Defending the Defenseless
As the fight against the injustice of the UC financial hikes reigns on campus, the students of Banana Slugs for Animals (BSA) are waging a lesser-known fight for a different kind of injustice. During the week of protests and the occupation of Kerr Hall, BSA sought to bring visibility to current issues affecting animals such as factory farming and animal testing in research.
During the week of Nov. 16, BSA set up a provocative animal liberation display brought by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in UC Santa Cruz's Quarry Plaza.
The display presented graphic images of human oppression that closely resembled images of animal oppression. People were drawn in by the large display that showed oversized pictures of humans receiving body mutilations and individuals being beaten by police.
Eric Deardorff, a fourth-year philosophy major, founded BSA last year after working for PETA, the largest animal activist group in the world, for four years.
'We would like to think that human oppression is over, but there are still practices of clitorectomy in the Middle East and in Africa, and there are still political prisoners in Iraq, which is just terrible,' Deardorff said.
Coming to UCSC, Deardorff thought it was very strange that a school with such a reputation for having loads of vegetarians and vegans did not have a group that fights for animal rights.
'There was a group here many years ago, but as soon as I found out that there hadn't been one for a while I wanted to start the group so we could have some formal animal advocacy here on campus and get some things done,' Deardorff said.
In addition to attention-grabbing displays, BSA also focuses its efforts on tabling, protests, potlucks, volunteering at local animal shelters, food giveaways and film showings.
Adrianne Burke, the liberation coordinator for PETA 2, the youth component of PETA, has been spending the fall season bringing the display to middle schools, high schools and colleges all across the country. The final stop on her tour was UCSC.
'Every student body on our tour has found the display moving,' Burke said. 'I feel that UCSC was a great school because the students had an overwhelmingly positive response to the display.'
Burke believes that the power of the display comes from the way it relates animal suffering to human suffering.
'Students were able to see how chickens spend their entire lives in a space the size of a sheet of paper, how cows are branded to show ownership, and they saw how pigs are castrated without any pain killers,' Burke said. 'When we told the students about how all of this was a standard practice in the industry, many people were moved to take action against it.'
The group also held a protest in front of KFC and McDonald's restaurants on Mission Street on Nov. 20 in the pouring rain.
'When we do the protests, they are during rush hour traffic and people can read our signs as they drive by,' said BSA member Nick Conrad. 'Usually we are waving and smiling at the people, so we can give off a positive image as we advertise the brutality toward animals.'
Deardorff pointed out that cruelty toward animals is not the only reason to choose a meatless diet. According to the United Nations, factory farming is the number one cause of greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global warming.
'Factory farming is more harmful to the environment than all the cars, trucks, planes, trains [and] SUVs combined,' Deardorff said. 'With the simple step of changing our diets by just eating less meat or going vegetarian or vegan, we can eliminate some of the biggest causes of global warming just with our forks.'
One of Deardorff and BSA's biggest goals is to show that given how much people have done in the past to help fight against human oppression, they are able to do the same for animals.
'Some people think we can't change what is happening when we see the suffering, but I want people to know that we can change what's going on,' Deardorff said. 'Sometimes it is changing our diet, sometimes it's changing what we wear or writing letters to the editor. We have changed abuses to people in the past and we can do it in the future with animals.'