Animal rights activists representing the group Direct Action Everywhere, or DxE, dyed a fountain on Sproul Plaza red Monday and called on UC Berkeley to commit to stop purchasing from meat suppliers that allegedly raise animals on factory farms.
During the protest, campus freshman Zoe Rosenberg and alumna Cassie King, both organizers for DxE, stood inside the fountain, which had been dyed red to “resemble blood,” according to Rosenberg. The duo held placards saying “UC Berkeley Drop Factory Farms,” and the protest lasted from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and was livestreamed on DxE’s Facebook account.
“We’re asking that Cal Dining immediately drop these suppliers — Hormel, Harris Ranch and Tyson Foods — and to commit to phasing out all factory farms by the fall semester of 2021,” Rosenberg said. “We would eventually like to see them phase out animal products altogether because we believe that there’s really no humane way to raise and kill animals, and it’s just a really violent industry.”
She alleged the meat industry is a leading cause of climate change, worker exploitation and animal cruelty.
According to campus spokesperson Adam Ratliff, campus has already reviewed the meat products and sustainability portfolio information to ensure alignment with the UC Office of the President sustainability criteria. Campus prioritizes using ingredients that are locally grown, humanely treated and environmentally and socially responsible, Ratliff added, and plans to replace Harris Ranch as its beef supplier in fall 2021.
The Monday protest followed a protest at Crossroads Dining Hall, in which three UC Berkeley students, including Rosenberg, used bicycle locks to attach their necks to metal hand railings for more than 11 hours. The protestors only agreed to leave once promised a meeting with Chancellor Carol Christ.
The meeting, which was held Friday, proved to be unsatisfactory for some animal rights activists in attendance, including Rosenberg. She alleged that during the meeting, Cal Dining Executive Director Christopher Henning defended Tyson Foods, saying that it “isn’t a factory farm.”
Rosenberg further alleged that this was a “blatant lie.” Tyson is allegedly tied to a number of lawsuits, according to Rosenberg.
King said she was initially hopeful about Christ’s meeting with campus students over concerns about Cal Dining’s meat suppliers but felt that the outcome was a “slap in the face.”
“To me, it’s a sign that this allegedly progressive school is not willing to live up to its standards, and that more pressure is needed from the student body, alumni and faculty who support compassion for animals,” King said.
Campus junior Moira McMahon said in comparison to the protest at Crossroads in April, the fountain protest on Sproul Plaza is “a lot less risky” and “not as invasive.” They noted that the previous protest in Crossroads could have blocked students in wheelchairs from entering the dining hall.
Some, however, criticized DxE’s methods.
A former DxE member, who wished to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation, alleged the group’s methods rely on instilling fear in the public. They said the protest method was unnecessarily violent and “irresponsible” given that it is finals week, a precarious time when students are already stressed.
“During this heightened awareness of mass violence and crimes against humanity in the world and in the United States, you’re basically saying that UC Berkeley is full of blood, and fear really is their driving political motive,” the former DxE member said. “An organization that cares about its people and its mission would use fear as a last resort tactic.”