Meat Free Zone
Woodstock Animal Rights Movement
A Store For Life
P. O. Box 746
I feel I’m very fortunate to have been involved in the Animal Rights movement since back in the early days when it had just been established and was a very powerful, colorful, dynamic movement that became a force that is still growing today. In 1989, I formed a group in Woodstock, NY, called WARM (Woodstock Animal Rights Movement). For a few years prior to starting WARM, I had become an avid follower and contributor to PETA and other national groups that were gaining popularity at that time (PETA was led by Ingrid Newkirk and Alex Pacheco, the Fund for Animals with Cleveland Amory, Friends of Animals, PCRM with Neal Barnard to name a few) Quite a few individuals back then were very outspoken in the AR movement also, and they were incredibly inspiring…Gary Francione (professor of AR Law at Rutgers and director of the first AR legal clinic at his school) , Tom Reagan (professor of Philosophy at North Carolina State and author of “The Case for Animal Rights”), Peter Singer (Chair of Philosophy at Princeton and author of “Animal Liberation”), John Robbins (author of” Diet for a New America”) , Jeremy Rifkin (Economist, environmental activist and author of “Beyond Beef”- the book and the campaign), Howard Lyman (spokesperson for Rifkin and who then became the famous “Mad Cowboy”), Dr Michael Klaper (medical doctor, author of “Vegan Nutrition” and “Pregnancy , Children and the Vegan Diet”, lecturer, and one of the very few ethical Vegan doctors at the time), Jim Mason (author of “Animal Factories” and lecturer/activist), and many more.
To add some perspective to all this: “Animal Liberation” (by Peter Singer) was published in 1975. PETA was formed in 1980. In 1981 PETA conducted an undercover investigation inside a primate research lab at the Institute of Behavioral Research in Silver Spring Maryland. Alex Pacheco took photos of the chimps and monkeys that were at the lab and turned them over to the police. The researcher, Dr. Edward Taub, was arrested and the lab was shut down. Eventually, this became the first animal-testing case to be heard by the United States Supreme Court. PETA gained national attention (and notoriety) and the AR movement took off in earnest from that point on.
The decade of the 60’s and all that it stood for was still very much alive when the Animal Rights movement was formed. Many people of the 60’s generation were involved in AR...it became their next big cause to fight for. It was a time of discovery in a sense. The curtains were being pulled aside for the first time on nightmares that had long existed for animals. We started to see what was going on behind the scenes in animal laboratories. We learned of the horrors of the fur trade, animals used in entertainment, hunting (and canned hunts), puppy mills and kill shelters, animals used for food, the dairy industry, the effects of eating animals on our health, animals and the legal system, animals used for clothing, dissection…and on and on. We felt that now, as we were learning all this and had documentation and videos and testimonies to “prove” it, then all we had to do was go public and present all this newly uncovered information and everyone would be appalled and irate, and then great changes would start to occur right away. We had the drive and the passion and the intellect to effect the sorely needed change. It was even said that the Animal Rights movement was the next great social movement. After Civil Rights and Women’s Rights, it was now time for Animal Rights, and this could quite possibly be the greatest upheaval of all, since so much of society was built upon the backs of animals. But, things didn’t go quite so smoothly, or quite as fast as we would have liked.
On a personal level, I felt I needed to be more involved in Animal Rights on a daily basis and so, in 1989, I decided to start WARM (Woodstock Animal Rights Movement). I placed my first graphic photo ad in the Woodstock Times (a picture of two terrified monkeys in a tight embrace, huddling in the back of a small cage with terror and fear in their eyes) and announced the first meeting of WARM. To my surprise, about thirty people showed up, and we were off to a good start! I began to hold monthly meetings at the Woodstock Town Hall. Attendance varied from ten to thirty people. I used to bring in photocopies to hand out of recent Animal Rights news, local topics of interest, and suggestions and ideas for campaigns that we could do as a group. We also formed a smaller core group that met separately. This core group broke off into special interest areas: lab testing and cruelty free products, companion animals, hunting, food, entertainment, etc. Each group was to be self directed and come up with its own campaigns.
At the time (1989-1991) there were quite a few other grass roots groups (locally and nationally). Right here in the Hudson Valley there were already two other groups: ARAL (Animal Rights Action League of Albany) and ARAHV (Animal Rights Activists of the Hudson Valley, from Newburgh). There was also a New York State group called NYSCA (NY State Coalition for Animals) which met twice a year, and a group from Westchester, NY called CASH (Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting), run by the charismatic Luke Dommer. There was an Animal Rights newsletter called “The Bunny Hugger’s Gazette.” At the end of each issue, they listed all the AR groups by state both national and grass roots groups, and at one point there were over 500 groups listed. There were also at least two very fine Animal Rights magazines on the market. “Animals Voice” and “Animals Agenda.” “Animals Voice” was produced on full gloss paper and showed extremely graphic photos with very incisive commentary and articles. Animals Agenda also contained many thought provoking articles.
At the time, there was a feeling of unity within the grass roots community. Perhaps it was because the movement was so new and we were all running full steam ahead for the same goals. And there was also a sense of these groups “belonging” to the larger picture and agendas of the national groups. We were their helpers in a sense. They had the larger memberships and the funds and the exposure, and came up with many of the ideas for many of the campaigns. We would then go ahead and join in and do our part, along with our own separate issues. Early on, PETA even had chapters around the country that were basically grass roots groups that had formed and were working under the name “PETA”. They had stopped this practice though by the time I started WARM. However, they were extremely generous in giving us large quantities of literature, posters, stickers, videos, and display holders for our tabling events.
As a grass roots group, we were involved in so many exciting pursuits and projects. From the start, we began to publish and mail out a newsletter (no email back then) telling of our local campaigns and projects and showing what people could do and how to help. We held public lectures on Animal Rights at our local Town Hall. We were honored to have Ingrid Newkirk visit us and give a presentation to a standing room only crowd (hecklers and all…see photos). Ingrid also did a book signing at the WARM Store earlier that day. Howard Lyman came to Woodstock and spoke about the Beyond Beef campaign. In 1990 he warned us of a disease we had never heard of called “Mad Cow”, or CJD. We held a public hunting debate with members of the DEC. We put on a public rabies exposé and debate about wildlife management. We held hunting demos every year and focused on our big yearly demo at the Kingston Traffic Circle on the opening day of hunting season (back then the circle was bigger and flatter…see photos). We put on local Thanksgiving dinners. We held a Spay/Neuter benefit and began a spay/neuter outreach fund. Dissection in schools was a big issue back then and we did our best to expose the cruelty involved and to stop it wherever possible. “Dump Gillette” was a special, one day national event sponsored by PETA. (Gillette was notorious for its product testing on animals). All the groups across the country were to set up tables with barrels and buckets and asked people to bring their Gillette products on a certain day to “dump”. We then mailed the dumped products to PETA and they presented truck-loads full to Gillette headquarters. We worked on anti leg-hold trap legislation and collected petitions for our local legislatures to ban the current leg trap bills that were coming up in session. We were involved with “Boo Boo” the bear cub. She was a young wild bear that kept annoying campers and who was finally caught and placed by the DEC in a local “mini zoo” in Kingston, NY, living in a small cage and tormented by kids and passers by. We ended up getting her sent to a sanctuary out west. A part of the WARM membership split off to start their own Companion Animal rescue group called AWAN which is still active today (Animal Welfare Adoption Network). We did extensive tabling at flea markets, schools, concerts, and malls. I’m pretty sure we had the best looking and most attention grabbing table anywhere! (See photos) One of the special highlights for us was meeting River Phoenix when he was visiting Woodstock with his band. He agreed to do a benefit for WARM at a local night-club. (See photo) A group of college students put on a RAVE benefit for WARM which lasted most of the night. Another group included us in their music benefit show in Nyack, NY. We gave talks about animal issues in schools that would have us. One of our members gave a presentation at a nursing home and elder care center. We did a few radio show interviews and made the local papers fairly often with either coverage of some of our events or cantankerous letters to the editors about our campaigns. We put up a large billboard on Rte 28 saying “FUR IS DEAD” (See photo) This received quite a few letters to the editor! (The billboard graphics were supplied by PETA, though we paid for the installation) We lobbied restaurants to add vegetarian and Vegan options and to have a weekly or monthly Vegetarian special. We attended circus demos, pheasant breeding demos, and a large Dog Lab demo in Albany sponsored by PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine) and arranged by our friends from ARAL in Albany. We were helpful in assisting other groups in persuading former Governor Mario Cuomo to veto the “Hunting Bear with Dogs Bill”. Some members of WARM went to Hegins Pennsylvania to protest and disrupt the infamous yearly gruesome Hegins Pigeon Shoot. A few of our members were arrested there but we put up bail and they all returned home safely. Many of us also went to Washington, DC for the great 1990 March for Animals (and then the follow up and lesser March in 1996). The first march drew about 50,000 people and was a great show of strength. I attended all of the national Animal Rights conferences that I could get to and was thrilled to meet all the other activists and leaders and was inspired beyond my wildest dreams.
While all this was going on, I was formulating an idea for a Cruelty-Free store. In 1991, my dream was realized, and I opened The WARM Store here in Woodstock. This was actually the very first “ Cruelty-free, Vegan, Socially Conscious, Environmentally Friendly” store in the United States. At first we relied heavily on PETA’s Cruelty Free shopping guide to help us find products for the store. We also attended trade shows and picked up things that were appropriate to sell. The term “cruelty free” was quite new back then, and even health food stores were not featuring or promoting cruelty-free products. Most personal care items were not yet labeled to show if they were tested on animals or if they contained animal ingredients. We did not sell shoes or food, as most Vegan stores focus on these days, but we did sell message tee shirts, buttons, bumper stickers, patches, mugs, non-leather bags and accessories, cruelty free cosmetics and body care, non-toxic home cleaners and paints, children’s environmental toys and games, plush stuffed animals, Vegan cook books and nutrition books, AR books and videos, , animal candles, animal statuary, animal jewelry, animal art, animal mobiles, Vegan pet food and herbal pet care products, posters, cards, shower curtains, umbrellas…and almost anything that had images of animals or environmental themes. In the book/library section of the store, we had a TV and video running all day of John Robbins’ video “Diet for a New America” alternating with Dr. Michael Klaper’s video entitled “Vegan Nutrition”. I received permission from Dr. Klaper to give out audio cassette copies of three or four of his great “bootleg” lectures at the time. Eventually we must have given out over a thousand copies of the “Vegan Nutrition” lecture and hundreds of copies of his other lectures about Veganism and ethics and the environment. He was certainly one of the most passionate, inspiring, and compassionate speakers of all time, and he was the prime reason I became so interested in the nutritional importance of Veganism, not for just ethical or animal reasons, and this has remained with me ever since. We were also fortunate to have won quite a few ribbons over the years for our beautiful window displays that we created for the Woodstock Christmas Open House window decorating contest. (See photos)
Originally the store focused mainly on animal, cruelty-free, Animal Rights, Vegan, and environmental products. But taking cues from another hero of mine, Gary Francione, I began to branch out in our scope of merchandise so that we did not appeal to only the very limited AR/Vegan community. As Gary used to say in his lectures, we (the AR community) were a very small minority group in society and not the only “minority” out there (even though we represented billions of sentient creatures). We were actually at the bottom of the list of all the other minorities in society’s eyes, and as a movement, we needed to become allies with other minorities, if we were to ever gain respect and have a voice. As he put it so bluntly, most African Americans or Gays were far more concerned about their own rights and struggles than to hear us talking about what the poor lab rat was enduring. So, with that in mind, I started including many other areas of interest in our “message” products like the tees, buttons, posters, flags , mugs ,patches, etc. We began including messages and themes of Gay/Lesbian rights, Women’s rights and Feminism, Eco-Feminism, Native American Indians, African Americans, abused children, equality issues, Patriarchy, and global environmental issues, to name a few. A few years after we opened, we put out a mail order catalogue. Again, since there was no email or internet sites, we had to go this route. Using our 501c3 status to do bulk mailing and getting small discounts for the printing costs here and there, we sent out catalogues over a two year span. I remember buying mailing lists from some of the national groups (priced per name, based on quantity).
After a few years in our first location, the very small WARM Store needed a new home and with a bit of financial risk we moved to a larger building close to the center of town (see photos). We stayed there until 1999, when, for personal reasons, I decided to close up shop and leave town. I returned a year or two later but felt the times had been changing (not necessarily for the better) and that reopening The WARM Store just wouldn’t be a good idea. Shortly after I returned back to Woodstock though, a few long distant partners convinced me to open “The NoHARM Store” in Nyack, NY (a clone of the WARM Store). The acronym stood for “Nyack’s Human and Animal Rights Movement”, a symbolic attempt to combine humans and animals and not separate our causes. Unfortunately, this project turned out to be an unsuccessful venture for many reasons not worth going into here and did not last very long in Nyack.
It was about this time that I was asked to serve on the newly revised and energized national board of Earth Save. During the first few months, the board members were asked to come up with ideas that would be good for Earth Save to work on in order to gain more national recognition. I brought up the idea of the “MeatFreeZone” (see photo and website www.meatfreezone.org ). This was something I had been thinking about for a few years and was saving up for the right moment. The Earth Save board liked the idea but decided not go ahead with it. So, with the help of my then partner Jerry Cook, we proceeded with the campaign on our own. I had my sketches of the logo drawn up and eventually got Trade Mark protection. (See photo and web site.) I had MeatFreeZone signs and stickers printed in various sizes, along with totes, tees and aprons. The signs were offered for free on the website to anyone who asked for them. The mission of the MeatFreeZone was to make eating meat as taboo or socially unacceptable as smoking had become. Our mission statement also included these three steps:
Level 1: To offer MeatFreeZone signs to people for their homes and workplaces and to have the logo be a symbol of their lifestyle and movement to be identified with.
2: To have the signs be displayed in the windows and interiors of all Vegetarian and Vegan restaurants. Again, to be a recognizable symbol of this lifestyle and all it represents.
3: To have “real” meat free zones set up in restaurants that served meat, similar to smoke free zones. I had originally thought that the first actual MeatFreeZone interior separation might first occur in an Indian restaurant that already had a large vegetarian clientele, but that also served meat. It would be an obvious location to have a true “meat free zone”. I’m still not sure though if this has happened yet but I think in due time it will. I would still like to get a national group involved in this so that the full membership could go out and encourage the restaurants to agree to put up signs!
The MeatFreeZone website was meant to be more of a nutritional site as opposed to an Animal Rights site. I compiled a very comprehensive list of articles called “Health and Nutrition” for the site. It goes from A-Z and includes tons of articles about Vegan diets, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, dairy, fats, and most major diseases and health issues I could find. Most of the articles were written by plant-based medical doctors (such as Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Dr. Michael Klaper, Dr. Esselstyne, Dr. Barnard) and many plant based nutritionists such as Brenda Davis (and others). I’ve been told that the site has become an invaluable resource of information for many people.
A few years ago, I attended a school for Holistic Health Counseling in NYC. Even though the school wasn’t Vegan, my goal was to become a Vegan Lifestyle Coach (www.veganlifestylecoach.com) and focus on that aspect with people…keeping this somewhat separate from the animal and environmental aspects of Veganism (at least on the surface). This has been a slow start but I’m optimistic and hopeful to see Veganism increasing. It’s obvious that it has become much more mainstream than when I first got involved over 20 years ago. We finally have so much medical and nutritional data proving the benefits of a plant-based diet. And, of course, there is a “new” awareness of the effects of animal agriculture on climate and global warming. I say “new” in quotes because much of this was written about in the mid 80’s by John Robbins in his prophetic book “ Diet for a New America”. There was also a wonderful video produced with the same title that was shown on various PBS stations around the country. I’m sure that many of you who are reading this article have heard facts like:
All of the above facts were disclosed by John Robbins in “Diet For A New America” twenty-five years ago. The only thing missing then was the specific connection to greenhouse gases, an idea that is finally getting the public’s attention. The United States and other industrialized countries could have started on the difficult path of correction way back then, but we are now just beginning that journey.
As I look back over twenty years, I see some things that have changed and others that are stuck in time or even going backwards. New issues arise also that must be dealt with. Society has certainly changed a lot since then, and therefore the AR movement itself would have to change along with it. The Rights vs. Welfare debate still rages on. It was a major topic back then and a major topic today. Incremental steps or Abolition…or both…or some middle approach? There doesn’t seem to be much agreement in that area. There are far fewer grass roots groups now than in the past, and far more power is concentrated in some of the national groups. Following Harvard’s lead, there are upwards of forty to fifty universities now teaching Animal Rights law. Animal issues have now reached the high courts, Congress and corporate boardrooms…for better or worse. A discussion of these issues would require a whole new chapter!
Anyone who is interested in learning more or discussing anything I’ve mentioned, please feel free to contact me anytime.
"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is
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The Meat Free Zone (MFZ) campaign is intended to make the MeatFreeZone logo as recognizable a symbol as the "Smoke Free Zone". The idea was originally conceived when The WARM Store in Woodstock, NY, was in operation throughout the '90's (Woodstock Animal Rights Movement). The store was truly a meat free zone as it was the first cruelty-free, Vegan, socially conscious animal rights store in the United States. Now that the Vegan and Vegetarian movements have been growing so rapidly, more and more people are showing concern about the food in their diet and their overall health and nutrition. Many people are giving up eating fish, chicken, beef, pork (pigs ), dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream) and eggs. Headlines of Mad Cow disease, E-coli and salmonella are in the news with greater frequency. Vegan and vegetarian recipe cookbooks are standard now in all bookstores and many restaurants have added Vegan and Vegetarian options to their menus. We hope you will help us with the Meat Free Zone campaign by putting the signs up in your homes and workplaces and by spreading them to all the vegetarian and vegan restaurants that you know and frequent. And someday we will have true "meat free zones" in establishments that serve meat.
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