As students of UC Davis, we carry the honor of being called Aggies — but don’t forget the root of this title. We call ourselves Aggies because of our agricultural readiness and abundance of farms. According to peta2, more and more UC Davis students are taking this a step further and going vegan, awarding our university as runner-up in the nationwide most vegan-friendly college contest.
The vegan station in the dining commons, the ASUCD Coffee House’s great variety of vegan meals, the Davis Food Co-op and city events like the farmers market have fostered the local vegan culture in recent years.
“[Turning vegan] had always been in the back of my head because of animal cruelty and films like Food Inc., but the UC Davis dining commons gave me that small push that I needed,” said John Caccamo, a second-year biological sciences major and vegan of one year. “The Blue Onion’s wide selection of vegan foods made the choice much easier by exposing me to delicious foods I didn’t know I could eat if I became vegan.”
While the dining commons are not easily accessible for students without a meal plan, there are many vegan options at the ASUCD Coffee House (CoHo), serving tofu or other vegan-friendly replacements at nearly every food station.
“I love the vegan food that they sell at the CoHo,” said Jessica Villa, a third-year political science and sociology major and vegan of four years. “Some of my favorites include the vegan pho, the tofu platters and the vegan burritos. Of course, you can always get a salad, but the CoHo does a really good job with the vegan varieties they offer.”
A common problem for newly established vegans is being ignorant of what you can and cannot eat. According to Villa, many people are intimidated by turning vegan because they are afraid they will never have the opportunity to taste good food ever again.
“People have this wrong notion that we only eat salad. I don’t eat salad and I’ve been a vegan for a long time. There is plenty of great vegan food out there and the CoHo is an example,” Villa said.
Caccamo believes that another reason why it is difficult to become vegan is a lack of passionate, personal desire. For many, veganism is only a trend that lasts a brief period. He said people who are considering veganism should have a more personal reason to become one rather than just to follow a trend.
“I saw several videos on animal cruelty; the way they treated [the animals] was so inhumane that it made a huge impact in my life. Also, at Warped Tour, I was surprised by the amount of bands promoting veganism,” Villa said. “These two events are the reasons why I decided to change my diet on a personal level.”
The impact of going vegan or vegetarian is not only limited to the individual’s diet, but it also affects the environment and the planet as a whole.
“Vegans save more than 100 animal lives every year, simply by leaving meat, dairy products and eggs off their plates, [decreasing] support of an industry that slaughters 1 million animals every hour and devastates the environment,” said Ryan Huling, manager of College Campaigns & Outreach People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. “According to the United Nations, factory farming is one of the biggest contributors to the most serious environmental problems at every level — from local to global. Going vegan is the best way for students to combat this devastation, while also keeping off the ‘freshman 15’ and helping reduce animal suffering.”
Not surprisingly, Huling said that UC Davis has earned praise in recent years for its wide array of vegan food, showing that Aggies are following suit on a larger national trend.
“According to a study by food-service provider Bon Appétit, the number of college students who identify themselves as vegetarian has risen by 50 percent since 2005 and the number of vegan [students] has more than doubled during the same period,” Huling said.
UC Davis has adopted vegan culture and turned it into Aggie culture. The institution’s prevalent awareness of the environment has located us as national leaders of eco-friendly behaviors and innovations.
“The vegan revolution is in full swing,” said peta2 associate director Marta Holmberg in a press release. “Nowhere is that more evident than at UC Davis and other schools across the country.”
DANIEL RIESGO can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.