"Thank you so much, this was one of the most amazing experiences of my life! I feel energized, fresh and new in helping animals knowing that there is a world out there of caring people." - M.H.
AR2013 Photographers: Cara Frye & Tatiana Mendez
Nearly eleven hundred animal activists and other caring folks joined the Animal Rights 2013 National Conference at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center, near Washington DC, on June 27th - 30th. Participants came from forty-four U.S. states and fifteen other countries: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, India, Israel, Luxemburg, Mexico, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Russia, Spain, and Sweden. All returned better-equipped to work towards animal liberation.
The conference featured plenary addresses from Jenny Brown, Michael Budkie, Alex Hershaft, Colleen Holland, Erica Meier, Victoria Moran, Norm Phelps, Will Potter, Nathan Runkle, Will Tuttle, and Michael Webermann; keynote presentations of the highly-popular lectures by Melanie Joy and Nick Cooney; and a spirited discussion between Gary Francione and Bruce Friedrich addressing the drawbacks and benefits of efforts to improve animal conditions.
These speakers, and 80 others, presented in over 70 sessions tackling new and longstanding issues, controversial and time-tested tactics, and individual and community organizing. The Conference program opened with a Welcoming Ceremony and presentations striving to answer, "What's animal rights all about?"
Throughout the weekend, panel presentations opened our attendees' eyes to issues such as the war being waged against animal activists; rap discussions allowed attendees to weigh in on questions incuding "what are our goals, and how do we achieve them"; and hands-on trainings imparted hard skills, such as handling rescued animals. Attendees were treated to films including Turlock: The Documentary and a sneak-preview of The Ghosts in Our Machine.
The Conference program closed with an inspirational panel exploring the myriad of ways that our movement is winning over the public and the institutions upon which we rely. A short moving video brought much of the room to tears at the Closing Ceremony. We then closed out AR2013 with a Celebration of Animal Rights party where we also honored Conference Chair Alex Hershaft's birthday with snacks, dessert, and karaoke.
Saturday night’s Awards Banquet marked the climax of the event. Compassion Over Killing's executive director Erica Meier was inducted into the Animal Rights Hall of Fame. Vegan former-Olympic skier Seba Johnson accepted our first ever Outstanding Vegan Athlete Award, and twelve-year old Thomas Ponce received the Young Activist Award for his work to end shark finning, promoting a compassionate lifestyle, and changing laws regarding the treatment of animals.
Unny Nambudiripad of Compassionate Action for Animals and Holly Sternberg of Compassion for Animals each received a Henry Spira Grassroots Animal Activist Award - Unny for his founding work with CAA, the VegGuide site, and the Their Lives, Our Voices Conference; Holly for her decades of unpaid work with CFA, circus protests, and her innovation in devising the "pay-per-view" outreach method popularized by VegFund, Mercy for Animals, and FARM.
Over 70 organizations offered literature, merchandise, and food in the Exhibit Hall, including generous free samples of Tofurky's new products, pay-what-you-can coffee, and a bounty of animal rights shirts and paraphernalia. Morning and evening snacks featured treats from our generous food donors. Newcomer orientations, regional lunches, and daily networking receptions provided ample opportunities to mingle with fellow activists.
The Animal Rights 2013 National Conference was organized by Farm Animal Rights Movement and co-sponsored by 14 other organizations:
Alley Cat Allies, In Defense of Animals, International Primate Protection League, Mercy For Animals, Turtle Island Foods (Tofurky), A Well-Fed World, Ady Gil World Conservation, Animal Concerns of Texas, Compassion Over Killing, E-Magazine, Kinship Circle, The Humane League, The White Coat Waste Project, and Whole Earth Wellness.