Friday, 11 January, 2019
Marcela Kunova highlights how university students are working to create a vegan hub on campus.
Vegan activism on campuses seems to be on the rise, as most major UK universities now have a dedicated society for their vegan and vegetarian students.
Bath Spa Vegan Society
Louise Thacker studies Creative Writing, and is in her second year at university. She created the Bath Spa Vegan Society in 2016, a few months after starting her first year. She had been vegan for just over a year and there wasn’t a society for vegans, veggies or those who were interested.
Louise says, “I thought this needed to change since more young people are becoming vegan. The vegan movement is expanding and is the solution to many sustainability issues universities face.” Her aim was to create a community for positive, open-minded and compassionate people and give them a chance to meet others, share ideas and enjoy delicious vegan food together. “Also, I knew it was important for our Students’ Union and university to support the vegan movement because Bath Spa is an accepting, diverse and inclusive place,” she adds.
The Bath Spa Vegan Society started with only 20 members and is now 94 members strong. It has a committee of four, which includes Louise as president, a vice president, secretary and a treasurer. They also enjoy the support of the Students’ Union.
Birmingham Vegan Society
Anna Darke is a second year geography student at the University of Birmingham. Her university’s vegan society was created to raise awareness of vegetarian and vegan issues, organise social events such as trips to vegan-friendly restaurants, and to support those following a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.
The society has 142 members, while the number of students that attend events varies from week to week. “However, the events aren’t limited to just members,” says Anna, “and we welcome anyone who wants to come along. We run events pretty much every week in first and second term, alternating weeks between an event on campus and a visit to a restaurant. On campus we have ‘Hummus and Chill’ evenings, pizza nights, bake sales, film screenings, and discussion evenings (usually with a focus, such as animal testing). Then our restaurant trips are usually to either chains with good vegan options, or local vegan-friendly restaurants in Birmingham. Then this term, because of exams, we’re running events every couple of weeks, all focused around campus so people can take a break from revision.”
The Birmingham-based society also puts on screenings — accompanied by free vegan snacks — of films such as Cowspiracy, Land of Hope and Glory, and Simon Amstell’s Carnage, so the wider student population has the opportunity to learn about veganism. “We also run all-vegan bake sales, where we raise money for a local animal sanctuary and hand out Vegan Society leaflets. This way people can taste yummy vegan food and gain information on why veganism is so great,” adds Anna.
In Birmingham, the university’s vegan society has also organised a membership card scheme, where all of their members receive a discount at local vegan-friendly restaurants and cafes.
Louise’s plans for activism on campus include a sustainability campaign to encourage the university to add more sustainability and environmental modules for students in any subject. “It is so important young people have the opportunity to learn about how veganism is one of the major solutions to creating a more sustainable world and how they can make a difference for the planet by reflecting on their personal consumption,” says Louise. The Bath Vegan Society also formed a partnership with Animal Equality and invited them to visit their Newton Park campus for three days to share their iAnimal campaign with students. “It was an amazing experience as we reached over 200 students who used Animal Equality’s virtual reality headsets to see what it is like to be a farmed animal in the meat and dairy industry,” says Louise.
Right at the beginning of the society’s creation, they also collaborated with vegan charity Viva! who came to give a talk about veganism and the health benefits of going vegan. David Finney, a member of the Green party’s animal welfare group, also gave a talk to inform the members of how they could get involved.
Recruiting new members
At the beginning of the new academic year, The Bath Spa Vegan Society participates in an activities fair where every society has the opportunity to meet and promote their programme to new and current students. They have met and recruited most of their members through the fair, which remains the best opportunity to talk to students about the society. Throughout the year, they communicate with more students at socials and meetups and encourage the word of mouth to get new members.
“The best way for us to recruit new members is by social media,” says Anna. “We have active social media pages on Facebook and Instagram, so people are aware of when and where our events are taking place.”
Looking to the future
In the years to come, Anna wants to run more campaigns targeted specifically at animal testing on campus which, she says, Birmingham is awful for. “We also wish to increase the number of businesses offering our members discounts, so they can really get the most out of their membership.”
Louise wants to continue expanding their membership numbers and start a campaign to add more vegan options to cafes and campus restaurants. “We have a radio station as a part of our student-led media platform, Spa Life, and so there is a chance we could organise some podcasts to discuss the society and why the vegan movement is so important,” she says.
Another of their big ideas is to host a mini vegan festival on campus so the whole student community has the opportunity to try vegan food, engage with more vegans and see how much positive change a society can make when passions align. “One of my personal hopes is that the society keeps on growing, developing and challenging what it can achieve.”
If you are a student and would like support for your own VegSoc, visit: vegansociety.com/lifestyle/university-vegsocs.