Speaking up for animals

Teen forms group to stand up for those who can't stand up for themselves

By HANNAH PERRIN / VOICE CORRESPONDENT
STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER
Sep 01, 2008


T.J. Salsman/The State Journal-Register
Ryne Poelker, a 17-year-old PORTA High School senior,
protests in front of the KFC on Jefferson Street.

Animal abuse happens all around the world. Locally, some teenagers are trying to put an end to it.

"I feel that animals are the most overlooked of society. They are not able to stand up for themselves; they require people to do that for them," said Ryne Poelker, a PORTA High School senior.

Earlier this year, Ryne started a MySpace page for Springfield Animal Rights to bring awareness on animal abuse and to protest the practice.

Ryne started his animal-rights movement freshman year, when he decided to become a vegetarian. He said he originally become vegetarian because he felt the way animals were treated was unnecessary. He also read a book called "Animal Liberation" by Peter Singer that put things into perspective for him.

He since has become a vegan. Ryne said it isn’t hard to find food to eat in urban areas, but his options slim down in smaller towns. He gets most of his food at Food Fantasies, 1515 Wabash Ave.

He said beginning the Springfield Animal Rights organization wasn’t that hard.

"I just made a MySpace and a Facebook and started getting organized," he said. "It takes up a lot of my time. Sometimes, I don’t get everything done that I want to get done and there are disappointments."

The Springfield Animal Rights MySpace page features information about animal abuse, animal rights, upcoming events and ways to contact Ryne and other members. Most members are in high school, but all ages are welcome.

Ryne put his beliefs into action Aug. 5 at a protest in front of KFC, 1850 W. Jefferson St., in which he and a group of volunteers handed out pamphlets and held up posters to get the word out about what they think is the mistreatment of chickens.

Several cars honked as they passed Ryne’s group along the street.

"It’s hard to tell if people are supporting you or not," he said.

Ryne’s group and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are trying to get KFC to change their business codes to allow more living space for the animals and adopt a more humane way of killing them.

KFC in Canada has cooperated with PETA and has changed its codes to meet the group’s requests, Ryne said.

"If Canada can do it, then why can’t we?" he said.

Ryne has staged at least 20 protests against KFC, and he believes it’s far from over. He said these small protests would pay off in the long run.

"If you educate more people about it, it will help," he said.

Though he has disappointments, Ryne keeps going and relies on help from others. He says PETA has provided support to Springfield Animal Rights by providing some supplies and other needed items, like pamphlets and posters, for free.

"I became good friends with Nicole Matthews, a PETA representative who has helped me organize a variety of events," he said. "I couldn’t have done the things I have done without her guidance and judgment."

"The hardest part is keeping my patience. When you are trying to open up people to the idea of animal rights, and they are looking down upon you saying it’s stupid, it’s really hard to keep being nice."

"Think globally, act locally" is Ryne’s favorite motto, which he follows by bringing the global issue of animal rights to his local community through his organization.

Ryne doesn’t want to stop with the animal rights issue. In fact, he says one of his goals for the future would be to add a local component of the Food Not Bombs movement. As part of this program, Ryne would recruit volunteers to go around town to different restaurants and grocery stores and collect extra non-perishable food to take to homeless shelters and food pantries. It is just an idea right now, and Ryne said he knows it will take a lot of time and people to do it.

Springfield Animal Rights has about 20 active members who protest and help with funds. You don’t have to be a vegan or a vegetarian to be a member. You just have to be someone who wants to see change for animals.

To learn more about Springfield Animal Rights visit www.myspace.com/veganspringfield .

Hannah Perrin is a freshman at Sacred Heart-Griffin High School. SHG freshman Emily Higginbotham contributed to this article.