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Student protests in Cyber Cafe

Mandi Stirone | Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Students at Saint Mary’s found some unusual decorations in the Cyber Café in the Student Center last week in the form of white, poultry-shaped forms hanging from the ceiling. The decorations, along with fowl-shaped posters hanging along one of the walls, are part of senior Mary Pence’s senior comprehensive project, she said.

Pence said her project aims to raise awareness about animal cruelty, specifically in the food production industries.

“Its essentially to make them think twice about processed food that they eat,” she said.

Sodexho director Barry Bowles said Pence’s protest was not specifically aimed at the Saint Mary’s dining service, and Pence asked him for permission to hang her artwork in the Cyber Café.

“I’m quite pleased with the message she’s putting out,” he said. “I think it’s a worthwhile cause.”

Instead, Pence said she was hoping to raise awareness about how poorly animals are treated in some parts of the food industry, specifically those run by big corporations.

“It’s all for economic profit of big corporations so they can kill their products quicker and get things on the shelves faster even though it’s not the healthiest of products,” Pence said.

Pence’s faculty advisor Julie Tourtillotte said the artwork called attention to “the often inhumane treatment of animals in the meat production industry,” she said.

The images hanging from the ceiling, which Tourtillotte described as “ghostlike forms or spirits of these animals” are there to remind students that these animals had lives and were killed in cruel manners.

When people think about how animals are raised they often have these picturesque images in their minds of farms with chickens running around freely, Tourtillotte said.

“We don’t think about the long buildings that smell strongly of ammonia and a dozen chickens are crammed into a cage and not allowed to move at all during their life times,” she said.

Pence also compiled a video using video clips from various Web sites for display in the Cyber Café. But the film, which showed the actual inhumane acts, was deemed inappropriate for display in an eating establishment, Pence said.

“They wouldn’t allow me to incorporate that because it was too graphic,” she said.

No one from Sodexho was available for comment about this.

Pence stressed that she wasn’t displaying the “ghostlike” poultry and the posters, which can also be seen in Moreau Art Gallery, to be offensive or “in-your-face.”

“You know, being an artist, I don’t try to affect any one point of view by making a statement saying that they have to agree with me, its more of an attempt to make people think,” she said. “I’m not trying to offend anyone.”

Pence said she only wants students to stop for a moment and think about the life of the animal that they are eating and whether or not they were treated humanely.