AMP on Animal Rights 2003

Compared to the last couple years, there was very little national media coverage of the Animal Rights 2003 convention in Washington, DC this year. According to a summary report of the event by Americans for Medical Progress, AR2003 appeared to have lower attendance and a different focus than previous such events,

It’s evident that this year’s conference is not meant for longtime participants of animal rights campaigns, but is primarily to inculcate a much younger crowd of new initiates who have been recently drawn to the animal rights philosophy. Nearly half the program is filled with workshops on lifestyle matters such as choosing a career, how to avoid burnout, and setting personal priorities. . . .

. . .

This week’s convention may be made most notable not by its speakers, but by those in the movement’s national leadership who are not there. There is no trace of PETA, which had been a major sponsor of previous conventions and whose founder, Ingrid Newkirk, gave the keynote speech at last year’s convention. Neal Barnard, president of PETA’s sister organization, the oxymoronically-named Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, had been listed as a speaker, but opted for remaining on tour promoting his latest book, instead. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) which also fielded a great number of experts at past conventions, was not represented. The HSUS has also dropped its traditional role as organizer of the activists’ day of congressional lobbying. Many of the workshops previously handled by PETA, PCRM and HSUS staff are being run this year by the staff of the chief sponsor, Farm Animal Reform Movement (FARM).

The organizers have not released information about the number of registrants, but it appears to observers that the numbers of activists attending are far lower than those of previous years.

As AMP noted, though, that may be due to the decision to split the convention into two separate East and West Coast events.

Nonetheless AMP found a few interesting things to report on, with their summary of remarks by Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty’s Kevin Jonas being especially interesting,

Of special interest to those in the research community is that Jonas has backed away from the claim of SHAC’s victory over Huntingdon Life Sciences, which he made at last year’s meeting.

Now, he talks more of the sacrifices involved in his campaign, telling the audience about the raid on his home by federal authorities and jail time he and other activists have endured. As for closing HLS, he demurred. It may take three weeks, three months, three years or thirty years, he noted, saying simply that ‘an example’ was going to be made of the company.

He said of SHAC: “Our campaign comes with an attitude that we noted was missing from the animal rights movement and one that we know the media would bite onto, that of a very aggressive, unapologetic, uncompromising ‘militant’ campaign . . . and, sure enough, it worked.” He talked of the media attention SHAC has been able to obtain. “We need to have some PT Barnum in us; we need to know how to market, how to put our propaganda out there so that people will pay attention. We spent a long time fine tuning and tinkering with our image and it has paid off.” Jonas told the activists, “The tactics we use here can be used against any other company to tear them apart.”

“We want our opposition and the public to know . . . that there is a large and growing segment among us who say enough is enough,” Jonas said. “We aren’t interested in sitting down and having coffee with an animal abuser and asking them to be compassionate . . . we are going to be the force . . . that punches back. Enough is enough.”


AMP News Service Special Report: At the AR 2003 Convention – Part I. Americans for Medical Progress, July 2003.

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