Sexist remark riles some at Virginia animal rights conferenc


Mar 11, 2001
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Feminists Battle 'Animal Rights' Activists Over Alleged Sexism

By Marc Morano, Senior Staff Writer

July 16, 2002

Editor's Note: Includes hyperlinks to websites containing images some readers may find objectionable.

( - Feminists and animal rights activists are battling each other over allegedly 'sexist' remarks made at the Animal Rights 2002 convention held in Virginia earlier this month.

The event degenerated into a flurry of sexism accusations after the master of ceremonies for an awards dinner compared the "shape" of the animal rights movement to the "shapes" of a Hollywood actress and a beauty pageant winner.

Both women were on hand to receive awards for their work on behalf of animals.

As many as two-dozen participants left the dinner in protest, and another 10 people from the audience jumped up on stage and disrupted the proceedings during the July 2 event, to complain about the alleged sexist remark, officials with the convention said.

The incident has sharply divided the animal rights movement in the weeks since the conclusion of the Animal Rights 2002 conference held in McLean, Va., June 28-July 3.

One animal rights activist called the furor over the remarks a result of "Left Wing thought police," and predicted it would reduce the movement to "nothing but marginalized Left Wingers."

The 'Shape of the Movement'

The problems surfaced when the master of ceremonies for the July 2 Animal Rights Hall of Fame Awards Dinner, Howard Lyman, a former rancher now turned animal advocate, welcomed Miss World USA Natasha Allas and animal rights advocate and NYPD Blue actress Charlotte Ross to the event.

Lyman reportedly said, "There have been a number of speakers at this conference who have alluded to the shape of the movement... I would like to introduce you as the ideal shape of the movement," in reference to Miss Allas.

Later, Lyman added "Is there a bit of doubt in your mind about the shape of the movement? To show you that there is room for improvement, I stand in front of you."

Shortly after the remarks, two-dozen members of the audience protested by walking out of the dinner. Alex Hershaft, the conference national chairman, went on stage and tried to quell the furor created by Lyman by quipping, "I want to assure everybody that all rumors to the effect that the MC is a sexist pig are totally unfounded. He is not. He adores his wife and he adores women."

Ten people later disrupted the dinner by approaching the podium and making statements opposing sexism in the animal rights movement and condemned Lyman's remarks.

"It's unfortunate, but that is what happened," Hershaft told "We banned several people who were deliberately disruptive... from next year's conference," he added.

When asked if Ross or Allas were offended by the Lyman's remarks, Hershaft said, "I doubt very much they will be offended. After all, their careers are built on their shapely figures." Ross posed nude for an anti-fur campaign and Allas gained notoriety as a beauty pageant contestant.

Ross's publicist Michelle Bega told that the actress was unavailable for comment on the matter. Allas was not available for comment, either.

Following the awards ceremony row, an anti-sexism petition was circulated at the conference the following day.

The sponsor of the petition, conference participant Barbara Chang, claimed she had the support of almost 200 people. In a posting on the Animal Rights 2002 website, Chang called for a boycott of next year's animal rights convention.

Chang complained of a "misogynistic atmosphere" at the conference. "We will continue to fight for the animals, but we can no longer do it with this organization or the men who dominated the conference," she wrote. According to Hershaft, Chang is one of the participants he has banned from next year's conference.

Hershaft explained that he "deeply regrets that people were offended" but believes that the disruption was a "deliberate act of self-indulgence, disrespect, and offense to the MC, me and to the conference."

Hershaft accused the disgruntled animal advocates of going to the conference "to just sit there and wait and listen and look for opportunities to jump in."

"We just felt that it was very inappropriate to come to an animal rights conference and bring another agenda," he said.

Opponents of the animal rights movement were incredulous that Princeton professor Peter Singer could speak at the convention about the "threat" of Christianity to animals and create no controversy among attendees, while an allegedly sexist remark created a schism in the movement.

Singer's speech on whether Christianity is harmful to animals reiterated his position that it is permissible to kill disabled infants up to 28 days after birth, and restated his support for bestiality.

"Attacks on Christianity, killing of retarded children, bestiality, those things don't strike them as radical, but a comment about a model does. It really just goes to demonstrate how crazy these people can be," stated Rob Sexton of the US Sportsmen's Alliance.

The group is opposed to the animal rights agenda and sent a staff member undercover to attend this year's conference.

Feminist Actions Called Left Wing 'Thought Police'

Many of the participants in this year's convention agreed with Hershaft and were outraged at the disruption of the dinner, according to the convention's "memory board" web site.

One of the notes posted in the online forum from "Kari Ohland" said she found the "actions of the feminists offensive...they ruined a beautiful evening, and cared nothing about the hard work Alex and his team put into it. I was appalled."

According to "Ohland," the protesters "deeply offended Miss World" because she "was attacked for participating in beauty pageants."

Another forum participant identified as "Julie Eyrich," wrote that she had "deep concerns with the animal rights-feminist being part of the movement because they have distracted from our mission and vision of animal liberation and have turned it into their own agenda."

She added, "I feel the movement should not have to police every word they say because it might offend a feminist and then watch out for their wrath."

Hershaft agreed, "There were many, many feminists at the conference that strongly objected to that spectacle on stage. But being feminist does not mean you spend the rest of your life looking for remarks that could be interpreted in different ways and making a scene, that is not my definition of feminist."

Angry at the disruption and the continued debate about sexism in the movement, "Doug" wrote that the "idea of respecting diversity surely goes beyond diversity of color or sexual preference and includes diversity of thought. I guess the left wing thought police can't bear to have that idea floating around in the movement."

He warned that the movement could end "a tiny movement full of nothing but marginalized left wingers."

PETA and Sexism

Other conference participants considered People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal's (PETA's) use of naked woman to promote its anti-fur cause offensive.

Some PETA ads have featured Ross, and former Baywatch stars Pamela Anderson and Gena Lee Nolin, in various stages of undress.

PETA campaign coordinator Lisa Franzetta defended the nude ads, telling they are necessary because we live in what she called a "kind of tabloid society and people are so inured to the things they see everyday that you need to do something that is kind of shocking to draw people's attention."

While Franzetta claimed, "the majority at PETA would consider themselves feminists," she also said the "true test of feminists is the freedom to give women what they want to do with their own body."

According to Franzetta, "Nudity doesn't equal objectification, there is nothing shameful about being sexy."


Well-known member
Nov 7, 2001
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Good, let them destroy their stupid organization from within.

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