Animal Rights Zone

Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism

Transcript of Shannon Keith's Live ARZone Guest Chat

Transcript of Shannon Keith’s Live ARZone Guest Chat

6 March 2010

6pm US Eastern Time

11pm UK

and 7 March 2010 at

9am Australian Eastern Standard Time



Carolyn Bailey:

ARZone would like to welcome everyone for today’s Live Guest Chat with an inspiring woman, Shannon Keith. Shannon is an accomplished and dedicated animal rights activist, and animal rights lawyer. Animals are considered property, and she has striven to change that fact while defending animal rights activists in the courtroom, saving dogs condemned to death in Los Angeles, as well as prosecuting those who abuse animals.

 

Shannon has represented a number of well-known animal-rights activists and campaigns, including Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) and Kevin Kjonaas the former president of SHAC USA, against Huntingdon Life Sciences, and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

 

Shannon is in the middle of promoting her newly released ‘Skin Trade’ and has generously offered her time to ARZone so that our members may benefit from her vast knowledge and experience in both Animal Rights Law and the Entertainment Industry.

 

Please show Shannon your appreciation with a warm welcome to ARZone.

 

Welcome Shannon!

 

Shannon Keith: 
Thanks so much for having me!

 

Dave Warwak: 
Hey Shannon

 

Roger Yates: 
hi Shannon

 

Carolyn Bailey: 
Hey Shannon, thanks so much for taking the time to be here!

 

Laura Oo: 
Hi all and welcome!

 

Kim Brewer: 
So wonderful to have you here with us

 

Dwayne Young: 
Welcome Shannon! :o)

 

Shannon Keith: 
I'm looking forward to chatting :-)

 

Carolyn Bailey: 
Before we begin, I would like to remind all members to please respect Shannon’s willingness to share her time with us. Please refrain from interrupting, and reserve your comments and questions until the formal chat has concluded; at which time everyone will be invited to engage Shannon.

 

Lisa had the first question for you Shannon, but she's been held up, so I'll ask it on her behalf..

 

Shannon Keith:
sure

 

Carolyn Bailey: 
Hi, Shannon. I was wondering if you could tell me how large the demand is in the US for Animal Rights Attorneys. Is the demand becoming larger as more people become aware of the commodification of nonhuman animals, and can you give some examples of the type of case you might take on?

 

Shannon Keith:

The demand for animal rights attorneys is enormous. People don’t realize it, but so many animals are needlessly killed and activists unjustly imprisoned because there aren’t enough of us out there.


I cannot tell you how many times I have met people who say they wished they would have known about me because their dog was killed by animal control after a dangerous dog hearing. The demand is becoming larger. More people are becoming aware of the plight of animals, which means people want to do more. That means more activists, which in turn, and sadly, means more attorneys are needed to defend them from a corrupt court system handle an extremely wide variety of cases ranging from administrative to civil to criminal. For example, I defend animals in the City of Los Angeles and County of Los Angeles from being killed, I also sue people, companies and organizations that kill, exploit and abuse animals, and I defend animal rights activists in criminal court. A good example would be when I defended Kevin Kjonaas (SHAC prisoner) in a civil case. He was being sued by Huntingdon Life Sciences and one of their employees.


So, I defended him civilly and the case was quite successful.

 

Roger Yates:

Thanks Shannon - Q2 is from Kate who is busy transcribing, so I will ask it...

 

In Behind the Mask, activists defended the use of arson saying e.g. that they were able to clear buildings of all animals. Since this is clearly untrue, as every building is home to countless very small animals, e.g. insects, who could not be evacuated to safety and who would therefore be killed, did you ever buy into the idea that arson could be safe in the first place, and did you think twice about including that scene?

 

Shannon Keith:

I definitely struggled with even including arson in “Behind the Mask.” Of course, my objective was to get the mainstream public to understand why people take direct action via illegal means to save animals and bring animal exploitation awareness to the public, and I did not want to hinder that goal by including arson as one of the means used to obtain that objective. However, I could not exclude it for that reason, Since arson IS employed, I had to be true to what actions do occur, as this is a, And, because it is a documentary, it does not necessarily mean I agree or disagree with the content; but I had to have it in there as an honest portrayal of the ALF.

 

Carolyn Bailey: 
thanks so much, Shannon


Belinda has a question for you but unfortunately couldn't be here, so Roger will ask that as well, Rog?

 

Roger Yates:

Hi Shannon, This question addresses you in your legal capacity, but is also in relation to your artistic work and a/r activism: In addition to the draconian provisions contained in the U.S. 'Animal Enterprises Terrorism Act' (A.E.T.A), there is a state bill pending (SB 6566), with sweeping provisions that specifically target so-called 'animal rights and eco-terrorist organizations' and individuals - not only for acts of civil disobedience, but for any activity that even partially promotes or publicizes support of animal liberation causes. organizations' and individuals - not only for acts of civil disobedience, but for any activity that even partially promotes or publicizes support of animal liberation causes.

 

In effect, along with the A.E.T.A., this suspends the First Amendment Right to Free Speech. Conversely, the Supreme Court is currently considering reversing extant legislation that prohibits the depiction of animal snuff or 'crush' films - on the grounds that it is a violation of the First Amendment to Free Speech! In both instances, the Right to Free Speech has been called into question vis-a-vis animal rights. How can a/r activists effectively seek to abolish or amend the A.E.T.A. (and similar legislation), whilst also demanding that the law be upheld in the case of animal cruelty 'crush' videos?

 

Shannon Keith:

Wow, EXCELLENT question Belinda! I have definitely thought about this much myself since the recent crush decision. Free speech means that we have to tolerate speech that we do not condone as well.

 

Therefore, because I believe that I should be able to legally say that I support illegal activity to help animals, I also have to accept that it is then okay for groups such as the KKK to have protests against minorities. However, there is a big difference between speech and action. The Supreme Court really needs to be careful with this line and tread extremely carefully. For now, I CAN say “I support the ALF.” But I cannot say urge imminent lawless action, meaning, for example, if I were standing in front of a room of people, I could not tell everyone to kill someone else who was in that room immediately and have weapons available to them to carry out the act. That violated free speech at that point. I see this as similar to crush videos. It is not an element of free speech to break the law, i.e. torture and kill animals. It would be one thing for an advocate of crush videos to say, ‘I like killing little little animals,” and it is quite another to do it. Just like saying, “I support the ALF” is very different than participating in that action– that action is obviously not protected speech. I hope the Supreme Court sees this very different distinction!

 

Carolyn Bailey: 
Thanks again, Shannon, for your insight and thoughtful responses! Dave would now like to address you, Dave?

 

Dave Warwak: 
Thank you Shannon for all your important work. Can you please share with us the 3 most difficult types of resistance you have encountered making movies?

 

Shannon Keith:

Sure

1. People being unwilling to share footage

2. The opposition being unwilling to communicate. 

3. The mass media being too scared to show the films I will address each one
separately.

 

Vegan Student:
fast question

 

What are your thoughts about lacto-ovo vegetarians? Do we need to spit them out? Are they worse than meat eaters? Cause it seems this is becoming the new trend. Please abolitionist explain me why we need to be so violent against lacto-ovo vegetarian

 

Roger Yates:

later please VS

 

Shannon Keith:
When I first started with Behind the Mask, I approached many activists and others for footage that I could use. I would say a majority of people said they would not spend the time making copies for me because they had encountered too many people who said they were making films and never did.

 

This was so frustrating, as I knew I would complete BTM, but I also understood their hesitance, as all of our time is so valuable. However, even with Skin Trade, I encountered much the same, even though at this point, everyone knew about BTM. Seems many were hesitant to spend time helping, which was quite disappointing, however, it also forced me to get a lot of my own footage, which was quite challenging but also rewarding.

 

2. I have always tried to get the opposition on camera so that I can prove to the mainstream that I at least attempted to get all sides of the issue. I tried many ways to do this, but to no avail. It is painfully obvious that the opposition know what they are doing is wrong, which is therefore why they refuse to talk with me.

 

3. BTM was very successful in the mainstream film festival circuit but when it came to getting distribution on cable or TV. it was very difficult. Some people here in Los Angeles with great connections assisted in getting me very good agents, but channels like Animal Planet, etc., all thought it was too controversial. I am hoping for a different result with Skin Trade.

 

Dave Warwak:

Great - thank you

 

Carolyn Bailey: 
Thanks again, Shannon. Roger would like to ask his very own question now, Rog?

 

Roger Yates:

Hi - hope you are not sick of my name already Shannon...!!

 

Shannon Keith:

Totally. Just kidding

 

Roger Yates:

There has been criticism of the amount of sexism within the animal advocacy movement. Your poster for Skin Trade seems to add to it -IF you had to use a nude, why not a male one?

 

Shannon Keith:

I wasn’t aware of this sexism in the animal advocacy movement, however, if I may be so bold, women’s bodies are just so much nicer then men’s!

 

Sorry, my opinion. I believe more people enjoy the poster as it stands than if I had a male bottom and back! I also chose to go the route I did because it is slightly controversial and would attract attention. People would be drawn to the film because of it, and then, of course, get a schooling on fur. It was really more of a tactical decision than an aesthetic one.

 

Roger Yates:

You are not a feminist I see Shannon!

 

Shannon Keith:

It depends on your definition of feminist.

 

If you believe as I do, that feminism is making a strong choice and going for it, then yes, I am, and the woman who chose to do that poster had every choice in the world. In fact, she volunteered her time for the cause.

 

Carolyn Bailey: 
I have no problem with that poster myself, it's in no way sexual

 

Shannon, could you please elaborate on how you personally dealt with some of the information, vision and apathy you must have encountered during filming and editing of ‘Skin Trade’, and how, if at all, that still affects you today. In particular, when you see people wearing the skin of dead animals?

 

Shannon Keith:

It was quite difficult filming this one fur “designer” named Chie Imai and also attending her “fashion” show and party, pretending to be interested and okay with all of it.

 

While I knew that some people still really had no idea about how animals are killed for fur, I had no idea of the extent of it! People flaunting fur like it is the most fabulous thing in the world.

 

The fur “designer" honestly believed her animals were killed “humanely”, not that there is a humane killing, and that her products sustained “green” living! This whole commentary is featured in Skin Trade. In filming the retailers, I could not believe the lies they told us while we pretended to purchase a fur coat. There were times while editing that I had to walk away for a few hours; it was all so hard to take, watching scene after scene and deciding what to use. My editor had his moments as well, and it always came down to we have to stick it through for that beautiful animal we are looking at on the screen whose life was brutally taken away. I am definitely even more sensitive to the issue now.... I didn't think I could be more sensitive, but I am.

 

Carolyn Bailey: 
Thanks Shannon, we don't have a lot of fur in Australia, I can't imagine what you went through

 

Roger Yates:

The Next Q is from Thomas Janak, who must be having a Wild Time somewhere else, so, this is Thomas' Q...

 

How do you go about funding for your documentaries and what was the hardest setback as a documentary filmmaker in your career?

 

Shannon Keith:

I have a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization called ARME (Animal Rescue, Media & Education) – www.arme.tv, that produces the documentaries. People donate to them through ARME, so it’s all charitable. The hardest setback as a documentary filmmaker was when I was making Behind the Mask. It was before I formed ARME, and I had spent all my savings to make the movie. I had no idea what it cost to make a documentary, and quickly learned! I was about halfway through when money ran out and I was struggling to make ends meet, and especially find time for my career as an animal lawyer. The movie had taken over my life, and that is when I realized I could start ARME to assist with all of this.

 

Carolyn Bailey: 
Thanks again, Shannon. Belinda has one more question, and is still not with us, so Roger will ask for her again, Rog?

 

Roger Yates:

OK. One of the paramount issues in the animal rights movement today is the legal status of animals as 'property'. Nowhere is that more contentious at the moment than in the U.S. State of Wisconson, where a Senate bill (SB580) on declassifying animals as property is being hotly contested. One of the rationales for dissent is that the bill flies in the face of a Wisconsin citizen's constitutional rights, for example, to equal protection, vis-a-vis the loss of the right to due process in cases of animal seizure, when for reasonable suspicion or allegations of cruelty that are not yet proven in law.

 

In your view, what are some of the ways the state can reconcile the incorporation of animal rights with the upholding of citizens' rights as they are defined in the statutes, particularly when the latter are so fundamental to national identity?

 

Shannon Keith:

If I am understanding this correctly, the Bill seeks to give animals rights beyond property, but citizens are concerned that it will take away equal rights if this occurs? I really don't see a conflict at all between the two. I deal with constitutional issues all the time, especially my client's right to due process as it applies to animal seizures in criminal and administrative cases. A person's due process is not going to be reduced or eliminated just because animals are given rights beyond "property."

 

Carolyn Bailey: 
Thanks Shannon, I have one more question for you if I may. In your first documentary, ‘Behind the Mask’ a lot of the people who were interviewed had lost either a loved one or their freedom. I didn’t detect a lot of bitterness from the majority of these people, which I find interesting. Do you have an explanation for their attitude and continuing determination?

 

Shannon Keith:

Who are you referring to?

 

Carolyn Bailey: 
Oh, I don’t recall the name of the woman who lost her daughter under the lorry, and many of the activists who were interviewed had lost their freedom for their activism

 

Roger Yates:

Nancy Phipps

 

Shannon Keith:

Oh, yes, sorry, that would be Jill Phipps who was killed. Yes, her mother is Nancy Phipps.

 

Carolyn Bailey: 
Yes

 

Shannon Keith:

I was so taken a back when I met Nancy Phipps.

 

She was like an angel to me. She had trouble talking about her daughter, as it brought up obvious severe emotions, but wow, she has just kept right on advocating for animals despite that and despite her age and health. She is out there on the front line, protesting in the streets in the rain with teenagers!

 

I really think that of the people I met and interviewed, they are so dedicated and so strong, that they are not about to let anything get them down and stop them from fighting for animals. Many people I spoke with are still willing to spend time in prison if it will make a difference.

 

Carolyn Bailey: 
I found some of these people to be inspirational, and their determination was impressive

 

Shannon Keith:

Yes indeed

 

Carolyn Bailey: 
Thanks Shannon

 

Shannon Keith:

Thank you

 

Carolyn Bailey: 
Elizabeth Collins, who is also busy today would like to ask you a question, which will be asked by Roger Yates.

 

Roger Yates:

You will be aware of the growing rights-based vegan movement that is emerging

 

Shannon Keith:

Sure

 

Roger Yates:

Don't you think it is time to put the vegan message out there to the public, presenting it as a moral imperative for our species to abolish animal use?

 

Shannon Keith:

Yes! And I call upon all vegans to do that. One great side effect of the films that I make is that many people make the connection and go vegan without it being in their faces. For example, since BTM came out, I have received thousands of emails from people all over the world who went vegan after watching it! And even though I have only had one showing so far of Skin Trade, which only focuses on fur, I have already received messages from people that they can no longer eat meat. There are all different ways to get people to go vegan, and I call upon each and every one of you to find your strength and GO FOR IT!

 

Carolyn Bailey: 
Perfect reply, Shannon!

 

Shannon Keith:
Aw thanks :-)

 

Carolyn Bailey: 
Roger has another question but is actually busy at the moment, so I'll ask it for him. The title Skin Trade misled me. I looked at the trailer expecting an expose of leather and fur but it seems to be only about fur. Are there sections about leather in the full film?

 

Shannon Keith: 
No. The film focuses exclusively on fur. There are sections that discuss the environmental impact of factory farms and how fur is made that brings the leather concept in. For example, tanneries that end up of dumping chemicals into the water getting people sick and killing children. These tanneries are used for leather and fur, since fur contains leather. After our premiere of the movie, one woman wanted to know what she could do with her purse. She didn't want it anymore because it was leather. Another great way to educate people without offending them. I wanted to focus primarily on fur because were I to put all the issues into one movie nobody would watch it. I would be labeled a freak by the mainstream who already feels marginalized by us. And these are the people we need to effect, so a careful line needs to be drawn.

 

Carolyn Bailey: 
I really believe it's all about education, and your films do that, Shannon. Congratulations! Jose has your last formal question and, again, Roger will
ask on his behalf. You're a trooper, Rog!

 

Roger Yates:

Super trooper! Why do you support PETA, a group that has killed thousands of healthy animals, has given an award to Temple Grandin and supports different kinds of animal exploitation (such as gassing chickens)?

 

Shannon Keith:

First of all, I don't know that you (Jose, who is not present) have your facts correct.

 

Secondly, if it weren't for PETA, I probably wouldn't be here talking to you all and being involved in saving countless animals. PETA has educated more people about the plight of animal suffering than any other organization. I'm not saying that I support EVERYTHING PETA does. I don't, just as I most likely don't agree with every animal rights activist about our theories on liberation. The important thing is to support one another in this struggle, not continue the in-fighting. This question is disturbing to me because we are wasting time. Here I am defending why I support an animal rights organization.

 

Roger Yates:

rights?

 

Shannon Keith:

C'mon people, let's focus on the animals and getting their message out there.


Carolyn Bailey: 
Great answer, Shannon

 

Roger Yates:

You can't be serious Carolyn!

 

Carolyn Bailey: 
This concludes the formal chat session and Shannon has very generously agreed to stay for a short time longer for open chat


Shannon, on behalf of ARZone, I would like to thank you sincerely for taking time from your incredibly busy schedule to spend time with us

 

Shannon Keith:

I appreciate all you are doing here. Thank you.


Vera: 
yes, rights? to go on being exploited?

 

Jason!
Thanks Shannon - I appreciate your time as well

 

Shannon Keith:

Vera, not sure what you are saying?

 

Carolyn Bailey: 
If anyone would like to speak with Shannon, please feel free to PM myself or Roger Yates with your intent.


Dwayne Young:
Absolute Pleasure, Shannon. You’re brilliant. Thanx again for your time.

 

Vera:

thought you refer to PETA as an AR org

 

Shannon Keith:

Again, not sure what you are saying. Maybe we can all focus on something positive here like helping animals. I'm not going to debate about PETA.

 

Dwayne Young:
Thank God for that..

 

Shannon Keith:

Thanks Dwayne!

 

Carolyn Bailey: 
Shannon, some people believe PeTA are a welfare org, that was the point they were trying to make. It's not a PeTA chat though, so best to move on

 

Dwayne Young:

Pleasure was ours..

 

Vera: 
PETA is an animal welfare org and not an AR organization, just to make it clear.

 

Roger Yates:

Thanks Vera.

 

Shannon Keith:

I'm glad you have your opinion. We all differ.

 

Carolyn Bailey: 
Thanks Vera, Shannon is here to discuss Skin Trade, BTM and her amazing work in Animal rights law

 

Roger Yates:

you are right

 

KIM Brewer:
I am not sure what we need to do to ask a question, sorry. What is the best way to go about stopping the gassing of our shelter animals as I feel this is a terrible abuse and I certainly agree that animals are much more than property

 

Shannon Keith:

Thanks Kimberly for that thoughtful question.

 

Kim Brewer:

thanks

 

Shannon Keith: 
This is a tough one, and an issue I have been fighting for 15 years. Not just the gassing, but the killing period.

 

KIM Brewer: 
yes i agree

 

Shannon Keith:

Each area has its own laws and regulations with regard to animals in pounds. I have been working with the Los Angeles shelter system to try to get them to go "No Kill." The best way is to come up with a model that the various municipalities can work with. It would also involve the help and cooperation of rescue organizations and the public at large. Where are you located?


KIM Brewer: 
Ky

 

Shannon Keith:

I would be happy to help you come up with a plan. Feel free to contact me via email, but have been crossposting for animals all over the US and have certainly learnt a lot in the last few months that is so heartbreaking I would start by submitting a proposal to the city council at a meeting get support, petitions, etc. and go from there meet with the mayor once you have all your documentation and support

 

KIM Brewer:
i have seen site where people are ask to email the president to ban this


Shannon Keith:

Yeah, I really don't think that will help. Each municipality needs to ban before the President will make a federal law about it.

 

Kim Brewer:
I see


Carolyn Bailey: 
Thanks Shannon and Kimberly, Dwayne also has a question for you Shannon

 

Shannon Keith:

Ok

 

Dwayne Young:
Shannon, I NEED to see your latest offering ASAP. I'm in a rural part of Canada. What do you suggest. AND, I was also curious to know if you have another project in the works...If so, what sort of timeline are you looking at before your next release.

 

Shannon Keith:

Thanks! We just completed Skin Trade and it is now available for purchase at
www.skintradethemovie.com. All proceeds go to making the next film. Yes, there is a third one already in the works and we are trying to get that done within a year, but of course, we need funding for it.

 

Dwayne Young:

Excellent, thank you!

 

Shannon Keith:

That will be the only hold up. It's top secret but I think everyone will love it!

 

Carolyn Bailey: 
Good luck with that, Shannon!

 

Shannon Keith:

Thanks!! I just want to put out there that anyone who wants to organize a screening with BTM or SKIN TRADE should do so, and let me know. I can assist if possible or fly out and speak. Please also spread the word about them!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

to Australia?

 

Shannon Keith:

BTM is here: www.uncagedfilms.com

 

Carolyn Bailey: 
I am joking, of course

 

Shannon Keith:

I would love to be there actually! Never been!

 

Laura:

I am planning to organize at least some kind of small screening of Skin Trade in Finland.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

If I may add, I watched BTM for the first time about 8 months ago and I found it inspiring, it really did change so many of my opinions.

 

Shannon Keith:

Thank you, that's wonderful! There is some footage from Finland in Skin Trade, so it is very appropriate I will be there this summer, or nearby.

 

Roger Yates:

Do it by Sypke - flying is feckin' up the environment. No one should fly.

 

Laura:
That is cool Shannon! Can I be in touch via email about your dates nearby to discuss if it would be possible for you to visit the screening?

 

Shannon Keith:

Definitely! Please do so, I would love that.

 

Carolyn Bailey: 
Shannon, in BTM, at the start, the Regal Rabbit farm is shut down, what happened to the rabbits who were freed from that 'farm'?

 

Laura: 

Great, thank you! I will.

 

Shannon Keith:

Keith Mann, among others, was able to go in and take the rabbits out legally. Some of that footage is in the film.

 

Roger Yates:

and then the rabbits were replaced.

 

Shannon Keith:

The rabbits were given to homes and sanctuaries to live out their lives. It is, the farm was shut down.

 

Roger Yates:

The business just moved this is the flaw in this activism the place was shut down but there is no reduction in the numbers of rabbits being used.

 

Vera:
Thanks Roger!

 

Carolyn Bailey: 
There was a reduction in the horror for those particular rabbits.

 

Roger Yates:

Yes, true, but they were replaced.

 

Carolyn Bailey: 
The farm was closed.

 

Dwayne Young: 

I JUST ordered a copy of Skin Trade.....thanx for the link. Hypothetical: If at some point in the next while I'm able to put together a group of people for a screening, would you consider making yourself available for a brief Q/A post screening-via this type of format?

 

Roger Yates:

The farm WAS closed - the demand remains.

 

Kim Brewer: 
We get it Roger.

 

Roger Yates:

There is a tactical issue about such campaigns.

 

Dwayne Young: 
That question was for you Shannon, btw...(obviously;o)

 

Shannon Keith:

Yes Dwayne, thank you so much! I would love that. I will always make myself available when I can to discuss films, laws, etc., in helping the animals :-) Thank you for putting something together!

 

Vera: 
and many animal people go on making money using them.

 

Carolyn Bailey: 
Shannon, I want to thank you again, you've been awesome, and considering your time is so limited at the moment, I am incredibly grateful to you!

 

Dwayne Young: 
Awesome, AWESOME! I have a space available-and will see what I can do to fill it! Will keep you posted. TY:o)

 

Shannon Keith:

Thanks for having me. I wish the best for everyone on this forum, that we can all work together for the animals' sake. Stop arguing and get active!

 

Laura:
I want to thank you, Shannon, as well. So thanks :-) Was great to follow this chat.

 

Kim Brewer:
Thank you for making such a difference for our animals. Many blessings!!

 

Carolyn Bailey: 
Thanks again, on behalf of ARZone!

 

Roger Yates:

Yeah, like anything "for the animals" is good huh?

 

Laura:
Good luck with your next film and with everything you do! Your work is inspiring.

 

Dwayne Young: 
Well said.....Later everyone. Carolyn and Roger, great work getting everyone together, as per usual:o)

 

Carolyn Bailey: 
I'd also like to thank our amazing ARZone members for your amazing contribution today, you're great! Thanks everyone!

 

Shannon Keith:

Thanks to all!!

 

Vera: Thanks Shannon. Thanks to all. Good night.

 

 

ARZone exists to promote rational discussion about our relations with other animals and about issues within the animal advocacy movement. Please continue the debate after a chat by starting a forum discussion or by making a point under a transcript.

 


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