AR2014 Unites and Empowers

“My expectations were already high, but [the conference] blew them away!”

“We loved every minute! Inspiring, energizing, and fun!”

“I came to the conference mostly vegetarian, but left completely vegan.”

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Every Animal Rights National Conference is a success because of the amazing people who attend with their minds open and leave with their hearts full, ready to take action for animals. AR2014 was exceptional in that it brought in the most attendees of any conference before – over 1,300 to be exact. Coupling that with the most speakers we’ve ever had (120+), this was definitely our biggest Animal Rights National Conference yet!

Many of the conference’s highlights occurred during our plenaries. Our most unforgettable plenary was “Tales from the Trenches,” which included first-hand accounts of undercover investigations in slaughterhouses and factory farms. Using no images and no video footage, former investigators TJ Tumasse and Taylor Radig had the audience spellbound by their harrowing experiences in these facilities. Nary a dry eye was to be found in the entire ballroom.

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Our closing plenary, emceed by VegNews’ Colleen Holland, wrapped up our conference on a positive note. “We Are Winning” highlighted all the ways in which our movement is succeeding and making huge changes for animals. We also featured a compilation video featuring clips submitted from activists around the world, including our very own 10 Billion Lives crew, sharing how they are saving animals this summer. It was also during our closing plenary that we had an Animal Rights National Conference first: a couple got engaged surrounded by 1,300 other compassionate folk!

Our Awards Banquet was an amazing event! After a colorful and delicious meal, followed by decadent chocolate cake, banquet guests were treated to a comical magic show from vegan magician, Brandon Scott. We then turned the spotlight and the mic over to some special people who deserved recognition for their contributions to the animal rights movement. We started by bestowing the first ever Lifetime Achievement Award to our very own Dr. Alex Hershaft, founder and President of Farm Animal Rights Movement. The 2014 inductee to the Animal Rights Hall of Fame was Vegan Outreach’s, Jon Camp, the “Million Booklet Man.” Known as The 300 Pound Vegan, NFL linebacker, David Carter accepted the award for Outstanding Vegan Athlete, wisely stating, “You don’t need to take a life to gain muscle.” Eighteen-year-old Andrew Pucetti won the Young Activist Award in recognition of his success in ending classroom dissections and promoting vegan eating. The Henry Spira Grassroots Awards went to dedicated activists, Armaiti May and Judy Carman, for their unpaid work to help animals in their communities.

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Of course, the biggest highlights of all came from the session rooms and the socials. Learning from seasoned activists, networking with advocates from around the country, and making like-minded friends are priceless moments at the Animal Rights National Conference. It’s what keeps this conference, an enormous undertaking!, going year after year, and it’s what powers our movement forward, day after day. This conference couldn’t happen without our sponsors, volunteers, staff, speakers, donors, or attendees. We are eternally grateful for everyone’s support. We’re all in this together!

We look forward to another amazing conference in 2015, happening at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center July 30th – August 2nd, just outside of Washington, DC. Registration will open in February, so keep up with FARM on our website and social media platforms! 

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For even more AR2014 highlights, please check out our full report here.

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FARM Says Farewell to Spring and Welcome to Summer 10 Billion Lives Crews!

We’re halfway through the year and our 10 Billion Lives campaign is going full speed ahead!

Our spring tours were a great success! Todd and Angie wrapped up nearly 10 months of outreach in the great state of California with our Southwest tour. Together they visited 67 schools and spoke with 23,962 students! Be sure to read their tour recap here.

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Andy and Amanda had an unforgettable 5 months with our National Tour, bringing our effective campaign across the South despite extreme weather and mechanical issues. They reached thousands of people across Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma!

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Now we’re turning up the heat on our 10 Billion Lives outreach with our Summer of Saving Animals! Meet our crews for the summer who will help us reach more people and save more animals than ever before!

Josh and Di are taking the Southwest Tour by storm! Josh has been vegan for 8 years and will be returning to school in the fall for a PhD in Philosophy. Di has been vegan for two years and previously interned at Farm Sanctuary.

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We have crew of fierce advocates for our Warped Tour outreach this summer featuring THREE tour alumni: John returns as tour operator, and Andy returns as our driver. We also have three great interns: Andrea, Tiana, and returning crew member, Radish.

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You, too, can join us for our Summer of Saving Animals!

Volunteers are needed during Warped Tour to help us reach as many people as possible. We’ve seen firsthand how volunteers bring in more viewers. More viewers = more animals saved! If you’d like to help out and make a BIG impact while the tour is in your city, please fill out a quick volunteer application here.

If you’re short on time, consider donating to our Summer of Saving Animals fundraiser. Every dollar brings us another viewer of our powerful video, and every viewer goes on to save more animals!

Also, be sure to follow us along on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, where we’ll be posting regularly about our outreach, using the hashtag #SavingAnimals.

Together we can make this a summer of monumental change for animals!

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Todd & Angie Say Farewell to the Southwest Tour

Todd and Angie recently concluded nearly 10 months of touring with the 10 Billion Lives Southwest Tour, traveling around the state of California, educating people on the treatment of animals on farms and how to work toward a vegan diet. What follows is their recap of their experience on tour. 

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When we received word that FARM was interested in having us join their team as operators for the Southwest Tour, we were ecstatic. For both of us, this was our first job doing direct advocacy with the public on behalf of animals. Before joining the FARM team, Angie had spent her years since college balancing working for nonprofits with traveling and volunteering around the globe, and Todd had dedicated the last 9 years of his career to being a special education teacher at a middle school in his hometown.We couldn’t wait to get started talking to people every day about the plethora of issues surrounding meat, egg, and dairy consumption.

The Southwest Tour kicked off in San Francisco at San Francisco City College last August. SFCC was the first of 67 schools we would end up visiting, talking to 23,962 students before finishing on May 29th in Los Angeles. Most of the students we talked to went on to make changes that will impact millions of animals. The range of the SW tour is nothing like the FARM’s National 10 Billion Lives Tour. We stayed in the Golden State and traveled around, from the aptly named Southwestern College in Chula Vista, as far north as Sacramento State, and many schools in between! One of the best perks of operating a tour like this is meeting the dedicated activists who run campus clubs that advocate for animal rights and environmental conservation. We were blown away by the dedication and compassion of these students.

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 We reckon we must have accumulated some seriously good vegan activist karma over the past year because our final day on tour was one of the best days of both of our lives. Our tour coordinator, Ryan had contacted us a month before to let us know that a sophomore from Sonia Sotomayor Learning Academy (SSLA), a high school in Glendale, California, had invited us to an ‘Awareness to Action Fair,’ organized by the students. We’d never taken the kiosks to a high school before and we weren’t entirely sure what would transpire, but we decided to give it a shot. Little did we know that we would arrive that morning to one of the most inspiring scenes we’d ever see. What began as just a routine paper/project on critical world issues had been taken by the sophomore English class and transformed into an entirely student driven fair, discussing dozens of critical topics for 1,500 students and their parents. We were blown away. We spent the day speaking with students, their parents, and their community, about what they could do to create less animal suffering in the world, and it was phenomenal. We ended the day with 454 viewers, the most viewers we’d had in a single day all school year!

If either of us are ever asked for the top three things we learned on tour we’ll probably give an answer that goes something like this:

  1. Everyone (and we really mean everyone) who has changed their diet and lifestyle, even in the slightest, is making a difference. We can’t count the number of times a viewer told us that they had already been thinking about making changes because their Mom’s best friend has started doing Meatout Mondays, or their partner has been eliminating different foods from their diet, or their boss has been vegan for years and brings in delicious goodies to the office to share. Change is happening, and it’s happening because of you, and because of us, and because we are speaking up.
  2. Sometimes people don’t need to hear statistics, they just need to know what you had for lunch. Often times we found that viewers would finish the video and feel intrigued yet overwhelmed by the idea of going vegan. The term ‘vegan’ still brings up images of iceberg lettuce and sliced tomatoes in so many people’s minds, and while that may be laughable to those of us who spend our days eating meals that would have a jaw-dropping effect on the surest of meat eaters, often people just need to hear that they can still eat a burrito, or that their favorite restaurant likely has vegan options for them, and if they don’t there are so many restaurants that will. Our follow up conversations after the video were critical to giving people the confidence to move forward.
  3. And lastly, if you really want to get to know someone, spend 9 ½ months living in a tiny van with them doing outreach. Lessons learned: don’t bother trying to talk to Todd while he is listening to the daily news, and don’t even think about asking Angie if she wants to split dessert.

There were tears when tour ended, but we were also excited for our own new adventures to come, and also for the tour, as we’ve left it in incredibly capable hands. Di & Josh are already doing amazing work saving the lives of animals, non-human and human, and we can’t wait to follow along their adventure. Our year living in a van and speaking on behalf of animals will surely go down as one of the best of our lives, but we don’t just have each other to thank for that. We’re finding it hard to find the words to express the gratitude we have for all of you for having been a part of this journey with us, because none of them encapsulate exactly how important you all were to making this a success.

To our coworkers and fellow road warriors at FARM, especially Ryan, thank you for always having our backs and inspiring us with your dedication and compassion. To everyone we met on the road, the students who gave us hope, and the community members who opened up their homes and hearts to us, thank you for keeping us going, and for being the change we wish to see in the world. For all of you who support this tour, financially or with your words of encouragement, we wouldn’t be here without you. Every dollar matters, every dollar saves lives. Through follow-up surveys, FARM has found that on average 13 animals are saved every year for each person that watches our video on the kiosks. That amounts to 311,506 animals annually that will be spared a life of suffering and a brutal slaughter from our 9 ½ months on tour. That number doesn’t belong to just us, you were a part of that. We couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you for saving animals and the planet with us. It has been an honor.

FARM thanks Todd and Angie for their tremendous work with the 10 Billion Lives tour! Please join us in acknowledging their hard work and a job well done by congratulating them in the comments. Coming soon: meet the new summer crew on both our Southwest and National tours! 

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From the Road: Everything is Bigger in Texas, Including Compassion Toward Animals (Part Two)

Students baring witness to the atrocities that take place every day on animal farms.
Students bearing witness to the atrocities that take place every day on animal farms.

Andy (truck tour operator) and I (Amanda, tour assistant) spent several weeks in the great state of Texas, educating hundreds of people about the treatment of animals and encouraging people to adopt a vegan diet. We recapped the first half of our time in Texas in Part One. Now, in Part Two, we’re highlighting our last Texas stop and also sharing some of the great vegan eats we enjoyed statewide.

Our time at the University of North Texas in Denton was memorable, to say the least. UNT is home to Mean Greens, the first all-vegan college dining hall. It was very helpful to refer students interested in vegan meals to an all-vegan cafeteria right on their campus. Andy and I ate at Mean Greens multiple times and were happy to recommend it! The food at Mean Greens is a fantastic representation of vegan fare. From cozy comfort foods like pasta dishes, casseroles, soups and stews to fun foods like pizza and soft serve, they really cover it all. Their salad bar is fully stocked and offers a couple different housemade salad dressings (their ranch dressing is the best we’ve ever had) and the Panini station is always open during lunch and dinner, offering pressed veggie sandwiches or a housemade black bean burger. We met with Ken Botts, the man who started Mean Greens, many times while we were at UNT. Ken was greatly enthusiastic and supportive about the 10 Billion Lives tour being on campus and cheered on our work every day.

Andy, Amanda and Ken Botts, the man behind Mean Greens (from left)
Andy, Amanda, and Ken Botts, the man behind Mean Greens (from left)

UNT also has a recently-formed animal rights group called Mean Greens for Animals. This group arranged fantastic volunteers to join us throughout our three days on campus. It was great to connect with these young activists, and their group was yet another on-campus recommendation we gave to viewers who were eager to start helping animals. There’s no doubt in our minds that MGFA will be doing great things for animals!

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From the Road: Everything is Bigger in Texas, Especially Compassion Towards Animals (Part One)

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When Andy (truck tour operator) and I (Amanda, tour assistant) told our friends that we would be bringing the 10 Billion Lives program all around Texas, we were usually met with pity laughs or dropped jaws. Everyone seemed to picture us going into a “Meat Country” war zone. On the contrary, our several weeks in Texas proved that the Lone Star state is full of surprises. They say everything is bigger in Texas, and that includes compassion toward animals.

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Spread the Vegan Message this Earth Day!

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Animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of global warming and is responsible for more water pollution, topsoil depletion, deforestation, and wildlife destruction than any other human activity, yet the public as well as many environmentalists still consume animal products without making that connection. Together, we need to educate folks that a diet change is an easy way to help the planet.

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30th Annual Meatout: Inspire Others to Eat Vegan for a Day

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Join us for Meatout on March 20th, when caring activists in all 50 U.S. states and dozens of other countries will encourage their community to explore vegan eating. This year we’re celebrating the 30th anniversary of Meatout, which was started back in 1985 by our founder Dr. Alex Hershaft. In honor of this milestone, we’ve set a goal to distribute 30,000 vegan food samples to illustrate how delicious and convenient vegan food can be. And we need your help to make it happen!

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All Turkeys Deserve a Pardon this Thanksgiving

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Every year the president of the United States pardons a turkey or two, but what about the other 46 million turkeys who will be brutally slaughtered and picked apart limb by limb on dinner tables across the country? Are they any less deserving of being pardoned — of living out their natural lives?

For a holiday steeped in the tradition of giving thanks for an abundant harvest, it’s pretty hypocritical to give thanks and promote love and compassion while surrounding the carcass of a dead bird. The tradition of consuming a dead animal is far from aligned with this holiday’s life-affirming message.

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