Some students have expressed outrage and started a petition in response to the announcement that Colorado State University will build a new facility that houses a meat harvesting facility, which some students call a slaughterhouse.
Construction for the JBS Global Food Innovation Center was announced March 28 after CSU entered a partnership with JBS USA, a food processing company based in Greeley. The partnership is valued at $12.5 million, according to an article in SOURCE.
The facility, according to the building proposal on the College of Agriculture’s website, will be a pilot plant and will include a complete livestock and meat processing center, spanning the meat-animal harvesting process.
Ajay Menon, the Dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, said the facility is part of the second phase of renovation projects for the Animal Sciences building.
Menon said the new facility will teach students in the meat sciences program to ethically harvest animals since the harvesting process is an important part of getting animal protein.
“There’s a whole debate out there about how you treat animals and how are they harvested and things of that nature,” Menon said. “We have to teach the students the right and proper way of doing this. There is an ethical and humane way of doing this and treating animals and, yes, there is no other way to get to animal protein without harvesting. Harvesting is just a small piece of everything else that goes on.”
Menon said that the JBS facility would not be built in the Monfort Quad, though some students were concerned it would be. Menon said the facility would be built south of the Animal Sciences building in the parking lot between Animal Sciences and the Behavioral Sciences Building.
Becca Bleil, a freshman studying biology and member of Rams Organizing for Animal Rights, created a Change.org petition following the announcement of the facility that has acquired over 6,700 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.
Bleil said she started the petition to give a voice to students who disagree with the construction of the facility.
“(ROAR talked) about steps that we can take to have our voices heard and everyone else who agrees that they don’t want this,” Bleil said. “I decided to make the petition mostly because I wanted to do something that would actually show people who work at CSU, or CSU in general, that there are people that disagree.”
Menon said students are upset because they do not have information about the facility.
“Students are upset because they don’t have all the facts,” Menon said. “People want to use (the word ‘slaughter’) because it evokes sudden emotions in people that I don’t believe we are doing. I can understand (that) if you don’t give them the facts, students are going to say, ‘they’re going to just do it in the most harsh way that people have seen on T.V. screens.’”
The Animal Sciences building currently houses Ram Country Meats, previously known as the CSU Meat Lab. Ram Country Meats acts as a research facility for students, a catering kitchen and as a store for meat processed in the lab.
Menon said the facility will help CSU students in the meat sciences department prepare for careers in the meat production industry because faculty members, such as Temple Grandin and Bernard Rollin, are finding ways to ethically handle livestock.
“Because of the Temple Grandins of the world and Bernie Rollins of the world, we are making progress and CSU is at the forefront of that,” Menon said. “I really don’t want students graduating from Colorado State University going into this industry and (assuming that) they will be fine because the industry will teach them. Our University ought to be the one to show them how exactly to do this in an ethical and compassionate way.”
Bleil said that although the petition would more than likely not impact the University’s decision to build the facility, it was important to let students voice their disagreements.
“I knew going into it that it was probably not going to make much of a difference in the decision to build the building or not,” Bleil said. “Obviously that would be the main dream, but the main goal is just to get people’s voices heard and give people a platform to comment and say, ‘I don’t agree with this. I go to CSU and I don’t like this—’ to basically make a stance in general. I’m not just going to stand by and do nothing.”
Bleil reached out to President Tony Frank to ask him how many signatures she would need for him to stop the construction of the facility, but did not receive a response from him or from anyone in the College of Agricultural Sciences.
Abigail Bearce, a sophomore studying fish, wildlife and conservation biology, said she also contacted people in the Administration building and in Animal Sciences, but received mixed responses about whether the plans for the facility were finalized.
Bearce, the organizer for the Denver chapter of animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere and member of ROAR, is also the organizer of a rally opposing the facility. The rally will occur on April 19 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on the CSU Oval.
Bearce said she organized the rally to demonstrate students’ frustrations with the facility.
“We feel like CSU was almost trying to hide this from the students,” Bearce wrote in a statement to the Collegian. “I have not talked to anyone that heard about the food innovation center before the ground breaking. It is important to hold (the rally) because CSU needs to know how many people are outraged about this.”
Menon said he respects that students like Bleil and Bearce are upset about the facility, but he wants them to understand that the JBS Global Food Innovation facility is not a production facility.
“I can respect their opinions and I can respect their sentiments, but I’d like to have them understand what it actually is,” Menon said. “This is a teaching and learning facility. That’s a very key aspect of this. I do not want to leave the impression that the meat packers and the meat processing companies are all doing it incorrectly and wrong.”
Menon also said he understands students who believe meat should not be eaten.
“I fully respect those who believe that we should not eat animal protein,” Menon said. “I grew up in India, so I get it, but 95 percent of the world has made a different choice. Now I am very keen on ensuring that students learn the right way of doing it (meat harvesting).”
Collegian reporter Haley Candelario can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @H_Candelario98.