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The Beginnings of the Unitarian Universalist Animal Ministry (Formerly known as UFETA)

In 1986 four friends in New York City who cared deeply about animals formed the core group of what was initially called UUFETA, Unitarian Universalists For the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Two of them, Constance Young and Marilyne Mason, described themselves as "cat and dog rescuers," but were more than that. Connie was a science writer who worked for Friends of Animals and Marilyne was an attorney who founded Legal Action for Animals and taught at the Brooklyn Law School. The other two, Sheila Dines and Barbara Munves, were both longtime animal advocates from the UK, and committed vegetarians.

In the late 1970s Connie was looking for a church when she saw the Sunday program at Fourth UU Society of New York would be featuring speaker on vegetarianism. Already on the road to veganism, she remembers seeing a bumper sticker: "If you love animals called 'pets,' why do you eat animals called 'food'?" That and the Sunday speaker challenged her to action. She found the minister, Rev. Bob Hemstreet, and the congregation very animal friendly. The breadth of concern for justice she found at the church led her to join.

Sheila Dines and Barbara Munves had known Marilyne and the four formed an immediate friendship based on shared beliefs. All four joined the UU Church close to their homes in Flushing where the minister, Rev. Bob Hemstreet, and the congregation were supportive of animal concerns. UUFETA was formed in 1986.

In 1987 the first program at General Assembly (in Little Rock that year) was presented. It was called Compassionate Consumerism and the panelists were Ingrid Newkirk, the President of PETA; Neal Barnard, chair of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine; and Marilyne Munves, President of UFETA. Fine programming continued at subsequent General Assemblies, featuring Professor Tom Regan, often described as "Founder of the Animal Rights Movement;" John Robbins, Jim Mason, Rue McClanahan, and Howard Lyman among others.

Ultimately the energy of these four friends waned and the group drifted apart (though they remain in touch). Connie Young wrote, "I was very gratified when Rev. Gary Kowalski became interested. I'm 78 years old now and living in rural New York, where I'm on the Board of the Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society and subscribe to a CSA that supplies good recipes with its produce. I find a lot of hope in the Meatless Monday Campaign, and the public stance taken by celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres. Our time has come!" After Rev. Kowalski served for many years as President, Rev. LoraKim Joyner headed the Board of Trustees for 8 years. During this time UFETA was influential in getting the delegates to approve Global Warming and Ethical Eating as Study Action Items. We have steadily grown our General Assembly presence through outstanding exhibit booth activities headed by Board Member Charlie Talbert, and his spouse, Vicky Talbert. After much research, discussion, and deliberation in the fall of 2009 UFETA changed its name to UU Animal Ministry. This new name reflects more truly our commitment to our congregations as we assist them in their faith development and outreach regarding the First Principle, the inherent worth and dignity of all beings. This coming year marks our 25 year anniversary. As Connie Young said, 2011 promises to be a wonderful year, for not only has our time come, but so has the time for nourishing all life.

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