On April 8-9, 2006, United Poultry Concerns will hold our 6th annual Forum on “Using the Media Effectively to Promote Farmed Animal and Vegetarian Issues.” The Forum joins people who want to be better communicators for farmed animals with prominent activist speakers who will talk about what works, what doesn’t, and why. Attendees will learn how to speak and write more effectively in order to bring farmed animals and vegetarian issues into the spotlight.
“Nearly everyone says animals should be treated well, but how do you define that?” – Forum speaker Jeff Sharp, Team Leader of the Ohio Survey of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Issues
Agriculture is Ohio’s biggest industry, and Ohio is a landmark for what’s happening around the world. Ohio State University, in Columbus where our Forum is being held, is a huge agribusiness school which actively promotes Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOS or factory farms), and the Ohio Department of Agriculture issues permits to CAFOS routinely. An article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Oct. 9, 2005, said bluntly: “The smell of manure fills the air.” Putrid liquid manure from mega-farm operations is “dripping viral and bacterial pathogens” that “flow into ditches which in turn flow into streams and rivers and lakes.” Yet even as Ohioans, like rural Americans elsewhere, protest, the Ohio Department of Agriculture “retains complete confidence in the system.”
In particular, Ohio is undergoing an infestation of mega-dairy operations following on the scandal of Buckeye Egg Farm. This battery-hen operation with 125 buildings holding 14 million caged hens was forced by Ohio in 2003 to shut down (only to reopen with new owners under a different name) as “a longtime source of environmental complaints, including smell and fly infestations, intolerable pollution and nuisances” (AP, July 8, 2003). The shutdown entailed the bulldozing and landfill burial of millions of live hens, a few of whom were rescued and brought to United Poultry Concerns and other sanctuaries during the mass-extermination.
While reporters focus mainly on Ohio’s CAFO-created environmental nightmare, groups like Columbus-based Mercy For Animals, whose founder-director Nathan Runkle is a speaker at our Forum, are bringing farmed animal suffering and vegetarianism into the picture. Surveys led by Forum speaker, Jeff Sharp, of the Rural Sociology Program at OSU find that “Ohioans care how farm animals are treated.” In one survey, 92 percent of 1,800 Ohioans agreed or strongly agreed it’s important that farm animals “are well-cared for,” 81 percent agreed “the well-being of farm animals is just as important as the well-being of pets,” and 75 percent agreed that “farm animals should be protected from feeling physical pain.”
So, armed with this information, how do we craft our message effectively to get people past “agreement” to a more urgent and significant response? Forum speaker Debra Probert, executive director of the Vancouver Humane Society, which in 2005 conducted the first-ever undercover expose of a battery-hen farm in Canada, and forced its way into Canada’s otherwise blinkered coverage of the brutal handling of the 2004 avian flu outbreak in British Columbia, writes: “I’d like to begin my talk by noting that every time we call the media with an elephant or hippo issue, we have TV crews coming out the doors, whereas we have to use every trick in the book to get chickens on the media’s agenda.” Despite these obstacles, Debra’s group is succeeding. At the Forum, she’ll teach us their “tricks”!
The Forum Agenda and Speakers
Ohio animal activist Ritchie Layman writes, “This conference is going to be perfectly timed. Avian flu will become more of an issue, not less. Linking the livestock industry to human health problems needs to be stressed over and over until the penny finally drops in the American mind.” One of Ohio’s leading penny-droppers is Forum speaker and radio show host Louie b.Free, whose “Brainfood from the Heartland” was hailed by The Nation last May as “a discordant progressive voice in a state where the word of God is said to drown out all others. But not that of the uncompromising Free.” Louie, whose radio voice includes animal advocacy, has had a number of our speakers on his show including chicken rights champion Karen Davis of United Poultry Concerns, Paul Shapiro of The Humane Society of the United States and founder –while still in high school – of the high-profile advocacy group Compassion Over Killing, Nathan Runkle of Ohio’s Mercy For Animals, and PETA’s “trump-a-shock-jock-every-time” expert Bruce Friedrich.
A notable feature of our Forum is that more than half the speakers – Janice Blue, Karen Davis, Karen Dawn, Louie Free, Nathan Runkle, Paul Shapiro, and Kim Sturla – started their own “show,” set up shop when “people weren’t ready,” and worked their way into the spotlight for animals. To this group, we’re thrilled to add Neil and Annie Hornish, co-founders of Vegan Video, who will tape the speakers, enhance the conference by providing an offering to attendees of only $10 per taped speaker, and provide opportunities for free publicity for United Poultry Concerns via public access television broadcasting.
The Forum Features a Special Showing of The Emotional World of Farm Animals, a Film by ANIMAL PLACE.
Since its debut last April on San Francisco’s KQED, thousands of viewers have watched this powerful film led by Jeffrey Masson (author of The Pig Who Sang to the Moon) which continues to be prominently aired on PBS Primetime. Forum speaker Kim Sturla, director of Animal Place which produced the film, will introduce it and give a brief summary of its genesis and progress. In January 2006, UPC received a spate of orders from Ohio residents, one of whom wrote explaining that the film “was shown last Sunday, Jan 8, at 6pm on PBS station WVIZ here in Cleveland. When I called WVIZ for info, you’ll be interested to learn that the station had a ‘good response’ to its airing! A s-l-o-w awakening is going on. Kudos to you!”
UPC Forums have an Illustrious History of “Firsts” for Farmed Animals
- Our Forum on Direct Action for Animals in 1999 introduced Australian activist Patty Mark who introduced US activists to the concept of open rescues, where people freely admit to rescuing suffering farmed animals and taping their appalling treatment for the media and public to see.
- Our Forum on the Role of the Farmed Animal Sanctuary in the Animal Rights Movement in 2000 looked beyond how to run a sanctuary to the larger question of how farmed animal sanctuaries fit into the overall scheme of Animal Liberation.
- Our Forum in 2001 was the first conference in our movement to focus on the question of whether Animal Welfare Campaigns & Reforms Hurt or Help Animal Rights.
- Our Forum in 2003 took the question How to Promote Veganism Widely and Effectively to the University of Colorado-Boulder Campus where author Carol Adams explained how to get meat-eaters to stop being “blocked vegetarians” and Paul Shapiro explained how you can be an effective vegan activist without any money.
- Our Forum in 2004 on Mad Cows to Mad Chickens introduced former chicken slaughter plant worker Virgil Butler as a speaker to the animal rights movement, and showed how eloquent a voice from the Heart of Hell can be when that heart has been touched by an angel, in Virgil’s case, his partner, Laura Alexander.
We hope you will join us on April 8-9 in Columbus, Ohio for a transformative experience for farmed animals. These Animals have Voices, but We are Their Voice. To register, send check or money order to United Poultry Concerns or to register by credit card click here. We welcome registrations for and by students of all ages.