Last weekend I attended AR2016, the largest and longest-running animal rights gathering. I wasn’t sure if I should attend, or what to expect. Since in addition to the horrible plight of animals, we cover a lot of environmental issues and incremental steps, I was worried that this might feel too extreme.
I was happily surprised to find a very wide and diverse group of people and organizations there. At times the fact that we all are very different in the way we are advocates and activists for the animals resulted in tension in the group. But never anything too harsh, in my opinion. In fact, even with the people I disagree with (as far as their methods), I was able to see their viewpoint and understand them better.
I came away from the conference feeling that although there is no way we are all going to form a completely united group, even with our common goals, everyone is doing what they can from their own angle and their focus. Whether it is freeing monkeys from laboratories, focusing on wild horses, or creating alternatives to meat from animals this is the most passionate group of people I have ever met. And every one is committed to their goal: speaking out for the animals.
I believe there are many reasons why anyone can change their lifestyle: from caring for animals, to health concerns, to lessening environmental impact. Once you are able to understand the idea that we do not need animal products to be healthy and happy, a greater awareness can grow from that. It then allows the connections to be made that the intelligence, personality and individual nature that our animal companions show, are not unique only to specific animals.
There is no way I can write about everything that happened in one post, so I will write several posts over the next week. In general, being an introverted person spending 4 packed days with 1,500 people took a lot of effort. Most people are very friendly and it was great to meet some online friends in person. I learned that no matter how good your message is, presentation is so important. Our movement needs those with professionalism and positive energy. I’m going to do highlight some of my favorite speakers in the other posts.
To end this overview: we are all working towards a huge, exciting revolution and social movement. The change is coming, we can see it. Don’t be afraid of a stereotype of being extreme. We are not all the same, even as we work towards the same goals. Animals have no voice. They are innocent victims to whatever human beings decide to do with them. My young daughter understood this at a very young age, and started me on a path to reevaluate my beliefs. Some people may choose to protest loudly in grocery stores, while others work on awareness and education through other channels. If everyone can do whatever they can, we will normalize this concept that animals exist on the earth alongside us, not for us. In the end, a less violent, and more compassionate world is a cause to proudly support.