Trenches Spotlight: Animal Rights Hawai'i
from No Compromise Issue 22

It all started in 1975, when an author named Peter Singer traveled to Hawai’i to speak about his new book, Animal Liberation. Inspired by Singer’s work, a small group formed to work on animal issues, in affiliation with a national animal-protection group. Very quickly, however, the small group realized that it wanted autonomy, and one of the most well-respected and proactive grassroots animal liberation organizations was born: Animal Rights Hawai’i.

Cathy Goeggel, president of Animal Rights Hawai’i (ARH), is one of the founding members. Cathy remembers a time when “Beauty Without Cruelty was the only source of cruelty-free personal care products, a vegetarian meal on [United Airlines] was an apple, and the only non-leather shoes available were rubber slippers.” And although times have changed in many respects, ARH continues to spearhead campaigns that raise awareness in the community and demand liberation for animals on the islands.

Melissa Rosenberger and Dan, relative “newbies” to the group, are determined to make just as many waves as the more experienced ARH activists. Recruited at an event where ARH was tabling, Melissa and Dan had little prior experience with animal rights groups but have found ARH to be very welcoming.
“ARH has some of the kindest, most sincere and humble people we have ever come into contact with,” Melissa told No Compromise.

Animal Rights Hawai’i has a board of directors that meets bi-monthly. They recruit their members through a variety of means: tabling, a weekly public access television show and school education programs.

The reputation Animal Rights Hawai’i has built over the years is impeccable. ARH has become a safe haven for those working in animal industries who want to come forward to help expose the abuses they face every day. They trust in ARH to never reveal their identities. They are the first stop for media who want comments on animal issues.

“We have established ourselves as honest and thorough, and we check our facts,” states Cathy.
ARH’s primary focus as of late has been on promoting veganism and opposing animal agriculture. In addition to factory farming issues, they have also defended feral animals by opposing snares, poisons and other cruel population controls. Members of ARH regularly speak on behalf of animals imprisoned in zoos, marine “parks” and labs as well, by working on both local campaigns and (when there is a target in Hawai’i) participating in campaigns that are active on the mainland.

“One aspect of our work here, of which I am very proud, is our research & investigation. We have exposed massive violations at the labs at the University of Hawai’i; our investigation of abuses at Moloka’i Ranch was followed by the Ranch closing its safari park. Our probe of the Maui Zoo hastened its closure,” says Cathy of ARH’s accomplishments. “We are currently scrutinizing the government support of the livestock industry and the horrible cruelty committed by government agencies in the name of endangered species conservation.”

Like most groups, Animal Rights Hawai’i is always trying to seek out more money and more people. Unfortunately, because of its somewhat isolated location, it doesn’t have the advantage of being able to rely on large numbers of activists from other areas to attend events. And they still face the same problems that are plaguing many groups, especially in terms of governmental repression.

“Oahu, Hawai’i is about as close as you get to a police state; in fact, it is the only state that has ever been under Marshall Law (after Pearl Harbor),” states Melissa. “We have an astronomical amount of military presence, which often brings major aggression at tabling events. It takes three hours to drive the circumference of the island, and there are well over ten military bases.”

Despite these hardships, however, Animal Rights Hawai’i continues to battle for animal liberation.
When Cathy was asked what she would like people to know about ARH, she offered this: “We are a small group – we have no office; we are all volunteers; we have taken on government agencies, multi-national corporations; we have litigated against the circus industry, the local meat industry and others. We don’t win often, but we are a force with which to be reckoned.”

Animal Rights Hawai’i has been a major force in the movement for animal liberation for over a quarter of a century. Here’s to another twenty-five.