Join the ‘FAAM’

Elise High



The beginning of this school year brought with it, not only hopes of higher GPAs and more high honor role certificates, but also an influx of clubs. Bergen County Academies currently hosts meetings for over sixty morning clubs and thirty Wednesday clubs that address everything from fundraising to chess. Few of the clubs, especially clubs started within the past school year, have gained as much prominence amongst students as the Fight Against Animal Maltreatment (FAAM) club. Aastha Jain and Myriam Burger, both sophomores in the Academy of Visual and Performing Arts, began the fight against animal maltreatment at the start of their sophomore years. They recently discussed with the Academy Chronicle the reasons why they started their club, what they have accomplished thus far, and what they plan to do in the near future.

When did you start the FAAM?

We got the idea to start FAAM towards the end of our freshman year. We really worked on planning and goals over the summer. The hard work paid off as it became a reality by the beginning of our sophomore year.

Why did you start your club?

We started talking more towards the end of our freshman year and discovered that we are both very passionate about animal rights. At Medieval Times, on the choir trip, we saw how poorly the horses were treated, as well as the excess of meat served at the fair. This was the catalyst for both of us in deciding to take action.

Have you ever thought about taking action before?

We both had always felt the need to speak out for animals. Once we discovered that we saw eye to eye on the issue, we started doing extensive research into the plethora of issues surrounding animal rights. From that we decided that FAAM needed to exist at a school that hosts so many other clubs.

What is the primary goal of the FAAM?

Our mission statement is to raise awareness for, and fight against, animal maltreatment worldwide.

Do you think you accomplished the goal thus far?

Yes. We have actually accomplished a lot with awareness of the issue of animal rights. Many people, especially those in our Wednesday club, have said how they have learned a lot of new things about animal rights and now their minds are more open to change in their daily lives. Obviously there is more work to be done – there will always be more work to be done – but things are improving, as a school community and globally.

11042990_1793642724193687_3344296435419780730_nWhat are some events you’ve had this year?

Earlier in the school year, the FAAM hosted an animal shelter drive to raise supplies for the Bergen County Protect and Rescue Foundation, which is an animal shelter right here in the county. The club put up posters around the school, that were made my club members, which had various animal rights slogans. Our first campaign was the “5 days of circus animal facts” campaign where we read over the loudspeaker a fact a day about the cruelty behind animal circuses.

We had a movie night, where we screened “Blackfish,” a documentary on the incredibly cruel treatment of whales at SeaWorld, which everyone should watch if they haven’t already. We have a second movie night coming up on June 9th. At the upcoming movie night, we plan to promote the abolition of animal circuses with a screening of the fun but relevant movie “Water for Elephants.” We held several bake sales; all of which have been largely successful.

We also had a Wednesday club assembly on factory farming featuring Eva Kalea. She is an incredible speaker from the Factory Farming Awareness Coalition.  The BCA Elephant campaign, where we are giving money towards an orphan elephant in Africa, just started. The money from our upcoming movie night and also the t-shirts we are selling will also go to the elephant (named Bokomoro).

Recently, we handed out stickers before school to raise awareness for why people should adopt and not shop for their animals. With that, we started a program where people can email the FAAM club and let us know what kind of dog or cat they want. We are committed to helping find their new pet in a shelter near them. It is a really exciting program that we hope many people will take advantage of in the upcoming months.

What do you see in the future of the club?

Next year, we definitely see it continuing as a Wednesday club. We have many more issues we hope to address more broadly including, but certainly not limited to, horse-drawn carriages, horse slaughter and horse racing, wearing fur and leather, animal testing and dissection, more work with all the animals at danger of extinction.

After that, since we will be seniors, we hope eager, passionate freshmen and sophomores will take the reigns and keep FAAM going, something that we would totally be up for helping with. Turning FAAM into a 501c non-profit organization once we finish college and doing more work with this worldwide is also something we have seriously considered and would love to do.

If there is one thing people remember from you club and it’s events, what would you want it to be?

Every single change counts. Whether it’s ADOPTING your pet from a shelter instead of buying from a store (email and we will set you up with the perfect pet for you; adopt not shop!), or whether it’s avoiding meat for a day, your change counts. We just want to point out going vegetarian is not strict. It’s not like the vegetable police will come down on you if you have a piece of chicken one night. Making an effort is what matters.

What do you think has made your club so successful?

Passion. Both of us are extremely passionate, excited, and determined to make a change. However, the reason that FAAM is able to accomplish what we have so far and be so successful is because we care. We care enough that sometimes we even put it ahead of things like schoolwork and friends and everything else because this is an issue so close to our hearts. That is really the only way to have a successful club.

Do you think people are taken aback by some of your campaigns or the assembly? 

In terms of factory farming, we both agree that there is any other way to approach the issue that would cause actual effective change then by shoving it in people’s faces. And by shoving it in people’s faces, we mean showing them the cold and hard facts. Some people are taken aback by that – being told you are knowingly participating in the inhumane slaughter of 9 billion sentient animals a year is not a fun thing to hear. They just have to put up with it because it is the truth.

What would you say to people who are angered by what the club does/says?

What FAAM says is purely the truth. And if the truth is too hard to hear, then there is only one solution. Change it. If the cruelty you were faced with at the assembly hurts you, well good new. YOU can do something about it. Go meatless. Eat less animal products. If you need help finding recipes, restaurants, good brands to buy, do not fear, for FAAM is here; email us at .