With so many students at UM focused on environmental issues, it’s no surprise the new Advocates for Animals Club, a group devoted to spreading awareness about meat and dairy, has already made an impact on campus — vegan mayonnaise in the Food Zoo.
Kristian Cantens, the 23-year-old co-founder of the Advocates for Animals Club, said replacing the regular mayo in the Food Zoo with Just Mayo, a brand of all-natural and cholesterol-free mayonnaise, is a healthier choice for UM students and a cheaper choice for the University.
Just Mayo is also another condiment option for vegan students who, according to Cantens, don’t have a ton of options for food at UM.
“Most of the time, the meals aren’t vegan because they put butter in them, which you could just replace that with oil and no one would notice,” Cantens said. “That, or they put cheese in it. And cheese you could always have separate and just have people sprinkle it on top.”
Although Cantens became a vegetarian when he was 10 for ethical reasons — while eating a cheeseburger at Burger King, Cantens asked his mom what burgers are made of and was horrified by her answer — he is now very aware of the negative effects livestock have on the environment.
Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution and habitat destruction, according to a 2004 study by the EPA’s Office of Research and Development.
Livestock and their byproducts account for 51 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, according to a 2009 study by the Worldwatch Institute.
Growing food to feed livestock consumes 56 percent of the water available in the U.S. It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef, according to the Journal of Animal Science.
Darian Dovgan, 21, is a literature major with an emphasis on the environment. After taking several environmentally focused classes through the literature department, Dovgan said she realized two months ago that going vegetarian was the best and easiest way to reduce her impact on the environment.
“Being vegetarian reduces the demand for meat that is produced in industrial food operations, and those are really not good for the environment,” Dovgan said. “So even if people just ate less meat, it would really help the global situation.”
According to a 2014 study published in Climatic Change, an international journal devoted to the description and causes of climate change, Dovgan is right. Vegans produce 50 percent less carbon dioxide than meat lovers and use much less oil, water and land to produce their food.
Travis Glenn, a 20-year-old physics and math major drastically cut down on his meat consumption after learning how inefficient and wasteful animal products are.
“It doesn’t make sense why we feed livestock better than a large portion of the world,” Glenn said. “However, I still enjoy eating meat, and I do eat it once every couple of weeks.”
Glenn said although he’s not trying to make a political statement with his diet, he does think the average American consumes too much meat for the diet to be sustainable worldwide.
Katie Galang, 19, has been a vegetarian for several years and is a co-founder of the Advocates for Animals Club.
Galang said her main goal for the club is to spread awareness about the sustainable and nutritional aspects of being vegetarian and vegan through the club’s various events and lectures.
The Advocates for Animals Club will be hosting a bake sale titled Vegans Love to Bake on April 20 to raise money for an eco-feminist guest speaker, Carol Adams.
But Galang said her favorite thing the club does is hand out vegan samples on campus. When students walk by and taste the samples, Galang said they are almost always pleasantly surprised by how good meat- and dairy-free food can be.
“I think having people on campus come try it and say, ‘Wow, this is really good,’ kind of changes peoples’ perspectives on veganism.”