For many young people, college is a time when they are making their first independent decisions about what they will eat three times a day and, on a broader scale, what issues are important to them. The decisions that they are making now will shape the rest of their lives and, in fact, the course of the future of our country as they become our leaders. We talked to Ryan Huling, manager of college campaigns and outreach for peta2, about the impact that college students across the country are having on the animal rights movement.
What have college students done to make campuses more cruelty-free?
The number of vegetarian college students has risen by more than 50 percent since 2005, and the number of vegans has more than doubled, so it’s no surprise that the demand for meatless options on campuses is high. And as a result of students’ growing objections to dissection, more colleges are creating formal and informal policies that allow students to opt out of dissection and be provided with humane alternatives.
peta2 says that young people are leading the charge for animal rights. How so?
Young people, and college students in particular, have been an integral part of every social-justice movement in recent history, and animal rights is no exception. peta2’s Liberation exhibit that we present on college campuses juxtaposes the abuse that humans have inflicted on each other throughout history (such as child labor, slavery, and the denial of basic rights) with the abuse that we currently inflict on animals. Students are highly motivated to correct this injustice as well.
The peta2 Street Team (our youth activist network) has more than 70,000 active members who are signing petitions, making phone calls to companies that abuse animals, running student groups, and educating their friends about animal rights every day. Many who have visited a youth-focused concert, such as Warped Tour, lately will attest to the fact that every show attendee either is vegetarian or has friends who are. The idea of boycotting animal products has become mainstream in youth culture, and today’s young people will influence future generations.