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Youth form activist group to stand up for rights of animals 0

By Nicki Cruickshank, Barrie Examiner

The sight of a fur coat or sealskin garments make Taylor Marie Churchward and Ryan Couture's skin crawl.

The two Barrie residents say the thought of innocent animals dying for the sake of fashion leaves them sick to their stomachs and they're tempted to rip the clothing right off people. But they won't.

Instead, the duo and friends Katie Roulier and Angel Woodhams formed Barrie's Animal Activist's Network (BAAN) to express their distaste in an approachable manner.

"We're completely age appropriate and we're not in any way violent," said Couture, 24. "We are the voice for the animals, and we want people to understand that 300,000 seals alone will die this year. Other animals will, too."

"I've always been one to sign online petitions for animal rights groups like PETA, and I'm a member of peta2.com," said Churchward, 23. "We think it's possible to get the word out that we think (killing animals) is wrong to the public."

The group was first created last year through Facebook, but it blossomed into a full-blown activists group a only month ago.

They have held one demonstration in Barrie against seal slaughter, and a second is planned for this Saturday at the Five Points. The group will march the sidewalks with protest signs in hand to spread their message.

Churchward said support of her group is already growing.

"We had supporters of all ages at our first meeting and lots of them were hardcore animal rights activists," she said. "I believe we're the first group of this kind in Barrie, and when we walk down the street, we have people stopping us to talk about our beliefs and signing our petition."

The group's efforts convinced Lisa Seminara to join recently. The 16-year-old Barrie student had her own reasons for signing up.

"I'm a vegan, and I've been looking for a group that feels the way I do about killing animals for food or clothing," Seminara said. "My family are supportive of me joining, but they're a bit worried about me out protesting.

"Barrie really isn't that educated about animal rights issues, so I think this (group) is worth joining to get people to think about the cruelty they're supporting."

Vegans do not consume any animal products, and exclude the use of clothing made from animals.

Members pound the pavement each week, petitions and signs saying 'Stop the seal slaughter' in hand. They've held one public demonstration outside a Georgian Mall store, protesting its sale of fur coats.

But that's as pushy and aggressive as they get, yet convincing some residents of their polite protest isn't always easy.

"Activist groups often get a bad reputation because of extremist groups (like PETA) that make a bad name for themselves," Churchward said. "Their demonstrations are very graphic with blood thrown on people, and members get violent and scream at people.

"We won't do anything that would frighten children and we have a code of conduct that says no members will carry out that behaviour," she added.

One member has already been removed from the group because he tried to get members to turn to those measures, and Churchward wouldn't allow it.

More demonstrations will be planned in the future, and Churchward hopes to spread the word into local schools, as well.

"I would love to go to schools and do presentations, but we wouldn't do that until September," she said. "I would go and speak anywhere we're asked to."

The group has its own web-site, www.barrieanimalactivists.net, which just launched last Friday.

Anyone wishing to join BAAN can make a request through the site or by e-mailing a note to baan@live.ca.

ncruickshank @ thebarrieexaminer.com


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