Published by Emily Rohr.

If you’re a current FFA or 4-H member or a student enrolled in an animal agricultural program, what follows might not be easy to read. It can be hard to question your traditions or actions—but if you care about creating a more just world, you must. As a former FFA member, I think it’s important to tell you what no one told me before I joined the program, so you can consider the ideologies that your membership supports and the potential gut-wrenching decisions that lie ahead.

I joined FFA and took numerous animal agricultural classes in school. I was excited to learn more about animals, and I had horses and wanted to know how to care for them. What I didn’t bargain for was that, yes, I’d learn how to care for animals—but only in a way that would help me earn money or win a competition. I quickly found that to survive, FFA relies on students adopting its speciesist view that their fellow animals are nothing more than a way to make money or earn a scholarship.

I never considered that a career in animal agriculture might not be profitable, because I was told throughout high school that it was a lucrative option. Seeing the animals sold for slaughter was supposed to reinforce this idea. But these programs and classes do an injustice to students by giving them the false hope that raising animals for food is a profitable business, when the reality is that the vegan market is quickly growing. Just take a look at the crashing dairy industry if you need proof of the demand for animal-free foods. And to be clear: Even if something is profitable, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s just or right.

No one ever warned me about the heartbreak that I would see at auctions and fairs, experienced by FFA members who desperately wanted to save the animals they had raised from going to slaughter. Instead, they were forced to sell the living, feeling beings they’d bonded with. Something some students might not consider is that all animals have the ability to experience pain, joy, and fear and want to live—and they all have unique personalities. Sadly, if you become attached to the animals you’re raising for an agricultural “project,” there’s little you can do to save them from being sent to slaughter, because FFA counts on students believing that some species are superior to others. A club teaching students how to raise cats and dogs only to auction them off for slaughter would never be considered acceptable—yet FFA encourages students to do this with other animals.

PETA frequently receives messages from students who realize that all animals are individuals and who want to save the ones they’ve raised. I’ve seen firsthand how traumatic this situation is for the students and animals alike—so it breaks my heart to say that there’s little chance of saving the animals if the school isn’t willing to release them. That’s why, if you’re a current FFA member, I ask you to end your membership. And if you were considering joining the organization, don’t. Once you understand that speciesism is wrong, it’s time to take a stand against clubs like FFA.

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

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