Each year since 2009, IPPL has been represented at the Animal Rights National Conference, which has been organized in various formats since the 1980s by the Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM), led by Dr. Alex Hershaft. The conference currently alternates between Los Angeles and Washington, DC. This year’s conference was held in Los Angeles. IPPL was a Silver Sponsor and had a double exhibit booth.
Our team was composed of myself, IPPL board member Dianne Taylor-Snow (and her service dog Roger), and long-time employees Hardy Brown and Tina McCoy. Several California members came in to help staff our booth, including Patty Gothard, Dr. Nancy Merrick, and Sharon Taksel. Many other California members stopped by to say hello.
Our exhibit included a wonderful blow-up poster of Spanky Gibbon’s face. We also had panels showing the IPPL gibbons and the overseas projects we help. We distributed lots of free literature. We sold T-shirts, tote bags, and baseball caps.
We also had a petition to the Chinese Endangered Species Import and Export Management Office and the Chinese Embassy in Washington, which many people signed. For years China has been importing chimpanzees smuggled from the African nation of Guinea. Both the export from Guinea and the import of the animals into China were in flagrant violation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), where chimpanzees are listed on Appendix I (the list of animals most endangered and restricted from trade). At the 2013 CITES conference, Guinea was sanctioned for its dealings. China was not. IPPL considers those who patronize the trade in wild animals to be just as guilty as the poachers and exporters—if not more so. Sadly, the chimpanzees who reach China often end up in horrible facilities. One zoo trains chimps to smoke. Another arranged a “wedding” of two chimpanzees who were then paraded through the streets of Hebei. We really appreciated so many people signing our petition.
I gave four talks, starting with a brief welcome to the gathered attendees. Then I did a separate presentation on fighting the use of primates in experimentation. I illustrated my talk with the story of Angela Maldonado’s work to end the abuse of night monkeys in research in Colombia. I also told of the struggle by Wildlife Watch Group and IPPL to close two monkey research centers in Nepal that were being set up by U.S. labs. The turning point came with our effort to have a climber successfully summit Mount Everest carrying a pro-monkey banner.
My next talk was given to all the assembled conference participants in a plenary session that focused on veteran activists. My presentation highlighted a number of victories throughout IPPL’s history, including our battles to end the international traffic in live monkeys from Thailand, India, Bangladesh, and Malaysia. I also spoke about two of IPPL’s more protracted campaigns. One aimed to get the smugglers of six baby orangutans (the “Bangkok Six”) identified and prosecuted; Matthew Block of Miami went to prison for his role in this crime. The other campaign was to expose the smuggling ring that shipped four baby gorillas from Cameroon to Nigeria and then on to Malaysia. It took years of tireless work but finally the gorillas were returned to their Cameroonian homeland. My final slide showed some of the IPPL gibbons. I consider them to have been my vaccination against the burnout that troubles so many activists. I have been working for IPPL for 41 years!
My final talk was about the mechanisms of the sordid traffic in live monkeys for experimentation. I shared some of the statistics about the huge numbers of primate imports into the U.S., primarily for use in labs. I concluded with a slide that gave suggestions for ways people can help lab monkeys.
Many other conference talks focused on veganism and on the sad variety of animal abuses. A lot of attention was paid to attacks on the civil rights of animal activists by the powerful meat, dairy, and pharmaceutical industries. One example of the kind of bills they are working to pass at the federal and state levels are “ag gag” laws that make it a crime to investigate and photograph animal abuse. Odette Wilkens of the Equal Justice Alliance and Will Potter of “Green is the New Red” are gallantly leading the fight to protect activists.
The exhibits were quite varied. My favorite was that of a man who makes gelatin-free Jello and was giving away free samples. The “Cool Cups” were delicious. Tina, Hardy, and I made frequent trips to this man’s booth!
This year’s conference attracted 1,500 attendees and was the biggest one yet. We met so many activists of all ages who treated me like a rock star! Congratulations to FARM on yet another successful conference!