An undergraduate student has started a petition with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to bring an all-vegan dining hall to UC Riverside. Led by fourth-year philosophy major Donnie McMann, the petition has garnered a whopping 625 signatures since the idea was first conceived on Feb. 13.
“Factory farming is the number one cause of climate change in the world, and not only does eating meat support cruelty to animals, it also contributes to human health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, and obesity. It’s time to meet the growing student demand for delicious, nutritious vegan meals,” the petition read.
PETA is the largest animal rights organization in the United States and one of their campaigns is entitled “Go Vegan!” The campaign encourages individuals to play a role in the reduction of animal slaughter, world hunger and climate change by switching to a vegan lifestyle. Veganism is a type of vegetarian diet that does not include eggs, meat, dairy or animal-based products.
“Many are eager for getting a change. There isn’t much in place for those who want a different option,” expressed McMann. He is a former youth outreach and campaign activist for PETA who wanted to promote his cause through the petition. “Vegans and vegetarians have limited options on campus and within the dining halls they are confined to a salad bar, which is unfortunate.”
McMann hopes that UC Riverside will become the second campus in the UC system to start an all-vegan culinary dining hall. Constructed in January 2012, UC San Diego opened an exclusively vegetarian and vegan dining hall called Roots—the only one of its kind in the system.
“I think [veganism] is great. I hear about how hard [going vegan] is but my real goal is to show how normal and easy it is. It’s a greener diet and you can get healthier this way as opposed to an omnivorous diet,” stated McMann.
UCR Preventative Care Specialist Ken Stewart agreed that adopting a vegan lifestyle lowered a person’s health risks, but explained the challenges of making such an immediate transition. “The issue isn’t switching, but how a person switches. Making the switch to a vegan diet is analogous to quitting smoking: you need to plan. The more difficult part is making that lifestyle change,” he said.
At the same time, the concept of bringing an all-vegan dining hall to campus may not garner enough student interest and financial support from the overall community. “I would suggest creating an all-vegan eatery on campus first and see how it does. From a business side their focus are trends and desire. If that desire is great enough then there is a possibility,” said Stewart.
UCR Director of Dining Services Cheryl Garner spoke of the low demand for vegan food and what appeared to be the most viable dining options for the campus. “To date, we feel that when we look at the numbers [for] the overall production and areas where people are really consuming, I would still say that there’s a fairly small market. I think there’s more vegetarian then vegan. Vegan is really limited,” she said.
Garner referenced her visit to the all-vegan dining hall at UCSD, which gave her the impression that the student demand was not as high there as well. “[A vegan dining hall is] not a sole concept. I think that right now on our campus, it’s an item that needs to be integrated into the menu, but I don’t believe it’s a stand-alone concept.”
In turn, she elaborated on the customizable features of vegan meals throughout the campus, such as the vegan chicken burritos and California rolls at the HUB. “About 27 percent of the [food] products we sell on campus are either vegan or vegetarian,” said Garner. She elaborated on preliminary plans for a global cuisine truck, which is anticipated to open in the fall of 2013.
Students such as third-year Greg Thompson expressed that it was not the right time to develop an all-vegan dining hall.
“A vegan dining hall wouldn’t appeal to a mass majority of students at UCR. But they should compromise and build bigger all-vegetarian sections at the HUB or dining halls.” expressed Thompson.
Lothian Floor Supervisor and fourth-year student Derrick Truong supported the addition, but felt the idea would be a financial setback for the campus and needed to be further introduced.
“I think that people are not yet open to the idea of veganism and vegetarianism and perhaps overtime it might be more accepted,” said Truong.