Public Interest Environmental Law Conference
Alan Green wrote Animal Underworld in 1999 which was, to my knowledge, the first documented expose on how it is that wild animals go from our nation’s most respected zoos into backyard cages, garages and basements as pets. His four year investigation culminated in the book that rocked the exotic animal industry in 1999 and validated much of what I suspected, but had not been able to prove.
The animals being bought and sold in flea markets and livestock auctions were surplus animals from zoos who were being sold to brokers who then sold them to anyone with cash in their pockets and empty space between their ears. Alan Green spoke up when no one else dared and was my hero, so when he was unable to be a panelist at the 25th annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference, you can imagine my trepidation at being asked to fill his shoes.
People were expecting a legend, an icon, and they were going to get me. I sure would have been disappointed if I were them, but the opportunity to get the plight of the cats in front of 3,000 attendees, who were already predisposed to protecting the planet, was irresistible. Monica Kerslake, a law student who will be graduating this year, has headed up the Animal Defense League chapter at the University of Oregon and she wanted to make sure that animal issues were included in the program because, as she so aptly said, “It’s all connected.” Who could tell her “no”?
I would have loved to have stayed for the entire four day event as the topics were timely and important to the preservation of life as we know it on mother earth. It was also just awesome to be surrounded by so many people who see the big picture and who are passionate enough to do something about it.
My fellow panelist was Adam Roberts, Executive VP of the newly combined forces of Born Free’s US presence and the Animal Protection Institute. Adam and I serve together on the board of the Humane USA PAC, the nation’s oldest and largest political action committee devoted entirely to the promotion of animal friendly candidates at the state and federal levels. Although we see each other frequently at political fundraisers, I had never had an opportunity to hear Adam speak and that alone was worth the cost of flying from Tampa to Eugene, OR.
Adam shared the plight of endangered species in the wild and I focused on the domestic trade in exotic pets. My presentation was truly a group effort. Howard Baskin, my husband, had been asked to speak to a group of Rotarians, and had totally revamped our standard presentation. His focus and ability to lead listeners to an inescapable conclusion was the perfect framework on which to hang some of the legislative issues that would be of more interest to my crowd, but to keep the crowd engaged I included Jamie Veronica’s video that debuted at the Fur Ball called “I Will Remember You.”
The net result after Adam and I tag teamed the group for an hour and a half was powerful group of well informed individuals who had laughed together, cried together and who had benefited from the collective consciousness of people who are effecting change. I am so uplifted by the knowledge that there are so many people who share our view of a world where all wild animals live free that I could almost fly home without the aid of Northwest Airlines. We have seen the shift in the way people perceive animals and every day brings us closer to our goal of a world where we all treat each other with respect and compassion.