Animal Activists Call for Change
By Andrew Beckwith
Cornell Daily Sun
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
FRIDAY, JANUARY 30, 2004 A group called Responsible Policies for Animals
(RPA) has requested that land-grant universities across the country,
including Cornell, reconsider the way animal science is taught. RPA
claims that current animal science departments are obsolete in modern
society and promote and support methods that perpetuate the suffering of
"Systems are set up so that billions of animals each
year live extremely short lives and are never treated humanely; I don't
see much of a way that that could change as long as schools are teaching
people to run those systems that have animals enslaved," said David
Cantor, president of RPA.
RPA has been engaged in letter-writing campaigns to
land-grant university chancellors and presidents, explaining the
organization's "10,000 Years is Enough" campaign, aimed at ending the
teaching of animal agriculture. Currently, RPA has received no official
response from Cornell.
The animal science department in Cornell's college of
Agriculture & Life Sciences is responsible for teaching, research and
outreach, which provides education and information to animal-related
industries in New York State and around the world.
Prof. Alan Bell, chair of the animal science department,
disagrees with the contention that animal science education advances
irresponsible practices within the animal agriculture industry.
"I would suggest that modern animal science departments
actually promote more enlightened and responsible attitudes toward
animal welfare and environmental stewardship than those industries did
in times gone by," Bell said. "Animal agriculture is not going to go
away. What we have to do is manage it responsibly and ethically."
Still, Cantor hopes RPA's campaign will spark
intellectual debate about the value of animal science education.
"Where do we get that somehow no matter how agriculture
transforms itself, no matter how it consolidates itself into huge
corporations -- how do we get that these are courses that have to remain
in the academy and that taxpayers and tuition payers always have to pay
for?" Cantor said.
One animal science undergraduate at Cornell believes
that animal science does still have a place in academia, but that
modification and modernization would be beneficial.
"I think perhaps they should have separate tracks of the
major for people who are pre-vet versus people who are more interested
in agricultural animals, whether they're pre-vet or not," she said. "I
have considered switching out of the major because of the emphasis on
that area which doesn't really interest me."
She also suggested that animal science departments are
not the root of the problem.
"I think the problem isn't just with the major, it's
deeper than that; it's with agriculture processes, and all the major is
doing is teaching us those practices," she explained.
Clair Whittet '04, president of the Cornell Coalition
for Animal Defense, expressed doubts about the possibility of changing
or eradicating animal science education.
"Why would [animal science educators] want to talk to
people who ultimately want to see their jobs disappear?" Whittet
"Still," she added, "I hope the efforts of the RPA might
open dialogue at Cornell about the need to drastically change the way
animals are treated on modern industrial farms."
Bell stated that professors within the department
already challenge students to reexamine the status quo.
"We hope that our students are encouraged to question
traditional practices and get out of here with open minds," he said.
Cantor hopes that current methods can be changed by
stimulating discussion among those already involved in the teaching and
practice of animal agriculture.
"Things that would represent progress would be private
discussions within the universities, discussions between the university
and the egg, dairy and meat industries, and between the universities and
state legislators, because there are serious problems with the state
laws that require the teaching of these industries," Cantor said.
RPAforAll.org - Responsible Policies for Animals, Inc.
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