By: Forrest Teutsch
Excerpt I wrote from the GMC Journal
Every so often an opportunity arises at Green Mountain College that one simply cannot pass up because of its rare nature and its ability to act as a networking occasion for the future. This past Tuesday certainly met this criterion as a group of 16 GMC students and Professor Sam Edwards (Environmental Studies, Animal Studies) ventured to Montpelier to participate in the Humane Lobbying Day at the State House.
Students who attended represented Green Mountain’s animal studies program, ES policy, pre-law, international negotiations, public policy, and wildlife law classes. All in all, is was a good smattering of students with different backgrounds but ultimately they shared the same goal that day; to lobby for the passing of three bills related to humane treatment of animals.
The group along with about 50 other Vermonters first attended a session on the art and science of lobbying. The session was taught by professional lobbyists for the Humane Society of the United States and the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). In this session the group learned how to be effective advocates for change. The training ranged from how to be persuasive to the mechanics of how a bill becomes a law. We even watched the School House Rock classic "I'm just a bill." We learned that there were three bills related to animal welfare that were ripe for lobbying.
The three bills in question were S.237 (an act relating to civil forfeiture proceedings in cases of animal cruelty), S.126 (an act relating to the requirement that certain surgical procedures on dogs be preformed by a licensed veterinarian with appropriate anesthesia and analgesia), and H.438 (an act relating to prohibiting the use of gestational pig crates.) The first bill (S.237) appeared to hold the most promise of passing this term as evidenced by the glowing support of the state representatives and senators that the students spoke with.
For all those students who had never attended the State House before, this trip provided them with a realistic look at how laws are made and what kind of work and preparation it takes to fight for animal’s rights. Many of the students were in awe of the grandness of the State House but they did not let it intimidate them. Most of the students were able to sit in on committee meetings and later seek out and talk to their district representatives about the bills.
The best part of the trip for me was knowing that by merely attending, some of these students may have realized that this is their passion; and they will strive to speak for the animals who have no voice in legislation. We are creating the (near)-future leaders of animal rights activists right in front of our eyes.
I can only hope that this opportunity was eye opening for all students who attended the lobbying day at the VT State Legislature. The first time I went to the State House I was in awe of the spectacle of the bulding itself. It shocked me that I could walk in anytime and sit in on any committee meeting at my own free will. No metal detectors or security lines. This truley is the house for the people of the state; you've gotta love that. If you have never been, I encourage you to go to your respective state house, whether it be Vermont or Indiana. This is an opportunity for you to make changes and persuade your representatives to vote and lobby on behalf of you, as a voice of your state. It is so easy to get invovled and make changes. Go out there and make them reality.