I think student activism is fantastic, because it provides students with a way to feel empowered, educate themselves about important issues, and get to know their peers better. I think supporting animal rights is admirable, because it takes a special kind of hero to protect and nurture those who don’t have the ability to ask for help or voice their gratitude. UNH is lucky enough to foster both student activism and animal rights, in the form of its very own Animal Welfare Alliance. Until recently, I didn’t know this student activist organization existed, but as soon as it was brought to my attention I was eager to learn more. As a result, I joined The UNH Animal Welfare Alliance Facebook group and was soon contacted by one of the organization’s co-presidents, Shayna Purdy.
Shayna is a senior at UNH, who’s majoring in zoology and minoring in animal behavior. Shayna has an impressive history of volunteering at Animal Rescue Veterinary Services, more commonly known as ARVS, a low-cost spaying and neutering clinic. ARVS is fascinating because, except for the veterinarian, it is almost entirely made up of volunteers. Shayna cited her experiences as a volunteer at the clinic as a huge part of what made her decide to join the Animal Welfare Alliance, because ARVS is where she met the Alliance’s president, and where she was exposed to real life situations where animal welfare is vital.
The main goals of the UNH Animal Welfare Alliance have been to raise awareness about animal welfare issues and raise money for organizations that aid animals, such as ARVS and animal shelters. Anyone who wants to help out with these causes is encouraged to join the alliance, and the organization fosters students from a range of backgrounds. Some members are majoring in animal-related fields, but others are not. Additionally, one is not required to be a vegan or vegetarian to join, and many students have joined without having participated in prior activism, as a way to learn more about animals and how they can begin to help their non-human friends. In fact, the amount of members has approximately doubled since the organization was started.
When I asked Shayna to tell me a little about an event the Animal Welfare Alliance put on that she felt went very well, she was eager to tell me about an event the organization put on last May, called the 5K for Spay. The 5K for Spay was a five kilometer run held in college woods to raise money for ARVS. Last year, the event raised $1020.56, according to the organization’s Facebook group page. All proceeds went to the Ethyl Brant Memorial Fund, which was created by the veterinarian and director of ARVS, Dr. Kim Trahan. All money towards the fund is used for spaying and neutering pets of families who would not be able to afford to spay or neuter their pets otherwise, as well as the trapping, neutering, and releasing of feral cats, a process known as TNR. At this point, Shayna explained that TNR is a practice that PETA, a well-known animal rights organization with a reputation for aggressive tactics and hostility, opposes, but that she is not a supporter of PETA. She was keen to point this out because there is a common misconception that all animal rights activists are PETA supporters, when, in fact, many supporters of animal welfare are completely unaffiliated with PETA and do not agree with its views or tactics.
As for the future of the UNH Animal Welfare Alliance, the 5K for Spay is going to be put on again this academic year, in May 2015. In addition, the student organization is hoping to bring back a visitor who came to UNH’s campus a few years ago to teach pet first aid. Doing so would allow those who participated a few years ago to renew their certification, and others to become certified for the first time. As someone with two kittens who are constantly getting into trouble, I would definitely be interested in learning how to give them the Heimlich maneuver should they eat something they’re not supposed to. I’m sure many students would be happy to learn how to save their pets in a crisis. After talking with Shayna, I went to the group’s Facebook Events page to see what other events the organization is planning, and there are tons-everything from movie nights to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! Whether you’re a hard-core animal rights advocate, a pet owner who wants to improve the lives of your fuzzy friends, or just somebody with an interest in animals, the UNH Animal Welfare Alliance has a lot to offer.