By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson
When you’re a passionate animal welfare advocate, you might sometimes feel like a bit of an outsider.
Friends, family members and co-workers who don’t share your passion might not grasp why you spend your weekends trapping community cats to get spayed or neutered. Or why you foster animals from the local shelter, volunteer for a local rescue group or sanctuary, protest cruel factory farming practices, lobby elected officials to outlaw wildlife killing contests or get excited when a neighborhood restaurant expands its plant-based menu.
But if you’re looking to get together with like-minded folks from diverse backgrounds to share fellowship and sharpen your advocacy skills, we’ve got just the ticket: Taking Action for Animals. Organized by the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund, TAFA is the premier conference for citizen activists eager to learn more about tackling a wide variety of animal welfare issues. It’s set for July 15-17 in Washington, D.C., with select sessions livestreamed for those who opt not to attend in person.
TAFA sessions will examine how to communicate and work with legislators across the political spectrum, stop the puppy mill pipeline, harness the power of social media, build diverse coalitions, wage winning campaigns for farm animals and end the senseless killing of wildlife for trophies, among other topics. We’ll discuss how gender bias, homophobia and racism can complicate our work and what we can do to make our big tent strategies still more effective in the future. We’re building a bigger and better movement and this year’s event will reflect the broad, nonpartisan approach we need to succeed. Among TAFA’s 24 breakout sessions, there’s truly something for everyone interested in helping animals, and attendees can also make connections at an exhibit hall featuring more than 50 animal welfare organizations and earth-friendly vendors.
Looking for star power? Our Saturday afternoon plenary session will feature a discussion with Carole and Howard Baskin of Big Cat Rescue, a Florida-based nonprofit sanctuary that was featured on Netflix’s Tiger King series. In addition to hearing about the Baskins’ sanctuary and advocacy, you’ll learn how you can support our efforts to pass the Big Cat Public Safety Act. The bill has significant bipartisan support in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, and it’s won endorsements from more than 70 organizations and individuals in the animal welfare, law enforcement and environmental domains. While the Big Cat Public Safety Act won’t interfere with professionally run zoos or sanctuaries, it will end the cruel practice of cub petting and phase out keeping big cats as pets.
The Conservation Game—a new documentary that explores the exploitative, interconnected worlds of big cat ambassador animal programs and the big cat pet trade—will be screened at TAFA. A Q&A session after the screening will include Carole Baskin as well as the film’s executive director and producer, Mike Webber, and Tim Harrison, the retired Ohio police officer whose investigations are highlighted in the documentary. Other films on tap for TAFA are Tiger Mafia and Carole Baskin’s Cage Fight.
We’re also thrilled to welcome our Sunday plenary speaker: environmental justice advocate Wanjiku “Wawa” Gatheru, who is motivated to make the environmental movement as inclusive as possible for members of the BIPOC community and for women everywhere. Gatheru, a 2020 magna cum laude graduate of the University of Connecticut and a Rhodes scholar at the University of Oxford, has been widely recognized for her collaboration with other activists and thought leaders working toward the same goals.
We’ll kick off TAFA with a review of the current tough fights for animals and the ways both seasoned advocates and newcomers to the field can help to advance the most urgent priorities.
While we have chosen not to hold an in-person Humane Lobby Day, we will be offering the opportunity for all TAFA participants to engage with their congressional representatives or their staff members during our virtual TAFA Humane Lobby Week.
Two years ago, COVID-19 forced us to restrict TAFA, which is held every other year, to a virtual conference. We’re looking forward to our first in-person TAFA since 2018. Many attendees are grassroots advocates working simply because they love animals and want to help create a more animal-friendly world. Such dedication helps form the backbone of our movement. Meeting with these activists fills us with admiration and helps remind us that our movement is in the good hands of caring, hard-working people. They inspire us, and we can only hope TAFA does the same for them.
Go to takingactionforanimals.org to learn about TAFA sessions, registration, volunteer opportunities, hotel accommodations and more. And if you’re interested in registering for the full, in-person conference, you can use the code BLOG22 for a $10 discount.
Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.