Cornell Students for Animal Rights and Cornell Vegan Society stood in solidarity outside of Barton Hall during Sunday’s ClubFest, bearing signs of “Burning the Amazon is Genocide” and “Take Action” to protest the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.
With the burnings of large plots of land in the Amazon, displacing indigenous people and destruction of land and wildlife, these two student groups took a stand to address the impact of meat consumption — specifically, cattle ranching — on global deforestation. Pictures and videos of thick smoke blocking daylight over entire cities in Brazil show the widespread effects of the wildfire.
Celebrities like Zendaya and Cara Delevigne, students and public figures circulated information and videos showing the forest — commonly referred to as “the Earth’s lungs” — engulfed in flames.
Amazon fires have become an increasingly urgent issue. According to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, about 72,000 fires were burning across the Brazilian Amazon at last official count, which is an increase of over 80 percent over the same period of time last year.
Alongside around eight students donning surgical masks, president of Cornell Vegan Society Lucy Contreras ’21 told The Sun how veganism has played into her activism.
Contreras went vegan when she was 15, and began spreading awareness in Chicago before continuing her activism on campus by joining the Cornell Vegan Society. Contreras is also a columnist at The Sun.
“This deforestation and this destruction is happening primarily because of cattle ranching and so I felt as Cornell Vegan Society and Cornell Students for Animal Rights, it’s our responsibility to raise awareness about this fire,” Contreras said.
President of Cornell Students for Animal Rights, Isabel Lu ’20, described her adoption of veganism after she read a study about the correlation between animal protein and cancer. She described eating meat as “very unethical and very irresponsible of us,” and detrimental to “our health, the planet, and the animals”.
As awareness movements on Amazon’s destruction went viral online, Contreras and Lu felt there was more that could be done than having people spread “Pray for the Amazon” while continuing to make choices that contribute to deforestation.
Since the beginning of 2019, about 72,000 fires have been reported. In the Amazon rainforest specifically, about half of these fires have began there, the main reason being attributed to cattle ranchers and other farmers. These fires have displaced indigenous people, wildlife, and changed the layout of the rainforest.
Contreras cited the fact that 80% of deforestation occurs due to animal ranching. It’s a multiplied effect, she noted — with the demand for meat, there is also a demand for soy, which feeds the livestock. Because of this, there is a joined interest between mass soy and cattle farmers who sell to one another.
“[There is a] neverending cycle of just deforestation and fires and destruction when people can actually be doing something about it — and stopping it — if they stop the demand for meat,” Lu said.
“I just feel like a lot of times people don’t realize that their individual actions truly make a difference,” said Contreras.“So the main takeaway for this protest is for people to know that going vegan would, in reality, make a difference.” It’s a difference that impacts not just the Amazon Rainforest fire, but also climate change in the long run, according to Contreras.
One sign read: “Climate change will force over 100 million into extreme poverty by 2030.”