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A student group fights (peacefully) for animal rights

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Albany Outreach for Animals is the only animal rights group on campus, with an ultimate objective to reduce animal suffering, typically through community service. Most of their work is based around volunteering at local animal sanctuaries weekly and fundraising for non-euthanizing dog shelters; but they also advocate veganism, a boycott of all products and services derived from animal exploitation.

They started four years ago with roughly 10 members, but since efforts to open up the group last year, they have reached around 170 members.

Their constitution states that they will do their advocacy through a philosophy of peaceful and non-judgmental activism, focusing on discussion. When asked about the effectiveness of this method, the group’s president Sharon Amaro said that it is effective in reaching people without making them feel attacked, but does not yield nearly as good of results as more combative activism such as the Earthlings movement or more radical animal liberation groups.

“I believe that you can get your message across without being that harsh and in people’s faces,” said general member Dylan Ruggieri of the group’s policy of peace.

He also said that it is important to him to combat the stereotype of the “preachy vegan”.

Ruggieri said that although livestock is more important to him than individual businessmen, he would not want to put people out of work.

To educate: Albany Outreach for Animals does documentary screenings followed by a discussion afterwards. The events are primarily attended by people who are already vegan, but they hope to get more non-vegans to their meetings through tabling with community groups such as Albany Vegan Network.

Ruggieri said the documentary screenings helped him transition from vegetarianism to veganism but that the documentary screenings recently have not had much of a turn out. When asked why he thinks that is, he said: “probably because people knew what it was for”.

Amaro said that she has noticed a slight increase in vegan options, yet there has been no noticeable decrease in meat options on campus. They are now focused on pressuring the school to make simple changes that decrease the use of animal by-products such as not putting butter on pasta or rice.

When asked how the group views UAlbany’s treatment of animals, Amaro said that the only issues that came to mind were: that they aren’t allowed to bring a pig on campus to table with, and that the school uses pictures of animals in advertisements for meat dishes.

Amaro said that she has “not heard so far” about any misuse of animals in UAlbany’s equestrian club.

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