EARS LISTENS TO THE PLANET by Ardeth Baxter (photos by EARS members)
(l to r) Brishti Biswas, Ryan Jackson, Monique Garcia, Addie Davis, Sayali Tavare, Laura Stupin, Keiran Gallagher-Gonzales, Maria Castro, Teresa Davis, Isabel Shanahan, Heather Eichwald, Jessie Bunkley, Linda Marple.
"I think we've done more than a lot of groups on campus," declared Isabel Shanahan, founder of EARS, The Environmental and Animal Rights Society. Established in September 2001, this hardworking group of Santa Fe High School (SFHS) students believes that education and activism are the keys to changing the way society treats the environment and other animal species.
Guided by faculty advisor and biology teacher Linda Marple, EARS jumped right into action with vegetarian tabling last year at Wild Oats Community Market in Santa Fe, and then a few months later at SFHS. It has also assisted Animal Protection of New Mexico in their monthly meetings about such diverse subjects as the fate of the Coulston chimps, the fur industry, animal dissection, vegetarianism, and animal rescue. EARS participated in fur industry tabling and protested at the annual Fur-Free Friday demonstration in Santa Fe. Along with Wild Friends, a student advocacy group mentored by the UNM Wildlife Law Center, they lobbied the state legislature for a bill to protect the black-tailed prairie dog. EARS raised money for the Department of Game and Fish and the bear den project for orphaned baby bears rescued by The Wildlife Center in Espaņola. At a special assembly, EARS presented "The Witness," an award-winning documentary about a Brooklyn contractor who became a committed animal activist. In addition, a student and teacher poll was conducted at SFHS on attitudes toward dissection and EARS initiated a paper-recycling program at SFHS, which is still going strong.
How has the philosophy of EARS been received by other students? Teresa Davis, an enthusiastic member, commented, "We showed an anti-dissection video and an anti-fur video as well. After seeing those videos, there was really no opposing argument."
EARS conducted a biology class at SFHS on ethical science, which focused on fur, cosmetic testing, and animal dissection; afterwards students signed a petition to end dissection. Members then discussed the growing student support for eliminating dissection from the curriculum with the SFHS administration, which encouraged them to make a formal presentation to the school board on humane alternatives. They suggested a three-year plan, giving students the choice of using alternatives the first year, examining the results for the second year and, if the results were positive, having dissection eliminated from the curriculum the third year. (For more information on the dissection issue in schools, go to www.hsus.org/ace/14028).
Last spring, EARS hosted Randy Warner, a speaker on pet overpopulation (profiled in our Winter 2002 issue) and was invited by the local teen center, Warehouse 21, to hold an adoption day in conjunction with the Santa Fe Animal Shelter, which took place in October of this year. On Earth Day, EARS presented a table displaying environmental literature. It also began a pledge drive to get drivers to stop letting vehicles idle, which causes air pollution and wastes energy.
In September of this year, EARS held a rally at SFHS to invite students to join in the APNM protest against the exploitation of exotic animals at the Shrine circus. And there's much more to come.
Teresa mentioned another future project: "We're going to become more involved with the Espaņola Animal Shelter. The volunteer coordinator is coming down next week to talk to us about what they do, and how we can help."
Isabel elaborated, "Pat DiLeo does everything she can to get every animal adopted. Both animal shelters (Espaņola and Santa Fe) say there's definitely room for growth. I think Adoption Day should be an annual event, and with much more publicity. Some people don't want to go to an animal shelter. It's too depressing. But if they're in a happy, natural setting, where kids are walking the dogs, they can better judge the dog's true personality.
"We're always looking for new projects. It's nice to have long-term projects that we work on for a month or so at a time. That way, everybody gets involved, and we can all do our own separate part of it."
Linda Marple lamented that government funds have been cut back for everyone. "We're limited to our Road Kill Memorial this year. We've got to do something about making highways safe for animals as well as people. Driving at night, you need to slow down and turn the brights and the dashboard lights down so you can see beyond your dashboard.
"We got State Whooping Crane Day declared. It's an awareness kind of thing to get people to pay attention, and it doesn't cost any money. We were working on the Prairie Dog Memorial. It's amazing how little knowledge there is about the reality or the science behind prairie dogs. They're a keystone species for 700 other species of animals and plants that depend on them for survival, and ranchers say 'the only good prairie dog is a dead prairie dog.' But we want to give them the information. We almost got it passed, but the Senate ran out of time to vote on it."
Linda acknowledged that as a biology teacher, she has changed her mind about the ethics of dissection. "They're embalming animals when they're still alive. It's horrible. It's not something that you can easily fake on a video."
What's scheduled for the future? EARS plans to continue last year's projects as well as participate in APNM's anti-cockfighting campaign, expand recycling efforts to include aluminum, work with the Forest Guardians on environmental issues, and ask the SFHS administration for land to start a community garden to produce food for needy families.
Although a fledgling group, EARS was nominated for an APNM Milagro Award this year, and Isabel Shanahan has also been nominated for the Barron Prize for Young Heroes. Asked how she arrived at her awareness of animal and environmental issues, Isabel replied: "I saw a video when I was very young concerning how farm animals are treated and it just traumatized me. That's when I became a vegetarian. Once I saw that video, I just saw other things."
Ardeth Baxter is a Lone Butte wordsmith, an ethical vegetarian, and the guardian of nine carnivorous dogs and cats.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. -Margaret Mead
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