Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The National Conference to End Factory Farming: Day 1

I have to agree with Kimberly - this past weekend changed my life.  My life has been changed before in this exact way, but I let life, laziness and my fear of never being able to brunch with my friends again get in the way.  I'm going to work really hard not to let that happen.

The first (I can say that now b/c I'm 99% sure they will do another one) National Conference to End Factory Farming was, in my humble opinion, a huge success.  I am so, so, SO grateful and thankful to have been a part of it - the whole experience was, and I don't say this lightly, unforgettable.  Here's my story...

I arrived in D.C. late Thursday night and made my way to Dupont Circle.  Luckily my BFF Judd has an apartment mere minutes away from Kimberly's so meeting up was super easy.  After a very late night and approximately 3.5 hours of sleep, I woke up bright and early Friday morning and met Kimberly at Starbucks at 7:30 a.m. sharp.  One grande soy misto w/ a shot of pumpkin spice and one grande lotus tea w/ 2 sugars in the raw later, we were in a cab on our way to the Westin Arlington Gateway in Arlington, VA where the conference was being held. 

Kimberly set up our table the night before, and we added some beautiful finishing touches.  Kimberly is a ROCKSTAR at setting up beautiful tables - ours was definitely the cutest!  Bamboo in a glass vase, yummy yogi tea a la Tranquil Space, a damask tablecloth, and of course - sugar!  {Photos all courtesy of Kimberly}

We were representing all kinds of goodness - Tranquil Space, TranquiliT and the lovely Pigs Animal Sanctuary (Kimberly sits on the Board - holla!).  In honor of the conference, Kimberly had these ADORABLE tees made up - are they not the cutest things you've ever seen??  They were a HUGE hit!

After putting the finishing touches on our table, we headed into the ballroom and thus began one of the best days of my life.

Day 1 began with an opening by the conference emcee - Victoria Moran!  I wasn't familiar with Victoria before this, but I am a HUGE fan now.  She is an absolute delight and made a perfect emcee.  Soon Gene Bauer, president co-founder of Farm Sanctuary (who organized the conference) came up to speak and, well, I kind of fell in love.  *SWOON*

Day 1 went from 8 a.m. until about 9 p.m.  Despite my severe lack of sleep, I felt more energized, more awake and more engaged after each speaker, each presentation, each breakout panel.  This day focused on the problem with an emphasis on the environment, food safety and animal rights - all things near and dear to my heart.  Here are some sobering stats and facts:
  • Nearly 30% of the Earth's accessible surface is devoted to livestock production.  8% is devoted to crops directly consumed by humans.
  • Agricultural runoff = the single largest source of water pollution in the Earth's rivers and streams.
  • Sentience is the bedrock of ethics.  Farm animals are sentient beings - they have the capacity to feel pleasure and pain.
  • The European Union is banning the use of battery cages from 2012 after a 10-year phaseout period.  What is America doing?  
  • 6 of the 150 pathogens found in animal manure are responsible for 90% of human food and water borne diseases.
  • The average meat eater is responsible for killing approximately 2,400 animals in a lifetime.
  • Up to 60% of chicken sold in supermarkets are infected with salmonella.  (EW.)
  • 80% of 2 million farmers make no money.  15% make about $26,000/year.  5% make over $300,000 a year.
  • Most factory farms are exempt from reporting releases of toxic chemicals, including ammonia.
  • About 20 companies control/own the food system.
There were several excellent speakers on Day 1, but the ones who stood out in my mind are:

- Gene Bauer, president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary

- Jonathan Balcombe, Ph.D., bestselling author and animal behavior expert (He was HILARIOUS.)

- Holly Cheever, D.V.M., award-winning veterinarian (who spoke at length about how animals are sentient beings)

- Nathan Runkle, founder and executive director of Mercy For Animals (He began this nonprofit when he was FIFTEEN, y'all.  I totally fell head over heels in love with him (he's REALLY cute), but later learned that he's gay.  Go figure...)

- Bruce Friedrich, senior director of strategic initiatives at Farm Sanctuary (also hilarious)

- James McWilliams, Ph.D., author of "Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly" (He's also a professor at Texas State University and a complete and total, unapologetic, vegan ROCKSTAR.  Loved him.)

- Susie Coston, national shelter director at Farm Sanctuary (who shared an extremely touching story about a pig named Rose - if anyone tells you that a pig will eat her babies, just tell them to "shut up" and move on b/c it's NOT true)

- Elizabeth Kucinich, director of government affairs for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (and wife of U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich - who was there!!)

To read some of the most poignant quotes from the amazing conference speakers, check out Farm Sanctuary's twitter feed and Facebook page.

I want to leave you with this video that was shown at 8:45 a.m. on this first day.  Yes, it's a little graphic, but I STRONGLY URGE YOU TO NOT TURN AWAY.  It's only 5 minutes, it's powerful, and it's the truth - it doesn't have to be this way.

Recap of Day 2 coming soon!

P.S. Saturday night we stayed for the Banquet Dinner.  Admittedly the entree was meh, but the dessert?  Well, just look for yourself...


Lauren said...

I'm so glad you had such an amazing time!

I love Gene Baur too. *sigh* He's so inspiring.

I need to get my hands on a Pigs Sanctuary t-shirt. I went out there to visit it a few months back. They are doing some amazing work! I'm hoping to make it up to Farm Sanctuary in 2012 too.

Deb said...

Thanks for blogging about the conference, I would have loved to have been there but was unable to go. I almost feel like I was there after reading your blog. Did Susie Coston tell the story of the Iowa pig rescue? I was there with her, it was an unbelievable experience. I actually had the opportunity to see an operation factory farm and it was the most horrifying thing I have ever witnessed.