Cleveland’s animal advocacy club attends animal rights conference
Cleveland students with H.E.A.R.T.
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Nine hundred sixty four. That’s the number of miles that the PDX Youth Animal Advocates, formerly known as Cleveland’s Animal Advocacy Club, flew to attend the Animal Rights Conference in Los Angeles, CA.
The club’s six members, a small but mighty crew, raised nearly $3,600 dollars to visit the four day-long seminar, lasting from July 7 through July 10.
“We fundraised for about six months with a GoFundMe campaign and different events that went along with it, including a garage sale,” said Melissa Patterson, senior and co-president of the club. “It was awesome! We sold a bunch of vegan baked goods that we made, and catnip toys that Claire [Howe, club advisor]’s students made. Other than that stuff, people just donated old stuff and it was very successful! We all made necklaces with my supplies and they’re still for sale!”
It might have taken half a year for the club to fundraise, but according to its members, the toll was completely worth it.
“[The conference] was amazing,” said Patterson. “There were so many people there who I have looked up to for a long time, and being able to interact with them on such an intimate level was so inspiring.”
The Sheraton Hotel-held conference boasted a variety of activities, including interactive educational booths and informative speeches and discussions led by distinguished animal rights advocates like Kevin Kjonaas, Paul Shapiro, and Keegan Kuhn. Co-president Simon Brown, senior, listed the conference’s virtual reality booth as one of the most informative and inspiring experiences at the event. The booth hosted three videos: a factory farm pig slaughter, a detailed account of the close encounters with endangered species, and a tour around a farm sanctuary.
Brown also noted two inspiring sessions, including speeches on seeing animals as individuals and the future of the food industry. “While sessions go on, there were tables all around with info, and everyone was constantly networking and visiting the other tables,” commented Patterson. The club actually had the opportunity to host their own booth, in which they spoke about “our club and our journey with it. [We talked] about what H.E.A.R.T. [(Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers), a group that the club is partnered with] does, which is going into schools and talking about kindness towards animals, humans, and the environment. …The purpose was to educate others on animal issues, teach how to educate others, and to network and connect with other advocates!” said Brown.
“The Cage,” a human-sized replica of a farm animal’s lifetime home, was also a prominent feature on the list of activities. The Cage “is supposed to represent a battery cage, where farm animals like chickens and pigs are kept for their entire life. That one was particularly roomy compared to the ones that are actually used in farms,” said Patterson. It made me feel sad, she said, “mostly because people justify eating meat and dairy by saying corporate phrases like ‘cage free,’ ‘pasture raised,’ and ‘free range,’ but it’s all the same. Not just factory farms use these torture devices, all farms do, and that’s exactly what the public doesn’t want to hear because the truth is too painful.
Someone said at the conference, ‘Do you know what it feels like sitting in the middle seat on a six hour flight? Imagine spending your entire life in that seat before you’re brutally slaughtered.’”
The Cage also made a great impact on Brown. “I knew it was absolutely nothing compared to the actual conditions that the animals go through, and it made me realize that they didn’t get to walk in and out of that cage, they are in it from the moment they are born ‘til the moment they die. It just showed me that nothing we do could compare to what each and every one of them endure through their tortured lives, and it intensified the urgency to save them.”
The conference, inspiring, powerful, and brutally honest certainly exceeded expectations among the club’s members. “Everything about the experience was really amazing for me, but I think [the best part] was just meeting all the amazing people. I just can’t believe that such incredible people exist in the world and I can’t believe that I got to meet some of my idols that have been inspiring me for years like Kevin Kjonaas, Paul Shapiro and even Keegan Kuhn,” said Jayne Frost, junior.
Brown said he’ll never forget when “Kjonaas gave a speech Friday [July 8] night. He was imprisoned for over 4.5 years for rescuing animals from an animal testing lab. He was so deeply inspiring, and the whole time he talked I was choking up, trying not to cry. He is a role model and a key figure in this movement,” he said. “I also treasured the amount of connections I made with people all passionate for the same thing as I [am]. We made so many connections and my advocacy and passion has strengthened after this experience!”
Patterson emphasized that the conference helped to reignite meaning to the club’s mission, which she defines as fighting for the liberation of animals and educating students about issues surrounding their ill treatment. “We want to do what we can to bridge the gap of speciesism,” said Patterson.
The club has many aspirations for the future. Said Patterson, “We are organizing a protest for the primates that are brutally tortured in OHSU’s labs, making petitions like trying to get the store, Lush to go 100 percent vegan, and more! After the conference, there are so many people to partner up with and communicate with. It’s all in the process of coming together as the new school year starts and as we expand our club to all young people in Portland.”
During the school year, the PDX Youth Animal Advocates plan to continue their regular scheduled meetings in Carolyn Hintz’s room on Wednesdays during lunch. Said Brown, “Don’t be intimidated by anybody else in the club or by the things we do. We are very involved in different events and activities, but if that’s not your thing, that’s ok. All you have to do is love animals and be interested in their well-being and you will be welcomed with open arms!”