April 14th to the 17th Cease Animal Torture (CAT, ceaseanimaltorture.org) hosted the 2011 Animal Liberation Forum at Cal State Long Beach. Over 250 activists and 3 dogs came from as far as England to see presenters speak on a broad range of topics from dietary history to law enforcement to the increasing need for a fighting movement. It is the only animal rights conference that openly advocates all forms of direct action for animals and veganism.
CAT has been organizing the free forum since 2008 as a place for long time and new organizers and activists to share skills, analyze police tactics and refocus their goals. Allan Yaxon, queer brown vegan activist and this years organizer of the forum noted the surge in activism after the 2010 forum. Summing up his hopes for this year’s event, he said, “I hope people take the theory they learned here and put it into practice. The fight for animal rights isn’t just in lectures, it’s in the streets.”
Several activist and outreach groups from the Southern California above ground animal rights movement were represented in the talks and at the tables including United Poultry Concerns (UPC), Humane Research Council, North American Animal Liberation Press Office (NAALPO), Orange County People for Animals (OCPA), Bold Native (the movie), Band of Mercy, the Humyn Collective, and Food not Bombs who brought delicious, home-cooked food over the weekend.
For a community that is rarely at rest, the forum was a unique opportunity for animal rights activists to put their heads together and calibrate their respective tools for liberation. It also served as a launching pad for many vegans interesting in activism and a chance for outreach to the wider community of Southern California.
It was an inspiring four days for the attendees who were able to develop their skills and connect with members of a community that is rarely at rest. Walter Bond, currently being held in connection with a series of arsons against animal exploiters summed up the sense of urgency in the movement in his address to the forum: “Make a difference in this world and the lives of suffering, innocent animals that desperately need your actions and cannot even see your posturing. Remember it’s not what you think or feel, but your actions that make you either part of the solution or part of the problem.”
Jenny Grubbs and Michael Loadenthal led a discussion about governmental infiltration in the movement based on past experiences. They updated the audience on infiltration tactics of law enforcement, namely the high level of participation of informers in the movement. According to Loadenthal, police informants drove getaway cars, took leadership roles in planning actions, bank rolled minor actions, and even dated and married activists.
The audience also learned that informers will often form sexual and romantic relationships with activists, even going as far as to marry an activist before eventually turning them in. This practice by police was considered by many at the forum to be a form of sexual assault by the police.
Kevin Olliff spoke on the need to implement long term strategy in both above and below ground efforts. He analyzed the results of focused campaigns as opposed to seemingly unconnected actions against animal industry to support this and accented the importance of avoiding stale rhetoric in communiques.
Lisa Goetz shared how her group, Boycott Pet City, has been demonstrating successfully to stop Pet City stores in Southern California from purchasing their dogs from abusive puppy mills. The campaign has been active for a year and has already seen one location, Pet City in Torrance, CA, go out of business.
Greg Kelly of Band of Mercy delivered a powerful talk about the total abolition of animal (including human) exploitation, which he related directly to capitalism. He also shared some interesting talking points with the audience such as the fact that animal circuses have been banned in china and that grass fed beef releases 3-5 times more green house gases than factory farms (which is already the number one contributor to climate change).
Til Every Cage is Empty,