Animal defender

Natalie Van Brocklin

Photo By Carli Cutchin

Natalie Van Brocklin is president and co-founder of On Behalf of Animals, a newly formed student organization at the University of Nevada, Reno. Van Brocklin, who is in her junior year at UNR, is a political science major, a longtime vegetarian and, of course, a devotee of the animal kingdom. The organization, the first of its kind on record at UNR, is designed to assist local non-profit organizations like Animal Ark and Wildlife Rescue and to help educate UNR students on animal-related issues. Even in its infancy, Van Brocklin says, On Behalf of Animals is thriving. There are already 18 members, and that’s without official recruiting; students have been drawn in simply through word of mouth.

How did the idea for On Behalf of Animals come to you?

I was at [an] Earth Day [celebration]. I was going around to all the tables and met Wendy Sims [now vice president of On Behalf of Animals]. We sat down, put our heads together and busted out a constitution. It’s so great because we had the same vision.

And what’s that?

To help animals. To make sure nothing illegal is going on. [For instance], if there’s a local zoo, to make sure animals are being treated in a humane manner. To educate the community and the student body that animal abuse is illegal, and if animals are abused, we have every right to call the authorities. We want to be a liaison with UNR [to the community] on animal-related issues.

What kind of issues?

There’s a feral cat rescue mission. We capture the wild cats around the UNR area. We can’t really give them homes, [but we] spay and neuter them.

How has being an animal lover shaped your lifestyle?

I became a vegetarian when I was 12. [And it shapes my lifestyle] through volunteering, through just being a humane and compassionate person.

So it means more than just loving the family dog?

When I was 12, [my family] was eating steak for dinner, and I just stopped. I just couldn’t do it. I started reading literature about [vegetarianism]. I love all animals. It’s not like, “snakes are gross” or “spiders are gross.”

So have you had pet snakes and spiders?

No, they take too much time.

Do you have a pet now?

Yeah, I have a cat named Luna, a rescued cat. You know how most cats come to “Kitty, kitty, kitty"? Well, she comes to “Luna, Luna, Luna.”

You said you don’t eat meat. Do you wear leather?

No, I don’t wear leather. It’s so easy not to wear leather today. So much is made from synthetic materials. And I haven’t adopted the vegan lifestyle, but I’m slowly going that way. But I don’t want people to say, "I can’t join On Behalf of Animals because I’m a red-blooded meat eater." Anyone can join.