CSU animal rights group protests on-campus meat processing facility

Julia Trowbridge

students stand in a circle
Rams Organizing for Animal Rights gathers on the Monfort quad to protest the new animal science building. ROAR is looking for answers about CSU’s lack of transparency before the groundbreaking for the new building (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

After the announcement of a new meat harvesting facility on March 28, student group Rams Organization for Animal Rights has been fighting for transparency from Colorado State University about funding and plans.

Thursday’s demonstration focused on the corruption ROAR  has seen in CSU’s faculty with accepting the $12.5 million grant for a meat-processing facility.

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CSU is currently building the JBS Global Food Innovation Center, a meat- processing facility, to educate students on meat processing and ethical practices in this field. According to Rams Organizing for Animal Rights, CSU has not been transparent about the process and did not release any information about the building plans until the groundbreaking prompting the group to hold a demonstration called #CSUintegrity.

“One of CSU’s main guiding values is integrity,” said Abigail Bearce, the president of ROAR. “CSU can’t hold on to their integrity with such a corrupted group.”

The upcoming building received a $12.5 million investment from JBS, which Bearce said was corrupted. According to the Wall Street Journal, the former CEO of JBS, Joesley Batista, resigned after bribes were revealed. JBS is one of the largest beef packers in the world and has been accused of bribing different health inspectors and cutting corners in health and safety concerns, according to Bearce.

According to Joanna Swenson, a first year master’s student studying meat sciences, the allegations made about the corporation’s CEO were about the Brazil branch of JBS in Brazil, rather than the portion of the global meat- processing company in the USA. In addition to this, the Animal Sciences department works with the U.S. JBS headquarters in Greeley and their investment in the new meat-processing facility is oriented towards furthering education opportunities for students. 

“A lot of people are not aware, due to headlines and misconstrued information,” Swenson said. “(JBS) is trying to support the university and allow students opportunities in education in the meat industry.”

Members of ROAR are suspicious about CSU’s lack of announcement about the funding and plans for the facility before groundbreaking.

youngs and sonovick holding signs
Lief Youngs, a CSU alumn, and Kendal Sonovick, a senior studying communications, protest the new animal science building on the Monfort Quad. (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

According to Maggie Gilman, a junior studying human dimensions and natural resources as well as a member of ROAR, there are many aspects that ROAR is fighting against with this new facility, and they’ll be back with other arguments

“We’ll be here again, continuously,” Gilman said. “We’ll be pointing out other sides, like the environmental and social justice issues.”

While the members were protesting CSU’s lack of integrity, others were also keeping the animals in mind. 

Lief Youngs, a CSU alumni, stands against the agricultural industry because of environmental effects. According to a 2015 report from the Environmental Protection Agency, the agricultural industry was one of the main contributors to greenhouse gasses, producing around 9 percent of total emissions. In addition to this, Youngs advocates against meat processing because he is concerned about the ethical treatment of these animals.

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“Animals have the same emotions we do,” Youngs said. “They want to be happy and safe and free.”

The Animal Sciences department, while educating the students about meat-processing, is also oriented towards the ethical treatment of animals. 

“As an animal sciences student, I’m understand the full picture of production agriculture,” Swenson said. “CSU is trying to be open and transparent about what the meat processing industry is, and animal welfare is a big priority at CSU.”

The new meat-processing facility is a great opportunity for the College of Agriculture to learn the industry’s process from start to finish, according to Swenson.

“A lot of people don’t understand the opportunity (the facility) would give students,” Swenson said. “This is an improvement for the university. This is the best way to learn and understand the industry, giving students the ability to have hands on experience.”

Collegian reporter Julia Trowbridge can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @chapin_jules.