The International Animal Rights Conference 2015 Experience

~ by aga

Last week I attended the annual International Animal Rights Conference (IARC) in Luxembourg, as an Anti-Speciesist Womxn and as a speaker on solidarity and total liberation (will post about it asap). Actually, it is at the IARC 2014 where I met some of the most brilliant total liberation activists who encouraged me to get active in a feminist-vegan group. This year again, I met some amazing people, had amazing food and heard amazing presentations. People reported on the state of activism in their localities, ranging from the UK to Columbia, and from Australia to Palestine.

I heard about liberated animals, sanctuaries and organising strategies, as well as about obstacles such as repression, violence and war. You can find all recorded talks from this year here (they are still being uploaded).

I learned that whilst the UK is inventing new laws specifically to destroy anti-vivisection campaigns and imprison activists, Columbian activists see their comrades being abducted without a sign of life for years.

The Palestinian Animal League (PAL) left the biggest impression on me. Amidst a war PAL are making creative, intelligent and sustainable activism that is set out to break the cycle of violence towards humans and animals. It is the most fascinating concept to organise for the animals I have come across in a long time. They are working together with Liz Tyson, a fellow total liberationist, and former director for CAPS (Captive Animals’ Protection Society) who is based in the UK. Together with Ahmad, who works on the ground in Palestine they produced this astounding presentation.

In it they explain how the war and the occupation affect their activism, but also how they overcome these obstacles. They brilliantly show the connections between human rights and animal rights and how theories of overlapping patterns in violence towards humans and animals and ideas of the interconnectedness of suffering can be used in practice.

Although feminism wasn’t much represented in the talks, the feminist activists always seem to find one another. We have had discussions about inclusiveness and combatting issues such as white supremacy and homophobia in the movement. A big issue was also masculinity in animal activism. Together we challenged the prevalence of men as heros within our own movement, which came about in the last decade or so. We probably all have the same imagine spring to mind here, the militant male hero figure who overshadows everybody who isn’t the animal liberation front, including the animals.
And yes, of course, we, the anti-speciesist women do support the animal liberation front. And yes, of course, images like these can be seen as a useful campaign tactic. Let’s leave that discussion for another post (or the comment section).  As an anti-speciesist feminist, whose aim is animal liberation I have to ask myself: Why are these images of militant man-heros so dominant over images that show the actual survivors and their stories? These images, found in all sorts of animal rights literature as well as reflecting the mainstream ideas of  the ‘vegan/eco terrorists’ are perpetuating this culture of hardcore humans who are emotionally and physically capable of taking the ultimate risk of breaking into an animal facility and liberating its victims. The glorification of this figure of the liberator goes hand in hand with the devaluation of other very important work by activists who cannot be the ALF.  We should refocus the media we produce to reflect our cause, and use more images like this one of the beagles walking on grass for the first time. So, white able-bodied men (and women to a great extent), let’s stop making use of our (hu)man privilege and start giving more space to the animals. That’s the least we can do.

Another very significant issue discussed this year was the lack of solidarity between ourselves in the movement -and this comes down to issues of discrimination against people in our own movement but it also is a result of the fear induced into us by the state and the police. Lorna Cooper, a person of great dignity and an admirable moral compass, introduced us to the tactics employed by the EU to stop anti-vivisection campaigns. Lorna told us about the cases brought against herself, Debbie, Natasha and Sven. The talk wasn’t recorded, but the gist was to not abandon your friends if they suffer from repression (this might include that they are banned from protests or any activism, they might be banned from seeing their closest friends, they might be banned from using the internet and their movement might be restricted, and/or they might be imprisoned). Dedicate protests to them, send them pictures, postcards, letters, emails and be creative. Don’t let them forget that you are thinking of them, that they are still important to us and that their work is being continued.

We would love to hear what you thought of the talks at this years IARC. Let us know in the comments and hope to see you there next year!