Saturday May 11, 2013 was a lovely evening in Los Angeles, especially at the “One Million Animals Gala” party and fundraiser for F.A.R.M., Farm Animal Rights Movement. Hundreds of local animal rights advocatesput on the ritz and kicked up their heels on the fabulous lawns of the estate of Ellen Lavinthal and her family. They were aided by dozens of generous volunteers who helped make the evening smooth.
The event was lots of fun, as well as being educational and inspirational. Many of the locals knew about the F.A. R. M. group, but many did not know much because it is headquartered on the East Coast. One of the popular Los Angeles activists seen at many animal related protests and activities, Brian Monell, has started working for them. He put together this gala with his buddy Lavinthal. Lavinthal heads up her own group, Animal Alliance, as well as being co-founder of Fur Free West Hollywood, the first city in the world to ban the sale of fur.
There was lots of vegan food catered by Veggie Grill, and there was an open bar as well. A silent auction was held, and the big prize there was the enormous oil painting by Al Jackson of a cow depersonalized by a bar code, along with a big eraser removing that code. It was a fitting symbol for the evening and the work of the Farm Animal Rights Movement. Later in the evening there was dancing under the stars.
Actress and well-known animal rescuer and advocate Elaine Hendrix was the emcee. Lavinthal and her family received the Isaac Bashevis Singer Award from Monell on behalf of F.A.R.M. for all her dedication to helping animals. Seba Johnson, the youngest and first black Olympic alpine skier, also spoke. She has been a vegan since birth, and she told how she was disqualified from the Olympics because she refused to wear a piece of equipment or clothing that had leather in it. This made her a bigger hero than the first-place Olympian.
Aside from learning about the effective techniques of F.A.R.M., the most intriguing part of the evening was listening to Alex Hershaft, founder of the organization back in 1976. Hershaft is a Holocaust survivor whose family was slaughtered in the concentration camps. He told us that during that time of immense agony and suffering, the Jews comforted themselves with one thing: when the news of the atrocities came out, they would hopefully inspire something like this to happen “never again.” In the '70s when the Tutsis slaughtered the Hutus by the millions, he began to ask himself if “never again” applied only to Jewish people.
Shortly after that, he visited a slaughterhouse, saw the terrified animals and the horrendous crowding conditions just like those his family experienced in the death camp at Treblinka. Both situations were merciless killing machines. “Piles of animal parts were reminiscent of the piles of Jewish bodies.” He quoted Isaac Bashevis Singer who wrote that “for animals, all men are Nazis.”
This was the time when Hershaft realized that “never again” doesn’t mean what others should not do to us, but what we should not do to others. He made a vow that never again would he participate in atrocities against any beings. His goal is to never again have animals raised for food and other exploitation.
Hershaft is on the verge of retiring and writing a book, and F.A.R.M. will be headed by Jen Riley and Michael Webermann.
The next presentation was by Webermann who explained what the 10 Billion Lives Tour is all about. F.A.R.M.’s philosophy is that most people who eat meat are not aware of the horrors the animals go through. So they have put together a telling 4-minute video. In order to get people to watch something so unpleasant, they offer a dollar to everyone who will view and give their information. They now also offer theatre tickets to one out of every 25 viewers.
This seems to be the magic technique. On campuses last year there were 90,000 viewers. Over 80% of them promise to cut back on meat eating. When they are later followed up, there is some back-sliding, and some who continue in the vegan direction. The average, Weber said, has been calculated -- for every person who watches the video, 10 animals are spared. That’s 1,000,000 animals! That’s a lot of animals. And yet every year 10 billion are raised and slaughtered for food in the United States. Hence the new campaign 10 Billion Lives.
When you find out that every dollar donated saves ten animals, it is easy to want to give and support such an effective group. Much money was raised on Saturday, I am told. Over $30,000 in one night. I personally am very happy with my poignant photograph by Susan Weingartner, scored at the silent auction.
Another recent action sponsored by F.A.R.M. was the protest at Farmer Johns slaughterhouse on May 4. A historic number -- over 400 people -- showed up to condemn the cruel slaughter and abuse of the very sweet, innocent and intelligent pigs. There were many familiar faces from the protest, a sad and serious event, who were happy to be at the Gala, socializing and having fun.
I for one am completely sold on them and will do my best to continue to support F.AR.M.
Georja Umano is an actress and animal advocate.
FARM ANIMAL RIGHTS MOVEMENT