Advocating for Animals

Gathered for evening chapel on April 24, students and faculty returned to a common theme of previous chapels this year: the ethics of consumption. Having already explored this idea with regard to media and the environment, the community focused this time on its relationship with the animal world and welcomed the Massachusetts State Director of the Humane Society, Stephanie Harris, to Middlesex.

Founded to prevent cruelty to animals, the Humane Society of the United States is concerned with the welfare of animals living in all situations, from homes and shelters to farms and laboratories to zoos and circuses – as well as in the wild. “Occasionally I get to work with animals,” Ms. Harris explained, “but mostly I work on public policy and education.” Responsible for knowing “what’s going on in Massachusetts and what we can do next,” she spends many hours lobbying for policies at the State House and meeting with town governing groups, often hoping to apply their local achievements at the state level.

Issues she is currently working on include the deterrence of illegal hunting, keeping puppy mill animals out of pet stores, looking for alternatives to using animals in research, prohibiting the abandonment of animals, and establishing a citation process (rather than verbal warnings) for cases of animal cruelty. In 2016, Massachusetts voters approved a ban of certain farm animal containment practices, prohibiting farmers from keeping egg-laying hens, breeding pigs, and calves raised for veal in spaces that prevent the animals from lying down, standing up, fully extending their limbs, or turning around freely. Because the rule does not go into effect until 2022, Ms. Harris is working to discourage repealing the measure and is trying to encourage more corporations to support the humane care of animals.

“What can you do?” Ms. Harris asked. “Reduce, refine, replace,” she suggested, recommending that people try “Meatless Mondays” because a plant-based diet is better for the health of both humans and the planet. Advocating for animals by speaking to local and state lawmakers is another option that supports the efforts of the Humane Society, and Ms. Harris welcomed the engagement of all those in the audience who care about the welfare of animals.