As long as animal rights are threatened, Akela Baldwin ’20 will be fighting for animal justice in as many ways as she can. An aspiring animal rights lawyer, she is deeply committed to “speaking up for the voiceless” and implements her passion for animal activism throughout her life, from being vegan to being a member of Hamilton’s Environmental Action Group. This summer, she is continuing the fight through one internship at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and another at Farm Sanctuary.
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is a part of the Gateway National Recreation Area managed by the National Park Service. The refuge functions as a home to an abundance of wildlife, including egrets, skimmers, and horseshoe crabs. At Jamaica Bay, Baldwin assists Hofstra University Professor of Biology Russell Burke with his field research on diamondback terrapins. Giving her a greater scientific perspective on animal behavior, she regularly monitors the bay for terrapin movements and nesting and feeding patterns. She said, “My work at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge has also been rewarding because I contributed to protecting terrapin populations which are vital to the ecosystem.”
Major: Environmental Studies
Hometown: Honolulu, Hawaii
High School: Mid-Pacific Institute
At Farm Sanctuary, Baldwin provides for and protects rescued farm animals. Farm Sanctuary saves animals from places like stockyards, factory farms, and slaughter houses and allows visitors to tour and sponsor the animals, all while teaching about the dangers of the meat and dairy industry. Baldwin said that she enjoys the work environment at Farm Sanctuary because it reflects her interests. “Farm Sanctuary requires all staff members to live a vegan lifestyle while on the site, non-aggressively educates the public on the multitude of harms caused by the animal agriculture industry, and respectfully advocates for animal liberation.”
Baldwin’s responsibilities include taking care of various animals through activities such as cleaning their living spaces, preparing their food, and sunscreening those with sensitive skin. She also participates in weekly discussions and presentations with staff members and peer interns that address subjects like factory farming, environmental racism, and human inequality in food production. She said that both internships helped her apply her interest in environmental law and animal rights “outside of the classroom and in a very hands-on setting.”
Baldwin concluded that her internships are a part of a larger, personal goal to promote animal rights. As she moves forward in her academic and professional careers, her internships will serve as experiences she can refer to and grow from as she takes on the issues she cares most about.
“My goal is to lead a movement towards a compassionate and sustainable society. Through legal work, I plan to bring animals to the point where they don’t need to be rescued, protect our planet from the current climate change crisis, and end environmental racism which disproportionately affects people of color or low-income. ”
Baldwin is one of 200 Hamilton students conducting research or completing an internship supported by the College this summer.