One trip across the country. $400.  Six Days.

I have sore muscles, bruised heels and almost no voice. I sit and breathe in a café in downtown San Francisco. It’s hard to concentrate. People talk. Music plays. The city bustles. And my mind sprints in all different directions. I flash back to images of chickens being passed from a slaughter house into the arms of activists. I flash back to the sounds of hundreds of people singing in harmony, asking for peace. I flash back to feelings of excitement, worry, exhaustion and bliss. I flash back to the DxE Forum.

What is DxE?

DxE stands for Direct Action Everywhere.  We’re a group that takes action for animals. We concentrate on amplifying the voices of animals that aren’t human.

A girl jumping in the air like a super hero on the street in front of plants.
Calen Otto jumping for joy! A.K.A., animal liberation.

Before this past week, I honestly wasn’t as proud to say “we” when I talked about the group. Yes, I did believe in the cause and intentions. And yes, I did consider myself to be a part of the group. I even put in my time and energy into making sure that I was doing everything I could to speak out about the violence against animals with my local chapter.

This post isn’t to explain to you what DxE is all about. Through pictures, videos, and story-telling the message is pretty clear. I’m just here to share my experience of the DxE Forum with you.

So, we get back to the question.

Was the forum really worth it?

Let me rewind and take you on a tour of the past week. On a Tuesday morning I boarded a plane in North Carolina, and made three stops before I reached Berkeley, California. It was a full day of flying, and I was exhausted. I started feeling a little cloudy by the time that I touched down in the Golden State.

That night, I went and met a group of activist who I would stay with for the next week. Everyone skipped the handshakes and went straight for the hugs.

 

People in a sub way, trying to spell out A Q U A with their bodies.
Some DxE members of a activist house, attempting to spell out “AQUA”.

Although there were 14 of us in a 2-bedroom house, we learned how to function together without losing our minds, in the frustration and impatience that can so often be easily found. Everyone wanted to share energies and ideas, and I might even venture as far as to say that people were excited to share. From food, socks, and toothbrushes–if you name it, we probably shared it.

We all piled into a car on the first morning of the Forum, and arrived just a little late. I had missed the morning Tai Chi session, but as I checked in I was happy to feel a little recharged with the previous night’s Zs.

 

Two woman sitting, ready to listen and learn in a conference setting.
Calen Otto and Arwen Carlin ready to listen and learn.

The schedule of the first day was an excellent example of how many of the coming days would follow. We started the days with “hellos” and announcements, and then sailed right into learning about a rainbow of topics in large and small groups.

We learned about how to can take action to save animals, right now. We soaked up all we could about how to practice non-violence in intense situations and everyday life. We listened and participated in example situations to deepen our knowledge on the subject of consent when interacting with others, and more specifically, in “sexual” situations.

We listened to some keynote speakers, including Wayne Hsiung, a founder of DxE. We also got to hear from Anita Krainc, founder of Toronto Pig Save. I watched people laugh, cry, hug, break down and be inspired while others offered their experiences. At one point, I myself had a break down and almost sprinted out of the room, as to not disrupt others with the odd sounds of my breathing and sobs all moped together. As soon as I turned the corner, heading out the door and into fresh air, I saw another activist sobbing as well. We didn’t ask any questions. We just fit right into each other’s arms. I held this person, and they supported me until we could both speak. I swear it was a scene right out of a movie.

 

photo taken from above, human bodies spell out the words "animal liberation now!!!"
Animal Liberation Now!!!!

Although I did shed an excessive amount of tears during this week,  I didn’t cry the whole time. We often forget that crying doesn’t have to be separate from feelings of gratitude.  There were so many things each and everyday to express gratitude for.

DxE provided us with goodies for breakfast, delicious and full meals for lunch, and our sponsors sent amazing products that we got to take home with us each day. We did different group-building activities, such as yoga and spelling out “Animal Liberation Now” with our bodies. This how we crafted the awesome picture from up above!

To top it all off, we did amazing actions.

I could make this post ten times longer by story-telling about these actions, but I think it’s better if you just watch for yourself.

-video-

I will tell you, though, that I felt so empowered by choosing to make history and create change with hundreds of compassionate humans.

 

Two protesters looking intense, holding signs that say "animal liberation now".
Charlie Sudlow and Calen Otto protesting with other DxE members in San Francisco, CA.

On the last day, we decided to do something that hadn’t been done before.

 Imagine this: hundreds of activist walking calmly through the city streets of San Francisco. They are all carrying white flowers.

They walk through a small alley. They perform public disobedience by doing a sit-in outside of a slaughter house right in the middle of downtown.

activist stand outside of slaughterhouse, holding flowers and practicing non-violence
Activist wait outside slaughterhouse during an open rescue. Photo taken from the Direct Action Everywhere Facebook page.

Some activist go inside to document conditions. More importantly, they go inside to save lives. One activist is arrested. Six birds experience freedom for the first time.

Six lives are saved.

Activists then march through the streets, protesting all the way. They land at city hall. They stand outside offering messages of concern, love and action.

Activists go inside and deliver a message of how it’s time for all animals to be considered more than property or items.

 

activist march to city hall in Berkley, California
Activist march to City Hall. Photo taken from the Direct Action Everywhere Facebook page.

Humans get active. Humans do things that create immediate change. Humans do things that are bold.

Humans do things that are necessary.

So, you tell me…

woman smiles and cries, looking at rescued bird in her arms.
Activist Julianne Perry holds rescued chicken. Photo taken from the Direct Action Everywhere Facebook page.

Was it worth it?

Calen

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