This weekend I had the good fortune to attend Taking Action For Animals (TAFA) in Washington, DC. It’s an annual conference put on by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), but it was my very first time. It was a whirlwind weekend experience filled with education, networking, legislative updates, and resources. The fact that the entire weekend was 100% vegan for breakfast, lunch, and dinner was just a bonus. Ok, it was more than a bonus – being able to chow down on the cruelty-free hors d’oeuvres, plated dinners, and even chocolate mousse, strawberry shortcake, and fudge, was a huge treat.
Just for starters, I got to listen to the lovely Kathy Freston, author of The Veganist, talk about her experiences going vegan. She had an awakening moment with her father who was a major bird lover and hobbyist. As they watched their backyard birds with awe and wonderment, she suddenly realized what suddenly seemed so obvious all along – chickens and turkeys are birds too. They’re individuals with personalities, relationships, and families. Why would we eat them?
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Jane Velez-Mitchell, a journalist with her own show on Headline News. She was feisty, full of wit, charm, and determination. After years covering stories from undercover footage collected on factory farms, she has become a strong voice in the media covering groundbreaking stories that others won’t cover. Some media sources say the information is too disturbing. But isn’t that the point? Isn’t that their job? To let the American people know when they’re unwilling participants in something udder-ly disturbing?!?
I was able to listen in on some incredibly impressive legislative updates. 6 states have now banned gestation crates, barren battery cages, and veal crates. Many more are close. At least 20 corporations – BIG NAME corporations have refused to include these inhumane farming practices in their supply chain, and guess what – the farmers are adapting. Afterall, it’s the demand that dictates the standards for the supply – so if McDonalds says they won’t buy from farmers unless they clean up their act, they’ll clean up their act! Consequently, if customers tell McDonalds they won’t buy their products unless they meet certain guidelines, McDonalds will make it happen. That is, assuming they want happy customers.
My amazing friends at Humane PA are working hard in Pennsylvania to make advances for all animals, and it was really fun to exchange ideas with other groups too. It is amazing to hear all of the wonderful things that ordinary people are putting into action all around the country and overseas. Perhaps the strongest takeaway messages from the whole conference were these three things:
1) 97% of American people when surveyed reported that they oppose cruelty to animals. Yet, 97% of the standard American diet is made up of animal products. The disconnect is NOT that people don’t care, but that people don’t know. They think they know, but really so many have no idea how horrific the treatment really is. It’s important to keep talking, keep sharing, and help people to understand.
2) See something? Say something! “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” ~ Martin Luther King, JR
3) Animals have many many friends, and they need us not to be silent. If 97% of us right here in this country believe that animals should not be subjected to cruelty, and if even a few more people are willing to make choices that are in line with this existing belief, we WILL change the world. We are already well on the way.