By Giorgina McKay | @ggmckay11
People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have urged the University of South Australia to stop hosting animals at future campus events.
In an email to the university, the animal rights organisation questioned the ethics of having these animal encounters on campus.
Emma Hurst, media officer for PETA, said “Petting zoos, while perhaps stress-relieving for humans, are stress-filled for animals.”
“Being confronted by hordes of humans in a loud, bright environment is terrifying for these animals.”
Ms Hurst said PETAs main concern was the treatment of animals in regards to these petting zoos, especially in terms of breeding the animals for entertainment purposes.
“We also object to the cycle these sorts of displays often promote: of breeding animals for the sole purpose of displaying them to paying visitors and then replacing them when they grow up and are no longer ‘cute’ to make room for more young animals,” Ms Hurst said.
“The animals don’t get to ‘pass through’ the novelty of these displays like visitors do—they’re being handled by strangers, photographed day in and day out, and prevented from acting on their natural instincts, eating patterns, and family life. Then, they’re packed up and moved to the next event.
“The operators of such ventures know the issues and, as their priority is to make money, are unlikely to cease running their business or prioritise the animals’ well-being.”
However, President of the UniSA Student Association (USASA) Jordan Mumford said while he understands the considerations PETA have put to the university, USASA is always making sure the welfare of the animals is a number one priority.
“I understand the considerations PETA put to the university around making sure animals aren’t in distress, making sure animals aren’t in bad condition, and those sorts of things, and that’s why USASA has taken some very strict requirements on who and who we don’t deal with,” Mr Mumford said.
“Making sure that animal welfare is always our number one priority whenever we have animals interfacing students on campus.”
USASA is a student-run organisation that supports the student body at UniSA.
The student association handles an array of university issues, but is most well-known for hosting animals at a variety of university events, with Unitopia being the most popular among students.
Run across all metropolitan campuses, Unitopia offers a wide range of activities, services, and goods, including a ‘doggo café’—one of the main concerns maintained by PETA.
“Animal welfare is paramount; when we’re having animals interfacing the students on campus, it is at the forefront of our thinking,” Mr Mumford said.
“USASA has been doing them (events) for some years now. Every single time we have these events, we do review what we think are best practices, and we look back at what it is we’ve done and if there’s any way we can improve on it.”
Mr Mumford also said USASA have met with the university to discuss best practices, and how they can ensure they can further improve the conditions and welfare of animals on university campuses.
“We are working with the university to make sure we are using best practice, but we’re not gonna have these events on campus if we’re not following the right processes or protocols, and equally students wouldn’t engage in them the same way if we were doing the wrong thing,” Mr Mumford said.
“Right now, we’re working, particularly relating to the petting zoo, with an organisation that has pretty close links to the RSPCA, and they rehome and readopt rescue animals; and obviously their biggest concern is animal welfare, so making sure animals are being rotated, and all those sorts of things.”
Additionally, Mr Mumford said it is important to keep in mind that USASA are a student association and student welfare is also important.
“In terms of what students like the most, in terms of the events we run, always number one is that engagement with animals in a university setting,” he said.
“There’s countless of peer-reviewed research that shows the benefit of interacting with animals on student’s wellbeing.
“So that’s something that not only does the student association owe to the students in terms of the wellbeing context, but the students really want to see these sorts of events on campus as well.”
Other universities have also been in contact and working with PETA to impose animal-friendly changes, including the University of Canberra who recently removed animals from their ‘stress-less’ events after talks with PETA.
Ms Hurst said PETA would welcome the same level care from the University of South Australia and would help with guidance in any way.
“We already have a very, very comprehensive process around making sure that we are doing the right thing by the animals, and we internally review these processes every single time we have animals on campus,” Mr Mumford said.
“We’ll keep working internally to improve our processes around this, but I think it’s just important to note that there’s plenty of research that shows the positive impact on student wellbeing that this has.”
Students wishing to get involved can find more information on PETA’s website at www.PETA.org.au.
Image Courtesy: University of South Australia