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Junior to Spend August with Farm Sanctuary
July 19, 2006

A Calvin College junior and co-chair of the college’s animal advocacy organization Students for Compassionate Living (SCL) will soon depart for a summer internship at the Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York.

Bethany Bertapelle, 21, a Calvin social work and political science major from Midland, Michigan, will spend July 31 through September 1 at the sanctuary doing basic animal care and learning about animal rights advocacy. The organization rescues farm animals and educates about unjust animal husbandry practices.

“I think she'll be an excellent representative of the Calvin community,” says Matt Halteman, the faculty liaison for SCL, which educates Calvin and the wider community about animal advocacy issues. “Farm Sanctuary is on the vanguard of these issues, and it is exciting that someone from our corner of the universe will have the opportunity to see how it works from the inside.”

Bertapelle is looking forward to the chores: feeding the animals, cleaning the stalls and standing evening watches at the barns. Mainly, though she’s looking forward to the education Farm Sanctuary provides its interns.

“They have weekly meetings on how to start a farm sanctuary and about animal advocacy and the history of the movement,” she says. “I’m hoping to learn more about how a sanctuary is run, including the educational methods. I’ve talked to tons of different groups about their approaches to the advocacy perspective. It’s a big question.”

She’s also looking forward to meeting Gretchen, a pig she has been sponsoring at the sanctuary since last September.

“That will be cool,” she says simply.

Bertapelle, who lived in Montana before she moved to Michigan, has grown up around animals. Her family formerly raised sheep and pigs for 4-H projects and still keeps goats chickens and horses as pets. She grew interested in animal rights as a junior in high school.

“I saw my first slaughterhouse video in an economics class,” she explains.

After coming to Calvin, Bertapelle became a vegetarian, and after the SCL kickoff in May 2005, an event which included farm animal advocate Harold Brown, she became a vegan. “That night, actually,” she says.

The SCL, which hosts “Compassionate Comestibles” potlucks, films, lectures and other activities, has deepened Bertapelle's commitment to advocating for the well-being of non-human animals.

“I’d always seen my cat as an irreplaceable animal,” she says, “As I got more interested in issues of animal rights, I began seeing all different animals as unique, valuable individuals.”

The internship, which Halteman calls, “highly competitive,” is an honor not only for Bertapelle, he says, but for the SCL as well.

“In less than a year's time, this new organization has helped a student leader to realize her dream of working in a premiere animal advocacy organization. It’s not just about one person’s success. It’s about the success of the community in which she works on these issues.”

Though she currently plans on attending graduate school in social work and is drawn to working on issues of homelessness after she graduates Calvin, Bertapelle says, “Even if it’s not part of my career, I think I’m always going to be involved with the animal rights movement.”

~written by media relations staff writer Myrna Anderson