Learning, discussing, and recharging at the International Animal Rights Conference

I just got back from Luxembourg (it’s a three hour car trip for me) where I participated in and spoke at the International Animal Rights conference (IARC). I’ll write about what I talked about in other posts, but here I just wanted to give you an idea of what the conference was like.

In general, it’s always wonderful – even for just a few days – to be immersed in a bubble of likeminded people, enjoy vegan food, learn a lot of new things during the talks, or discuss strategies and tactics with other activists. I would recommend that every activist go and recharge their batteries at such a conference every once in a while.

I was impressed with so many of the participants I met. Seeing people, often still in school, spending a weekend to learn about new ways to save animals never fails to move me. I’m touched by their caring and their commitment. I’m touched by the idea that they are everywhere, in every part of the world. I’m touched by how they get inspired, and are inspiring others to change things.

All the people I talked to were both rational and compassionate. They clearly focused on getting the best results for animals, and weren’t afraid to discuss difficult topics. Year after year, it seems to me that this movement, and the people in it, are becoming more thoughtful, more strategic, more impactful.

A group photo of the participants of the IARC 2016
A group photo of the participants of the IARC 2016

Even though more and more speakers at this conference focus on effectiveness, pragmatism and results, one thing the IARC always delivers is a variety of viewpoints. Other speakers represented views and domains as varied as civil disobedience, ecofeminism, intersectionality, meta-strategies, spirituality, and others. Speakers came from all over, and reported on campaigns in their countries.  There were talks about psychology, reaching children, sanctuaries, clean meat, economy, and more. This variety of viewpoints is a good way to help guard us from losing track of potentially important approaches or neglected issues.

The most challenging and – to many – new topic, I think, was the one of wild animal suffering, which was addressed in the talks of Stijn Bruers and Stefan Torges (I wrote this post about it before). The topic was heavily discussed during the breaks, and its most vocal proponent was probably long time Austrian activist Martin Balluch, who is of the opinion that freedom and autonomy are more important values than the absence of suffering. It led to interesting debates between him and proponents of interference in nature. It was inspiring  to see how – even if probably few minds were changed – these debates were civil and friendly, as this whole conference was.

The practical organization was great. My heartfelt thanks goes out to everyone who made this possible: organizers, volunteers (preparing food, doing dishes, introducing speakers and so on), speakers, participants, sponsors, and canine friends present.

Now it’s back to the real world, until we meet again next year!





5 thoughts on “Learning, discussing, and recharging at the International Animal Rights Conference

  1. Tobias, you wrote:
    “They clearly focussed on getting the best results for animals”
    And then show a group holding a sign about a pipeline in the US.
    I find this to be a perfect example of why we’ve been so ineffectual — we absolutely can’t focus on actual harm reduction, but have to condemn and demand everything.
    “freedom and autonomy are more important values than the absence of suffering”
    Someone who has clearly never known real suffering.

    1. i wasn’t present when the pipeline thing was explained, so i’m not sure what the motivation behind it is… but you may have a point 🙂
      yes, i think i agree that people who don’t put suffering on the highest level, can’t really imagine enough what suffering is like (not that i have suffered so much, but i’m able to imagine)
      (btw the focus on suffering is exactly why i’m personally in favor of looking for solutions for wild animal suffering 🙂 )

    2. The fact that the animal rights movement shows so little solidarity with other movements is one big reason why we *are* so ineffectual.

    1. yes, every year. Btw, i think i never said hi at the EA conference. You were gone before i realized I had seen you before 🙂

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