After the Rectorial election coverage, I was keen on writing something a bit less serious. My wish was granted in a pitch from my editor which I snapped up as quickly as I could: an on-campus fundraising event which boasts anti-stress Alpacas, part of a week of such called Raising and Giving (or RAG) Week on campus at Glasgow University sparked digital controversy as a flurry of animal rights activists descended upon the event’s page, citing concerns for the animals’ welfare at being put on display in an urban environment. Read about the Alpacalypse here.
It is important to note that I am very much a proponent of enforcing and expanding animal rights, and would not take a humorous tone unless I felt it was doing no harm to the situation. It is also important to note that I am in favour of education on animals, and feel that this event will not harm the beasts in question. The owner of the animals reached out to the organizers of the event to assuage the fears of those expressing concern: explaining how, among many other points, her Alpacas were accustomed to going into urban environments for educational events and as such, are not your garden-variety Camelid. But many students weren’t convinced, and then things got heated…
“Concerns as far-reaching as the alpacas’ distance from their native habitat in Peru to those more focused on addressing the animals’ immediate stress levels at being introduced to a heavily urban environment have been voiced, with many suggesting the exploitative nature of the event and rebuking the idea of animals being put on display for human enjoyment. Several attendees in favour of the event have returned these concerns by satirising the concerns of the minority – asking for the alpacas’ stance on fracking, demanding SRC release the wage allowances of the alpacas in question, and more. On social media, the “alpacalypse” unfolded by way of comments, hashtags, and all-out tagging war.”
In a statement for the Glasgow Guardian given by the Vice President of Student Activities, Mhari Harris also detailed the precautions taken in planning the event and reassured students that no Alpacas would be in any way harmed in the making of this charity event.
I feel it is probable that anyone looking at the breadth of my coverage for the Glasgow Guardian thus far may suggest that I have been demoted in covering this event (which, I feel, is an added, entertaining benefit to having done so): going from writing on political protests, Glaswegian culture, more reflective pieces, election coverage and more to a digital exchange belonging in many ways to the theatre of the absurd. On the contrary, this event gave me the rare opportunity to feel a connection with my physical home from abroad.
Connecticut communities are absurd, quirky, and often very strange places to live, and having grown up in one for the entirety of the first two decades of my life and more, I have been trained to recognise Connecticut-brand-absurdity like a pro. This event, while of course important to cover in its own right, fit that bill precisely.
I’ve been away from home in some incarnation for what feels like a very long time, and am glad to have had the opportunity to highlight a bit of an absurdist controversy in the wake of a contentious election season. Read up on other insights into life in Glasgow on the Glasgow Guardian’s website and support student journalism.