Haley Huamani outside Jepson Hall

Haley Huamani, '22

April 11, 2022
Animal rights advocate researches factory farming

On her drive to and from her high school in the rural suburb of Gladstone, N.J., Haley Huamani, ’22, enjoyed seeing cows munching grass while their calves cavorted in green pastures. This was how she pictured farms and farming, she said.

Until she watched a documentary on factory farming during her first semester at University of Richmond.

“The contrast was so sharp,” Huamani said. “The film showed thousands of cows, pigs, and chickens confined in tiny spaces. I decided to become a vegetarian and thought about how I could incorporate my newfound interest in factory farming into my leadership studies and political science majors.”

She has done that, in part, through two thesis research projects.

For her Jepson School of Leadership Studies honors thesis, Huamani is evaluating consumer behavior regarding the cumulative impact of industrial farming. In addition to violating animal rights, factory farming contributes to environmental degradation and poor human health, she said.

“In America, 95 percent of our meat is produced through industrial farming,” she said. “Crowded conditions make it more likely for a disease to jump from the animals to human workers. Swine flu started this way. Given this, why aren’t consumers more concerned?

“Yet telling Americans to stop eating meat has not been a successful strategy,” she continued. “Can we effect change by instead asking people to buy more meat produced locally and sustainably?”

She hopes to answer that question through her honors thesis research, for which assistant professor of leadership studies Haley Harwell serves as her faculty mentor.

Huamani tracked the shopping habits of 100 meat-eating survey participants for two weeks by collecting their grocery receipts. Next, survey participants watched an industrial-farming documentary. Then she divided them into three groups: a control group, a group she asked to consume only meat produced locally and sustainably, and a group she asked to become vegetarian or vegan.

In the following two weeks, she again tracked survey participants’ shopping habits through their grocery receipts to determine if the movie and the follow-up requests made of the second and third groups affected their purchasing habits. She will present her findings on April 22 at the Jepson Research Symposium.

Last semester, Huamani explored the politics of factory farming through her political science thesis, with associate professor of political science Tracy Roof serving as her faculty mentor. Specifically, she researched the impact of the increase and diversification of interest groups on the crafting of policies related to the animal agricultural industry.

“In the early 1900s, the animal agricultural industry exercised considerable control over government policy,” the Richmond senior said. “Although the industry still devotes big dollars to sway policy, activist groups have made an impact on the policy sphere in recent years. Also, the effect of big agriculture on climate change has prompted many politicians outside the Midwest to get involved in farming policy.”

Huamani is considering a legal career after graduation as a way to bring together her two majors to work on curbing factory farming and advocate for animal rights.

“When you are facing a massive problem,” she said, “you will never find a solution if you don’t consider multiple perspectives. In my political science classes, I learned about how government structures and policies work. In my leadership studies classes, I learned to apply the lenses of ethics, psychology, economics, and history to these issues.”