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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Go Forth and Advocate!

The fourth annual Taking Action for Animals conference wrapped up yesterday and was a huge success. Nearly 1,000 animal advocates gathered in Washington, D.C. for the nation’s premier animal advocacy event. You can watch my opening remarks here and see photos of the conference as well as post your own.

Advocates and leaders from across the world were inspired to take action for animals in their communities, and learned about strategies such as lobbying, outreach, campaign planning, corporate reforms, and litigation for animals. Some of the speakers and experts in the field included political consultant Joe Trippi, Skinny Bitch author Rory Freedman, Advocacy Guru Stephanie Vance, Farm Sanctuary president and co-founder Gene Baur, and HSUS president and CEO Wayne Pacelle.

Mike_with_jarrodJarrod Cooper, safety for the Oakland Raiders, told a touching story about how his life turned around when he got involved in the animal protection cause. The young NFL player was a model of bad behavior involved in off-the-field arrests, but now is a role model for young people as he rescues dogs, volunteers at the Oakland animal shelter, and advocates for animal protection legislation such as Proposition 2 in his home state of California.

The banquet dinner featured entertainment by comedian Carol Leifer and satire troupe The Capitol Steps. U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) gave a passionate keynote address as he spoke of the connectivity between animal protection and other social concerns. Other lawmakers who attended the event and networked with animal advocates included U.S. Congressman Bob Filner (D-Calif.), Arizona state Rep. Nancy Young Wright (D-Tucson), and Congresswoman Sandra Ceballos Arévalo all the way from Bogota, Columbia.

Visitors to the sold-out exhibit hall learned about dozens of animal protection groups and businesses who distributed their information and products. Several authors signed books in the exhibit hall, Sticky Fingers Bakery was on hand with free cupcakes, and chef Lex Townes of Veg Advantage even provided a cooking demonstration and food tasting.

On Monday, hundreds of advocates put their training into action as they descended on Capitol Hill to meet with their congressional offices on animal protection bills dealing with puppy mills, fur labeling, downed animals, and horse slaughter. Advocates braved the heat in Upper Senate Park to rally against puppy mills, led by A Rare Breed of Love author Jana Kohl and her rescued dog, Baby, a three-legged puppy mill survivor.

Thank you to everyone who attended Taking Action for Animals 2008, and who is part of a trained corps of advocates making a difference for animals in their communities. The cause of animals is strengthened as a consequence. Those who attended went home with sharper skills, more energy, new friends, expanded alliances, fresh ideas, different angles of sight, and a greater sense of brother- and sisterhood—the kinds of things that make a real difference in the nitty-gritty of field work.

And if you didn't make it this year, make it part of your plans for advocacy next summer! Save the date for Taking Action for Animals 2009, which will be held July 25-27, once again in the nation's capital.

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