Animal Activists Find Home on Campus

New Paltz students are lending their voices to animals, locally and beyond. The Animal Rights Association (ARA), established on campus this fall, aims to spread awareness about animal cruelty through education, fundraising and a general love for all creatures.

President Kate Montelione decided to establish ARA last year when she realized that there were no organizations on campus geared toward this topic.

“I decided that I would take the summer before my sophomore year to make one,” Montelione said. “I was actually really surprised that New Paltz, being the liberal school that it is, didn’t already have one.”

Montelione said she rounded up fellow animal lovers, vegetarians and vegans and created a Facebook group to get the club going.

“Since we are a brand new organization, not many people know we exist,” Montelione said. “That’s not stopping us though.”

The club’s main goal is to show students how animal rights are relevant in everyday life. They concentrate and discuss issues including animal testing, vegetarianism, factory farming and the fur and meat industries.

“Not many people can resist a puppy, but not many realize that animals we would have as pets, like a puppy or bunny, are being tested on for cosmetics and cleaning supplies when it is clearly not necessary anymore,” Montelione said. “Our actions affect them, be it directly or indirectly, and ARA’s goal is to educate students as to how that’s so.”

ARA members stress the power of education in the fight for animal rights. Between crammed academic schedules and busy social lives it’s easy for students to forget about their furry friends.

“Students have so many options -— changing their diet, boycotting companies like Nestea that test on animals, not buying fur or fur-trimmed/lined products,” Montelione said. “Even not throwing garbage into the Gunk makes a difference — it’s a home, too, you know.”

According to Montelione, the club plans to hold fundraisers, such as pet supply collections, for local shelters, sanctuaries, and animal hospitals.

“It’s all about spreading awareness and creating a better world for all animals without shaming those who have different ideals,” she said.

Above all, club members are united by a passion for creatures of all shapes and sizes.

“At home I have a dog, a cat — he was a stray but we feed, pet, and shelter him, so now he has a home — a rabbit, and a fish,” Montelione said. “I remember my great-grandmother feeding a stray kitten out of her Queens apartment window, and that memory has always stuck with me. When it comes down to it, how could you not love that four-legged fur ball that greets you ecstatically every time you come home?”

The ARA meets on Wednesdays from 2-3 p.m. in Student Union 416.