Animal Rights Conference 2017

Animal Rights Conference 2017

Wanqing Zhou speaking at the Abuse of Our Environment panel at the AR Conference.

From August 3rd-6th, nearly 2,000 animal rights workers and activists gathered at the annual National Animal Rights Conference in Alexandria, Virginia, to celebrate the latest progress in promoting animal rights around the world. Brighter Green associate Wanqing Zhou spoke at the Abuse of Our Environment panel and the Winning for Animals in China/Japan panel, sharing Brighter Green’s perspectives and efforts with hundreds of attendees.

At the Abuse of Our Environment panel, Jeff Blatnick, environmental chemist and active animal rights advocate, introduced the multi-dimensional environmental impact of the animal farming industry, especially factory farming. The major impacts include environmental pollution, ecosystem destruction, wasteful exploitation of natural resources, as well as climate change caused by excessive greenhouse gas emissions.

Dr. Lisa Kemmerer, professor at Montana State University and author of a series of books on animal rights and the environment, explored the impact of modern fishery on marine life and environment, which invalidated the common idea that consuming fish is healthier and less environmentally destructive than consuming other animal-based foods.

Building on Brighter Green’s case studies on factory farming and its impacts, Wanqing Zhou summarized the ultimate cause of environmental problems–the broken ecological balances. More specifically, industrial animal farms and feed monocultures-which are often part of a global supply network-have become a huge environmental concern because they are eliminating biodiversity, using more water than can be replenished, breaking the natural cycle of carbon in greenhouse gases, and disrupting the recycling of nutrients between animals and the environment.

As shown in the case studies, some typical examples and results of these impacts include massive deforestation in South America, water stress in India and China, and land degradation in Ethiopia. Wanqing highlighted the overuse of antibiotics in animal farming in China, resulting from low biodiversity on the farm and the confined, crowded environment. She pointed out that researchers estimate if the industry doesn’t cut back on antibiotics, then by 2050, 10 million people will die from antimicrobial resistant infections globally every year–more than all the mortalities currently attributed to cancer.

At the Winning for Animals in China/Japan panel, Pei-Feng Su, the executive director and co-founder of ACTAsia, introduced their work in China, including the lessons learned from training local veterinarians, training school teachers to help students develop compassion for all lives, and educating consumers on the cruelty in fur and other animal products.

Animal rights advocate Stephan Sauerburger shared his early experience in individual activism and working with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), in both China and Japan. He also provided advice for prospective activists interested in working in those countries.

Wanqing shared Brighter Green’s work in China, from the production of documentaries What’s For Dinner? and Six Years On, the screening events and screening kit, to the growth of our social media group on WeChat, and the most recent Good Food projects–the Good Food Academy, a Chinese-based online knowledge hub on factory farming and other food issues; the Good Food Roadshow, a series of 39 small-scale hands-on workshop across 20 cities, where participants learn about the true cost of food and try healthy cooking with vegan chefs, holistic nutrition expert and local farmers who grow responsibly and mindfully; and the Good Food Summit, which included two back-to-back three-day workshops that included 100 food activists and dozens of observers, aiming at nurturing local research and action on food system issues.

Brighter Green’s former intern and author of a case study of Industrialized Dairy Growth in Asia, Jessika Ava, represented Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) and shared the organization’s work in India.

Audio recordings of the talks can be found here. A report of the conference by FARM can be found here.