Bringing the reality of factory farms to UCI, PETA set up a replica of a typical meat factory in the middle of Aldrich Park.
In hopes of having students go vegan, peta2, PETA’s youth division, recreated a factory meat farm in the middle of Aldrich Park last Wednesday and Thursday as part of a national college tour.
Inflated in the middle of the park, a 20 by 30-foot tent offered students the experience of a factory meat farm — confined and exposed.
“In 2012, we launched the ‘Glass Walls’ exhibit, the world’s first factory-farming experience to put people in animals’ shoes and pull back the curtain on the cruelty that animals face when raised and killed for meat, dairy products, and eggs,” Ken Montville, a spokesperson for PETA, said. “Students are horrified to learn that chickens have their beaks cut off with a hot blade; are kept in dark, cramped, feces covered sheds; and are finally hung by their hind legs and have their throats slit while they are still conscious.”
Targeting students with their message, peta2 took to UC Irvine with the intent of spreading knowledge of the meat industry. Providing students with pamphlets, samples of vegan food, recipes and visually explicit presentations, peta2 aimed to teach students about vegan and vegetarian lifestyles.
“The whole point of it is to educate,” Montville said. “If they see the gestation crate, if they read the information, if they see the video, different things touch different people.”
With an expanding young population of vegetarians and vegans, peta2 has used the opportunity to reach out to students on campuses across the United States informing them on how to live on meat-free diets.
“A Bon Apppetit study done in 2005 and again in 2010 reported that the number of vegans doubled and the number of vegetarians rose by 50 percent,” Montville said.
And with many changes in the dietary options offered across many campuses, PETA recognizes that their actions are leading to change.
“Thanks to many changes across all UC’s, all students can enjoy a meal with a clear conscience,” Montville said.
With visual images that represent the harvesting of cows, pigs, chickens and fish, the factory farm replica attempted to reach out to students by employing a wide array of tactics. There was a physical presence of gestation crates that displayed the confined conditions that chicks must endure, informational banners and a film with images from inside actual factory farms. The video, narrated by former Beatle Paul McCartney, iterated the concept of obscurity in the meat packing industry, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.”
The film resonated with students, such as fourth-year biology major Chelsea Nakano, as it revealed the inner-workings of a factory farm.
“The images in the video were extremely shocking,” Nakano said. “I was blissfully unaware of the cruelty that people inflict upon animals. It made me reconsider my dietary choices.”
With the firm belief that they represented the meat industry as a whole, peta2 stood behind their film and the images that they put forth in front of students.
“In the last 50 years there has been a major shift from small family-run home farms to large factory animal farms,” Montville said. “This is by far where most animals come from. If you go to a restaurant and choose to eat an animal, this is likely where they are from.”
However, PETA is hopeful for the progress of the cause in coming years. Gaining much support from students, faculty and the UC system as a whole, PETA has expressed its gratitude for the opportunity to spread their message and the changes that they have brought about.
“The support from UCI was amazing,” Montville said.
“It was an absolutely wonderful visit and many came back to pick up even more literature because they couldn’t believe what they saw.”