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AR 2007 (updated)

July 24, 2007

as some of you may or may not know, i spent the last 4-5 days in l.a. sitting in traffic and attending the animal rights conference at the westin hotel near LAX.

i have to admit, the first day started out a bit rough. after being on the road for 8 hours and helping carolyn set up the farm sanctuary table, we sat down to listen to some of the opening plenary’s. for whatever reason, in the months building up to this event, i didn’t prepare myself for the sad images i would see and horrific things i would hear. one of the first speakers was michael budkie from SAEN (Stop Animal Exploitation Now), and he mentioned some recent footage he’s recovered in which some monkeys had become so irrational and stressed out under their situations that they began to pull out their own intestines and organs. i felt myself squirm in my seat and tried to push the images out of my mind with no success. i was upset and knew that at some point i would burst into tears.

on the ride from l.a. to pasadena (where we were staying), carolyn and i got into a little tiff because i said i wanted to crawl into a hole and die and for whatever reason, she didn’t understand this. without giving too much detail about that conversation, i went to bed tossing and turning for 2 hours, wondering what went wrong in that conversation and trying to figure out if i could afford a rental car or plane ticket to get back home. the next morning we talked a little bit and cleared the air, and i prepared myself for the second day of talks.

the second day i went to a variety of sessions, including engaging youth and how to deal with grief. the grief session was managed by pattrice jones, of eastern shore chicken sanctuary. she was talking about how we activists need to take care of ourselves and each other, and i knew it directly related to me and everything i’ve been going through over the past 5 years or so. pattrice was telling a story of something that had happened to her just that morning. she walked past a woman at the conference and saw in that woman’s eyes that she was distressed and looked about ready to cry. pattrice walked past her and realized she should probably see if that woman needed help. they began chatting and the woman burst into tears, feeling totally helpless regarding the suffering of animals throughout the entire world. pattrice hugged her and shared her own experiences with the woman and at the end of the conversation the woman was still upset, but feeling better now that she had found someone to relate to.

listening to pattrice, i began thinking of tasha who is going to pass away soon, and after five minutes of trying to repress my tears, i walked out of the room as quickly as i could. i passed a man in the back row who saw my red, tear-soaked face and gave an expression of, “oh dear, are you okay?” i went into a bathroom stall and cried, quietly. i knew the talk was going to be over soon and i needed to get back to collect my things, so i headed out of the restroom and a woman approached me. she asked if i was okay and through sobs and tears i said, “no.” she gave me a hug and asked what was wrong and i told her about tasha and the farm and how we lose animals all the time and sometimes i think i can’t take it anymore. i told her how close i am to tasha and that she’s become one of my special friends without my even expecting it. the woman told me that she and her husband lost their cat over 4 months ago and they are still mourning her loss. the cat was in her late teens and they’d had her forever. i then remembered clyde and tigger and tac and ceasar and knew that this woman knew exactly what i was going through. i thanked her for taking the time to come and check on me and we went on our separate ways. i saw that woman and her husband (the same man who gave me that expression when i left the talk) later on that day and gave them a smile that said, “thanks, i’m okay now.”

during the rest of the conference i cried here and there, thanks again going to pattrice jones for telling the story of her rescued hens. i think most of the time they were good tears i was letting out, at good positive upbeat stories people were telling. i guess i just really needed to cry amongst people who sorta knew what i was crying about. it was a nice feeling and i can’t wait to go to the conference the next time it’s in CA.

i also got to meet some of my online friends from here’s a photo of the whole gang:

that’s me in the back row, green shirt, not smiling.

many of the sessions i attended also brought up the issue of welfarists vs. abolitionists. look, i’m tired of this shit. i’ve been going back and forth on this in my head for months now, ever since it was brought up on by one of the users there. i dunno; i like the idea that we are giving more room to animals that are suffering NOW. but i also don’t like the idea that alongside with giving them more room, they are now trying to breed animals (such as sows) to produce more piglets. so instead of having more room for, say, 7 piglets, they are trying to figure out a way to squeeze more piglets into those damned gestation crates. my cats are on a meat-based diet. since all cat food is basically crap, even the top-of-the-line expensive stuff, it makes me feel a tad bit better that their food came from an animal that was given more room than it did last year. on the flip side, the abolitionists are making small, slow changes that you can’t even see. promoting veganism, for instance. i am all for this and even practice this myself. if the whole world were vegan, we wouldn’t have this issue. i get it. i’m just sick and tired of everyone in the movement arguing over which way is better, and even getting so angry about it that we are now breaking up into two groups; welfarists and abolitionists. nobody REALLY knows which way will work. there is no hard evidence to support either way of going about making change. all i care about is that we are making change. one of the sessions i attended touched upon this very issue that we, as activists, are now facing. i’m just tired of the separation. in the end, we’re all in it for the same reason.

the last day of the conference i went to a session on advertising and another session on using the internet to your advantage. (hence, the new blog interface.) i learned a lot the last day and was really pumped to get started on something in chico.

on the drive home carolyn and i talked about what kind of work we wanted to do in chico together (she lives in chico now, instead of orland), so we brainstormed on starting our own organization and watching it grow. she’s in school for non-profit management so i think teaming up with her will be beneficial. we’re going to start small by making dog houses and providing supplies to folks in the county who are too poor to take good care of their dogs. i’ve been wanting to do something like this for awhile, and at the same time making local folks aware of the no-chaining law that was just passed. i’m excited to get started and will start on it as soon as i’m done with this. lots to do!

i’m finally back home in chico and i don’t think i’ve ever missed chico so much. the drive home was twelve hours long (should’ve only been eight) and by the end i just really wanted to get on the ground and snuggle with everyone. hazel came home with me and i think she’s settling in well. i think she’ll make a great addition to the rest of the family and maybe someday she’ll be someone i look forward to snuggling with after a long weekend in l.a.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 24, 2007 6:57 pm

    I was also at AR2007 and saw and spent time with Patrice and went to many of the Workshops and sometimes wished I could have cloned myself to go to more of them.
    A few times during the weekend I sat at Patrice’s Eastern Shores table as well as Lantern Books table to give her and Chris a break and an opportunity to go out and enjoy the conference. Much of that time Patrice sat with someone who looked like they needed help and chatted with them and they may not have left feeling completely better but they had an ear and an ear that understands and knows how to help. After reading Aftershock and meeting Patrice I has a lot of respect for her, but watching her unselfish giving this weekend I now have unbelievable respect for her and think she may be one of the most important person that attended the conference.
    Oh and I do agree about the fractioning of our movement only hurting it.

  2. Greg permalink
    July 24, 2007 8:49 pm

    I enjoyed your blog, Sarah.
    I am glad you got to hear Pattrice, she is moving as a speaker.
    I agree with you about the division of the movement. I appreciate the efforts of the HSUS and PeTA to get bigger cages, but I don’t give them money anymore because I am not in tune with that mission.

    When they declare a victory for the movement because the cage is increased in size, that doesn’t cut it with me.

    I am really glad the conference was such a moving experience for you.


  3. July 25, 2007 5:53 am

    Very nice blog, Sarah. The new interface is quite snazzy :)

    I get really frustrated with the welfare/ abolitionist argument, too. It’s one of those things that makes me want to run screaming from the internet.

    The conference looks like it was fun (and what a great picture of everyone). I was so psyched after attending last year.

  4. July 25, 2007 1:23 pm

    pattrice is one of my heros, she really is! If you don’t already plan on it, I urge you to read “Aftershock”. We need to take care of ourselves and each other so we can keep being activists, but this is easier said than done. The movement fracture is one example of how well-meaning people make things harder. pattrice talks about sanctuary and safe places that we need to create for each other within the movement.

    She also says this is a particularly nasty patch in the movement. I talked to her a bit about it this weekend, because I am sick of the attacking. I hope she’s right!

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