ARLINGTON, VA: Universities across the country are becoming the latest PR battleground for animal rights advocates and the US meat industry.
A year-old organization, Responsible Policies for Animals (RPA), has begun a letter-writing campaign to the heads of American land-grant universities, urging them to drop their animal agriculture programs.
Responding to that campaign, the Animal Agriculture Alliance, an industry group, is calling on its members to increase communications with colleges, consumers, and legislators.
"We just have to make sure we're talking up and down the food chain," said Kay Johnson, VP of the alliance. "Our goal is to strengthen our messages and to be more proactive and provide positive messages about animal agriculture."
Land-grant universities were established by various federal laws dating back to the mid-1800s and traditionally offer courses of study in agriculture and animal science.
David Cantor, executive director of RPA, said: "We're an abolitionist organization. We want an end to the animal industry, and we want an end to the teaching of that industry."
University agriculture programs sustain and subsidize the meat business by doing research for it, he said.
In addition to contacting university presidents and chancellors with his message, Cantor also has been reaching out to college newspaper editors.
Cantor, an animal rights advocate for 14 years, worked with PETA earlier in his career.
Johnson said that even though Cantor's group is relatively new, the meat industry needs to take it seriously.
"We need to work together to create a unified voice," she said of the meat business. "It would behoove us as an industry to go to land-grant universities" and discuss how agriculture education benefits students and society.