As 200-plus people flooded into Bloor Street United Church's McClure Hall, it was clear that, as with last year's instalment of Animals Beyond Borders, the venue was too small. It seems that the community is always one step ahead of the event. This was, of course, welcome news. Not surprising either, considering that the movement to end animal exploitation is growing ever more vigorously each day. As the movement grows, Animals Beyond Borders seeks to bring grassroots groups together, creating synergy and coalitions. We learn from each other. We inspire each other. We support each other.
The fundraiser featured a vegan buffet dinner catered by Omega Creations, a silent auction and raffle of original art works, photography, and vegan goodies, information tables from a diverse mix of animal rights organizations such as Mercy for Animals Canada, Hamilton Burlington Pig Save, Ark II and many others, and live music from Ashkon Hobooti, Ivy James, Matt Noble, and Mike XvX. The music alone was worth the ticket price.
This year's line-up of speakers included Anita Krajnc (Toronto Pig Save), Colleen Tew and Brenda LaFleshe (Hamilton-Burlington Pig Save), Bob Timmons (RR Horse Refuge), Jo-Anne MacArthur (WeAnimals.org and Animals Asia Foundation), Jennifer Bundock (Toronto Aquarium Resistance Alliance), Dylan Powell (Marineland Animal Defense) and Phil Demers, ex-head trainer of Marineland and lead employee whistleblower. Each speaker inspired the audience with their tireless, crystal clear, and exemplary dedication to animal justice.
Many motifs emerged throughout the evening. There were two, however, that stood out as most exigent (and complimentary): the urgency and immediacy of animal rights work (expressed most chillingly by Phil Demers when he stated “If I don't see her [Smooshie] now, she will die.”) and the importance of longevity and endurance (as by Anita Krajnc's pledge to bear witness to suffering regularly and advocate for animal rights for the rest of her life). The animals need us now, and they need us for life.
(Another important note on urgency is the threat of eviction that Animals Asia's Vietnam sanctuary faces. More info at animalsasia.org where there is a petition to stop this.)
Longevity, however, can be difficult to maintain (not only because of the sadness we encounter), and Animals Beyond Borders in 2011 was a welcome and unexpected tonic for me. We celebrated the achievements and good work of animal allies, most notably Toronto's landmark banning of shark fin products. Once again, in 2012, Animals Beyond Borders surprised me with its regenerative and invigorating effects, and this is one among many reasons we will continue this initiative annually.
This fundraiser is only a small piece of the work needed to disseminate the messages of compassionate living and animal liberation. But (in addition to raising about $6,000 for direct-action campaigns) it certainly galvanized us all to continue with that work. And so we go on, soldiers of love, now, and for life.
Chris is an emerging playwright and screenwriter based in Toronto. His company Theatre Under Pressure debuted with Weight Loss World in 2010 and has several projects in development including The Rope, an exploration of the corrosive interpersonal effects of the philosophy of Ayn Rand, and A Long and Ghastly Kitchen, a drama about vivisection. Chris is the caretaker of a pug and is an ally of all animals. You can reach Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Artwork in attached image by Caitlin Black.