Animal advocates, you are not alone!

In the wake of the whirlwind Animal Rights 2018 National Conference, one thing is sparklingly clear: the AR community is standing right beside you, helping the world evolve away from brutality and closer to a compassionate future.

Held June 28-July 1 in Los Angeles,  the conference proved an inspirational haven for animal rights legends, vegan-preneurs, blossoming activists and curious minds alike. No judgement here; diehard carnivores and lifelong vegans were equally welcome — though hopefully the former were at least inspired to try a veggie burger or two.

Three and a half days were barely enough to contain the packed schedule of speakers — 170 of them, from 90 organizations like Compassion Over Killing, Animal Equality, A Well Fed World and The Humane League — along with movie premiers, masterful meals, an awards ceremony and networking events. All this followed by post-conference protests at McDonalds and Farmer John’s slaughterhouse.

With events like these come a risk of simply preaching to the choir, and organizers seemed well aware. Getting the message outside conference walls was a clear goal, exemplified in panels like Mainstreaming Our Message, featuring Karen Dawn of DawnWatch, Rachel Krantz of Mercy For Animals and author Robin Lamont — who all have proven that changing minds is not about beating your point in with the hammer of judgement, but raising awareness with education, empathy and a smile. With her spunky charm, Karen has gotten ABC-7 in Los Angeles to cover her turkey rescue every Thanksgiving for the past 10 years — not by blasting meat-eaters, but by showing how much fun Turkey Day is with a live bird nuzzling in your hand and a Tofurkey on the table.

Speaking of Tofurkey…the food!! We’re talking vegan truffle cheese wheels from Miyoko’s creamery, dreamy chocolate coconut bars from Nelly’s Organics, tangy-sweet orange “chicken” from Amazing Protein — feast after feast that surely left nobody missing the meat.

Throughout the extravaganza, animal rights journalist extraordinaire Jane Velez-Mitchell was on the scene to speak, mingle and broadcast live reports.

Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) started this conference in 1981, back when the AR scene was barely a smudge on the radar. Forget veganism — in those days, people still called chicken the “vegetarian entrée.”

But we’ve come a long way. Americans are no longer willing to tolerate systemic abuse by puppy breeders, animal researchers, live animal circuses, or factory farms. The actions of every organization at this conference helped create our emerging culture of compassion via investigations, videos, literature, protests, online activism and more.

That today we can hold a conference for animal rights that draws thousands of people from all around the world is a tremendous achievement. May we continue on this path to exit the dark days of animal exploitation by human hands.