For the rest of this week I shall be blogging my thoughts and comments on the Animal Rights Conference, that was held Friday 15th – Sunday 17th August 2008 (the conference actually started on Thursday and finishes on Monday, but I attended the main 3 days).
Friday 15th August, I headed to the Hilton Mark Center in Alexandria to attend the animal rights conference. Far from infiltrating the conference under any false pretenses I chose to sign in under my real name, and although not actively advertising myself and my organization (It’s their conference and I was not there to disrupt it).
Exhibitors and speakers ranged across animal rights issues, from production agriculture to veganism to medical research and more. The first talk that caught my interest was “Applying Direction Action” by Jonny Vasic (Sea Shepherd Conservation Society), Steve Hindi (SHARK – Showing Animals Respect and Kindness … SARK surely?) and Camille Hankins (Win Animal Rights – W.A.R.). Hankins was heavily involved in the campaigns against Huntingdon Life Sciences, as well as being one of the spokesmen for the North American Animal Liberation Press Office (ALPO) which publicizes the violent activities of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and Animal Rights Militia (ARM).
Applying Direct Action was an interesting talk since both Vasic and Hindi’s organizations’ claim to stand against violence (arson, bombs, home invasions), whereas Hankins was quite happy to support the more extreme activities of the ALF and ARM. Hankins talked about her part in the campaigns against HLS (in particular in keeping them off the New York Stock Exchange – however HLS has since been listed) and urged others to join in on direct action. Talking more about acceptable forms of direct action, Hankins offered her opinions on two particular incidents.
On the arson attacks on DHL vans – “We drove up to this parking lot, and there were three lorries that had been firebombed, that were in ashes. And you know what, I have to tell you I was excited, I cheered.”
On the grave robbery of Gladys Hammond – “I didn’t have a problem with that, besides the person was dead. Nobody got hurt. Except the people that lost the body for a couple of years did.”
[Click on either quote to get the full audio clip (mp3 format) to play in your browser. Audio from official conference recordings]
It seems Hankins may have taken it too far, as the crowd applause after the support of the grave robbing was sporadic at best. Given that this incidents, and other incidents like this, brought the condemnation of non-violent animal rights groups (and rightfully so) who tried to distance themselves from this fringe element, Hankins decided to remind the room that condemning such actions is “betraying our fellow activists.” She finished her talk by confirming her commitment to shutting down HLS by “any means necessary.”
To write off individuals like Hankins as an animal rights nutjob is to forget that she is a powerful and energetic speaker, who’s experiences, advice and encouragement has nurtured many animal rights activists into, sadly, becoming animal rights extremists. Most activists at the convention (or those I heard and spoke to) were genuinely caring and pleasant individuals who are often wrongly tainted by the activities of the extemist elements that exist on the fringe of the movement. Activists such as Hankins do her movement no favors, however she appears to see such criticism from her own movement as betrayal rather than advice.
Leaflet of the day – “Things You Didn’t Know About Animal Testing…”
This was a small leaflet I picked up at an exhibit stand, which included some of the following “facts”.
1. In the US alone, over 87,000 dogs, 20,000 cats and 62,315 non-human primates were used for research in 2006
– They choose an anti-viv website as a source, and seemingly the reason they chose not to use the actual facts from the USDA is because they’ve exaggerated the number of dogs by over 20,000.
2. No law requires that cosmetics and household products be tested on animals
– This is just plain wrong. Any novel cosmetic product in the US MUST be tested on animals, however one can use previously animal-tested chemicals to put new cosmetics on the shelf.
3. At least 450 methods exist with which we can replace animal experiments.
– The truth of the issue can be read in the bad science section.
“This is nonsense, these are techniques used alongside animal research. Only about 10% of medical research involves animals. From time to time non-animal techniques do come along that replace animal tests, but their adoption is rarely controversial as they are almost invariably cheaper and quicker. The vast majority of scientists who undertake animal experiments also use non-animal methods, it is a case of using the appropriate technique for the question being asked. Of course new animal techniques, such as transgenic animals, are regularly developed so the situation is very fluid.”
Keep reading for the rest of my report on the animal rights conference.