Animal rights activists mobilize with new student organization

Marissa Price was seven years old when her mom told her McDonald’s Happy Meals came from cows, and she became a vegetarian.

It also jolted her into a lifelong campaign to protect animal rights, which the junior brought to GW this year.

This month, Price registered GW’s only animal rights group for undergraduates. GW Animal Advocates will meet weekly to plan their animal rights advocacy, including issues ranging from factory farming to animal abuse and animal shelter standards.

The group will hold vegan potluck dinners, visit “animal friendly” farms and host movie nights to watch documentaries like “Speciesism,” which focus on the rise of so-called animal factories. Members also plan to promote World Day for Farmed Animals this week.

“There really wasn’t any outlet for animal advocacy on campus. GW has had a few animal advocacy groups over the years, but they’ve all sort of fizzled out over time, so I just wanted to create an outlet for people,” Price said.

One example of their on-campus efforts, Price said, is telling students that keeping pets such as turtles, hamsters and dogs in their residence halls is not okay if done inhumanely.

Joan Schaffner, an associate law professor at GW who also advises the law student-run Animal Legal Defense Fund, will help kickstart the undergraduate effort.

“I am also hopeful that I can help facilitate more outreach between the law school group and the undergraduate group,” Schaffner said. “In fact, those connections have already begun.”

Schaffner said the group could also protest issues like the National Park Service’s plan to kill dozens of deer in Rock Creek Park and advocate for animals that are companions to homeless people.

Katherine Sejas, the group’s secretary, said she wants the group to “bring attention to these issues that some believe only affect certain groups, but in reality affect all of us.”

She pointed to food production issues, which can make chicken more prone to developing salmonella if they are housed in small cages.

The group now tallies 12 members, and Price is not planning on stopping anytime soon.

“Long-term, I hope that when I leave, it will still be a stable and active student organization. We don’t have to be huge, but I want us to be active and open and friendly to new things,” Price said.

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