We are delighted to announce the next recipient of The Thinking Vegan’s grants for animal activism: The National Animal Rights Day, and lead organizer Aylam Orian.
Scene: New York City. Time: June, 2011. A group of animal rights activists join forces under the name “Our Planet. Theirs Too.”, with a vision to unite the many diverse animal rights and environmental groups in the city under a common cause: giving a voice to billions of animals who languish and die in the U.S. each year by human hands; mourn their losses and this adverse impact on them, the environment, and human health; reiterate their rights to live happy and free; and celebrate the progress being made towards changing this reality. The National Animal Rights Day (NARD) was inspired by Igualdad Animal, the Spanish contingency of the international animal rights organization Animal Equality, and its mass public events on International Animal Rights Day. This year will be the fourth year “NARD” has been commemorated in the U.S., with events scheduled in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
Why did we pick this? Because NARD is in a growth spurt, with more events added each year, and because of the creative, profound, solemn manner it is observed. The gathering starts with a public requiem ceremony for animals. During the ceremony, dozens of activists stand in formation cradling the bodies of deceased animals – real victims of the various industries in which nonhumans are exploited by humans on this planet. (You may have seen videos of similar events held around the world in Spain, Germany, Austria, Italy, Israel, and Australia). NARD is the first to hold this visually and emotionally stirring event in America. The ceremony ends with the unveiling, reading, and signing of the Declaration of Animal Rights – a 70-foot long scroll also created by “Our Planet. Theirs Too.”, declaring the rights of all animals – bearing thousands of signatures from people from all over the world.
We spoke to Aylam about the organization and its plans.
The National Animal Rights Day was created to give a voice to these billions and billions of anonymous nameless beings. Once a year, on this day, around the U.S., we stop everything else, and remember them. We mourn their loss, express their pain through ours, and reach out on their behalf to anyone who has a heart to listen. On this day we also celebrate the living animals who are part of our lives now, and the great strides that are made every year towards a cruelty-free, compassionate nation, for all beings. We felt that there was no other event in this country that unified all the animal rights groups and individuals under one roof, in giving animals a voice, clearly stating the rights that we demand for them, and also showing the public the benefits of adopting an animal cruelty-free lifestyle. We feel that NARD answers that. Our future intentions are to expand NARD to other cities across the U.S., so that in several years, National Animal Rights Day will be celebrated in every major city in this country, just as any other national day is. We strive to make NARD a household name, and a powerful national event that will create vast positive changes for animals and people alike.
I’ve been active in animal rights and women’s rights for many years now, first in Israel, and later in the U.S. While living in Tel Aviv, which has a huge population of stray cats, I became aware of how we, as a society, treat animals. I started working on saving cats from the streets, neutering them, and finding feeding solutions for them. I also became active for “labor horses” that were common in the streets of Tel Aviv, carrying heavy loads of appliances that people would throw away. At that time, animal rights activism wasn’t very well developed or institutionalized in Israel. When I moved to New York, I joined a more organized effort for the rights of animals, and eventually, following a trip to Spain and witnessing Igualdad Animal in action there, I started my own group and projects. I have organized, produced, and led this event for the past four years, in NYC, Los Angeles, and now in San Francisco as well. I have worked with many other animal rights organizations and causes on their projects and events, but I am personally passionate about NARD because it fills a gap in the animal rights movement, it helps people in the movement connect with each other and belong, and it really educates the public about the plight of animals in a very respectful, inviting, not “in-your-face,” and effective way.
The issues that NARD addresses are many, and one: all the forms of abuse we subject animals to, whether in the food industry, the clothing industry, vivisection labs, medical and cosmetic research, forced labor, religious institutions, animal shelters, and the sports and entertainment industries. This systematic well-oiled abuse, that also has severe impact on human health and the environment, goes on every day of the year, while its subjects – animals – have no institutionalized and legal enforceable rights to protect them. This event opens many people’s eyes to the horrors inflicted on animals by humanity on a regular basis, and the ways in which they could contribute to stopping these horrors and making the world better for humans and animals alike, but it also brings together the entire animal rights communities in these cities and across the country for a very profound and empowering experience. Hundreds of people attend the event in every city, and many more around the country and the world experience it through our media coverage and social media outreach. As a result of the event, new people become vegetarians, vegetarians become vegans, and veteran animal rights activists are infused with a new energy to continue their work. It is really a project of love: love for animals, people, our planet, anything that is alive, and has the will and right to be happy and free. We work hard so that it is a successful event in terms of its positive impact on this country, and the world at large. As it grows each year, we are optimistic that a different future IS possible: Our planet, and theirs too!
Congratulations to NARD for this recognition and grant. To join a NARD event, or learn how to start one in your own city, please visit http://thenard.org. Follow them here:
Want to apply for a grant? View the guidelines and download the app here: thethinkingvegan.com/articles/free-money-for-animal-activism-and-outreach/