July 12th found Animal Rights & Rescue in the middle of a very busy Employee Health Fair. The Fort Worth branch of a local company had a series of tables set up, a large recycling display, and hundreds of employees who attended the fair and walked past the ARRNT table. Since this was a corporate affair, we were allowed to bring vegan food to share. Nothing quite draws a crowd to your table like free food! We had lemon tarts and lemon bars, along with three kinds of Field Roast Sausage: Chipotle, Italian and Apple Sage. Most everyone was eager to try our plant-based, cholesterol-free offerings, and all but one or two seemed to really be surprised at how much they enjoyed the flavor, taste and texture. One person mentioned that there was “something missing” from the lemon tarts. Indeed there was something missing — cruelty! (Thanks to Margaret for that connection!!)
Giving Back With Kindness
Only one person became challenging, stating she was from “PETA – People for Eating Tasty Animals,” and, tried to antagonize us. “I am not from the PETA you support.” We explained we did not support People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals but were an independent organization. Later, this same person came back, engaged us in conversation, tried the Field Roast sausage and admitted it was pretty good! It was a good reminder to never give back in kind, but to always give kindness back. One never knows what will stay in another person’s heart.
Our books and DVDs (from Compassionate Cooks) were taken early in the day, and more flyers and brochures were taken than at any other event. So many employees seemed interested in animals and rescue, but were not too certain about drawing the connections with their consumer choices. Since our table was right next to the Water Conservation table of the county water district, our graphic showing the water usage of one vegan meal versus one omnivorous meal was fortunate placement.
Planting Seeds, Changing Hearts
Corporate events are a great way to reach out into the community, to network with other service providers, and to become more visible in the DFW area. Many people took our new informational sheet about ARRNT as well as booklets about animal rights and veganism. These events allow us to answer questions, present resources and offer giveaways to people. If you have not been to a tabling event, it is a wonderful way to plant seeds of peace and help our neighbors live a healthier, kinder life. And most of all, they help us get the word out about other animals!
We have already scheduled three more corporate events for calendar year 2013.
Due to inclement weather, spread-out population and a dominant car culture, DFW is a difficult area in which to table. So it was with great delight that we participated in a collaborative effort with The Vegan Club at the University of Texas at Arlington. The Vegan Club also invited Mercy for Animals to join us, making it a three-pronged approach. Our own Char Duncan jumped at the opportunity and requested free samples from vendor supporting the March Meatout events across the globe. We found ourself with So Delicious ice cream sandwiches, Almond Breeze plant milks, Primal Strips, Parma, Field Roast Sausages, Vegan turkey slices, and about three hundred Vega protein bars to distribute. We had free samples, nutritional information, and coupons for even more vegan products. Not too many hungry college students turned down the offer of free food! When classes were in session and the table grew temporarily quiet, our busy activists went out in search of students to get to sample vegan food and read our literature.
Collaboration for Animals….and Kids!
Next to the ARRNT table was a group of students requesting donations to facilitate clean water for third world children through UNICEF. Since The Vegan Club had arranged for a $1 Pay Per View event, some students earned the $1 and went next table over to donate it to the UNICEF table — clean water for kids, peaceful palates for animals. Now THAT is a collaborative effort! We brought vegan samples to everyone working in the area, too. Giving away free food along with information is a great, winning combination for helping to dispel myths and open minds to animal rights.
One of the highlights of the day was the opportunity to discuss the challenges of outreach in the DFW area. Nora Kramer, Texas Campaign Coordinator for Mercy for Animals, shared her expertise and offered many helpful hints for our less experienced activists. She also offered further support and trainings and agreed to attend one of our upcoming meetings, too. Increasing understanding between groups with slightly different emphasis often helps both become stronger and forges increased understanding betweens allies.
Thanks, Vegan Club!
The Vegan Club had nearly twenty students sign up to join them, vegan pledges were signed, and several students watched a film about the plight of animals, a number decreased due to technical difficulties. ARRNT provided the tables and chairs, VC provided the venue and Pay Per View, the vendors and VegFund provide the food samples, and the students…..well, the students made the whole event worthwhile! Many wonderful conversations took place and many students were given food for thought along with their samples. Mercy for Animals activists Nora and Jeff gave out many vegan information fliers and, if one includes their effort, we estimate we reached about a thousand students in all. Not bad for our first tabling event!
Our first Executive Committee Meeting of the year went high-tech with a coordinated Skype call. Due to time and distance constraints, we found it difficult to have our usual in-person format. Joining us for the first time was new committee member Char Duncan. Char brings a world of activist experience to the table and is involved in many aspects of advocacy work, including her new position as volunteer at the Arlington Animal Shelter.
For our first order of business, we determined we would host another Loving Hut Meetup in early February. Not only are these meetups our most popular, but they have been a good source of donations due to the generosity of those attending. We generate many new ideas from these supportive meetups and really appreciate the great turnouts, activists, and conversations that take place.
We also identified two collaborative efforts that we wanted to tackle: Char will be coordinating with Savanna Batten of Animal Connection of Texas (ACT) to find out about the possibility of offering vegan support to the local Occupy House. Savanna has been instrumental in veganizing the Occupy movement locally, and helping advocates understand the interconnection of all types of exploitation. Adam will be coordinating with Anna Mai of the Vegan Club at UTA for possible future collaboration, tabling or leafleting on campus. Adam has also voiced interest in moving into the Media Coordinator position, while reducing his role but still remaining involved with social media. This is an emerging position that will become more critical as we begin to stage demonstrations, protests, and participate in tabling events.
Work will continue on the upcoming Garage Sale, slated for early March. We are still receiving donations but will be ending acceptance of donated items in about four weeks, so now is the time to clean out those closets and garages and find what you no longer need that is resale-able. These events help pay our monthly expenses as well as help with outreach material, a needed popup tent for tabling, and the purchase of a new logo banner that will match our new business cards.
And so the year 2012 begins! According to the Chinese calendar, this is going to be The Year of the Dragon, a year that symbolizes power, wealth, and good fortune. May it also be a year that liberates many, many other animals.