Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Campus Vegans Focus on Animal Rights

No meat please, we're vegans

SPARC advocates for animal rights, cruelty-free lifestyle
Sarah Ewald
Staff Writer

Published: Sunday, March 22, 2009

Chicken or beef? Most students make this choice daily for their source of protein, but some opt not to go this route. These students are vegans and vegetarians, and make their choices a bit differently.

SPARC, a student group at the University, stands for Students Promoting Animal Rights Collectively and currently has 14 members, according to the group’s Facebook page. As of spring 2008, there were 38 active members, and 187 others on the listserve who attend events. Most of the members are vegetarians or vegans.

Irena Rindos, a 2008 alumna in natural resources policy and administration, is a former member of SPARC. Rindos said the member base has fluctuated from year to year, but there has always been a core group of dedicated members.

SPARC was started in 2002 by Jared Milrad, a 2006 graduate in wildlife management, along with some of his vegan and vegetarian friends. Their main goal was to bring more vegetarian and vegan-friendly options to the dining halls.

Rindos said the group has succeeded in this endeavor.

In 2007, SPARC’s mission was changed to focus solely on animal rights. Read More

It always really bugs me when vegetarians or vegans that I talk to say they did that because of the abuse livestock suffer. The problem is that when I ask them if they have ever visited a livestock operation, they answer is almost always no. They are making these dietary decisions based on PETA videos and HSUS propaganda. When those of us in agriculture don’t get out and tell the real story of animal husbandry, this is where the information comes from.


Anonymous said...

Hi- I'm one of the students quoted in this article. I actually have worked on a farm- broiler chickens and cattle. It did influence my decision to go vegan.

Of course, there are also human rights, ethical, and environmental reasons to go vegan, which also convinced me that going vegan was the right thing to do.

Calamity Lace said...

I am a college student who is involved with a collegiate cattle growing club, and I am completely against the PETA and HSUS nonsense. It also peeves me to hear students with their excuses for why they don't eat animal products. Typically they coincide with what they see and hear from those rotten organizations. I too ask them if they have ever made any attempt to do their research, or visit the livestock operations and typically I get a no or no response at all.

I would also like to say I am subsribed to your blog and love reading it on a daily basis. It's very informative and you do a good job of catching the stories I don't always see.

Troy Hadrick said...

So Irena, please tell us what it was about working on the farm that influenced you. How long did you work there? I'm sure you will say you don't like chicken cages, but is the alternative better? What didn't you like about raising cattle? Also please expand on all the other reasons.

You say you are a vegan. Have you completely eliminated all animal products in your life?

And one more question, if you got your wish and everyone became a vegan, what would happen to the traditional livestock species?

Sorry for all the questions, but I seldom have the chance to ever ask a vegan these things, and when I do, it's even more rare to get an honest answer.

Troy Hadrick said...

Thanks Lacey Jo for stopping by the blog. Spread the word!!

Unknown said...

Irena, good for you!

Troy, as you well know, there are a number of people who made their living from animal "agriculture" and who now speak out against it and support veganism.

Anonymous said...

I would like to thank the bloggers for including this article on SPARC. My name is Abigail Cameron.
I am one of the students quoted in the article. I would like to ask that readers keep an open mind about the thoughts and feelings of others (such as vegans and vegetarians) before passing judgments and labeling things as "nonsense."
Ethical issues involving agriculture are complex and worthy of deeper discussion on intersecting forms of inequality and environmental sustainability. These issues are not simple ones. We should be able to discuss them with sensitivity and grace. Thank you and peace.

Troy Hadrick said...

No Test I didn't know that. How many are there?

And for Abigail. This isn't a new issue we are dealing with here. Those of us in ag have heard all the arguments you have. Most of them are nonsense. If you want to be concerned about people's feelings, vegans shouldn't be comparing livestock producers to child abusers.

These issues aren't as complex as you think they are. Without animal agriculture, we can't produce enough food to eat. Livestock were given to us by God to raise and use for our benefit.

And I do appreciate this conversation, but I have been called every name under the sun for what I do. So let's continue this conversation by addressing the questions I listed. I'm not trying to be confrontational, I'm just curious.

Anonymous said...

+ I worked there for a summer. Considering that my alternative to requiring that chickens be caged and slaughtered is simply to not eat eggs and chickens, I consider it a vastly superior alternative. I didn't like the way the animals were treated in general (ie, it's not happy Old Mac Donald).

As for the other reasons- animal agriculture has a huge negative impact on the environment, workers in processing plants and slaughterhouses are treated very poorly, animal products are linked with many diseases and ailments, and I (and nobody else for that matter) has any right to decide how a sentient being should live and die (on animal rights, philosopher Tom Regan outlines my views very well here:

+ I have eliminated all animal products from my life (with the exception of products for which there are currently no alternatives- for example, tires). My clothes are all natural and synthetic fibers, my shoes are synthetic, I obviously don't eat animal products, condoms made without the use of casein, cleaning and other products that don't contain animal products or were tested on animals, etc.

+ As for livestock- what's accepted is that as more people decide to go vegan, suppply and demand will result in less livestock animals being raise for consumption, so there will be less and less of them. Eventually, when & if everyone goes vegan, there won't be any at all (or there will be those that survive in the wild).

I grew up in a meat and potatoes family- I decided to go vegan as a result of what I learned and found to be supported. I didn't make the decision lightly- I used to make fun of vegetarians and I thought they were silly, but when I started to look closer at both sides of the issue, it became clear to me that the most environmental friendly, healthy, and ethical choice was to go vegan.

Troy Hadrick said...

I know several people that work in slaughterhouses and thye have been there for a lot of years and are treated very well. They make a great living and enjoy their jobs. I have been in plants all over the United States and haven't seen anything like you describe. What have you seen in these plants?

And actually animal agriculture has a positive impact on the environment. Ruminants have the ablility to harvest grasses that humans can't digest and turns them into a usable protein source. This makes healthier grasslands and reduces the fire danger. As you knwo grassland and forest fires release unbelievable amounts of GHG into the atmosphere. The manure is also recycled by the plants then.

We have the right to decide to eat an animal because the bible says so. If you are a Christian, then you should be familiar with the fact that God gave us dominion over the animals. Also, in Acts 10: 11-13, God tells Peter that If he has made it, it is good to eat.

So you are a vegan when it's handy is what you are telling me, because you will use tires. Have you eliminated these things as well from your life,

Creams and lotions
Shaving cream
Sports equipment

And you are advocating for livestock to go extinct. That's an interesting view point for a group that is advocating animal rights. Do you have the right to make that decision to these "sentinent" beings?

If we discontinue using animals as a food source, we will lose 3/4 of our food producing land. Doesn't sound very sustainable to me.

irena said...

+ Slaughterhouse workers have the highest rates of injury of any occupation, and the frequency that workers are mistreated (or that underaged children are hired to work in them) have been fairly well documented.

+ There may be a few aspects of animal ag that positively effects the environment, but taken as a whole, animal ag has a very significant negative impact on the environment. This is also well documented and reported (eg, "Livestock's Long Shadow" and many, many other governmental and other reports)

+ First, not all people are Christians. For Christians, "dominion" does not equal eating animals; it just means guardianship. For a Christian perspective on this, I would suggest reading "Dominion" by former G. W. Bush speechwriter Matthew Scully.
You're probably familiar that in the garden of Eden, the lion lay down with the lamb, etc- animals and humans were all vegetarian, and ate the fruits of the garden. Shouldn't we be trying to emulate how the garden was- instead of waiting to return to it?

+ I'm saying I'm a vegan in all ways possible- which is the best you can do.
By the way, there are vegan crayons, deodorants, ceramics, creams/ lotions, detergents, products made with pectin instead of gelatin, glue, sports equipment, clothing, etc- thanks to plant alternatives that are cheaper, and synthetics, there are many alternatives to products that traditionally contain animal ingredients. And vegans use these products (go to WholeFoods or look at an online vegan store to see how many options there are).

+ I'm not advocating they go extinct; I'm advocating we no longer raise animals for consumption. Livestock species only exist because we've bred them for the purposes we use them; if humans no longer use these species, they no longer have a "niche" in the world. There will still be species of wild cows, boars, etc- so only the species that have been so changed (and crippled- as in the case of turkeys and a few other livestock breeds) will no longer exist (esp. since so many cannot breed without human intervention. A species is not equal to an individual sentient being- we must respect the lives of existing sentient beings.

+ As far as losing "3/4 of our food producing land"- thousands of land that once served as wildlife habitat has been turned into farmland. Since it's much more efficient to grow vegetables for direct consumption instead of for animal consumption (something like 70% of corn, soy and wheat grown in the US is fed to livestock), it's not really a loss. That land can revert back to its natural state, which *is* more sustainable.

I think it's pretty clear that neither of us will change the mind of the other- so I'd just like to thank you for publicizing our work on campus, and I hope, as a vegan, I've offered you the honest answers you wanted from my perspective.

RJ Schaefer said...


Where did you find that information about 70% of corn soybeans and wheat goes to feeding of livestock? How old is that information?

AND where about the injury rate of slaughterhouse workers?

irena said...

Rich, I got it from the USDA- apparently now the figure is closer to 90% of corn grown in the US is fed to livestock.

For slaughterhouse workers, you can check with the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the most recent stats, but it's still the worst job as far as injuries go.

RJ Schaefer said...


Do you believe 90% of US corn is fed to livestock?

What else is corn used for?