Students found animal welfare society
The student-founded Yale Animal Society will focus on factory farming and surrounding issues.
According to David Rosenbloom ’25, Simon Billings ’25 and Manny Rutinel LAW ’22 — the cofounders of the Yale Animal Society — animal welfare affects everyone.
The student organization, which plans to officially begin programming next fall, focuses on the potential for a more humane food system. All three student founders were drawn to the cause by a mutual concern for animal welfare, but their understanding of the issue’s nuances has grown as they’ve continued advocacy. Factory farming, the three founders emphasized, is an expansive concern, affecting not only animal wellbeing but also issues of sustainability, labor rights and public health.
“There are so many issues that we all think are so important, and they all boil down to our relationship with animals,” Rutinel said. “The importance of the organization is hard to overstate. I wanted to make sure that before I left campus, there was an organization that covered animal issues.”
When Rosenbloom and Billings — “the most powerful duo ever seen,” according to Rutinel — contacted him about starting a group this fall, Rutinel said he knew they could make the organization a reality.
Although animal welfare clubs have existed at Yale in the past, the absence of an active organization on campus was one that Rosenbloom noticed immediately upon arriving on campus this fall.
Rosenbloom’s interest in animal welfare was piqued two years ago, when he started volunteering at a Humane Society animal shelter in Quebec. Before that, Rosenbloom said, he ate red meat almost every day and never thought of himself as an especially avid animal lover.
During one of his visits to the Humane Society, Rosenbloom recalled hearing a woman question the shelter’s focus on advocacy around the dog meat trade in South Korea when “tens of millions of pigs” were slaughtered regularly across North America.
“Being the 17-year-old that I was, I just brushed it off,” Rosenbloom said. “But a couple of weeks later, I started thinking about it a little more, and I started to kind of grapple with this massive inconsistency — on the one hand, being people who, if they’re not animal lovers, at least recognize them as being capable of suffering and, on the other hand, the individual subsidization of factory farming, and the immense amount of suffering that one inflicts upon animals by continuing to perpetuate this industry.”
Rosenbloom soon went vegan. He became involved with animal welfare activist groups, making several trips to a slaughterhouse outside Montreal to expose himself to the issue directly. Coming to Yale, he said, he resolved to bring as much attention to the issue of animal welfare as he could.
Rosenbloom and Billings met at the Saybrook first-year dinner this fall, and they began discussing animal welfare after someone else they were dining with asked why Rosenbloom was vegan. Although Rosenbloom explained that he does not usually get into the details of his dedication to animal welfare during casual conversation, he gave the students sitting around him his “one-minute elevator pitch.”
“[Billings] looked at the other guy who was there, and was like, ‘Well, I guess we’re not eating meat tonight,’” Rosenbloom recalled. “We grew a lot closer in the weeks after that. I usually only talk to people about this when I feel really close with them and when they want to learn more about it … but as we became best friends, this was something that was important to me, and so we talked about it.”
The issue has also become important to Billings, who immersed himself in documentaries and online resources after his initial conversations with Rosenbloom.
Although Billings has since gone vegan as well, he added that the organization hopes to expand its membership beyond vegan people, emphasizing the multitude of other issues that are affected by factory farming.
“One issue is human welfare in factory farms, and the mass exploitation of these workers, who work insane hours,” Billings said. “It’s traumatizing to kill 100 chickens a minute and they become desensitized to it. It’s overwhelmingly an immigrant population and factory farms are often situated near predominantly minority communities with all the ethanol and waste and manure lagoons.”
Billings also pointed to the high rate of greenhouse gas emissions produced by the dairy industry in particular as evidence of the effect that factory farming has on climate change.
Factory farming also has a detrimental effect on public health, Billings explained, noting that the antibiotics fed to farmed animals can contribute to antibiotic resistance in humans, many of whom he said eat “unhealthy quantities” of meat to begin with.
“We recognize that not everybody is going to have been exposed to these ideas in the way that we’ve been lucky to,” Rosenbloom told the News. “That’s kind of why, predominantly, we want this club to exist. We want to be able to talk to people in a way that’s inclusive, in a way that recognizes where they’re coming from, and share these viewpoints. Veganism, animal welfare, factory farming is just an exploding topic around college campuses everywhere and to just have a space devoted to that is incredibly valuable.”
Rosenbloom connected with Rutinel after asking around to identify members of the Yale community who were passionate about animal welfare. When they met this fall, Rutinel advised Rosenbloom to start an organization open to students in all of the University’s schools.
Now, the Yale Animal Society, or YAS, is in the process of filling leadership positions and planning programming for next fall, when they plan to formally launch. This has meant tabling on Cross Campus, and building a mailing list which Rutinel said already has over 100 members.
“We’ve only tabled a couple times,” Rutinel said. “Every single time we’ve done it, there’s been at least a few folks that have been like, ‘Where have y’all been?’ I think there’s a lot of interest and there’s a huge gap that folks have been yearning for.”
Eventually, the group hopes to register as an official club to apply for funding from the University, with which they plan to host speakers and potential fellowships to provide interested participants with an introduction to factory farming.
“We’ve talked about speaker events with moral philosophers, activists, people working in the alternative protein space,” Rosenbloom said. “We’ve talked about dinner events where you can just get together and cook vegan meals. We’re really hoping to just be a space where we can talk about these issues because we do think they’re very important.”
More information about the Yale Animal Society is available online.