ALENE GEORGIA ANELLO
The treatment of animals by our nation’s industries is out of line with the public’s sentiments about animal welfare. As a result, a revolution is taking place in animal law. States are enacting laws against cruel common business practices, such as harboring pregnant and nursing sows in crates too small to turn around. Meanwhile, in a backlash against animal agriculture industry to stop activists from filming and exposing inhumane farm conditions.
I value my job at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), where I work to persuade Americans to make compassionate choices. Yet, when e-mails cross my inbox about exciting developments in the law to benefit animals, I yearn to participate in the legal process. I want to help ensure new animal welfare laws are enforced and upheld, to draft necessary legislation, and to defend the right to expose cruelty. My animal advocacy work so far as shown me that positive messages alone can often convince people to do right by animals, but I have come to believe that legal protection will ultimately animals the most.
Ever since I rallied fellow sixth-graders to join a “Pigs Are Our Friends Not Our Food” club, I have been improving my skills to advocate for better treatment of animals. In high school, animal protection was a side interest. I was determined to help those in need, but I focused mainly on people in need. I led trips to serve meals to homeless people in New York City, worked with Mount Sinai School of Medicine researchers to study the causes of autism, volunteered on a child psychiatric ward, and canvassed for politicians who I thought would improve people’s lives. In college, as I watched footage of the routine cruelty on factory farms and observed firsthand how easily people can improve animals’ lives through relatively small changes, I was gradually drawn to focus on the cause of animal protection.
As a freshman, I helped convince Harvard University Dining Services to switch to about 50 percent cage-free eggs. (Harvard later went 100 percent cage-free.) I learned that, to foster change in a large institution, one must present information on public opinion, ethics, finances, and logistics. After this success, I was excited to help start the Harvard College Vegetarian Society, and eventually became its copresident. I invited vegetarian authors to speak at Harvard, showed films, and served free vegan meals. Hosting these events let me practice informative responses to questions about animal agriculture and vegan eating.
Coursework strengthened my conviction to work for animals: Neuroscience revealed to me the similarity between our brain and those of other species, and philosophy provided a framework to understand how a utilitarian concern for suffering leads to Bentham’s argument that the law should protect animals. Psychology taught me about persuasion, and portraiture taught me to foster understanding through images— a skill I practiced until my photos convinced an initially skeptical professor that animals could be the subjects of portraits.
For the past two years, at PETA, I have worked long hours to help create positive news events—such as PETA’s Person of the Year awards given to Bill Clinton and Russell Simmons — that show Americans how simple choices can help animals. I train other PETA staff to do the same. My job has taught me to craft messages that interest reporters while also conveying important information to the public. In addition to my normal work, I regularly volunteer to address allegations of cruelty that are reported to PETA. Through this work, I have experienced the limits of current animal welfare laws, but I have also learned that a knowledgeable explanation may motivate law enforcement officials to respond to animal emergencies despite the limited legal arsenal available to them.
The books on persuasive communication that I read and re-read, the lectures on advocacy that I seek out, and the discussions that I lead in my division’s monthly meetings have helped me further refine my animal advocacy skills. I have learned to give positive reinforcement, to paint a vivid picture, and to emphasize common ground.
Now, I aim to gain new, more powerful, forums through which to advocate for animals, from the courtroom to the legislature, and to participate in the HLS Student Animal Legal Defense Fund so that I can continue to advance animal protection while I learn. I am eager to join and engage the Harvard Law School community.
Every law school applicant understands the dint of their task before he or she makes moves to confront it—to succeed, he or she must offer the admissions officers a mirror into him/herself. The readers must not simply know facts about the life of the applicant; rather, they must understand the applicant, gaining insight into the candidate’s passions and desires. Only then can they know with confidence that the author of the application essay is a true fit for their school.
Doing this successfully is not always the earliest to accomplish. It is common for an essayist to appear self-important or insincere in explaining how he or she reached this point in his or her life. The quality of Alene Georgia Anello’s essay follows from the excellence in which its author avoids these traps, coming off as deeply genuine in adumbrating in detail how her life to date culminated in the desideration to attend one of the most prestigious law school in the country. This essay shows both the emotional tie Anello feels with the animal community and how she has seized every opportunity possible to do what is necessary to make the world a better place. Snippets like her reaction to videos of animal treatment get at the former; a concatenation of efforts from a sixth-grade rally to full –time work with PETA lay out the latter. At a young age, she identified a serious problem in the world around her, and she has worked tirelessly and passionately to eradicate that problem one step at a time. It is impossible to read this essay and not root for its author—to want to help her along to quench her insatiable search for righteousness.
That Anello evinces this feeling is a victory in and of itself, emboldened by the fact that her goals for attending law school are so clear in the essay. “I aim to gain new, more powerful, forums through which to advocate for animals, from the courtroom to the legislature,” she makes clear, without equivocation. Anello has her passion, evinced by a long history o commitment to change. She does not want to go to HLS to “become a lawyer” or even for the hackneyed purpose of “making a difference.” Yes, she wants to make a difference – but she knows exactly how she is going to do that, and why law school is such an important step in her grand design.
—John F. M. Kocsis