me as I gnawed on my Kentucky Fried Chicken... of course being sure to pull out those little vines 'cause they were too gross to eat. I just went right over my head. And I was a wonderful, warm, caring, considerate thoughtful human being.

I hope you remember those kinds of times in your own life. It helps me from being too arrogant about my enlightened state of being since I "saw the light."

Take care of yourself. Find things that make you strong and happy. You're probably in this for the rest of your life in one way or another. Find things that give you peace. You don't need to drown in the horror of animal abuse to be an effective voice for animals. Rest. Be healthy and strong and happy ambassador for the animals. Gandhi said happiness is when you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony. Walk the talk. Be proud to be an activist.  Be the living proof that living a compassionate life is vital and wonderful.

Before you leave this conference, take TONS of literature home with you. All the organizations here did not bring literature so they could cart if home. We brought thousands and thousands of brochures and leaflets and images so YOU can spread them around in your lives. Be greedy... take piles home!

Lastly, is designed to help you make a difference for animals. Visit our site often. Call or write us ANY time.

THANK YOU for being here and for being animal rights activists!

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