The lawn next to Cooper Hall may be an odd place for a farmhouse. But since Monday, students have taken a tour of one there.
Once inside, students are presented with pictures of abused animals and toy mockups of de-feathered chickens crammed into a small cage. A documentary narrated by former Beatle and PETA-Pal Paul McCartney depicting animal mistreatment is projected on the back wall.
The large tent resembling a red barn was set up by PETA2, the youth division of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), to inform college students about the bloodstained meat industry.
Sacha Sweet, a tour administrator for the organization, said the exhibit is called “The Glass Walls Exhibit.”
“We’re trying to lift the curtain on the plight of animals in heavily industrialized animal agriculture in the United States,” Sweet said. “We’re trying to bring light to how there are 10 billion land-based animals slaughtered every year for human consumption in the United States.”
Americans are often given a fairy tale image of how most animals on a farm live, he said.
People imagine chickens roaming fields and family farmers milking cows, while in actuality it is often stuffed cages and cold machines.
The exhibit combats the fairy tale idea and portrays reality, Sweet said.
Nicholas Fierro, a senior majoring in communication, said he was conflicted by the exhibit.
“I think they have good intentions — the pictures aren’t too graphic,” he said. “(But) honestly, it’s not going to stop me from eating meat.”
However, Fierro said he isn’t completely apathetic.
“(Animals being abused) is a sick thing, and I don’t like it,” he said. “I wish there was more I could do, but I don’t know what else to say about it.”
Fierro said he feels that he doesn’t have the ability alone to make a big change, but cutting down on meat consumption could be a small contribution.
College is a place where people begin to think on their own and in different ways, Sweet said, which is why the PETA2 division exists.
“We’re paving the way and opening doors to knowledge (that) people otherwise wouldn’t be able to come in contact with,” he said. “College really is when people figure out who they want to be when they grow up. When we educate them with something like this, they get to make the choices themselves of what they want to do with the rest of their lives.”
Sweet, who is from Bolivia, North Carolina—a small town where the nearest grocery store was 45 minutes away—said he grew up eating meat. But at 16, he decided to become a vegan. The catalysts for change were several videos he saw on the Internet.
“One particular (video) stood out to me,” he recalled. “It showed a cow being used for a dairy. They artificially inseminate a cow because in order to produce milk, she has to be pregnant. Once she gives birth to her calf, it’s taken away from her within 24 to 48 hours. The video I was watching was of that calf being taken away and the mother crying, and that just deeply affected me as an individual. That’s the day I decide to become a vegan.”
Becoming a vegan — and ultimately ending animals being inhumanely killed for human consumption — he said, is easier than it’s ever been.
“The cheapest things you can buy at the grocery store are beans, rice and lentils — obviously you don’t want to eat that stuff every day, but those are great essential staples,” he said. “You eat like everybody else. I eat spaghetti and veggie meatballs. I eat tofurkey sandwiches that simulate cold cuts. Anything you can think of that’s not vegan, there’s a vegan alternative. You just have to put your mind to it and make it.”