Seeking to promote awareness and healthy lifestyle choices, the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC) will be hosting a talk in the upcoming weeks featuring two prominent members of the animal rights movement. The speakers at the talk, Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan, are the co-founders and heads of the website and nonprofit organization Our Hen House. As for why she and Singer have become so heavily involved in animal advocacy, Mariann had this to say: “Animal rights is an issue that calls to us deeply. One reason is the extent of the suffering. Over 10 billion land animals die for food each year just in the US. That’s 286 per second, around the clock. Each of them live in unimaginable suffering and die an early and excruciating death. The second reason is that so much of this suffering is completely unnecessary and easily addressable.”
Through Our Hen House, Singer and Sullivan’s primary goal is to help others get involved in animal rights advocacy and to help them to find opportunities to help and catalyze change in their own communities.
Sullivan wrote in an emailed statement, “This is not a situation that will be changed by organizations or governments. We each have to do it ourselves, and then get others to see the benefits. And everyone doing this needs community, and ideas, and support. We try to provide that.”
The talk is intended to help students think of ways they can make more environmentally and personally healthy choices regarding their diets. Sullivan offered several tips for students who are not vegan and may not be able to attend the talk: “You don’t have to be vegan (yet!) to start getting animals off your plate. Don’t think about your whole life, if that’s too hard. Just think about getting the animals off your plate at your next meal!” She pointed out that there are a huge variety of ways that allow students to choose food other than meat without becoming a vegetarian or a vegan.
According to the its mission statement online, “[VARC] seeks to encourage awareness in the Vassar community about the impacts of consumer choices and behaviors on the lives of animals, namely in relation to food, clothing, and animal testing.” They help raise awareness on animal rights issues in many ways, such as the students who table during Meatless Monday events, but they also seek to hold events and talks such as this. ACDC offers events such as Meatless Monday, a project begun by VARC in 2011, which encourages students to go the whole day meat-free every week. The Meatless Monday campaign has received pledges from over a quarter of Vassar’s student body, according to VARC’s website. The ACDC also does its best to provide a selection of vegan foods at every meal for students who have committed to those lifestyles.
Alessandra Seiter ’16, a co-president of VARC, commented, writing, “Committed, as they say, to ‘indefatigable positivity’ in their activism, Jasmin and Mariann have given many upbeat, fun, and interactive presentations around the country, promoting veganism and an end to animal exploitation” (Full Disclosure: Alessandra Seiter serves as the Social Media Editor for The Miscellany News).
She then added: “We feel that the inspiring tone that permeates Jasmin and Mariann’s advocacy—in their writings, podcast, and live workshops—is perfectly suited to Vassar’s student body.” By bringing two such individuals to Vassar’s campus, VARC hopes to continue their mission of raising awareness towards animal rights issues and helping students become more animal-friendly in their lifestyle choices. The talk, which is called “Think Vegan: Ten Tips to Get You Started,” is intended specifically for students who have just started or are considering becoming vegan or vegetarian. “I do think that, given the admirable level of social consciousness and yearning to contribute to a better tomorrow on Vassar’s campus, there is a large portion of the student body considering going vegan, vegetarian, or reducing their consumption of animal foods. VARC seeks to aid in this transition as much as possible, both by bringing speakers such as Jasmin and Mariann, and through our campaigns (Meatless Monday, the Veggie Buddy System)” wrote Seiter.
The efforts of VARC have not gone unnoticed to Singer and Sullivan, who said that they are looking forward to coming to give the talk. “We have heard of some of the great programs going on at Vassar and especially of Alessandra’s wonderful work. We want to learn more about what’s going on here. It seems like Vassar is really moving into the forefront on this issue,” wrote Sullivan.
VARC hopes to keep Vassar up to date with animal advocacy through events such as this talk and Meatless Mondays. Among the members, there is a lot of passion for the issues that they are facing and are poised to overcome. Sullivan posed the question: “If people would just stop supporting the animal exploitation industries with their dollars, all of this suffering would end. We don’t have to wring our hands and wonder what to do. The answer is right in front of each of us. And it would not only not help animals, it would make people’s lives immeasurably healthier and happier. With such enormous suffering and such an easy fix available, how can anyone not attend to this issue once they know about it?”