Yuma group plans to give voice to animal rights

 

It's not a club for critters, but for the humans that want to help them.

Local animal lover Tammy Snook says it's simply time that animals in Yuma County enjoy the protection of a political voice from right here at home.

That's why Snook is organizing Animal Defenders of Yuma.

The Yuma woman said she knows of a lot of animal rights activists currently working on their own.

"I think as a group we could do exponentially more things than we ever could as individuals," Snook said. "Not only would we be able to educate more people, but we'll have more clout to pressure businesses and government officials to make compassionate choices."

The first meeting of Animal Defenders of Yuma is set for 7 p.m. today at Java Oasis, 1400 S. 4th Ave.

So far the organization's human element is mostly just its founder, but Snook said she hopes that fact will change soon - especially after the meeting.

"I would like to start with 10 to 15 people," she said. "After a year, in my wildest dreams, it would be really great to have something like 20. But really, I think that as long as we have just a few really dedicated people that's all you really need."

Snook added that she expects to receive resistance from certain demographics in Yuma, but such pressure would never derail her plans.

"This is usually a big-town thing, but at the same time I think Yuma is ready for it. On the other hand Yuma has a very strong, rural agrarian presence," she said. "Yuma's farmers and ranchers have no reason to fear us, but they should listen to us. People are becoming more and more aware of the animal abuse that is going on in some cases."

Snook said her organization will be somewhat similar to well-known People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, but without some of the extreme tactics that have earned the national group a controversial reputation.

"There are a lot of things PETA does that I disagree with," she said. "They do a lot of shock-media stuff. Although it does garner attention for the issues, at the same time it's negative attention."

But if the process is different, the values and behind the two organizations will be quite similar. Snook explained that like PETA the work done by Animal Defenders of Yuma will fall into six categories: Animals as food, animals as entertainment, animals used for clothing, companion animals, wildlife and laboratory animals.

One of the group's first projects will be joining the group Arizonans for Humane Farms in a fight against boxes used to contain pregnant pigs, as well as the narrow stalls farmers use to raise veal calves.

"There are just much more humane methods. It's just not necessary."

Snook said other local issues she expects to be covered range from animals being left without proper protection from the elements to illegal dog fights.

Snook said that people sometimes shy away from animal rights because so many issues involved are unsettling to see.

"Yes, it hurts us to see their suffering, but they are the ones experiencing the suffering," she said, acknowledging that sitting silent is often easy "because animal abuse is so ingrained in our society. But it's time to stand up and say That's wrong' because these animals can't speak for themselves."

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Darin Fenger can be reached at dfenger@yumasun.com or 539-6860.

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