University News

Mercy for Animals fellow fights for animal rights

Pierce ’15 advocates Meatless Mondays, better farming techniques as one of 10 fellows nationwide

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 25, 2015

If Lauren Pierce ’15 gets her way, daily hamburgers at the Sharpe Refectory will soon be a thing of the past. Pierce’s passion for animal rights led her to apply for a fellowship with Mercy for Animals, a nonprofit that advocates just treatment of farm animals and promotes vegetarianism and veganism. As one of 10 fellows nationally, Pierce hopes to influence her peers to join the fight for animal rights and make dietary choices that will better the lives of farm animals.

Pierce is joined by one fellow each from Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and all eight Ivy League schools, MFA created the fellowship “to spread awareness about the many negative impacts of factory farming on the animals, the environment and on our health, and to compel people to make more compassionate, healthy food choices by choosing vegetarian food,” said Alan Darer, education project coordinator at MFA.

MFA targeted undergraduate and graduate students at highly selective institutions because it “wanted to choose people who have influence,” Darer said. “Those people are able to influence others to make similar choices.”

Pierce heard about the fellowship through a colleague at the Humane Society of the United States, where she interned last summer, specializing in farm animal protection, she said.

While Pierce is currently Brown’s only MFA fellow, Darer said he is interested in hiring a second fellow at each school. Though the number of fellows may increase at each school, the number of institutions in the fellowship will not expand beyond the original 10.

Fellows are required to work for 40 hours over the course of the semester — averaging about three hours per week — and are provided a $500 stipend, Darer said.

The 10 fellows collaborate online using a private Facebook page, where they can post images of successful campaigns, ask questions and give advice, Darer said. Once a week, fellows can call in to a conference line to collaborate in real time on their ongoing projects, he added.

The fellowship officially began with the start of the spring semester, but a test of the program ran last semester at all participating schools except Princeton and Cornell. Last fall, fellows reached more than 15,000 students with MFA’s message, Darer added.

Pierce handed out nearly 3,000 booklets last fall with information about factory farming — enough for almost half of the undergraduate population, she said. “Studies show that about half of students who see these booklets make a change to their diets,” Pierce said. “I feel like that actually made an impact.”

Pierce also placed a few hundred stacks of MFA literature around campus and screened an animal rights documentary that attracted a large audience, she said.

MFA’s work stretches beyond the boundaries of animal rights, as the organization also supports efforts to curb global warming as well, Pierce said.

“In the larger context, I think animal rights is extremely important, because factory farming is a large contributor to greenhouse gases and deforestation,” Pierce said, adding that “meat consumption is a large contributor to global starvation and malnutrition.”

“Animal rights has a large opportunity for solving global problems,” she said.

Brown students are open-minded and receptive to the ideas of MFA, Pierce said, adding that there are already a lot of vegetarians and vegans on campus.

The Brown Vegetarian Society is partnering with Pierce to create a guide to becoming vegetarian or vegan at Brown, said Adam Horowitz ’16, president of the Brown Vegetarian Society. The guide will ideally include the best vegetarian and vegan options at on-campus eateries and local restaurants, he said.

The causes that Brown Vegetarian Society and MFA advocate are “pretty much the same: that we should not be eating animals from an ethical, environmental and health perspective,” Horowitz added.

On March 3, Pierce will screen the film “Forks Over Knives,” which argues that there is a direct link between many modern diseases and diet, she said.

This semester, Pierce will focus less on leafleting and more on asking students to pledge to observe Meatless Mondays, she said. By the end of the Mid-Year Activities Fair, she had gathered about 100 pledges.

Pierce hopes to see the dining halls adopt Meatless Mondays. “Just cutting out meat options one day a week isn’t that hard,” she said, adding that the University could save money by substituting cheaper options such as rice and pasta for meat, which is relatively expensive.

“This would be a great way for (Brown Dining Services) to get more involved with the campus initiative of being more environmentally and socially conscious,” she added.

Many other universities have taken the pledge to serve entirely meatless options one day a week. One hundred forty-nine colleges across the country, including Columbia, have implemented the day on campus, according to Meatless Monday, a nonprofit that aims to reduce the nation’s meat consumption and promote public health.

Pierce recognizes the difficulty of instituting structural change at Brown, which is why she is focusing on changes at an individual level. “Me being one person, I have more of an impact reaching out to individual people,” she said. She plans to station a table at the Ratty every Monday where she can gather student pledges.

Many underclassmen with similar passions have approached Pierce with the desire to get involved in her project. Pierce has also encouraged student activists she has worked with to apply for the fellowship.

“Applying for the MFA fellowship next year is something I’m definitely considering,” said Christian Suarez ’18, who has been involved with Pierce’s initiatives since he attended her screening of “Cowspiracy” last semester. “I’d be able to take on a bigger role in terms of on-campus activism and gaining important experience relevant to animal rights.”

By choosing to eat vegetarian or vegan, students can significantly ameliorate the lives of animals, Darer said, adding that each vegetarian saves the lives of 30 land animals per year.

The movement to reduce meat consumption is surging forward, Darer said, adding that “the ones leading this movement are students.”

  • fearnot

    the optimum word here is CHOICE.. why would this person want to take choice away from students? If she and others like her are so influential no one will eat a burger on Monday or any other day of the week.. she wants to impose “Meatless Monday” on the entire student popuation to further her own agenda. I hope she loses and that Brown students and faculty reject this propaganda. She has the right to her own beliefs but not to the rights of others. I wonder if she believes in CHOCE for woman.. my bet is she not only believes in it but also advocates for it.. CHOICE.. they only way to go

    • Ty Savoy

      f there were real justice out there, for human animals, and non-human animals – you see fearnot – the trouble is that the non human animals we exploit, abuse, and kill – they aren’t given any choice. Since they cannot speak our language, we have to assume that they don’t want to to be exploited, abused on factory farms, and killed. In fact they are telling us in the only ways they are able to.

      We abuse and kill these thinking, feeling, sentient, beautiful creature…… For what ? So unthinking people raised deep inside a culture of homo-centricity, where the wants of human animals is the only thing that matters — can feel pleasure in their mouths for a few seconds.

      Tyranny is tyranny. Might does not make right. Animal Rights is a basic issue of justice.

      • fearnot

        hmm you are so correct we don’t give animals any choice..especailly when it come to reproduction. That is an animals basic right.. to reproduce and yet we blithly castrate our companion pets all of the time.. most of the time at a very young age..so would you say that all animals have the right to reproduce?

        • Ty Savoy

          Fearnot you avoid the entire issue of exploiting, abusing and killing animals. If you think it’s ok to do so, why do you think so ?

          With your question, maybe you wish to create a false equivalency type discussion. ie If a person believes animal have rights, it is wrong to deprive a pet animal of their ‘right’ to reproduce ?

          But I’ll answer your question. You appear to be asking me if I think ‘pet’ animals have the right to reproduce.

          PeterSinger, in his landmark 1975 book, often called the bible of the modern animal rights movement – he bases a lot of the philosophy on animal rights from Utilitarianism (See Jeremy Bentham “The question is not, “Can they reason?” nor, “Can they talk?” but rather, “Can they suffer?” )

          Utilitarianism, in animal rights, is about looking at all suffering, both human and non human animal suffering, and seeing how to best approach lessening it. From that point of view, it’s obvious that factory farming is wrong.

          It takes something like 20 times the resources used, in animal
          agriculture. ie feeding a cow or pig from birth to death, when that grain and fossil fuels used in the process, can be used to feed people. In a world where about 1 billion people are going hungry. Tremendous waste. tremendous suffering. Both of these can be eliminated, or lessened, the animals suffering in factory farms, and starving people, if we lessen, or eliminate animal agriculture.

          Towards your question – Taking the same utilitarianism type of approach towards neutering ‘pet’ animals so they don’t reproduce. To allow more and more cats ie to multiply, so that a city becomes full of starving cats is incredibly wrong. It is being responsible – recognizing this suffering, that compels people to neuter their pet cats. An individual cat’s ‘right to reproduce’ is overwhelmed by the rights of those potential multitudes of cats produced if the irresponsible cat owners are allowed to do as they please.

          So, the right of the animal to reproduce is balanced against the rights of the many cats who would suffer from allowing pet cats to reproduce unfettered.

          In the same way, the rights of people to eat whatever they wish, regardless of the incredible suffering of animals on factory farms – this, in any culture of people able to take an objective look, and wish to lessen this suffering.

          If we were ‘walking the walk’, in our culture. In
          a culture of people so very proud to call themselves animal lovers – We would stop exploiting/confining/abusing, and killing them.

          A city in India did just that last year. In Palitana, a group of Jain monks went on a hunger strike, and the city agreed to declare Palitana a meat free zone. Amazing example of people putting their morals into practice. Quite the opposite is mostly seen in western culture – in the inconsistencies displayed in the way we treat animals, and our professed
          love of animals, is shameful and distressing, to an objective observer.

          ‘You May Have Heard of Meatless Monday, But Now There’s an Entire Meatless City!’ October 13, 2014

          http://tinyurl.com/kca6qyf

          ‘200 monks in the town underwent a hunger strike to push for a citywide ban on animal slaughter. The town is home to one of the holiest sites in Jainism, one of the oldest religions in the world that preaches a path of nonviolence towards all
          living beings. About 5 million people practice this religion. Many residents of Palitana do not want any kind of killing to happen in their town due to these beliefs. So, the monks threatened to fast until death until the town was declared a
          100 percent vegetarian zone. The local town government gave in to their demands and vegetarians are celebrating a victory. Refusing to eat and welcoming death if the demands are not met? Now, that’s dedication! ‘

          • fearnot

            blah blah blah so you would deny cats the right to reproduce because that is YOUR right and because you see ‘suffering in the future” of pet cats ( cats that are dependent upon meat eating to live by the way) Jains ?? sure they drink milk use leather products but do not believe in pets.. are you a Jain? Personally those monks could starve .. they have no right to impose their values on mine for their own religious fanaticism and neither do you
            meanwhile what about wild animals.. do they have the right to reproduce freely? are their rights more important than domesticated animals? what about feral cats with no owners.. should they be allowed to reproduce who decides what happens to animals? animals themselves?..

          • Ty Savoy

            Nice graphic here, which illustrates the inconsistencies present in the way our culture views non-human animals.

          • fearnot

            LOL yes very funny.”loving all species without discrimination”?. is she “involved” with that bull? after all Singer says sex with animals ( consenting both parties of course) is aok.. as long as the animal “likes it”..supporting rights for animals to be free from “slavery” is most certainly supporting their rights to full reproduction rights.. if you compare this to slavery you do know that black men who were accused of accosting white women were killed or castrated so they could not reproduce. why is castration of animals not the same? Do you think that animals would say they are “suffering” without the rights to reproduce and continue their species? I do. One of natures strongest drives is the drive to reproduce. and yet you as an animal rightest think you have the right to deny them that most basic of drives. That is cruelty.

          • blah blah blah

            Tl;dr, cuts into my bacon time.