Updates from the US Animal Rights Conference 2010
This year marked my first attendance of the Animal Rights Conference in Washington DC. I was one of almost 1000 fellow vegans including a few handfuls of vegetarians and veg*an in the making. The animal rights information and subjects presented by the many speakers were enlightening and on target. I was very impressed with the professionalism and quality of animal abuse presentations across the spectrum, from companion animal issues over animal cruelty in the food, fashion, research, entertainment, and sport industries.
Ina with Vegan Athlete
The days were tightly packed with highly valuable sessions and after dinner plenaries to summarize events, followed by new animal rights movie screenings.
I am acutely aware of the many animal cruelty issues in our society, and learned a lot of new and sometimes shocking information about animal abuse during the conference sessions and in talks with attendees.
While looking at the 90 exhibits from animal-friendly charities and businesses, I ran into vegan athlete and bodybuilder Robert Cheeke, who counts many muscle-packed accomplishments entirely fueled by plant food.
Robert is an inspiring example that you don't need any animal foods to build strong muscles, great stamina, and superb endurance to compete - and win - in even the most arduous fitness competitions.
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Below are excerpts of my notes across multiple areas of the animal rights conference:
Opening Address by US Congressman Dennis J Kucinich
"We need to look at the transformation of our economic system as it is predatory: using the earth and its entire species to extinction. This is anti-social. We need to change the commitment we have towards animals. We must be the torch-bearers for a new world of redefined principles."
Dennis Kucinich works in every way possible to be a conscious liaison between concerned, compassionate citizens and the US government. He pledges to help transform society into a respecting, aware community that honors the rights of every living being.
He supports the "Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act", has introduced substantial improvements to the "Nutrition for America's Children Act", and supports the repeal of the "Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act" (AETA).
The Food Industry's Misleading Labels: Cage Free, Free Range, Grass-Fed
Cage Free Eggs Carton
Gene Baur - President and Cofounder of Farm Sanctuary explained how the food industry uses marketing gimmicks like new labels to address consumer concern about the animal cruelty in the food they eat.
In the wake of broader public awareness and outcry about the inhumane conditions for farm animals who live their short lives in severe confinement, the food industry has responded with new labels propagating more "humane" farming conditions.
Labels like cage free, free range, grass-fed, etc. are used to instill a sense of comfort in the consumer for doing the right thing.
While the thought definitely spells progress, I want to share some realities about the confusing claims of cage free, free range and grass fed.
Protective Laws for Animals in the USA
Gene Baur from the farm animal protection group Farm Sanctuary and Odette Wilkens from Equal Earth Justice gave an update on the state of protective animal cruelty laws.
Chickens have almost no animal rights or protection from abuse. Egg-laying hens are spent after 1 year and the slaughterhouses won't take them, as they are too thin to attract consumers. They are bred differently from the "broiler-breeds", so they need to be disposed off fast and cheap. In one particular gruesome case of animal cruelty of the food industry, chickens were simply thrown alive into a woodchopper. When this became public it sparked such an outrage about the animal abuse in the food industry that the call for protective laws for farm animals grew stronger.
22 US states have initiatives where citizens can put an animal abuse issue on a ballot. This often addresses animal cruelty in the food industry and it helped pass the following legislation:
- In 2002 Florida banned gestation crates for pigs in a major success for opponents of animal cruelty in the food industry.
- In 2004 California banned foie gras when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed SB1520 into law, banning the force-feeding of ducks and geese for foie gras and the sale of it.
- In 2006 voters in Arizona banned gestation crates and veal crates - great progress against the animal abuse of pigs and calves.
- In 2008 the now famous proposition 2 was won with support of 63% of voters in California. It bans gestation crates for pigs, veal creates, and laying hen cages. This is a great success for animal rights, despite of immense efforts by the food industry to avert the vote.
Skin Trade - The Movie that takes Aim at the Fur Industry's Cruelty
I attended the East Coast Premiere of Skin Trade, produced by Shannon Keith, which documents the horrifying cruelty to animals in the fur fashion industry.
As expected, the movie laid it all out about the truth of trapping, executing, skinning alive, etc. of animals that are captured, bred, and killed purely for their skin.
For me, this outrageous practice of animal cruelty to serve an unnecessary human vanity is the epitome of senseless murder, and violation of even the simplest moral values that most of us humans were taught to embrace.Read more about Skin Trade and the false claims of faux fur.
Find out more about animal abuse in the food industry.