Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Category Archives: activism

Hello 2013

Snowy morning at the sanctuary

Snowy morning at the sanctuary

WordPress sent their annual “year in review” link recently. In 2012 I had 24 posts, and 12,000 views. I went back to look at last year. Last year was 21 posts and 15,000 views! Clearly I’m posting too often. 😀

I’m not really one for new year resolutions or year-in-review retrospectives, but seeing the numbers does get me thinking. Also, reading Mary’s blog gets me thinking – more on that in a minute.

I’ve never had a very specific purpose for this blog. I started it when someone I was friends with at the time said something along the lines of: you should start a blog about activism, with pictures.

And so I did. Slowly, inconsistently, but generally somewhere along those lines. I know she had in her head something maybe more photojournalistic. And perhaps that’s sometimes what I do. It has evolved to be mostly about the sanctuary, which makes sense, because that’s mostly what I do as far as activism goes. That’s where most of my pictures are taken, and that’s where I find most of my inspiration.

Geese in the snow

Geese in the snow

So my activism has essentially become that of sanctuary photography. I’m happy with that. I actually love that. And maybe there is more I could do with that. Perhaps I’ll explore that more this year.

And that brings me to Mary’s post! I read it just as I was struggling with starting this post, and I immediately bought “Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard” to read on my Kindle. I had a couple hours to kill while I waited for word from the mechanic on my poor old truck (final verdict: it will live), and so I started reading it immediately, and was energized and motivated and excited.

I’m only 65% through it, but based on what I’ve gotten from it so far I’d highly recommend it.

But start with Mary’s post.

Darcy, Tally, Gloria and Sal heading out into the snowy day

Darcy, Tally, Gloria and Sal heading out into the snowy day

I have a lot of things pinging through my head, most of them about how important support is. How overwhelming it can seem when you want to start out, but aren’t sure where (or how) to start. I think a lot about biking, perhaps because I found transitioning to vegan easy, but struggle a lot more with biking. (I bike commute about 6,000 miles/year — 26 miles / workday — but am still as likely to drive the 2 miles to the grocery store as bike there.)

Biking was, and sometimes is, hard. I love it, but it is sometimes intimidating for me. When I bike to new areas, I tend to research a lot. I use google maps to get a start on the best route. I will alter the route to take me along already-known paths/roads first. I use the street view to have an idea of what to expect en route as well as at the destination. I’ll email locations to find out ahead of time if they have bike parking, or ask friends on twitter or Facebook if I know they’ve been there.

Biking is a lot easier for other people than it is for me, or that’s what it has seemed like to me. I know a lot of people who describe their switch from driving to biking as if it was simply a fun thing to do. And there is some truth to that: biking IS fun. I enjoy it so much more than being in the car. It’s just that I have to think so much more about it.

I’ve explained to many of my coworkers when they say “you rode in THIS weather?” that aside from certain limits that I’ve set (more than 5″ of snow, or wind gusts greater than 60mph) I bike every day. I don’t give myself any other option, because if I allow myself excuses one day, I will find excuses every day.

This is me. I know myself well enough for this, at least. What I have learned in “Switch” is that by setting very specific rules (ride every day that there are less than 5″ of snow on the roads and the winds are gusting at less than 60mph) I made bike commuting both my habit and part of my identity, and those are both extremely powerful forces.

But going vegan was easy for me. Sure, there were some challenges, but for whatever reason there were never challenges that stumped me, or that made me backslide. I was lucky enough to have support (online), which definitely made things easier. Some insight from “Switch” is that perhaps one reason I found it easy to go vegan is that shortly after I went vegan I realized that many of my favorite vegetarian meals were already vegan. Or easily made vegan. Being partway to a goal makes us more likely to accomplish that goal. (This is why Mary mentioned in her post that she will point out to people everything they already eat that is vegan.)

Bernard, Caryle, Charlotte and the herd in the snow

Bernard, Caryle, Charlotte and the herd in the snow

So when I go into vegan advocacy mode, I very often think about biking. Going vegan isn’t easy for everyone, and I know from my experiences with biking, and from my experiences reading what others say about it, that if you are struggling, reading someone else talking about how fun it is just isn’t always helpful. “Just hop on the bike and ride! Don’t think about it!” Except that I have to think about it, or I’ll end up at work with no breakfast or lunch and no decent place to get food. I have to figure out not just what to bring (and how much), but how to bring it. I have to bring my work clothes because a hour-long hilly bike ride requires (in my opinion) different clothes than business-casual-desk-job clothes, and I have to bring tools and tubes in case of a flat. Biking, for me, requires strategy.

On the other hand, reading about how rewarding it is, despite the challenges, is helpful for me. Reading about how other people tackle these challenges is motivating.

Jonathan and Dexter, greeting in the snow

Jonathan and Dexter, greeting in the snow

I had a very miserable ride home from work last week. Even as I rode, I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t that miserable. And maybe it wasn’t. There was a certain element of satisfaction that comes from battling the elements, but after about 40 minutes I was just tired and cold and drenched and pretty much miserable. My entire focus was on how much longer I’d have to be on the bike, outside in that crappy weather.

And even as I acknowledged this, I was thinking about how I’d answer the inevitable question at work the next day: “how was your ride home?”

And how I would spin it. Because being the only bike commuter means I’m representing bike commuting, always, every day. It’s a lot like being vegan, it’s just more visible.

Finally, I decided that there was no point in being anything but honest.

“That was a miserable ride,” I admitted to myself.

And once I admitted that, the very next thought – unprompted, unscripted, and absolutely honest – was, “and it was still better than driving.”

That’s my truth.

And maybe that’s the truth when we’re sitting at the most vegan-unfriendly team lunch nibbling on a pathetic salad with our stomach growling, and miserable both because wilted lettuce with shredded carrots isn’t going to cut it and also because a “team” lunch that ignores the need of some of the team members is a slap in the face: those are miserable experiences, but they are still better than not sticking to our ethics.

After all, we can bring snacks with us to the restaurant. (You can bring an entire meal into the restaurant if you want.) We can eat before or after. We can survive being hungry until we get home. It isn’t ideal, but miserable team lunches aren’t the every day reality of being vegan. Being vegan doesn’t mean deprivation and hunger. Though it does sometimes mean incredibly crappy team lunches.

Most of my bike commutes are great. I ride through a short but beautiful wooded section. I see turtles and snakes (not during the winter, granted), and deer and turkeys and foxes. I get a huge boost of endorphins, and a huge release of stress. Biking is an overwhelmingly positive thing in my life. But sometimes I have a miserable commute.

And that’s okay. I think that’s the point. It isn’t always fun, it isn’t always easy. But it’s still worth it. And usually it is fun, and once it’s our habit it is usually easy too.

Pigs, waiting for treats

Waiting for treats…


WVBS – Falls Church, 2012

Last weekend I helped out at the local vegan bake sale that Gary puts on every year. It was my fourth year helping out as the event photographer, which is of course my favorite way to help out!

I am much more comfortable taking pictures of animals than people, but this event (as well as some of my fellow volunteers at the sanctuary) help me get more comfortable with the people pictures. And the kids eating the treats are my favorite pictures at these events. It helps that most kids are unselfconscious when it comes to pictures being taken of them!

This year shortly before the event was over, a man stopped by. The event is busiest in the first half, while the neighboring farmers market is in progress, but it was very slow when he stopped by, which was perfect because he had a lot of questions.

He started by asking generic questions about how you replace eggs in baking, but it was clear very quickly that he wasn’t your typical bake sale attendee! He works for a catering company that supplies lunches to some of the area schools, and of the however-many kids he provides lunches for, he has 21 vegan kids to feed. So he was there looking for ideas and information, which I thought was really cool. Those 21 vegan kids are going to be a lot happier with their lunches in the future, I have no doubt!

May 5: Falls Church, VA Vegan Bake Sale (with Homeward Trails!)


Though technically the official week of the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale was last week, the bakesale I help out with every year will be this Saturday. And of course these bake sales can be held year round, so if you were thinking of holding one but hadn’t planned it yet, never fear! You can have it any time – one of the strengths of this event, after all, is how open-ended it is. There’s only two requirements, really:

  • Vegan Bake Sale
  • Donate proceeds (to charity of your choice)

That’s it!

I was very happy that first year, that when Gary asked if I could help out, he asked me to take pictures. That’s definitely my kind of help! It’s become a tradition – I show up, take pictures, and get paid in delicious baked goods.

Last year I interviewed Gary in the lead-up to the event – there are some great resources in the post, and also the story of where the idea came from and how it got such a big start so early on.

This Saturday’s event is being held in conjunction with Homeward Trails, which makes it extra special for me. I adopted Jake from Homeward Trails, who pulled him from a high-kill shelter. Without HT, I wouldn’t have Jake, and while without Jake I’d have more glassware, I’d also have a big hole in my life.

If you are in the Northern Virginia area this Saturday, stop by if you can. The baked goods are always absolutely delicious, but it’s also for two good causes.

WHEN: Saturday May 5, 9:30am – 1:30pm
WHERE:The front porch (covered) of the Falls Church Community Center
223 Little Falls Street in the city of Falls Church
[map]   [more info on Falls Church Community Center]

This is easily bike accessible from the W&OD trail – take the Little Falls Street “exit” off the trail. Left onto Little Falls Street if you’re coming from the direction of DC, otherwise go right. The Community Center will be on your right, and there is ample bike parking.

Books, Success, Blogging, and Sanctuary News

patsy waiting for breakfast

Patsy waiting for breakfast

I’m off to a slow start in my return to this blog! I haven’t been completely absent from the blogosphere, though. I wrote about a couple books I read recently over at Animal Rights & AntiOppression. First up was a post on The World Without Us. It’s a book with a premise that fascinates me: what would happen if all humans simply disappeared? It’s a thought experiment, and it’s a fascinating one.

Second was a post on Ninety-Five, plus a bit of my rambling thoughts on activism. A discussion cropped up in the comments on whether education works to create change, inspiring Mary to write a post On Measuring Success, which I highly recommend. She’s been writing up some of the lessons-learned through her four years of blogging at Animal Person lately, so check out part 1 and part 2 (with more to come!) of this series.

In Sanctuary news, I should mention that Poplar Spring now has both a Facebook and a Twitter presence, though the Twitter account is primarily a feed from the Facebook page at this point. Terry and I both post updates to the Facebook page (mostly Terry), and it has become a great way to get some of the most current information on new arrivals.

This past weekend was the 7th annual Run For the Animals, and it was a great success despite the rather yucky weather. I helped in my usual way, by going to the sanctuary and doing chores.

There were only three of us helping Dave, and one of the other volunteers was late because on his way to the sanctuary he saw a hurt duck laying in the road. He stopped traffic, got her out of the road and into his car, and drove her to Second Chance, a wildlife rehabber, before coming to help with the chores. When he got to Second Chance, she was much more alert, which seems like a good sign.

By the time we were working in the pig yard, it was lunch time for the piglets. They knew it was lunchtime, and they know that Dave is the one who feeds them their lunch, so they were gathered around him, pushing at him, stepping on his rake, basically making it impossible for him to work! It was pretty cute. I didn’t get any pictures of that, but I got a little video of them getting fed:

It’s been a while, so: Morty is the all black one, Truffles is the largest reddish brown one, Timmy is the medium sized reddish one, Patsy is the smallest one and is reddish with a white stripe across her shoulders, and Izzy is the small black and white one. Otis is the big black and white one who makes a couple cameo appearances as he stands in front of the run where the piglets are fed. Izzy was across the creek when Dave brought the food, but he came running when they called!

Poplar Spring benefit at Stickyfingers Bakery! 12/5/09 12pm – 5pm

A few weeks ago Terry asked me if I’d be willing to table for the sanctuary at Stickyfingers Bakery. I about fell over myself in my haste to assure her that it would be no problem.

Far from a problem, it’s something I’ve been looking forward to ever since. Even though Stickyfingers, DC’s vegan bakery, is not far from where I live, I find that I rarely go. So the thought of sitting there for five hours is great; I’m sure I’ll manage to nibble on a treat or ten and even though I’ll technically be there to table, and encourage people to sponsor Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary residents, I’ll have a lot of time to plan all the things I’ll buy on my way out!

Stickyfingers is also offering an incentive for people who sponsor an animal – they’ll have coupons for me to give out to those who sponsor, giving them 10% off of their next purchase of $25 or more.

This is very generous of Stickyfingers, and I think it will be a lot of fun. Tabling for an animal sanctuary in a vegan bakery is about as easy as it gets!

Now, here’s hoping that the snow they’re predicting puts people in a generous mood, instead of keeping them at home!

Hope to see you there!

Introverts as Activists

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I’m an introvert. This doesn’t mean I hate people, or that I am socially awkward, this just means I need time on my own to recharge. To recover from times when I am social.

No big deal, right?

Except it ends up being a big deal, because we live in a fast-paced society where we spent at least 40 hours per week at work. Surrounded by other people. At least, that’s how it is for me. My work situation happens to be crowded, I’m in a pod situation. I can hear the conversations of people halfway across the room.

When I get home, I’m done. When the weekend comes, I’m really done.

It seems that every week I get an invitation to leaflet or go to a vegan social hour or something along those lines. I delete them all. It’s something of a relief to know that my bike commuting means I can’t get home in time for them anyway.

I’m often surprised that other people socialize during the week. And then I remember that not everyone needs to recharge the way I seem to. The way other introverts need to as well.

I could force myself to do some of these things, and I’d even enjoy them, at least up to a point. But I’d get more and more exhausted. My temper would fray, my tolerance for small annoyances would decrease, and I’d slip precariously closer to depression. Been there, done that.

As an activist, introversion feels like a liability. How do we reach people if our free time is spent recovering from our work week?

I tweeted a general question on activism to someone who writes a blog for and about introverts. A mutual friend, PeaceChicken, joined in the conversation. She tweeted that “some of the the best activists were/are introverts, in my opinion.”

I found this interesting. Could she be right?

I often describe my own activism as indirect. My sanctuary work, my photography, the blogging, the calendar, it’s indirect. I leaflet once in a while. But I hate it. I table sometimes, and I don’t hate it, in fact I often quite enjoy it, but after just a few hours I end up with what I call a social hangover. (Low-grade headache, and I feel a bit punchy and desperate to get out of there.)

PeaceChicken agreed with me that for introverts, the indirect forms of activism are the right way to go.

And supportive rolls are important, there is no denying that, but still, as an activist, we’re concerned with whether our activism is effective. How often are we encouraged to have that conversation about veganism with at least one person every day? How often when I hear that do I mentally flip off the person telling me to engage in yet another conversation? (Every time.)

I am reminded of a post over at Striking at the Roots featuring an interview with Carol Adams. It’s a great article/conversation/interview, and I highly recommend everyone go read it. I need to read her books…soon! But in the meantime, here’s some food for thought, on activism:

When I mentioned that some activists feel we owe it to the animals to watch such videos, she said, “Again, it’s a male model of change versus a feminist model of change. It’s not about owing. It’s about asking, ‘How can I nurture the best relationship possible for all animals?’ I’m an animal, too. I do not need to inflict suffering on myself if the consciousness of what’s going on is already there. I think women often are going to be more obedient to these exhortations because, again, of the sexism in our society. But if a lot of women already are socialized to care, then our experience of those videos may be drastically different, and I think that needs to be acknowledged. Extraordinary expectations do not need to be laid down on animal activists. We’re already there. We should ask, ‘What’s the best I can do as an individual linking up with others?’ Everyone answers that differently, but our answers become part of a chorus that’s the same.”

Besides videos, then, what tools for change does Carol recommend? “In Living Among Meat Eaters I ask, ‘How do we know how change happens? Why do we think there’s one model for change?’ I think we fail to recognize that the right brain can also bring about change. That you can incubate and you can be stimulated by art to change. I think because activists are often more likely to be left brained and rational, they fail to take account of the way the right brain can be enlisted to help people change. In the book I say that meat-eaters are perfectly happy eating vegan meals, as long as they don’t know that’s what they’re doing. What I mean by that is people hate being self-conscious about what they’re eating. Eating is supposed to be directly experiential — it’s not supposed to have a theory to it. People think vegans are going to examine everything. One of the most important things I think we do is just having vegan meals for people. They leave and think, ‘Gee, Carol’s a vegan. That was a really great risotto; it was so creamy. So…that was a vegan risotto.’ So I’ve given them a chance to incubate, and the next time they come back to me they’re not as threatened, because I’ve enlisted their right brain to work with me rather than just arguing with the left brain that might not want to change.”

Not that I’m likely to start hosting dinner parties, but overall, I like where she’s going with this. I too often feel that there’s a prescription for activism that is pretty much a nightmare for me to contemplate. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Introvert activists, speak up! What do you do in lieu of the traditional extrovert-based activism?

Upcoming: Blog Action Day & VeganMoFo (the third)

I signed up for VeganMoFo again this year. Why, when I’m so clearly not a food blogger? Because it was fun last year, and I figure it is good to step out of my typical subject for a little while. And so I’m going to be blogging about vegan food quite a bit through the month of October. Not likely in the foodie-blogger style; I just don’t have it in me! I’ll figure something out. I certainly eat a lot of food these days, thanks to the bike commuting…

And right smack in the middle of VeganMoFo, on October 15, is Blog Action Day.

To be a part of this year’s event, all we ask is that you commit to writing one post, in your own voice, on October 15, on the topic of climate change.

This is perfect, really. Climate Change, plus hordes of vegans talking about vegan food. It will hardly be any work at all! Just a couple quotes from the latest studies showing the negative impact of an animal-based diet, and it writes itself.

DC VegFest 2009

I went to the DC VegFest for the first time this year, to table for Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary. Tabling is something I find easy, and of course tabling for an animal sanctuary at a vegfest is as easy as it gets.

There was some great food there, and big crowds. Crowds big enough that it was frustrating fighting my way through the throng to get a plate of food. Toscana Green, Amsterdam Falafel shop, Nirvana Indian, Sunflower, Emily’s, Vegan Treats, Stickyfingers. Java Green sold out in the first couple of hours. The line for Vegan Treats was at least a half hour long the entire day; they were still selling stuff when the vegfest ended.

There were speakers, some of whom I’d have loved to hear, but I didn’t get there early enough to hear any speakers or visit any booths other than the food booths.

partially eaten dinner of vegan steak from toscana green

partially eaten dinner of vegan steak from toscana green

I concentrated my efforts on letting people know about the sanctuary and convincing them to come out for a visit. The sanctuary is having their annual Open House in a few weeks, on Sunday October 4, but of course people can arrange tours at any time.

Outreach is the point of a sanctuary. Outreach to people who are already vegan is preaching to the choir, but once vegans know about it, they tend to bring non-vegans.

I could see this thought growing in several of the people I talked to. One of the tablers for Compassion for Animals, the table directly across from the sanctuary’s, came to talk to me afterward. He has a friend who is really close to going vegan, would a visit to the sanctuary help? I told him how powerful it is for most people to see these animals as individuals, to be faced with the fact that they are thinking, feeling, sentient individuals. Not products, not crops, but living breathing beings who have a strong will to live.

One woman was new to the area, and thrilled to realize that there was a sanctuary in the area. She had just started helping out at a sanctuary where she’d moved from, and was determined to start volunteering at Poplar Spring. I am always trying to recruit!

The VegFest was held outside on the George Washington campus, and I think a lot of the visitors were students. It was near a metro stop, and overall seemed to be well organized. I only wish I had had time to explore more of what the fest had to offer.

I would declare it to be a successful day. I had many very positive conversations, talked to interesting people, ate some great food, and went home with a week’s worth of Vegan Treats and Emily’s desserts. COK, the organizer of the VegFest, said that they estimate 2500 attendees. That seems like a good number to me! And while many of them were likely already vegan, I’m sure there were quite a few who were not. I heard part of something Erica said, I think after the final speaker, when she explained that they started the VegFest to showcase what vegan options were available in DC. I’d say they did a good job of that. She also asked for people to raise their hands if they were thinking of going vegan after attending the VegFest, and she saw at least a few hands being raised!

That’s awesome, to me.

Work dialogues and microactivism

I’ve recently changed how I “am” in public with my veganism. But by “in public” I mean “at work”, because (I think I’ve mentioned) I’m not really a social person. That is, I enjoy talking to people, and even need it on some level for emotional/mental stimulation, but I almost never make the effort to actually go and seek out people. So work and the sanctuary are the bulk of my in-person social interaction.

And no matter how much I made an effort to socialize outside of work, it would never match the sheer number of hours I spend at work. Unfortunately, that’s life for most of us.

The change is subtle. Mostly I’m more open about being vegan. I don’t avoid conversations about veganism, even though sometimes I get so freaking tired of “representing” that I fantasize about becoming a hermit. (And if anyone knows of a tropical island for sale on the cheap, let me know…) Lately I seek these conversations out, to a degree. Specifically, to the degree that the other person is open to them, and even more specifically to the degree that this can fly under the radar in my ultra-controlled ultra-conservative work place.

The change came about in part because of AR2009, though I can’t point you to any one thing that nudged me in this direction. It also came about through my conversations with my 9 year old neighbor, who would ask questions, and who I would answer with simple and direct truth. Around the time I was realizing that this was a good strategy to consciously choose, I read a post by Adam Kochanowicz called “Be a vegan activist: Microactivism“; I think it was mary_martin‘s tweet that brought it to my attention. Adam started his post by saying:

While the decision to respond to animal exploitation by objecting to any and all products requiring the use of animals is a personal one, no significant change for the status of animals will ever occur if nurturing vegans are not there to help their peers to make this choice.


One of the most important means of vegan education is dialogue. Without dialogue, questions are left unanswered, pictures lack explanation, and the experience of thinking differently lacks emotional and social engagement.

This article tied in strongly with my recent changes, and put into words the things swirling in my head, as well as giving me some additional ideas.

In the past month or so I’ve had a series of conversations with a coworker. A very good-hearted sweet woman, who was interested to know why I’m vegan. We’ve had many bits of conversations. The part about the dairy seems to have so far had the biggest impact, but she’s not yet even thinking of giving up dairy. I think she wants to, but she doesn’t understand how to. She mentioned calcium, I mentioned the data showing that milk is the worst way to get calcium, and has often been shown to be counter productive in terms of bone health. I mentioned leafy greens and almonds. Almond milk, specifically. “Does it taste the same,” she asked. And I haven’t a clue. I would assume not, but I can’t remember. I only remember milk tasting bad, with a nasty aftertaste. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to reproduce that. I like almond milk, but not everyone does. There’s no one answer when it comes to non-dairy milks, but I think I’ll find some of those 6 packs of serving sized almond milks so she can test them out.

What I found interesting about today’s conversation was that she seemed to be telling me that she could never give up chicken, because she just couldn’t imagine ever caring about the chickens. She can’t eat lamb, and she’s now feeling bad about dairy. She teasingly invited me to the place she and another coworker were going to lunch where chicken was pretty much the only thing on the menu, saying “maybe we can corrupt you.” This was bizarre to me. Corrupt me? I didn’t know how to respond to that other than to point to my calendar, which happens to feature two gorgeous roosters, Leopold and Cornelius, and the little Rhode Island Red hen they’re watching out for. “I like my animals alive,” I said with a smile.

She was a bit startled. That’s when she tried to explain why she couldn’t care for chickens, but could care for lambs. I mentioned that chickens are killed when they are babies. Just 6 weeks old, I told her.

She’s got 3 little kids, I figure the baby and the milk connection is worth pursuing, as that seems to be what she’s sensitive to.

The coworker she was going to lunch with, who was once a vegetarian, but (and I still don’t understand the connection) gave that up after 9/11, because “9/11 affected her a lot,” seemed startled that I was having these conversations with our coworker.

“She’s not giving up meat,” she told me kindly, as if to prevent me from wasting time.

“No,” said the coworker who seems a little open to the idea, “but I want to give up other things.”

Personally, I feel like I’m engaging in a social experiment of sorts. We’ll see how it goes. I’m going to take Adam’s advice (and to be fair, it is far from the first time I’ve heard it, he’s just the most recent) and start having some literature on hand. Just in case.

And maybe I can get her to bring her kids to Poplar Spring. I think I actually underestimate how powerful the sanctuary is for other people. I know only the power it has for me. But nothoney commented on my post about the Farm Tour, referring to a young friend she brought with her to the sanctuary for the event, saying:

Erin and I went back to the pig barn after eating our veggie dogs and saw Wilbur moving around. He was looking at us so intently, and Erin was so impressed by his expressive eyes, and she called his name and I swear he tried to move toward her but sort of scooted and collapsed into a nap.

As we left, Erin told me that meeting all the animals had given her a lot to think about. She really enjoyed holding Harrison – thanks for picking him up for her. She has a tough situation at home so I can’t push, but I can gently guide. She wants to come back in October to volunteer for the Open House and we’re walking together in Baltimore’s Farm Sanctuary walk.



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.