Activists Avenging Animals

By Ashley Rodriguez

Evolve for Animals table. Photo by Ashley Rodriguez.

Animal rights issues are becoming more prominent in recent years. With huge companies like Sea World losing business due to media exposure of poor animal treatment, members of the public are now seeking out more education regarding animal welfare.

Compassionate animal rights activists are committed to instill change, a number of which have formed groups.

One organization that focuses on protecting marine life and ecosystems worldwide is the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Sea Shepherd began in Oregon with an initial mission to end the illegal whaling and sealing business. Now Sea Shepherd works to halt the destruction of all marine life, going after whaling, along with seal and dolphin hunting.

“One of the biggest challenges the organization faces is the lack of laws protecting marine life,” Ethan Wolf, a member and founder of the NYC Sea Shepherd chapter, tells BTR.

It can be difficult to prevent poaching when laws approve the hunting of certain marine mammals. According to Wolf, the number of fish allowed to be caught by law is also far greater than the quantity it should be to keep a balanced ecosystem.

Sea Shepherd missions sometimes interfere with poaching, particularly when poachers conduct illegal operations. Wolf describes an instance in which members of the organization cut a net freeing hundreds of fish that were being illegally caught. Sea Shepherd activists put forth profound efforts to ensure that ocean life is properly protected. Wolf illustrates the organization’s altruistic stance in which “you have to be willing to give your life for these animals.”

Members of Sea Shepherd. Photo by Ashley Rodriguez.

While no volunteers or employees have actually lost a life, the philosophy speaks to their dedication.

Wolf has been a “Cove Guardian” in Taiji, Japan, several times. He describes the outlet as “a safe environment with proper training provided for Sea Shepherd volunteers.”

Cove Guardians monitor and expose the actions of hunters. After dolphins are herded into what is known as “the cove,” they are either slaughtered for meat or taken into captivity for training purposes. Once trained, the animals are sold to entertainment corporations.

Judging by a detailed timeline on the organization’s website, numerous missions attempted and accomplished are documented.

While Sea Shepherd protects marine life on and off the shores, Mercy for Animals is an organization that concentrates on protecting animals raised and killed for food. Mercy for Animals works with companies that distribute or manufacture food in an attempt to have them change business practices to avoid abuse of farm animals.

Ari Solomon, Director of Communications for Mercy for Animals, tells BTR that the organization’s goal is “trying to inspire people and also companies to adopt meaningful animal welfare standards.” The members hope to “inspire people to move away from eating animal products by choosing more plant based options.”

Aside from educating the public, Mercy for Animals conducts undercover investigations into the livestock industry.

“Every time we go in undercover, we document horrendous animal abuse, and lots of times these farms are selling to corporations or suppliers that supply restaurants. We use the videos to get corporations to take a look at how factory farmers are treating animals and then require better treatment,” says Solomon.

Solomon states that the investigations conducted by Mercy for Animals and many other activists often result in change.

“Many companies that we’ve spoken to actually have required that the farms they source their meat and dairy from treat animals better,” Solomon continues.

Kraft Foods, one of the largest food companies in the US, required their dairy suppliers to phase out neglectful practices after the release of a video showing Bettencourt Dairy farmers beating and sexually abusing cows.

Solomon attests that there have been many investigations where illegal, abusive actions were documented. Mercy for Animals’ legal department sees that workers involved are fully prosecuted.

In addition to pursuing legal action against farmers, the organization advocates for laws that would mandate better treatment of livestock. Most recently, Mercy for Animals has been fighting to make sure that Ag-Gag (or anti-whistleblower) laws are not passed.

A separate animal-rights organization that takes an abolitionist approach to issues is Evolve for Animals. Its members maintain the ideal that there is no excuse for using or exploiting animals in any capacity as they’re sentient beings.

Founder Neal Sehgal tells BTR he believes that animals “have inherent value irrespective of what function, purpose, or job human beings impose on them because they value their own lives in the same way we value ours.”

He continues that Evolve for Animals does not wish to “improve” the culture of using animals, but to abolish it completely.

Unlike many other organizations, Evolve for Animals promotes a strictly vegan lifestyle in an effort to promote the elimination of animal use.

“Our objective is to engage individuals with an all-encompassing articulation of veganism as a moral imperative and provide guidance on becoming a vegan,” Sehgal states.

He explains that the “vegetarian” or “veggie” terms are not in their vocabulary. As the name implies, Evolve for Animals encourages humans to evolve into the vegan lifestyle. Sehgal proclaims, “just because something has always been, doesn’t mean it should always be.”

Sehgal currently resides in New Jersey with his vegan dog, West. He encourages people to evolve and begin to change the planet immediately.

While these organizations do their best to bring awareness to the public, there are many people who believe that animals are meant for human use and consumption. The tradition of eating certain meals containing meat and dairy, especially on holidays, can be an important part of life for some. It is common for people to find comfort in consistency, making it difficult to stray from a diet and traditions they’ve known for years.

Opinions differ on the use of animals and whether or not their rights are relevant. Nevertheless, the persistence of various advocacy groups and their successes further proves how arguments in defense of animals have become more acknowledged and mainstream in contemporary times.