Workers for the Wordless
By Melissa McKenzie
Nearly everyone has a cause they are passionate about. Causes can range from human rights to political campaigns, environmental issues and green living to mental health and healthcare, but some of the most passionate people speak for those who can't speak for themselves. Animals, whether they be companion, circus, wildlife or bred for their flesh or fur, are constantly being abused, mistreated, and neglected and most people don't understand the harsh realities of industries like fur and farming.
In 2008, a major piece of legislation hit California voters - Proposition 2. The measure prohibited the extreme confinement of farm animals. It required farmers to give the animals enough space to turn around freely, lie down, stand up and fully extend their limbs. During this time, a group of people dedicated to bettering the lives of animals tirelessly got the word out about the horrendous conditions farm animals were experiencing. After voters overwhelmingly passed the bill, some of the activists realized there was more that could be done and the Santa Clara County Activists for Animals was born.
"Our organization's focus is on the issues impacting animals in Santa Clara County - whether that be trying to get a restaurant to stop serving an inherently cruel product (such as foie gras - the product of force feeding a duck until his liver is 10x its normal size), serving free vegan burgers to students at local universities so they can taste how delicious vegan options can be, or tabling to provide information to the public," said SCCAA coordinator, Lauren Ornelas, through an email.
While not required, most of the members live cruelty-free by adhering to a vegan lifestyle. Vegans, by definition, consume and use no products derived from animals. This includes abstaining from all meat and dairy products, honey, fur, leather, wool, silk, and ingredients like beeswax and gelatin. Many also refuse to use products tested on animals or products produced by companies known for animal testing.
"No one has to be vegan or vegetarian to join SCCAA, but as people who join the group learn more - not only about how animals are raised and killed for food, but also how delicious and healthful vegan foods can be - most start to make changes in their diet," said Ornelas. "There are some activists that we might only see at fur or circus protests, but everyone is welcome."
SCCAA has worked with some of the larger, well-known animal welfare groups like the Humane Society of the United States, Vegan Outreach and the San Jose-based Food Empowerment Project. Most recently, SCCAA helped with Mercy for Animals' Farm to Fridge Tour on June 8 by helping promote Farm to Fridge, a 12-minute video depicting many of the heart wrenching and horrible acts factory farm animals endure and they participated in Mountain View's Green Kids Conference on June 18.
"Unfortunately, most people have little understanding of how animals in captivity, whether for entertainment or raised for food, suffer at the hands of humans. We believe if most people knew, they would stop participating in these cruelties," said Ornelas.
"We are lucky to live in a community that seems to understand the plight of animals and so many are sympathetic. The most negativity we receive is at circus protests. Our main goal in leafleting these events is to inform people on how the animals are treated (most animals in circuses only take free steps when they are performing, such as tigers who are usually kept caged). We do not profit from the outreach we do, but those who exploit animals always do so for profit."
The all-volunteer group, which is free to join, often spends time together outside of activism by organizing social events like movie nights and vegan barbeques. They also hold monthly meetings the third Tuesday of every month. For more information on SCCAA visit www.activistsforanimals.org or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.