Need a buck for a midday vending machine snack? You're in luck. All you have to do is track down the 10 Billion Lives truck at the University of Minnesota, watch a four minute video about animal cruelty on factory farms, and accept a pamphlet about veganism with a dollar bill poking out of it.
The 10 Billion Lives Tour is part of the Farm Animal Rights Movement, a non-profit started by Alex Hershaft, a Holocaust survivor who found a a connection between concentration camps and factory farms. The tour, which is funded by private donors, started in 2012 and has been traveling the country year-round ever since.
"This campus in general has been incredibly positive. I've found that everyone's been really friendly and excited," tour operator Angie Fitzgerald says of the University of Minnesota. 10 Billion Lives tour will be back on campus on Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. before moving on to Bloomington.
On the non-profit's part, the "pay-per-view" method is a brilliant (and expensive) way to spread the word about animal abuse and veganism. Decals on the van advertise that students can earn a dollar by watching a video, but don't specify what the video is about. Willing participants are guided to one of eight video screens built beneath awnings around the van. Up to 32 people can watch the video at a time. Participants are instructed to put headphones on and enter their first names and email addresses into the system. Once they submit their information, the video begins.
If you've ever perused PETA's website, the footage shouldn't be too shocking. The video starts pleasantly enough, with healthy cows and pigs grazing in animal sanctuaries, but quickly segues into live chicks being ground alive, cows walking around with their throats slit, and pigs being circumcised without anesthesia.
It was hard to watch the video without peering over at my neighbors, a pair of pimply frat boys with their mouths hanging open. They took turns giggling out of nervousness, trying and failing to look away from the screen. On my other side, two international students shared their reactions to the video with Fitzgerald. They were horrified, shocked, and ashamed, they told her.
"People are generally shocked and saddened, but the video is also meant to be empowering," Fitzgerald says. "If people don't like it, the answer is to stop paying for it."
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