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Animal Liberation club fights for the ethical treatment of animals

Alicia+Alcasas+helps+a+student+start+a+virtual+reality+experience+where+the+viewer+is+placed+in+the+slaughterhouse+assembly+line+with+the+livestock+at+City+College+in+Santa+Barbara+Calif.%2C+on+Monday%2C+Sept.+24%2C+2018.+The+VR+headset+experience+was+part+of+the+Animal+Rights+Club+event.
Alicia Alcasas helps a student start a virtual reality experience where the viewer is placed in the slaughterhouse assembly line with the livestock at City College in Santa Barbara Calif., on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018. The VR headset experience was part of the Animal Rights Club event.

Alicia Alcasas helps a student start a virtual reality experience where the viewer is placed in the slaughterhouse assembly line with the livestock at City College in Santa Barbara Calif., on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018. The VR headset experience was part of the Animal Rights Club event.

Luke Madenwald

Luke Madenwald

Alicia Alcasas helps a student start a virtual reality experience where the viewer is placed in the slaughterhouse assembly line with the livestock at City College in Santa Barbara Calif., on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018. The VR headset experience was part of the Animal Rights Club event.

David Fletcher, Staff Writer

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The City College Animal Rights Club wants to convert the student population to veganism by any means possible, even utilizing virtual reality.

President and club founder Melissa Aguayo said she established the organization with a few goals in mind. First, to build a community comprised of kindred spirits who want to empower animals, and second to spread awareness regarding the mistreatment of animals who have had the misfortune of being subjected to the factory farming industry.

“It just clicked in my mind, I knew I was contributing to something wrong, and couldn’t live with myself another day if I kept contributing,” Aguayo said.

She said she feels strongly that college students are undergoing a pivotal time in their lives where they are forming a stance on issues like animal rights that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Because of this, it’s critical that strides be made by her club to educate and present the most informative information available to assist in changing hearts and minds.

One of the methods the club has previously used and said they plan on incorporating into their public relations campaign is to allow students to use a virtual reality simulation that puts students in the perspective of a caged animal in a factory farm. They use a virtual reality headset that looks similar to a pair of goggles.

This set up donated to the club by the non-profit “Animal Equality” enables the viewer to select different animal perspectives including chicken, pigs, and cows and get a momentarily feel as to the conditions they exist in.

The aim of this exercise, according to Aguayo, is to trigger the passerby’s sense of morality to the extent that they take a second to realize that they themselves would never want to be treated that way.
Each participant in the club had a unique perspective to share as to what a vegan lifestyle meant to them and what they aspire to accomplish through this platform.

Aguayo honed in on the environmental impact that meat consumption imposes upon our natural world. She mentioned the massive amounts of carbon produced by industrial meat production, which directly contributes to global warming, and the immense deforestation that occurs because of these practices.

Club member Jorge Caballero, a current English major and an avid student of philosophy, developed a strong conviction on the issue last year from a philosophy class.

“This was the first time I ever considered animals having any moral worth at all,” Caballero said. “So, when we discussed how we as moral agents should treat non-human animals in a philosophical context, that really moved me to realize just what I was doing when I pick up burger or a leather jacket.”

He hasn’t looked back since.

Caballero’s goal for the club this semester is that they become more integrated into the Associated Student Senate and the legislative body of the school in general so they can more effectively pass along their message.

Aguayo said that the City College administration has largely been very engaged and responsive to critiques made by the college’s vegan community regarding food options. However, she said she hopes that the level of discourse continues to be expanded upon and more regulations can be put in place.

Some regulations she would like to see implemented are limits to the dissection of dead animals in science classes and the use of a digital dissection simulator instead. She also talked about not allowing the student government to use its funds to provide meat products at their events.

Many people have argued with Aguayo on the issue of meat at school events, saying that authorities shouldn’t have the right to tell the public what they can or cannot eat.

Aguayo recognizes that many people regard any constraints put on their abilities to consume meat as a infringement upon their personal freedoms, but she said she tries to get those individuals to look beyond themselves and examine the issue in terms of the overall collective societal benefit she believes abstaining from meat produces for all.

“If somebody likes to kill people, society would not let them continue, meat consumption needs to be looked at the same way,” Aguayo said.

The best way to stay informed about club events is to join their Facebook page “SBCC Animal Liberation Club.”

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Animal Liberation club fights for the ethical treatment of animals