I spent part of Sunday (and, yes, it’s taking me this long to blog about it) at the Taking Action for Animals conference in DC. I didn’t attend any sessions, as I was just there to help Josh out at the Herbivore table (did I meet any of you there?). Nevertheless, it was hard not to hear about the hubbub surrounding the presentation by humane farmers like Neiman Ranch who were brought in by the Animal Welfare Institute. Reportedly, these farmers showed slideshows that featured photos of cute animals that were all raised oh-so-well. Noticeably absent were photos of these animals meeting their demise. Needless to say, it angered a lot of people in attendance.
What surprised (and disheartened) me most, though, was that nearly half of the crowd at that presentation was ooh-ing and aah-ing at the pictures and stories of the animals, completely falling for the whole “humane meat” thing.
Should we be demonizing farmers who raise their animals in a more humane way than their factory farm counterparts? I’m not into demonizing. But should we be inviting them to speak, unchecked, at an animal rights conference? Should we give them a free pass by clapping and openly praising them? They make their money directly from the slaughter of animals, so I’d say, “Probably not.”
At the very least, we should be inviting these folks to be part of a panel discussion where they can be challenged. A short period of open questions after a presentation isn’t nearly enough.
The AWI argues that TAFA isn’t an animal rights conference and that we shouldn’t “close our minds” when it comes to hearing such presentations. The thing is, these farmers presumably were paid for their appearance. Since they were unchallenged aside from a few audience questions, it amounts to animal advocates paying someone who financially benefits from the slaughter of animals to come and do a marketing spiel.
That’s not too cool with me.
I’d love to hear some more about others who may have attended TAFA, particularly that presentation. After doing a quick blog search and checking in at a few vegan forums, I saw almost no post-discussion of the conference, which surprised me a bit. This is something we need to talk about.
I’ll close with a picture:
There’s another photo with me in it, but this one’s better.