Lorri Houston, Leigh-Chantelle and Alex Herschaft (l to r) speak about planning events at the Animal Rights National Conference, 2010
I attended part of the Animal Rights National Conference this past weekend. First, I have to say that I was thrilled to meet so many people who read this site regularly, and I have to thank you for your kind words and your support! I have to give a special shout-out to fellow AR blogger Stephanie Ernst at Animal Rights and Anti-Oppression, whom I finally met in person!
My first session was "Staging Effective Events," with Lorri Houston (f.k.a. Lorri Bauston) of Animal Acres, Australian activist Leigh-Chantelle and Alex Herschaft of FARM. Leigh-Chantelle produced the Green Earth Festival in Australia, with music, kids' events, videos and eco-friendly fashion that brought out 4,000 people. And all of the 70+ vendors were required to sell only vegan products. Leigh-Chantelle was inspired to organize a truly green festival after the "green-wash" festivals that promoted corporate interests more than environmental issues and, "Oh yeah, the sausage stall is over there."
Lorri Houston's Animal Acres produces a fundraising gala every year, and her tips included:
- Assemble your vegan village of volunteers nine months in advance.
- Recruit celebrities. All you have to do is ask their agents, whose information can be found through a paid subscription with IMDB.
- Recognize all volunteers at the event, and instead of giving awards to celebrities, have the celebrities present awards to your volunteers.
- Get a good MC. Comedians are great for filling time and making jokes if something goes wrong.
- Before organizing a large event, volunteer to help with another event so that you'll have a good idea of what goes into the planning.
Alex Herschaft recounted many clever FARM protests, including sit-ins and die-ins. One sit-in even led to a meeting with the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. Herschaft also encouraged participation in other people's events, such as the time FARM sent a group of people to a Burger King press conference and stole Burger King's thunder. And when a union of slaughterhouse workers picketed in front of a slaughterhouse, FARM joined in.
At the update on amusement campaigns, Lisa Qualls demonstrated the effectiveness of wearing a safety vest and nail pouch at a circus protest. The safety vest makes you more visible and also lends an air of authority, while the nail pouch holds your literature. Qualls also suggested leafleting at kids' events before the circus comes to town. When we picket outside of a circus, few people will change their minds before the show because they've already paid for their tickets. But if we reach them before they've bought a ticket, at a non-circus event, they will not be as defensive and we have a better chance of stopping them before they buy.
Stu Chaifetz of SHARK spoke about pigeon shoots and rodeos and the importance of videos. Putting videos on YouTube helps to bypass the media, and SHARK's channel on YouTube has over 11 million views. Chaifetz also talked about the irony of rodeos being "manly," but "If you're hurting a baby animal, you're not a true man. Or woman."
Don Elroy of Stop Animal Exploitation Now discussed two heart-breaking cases out of Florida, including the one of Dumbo, the elephant who killed her groomer. While the circus claims that Dumbo killed 48-year-old Andrew Anderton because she was startled by a falling electrical wire, SAEN wants an investigation into possible tazer use against Dumbo, which might produce similar injuries.
Adam Weissman of Global Justice for Animals and the Environment explained how free trade hurts non-human animals as well as humans. While the laws of one country may protect animals, the environment, workers and/or consumers, "free trade" means that products from another country that does not have such rules may enter the first country and compete in the marketplace with safer and probably more expensive products. Weissman emphasized the need to build alliances with other groups and discussed two important U.S. bills. Rep. Gene Taylor (D, MS) has introduced H.R. 4759, to repeal the North American Free Trade Agreement. Also, H.R. 3012, the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act," would require the re-negotiation of NAFTA and other trade agreements. The TRADE Act has the support of the majority of House Democrats, but needs more senators. Weissman also recommended the book "Organizing for Social Change," (Buy Direct).
All photos © Doris Lin 2010, licensed to About.com, Inc.
- How to Organize a Protest
- How Circus Elephants are Abused by Their Trainers
- History of NAFTA from the Guide to the US Economy
- Pros and Cons of Free Trade Agreements from the Guide to Liberal Politics