(This is now getting later and later, and my memory dims... I have thought about dropping it altogether, but here I am again, with not much to do, so why not see where I was on this thing... it's been written very haphazardly, jumping around from spot to spot depending upon what inspired me at the moment and which notes I might have in front of my face.)
(Ok so it still isn't done, but I'm posting it anyway, because it's already a fucking month and a half after the fact... maybe I'll come back and fill in any blanks if anyone cares to ask, but I doubt it will happen...)
I arrived Thursday night, about 11:30pm, wandering in, with my suitcase in tow and my laptop all backpacked up, to find a gathering of Vegan Freaks sitting right when I came into the lobby. I was so glad to see them all, and gave out hugs all around. Due to arriving late, I missed the opening Plenary, but from what the other Freaks told me, I didn't miss much. So we stayed up til like 2:30am drinking and talking and having a good time.
The next morning came too early, and I wasn't up in time to catch a 9am session, which would continue to occur for the rest of the conference. Luckily nothing I was really excited about seeing was ever scheduled for 9am!
At 10am, I decided to check out Winning Hearts and Minds (changing behavior by altering feelings and beliefs), presented by Alex Hershaft of FARM and Harold Brown of Farm Sanctuary. Now I'm going to start with with some not so nice stuff here, but it has to be said. Alex Hershaft – I don't know much about him or about FARM, he might be a great person, he might be doing wonderful things for the animal, I mean he does put on this conference every year, right? So maybe he's fabulous, but oh my god, the man should not be speaking at sessions. He is horrible, lifeless, dull. He hands out an outline, and then reads parts of it to you, but then on other parts he just says well I won't go into that since it's all on the outline... what about when you didn't get an outline?! You know have no idea what is going on. I saw several presentations with Alex and this will be my complaint about all of them.
So my outline for this topic includes some types of behavior modification, appealing to both the conscious mind and the subconscious mind... it's all a bit dry. The one note I wrote - “Best way to be likeable – be similar to your audience”. People will listen to you more if they perceive that you are like them. I could read over this outline and pull something more out, but frankly it's just pissing me off...
After Alex spoke, then Harold Brown of Farm Sanctuary spoke, and I enjoyed his talk a lot. I had not heard of Harold before, and I always find it heartwarming and inspiring when someone from the animal industries has that epiphany and turns around into an animal advocate. Harold spoke of using the Socratic Method when talking to people about animal issues. Ask questions, find out what people know or think they know. Answer their questions. Be open, honest, kind. He said (actually I think he said his grandfather always said this...): “People forget what you tell them, they forget a lot of what you do, but now how you made them feel”. I think this can be a good thing to remember when you might be talking to someone about animals or veganism. If you scream at them or belittle them, they will remember that. You need to bring people into this in such a way that they will want to be a part of it
11am - Applying Direct Action (getting attention and changing behavior through economic & social action) - Camille Hankins of WAR, David Hayden of No Compromise and Johnny Vasic of Sea Shepherd (??)
This session apparently didn't make much of an impression of me at first, since when going back through the program, I didn't even remember that I attended it. Maybe I was just too tired. That's probably true of most of the conference. But once I found my notes, the lightbulb went on - “Oh yeah, that session...” Someone from Sea Shepherd gave an overview of the things they do, the direct action they take to save the lives of whales. They attempt to inflict economic damages on vessels that are doing illegal activity, such as whaling. They consider this to be non-violent activity, as they believe that violence has to be against a living thing, which is a position I have often heard in relation to direct action. I am sympathetic to this view, although not yet fully convinced of it, but maybe that's just my cultural programming speaking. It is an issue that I would like to read further about. But back to Sea Shepherd... according to the speaker, they do not care about public response to their actions, what is important is staying true to their message.
Camille Hankins of Win Animal Rights (WAR) also spoke, and David Hayden of No Compromise, but I don't recall the specifics of what they said. I remember really liking Camille, as I had liked her in the film Behind The Mask. She just seems so open and friendly. Like, if I wasn't such an introvert, the kind of person I would want to talk to...
A lunch break came next, and our group decided to send a car full of people out to pick up lunch at Good Karma, a vegan place in Venice, I believe. So a bunch of us were left behind to wait (because we only had one car available at that time), and we just chatted and hung out, and eventually we got some lunch to eat, which was well worth the, what seemed like at the time, incredibly long wait! :) So we missed hitting a 1:30 session that day, due to waiting for lunch to arrive.
2:30 Enforcing Protective Laws - Animal Acres guy, Shannon Keith, Paul Watson
I enjoyed this session a lot. I don't recall the name of the man from Animal Acres who spoke (the program says Lori Bauston and it definitely wasn't her). He showed a video of the investigations that Animal Acres does, finding violations of animal protective laws at auctions and places like that. Currently only 2 states require veterinarians to report cruelty they might find during the course of their practice. Shannon Keith spoke of her work as an attorney working for animals and she recommended a book called Get Political For Animals (and Win the Laws they Need). I had heard of this book previously through some emails I got and I had been interested before, but hearing Shannon speak of it, I decided that I definitely wanted to get it and I was able to find it at the Dogs Deserve Better table in the exhibit hall. I am currently only on the 2nd Chapter, but I am enjoying it a lot and it is certainly making me think. Paul Watson then spoke about Sea Shepherd's efforts to enforce whaling laws. Deb at Invisible Voices has a great entry about this whole session. I agree with pretty much all of her thoughts, and she put it all much better than I ever could.
3:30 Nurturing Activism (dealing with workload, worry, anxiety, grief and hostility) - Davis (??), Hershaft, Jones
My program says Karen Davis was at this session, but I have no recollection of that. I am thinking perhaps she got swapped out for someone else, and I don't know who what would be since it's not on my notes. Nor did I get one of Alex's outlines, so who knows what he talked about, other than well its on the outline... So all I have for this session is Pattrice Jones. I came away from AR2007 really liking Pattrice Jones. I had only minimally heard of her before, in reference to her book Aftershock (which I picked up at the Lantern Books table in the exhibit hall before I left the conference, and I think I am currently on Chapter 2 of that one as well...) I found Pattrice to radiate this vibe of caring and passion and it just makes her so personable to me. Like she really wants to help activists, she wants to see us all come together, taking strength in community and openness. Some quotes I wrote... Denial is not a precision instrument. Guilt is a useless emotion, it paralyzes instead of inspires. Take strength in listening. Listen, listen, listen a lot, and when you talk, talk true. Hope is a verb, it is something you do, not something you have. I then have the words empathy, genuineness and unconditional positive regard surrounded by a box. Make of it what you will.
4:30 – Apparently I didn't see anything for this session, and it began the process of nothingness for the rest of the evening. There was the 3 hour debacle over what to do for dinner, and then what sorts of pizzas to order. Pizzas eventually came. We ate. We skipped the plenary. I really wish I had gone to that one, I heard there was great talk regarding the abolition vs welfare issue that is plaguing the movement right now. Howard Lyman spoke, I am sure he was great as always. I do like Howard, but I sat in on several of this sessions over the weekend, so that was not a great loss. There was much drinking to be done.
10 am - Diet Campaigns (reports of reducing consumption of animals) - Guimaraes, Meier of COK, Norris of Vegan Outreach, Riley of FARM
Erica Meier of Compassion Over Killing started off this session, showing us some of the commercials that COK had aired on MTV, and discussing COK's outreach to the younger generation. Those were interesting to see and to hear about the spike in requests for Starter Kits after each commercial aired. The guy from Vegan Outreach showed a slide show showing volunteer after volunteer and telling us how many leaflets these people have passed out. I didn't see what the point of that was, it was a waste of time. Sure, maybe a couple could have been good, look what one individual can do... but it seriously went on and on and on... just shut up already. This along with something you'll read in a bit has completely turned me off of anything to do with Vegan Outreach. Not that I was ever into VO, didn't know much about them, but now... gah! So fucking annoying. Someone from FARM spoke about MeatOut events and how you can coordinate your own events to promote veganism. And some guy from Brazil spoke about his groups efforts down there, but I didn't really understand what he was saying. I feel bad about that, because it sounds like they were doing good things.
11am - Engaging the Community (identifying and utilizing community issues, allies and opportunities) - Rita Anderson of IDA, Matt Rossell of IDA, Kath Rogers (??)
12:15(?) Vegan Toastmasters Speaking thing
1:30pm - How Vegan is Enough? Rap session w/ Jack Norris
I came out of this rap session with a very “bad taste in my mouth”. I found Jack Norris's questions to be very leading and by the way he put things, it was very clear to see that he was really just trying to express his viewpoint instead of having a frank discussion about the issue of whether or not actually being vegan helps the animals. (Not that it was phrased that way, but when you ask us whether or not you helped animals by refusing to eat something with whey in it, that is pretty much what you are saying, since eating whey is OT VEGAN.) And then he turned the topic to vegan cats, and basically turned the discussion over to some Australian vet who pretty much gave a monologue about why cats should be vegan, in his view. It wasn't a rap session, it wasn't a discussion, it was an agenda being forced on us, and frankly, having gone in to have a genuine conversation about these issues, I didn't really appreciate it.
Nothing interested me too much, so I took a break. Maybe hit the exhibit hall or just sat and talked, who knows...
3:30pm How to Deal with Despair/Guilt (dealing with enormity of our mission and extent of animal suffering) rap session with Pattrice Jones
4:30 pm - Commonality of Oppression (commonalities of oppressing animals, children, women, others) - Karen Davis, Debra Erenberg of Rainforest Action Network, Pattrice Jones, Marti Kheel
Plenary - global warming, government repression of activism, Kucinich
10:30 film Animals film (20 minutes ish)
10am - Speaking Our Message - Alex Hershaft, Howard Lyman, Robert Nixon (lobbyist)
11am - Animal Protection Laws (US & foreign animal protective laws and enforcement) - Emma Bull (Voiceless, AU), Karen Davis, Tammy Grimes (Dogs Deserve Better)
1:30pm - Printing our Message - Alex Hershaft, Nathan Runkle of Mercy For Animals
2:30pm - Which Movement Priorities? (which animals? welfare or abolition? confrontation or education?) - rap session with Karen Davis
3:30pm - Producing/Airing Videos (producing and airing of TV documentaries and PSAs) - Shannon Keith, Howard Lyman and Kim Sturla (Animal Place)
4:30pm - How Can We All Get Together? (opportunities and obstacles? how to get started? how to continue?) Rap session with Howard Lyman
Dinner at Native Foods
Plenary - Paul Watson, tribute to Virgil Butler and Gretchen Wyler