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Seth Grande wins PETA’s Student Leadership Award for work with cage-free eggs

Published: March 4, 2011
Section: Features

It is no secret that Brandeis’ campus is filled with students who are passionate about social action and social justice. There are always a few students, however, whose passion and drive push them ahead of all the rest; and even on a campus like Brandeis, Seth Grande ’12 is no ordinary activist.

Just a few weeks ago, Brandeis student Seth Grande—along with several other students from campuses across the country—was awarded the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Student Leadership Award.

According to the PETA press release, the Student Leadership Award “recognizes students who have made tangible progress in reducing animal suffering and advancing animal welfare on their campuses in 2010.”

Grande received this honor as the result of his impressive work; he worked to make Brandeis commit to switching to exclusively serving cage-free eggs in all dining halls starting in August of 2011.

Grande, along with the Brandeis Real Food Coalition—a non-chartered student organization started this past fall—successfully brought Brandeis to this point.

Grande was inspired to complete this by previous campaigns at Brandeis dedicated to bringing cage-free eggs to campus. He specifically cited Max Roberts ’10, a friend of his, as a major inspiration for the initiative.

As a result of the past campaigns of Roberts and others, cage-free eggs were made available on campus in all dining halls, but not exclusively. Grande explained that the option to go cage-free was not advertised and that most students were unaware of the option.

The initiative started with a group of students drafting a petition that dining services go exclusively cage free. They would solicit signatures and—once they reached a great enough number—submitted it to dining services to prove students support the campaign.

At first, the project seemed ambitious and was met with resistance from administration; however, before long, the petition had received about one-third of the student body’s signatures.

Once student support was clear, Grande and other members of the Real Food Coalition met with dining services and members of the university administration to work out if the change would be feasible.

The main concern holding the success of the initiative back was the question of cost and whether or not students would be comfortable absorbing the extra cost of the switch.

As a result of this uncertainty, Grande and the Real Food Coalition were charged with gauging whether or not students would be willing to pay as much as three times the price for cage-free eggs.

With the help of a Student Union poll, Grande was able to successfully prove student support. The combined weight of the survey, a unanimous student union senate resolution, and the support of administration and dining services all contributed to the realization of Grande’s vision of a cage-free campus.

Grande, an International and Global Studies major, says that his passion for animal rights didn’t originate at Brandeis. He has been a vegetarian on and off since age 12, and he transitioned to being fully vegan once he entered his first year at Brandeis. He says that his passion for animal rights was born out of the value system instilled upon him by his parents.

He said that—although vegetarianism and veganism is more than common in his home-town of Seattle—there was something about the openness of the community at Brandeis that helped him to commit fully to the vegan lifestyle.

This past summer Grande interned for PETA and, a few weeks ago, Grande continued his involvement with PETA by participating in their “Fur-Out, Love-In” campaign.

As a part of the campaign, Grande stripped down to his underwear and cozied up to fellow PETA volunteer, Lauren Quillo, on urban street corners all across the Midwest.

The couple cuddled on air mattresses outside in the freezing cold and—along with other PETA volunteers—handed out literature about animal cruelty.

This semester, Grande is studying abroad in Israel in an environmental studies program.

The program allows students from North America, Europe, Israel and its surrounding countries to examine environmental problems that affect the entire globe and focuses on using these common problems as a common ground for inter-cultural dialogue.

Post graduation, Grande is interested—not surprisingly—in working in animal rights.

Though the idea of life after Brandeis is daunting, Grande feels like the question “doesn’t inspire as much fear” in him as it does in many of his peers. Grande is confident in his commitment to making the world a better place for animals, and it is clear that he will do just that.