University News

Animal-rights activists take to the Main Green

By
Contributing Writer
Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The image of a seal being clubbed by its captor seemed out of place under the bright sun on the Main Green Monday afternoon. The panel, one of many such scenes, is meant to connect past human mistreatment and ongoing animal exploitation through images that shock — and oftentimes disturb.

The exhibit, called the “Animal Liberation Project,” is sponsored by the Brown Animal Rights Club and is on display until Oct. 1. The panels were developed by a youth outreach sector of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, peta2, that travels to college campuses across the nation to advocate for animal rights.

On display are12 panels showing graphic images that suggest abuse of animals is comparable to human rights violations. One panel depicts nearly identical images of a human hand and an animal paw grasping a fenced-in enclosure with the word “imprisoned” running between the two.

Another panel shows a dog stretched out on a table, cut open and connected to wires. The panels explicitly parallel the mutilation and bondage of animals to similar abusive treatment of people.

The members of peta2 hope the exhibit will “break down the barriers between species” and spur increased animal rights advocacy, according to their press release.

BARC brought the exhibit to the center of campus with the intention to educate students on animal abuse. “We hope that people go away understanding that we are all the same in our capacity for suffering,” said Claire Miller ’11, president of the Animal Rights Club.

“Liberation Project” Coordinator Adrianne Burke said the display challenges the legitimacy of the “might makes right” philosophy in our society, which she says has been central to animal mistreatment throughout history. 

The exhibit offers a proactive solution to avoiding animal mistreatment: vegetarianism. This solution emphasizes that animals have many attributes similar to humans, including the capacity for “acts of altruism” and “organized resistance.”

The display has received a “huge response” so far, Burke said, adding that some students have taken vegetarian starter kits from the display table.

While looking at the images on display, Alex Hartley ’10 said, “They’re pretty truthful. Most of it is stuff we know but try not to think about.”

Still, Hartley said the exhibit would not change her eating habits.

The display did not resonate with all students. Some found the comparison between animal and human suffering too extreme and exaggerated. 

“I think it’s absurd to compare the keeping of slaves to the branding of cattle,” David Winer ’13 said.

Sara Powell ’11 said that while the display was visually attractive, she didn’t like how peta2 relied on “sensational images” to attempt to further their animal rights cause. “Humans are very different from animals,” she said.

The “Liberation Project” panels will be on display during the day until Thursday — World Vegetarian Day — when a closing discussion will be held.