Students raise awareness about animal rights abuses

By KATY WILNER | November 1, 2018

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COURTESY OF KATY WILNER Compassion, Awareness, and Responsible Eating encouraged students to consume ethically.

Given the national attention surrounding the animal rights abuses committed by winter apparel company Canada Goose, Compassion, Awareness, and Responsible Eating (CARE) hosted an event on Friday to raise awareness about ethical consumption. 

The event was sponsored by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) through their youth program peta2. Sophomore Mia Boloix, co-president of CARE and campus representative for peta2, explained that CARE decided to host the event to inform students about the animal cruelty involved in producing Canada Goose jackets.

“They suffocate geese and use bear traps on wild coyotes,” she said. “They’re very transparent about it, which is strange, because most companies that are involved in fur trades and cruel down practices are not.”

CARE Co-President Lana Weidgenant emphasized the value of focusing on one specific company to protest.

“Many of us have friends with Canada Goose coats or notice the coats around campus,” she said. “Being able to talk about one specific company and talk about the animals that are used for their clothes allows for us to start the fur and animal products fashion conversation.”

Other peta2 campus representatives have hosted similar events across the country in an effort to decrease student consumption of Canada Goose apparel. Although Boloix does not support the company’s practices, she explained that her mission was not to shame students who own these jackets. 

Boloix added that although she is vegan and no longer uses animal products, she still has articles of clothing made from animal byproducts from before she became vegan. Boloix argued that it is better to maximize the use of these already-purchased items instead of throwing them away.

Instead of condemning Canada Goose wearers, she hopes that this event will act as a preventative measure, encouraging students to not buy the products in the future.

“You need to be an educated consumer,” Boloix said. “You buy a Canada Goose coat thinking you’re going to want to wear it forever. Then if you learn about what goes into making that coat, what are you going to do? Not wear your thousand-dollar jacket?”

PETA originally intended for this event to be a protest. However, members of CARE decided that a booth would be more effective for communicating with the Hopkins community.

Boloix stressed that the group did not want to perpetuate the negative stereotypes associated with vegans. She stated that CARE felt that it would be better to convey their information in a more approachable setting by handing out flyers about the fur industry, conversing with students and handing out vegan candy.

“We don’t want to be those aggressive vegans people talk about,” she said. “Although sometimes it’s helpful to be aggressive, we thought it would be better to be informative.”

Later on Tuesday, CARE co-hosted an event with Vegan Outreach, an international grassroots organization that advocates for veganism and animal rights.

The two groups collaborated on this event to create an immersive experience. Students were invited to try on virtual reality goggles, called iAnimal, that show the typical lives of farm chickens, cows and pigs.

Yuri Mitzkewich, southeast outreach coordinator of Vegan Outreach, argued that while the virtual reality content is shocking, it is extremely effective in educating people about agricultural practices in animal food production.

“It’s a very eye-opening,” he said. “We’re trying to be engaging, because people are very interested in this issue, especially at colleges.”

Weidgenant explained that the content shown in the five-minute virtual reality experience, which depicted the lives of free-range animals, was incredibly shocking for students to watch. Food production through free-range farming is seen as more sustainable and better for the animals, who are allowed access to outdoor spaces. 

Weidgenant, however, asserted that it is important for students to see the realities of the way even free-range animals are treated.

“Industrialized agriculture is one of the largest issues today, with implications for health, animal welfare and our environment, yet it often feels very distant from us,” she wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “Virtual Reality technology gave students the unique opportunity to have an inside view on animal agriculture and what actually happens inside the ‘free-range farms’ grocery store products come from.”

Mitzkewich explained that a branch of Vegan Outreach focuses on advocacy on college campuses. He believes that their efforts are supported by a nationwide trend towards veganism and vegetarianism.

According to the organization, the number of adult vegans in the U.S. has increased from half a million people in 1994 to over three and a half million people in 2016. Additionally, over four million adults are vegetarian.

“Meat consumption is falling right now in the U.S.,” Mitzkewich said. “We’re seeing things change now, and the college age group is really what’s going to be key in making this happen.”

Weidgenant noted that CARE’s activity on campus has increased this year. This past semester, the group hosted an event called Cruelty Free Dorm Giveaway, which provided students with information about the products they use regularly.

“The cruelty-free event informed students about the animal testing that goes into many cosmetics and personal care products and gave out cruelty free products and shopping guides,” she wrote.

CARE Co-President Mia Boloix further stated that although many students may believe that becoming vegan may be challenging, the lifestyle change is made much more accessible by being on a college campus like Hopkins.

Boloix recalled that she initially felt as if there were not enough food options available to her in the University’s dining facilities. However, she stated that the school was very receptive to her and acknowledged her needs.

“Last year I talked to the people at the FFC and I said, ‘There’s not enough vegan options,’ and within a week there were more vegan options. Within a week they put things in the dairy-free freezer that weren’t there before,” Boloix said. “I focused more on what [being vegan] was adding to my life rather than what it was taking away.”

Weidgenant stressed that the intentions of CARE are not to condemn students for their preferred diets or fashion choices but instead to educate them on where their products come from.

“I want students to know that we are most definitely not here to attack people who wear Canada Goose coats or who eat meat or received a coat with a fur trim as a Christmas gift from their parents or to say that anyone is a bad person because of their lifestyle,” she wrote.

She added that CARE is open to all students, regardless of whether or not they are vegan, and invited the Hopkins community to take part in the conversation about animal rights, health and environmental issues.

Boloix elaborated that although CARE was initially founded on protecting the rights of farm animals, it now encompasses a larger variety of topics. She expressed that students involved with any form of civic activism on campus, such as human rights or environmental activism, could contribute to CARE’s cause by respecting animal rights.

“Adding veganism to any of those things is like having the Swiss-Army knife of activism, because you’re doing a ton of things at one time,” Boloix said. “You’re not just helping hundreds of animals every year — you’re helping the environment, you’re helping human rights and you’re helping your body.”  

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