MOVEMENT WATCH is an update on recent and current campaigns in the animal advocacy movement, with brief, rights-based analyses. MOVEMENT WATCH does not provide a full overview of any listed advocacy group’s work. Campaigns and news items are selected for their legal and social significance.
Thanks to our friends at Ánima for providing this document in Spanish on their web site.
- Respecting the Diversity of Life
- Greener Wheels and Lighter Footprints
- Replacing Violent Rhetoric with Principled Advocacy
- Outreach to Science and the Media
- Animal Rights and the Dairy Case
- Only in Spin World
- Life-Affirming and Life-Changing Ideas
- Love and Dominance
In this edition, I have the pleasure of sharing a brief synopsis of “Foundations of a Movement: An Animal Rights Conference,” which was hosted by Friends of Animals in New York City in July.
Peter Galvin is research director for the Center for Biological Diversity. Jay Tutchton is a lawyer who, with a number of energetic law students at the Environmental Law Clinic at Denver University, tirelessly advocates on behalf of the environment and all those who call it home.
Together with Friends of Animals President Pricilla Feral, Peter and Jay kicked off the conference by discussing the connection between zoos and canned hunts at Texas hunting ranches.
Peter, Priscilla, and Jay also discussed the Arctic Refuge and its importance as the key denning site for polar bears, animals who are also in severe danger from the effects of climate change. Peter Galvin then described an initiative to press the government to halt global warming as part of its legal obligations under the Endangered Species Act. The panel and conference attendees also discussed the importance of the Endangered Species Act in actual terms of rights.
The pioneering spirit of cattle ranchers, of course, is a popular image that thwarts animal rights and environmental work alike. That cowboy mystique can and must be addressed in our work on the subjects of horse roundups and the protection of habitat for the entire biocommunity.
Loren Lockman, founder and director of the Tanglewood Wellness Center, spoke of treading lightly on the earth and being mindful of the way our day-to-day decisions affect other animals. Choosing products made from organic cotton rather than regular cotton, for example, saves enormous wear and tear on animal habitat by avoiding pesticide use.
Peter Galvin’s car runs on biofuel, and an interesting discussion came up between Peter and Loren about the best way to use vegetable-based fuels. Loren runs a recycled and extremely handsome two-door Mercedes with vegetable oil recycled from restaurants.
Mark Potok, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, addressed the audience as a special guest speaker. Mark’s perspective draws on an admirable career in investigative journalism and a dedication to civil justice. In the talk “Animal Rights and Environmentalism: Crossing the Line Between the Revolutionary and the Reactionary,” Mark described trends in animal and environmental activism that parallel the growth of right-wing extremism.
Mark also recounted how Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center have recently intervened in the Sierra Club elections to stop “the greening of hate.” Mark’s talk covered the debilitating effect of the violent rhetoric which appear to the outer world as evidencing a lack respect for humanity, for nonhuman animals, and for the environment.
This critique has challenged our comfort zones; but then, as Loren Lockman said, there is no growth without discomfort. And when people express anger with a speaker, feminism offers a process for activists to listen to ourselves and each other. During a portion of Mark Potok’s talk in which a certain segment of activists’ rhetoric was outlined, one member of the audience did express frustration aloud. Yet the tension did not escalate. The audience member agreed with Friends of Animals to allow an invited presenter to speak with a different voice.
Following up on the concerns generated by what Mark Potok called “shwashbuckling” activism, my own presentation examined the ways in which activists “perform” direct action. The talk was intended to raise questions about how best to bring new allies into the animal rights movement, about the self-esteem of the movement’s representatives, and about the consequences of these factors for the real animals who cannot hold us accountable for the ways in which we represent their interests.
Science journalist A.R. Hogan presented a workshop on effective methods of writing commentaries and letters to editors. Richard Twine discussed outreach through web design, illustrating the activism and education inspired by the Ecofeminist Web Ring and web-based journals.
Richard also demonstrated the value of “upstream dialogue” (conferences and communications designed to inject public opinion before decisions or products are already made) with biotechnologists. Richard discussed the genetic modification of animals used by agribusiness, the use of biotechnology in medicine, and the increasing overlap between the two.
Richard additionally explained the difference between British and North American law with regard to patents of processes involving nonhuman animals and on the animals themselves. Finally, Richard’s talk illustrated the connection between agribusiness and the cloning of pets.
An active group of participants talked about the issue of dairy sales — an issue that has often been relegated to second place in the priorities of environmental or ethical vegetarians. A lively debate surrounded the issue of the ethics of eggs that come from uncaged hens.
In a deeply thought-provoking response, Daniel Hammer quoted Donald Watson, who founded The Vegan Society in 1944:
One of my earliest recollections is of holidays on my Uncle George’s farm where I was surrounded by interesting animals. They all “gave” something: the farm horse pulled the plough, the lighter horse pulled the trap, the cows “gave” milk, the hens “gave” eggs and the cockerel was a useful “alarm clock;” I didn’t realize at that time that he had another function too. The sheep “gave” wool. I could never understand what the pigs “gave,” but they seemed such friendly creatures…always glad to see me. Then the day came when one of the pigs was killed: I still have vivid recollections of the whole process — including the screams, of course… I decided that farms — and uncles — had to be reassessed… 
Perhaps the giving concept needs to be reassessed as well, when it’s the humans who do the taking from animals we own.
Speaking about necessary reassessments, columnist and book author Mickey Z, in “Welcome to Spin World: Corporate Propaganda for Vegans,” wryly, and rightly, observed:
Only in Spin World can you have an establishment named Popeye’s Fried Chicken, where the world’s most celebrated spinach eater is associated with the charred flesh of tortured and cancerous birds pumped full of hormones and antibiotics and mass-marketed to the underprivileged.
Only in Spin World does every fridge come with a meat drawer, a butter shelf, and an egg rack. Do you realize there are no vegetarian refrigerators?
Living foods — fruits and vegetables not cooked over 118 degrees F — are high in life-affirming nutrients and in aesthetic quality, and conference participants enjoyed chef Matthew Kenney’s spicy Thai collard wraps, followed by a delicious chocolate and coconut pudding. 
On that note, New Yorkers Edita Birnkrant, Joan Cameron, Ellie Maldonado, and Sandy Lewis were on hand to recommend the city’s best vegetarian dining spots. Bob Orabona of Connecticut photographed the event, and Bill Dollinger of Washington, D.C. was host at the microphone. Friends of Animals Vice President Dianne Forthman arranged the logistics for the entire event; and Jerry Atkins, Donna Labati, Laurel Lundstrom, Belveley Russell, and Susan Russell enjoyed the opportunity to hear the feedback and ideas of activists. A young attendee expressed an desire to “change my life, beginning today.” A senior activist said, “I came to agree with the idea of animal rights many years ago, but I’m learning a great deal this weekend. It’s true, isn’t it? We never stop growing and learning.”
Florida activist Christine Dorchak said, “I really appreciated the intelligent and thoughtful approach of each presentation and the respect we all showed for differing thoughts and ideas about our movement. So refreshing!” Christine is an attorney whose group Grey2K USA has successfully helped to shut down a number of dog racing tracks, and is on a mission to end the peculiar custom of dog racing in North America.
Vicky Crosetti of the Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley shared a panel with Christine. Vicky talked about the no-kill shelter movement and the problem of overflow into other shelters, and Christine spoke of the role of love in fundamental change.
Ecofeminist author Brian Luke, together with Daniel Hammer, discussed the importance of appreciating just letting deer pass through our lives and our gardens. Brian Luke’s photographic slide show focused on physical posture, gestures, and gender in scenes from the infamous Hegins pigeon shoot. Participants talked with Brian and Daniel about the idea of masculinity and how people react to vegans or animal rights activists in terms of gender expectations.
Brian also discussed the connection between love and dominance in our culture, during a panel shared with Lee Hall which focused on Catharine MacKinnon's essay “Of Mice and Men: A Feminist Fragment on Animal Rights.” 
The disrespect that’s routinely shown to other animals has become so ingrained that we do not even see it as domination. A radical change in perspective will enable us to make our stand in the place where such deeply-rooted exploitation could be successfully challenged. As much as any 48 hours can be, our conference was a journey to that place. A sincere thank-you to our readers for being a part of this journey.
- George D. Rodger’s December 2002 interview with Donald Watson, founder of the Vegan Society, was first published in The Vegan (Summer 2003 edition).
- The demonstration came from New York’s fine raw-food restaurant Pure Food and Wine, located at 54 Irving Place, New York, NY 10003. Tel: 212-477-1010.
- See Lee Hall, “Some Thoughts on Catharine MacKinnon’s Essay ‘Of Mice and Men’” (Winter 2004/2005 issue of this publication).