Category Archives: Activist Community

Working for What's Better Towards What's Best: Our Approach to Advocacy

After announcing our support for Initiative 1130, some activists have expressed concern that this measure, which regulates the treatment of egg-laying chickens, is inconsistent with our other campaigns (ending the use of primates and other animals at University of Washington, freeing the elephants at the Woodland Park Zoo, vegan education and outreach) and our stated position of ending the use and exploitation of all animals.

One concern raised is that this measure would promote the “humane” myth, the idea that the passage of this measure means egg-laying hens would be treated humanely, leaving the buying consumer to buy so-called “cage-free” eggs in good conscience. That is a valid point, one which we have addressed when crafting our original post of our support with the qualification, “While this initiative will take a step towards alleviating some of the suffering, it does not ensure that the hens will be treated humanely.” We also listed the kind of treatments the measure does not address that will still occur, such as de-beaking.

In addition to qualifying our support, we will not allow to go unchallenged animal industries misleading the public into thinking that the new measure, if passed, would mean humanely-treated eggs. Our activism includes education on the inherent exploitative nature of farm production, among other animal industries, in all of its forms and practices. We have always advocated that to truly treat animals in a humane and respectful way, one should practice ethical veganism, the living practice of animal rights, and we will continue to do so.

But while we educate as many people as possible about ethical veganism, allowing industries to remain as cruel as possible is in our minds not a morally defensible position. While we will always advocate for the rights inherent to all sentient beings to live a full life, to be free, to not to be used and exploited, the hard fact is that until the majority of people believe that animals shouldn’t be raised for food, fashion, research or entertainment, billions of animals each year will continue to be bred, raised in torturous conditions, made to suffer at the hands of humans, and be killed in the prime of their life under the worst of abuses without any protections whatsoever.

We see this measure as just the start, a step to end some of the worst abuses while we continue to advocate for the end of the use of animals. This will serve as a building block upon which other measures can be passed, until there is a foundation of legal precedent for other measures recognizing the rights of animals to be built upon.

Our position is calling for both the end of the abuse and use of animals. Our approach is one of animal rights pragmatism; we must always strive for what is best for sentient beings at all times. What is better now is further progress to what is best. The converse cannot be true, that what is worse now can somehow progress to what is best. To allow the worst of abuses unchallenged while we work to secure the ultimate rights of animals puts the animals through needless suffering.

We do not see as inconsistent working to ensure better treatment for, in this case, chickens, while we also advocate for their rights and freedom; we work ultimately for the animals, not ultimately for an abstraction. Animal rights, while it is the goal we all wish for the animals, is merely a means to an end, not the end itself. The end is the sentient being. In fighting for the rights of animals, the animals themselves should be the primary focus in deciding what we can achieve now.

Let Live 2010: Community, compassion, and creativity

This year was my first time in attending the Let Live Conference, a yearly grassroots animal rights activist conference and forum from Portland’s Let Live Foundation. Over the course of the weekend, a wide array of workshops were held on many topics moderated by activists of note from all over the country. After meeting with many people that I admired and have known only through the world of social networks and blogs, had many engaging conversations, and heard many inspiring presentations, I returned home with my head bursting with ideas that I can’t wait to act upon.

Community was front and center, with the idea of building coalitions with many other movements. The way the workshops were arranged allowed plenty of room for interaction, participation, and sharing of views and opinions, and placed the role of the audience in the same level as the speaker(s). It focused on the grassroots; people who in their spare time do what they can to help others and create change. The conference also created space for social interaction, networking, and conversation to bring everyone together and to remind everyone of the common goal. The scale of the conference was impressive, as behind the scenes volunteers tirelessly manned tables, video-taped presentations, served food, and kept the conference humming along as the spotlight speakers helped others to help animals.

There were so many workshops I wished I could have attended, but since I am (still) rooted to the physical principle of not being able to occupy two places at once, I had to make some tough choices. As a relative newcomer to animal activism (3 years as a member of the Board of Directors for NARN), I chose the ones that I felt would be most useful for me personally to become a better activist. I took a lot of notes, and as I review them, many ideas are already formulating that I can apply in the coming months towards new campaigns, tactics, and creative approaches. Look for some action soon!

Very soon we will have a “What I Learned at Let Live” forum to bring those of you who weren’t able to attend together with those of us who did to spread the wealth of information and ideas, so stay tuned!

NARN Halloween Party 2009

NARN’s first Halloween Party was a smashing success! The studio was creeped out, the attendees were costumed, and the building was set up for Día de los Muertos (“Day of the Dead”). Bethany provided us with awesome food to snack on, Pete with awesome music, and Katrina with an awesome (and free!) space. Thanks to them, and to everyone who came! Hopefully it was worth the drive to Beacon Hill.

We’d like to apologize for not holding a costume contest, since we know some people were looking forward to it – time flies when you’re having fun, and in this case it flew right past us since we hadn’t picked a time to hold the contest.

However, a couple of the best costumes are pictured below! Be sure and check out Jeff’s outstanding Edward Scissorhands – in terms of effort and craftsmanship, we can safely say he was the winner, but there were some other great costumes (like Mark’s costume inspired by V for Vendetta – also pictured below).

The witch’s pantry game winner was the board’s own Jenn, closely followed in second by Amith. Congratulations to both on a superior sense of smell!

We hope everyone had fun, and will consider coming out the next time we have a party – it’s sure to get even better!

Bryan
NARN Board


Dancin’, or just hangin’ out:

Skin Deep Studio Halloweenified!

NARN Board President “V”. Animal oppressors beware!

V: NARN Board President

This is the country and western table – we’re not sure how the NRA got in:

Skin Deep Studio Halloweenified!

And over here, the undead and a nice young man with scissors for hands:

Skin Deep Studio Halloweenified!

In this corner, it looks like it’s still the 1940’s (minus all the CD’s):

Skin Deep Studio Halloweenified!

It really wasn’t just the younger folks dancing, I swear!

Skin Deep Studio Halloweenified!

Work Party to Precious Life Animal Sanctuary

On Saturday August 29, a group of about 15 people who love animals took a trip to the Precious Life Animal Sanctuary in Sequim, Washington.  The Sanctuary, which is run by two dedicated animal lovers, Ralph and Caryl Turner, is the happy forever home to many animals.  The group of volunteers included families with children, a few dogs who enjoyed a day on the farm, and many hard-working folks who enjoyed the fresh air and outdoor activity.

We made sure the barn for the sanctuary’s only pig was clean and prepared with fresh hay. The kids and adults played with the newly rescued “baby” cow, who is already bigger than he thinks he is and when he rubs the top of his head on the legs of the volunteers, some of us had trouble staying on our feet!  But he was playful and gentle and clearly loved the attention.  We fed carrots and apples to the group of horses and shaggy burros, many of whom first required the humans to earn their trust.  Once we did, the beautiful animals rewarded the humans with affection and they allowed us to rub the soft parts of their noses!

The treat of the day was reconnecting with the 90 rabbits who were rescued from Greenlake and Woodland Park by Carrie and Mark.  The rabbits have a fortress of security to protect them from other animals, and they safely and happily ran and played in the thistle and grass while the workers tidied up their space and left carrots for their later enjoyment.

Thanks to all the volunteers and to the hospitality of Ralph and Caryl who provided an abundant lunch to all the volunteers!

Precious Life is often looking for volunteers to come up for a day and NARN will likely host another volunteer work party soon.  More information on the sanctuary may be found here:

www.preciouslifeanimalsanctuary.org



















A Niche I Love or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the blog

Over the past year, my involvement in NARN has lead me down an interesting and somewhat painful path to self knowledge. It’s taken time, but I’ve had to define and redefine the nature of my activism, and my place within the animal rights movement. A lot has changed for me since I became an activist, especially because I live with a form of muscular dystrophy, a degenerative muscle disorder causing muscle weakness and wasting. (I’m lucky to have a mild form of the disease.)

For over a year now, I’ve been attending demonstrations despite the fact that it’s physically difficult and exhausting for me (and if I’m not very careful, painful afterward). Some people might be tempted to view this as admirable or determined, but it was largely my stubbornness and slowness to learn that were responsible, along with a slight disregard for my own health.

Several months into the foie gras campaign, the frequency of the demos picked up, and after attending two in the same weekend, I was left completely exhausted well into the next week. That’s what it took to make me realize that I might need to take my condition and health more seriously. I was emotionally burned out, too, and it was clear I needed to reconsider my role within NARN. The obvious answer was to spend more of my time doing technical work, particularly on the NARN web site.

There’s never a shortage of things to do for the VegSeattle and NARN.org websites, and I was already having a hard time keeping up, so it was the obvious choice. But it still wasn’t easy to talk myself out of demoing in favor of sitting at my desk–I do enough of that at my day job–but I was left with little other choice if I was to take proper care of myself. Although somewhat resigned, I stuck to my decision.

This is perhaps the first major lesson many activists must learn: take care of yourself first. I believe Kim McCoy (of Sea Shepherd) emphasized this at the opener for the Let Live Animal Rights Conference in Portland, Oregon. It’s clear why this is advice that should be taken to heart: if you don’t find a balance in your life and take care of yourself, you won’t be an effective animal advocate. There was a lot of talk at the conference about knowing your strengths, doing what you’re good at, and constantly re-evaluating what you’re doing to see if it works. While a lot of this was focused at the campaign level, it clearly hit me on a more personal level.

Other aspects of Let Live helped me gain additional perspective on my situation, and renewed inspiration. It felt like I gained a new lease on life, although it also left me exhausted (from the drive to Portland, not getting enough sleep, and the sheer number of people attending). I also found it difficult to socialize in this state, which led me to realize that perhaps I wasn’t cut out to network on behalf of NARN–so the same big questions were on my mind that weekend and I plenty of time to ponder them: what was my role? What were my strengths? It was pretty clear that web sitework was one. Writing has also long been a passion of mine–fiction and otherwise–and Let Live provided me with a few pathways to learn more about how these areas intersect with activism.

I attended workshops on design (by Josh Hooten of Herbivore, whose clothing I wore on several occasions during the conference) and writing (by Jasmin Singer of Farm Sanctuary). What both of these had in common was behind-the-scenes work. While often less glamorous and less recognized, supporting the infrastructure of the movement is as important as having people at protests. It also offers opportunities for nearly anyone to be involved—regardless of their abilities. The internet has opened Pandora’s box on this front: blogs, social networking sites, content writing and IT work for websites; the list goes on. And this is on top of other forms of office activism: preparing literature, sending letters and emails, doing basic administrative and financial work for animal rights organizations, etc. The possibilities are almost unlimited.

So if you’re new to activism and looking to get involved, realize that you have a host of options—including things as simple as encouraging friends and families to adopt a more compassionate lifestyle, the most basic form of activism. Prospective activists should also be made aware of the various ways in which they can contribute, although demand for such work usually ensures that it’s sought out (NARN certainly has some such opportunities, and we’re happy to accept help from volunteers). What’s more, this can make it easier to participate in animal advocacy without leaving your home, and without having to so much as leave your comfort zone. You can work when you want to on your own schedule, and if I sound like an ad for a job stuffing envelopes at home, it’s only because I’m excited about my new found focus on this sort of work.

I hope my experiences will inspire anyone reading this to do more – and do whatever you can to help animals. I wrote above that you don’t have to leave your comfort zone to do activism, but I hope all activists will choose to challenge themselves: you can always do more by trying things you’re not initially comfortable with. You might feel like you’re too shy or otherwise not good for front line activism, but don’t discount it without trying it. If you don’t like it, try it again, and remember that some forms of activism will never be comfortable or easy–but they are worthwhile. Even if it was unhealthy for me, I value what I learned about the movement and myself on the front lines.

So do what you can–and don’t run yourself into the ground. Remember, the animals are counting on us to be our best.

-Bryan Schultz

Double Standard

As many of you probably heard, Dr. George Tiller, a doctor that performed late-term abortions was murdered at his church this past Sunday.

Any death is tragic, and this one also serves as a reminder of the “special” legal hurdles faced by animal rights activists. The man that shot and killed the doctor was not called a terrorist by the government or by the media, even though the action he carried out was based on his religious and philosophical views. The man is an extremist. He is part of a group that fights in behalf of the voiceless and the anti-abortionist movement as a whole professes to value all human life.

Animal rights activists are often compared to  anti-abortion activists , and we do have many similarities to the Anti-Abortionist movement. We both proclaim to value life, we both conduct protests and we have been known to label members of the opposition “murderers”.   It is worth noting however, that 4 people have been killed by anti-abortion activists, while zero people have been killed by animal rights activists.

The government however, treats us differently. If an animal rights activists commits an action in the name of Animal Liberation, we are automatically labelled terrorists. Anti-abortionists are not. They are only prosecuted based on their crime, not on their ethical, religious or philosophical views. The man that murdered Dr. Tiller will be charged with murder, not terrorism.  He will not be tried in Federal Court, and it is unlikely that he will receive a special sentence.

This double-standard treatment is unfair, but this should be nothing new to us.  Animal rights activists are fighting against unequal standards every day. Dogs are given more protection that pigs, cows more protection that chickens. Any cute animal has more advocates that the less visually appealing. We should not let the injustice that we face at the hands of the legal system deter us.

We must keep fighting on behalf of the voiceless, for the obstacles that we face, are nothing compared to the injustices faced by the animals.

Vegan Prom for the AETA 4, 3/14/09

Local animal rights supporters came out in their best prom wear to eat delicious vegan tacos and succulent desserts, be stirred by activist talks, and hit the dance floor to 80’s music spun by DJ Coldheart.

Board member David summarized our current campaigns in which, in the words of one supporter, “NARN has really been kicking ass lately.” Attorney Jenn Kaplan explained the significance of the recent arrests of four activists who are being charged under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. Darius Fullmer of the SHAC7 gave a rousing speech about the importance of not succumbing to fear in our fight against animal oppression, as well as his own experience being charged under the AETA. “How ever you think is the best way to achieve animal liberation, keep doing it, and do it more,” he said.

And NARN t-shirts made their public debut at the Prom. Black shirt, white printing, $20. Contact info@narn.org to get one!

Community Presentation: "Know Your Rights: Freedom of Speech"

An absolutely excellent presentation by a local lawyer who explained First Amendment free speech rights as they relate to animal rights activists.  This was Part 1 of our series discussing everything activists need to know in this day and age. Stay tuned for Part 2 in January about Fourth Amendment (search and seizure), Fifth Amendment (self-incrimination) and Sixth Amendment (right to counsel) rights. Stay safe, be smart, and know your rights!