Last month, Cleveland High School Animal Advocacy (CHSAA), a Portland, Oregon student club facilitated by H.E.A.R.T., had the opportunity to attend the Animal Rights Conference, the “longest running animal rights gathering” in the world. Otherwise known as ‘AR’, the conference boasts 3 full days of guest speakers, workshops, exhibitors, and more. This year, the event was held at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel in Los Angeles, requiring CHSAA to raise a significant amount of money for flights and lodging. Thanks to the generous support of donors including Seth Tibbott, founder of Tofurky, and the successful fundraising efforts of club members, CHSAA was able to make the journey out to Los Angeles for what was an undeniably powerful experience. The following is one student’s insightful perspective, following her trip to AR.
My name is Jayne Frost, and recently, five other members of the CHSAA club and I journeyed out to LA for the Animal Rights Conference. One of the best ways I can describe the AR Conference of 2016 is “a non-stop thrill ride”. While it was probably one of the best experiences of my life, it was also overwhelming at times. Let me tell you, one of the weirdest feelings I have ever had was just looking around and knowing that everybody there was vegetarian or vegan. I have spent the majority of my life surrounded by meating- eating friends and family members; most have either looked down on me for my lifestyle choices or thought it was just a phase. At the conference, however, there was nothing but support and admiration for living a vegan lifestyle.
Although the conference primarily revolved around the idea that most attendees are already vegan, people who have not adopted a plant-based diet were welcomed and invited to learn. My father is a prime example. My parents had flown down from Portland, OR to meet me in LA (we took a family vacation following the conference). While I was busy going to sessions, meeting wonderful people, and tabling, my dad spent his time visiting exhibitors (and grabbing coffee!). Within a two hour period at the conference, my dad had converted from an avid carnivore to a hardcore vegan. I believe his experience pays perfect tribute to what a powerful, inspiring event this was.
I have also never learned so much in such a short amount of time. The people involved in this conference somehow managed to cover every animal rights topic you could dream of, from the spirituality of veganism to vivisection to even growing your personal potential. There was something for everybody there, even early morning yoga for those who chose not to sleep until sessions began at 9.
In addition to covering virtually everything animal rights related and teaching rapt audiences, the incredible presenters were also inspiring and motivating. The Animal Rights Conference constantly radiated a flow of positive energy. Long-time activists reignited their passion for animals. People, who felt isolated and alone, took comfort in meeting other activists. And, without a doubt, everybody there cared and wanted to help animals. For anyone out there who feels uninspired or doesn’t know what to do to help, attending AR is a very worth-while experience. You don’t need to be vegan or have switched over to cruelty-free products, either; if you just really, really love animals, the Animal Rights Conference is the place for you.
This experience also forced us, as a club, to realize that we needed to go a lot bigger. We plan on expanding our little high school club, trying to activate youth animal advocates throughout Portland . We plan to call this new effort ‘PDX Youth Animal Advocates’. Just like the conference inspired us as activists, we hope to do the same for others. We aspire to model youth activism for young people all over the country, and we have a lot of plans for the future. For now, though, we plan to organize protests against local labs that use animals for testing, and a top priority is getting vegan food in school cafeterias, including our own, of course! It’s time for the youth voice to be heard in this movement, and we plan on helping out as much as we possibly can.