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Author addresses animal rights

Steve Kerins | Thursday, October 5, 2006

Notre Dame students aware of animal cruelty issues associated with factory farms and slaughterhouses have adopted a meat-free diet – and a national vegetarian advocate heightened that resolve Wednesday.

Arthur Poletti, author of “God Does Not Eat Meat,” urged concerned students to take advantage of opportunities to educate the public if they wish to change people’s minds.

Poletti – whose lecture was sponsored by the student group ND for Animals – recounted the details of his own switch to a vegetarian diet. He also presented a sermon based on Biblical passages which could be interpreted to support vegetarianism, along with statistics on animal cruelty in factory farms provided by animal rights organizations.

“The reason I stopped eating meat isn’t going to be the reason you stop eating meat,” he said.

Poletti said 680,000 animals were killed in slaughterhouses each hour when he became a vegetarian in 1989, compared with more than one million per hour today.

“I thought the cruelty was beyond imagination,” he said, in reference to the killing of animals for meat as “mass murder.”

Poletti criticized aspects of American culture which promote cruelty to animals.

“There are more than 25 million hunters in this country,” he said. “More than 3.3 million women hunt. These are people who enjoy killing animals.”

He discussed his intentions to send mailings describing slaughterhouse conditions to each U.S. senator and urged everyone present to share responsibility for dissemination of information.

“Notre Dame is an extremely prestigious university,” he said. “Use your power, use your position to save those creatures that don’t have that luxury.”

Danielle Nunez, president of ND for Animals, spoke about the connection between fighting animal cruelty and adopting a vegetarian diet.

“Factory farms are cruel and irresponsible,” she said. “We believe that adopting a vegetarian diet, or any step in that direction, is the best way to eliminate unnecessary suffering.”

Nunez said Notre Dame has made progress in serving the needs of vegetarian students, but there is still room for improvement.

“Most of the time veggie burgers, tofu, soy milk, soy cheese and other traditional vegetarian foods like hummus are available in both dining halls,” Nunez said. “While options like these provide adequate sources of protein and iron, Notre Dame could always improve upon its options to include cage-free eggs, more mock meats and vegan dessert items.”

“I think that if vegetarian students get creative, they can eat in the dining halls, but the meals become really repetitive,” senior Claire McArdle said. “With the recent talks of expanding the student center it would be nice if they could invite restaurants that offer vegetarians more than one choice.

“I realize it’s my choice to be a vegetarian, but I don’t think it’s asking too much for the school to provide more non-meat options for all of their students.”

Senior Sarah Wheaton said while her experience eating on campus has “overall” been positive, “sometimes the small cafes like Waddick’s or Decio have really limited or no hot vegetarian meal options.”

As for whether improvement is likely in the near future, Wheaton said there might not be enough student support to compel the University to take action.

“I don’t know if there are enough vegetarians on campus to push the dining hall on this,” she said.

ND for Animals plans to continue its tradition of raising campus awareness of animal cruelty in slaughterhouses and factory farms through its meetings, sponsored lectures and films, and activism campaigns.

“I hope we can help uncover the many myths people have about vegetarians and show that there are serious moral, ethical and practical reasons to be a vegetarian,” Nunez said. “In the future, I would like to see our club, as well as other concerned people on campus, continue to raise the issue of how our daily food choices affect so much more than our own palates,” she said.