OGDEN — A large, inflatable tent made to look like a barn tends to draw some attention on a busy campus.
And a sign promising “Make it through, get free food” ups the ante.
“Is it a haunted house?” asked a wary Weber State student, approaching the tent Monday
Told the tent was an educational exhibit for PETA 2, the youth and college arm of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the student relaxed.
“Oh, I like them,” she said, entering the PETA-themed house of animal horrors.
Students crowded into the 20-by-30-foot enclosure, divided into three rooms. The first two held informational posters on how some animals raised for food are kept in movement-restricting cages and abused and slaughtered in inhumane fashion, according to PETA. Models of fake hens were packed in a cage, their necks stretching through the wire netting.
In the third room, students sat on folding chairs, each separated from the next by wood and wire frames simulating cramped cages.
“We are really concerned about the treatment of animals in our food system,” said Lisa Hines, who works for PETA 2. “We are going all over the country, from Los Angels to the east coast.
“Most people have cats and dogs in their lives, and they are pretty shocked to see pigs and cows, which aren’t much different from pets, treated this way.”
Hines said the exhibit is booked to stop at universities that have strong student groups. Weber State’s group is Animal Unanimity (www.facebook.com/pages/Animal-Unanimity/258739501550). Its acting president is student Raychel Johnson.
“For this demographic, their perception may be that farm animals are happy,” Johnson said. “People don’t understand where their food comes from.”
Johnson said diets that include lots of meat are unhealthy, and can contribute to human health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The livestock industry also contributes to global warming, she said.
Johnson has been a vegetarian off and on for years, she said, and in May this year became a vegan.
“And I’m not dead,” she said, laughing. “People think they can’t be vegans because they will be sicklier, and that’s not true. Protein is in every living thing, and I get plenty by eating vegetables.”
Johnson said she liked the interactive exhibit, which also will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today on the campus’ Waterfall Plaza, west of the bell tower.
“It’s genius, the use of the crate seating,” she said. “It puts you in the place of the animals you’re going to be eating later today.”
Students left through the back side of the tent, and volunteers gave them PETA 2 fliers, pamphlets, stickers and the promised food: a vegan chocolate chip cookie and a strip of soy-based vegan jerky.
“It wasn’t that bad,” Tyson Tintia, 20 and from Provo, said of the jerky. “I don’t know if I could live the rest of my life eating this jerky. But they caught my attention with a big barn on campus. I had no idea. It’s sad to see what goes on and how animals are treated. We should take care of animals better.”
Will Nasilai, 18 and a recent arrival from Arkansas, was drawn in by the barn.
“I thought it was a little playhouse, and instead it was a little learning experience,” he said. “Those are real hard facts about how animals are treated. It was sad.
“I don’t like the jerky. You can tell it’s not real, and just hearing it’s vegan makes me not want to eat it. I’m not sure what I saw will impact me as much as they hope it will. Honestly, I’ll think about it today, then forget about it.”
Kalie Matthews, 18, an Ogden resident and Phoenix native, said the exhibit was well-organized.
“I learned a lot. It was disturbing. I feel bad for the animals. It changes your mindset.”
But it may not change her eating habits, Matthews said.
“I’m a carnivore.”
Ryan Huling, from PETA 2, said he doesn’t expect to change minds right away.
“I hope to plant the seed and encourage students to invest in this cause,” he said. “There’s an inherent cruelty involved in raising and killing animals for food. It’s simply not the kind of industry students want to support.”