University campuses are places where voices of all kinds can be heard, and Friday the voice of Jon Camp, an animal rights advocate, was prevalent in a common area of East Tennessee State University.
Camp is director of outreach for Vegan Outreach, a nonprofit organization working to expose and end animal cruelty.
Camp’s job involves traveling to colleges across the country distributing information about mistreatment of farm animals and advocating more vegetarian eating.
As of Friday, he had been on the road for 55 days. It was the final day of his most recent tour that took him all over the Southeastern United States.
“It was 17 years ago I took an ethics course at a local college in Illinois, in the suburbs of Chicago, and I learned about the mistreatment of farm animals and went vegetarian, eventually vegan,” he said as he stood in the plaza near ETSU’s library and handed out pamphlets to passersby in the chilly fall air.
“When I grew up I was always under the impression that farm animals, the animals we eat, led lives worth living, that were good lives until their unfortunate day that they were sent to slaughter,” Camp said. “And what I learned in my ethics course was that a lot has changed since the days of the ’40s and ’50s and that today the overwhelming majority of farm animals are kept in pretty bad conditions where they are often unable to turn around, unable to exhibit their natural behaviors.”
Camp was referring largely to massive factory farms that produce tons of poultry or meat or other animal products.
Consuming animals from small family farms rather than factory farms would be better but is no guarantee the animals were treated humanely, Camp said. Many of these animals on small farms are often trucked to the same slaughterhouses as the factory farms, he said.
Many students hurrying on their way to class Friday took Camp’s information with a nod and smile.
“It’s a lot of toil but at the same time it’s work that I find to be very meaningful,” he said. “And at the end of each day I feel like I’ve done my role in pushing the ball forward for animals and making the world a bit less cruel and a bit kinder.”
In his travels to hundreds of college campuses, Camp said he has received lots of response from students who say they are cutting back on meat or they have turned vegan. He experiences this across the nation, from Boston to Oklahoma.
Camp said the message he spreads is relevant to everyone.
“I think that the issue that we’re focusing on, what I like about it is, that I don’t see it as partisan, that it’s about basic decency,” he said.