Twins go to work for PETAIf you had told Duluth East High School graduates and identical twins Elisa and Emily Allen 10 years ago that they would both work for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, they probably wouldn’t have believed you
By: Lisa Baumann, New Richmond News
DULUTH, Minn. – If you had told Duluth East High School graduates and identical twins Elisa and Emily Allen 10 years ago that they would both work for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, they probably wouldn’t have believed you.
“It wasn’t planned at all or anything, but it sort of worked out that way,” said Elisa Allen, who has worked as the office manager for PETA U.K. in London for more than two months. “The job opened up in PETA and sort of fit right.”
On Sunday, Allen took part in her first large-scale public demonstration: against the abuse of bulls at the San Fermin fiesta in Pamplona, Spain. The nine-day fiesta is best-known for the “running of the bulls,” in which thousands of people are chased by bulls through the city’s historic quarter. It’s common for runners to be gored in the annual dash. The animals are killed later in the day in bull fights that Allen described as “brutal.”
Despite Allen’s stance — which involved lying on the cobblestones of Pamplona along with 89 other protesters — the first running of the bulls took place Wednesday. The only injuries were by people trampling one another.
The animal-rights groups, dressed only in underwear and body paint, lay on the ground in the shape of a bull. Allen wore brown body paint, while some were painted red to symbolize injuries suffered by the bulls each year.
“It was pretty inspiring to meet so many people who are passionate,” she said. “It gives hope that bull fighting is near its end. It should have been relegated to the history books years ago.”
She said many people buy tickets for the bull fights but leave after the first 15 minutes “because they’re so horrified by what they’re seeing. So we’re really trying to reach people before they enter the bull ring.”
In a previous PETA project, Allen dressed in clothing made entirely from lettuce to promote a vegetarian diet.
“That was more fun,” she said. “Most people talked to us because they thought the lettuce was interesting.”
The 2000 Duluth East grad took the PETA U.K. job after finishing a master’s degree in public advocacy and activism at the National University of Ireland.
Sister Emily Allen has been more involved at the local level in the past five years at PETA’s office in Norfolk, Va.
Her work involves rescuing animals in a hands-on fashion. Their focus is on improving living conditions for dogs that live outside, providing bedding, replacing chains with lighter gear and bringing dogs and cats to be spayed and neutered.
The sisters’ passion for animals developed gradually, Elisa said. She and her sister grew up eating meat and having barbecues, “like everyone else.”
When she was 12, a friend who was a vegetarian, told her exactly what was in a hot dog.
“That was the catalyst,” she said. She became a vegetarian shortly thereafter, and eventually her sister and parents, followed. The twins also volunteered at Animal Allies, and the family adopted two dogs from the shelter.
“Our entire family has participated in circus protests,” Emily said. “I’m actually quite jealous of (Elisa’s demonstration in Spain). I wish I could have made it to Spain for it.”
Their parents, Mike and Gabrielle Allen, said they’ve learned a lot from their daughters.
“We never imagined they would end up at PETA but we’re very proud of them,” Mike Allen said.
Lisa Baumann is a reporter at the Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.