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Speaker makes a ROAR at lecture

Karen Dawn, an animal rights activist, discussed the various topics in her book, “Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals,” at an event hosted by the Reaching Out for Animal Rights club Monday in the Campus Center. Dawn exposed how animals are really treated in American zoos, factory farming and the entertainment industry and why people should be more conscious about what they put on their plates. / photo by Katie Madden

Bernarda Carranza
Staff Writer

Karen Dawn advocated the importance of animal rights Monday for an event hosted by Reaching Out for Animal Rights Club.

The lecture, also sponsored by the Office of Religion and Spiritual Life, was held in Campus Center Ballroom, where about 70 guests listened.

Dawn, animal rights activist and author, started the talk asking the audience a question. “How many of you are vegan?” A couple of people raised their hand. “How many of you are vegetarian?” she said. A slightly larger audience raised their hand. The majority in the audience was neither.

“Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals” is Dawn’s first book and was chosen as one of the best books of 2008 by the Washington Post. Dawn explained that she initially wrote it with the idea that it was designed as a gift book, so that people can give others the book as a present and in the process learn about animal rights, she said. The presentation was guided by excerpts from the book; especially cartoons that at the core of the visual joke handled a deeper animal cruelty issue at hand.

Dawn talked about cruelty toward pets. She explained the poor conditions in puppy mills where female dogs are held only to breed and then discarded after they are not able to do so. She explained how many people do not know that dogs sold in pet shops usually come from this business. An alternative to buying pets from these shops is adopting, she said.

The presentation went on to explain how animals kept in captivity suffer. Dawn showed the audience pictures and videos of the conditions elephants live in places such as zoos and circuses. She gave the example of Marius, a giraffe that lived in the Copenhagen Zoo in Denmark who, despite being healthy, was put to death because he was no longer suitable for breeding. He was then publicly fed to the lions at the zoo. These acts happen in America too, she said, they just happen more quietly.

“Whenever animals are involved in business, cruelty happens,” Dawn said.

Dawn talked about the cruelty behind fur coats as well as the gestation crates that pigs and turkeys are put in, later killed and sold to markets. She emphasized the importance of raising awareness through education and being an advocate of animal rights by showing others what happens behind the scenes. The trailer for the documentary “Blackfish,” that depicts the treatment to orca whales at Sea World, was also shown.

“I think it’s important for us to get the word out and to educate and to teach people so that if they know what’s going on whether their actions are in line with their values,” she said.

“The best way for us to advocate for animal rights is research and awareness,” Sahar Shahidi, sophomore kinesiology major and vice president of ROAR, said. “Finding out the truth of how these animals are being treated and spreading the word to other people. The best thing we can do is show other people all the facts so that they have the knowledge to rethink their values if they choose to do so, for example rethinking about what we buy and where we buy it.”

ROAR still hopes to make changes on campus and raise awareness in classes as well. “We are currently looking for an alternative to dissection for La Verne so that students who wish not to dissect an animal have a choice to use software instead,” Leah Parkhurst, sophomore criminology major and president of ROAR, said. “This would be a huge step to promoting a cruelty-free lifestyle on our campus.”

In the long term goals, ROAR wants to get more vegetarian and vegan options at Davenport Dining Hall, Parkhurst said.

ROAR will hold a screening of “Blackfish” May 8 in the Campus Center Ballroom.

Bernarda Carranza can be reached at bernarda.carranza@laverne.edu.

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