Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

AR2009, part 3

AR2009, part 1
AR2009, part 2

Sunday started early for me. Adam Weissman was on the panel of a 9am session on “Global Issues Affecting Animals”, which was going to go into more detail on the Free Trade Agreement issues, and there was no way I was going to miss it. Dawn Moncrief of FARM started the session with her talk on Global Hunger. She got her activist start in Global Hunger, and it was her research in that arena, and the impact on women, that convinced her to go vegan. Unfortunately and to her frustration (and ours as well), the overall global hunger movement appears to be resistant to the idea of advocating eating less meat, instead pushing technology changes. Meanwhile meat consumption is on the rise, globally, expected to double in the next 20 years because as communities gain more wealth, they eat more animal products. The problems are obvious to us – eating meat is extremely inefficient from a resource standpoint, and meat consumption has been shown to increase basic food prices. FARM, in response to this issue, has a “Well Fed World” campaign.

Debra Ehrenberg of RAN spoke next, speaking on the environmental impact that even 2 degrees of warming will have. She brought up many topics, from the number of species that will become extinct, to the connection between plankton and carbon absorption, the impact on the Mountain Gorilla, how biofuels tie in, and she ended by saying that while lifestyle changes are useful, they are not sufficient. We need to target the drivers of issues, by which she meant the major corporations. If you read RAN’s blog, you know that their strategy is to target specific issues and specific companies. Cargill is one of them, especially as relates to palm oil. RAN’s philosophy is, at least to some degree, to get these mega corporations to take responsibility for the sources of their products. RAN has started a campaign to put pressure on Earth Balance to find a sustainable source of their palm oil.

Adam Weissman is part of a group called Global Justice for Animals and the Environment. He talked, as promised, about the various FTA’s, and the negative impacts they have on animals and the environment. He explained how the EU ban on seal fur will most likely be overturned or watered down to pointlessness because Canada has threatened to bring a challenge to the WTO, claiming that an EU ban is a barrier to trade. Since the WTO was formed in 1995 the majority of its rulings have been in favor of large industrial countries. With only 2 exceptions, every health, food, safety, environmental, and animal inspired ban has been overturned stating it was a barrier to trade.

Swine flu, which I imagine everyone has heard about ad nausea, can be tied to NAFTA. With NAFTA’s removal of agricultural tariffs, factory farming was exported to Mexico, where there are even less regulations than in the U.S. Avian flu and Mad Cow disease can be linked to “Free” Trade Agreements in similar ways. “Sanitation Harmonization” is one of the side effects of these agreements, and what that means is that countries are forced to reduce their sanitation guidelines so they “harmoniously” match the low standards of others.

NAFTA also makes the gestation crate ban in Florida and Prop 2 moot. The farming gets shipped to Mexico, in the end, so while it moves further out of sight of people in the U.S., there is no positive change for the animals. Meanwhile consumers in the U.S. remain ignorant of this… draw your own conclusions.

The Peru Free Trade Agreement was passed despite widespread opposition. President Garcia has deregulated the rain forest, and when the indigenous people protested, in a national non-violent uprising, they were shot from helicopters, while the government called them…any guesses? Yes, of course, they are terrorists for not wanting the rainforest destroyed, and for standing up for their views, peacefully. With PFTA passing environmental laws become violations of the PFTA. Taking environmental impact into consideration when making decisions on bids is illegal, and thus the Coney Island Boardwalk is being bulid from Peruvian Rainforest wood.


What can we do?

  1. Meet with our representatives to convince them that PFTA needs to be repealed
  2. October 12, join in the National Day of Action
  3. 11/27/09, on Fur Free Friday, join in a Day of Protest at Canadian Consulates (or the embassy in DC) to put pressure on them so that the EU seal fur ban has a chance of being upheld.

Oh, we should read the articles on Global Justice for Animals and the Environment‘s site too!

That was a pretty intense session. Even though I knew at least some of it, I was still stunned, as was the rest of the audience. It actually compelled me to write to FARM to ask that they include this topic in one of the plenaries next year.

I had to deal with checking out of my room, so I missed part of the next talk, which was another repeat for me: Commonality of Oppression. Karen Davis, pattrice jones, and lauren Orneleas were the speakers. I missed Karen’s portion. lauren (of Food Empowerment Network) does a lot of work with farm workers issues, and she made a good point about being careful not to use the oppression that others face when advocating your own cause. This is why her group focuses on the issues of produce farm workers, rather than slaughterhouse workers. This isn’t to say we should ignore the plight of slaughterhouse workers, but when it comes to active campaigns, it will certainly appear more sincere (and likely will BE more sincere) to be focusing on the tomato growers than the slaughterhouse workers.

pattrice jones gave her typically wonderful talk. She discussed many connections, mentioned that the sanctuary, in its new incarnation in Vermont, will start a dairy campaign focusing on the feminism issues, and reminded us that the sanctuary site has an entire section dedicated to making various connections between different types of oppression. She also reposted a summary of the “Commonalities of Oppression” talk she gave on this topic at AR2008. Since I can’t add anything to pattrice’s own words, I simply encourage you to read her post.

I didn’t have another talk picked out until the afternoon. Lucky for me, Eric saw me walking by on my way to eat a Vega bar on the terrace for lunch. Instead I joined him and some others (Dallas, Brendan, Spencer and Rick) for lunch at Seed, which was delicious. (Thank goodness I know people who are more social than I am; it lets me be social without having to do the work of arranging it!) Wedged four people across a 3 person seat bench in a borrowed car (thanks, Michelle, for loaning the car to Eric!), we had many interesting conversations. I can’t even remember everything that we all talked about (other than bikes, photography, and code), but I know I enjoyed it, cramped as we were in the back. One of the people wedged in the car with us was Rick Corbett, who I remember being very impressed with in years past, for his work with young people. In fact, my straightforward approach with my young neighbor was taken with his advice in mind, to tell kids the truth. I was able to share that with him, which was neat. We never get enough good feedback, do we?

We got back in time for me to catch Current Activist Repression. I was torn, because Stephanie was giving a talk on Agitating on the Internet, but in the end I stuck to what is now my typical Sunday afternoon topic set. It isn’t cheerful, but I’m compelled to hear about it. Though the talks were quite good, I find the best way to sum them up is to point you to Will Potter’s blog, Green Is the New Red; to Equal Justice Alliance; and to this story on one woman’s experience with Hunter Harassment Laws.

Jan says:

When the officer arrived, I told him where the hunters had gone. He then began to converse with them in a friendly manner. When I walked up to him to give him my statement, he began to shout that hunters could do whatever they wanted, and had a right to hunt in the road with high-powered weapons. He refused to listen to me when I told him that my life and my mother’s life had been explicitly threatened. On the contrary, he did not stop the hunters from shouting at me and interrupting when I tried to speak.

The officer refused to give me an incident report form with an incident number and the name of a contact person. The offer refused to talk to my mother. And never took a full statement from me. He interrupted and harassed me when I attempted to tell him what had happened.

The officer also refused to take a complaint from me stating that I had discovered damage done to the fences in my horse pasture by trespassers; my fences had been cut that morning.

The officer then told the two hunters that they didn’t have to stop what they were doing, and gave them permission to keep on road-hunting. He also told them that they could hunt on a piece of privately owned property fronting the road.

It’s actually even worse than that account shows. She’s had arsonists set many fires on her property and destroy buildings. She’s had loaded guns pointed at her. She’s stood unarmed on HER property, telling trespassers with guns to get off her property, she’s called the police when they refused to leave her property, and the police have taken the statements of the trespassers, but not her statement, and then arrested her for “hunter harassment”! It is unbelievable, except that it happens, and Jan’s is far from an isolated case.

Dave, of Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary, has had hunters point their gun at him when he’s told them (after they’ve cut the fence next to the “No trespassing, no hunting, no fishing” (etc) sign) to get off the property. He’s had hunters build deer stands on what is clearly private property that they are not supposed to be hunting on. Every year he has to mend fences because every year the hunters cut the fences, thinking that their “fun” in killing trumps … everything. I’ll stop there before I go on an unending rant…

The next talk was on the Status of Imprisoned Activists. The first speaker, Mathew Strugar, is with the Center for Constitutional Rights, and he gave something of a history leading up to where things stand now with the AETA4 having been charged. From that support site:

The AETA is being used for the first time since its passage by Congress in 2006 to do exactly what civil rights advocates feared it would do – criminalize activities protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The oral arguments presented on July 13th were not about the allegations as directly applied to the AETA 4, but rather that the whole case should be dismissed now because the AETA itself is unconstitutional.

Read the rest of the article, it is definitely worth it.

Camille Hankins talked about the European activists, who are under just as much, if not more, pressure. She gave a website where we can get information on supporting Environmental and Animal Rights activists from around the world: Earth Liberation Prisoner Support Network.

Peter Young had some specific advice: after someone is arrested, do not gossip. The police are still in intelligence gathering mode at that point, so gossip is hurtful. The police strategy is essentially “disturb the hive and listen to the buzzing.” He also mentioned a group he has helped start, Support Vegans In Prison.

I had a red-eye back to the east coast, so I missed Sunday’s plenary, but check out Stephanie’s post on Food Not Bombs; Keith McHenry, the co-founder of FNB, was one of the speakers at Sunday’s plenary, and I’m sad to have missed that. He was who I talked to in the exhibit hall about the bread baking outside the White House…only I had no idea that was who I had talked to until I read Stephanie’s post today. Yes, I can be exactly that oblivious!

Re-entry into the “real” world has been a bit sad. I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference…especially as it will be just a few miles from my home.


6 responses to “AR2009, part 3

  1. Pingback: AR2009, part 1 « Invisible Voices

  2. Kristen July 24, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    It’s infuriating to hear about hunters inside of Poplar Spring – and even holding guns up to Dave! It’s naive for me to think that the deer that call Poplar their home are safe – oooohhh would I like to hold a rifle (not loaded) up to the hunters and tell them to get the F off their property -I can be very scary (all 5’3 of me) when people threaten the people and animals I love!

    I wonder where Jan lives – how horrible – has she not been able to contact higher authorities? I didn’t realize that the police are that biased and awful.

  3. Deb July 24, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    Jan lives in Pennsylvania, a rural part. She was convicted in the circuit court (the judge, after all, was a hunter), but she took that up higher and the ruling was overturned (or whatever the correct term is). She is now suing the police and the hunters, etc, and this is a very important case in general because she’s going to try to get the law invalidated (it interferes with 1st amendment rights, among other issues), and if she does, it is precedent setting, etc….

  4. Tracy July 26, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Deb, thanks for your posts about AR2009. I didn’t go this year, so it was nice to read about it.

  5. avolve July 27, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    Thanks for sharing the immense details, that will take may reads to digest.

    One quick comment: the source of Swine Flu was traced back to continental USA. The (significantly) successful attribution of blame on Mexico has received some interesting discussions (including, for example, on Democracy now) which has exposed much of the underlying bases.

  6. Deb July 28, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    @Tracy – glad you enjoyed the post(s)! I wasn’t sure anyone would, because they’re so long, even though I kept it as brief as I could. (I didn’t do a very good job of keeping it brief!)

    @avolve – lol. I glossed over most everything, and it was still incredibly long.

    I had thought it was common knowledge that the virus originated in the U.S. The fact that the epidemic started in Mexico in a town spitting distance from a U.S. owned pig farm, from a virus that started on a U.S. pig farm was, I believe, part of why NAFTA is sited as a contributing cause. The same pattern was found with the avian flu as well.

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