By: Carolyn Harris
Photo by Trevor Swann
Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) is planning on having a new Student Union Building (SUB) built, if the December 6-7 undergraduate referendum wins the “yes” vote.
This new building would be, as one of CUSA’s announcements states, “an environment designed with the needs of future students in mind.” To which I reply: it needs to have a vegan restaurant or café.
In recent years veganism has truly become mainstream, as an increasing number of people are realizing the ethical, health, and environmental reasons to go vegan. According to a Google Trends report, Canadian Google searches with the term “vegan” have increased by more than 500 per cent in the last 10 years, while dairy consumption has decreased by 25 per cent in the past 20 years as more people switch to dairy-free milks.
It isn’t clear exactly what percentage of Canadians are vegan, but the Vegan Society’s website said the number of vegans in Britain has increased by 360 per cent over the past ten years. In 2009 one per cent of people in the U.S. were vegan, but by only two years later, that number had increased to about 2.5 per cent.
We should expect a rising number of people—especially students—to continue to go vegan in the near future, because veganism isn’t just a fad.
For one thing, animal rights is a social justice issue, since animals, like humans, are sentient beings capable of suffering and joy.
Secondly, according to the Dieticians of Canada, a vegan diet is also a healthy way to eat that reduces the risk of “obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.”
A third reason is the environment. A 2010 report published by the United Nations Environment Programme stated that “a substantial reduction of [environmental] impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.”
So, if we want the SUB to be, to quote CUSA’s own announcements, an “environmentally conscious new building,” to “make a difference in the Carleton community and beyond,” and to empower students, then the building’s restaurant should serve food that does no harm to animals, the environment, or human health.
This isn’t just about the SUB, of course. Although Carleton already serves delicious and diverse vegan options across campus, there is currently no single eatery on campus that is completely meat-free.
Having a vegan restaurant on campus would help make it easier for students to eat a vegan diet and use their food choices to create a better world. Students with dairy or egg allergies would benefit, too, as there would be no risk of cross-contamination.
As a person who feels compassion for all animals, many of us become traumatized by the smell of burning flesh on a grill and the sight of seeing people putting dead bodies into their mouths. A vegan restaurant would be a place where all students could eat in peace.
Non-vegan students who think that they wouldn’t eat at a vegan restaurant should also reconsider. If they’ve ever eaten peanut butter and jam sandwiches, hummus and pita bread, or Oreo cookies, then they’ve already eaten vegan food.
And, although some still believe the old stigma that vegan cuisine is unappealing “rabbit food,” anyone who’s eaten at a good vegan restaurant knows otherwise. Regardless of what students are accustomed to eating, everyone can enjoy eating delicious vegan food.
With the extra space that the SUB would provide, I wouldn’t be surprised if a new café or restaurant was going to open there. Let’s make sure it’s a vegan restaurant. It’ll be a win-win-win—for animals, for the environment, and for students.