EDEN VALLEY (WCCO) — In a place where livestock is a big part of the rural fabric, animal rights can be a sensitive subject. It’s one reason a group of students at Eden Valley-Watkins middle school formed a group to discuss the topic.
The group is called STAR, or students taking action for animal rights.
According to Principal Bruce Kiehn, “the purpose of the organization was to bring awareness in terms of things that animal lovers as well as individuals do to care for their pets or wild animals.”
STAR’s organizers asked the well-known animal rights group, PETA, (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) for help getting started. The Virginia-based non-profit sent the student group some literature and DVDs.
At STAR’s first meeting last Friday, six students went home with the innocent sounding video, titled, “Free for All!”
“It does not look like it would be graphic in any way,” observed parent Crystal Pastien.
However, within seconds of popping the video in, Pastien’s 13-year-old daughter was sobbing and upset. The images on the video were so violent and disturbing that she had to turn the television screen off. But even then, the images of mistreatment and slaughter were too much to forget.
“It carried throughout the weekend, she said, ‘how am I supposed to get this out of my head,’” said Pastien.
Principal Kiehn agreed and said, “it was shocking.”
The video shows disturbing scenes as raccoons are being skinned alive for their furs. Other scenes capture domestic cats and dogs, some still wearing collars, stuffed into cages and being delivered to a Chinese fur company. Other scenes on the DVD reveal livestock and circus animals being beaten with pipes.
But parents and faculty are asking what purpose is being served? If PETA’s DVD is intended to gain support for its cause, many here feel it backfired. That’s because when the video gets into the hands of underage students, it bears no written warning to inform viewers as to its violent scenes of animal cruelty.
While adults can make up their own minds about viewing such shocking and disturbing content, child viewers can be left emotionally scarred.
Says parent Pastien, “What else is on this disc they gave my kid? I could not believe what’s on there. It profoundly affected me and I had a hard time not thinking about it,” said Pastien.
The school is now attempting to collect all copies of the DVD. Principal Kiehn said the organizer of the student group meant no harm by distributing the video, adding that it should have been pre-screened by a member of the faculty before being distributed to the students.