Alexandria Beck ('14) received an email from Bill McNeace, the Dining Services Director at the time, in January 2014 informing her that UNT would be transitioning to completely cage-free eggs. She's spent much of her senior year campaigning for all five dining halls to go cage-free as part of an advocacy group she'd started called Mean Green for Animals (MGFA). She gathered signatures and recruited students to join the group. She even attended meetings with McNeace and spoke to news outlets.
It was that first large-scale victory that fueled Beck's desire to embark on a career in animal activism. Five years later, she's now the director of the Open Wing Alliance (OWA), a campaign to free egg-laying hens that is part of The Humane League, an international nonprofit organization whose mission is to end the abuse of animals raised for food.
"Our first step toward achieving the end of abuse of chickens worldwide is eliminating battery cages from our world," Beck says. "We're working toward achieving that vision, one corporate cage-free policy at a time."
Beck has always had compassion for animals, a mentality modeled for her by her mother who has been a vegetarian since before Beck was born. As a child, she remembers watching her mother leave flyers warning about animal abuse on cars parked outside a McDonalds.
"My mom is the biggest animal lover I know and my greatest influence," Beck says. "Her actions and lessons inspired my decision to stop eating animals at an early age."
After studying environmental ethics at UNT, and working with professors Suzanna Enck and Megan Morrissey, who both teach communication, feminism, gender and animal rights courses, her passion for animal advocacy grew.
"Professor Enck and Professor Morrisey were both very supportive of my interest in animal rights and feminism, and encouraged me to pursue activism outside of the classroom," Beck says.
Those lessons, along with the ones she learned about organizing and mobilizing people around a single cause while running MFGA, helped prepare Beck for her current role. OWA's persistence has led to Kraft Heinz, Nestle, General Mills, Hills, Best Western and dozens more of the world's biggest companies to agree to go cage-free.
"We choose to focus on helping egg-laying hens because right now, across the globe, billions of hens are confined in cruel cages that don't allow them to express any of their natural behaviors," Beck says. "There are over five billion hens, and the majority of those are kept in cages so small, they are unable to spread their wings."
While OWA has made significant progress, they still have a long way to go, Beck says.
"Together, all 80 coalition groups have secured over 1,600 cage-free commitments, and we're just getting started," she says. "OWA groups won't stop working until our shared vision is achieved."