Bloomsburg Student’s Torment of Opossum Prompts PETA Appeal

School Asked to Implement Empathy Training for Students—for Everyone’s Sake

For Immediate Release:
November 3, 2017

Audrey Shircliff 202-483-7382

Bloomsburg, Pa.

In response to photos showing that at least one Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania student apparently doused an opossum with beer and tossed the animal into a trash can, PETA sent a letter this morning thanking the school for investigating the allegations—and suggesting that it implement an empathy training course for students.

In the letter, PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—points to the well-established link between cruelty to animals and violence directed at human beings.

“Tormenting and throwing aside an opossum is a huge red flag that the young adults involved need a lesson in empathy,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “PETA is calling on Bloomsburg University to help prevent violence by sending its students the message that bullying and abusing any living being are unacceptable.”

For more information, please visit

PETA’s letter to Monica Johnson, assistant dean of students at Bloomsburg University, follows.

November 3, 2017

Monica Johnson
Assistant Dean of Students

Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

Dear Ms. Johnson,

Greetings again from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and our more than 6.5 million members and supporters worldwide, including tens of thousands who live in Pennsylvania. We’re writing in response to reports that at least one Bloomsburg University student was responsible for allegedly dousing an opossum in beer and discarding the animal in a trash can. As you know, no animal deserves to be mistreated in this way and cruelty isn’t acceptable under the law. We thank you for taking these allegations of cruelty to animals seriously, and we encourage you to consider implementing empathy training for all students in order to give them more self-respect and positive guidelines for how to behave toward others.

The link between cruelty to animals and violence directed at vulnerable human beings is well established. We respectfully urge Bloomsburg University to discipline any student who abuses an animal and to heed the National District Attorneys Association’s advice that “[t]aking animal abuse as seriously as crimes against humans is important.” According to the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, 76 percent of people who abuse animals also abuse a family member, and the American Psychiatric Association identifies cruelty to animals as one of the diagnostic criteria for conduct disorders.

Studies by psychiatrists, sociologists, and law-enforcement officials have demonstrated that young adults who abuse animals are more likely to go on to be violent toward humans. The peer-to-peer violence that has rocked schools in recent years has invariably occurred after the students engaged in acts of cruelty to animals. As just one example among many—as extreme as it is—Columbine High School students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold spoke excitedly of mutilating animals before shooting and killing their classmates.

It’s critical for the university to send its students the message that bullying and abusing anyone is unacceptable. To help avert future tragedies, will you please consider requiring all students to receive empathy training?

We’d be happy to assist you in making these positive changes, and we look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you for your consideration.

Very truly yours,

Kenneth Montville

Manager of Education Outreach

Stay up to date on the latest vegan trends and get breaking animal rights news delivered straight to your inbox!

By submitting this form, you’re acknowledging that you have read and agree to our privacy policy and agree to receive e-mails from us.

Get the Latest Tips—Right in Your Inbox
We’ll e-mail you weekly with the latest in vegan recipes, fashion, and more!

By submitting this form, you’re acknowledging that you have read and agree to our privacy policy and agree to receive e-mails from us.