“We are all resisting the same system.”
These were the words spoken by animal rights activist former US political prisoner Jeff Luers as he addressed a room full of animal rights activists at the 2010 Let Live Conference this past weekend in Portland, Oregon.
No matter we’re fighting for, whether it be human rights, animal rights, farm workers rights, gay rights, women’s rights, we’re all resisting the same system of oppression. And we all need to support each other and create mutual solidarity between movements to build a coalition to defeat the system.
I was very lucky to be able to travel t0 the conference with several wonderful friends and animal rights activists last Friday and spend the weekend milling about with a few hundred other animal rights activists at the student union building at the Portland State University.
I rubbed shoulders with fellow vegans and activists I’ve been admiring for years, and I know I wasn’t the only one who felt star-struck at seeing so many faces I’d only ever seen via blogs and social media: Kittee Berns of Cake Maker to the Stars, Isa Moskowitz of mega Post-Punk Kitchen and cookbook fame, Josh Hooten and Michelle Wegmann (the masterminds behind the Herbivore Clothing Company), and Jasmin Singer of Our Hen House. And I was so humbled to have met the amazing lauren Ornelas, creator and director of the San Jose, CA-based Food Empowerment Project.
And I was moved beyond words to finally see and listen to Andy Stepanian, one of the six activists known as the Shac 7, all of whom were convicted of terrorism in 2006 for the innocent act of operating a website that was aimed at informing the public about and shutting down one of the most notorious animal testing labs in the world, the Huntingdon Life Sciences lab. Andy and his fellow activists were convicted under AETA – the US Federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which makes illegal any act that physically interferes with an animal enterprise. Currently, there are still two activists in prison – Lauren Gazzola and Kevin Kjonaas – serving six-year sentences in federal prisons.
Visit Shac.com for more information on the horrific cruelties being committed against hundreds of animals every day by the HLS.
Seeing Andy’s bright spirit, boundless positivity, and fearlessness after being incarcerated in federal prison for three years was so inspiring. I can’t even find the words to express how positive and proud he helped me to feel about being vegan, and how much his passion for his beliefs fueled my own passions for my beliefs.
And besides these folks famous in the veganverse, there were so many fantastic people who showed up to give a damn about animal rights and human rights. It was truly a magical and inspiring place to be with so many people interested in supporting each other in our common goal of ending animal suffering, as well as the suffering of people involved in the animal production and farming industries. The trust, openness, and willingness to connect with each other was so uplifting.
There is so much to say about what I learned, what I saw, and what I took away with me. I’m still at a loss for words to express the joy I felt at being surrounded by so many amazing vegans and animal rights activists.
Video of the sessions from this year’s conference should be posted soon, so keep an eye on the Let Live Foundation’s website. I promise you any time you spend watching the footage will leave you feeling as inspired, motivated, and hopeful as those of us at the conference did.
Now, I’m going to use the fire that’s been lit under me to accomplish great things. As Christoper Greenslate of the One Dollar Diet Project said, “When everyone starts working on the same page, we’re devastating.” And devastating we shall be.