A new club on campus has set out to redefine what people think of animal activism. When most people think of animal rights activists, the first thing to come to mind might be PETA, an organization infamous for being too radical. People tend to picture animal rights activists as fake-blood splattering, angry sign yielding nut-jobs; a stereotype to be avoided at all costs. As a vegetarian and a member of the environmental residential program on campus, believe me, I am fully aware that people might see me as a bit of a “hippie”. However, I think I can say with reasonable confidence that when it comes to animal or environmental activism, I’m not a nut-job. I like to try to make positive impacts, sure. But like most people, I think the extreme and sometimes harmful techniques that PETA uses are often completely unacceptable. That’s why, when I heard about a new animal rights club, I couldn’t help but be a bit cautious. The club is called SPAR, which stands for Students Promoting Animal Rights. SPAR existed previously at MSU, but was often condemned, much like PETA, for using radical methods to achieve their goals. SPAR is now under new leadership, and the new president Alexis Hinson has decided to completely reinvent the way the group will operate. “We’re basically a brand new group,” Hinson said, “and we’re really looking forward to building it up again.” Hinson, a freshman, had the idea to start a club focusing on animal rights since fall semester. With the help of Dr. Laurie Thorp, the director of the RISE program, Hinson got together with graduate advisors and worked tirelessly to get the club up and running. “While PETA has accomplished some really great things, a lot of people feel that the way they go about making change is too extreme. We want to work with the MSU community of students and faculty to make changes and promote animal welfare, and we want to do it in a way that is cooperative and logical,” Hinson said. The group has met twice since the spring semester began, and has since gained a decent membership size for a brand new club. As an attendee of these meetings, I found that Alexis’s reform of the group to be more rational and accommodating was already making a change in the way people looked at animal activists. Quite a few of the new members said that they were nervous to come at first because they didn’t want to get involved with a PETA-wannabe group. After the first meeting, however, even some of the more reluctant students present agreed that this new club was nothing like PETA in the slightest. SPAR may have just started up this semester, but they already have a full agenda for the rest of the year. Some of the scheduled activities in the group’s future include petitioning to halt a wolf hunting legislation, touring the MSU dairy farm to observe the cow’s living conditions, and volunteering at animal shelters in the East Lansing and Lansing areas. “We only have a few months left of school this semester,” Hinson said, “so there aren’t too many huge projects we can take on right now. We can definitely start them, though, and plan our actions for next year. Then, in the fall, hopefully we’ll have a large enough membership that we’ll be able to take on larger tasks and start adding accomplished goals to the group’s repertoire. “ The next meeting will be held on February 27th, in room A132 in Wells Hall. Any questions can be emailed to [email protected], and all are welcome to join or stop by a meeting. After having gotten involved with SPAR, any skepticism or doubts I might have had about the group have been squandered. Animal rights might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but those who want to now have a new chance to get involved. The meetings provide a very accepting environment, where anyone who has an idea for a project or activity can be heard and taken seriously. Everyone in the group obviously cares about animal welfare, but by no means are there any expectations for members to be vegan, vegetarian, or do an extreme amount of activism outside of the club. For the average student who wants to get involved, but does not want to go overboard with advocating animal rights, SPAR has proven to be the perfect opportunity.