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October 1995
From Worriers to Warriors: The Student Animal Rights Movement

By Danny Seo



At only twelve years of age, Danny Seo founded a small, grassroots students group called Earth 2000. Today, Earth 2000 is a national organization. Danny gives us an idea of how you can make a difference.

I have many faces. I am the national president of an animal rights group, an educator to thousands of students, a spokesperson to the media, and an activist for animals. I am also eighteen years old. My name is Danny Seo and I head the nation’s largest, fastest growing teen-advocacy organization working actively for animals: Earth 2000.

This article, I have decided, is my effort to let all of you intelligent, compassionate, caring people become aware of the powers student activists possess and all of the steps we have taken to make our world a little bit less cruel.

Members of Earth 2000 (and I reckon other student activists as well) are young, articulate, dedicated, committed individuals who believe in animal rights. These influential teenagers are convinced they can do something to help animals and are taking critical steps to solve the crisis.

Students are making their voice heard. In Washington DC in 1993, thirty protesters gathered around the Danish Embassy to protest the killing of pilot whales in the Faroe Islands. Inevitably, this became a media field day causing newspapers throughout the United States and Europe to tell its readers about the cruel whale hunts. Earth 2000 gained much needed recognition, pressured Denmark to take action and inspired thousands of Americans to write letters to the Danish Embassy to stop the pilot whale massacre.

Students are powerful consumers. Because many teenage shoppers look for labels like “cruelty-free” and “not animal-tested”, many leading retail and cosmetic companies are responding with permanent bans on animal testing. Also, because these same young adults object to the purchase of clothing made with leather or fur, many retail chains are now refusing to design with these questionable materials. Yet, those companies that continue to depend on animal testing and peddle fur, have paid the gravest price: consumer boycotts. For example, Earth 2000 is waging a campaign against the 834-chain Lerner New York company, a haven of teenage fashions, for using real fur in a line of winter bomber jackets. Hundreds of students have signed postage-paid comment cards (compliments of Lerners) announcing they would boycott Lerners until the fur scam ceases. Parents have even returned their Lerner charge cards to protest the company’s lack of compassion. It will only be a matter of time until the company, like many others, pledges to be fur-free.

However, the movement does have its setbacks. Too often our tireless work and campaigning has been reduced to photo opportunities and “kiddy” issues. Because every elected official wanted to be seen on the six o’clock news with us to help their public relations image, we were unable to accomplish any legislative changes at all. Essentially, we had acquired a “cute” image. The problem lies in the creation of other national students’ groups (organized and headed by adults and corporations that will remain nameless) that did nothing more than raise enormous amounts of funds to produce coloring books and glossy membership cards. These groups (who didn’t even address the issue of animal exploitation) created the standard of all youth organizations. And, because we worked with “fuzzy little” animals, we acquired an even cuter image (despite our track record of controversial campaigns).

I suppose being cute isn’t a terrible image (even though the majority of Earth 2000 members drive cars and are finishing their Senior year in High School). It does make it easier to have our campaigns addressed in newspapers and television without too much of a hassle. However, how would you react to condescending tones from an elected official when you’re trying to get a bill out of committee? I rest my case.

Another challenge — and perhaps the biggest one of all — is the lack of funding for student-run campaigns. Almost every single national animal-rights group depends heavily on their members (mostly adults) for funding. On the other hand, most student activists are reluctant to give up their hard-earned money as a donation, when they could instead purchase a new pair of jeans or buy the latest compact disc. For example, Earth 2000 — with its thousands of members across the United States — barely survived in 1995 on a budget of a few thousand dollars. We depended on the kindness of many national animal rights organizations to fund us in our times of need.

The solution? I have spoken to other student activists across the United States and discovered one common answer: students must pay membership fees like their adult counterparts. Earth 2000 has recently required a $15 annual due to be a member of our organization. We realized we would not survive past the year 2000 if we continued to make membership fees voluntary.

Isn’t it sad that the biggest challenge would revolve around money? (Believe me, I hate admitting it.) And, as much as I would like to admit that the energy and enthusiasm of students would make our movement succeed, it simply isn’t true. With the establishment of a firm financial foundation, and the continued growth of student interest in animal rights, we will see an incredible improvement within the animal rights movement. But, this growth would do more than support the present movement, it would affect generations to come.

By supporting the students movement today, we are not merely endorsing campaigns that react to present problems, but we are establishing the building blocks that will ensure a future, compassionate society. We will see these young adults ripen into individuals who believe in animal rights, who will then teach non-violence and compassion to their children from where it matters most: their hearts.

Now is the time for the student movements to grow. We have stopped being worriers and become warriors for animals. We are creating a new energy of hope, change and inspiration. We’re taking on the bad guys who exploit animals. We are cautious, vocal consumers. We have many faces. We’re presidents of animal rights groups, educators to thousands of students, spokespeople to the media, and activists for animals creating the almost magical powerhouse force known as the students animal rights movement.

Danny Seo, aged 18, is the national president and founder of Earth 2000 National. Earth 2000 started as a school organization until its high school decided to disband the organization because of its animal rights philosophy. Later that year, it became a national organization. Write: P.O. Box 24, Shillington, PA 19607.


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