13 June 2017: Yale-NUS students spearhead initiatives to raise animal welfare awareness on campus

By Daryl Yang | Image provided by Madeline Tan

Since January 2017, Yale-NUS students have a special meatless menu in all three residential dining halls once a week. This initiative was spearheaded by the Yale-NUS Association for the Protection of Animals (YAPAC), a student organisation that seeks to increase awareness about animal welfare issues.

According to Darrel Chang (Class of 2019), President of YAPAC, the group’s initiative received much support from the various departments on campus. “We wanted to start the initiative with one dining hall to gauge our peers’ feedback. The Dean of Students Office was incredibly supportive of the idea from the get-go. Rector McAdoo enthusiastically volunteered Elm Dining Hall for the pilot. We then rolled out ‘Green and Healthy Monday’ at Elm Dining Hall and we have not looked back since,” he reflected.

The campaign was well received by the Yale-NUS community and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Encouraged, the group worked closely with the Dean of Students Office, the Student Government and other student groups like I’dECO to roll out the initiative to Saga and Cendana Dining Halls on a weekly basis. “We are very happy and proud that the campaign turned out to be very successful.” Darrel shared. “This wonderful initiative definitely added to the students’ experience of living in a close-knit residential community, which is one of the distinct qualities of the College,” said Zoe Peters, an Associate Director in the Dean of Students Office.

Another student who was part of introducing this campaign is Madeline Tan (Class of 2019). “I think Green & Healthy Monday is the most rewarding project I have worked on so far. Seeing so many people turn up at the launch event and hearing so many compliments from people who enjoyed the food is very heart-warming and makes the work all worth it,” she shared.

Another programme that YAPAC has organised is animal therapy sessions with the Love Kuching Project, a community-based cat rescue group that organises outreach programmes such as Feline Therapy to provide human patients with therapy and promote the love of cats. The group also organises talks and other events to raise awareness about issues facing animal welfare.

As a passionate advocate for animal welfare, Darrel started volunteering with the animal rescue unit at the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) after his pet hamster passed away.

“Through the process of essentially watching her go from cradle to the grave, it eventually dawned upon me that animals are far more complex than human beings will ever be able to fathom. There is a certain beauty and fragility in that understanding. It had helped me to find myself as well as develop a profound empathy for all sentient life,” he reflected.

When asked about the group’s future goals, Darrel shared that they plan to increase awareness on handling animal-related issues to foster a more cruelty-free community. “The challenge now is to make these issues more relatable to the average person,” he said.  Plans in the pipeline for the upcoming academic year include a ‘community trail’ for incoming freshmen to introduce local animal rescues like the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). They also intend to organise an animal therapy session and a panel discussion on the state of stray dogs in Singapore, where the topics of abandonment, adoption and management will be discussed.