Fantastic beasts and how to protect them: Greeley Central graduate inspired by Harry Potter creates foundation for animal rights
January 8, 2018
It's easy, perhaps too easy, for one thought to come to your head when you're looking over one of Tylor Starr's latest ideas to raise awareness about animal rights.
Is he serious?
Starr graduated from Greeley Central in 2010, and since then he's built a reputation as a leader in animal rights activism, a rare species in this city. He now runs the youth outreach program for PETA2, the youth organization for the outspoken People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. He protested KFC and McDonald's in Greeley and founded Colorado Animal Rights Enthusiasts, a student organization for animal rights, while he attended the University of Northern Colorado.
UNC's student representative for PETA2 at the time said Starr was the most active student activist she knew. She also said he "wasn't afraid to ruffle feathers."
“I thought if there was some way to channel this enthusiasm and make the world a better place while having fun, well, why not?
— Tylor Starr, founder of Fantastic Beasts Foundation
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Now in his spare time from working for PETA2, Starr founded and runs the Fantastic Beasts Foundation, an organization that "fights for magical creatures." He founded it in 2015, and yes, he's 100 percent serious.
The organization tries to save real animals, not hippogriffs. It does do real work in the real world. But as intense as Starr may seem, he also takes his fun seriously. Starr also launched a Quidditch club at UNC when he was a freshman. Quidditch, as you probably know, and Fantastic Beasts come from the world of Harry Potter. He loves Harry Potter. He's an activist, but he's also a geek and unafraid to admit it.
Starr didn't find a way for students to ride waxed brooms and chase golden snitches, but they did play a form of the game at UNC against other teams. The authenticity of it wasn't the point. He had fun sharing his love of Harry Potter with other students. It also formed the beginning of an idea.
The idea for Fantastic Beasts came to him one night while waiting in line in a rowdy crowd for a midnight showing of the latest Harry Potter movie at the Greeley Mall.
"I thought if there was some way to channel this enthusiasm and make the world a better place while having fun, well, why not?" Starr said.
The approach of his own organization, he admits, is a little silly, but it's also not as crazy as it seems: The fandom movement is also something that's catching on in the activism world. The tone is more lighthearted and far different than PETA's approach, where Starr and others once sat in front of SeaWorld's float at the Rose Bowl parade in 2014, but the message is the same: He wants to change the world for animals.
Since he launched the organization two years ago, he's hosted campaigns and raised nearly $1,000. The campaigns are fun and connected to Harry Potter in some way. His latest, to save rhinos in South Africa, gave every person who sent a "howler," an angry letter in Harry Potter's world, a chance to win a signed wand from Devon Murry, who played Seamus Finnigan in the movies.
Starr, who is now 25 and lives in Los Angeles, thinks the fandom approach has a chance to reach people who otherwise may not get involved in causes such as animal rights. Another example is the 501st Legion, a group of Star Wars fans who dress in authentic Stormtrooper costumes and do charitable work and causes.
It is not meant to replace the stronger, in-your-face activism of PETA.
"There's place for both those approaches," Starr said.
But the fandom approach is catching on, and Starr hopes to soon found a non-profit that develops the sort of fandom campaigns for other non-profits similar to the one he started himself with the Fantastic Beasts Foundation.
Activism doesn't have to involve protesting outside a fast-food restaurant, although it certainly can be that. Sometimes, Starr said, it's as simple as pretending that you're reaching for the sky on a broom.
— Staff writer Dan England is The Tribune's Features Editor. His column runs on Tuesday. If you have an idea for a column, call (970) 392-4418 or e-mail email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ DanEngland.