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Clearing the Air About FARM and AR2012

Clearing the Air

Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) and our Animal Rights 2012 National Conference have recently borne the brunt of gross misrepresentations by folks who should know better. We hope that the following statement of our positions will help to clear the air.

FARM takes an abolitionist stance on the use of animals for food.

FARM's mission, as publicly stated on our website, is to end the use of animals for food through grassroots and institutional activism and public education. We believe in the inherent self-worth of animals, as well as environmental protection and improved public health. Every one of our ten national advocacy programs is designed to reduce consumption of animal products, leading to a vegan lifestyle.

We generally disapprove of animal rights organizations advocating welfare reforms, because of the likelihood that their supporters will seize on it as a license to consume "humane meat." Some may forget that we were one of only a couple of national organizations to oppose the highly popular California Prop 2 welfare initiative in 2009.

We have elected not to oppose the UEP/HSUS egg bill, because we believe that it is likely to reduce substantially the use of eggs in food processing and thereby the number of hens raised for food. Our detailed position on the bill is spelled out at http://farmusa.org/HR3798.htm .

We recently replaced the popular 4-minute videos documenting factory farming and slaughterhouse atrocities with our new "10 Billion Lives" video. Unlike the prior versions, the new video also touts the uniqueness and self-worth of individual animals and warns viewers about "happy meat." We will be screening it for tens of thousands of viewers on-line and as part of our highly successful "10 Billion Lives Tour" http://10billiontour.org .

The AR Conference welcomes all advocates of animal liberation

Since 1997, FARM has organized an annual conference bringing together animal liberation advocates to share knowledge, learn new skills, network, discuss tactics, and "recharge our batteries." All presentations in concert with this purpose are welcome, even if they are delivered by individuals employed by social justice, life-affirming, or other non-AR organizations.

Some who purport to advocate animal liberation have not been comfortable with this construct. In 2004, the Humane Society of the U.S. led seven major organizations out of the AR Conference, because we included militant speakers. Some of those organizations no longer exist, while others have gradually returned with exhibits and speakers. This year, for the first time, the HSUS allowed three of its top employees to present at AR2012, on animal sentience, vegan nutrition, and vegetarian advocacy.

This year, for the first time, we have been accused of not being abolitionist enough and threatened with boycotts and disruptions by fellow abolitionists. Unlike FARM, the Conference does not take a position on tactics, but insists that they be well represented and discussed in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Banning speakers or boycotting the Conference from the right or the left can only lead to a further erosion of our fledgling movement, and our Conference won't allow that.

AR 2012 had more distractions than usual.

For many years now, local Whole Foods stores have contributed vegan food and refrigerator/freezer space for our evening snacks. This year, they also contributed a few dozen gift bags, which, carelessly, contained a description of their "happy meat" program. In the press of Conference obligations, we neglected to review these materials, and we apologized to those who were offended.

Tribe of Heart rejected our repeated speaking invitations, then tried to pull an "invasion of conference snatchers" by attempting to rent one of our meeting rooms for their own event. We suggested instead that they spend six months and thousands of dollars to promote their own conference and invite us to speak. The repeated invitations were prompted by our belief that the group had an important point of view to present, and we were pleased to find a qualified replacement.

The only "censorship" we applied was in asking speakers to observe their time limits, to stay on topic, and to refrain from attacking other animal organizations or activists by name. We have found that people are likely to accept constructive criticism of their tactics, but react defensively to personal attacks, and don't come back. We want all animal advocates to consider the AR conference a safe and welcoming environment.

One of the debate-like speaking arrangements didn't work out as well as we had expected. On the other hand, we were pleased with the debate between speakers favoring and opposing direct action and the balance between grassroots and institutional outreach training. We will continue our efforts to improve programming balance and quality of presentations.

The direction of our movement will be decided by its activists.

Our role, as conference organizers, is to make sure that diverse points of view are well represented and discussed in an atmosphere of mutual respect. The direction of our movement will be decided by those who learn, share, discuss, and, most importantly, go out and do something constructive to save animals. It will not be decided by us as conference organizers and certainly not by sideline pundits.

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