University of Florida’s Amazing Animal Activists
Animal Activists of Alachua (AAA) is one of those campus groups that you want to join even if you don’t go to the school. This University of Florida-based group does it all—from regular leafleting to holding free vegan cooking demonstrations. AAA’s copresident Beth Murdock recently had some time to answer a few questions about what makes the group so successful. Here’s what she had to say, in her own words:
What are some of the most successful events that you have held on campus?
Every year, Animal Activists of Alachua hosts VegFest. We serve free vegan food (donated by local and national vendors) to over 600 students on campus. Students are offered animal rights literature, and AAA volunteers answer any questions they have. We also bring two speakers to the event to expose students to even more animal rights. Last year, we brought vegan bodybuilder Kenneth Williams and Farmer Brown [a vegan and former farmer who raises awareness about factory farming]. Another major event was Vivisection Awareness Week, which included tabling, an Animal Testing Film Festival, debates on the efficacy of animal experimentation, and a speaker. There was also a march through campus and demonstration against primate experimentation attended by over 50 people and covered by radio, TV, and print media.
What advice can your group offer to other student organizations looking to promote animal rights at their schools?
Be organized—plan events well into the future. Be persistent—with every failure, there is a victory around the corner! Learn from your mistakes; do not let them overcome you. I would say to have a plan: Know what you want to do and come up with milestone goals to meet along the way. One thing I would do differently is be proactive rather than reactive: Don’t let others dictate your agenda, and don’t react to every single animal issue on campus; you’ll spread yourself too thin too fast. Pick your battles and see them through to the end. Two things are important to building membership: social ties (people want to meet other kids with similar interests and feel like they are a part of the group) and a campaign with a foreseeable end. We had a bunch of people jump on board for the gestation crate initiative, and when it was over, we had this group of people who wanted to help animals with a lot of energy and nowhere to put it; this makes a great foundation for a visible campus/community AR organization.
How are the dining options for vegetarians and vegans on campus?
The Hare Krishnas serve vegetarian lunches, always with a vegan option, on campus every weekday for $3. The dining halls have a “Vegan Corner” that serves meals like Tofu Creole and Zucchini Lemon Couscous. Vegan Corner’s options are limited, but we hope to change that soon!
What are your plans for the upcoming year?
We hope to increase awareness of animal rights issues to both students and community members by tabling and fliering more. We would like to encourage the University of Florida to use only cage-free eggs in its dining halls. We would also like to revamp VegGuide, a Web site that lists vegan-friendly restaurants across Florida. We want to increase the social bonds between members of Animal Activists of Alachua by holding more events to get to know one another. At the end of the year, we hope to compile a recipe book of our members’ favorite recipes.