LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Southland animal rights activists will gather in person once again for Sunday's 11th annual National Animal Rights Day, an event that honors the billions of animals killed by humans every year.
This year's gathering will take place at 2 p.m. at Pan Pacific Park in the Beverly Grove area of Los Angeles, which also hosted the 2019 event, and is one of more than 75 NARD events being held around the world. The 2020 event was held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.
NARD is part rally, part memorial service. As in past years, a small number of volunteers dressed in black will hold the bodies of dead animals as attendees observe moments of silence. Those animals — who died on their own and were donated by various farms that raise animals for human consumption — serve to represent all non-humans killed for food, clothing, medical experiments and other reasons, and will later be cremated or buried.
The solemn memorial will be followed by a more light-hearted celebration featuring speakers who will give testimonials about the life experiences that led them to stop eating and wearing animals.
Featured speakers will include Peter Singer, author of the 1975 book "Animal Liberation"; William Tuttle, author of "The World Peace Diet"; Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland; and British animal rights activist Ronnie Lee, one of the founders of Animal Liberation Front. Other confirmed speakers include actress Tina Louise, Miss Montana USA 2020 Merissa Underwood, Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz and City Council candidate Molly Marie Basler.
Past NARD events in Los Angeles have also drawn vegan celebrities including musician Moby and actors Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara.
Aylam Orian, the 52-year-old Los Angeles actor who founded NARD in 2011, told City News Service that he thinks the event will resonate even more this year after the ordeal of COVID-19.
"We think this is our last chance, and a good opportunity, before people move on and forget about this pandemic, to open people's eyes in a direct way to the link between eating animals and all pandemics, such as this one," he said.
Asked what he hopes non-vegans take away from Sunday's gathering, Orian said: "That all forms of mass-confining, abusing, and then mass killing of animals are detrimental to human health, to the planet, and of course, to the welfare of these trillions of animals. They have rights of their own, which are no different than the basic rights that humans claim to have."
Orian — whose credits include "Stargate Origins," and the CBS shows "NCIS: Los Angeles" and "Code Black" — credits a 2010 trip to Madrid with inspiring him to form the NARD movement. He saw the group Animal Equality conducting a small, silent demonstration with laptops showing the deaths of animals at factory farms to passersby, and a light went off.
He started doing small video demos of his own in New York City, but he felt they weren't affecting enough people. Then in December 2010 he saw Animal Equality's larger-scale demonstration in Madrid's Plaza del Sol on International Animal Rights Day, a ceremony that includes the bodies of dead animals.
That prompted Orian to gather various animal rights groups in New York for a meeting, including PETA and Mercy for Animals, wondering "How can we join forces and create one big day like this, like in Spain, where we leave our differences aside (and) everybody harness their energy toward this one goal of representing animals?" he explained in a 2017 interview with the Green Party's animal rights committee.
The annual ceremonies also include the reading and signing of The Declaration of Animal Rights, which was drafted in 2011 and which NARD organizers would like to see turned into global law one day. The first of its nine tenets declare that non-human animals too have a "right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of their Happiness."
Orian's goal is to expand NARD's profile until it becomes an annual presence in the public consciousness.
"The ultimate goal is that this will become the Memorial Day for animals in every city. Just imagine if every city around the U.S. or the world had a recognized national animal rights day ... if it were a part of the culture and everybody knew about it, just imagine the impact that would have — animals getting their own day where everybody thinks about them, commemorates them," he said in the 2017 interview.
"Hopefully one day when we won't eat animals it will really just serve as a memorial day just remembering what we used to do to the animals, like Holocaust Day in Israel, which that's the function of it — remembering what happened and `Never Again."'
Because of the pandemic, food will not be served at this year's NARD, and attendees are being asked to wear masks at all times.