Muscovy ducks and lizards were not the only animals wandering around campus this week.
While donning a cow suit, Shannon Soper encouraged students to sign a petition for increased vegan options on campus this past Monday and Tuesday. The petition was organized by peta2, which is the youth outreach group for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, known as PETA.
Vegan options on campus have been a concern for many students for the past few years. Peta2 hosted a similar protest last spring semester but returned this semester because the group did not see as much change as they hoped for, said Soper, peta2’s campus outreach coordinator.
Junior Blake Simmons, the president of Students Helping Animals, struggled to find vegan food while living in Stanford during his freshman year.
“If you live in the dorms you’re required to have a meal plan,” said Simmons. “I was going to Whole Foods every Friday and shoving it into my little refrigerator. That $5000 meal plan was going out the window.”
After peta2 came to campus last year, Simmons sat down with the Dining Services Department to discuss vegan options.
“I met with the head of Chartwells and he brought out a list and checked all things that were vegan,” he said.
According to Simmons, the next step “was to let everyone know up front what is vegan, what is vegetarian, and what’s not.”
After the meeting, dining services made changes to the labels on the food in the dining halls. Last February, Chartwells introduced the Balanced U Program, which introduced an icon system that clearly labels vegan and vegetarian options in the dining halls.
“It encourages students to make better choices in food selection,” said Ana Alvarez, UM’s director of auxiliary services. “This has been a great feature for students who would like to identify what vegan and vegetarian options are available.”
In addition to changing the labeling, additional vegan options were added.
“The concept called Terra Ve serves only vegetarian options, of which over 60 percent…are vegan,” Alvarez said.
Currently, one soup per day is vegan, and the concept called Sandwich Central has a daily vegan sandwich. Additionally, students have the option to create vegan salads and stir-fry.
Even with these changes, some students feel that the vegetarian section as a whole needs more variation.
“I don’t eat at the dining hall because, ninety percent of the time, the vegetarian food that is there is tofu,” sophomore Bharathi Subramanian said. “Just because I’m a vegetarian doesn’t mean I like tofu. Other than that, it’s fries.”
Like Subramanian, Simmons desires more options in the dining hall.
“I would love for a full vegan stand where every day is something different,” he said.
Other students feel that the labeling system needs improvement.
“The section that usually has vegetarian and vegan food is sometimes a safe bet – I’ve eaten there a few times with food that was labeled as vegan, but actually had cheese or other animal products in it,” junior Stephanie Kryzak said.
Simmons plans to send the petition, which got more than 1,000 signatures, to dining services.
“We will send the petition just to say, ‘Hey, we still have a big amount of vegans who would like more options,’” he said. “We plan on peta2 coming back every semester to show that it’s not a disappearing trend.”