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PETA makes visit to campus, raises usual security alerts

BY MICHELE NAROV
Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 24, 2010

Students passing through the Diag are accustomed to student groups clamoring for their attention. In the past two days, the Animal Liberation Project — a four-day exhibition displaying violent images of animal abuse — took its turn, confronting passersby on their way to class.

Sponsored by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals 2, a subset of PETA dedicated to youth outreach, the exhibition, which continues through today, is made up of large panels that compare human suffering with the mistreatment of animals.

Though no security issues have arisen as the result of the exhibit thus far, lab workers in biomedical animal labs were notified of the event via e-mail and were told to make sure all employees were in the appropriate zones.

One panel titled “Born Into Slavery” displayed an image of child laborers alongside an image of calves confined to veal crates. “Branded” — another panel — showed images of both slaves and cows being branded.

ALP coordinator Adrianne Burke said the group aims to raise awareness about animal rights and encourage students to take action by either signing up to be a part of their efforts or becoming vegan.

The Michigan Animal Rights Society organized the event, which has been held at 14 other colleges this year.

MARS president and LSA sophomore Joe Varilone said it is important to hold events like the exhibition to target college students, who are more likely to reconsider their opinions about animal rights activism than older audiences.

“College students are really receptive,” Varilone said. “Their habits are less ingrained in their minds, and they want to learn things and become better people.”

Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Diane Brown said, though PETA-sponsored events have spurred protest in the past, she has not seen any cause for concern regarding safety and security at the University in light of PETA’s campus visit.

“I know PETA has had some controversy at other places in the country,” she said. “But to my knowledge, there have been no problems on the University campus.”

Howard Rush, an associate professor of laboratory animal medicine, said PETA’s presence on campus has not gone unnoticed.

Though biomedical animal labs maintain tight security year-round, Rush said an e-mail was sent to lab workers to notify them of the PETA event and encourage them to make sure all personnel would be in their authorized areas throughout the week.

“That’s a standard message that goes out a couple of times a year for a variety of reasons,” he said. “There’s a national world week for animals in laboratories in April, so we send it out then too.”

Burke said the exhibit was met with tremendous support despite that PETA has caused some controversy in the past.

“We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response here and other places we’ve visited,” she said. “Everyone seems to want to do something to take action.”

Burke added that she believes everyone can agree that animals are being abused regardless of their personal opinions about PETA.

“Whatever stigma there may be, facts are facts,” she said. “I think everyone can agree that the fact that 95 percent of cows and pigs raised for food in this country are having their ears, teeth, and tails clipped is really sad.”

LSA freshman Jacqui Duarte said, though she agrees with the message of the exhibit, she felt the images were too graphic for such a public place.

“It’s not that I don’t agree that animal torture is bad,” she said. “It’s just that I think it’s a little too much, and that maybe they can get their point across in different ways.”

Burke said she recognizes that the exhibit is somewhat graphic, but she feels the intensity is necessary.

“The images are hard to look at, but we need to see these things to make the best decisions in our everyday lives,” she said.

Varilone echoed Burke’s sentiments, adding that he didn’t think the images would be too much for students.

“I don’t think this is as in your face as some of the things that PETA does,” he said. “Students can walk by and just come over if they want and take a look.”