Animal Rights Collective Blog


GMU Coverage of Animal Rights Course by christine

Classes We Love: Course Explores Animal Rights Movement

By Jason Jacks on July 18, 2011

from “The Mason Spirit”

In one grainy movie clip, cows are shocked with electric prods to get them onto a truck. In another, stressed-out chickens are thrown into small crates as they’re being prepared for a trip to the slaughterhouse.

Gaining knowledge is not always for the squeamish, as is sometimes the case in one of Mason’s summer courses: Animal Rights and Humane Education.

Image: Paul Gorski teaches a new class about animal rights. (Photo by Nicolas Tan)

As the name suggests, the class explores—sometimes through difficult-to-watch films like the one described above—the movement to protect the other members of the animal kingdom. This is the first time the class is being offered at Mason.

Taught by Paul Gorski, an assistant professor of integrated studies in New Century College, the class touches on the testing of products on animals, the use of animals in entertainment, veganism, and animal fighting, as well as how animals are treated at large factory farms.

“I don’t see my role as preparing activists,” says Gorski, who is teaching the class as a section of NCLC 395 Special Topics in Experiential Learning. “I just see [animal rights] as a conversation in society that people are really interested in.”

This intensive two-week class is split into two sections. The first week takes place mostly in the classroom and includes guest speakers and field trips. During the second week, students spend much of their time working on class projects and meeting with Gorski online.

So far this summer, the class has visited a Maryland sanctuary for farm animals. There were also plans to attend the Taking Action for Animals conference in Washington, D.C.

During one recent class, a representative from the Humane Society of the United States spoke about the brutal conditions some farm animals endure and the increasingly popular trend of “Meatless Mondays,” where consumers forgo meat for one day a week.

On the same day, students also watched “Meet Your Meat,” a short film narrated by actor Alec Baldwin filled with hard-to-watch clips of the maltreatment of animals at some unnamed factory farms.

“I want to go home and throw everything out of my refrigerator,” one student says moments after watching the film.

Katie Isaacman, a senior majoring in integrated studies and a member of the class, has been a vegetarian since age 6. She says she avoids meat for ethical reasons, as she is a strong believer in animal rights.

“It was tough to watch,” she says of the film. “But it’s important to show people what is going on.”

A social justice scholar, much of Gorski’s previous scholarly work has focused on the more human-centric topics of gender, poverty, and racism. He is the founder of www.EdChange.org, a coalition of educators and activists who develop free social justice resources.

To prepare himself for teaching the animal rights class, he read extensively on the subject and took courses on animal protection offered by the Humane Society.

He says classes dedicated solely to animal rights are rare at universities. Those that do offer similar courses, he explains, usually do so through their philosophy departments.

He hopes his class will at least “incite interest” in students to continue studying animal rights.

“I think this class will put animal rights as a potential field of study on the radar screens of some students,” he says.

And if it goes a step further and spurs some into becoming full-fledged animal rights activists, then, “that would be great, too,” he says.



Ringling Protests: Check Us Out in Broadside This Week! by christine

Standing Up for Animal Rights

By Monika Joshi / Copy Chief

Protestors hand out pamphlets alleging circus animal abuse Thursday. (Photo by Monika Joshi)

Protestors hand out pamphlets alleging circus animal abuse Thursday. (Photo by Monika Joshi)

The return of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to George Mason University has drawn protests from about 20 animal rights activists, including members of the university’s Animal Rights Collective.

“Pictures don’t lie!” shouted one protestor at Thursday’s demonstration, pointing to a poster of a roped elephant’s legs being pulled in opposite directions by trainers.

The photograph, as well as video footage of elephant and tiger abuse shown later that night, were captured by animal rights organizations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who say that Ringling Bros. animals are regularly beaten, chained and neglected.

Through the protests, scheduled to coincide with circus performances throughout the week, ARC aims to educate people on the mistreatment of animals in circuses.

The group was officially recognized as a student organization in 2009 and has been leading anti-circus protests every year since.

“Most circus patrons are receptive to our message, and I believe many will reconsider supporting the Ringling Bros.’ cruelty the next time,” said ARC member Jason Von Kundra.

The student group plans to deliver a petition with over 2,000 signatures to the university before the end of the semester, asking that the circus be banned from Mason.

“We are asking that our administration do the right thing by banning animal circuses from campus,” said Von Kundra, a junior earth science major. “We hope to send a strong message that abusing animals is not entertainment and that the Ringling’s ‘Cruelest Show on Earth’ has no place at Mason.”

Barry Geisler, general manager of the Patriot Center, said he sees no reason why the circus should not be allowed on campus, given that it garners high community interest and financial return for the university.

“We’re going to get more people in this week and a half than we get for an entire basketball season,” said Geisler. “So there’s obviously strong community support for the event.”

According to Geisler, the circus animals were inspected by Fairfax County Animal Control on Tuesday and no action was required.

“No one’s ever found any alleged abuse,” Geisler said. “There’s never been any abuse. They get inspected every single year.”

The protestors, however, contend that there is no way to train animals to perform circus tricks without inflicting pain and punishment.

Christine Kauffman, a Mason alumna who helped found ARC, also questioned the value of the inspections conducted at the university.

“Obviously the handlers aren’t going to beat an animal in front of an animal control officer,” she said. “They’re going to do it when no one is watching.”

Following the last performance of each night, protestors hold a candlelight vigil to honor the circus animals.

“[People] may forget about us when they go in,” said ARC member and senior history major Anthony Murray. “But when they leave, it’s the last image they see.”

—————————————————————————————————————————-

Plus, this additional anti-Ringling piece in the Opinion section:

Cruelest show on earth returns

By Justin Lalputan / Opinion Editor

As some of you may already know, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is back at George Mason University. It is advertised as the “Greatest Show on Earth,” however, one thing that it doesn’t advertise is the accusations of animal cruelty that groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals constantly make.

Let me start by saying that I’m not some hippie environmentalist who thinks that we should scrap all our technology and return to being one with Mother Earth.

That’s not me at all. What does bother me, however, is when people abuse animals for purposes of mere entertainment.

That makes me feel sick.

According to PETA, Ringling teaches their animals to do tricks by beating them and putting them through abusive, torturous training.

Elephants are trained to do their tricks through the use of instruments called bullhooks, training tools that, according to PETA, “look like fire pokers.”

One manner in which they train baby elephants is by forcing them into unusual positions (such as forcing them to stand on their high legs on a platform), hitting them all over their bodies with the aforementioned bullhook and then using electric prods.

The impact on the animal’s well-being is intense, and it is not unusual for animals to die or become injured by this type of mistreatment.

Speaking of deaths, in 2004, a lion died of heatstroke as Ringling Bros. crossed the Mojave Desert, and they euthanized an 8-month-old baby elephant which fractured its hind legs doing a stunt that trainers forced it to do.
Since 2000, the United States Department of Agriculture has cited Ringling Bros. for violations including improper handling of dangerous animals, unsanitary feeding practices and causing trauma and physical harm to two elephants.

Obviously information from PETA must always be taken with a grain of salt, but the information from the USDA tells no lies: Ringling Bros. have a history of mistreating its animals.

But what really gets me mad is not only are the Ringling Bros. mistreating animals, they are doing it here at Mason.

Aren’t we the school whose goal is to be environmentally friendly? Aren’t we the ones who generate almost no trash at Southside so that we can protect nature?

Doesn’t it seem a tad bit hypocritical that we are so pro-environment, yet we are directly supporting people who routinely harm animals that live on the same Earth that we are trying to protect?

The sad thing is most people don’t even care.

They don’t care about any of the deaths that I mentioned or the countless more that have occurred. Instead, all they want to do is be entertained.

Fine. They can do whatever they want. But I will not be supporting this circus in any way, shape or form.

They treat animals horribly, and despite this fact, people still go watch their shows and support them.

I’m not asking people to change their lifestyle or become an animal rights activist; I’m asking them to see that the practices of Ringling Bros. are just plain wrong and we should be working for change.

You can say that the circus is coming to Mason, but to me, it feels more like the house of horrors.