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Brandeis in finals to be named ‘Most Vegan’

Published: November 18, 2011
Section: News

Brandeis has succeeded to the final round of a contest to be named “Most Vegan-Friendly Campus” by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the national animal-rights organization. The champion will be named Monday.

The university is up against Northwestern, last year’s winner of the honor and a “powerhouse” of vegan advocacy, according to Ryan Huling, the head of all student campaigns at the organization’s collegiate wing, PETA2.

He said history could very well repeat itself, and that Brandeis has a difficult challenge ahead. “Northwestern University offers vegan french toast and country-fried steak,” Huling said, and “these are delicious dishes that didn’t even exist five or 10 years ago, so students—vegetarians and meat-eaters alike—are eating them up.”

The PETA poll is conducted online, but the winners advancing after reach round rely on more than just the online vote.

According to Huling, round winners are determined not only by “the number of votes, Facebook ‘likes,’ received,” but also by “the quality and variety of vegan foods offered by the schools, the schools’ enthusiasm in promoting vegan options and student feedback.”

PETA2 takes other factors like their own internal rankings and even communications with the schools’ dining services and administration.

“We contact the Dining Services department during the research phase of the annual contest to learn more about recent menu additions and programs designed to promote cruelty-free dining options,” Huling said. And “if a school is nominated, we keep them posted as the campus progresses through each round so that they can inform the student body.”

In the impending award of “Most Vegan-Friendly,” Brandeis will necessarily either be named first or second in the nation in terms of PETA’s animals rights advocacy, willingness to eat food other than that made on the supposed pain and suffering of animals, and other sustainable goals. PETA itself uses the contest to increase awareness and promote debate on these issues.

“There is no one single ingredient or dish that puts a school over the top, but there is a growing trend among most top-tier schools to have a ‘Meatless Monday’ program, or other initiatives aimed at encouraging students to choose healthy and eco-friendly vegan options,” Huling said.

PETA has benefited from the innovation and other activisms—whether environmental or pro-labor—driving sustainable decision making even if one does not believe in the PETA dictum that “animals are not ours to eat,” and does not support the animal rights agenda.

“Because of the dramatic rise in the number of students demanding vegan food on campus, the nomination process has gotten tougher every year—and this year’s competition is the fiercest yet,” Huling said, adding that “one of the common trends among many top schools this year though is an emphasis on vegan versions of traditional animal-based dishes.”

PETA of course continues to believe in the near-equal rights of animals, (including recently suing on behalf of the orcas of Seaworld—and all under the 13th Amendment to the Constitution’s prohibition against slavery).

Whether sustainability or economic benefits are PETA’s goals or not, and though these traits can help further PETA’s goals, ultimately animal rights and the decision to eat meat or not is a moral issue, according to the organization.

Whether Brandeis wins the accolade of most vegan-friendly campus Monday or not, PETA has a long way to go to convince the campus of its absolutism.