Students at Kwantlen Polytechnic University are standing up for the rights of animals, from eight-legged tarantulas to cud-chewing cows.
The Animal Rights Collective club was started in 2010 after founder Kari Michaels saw a need for a way to connect like-minded students. Her goal: bring attention to the mistreatment of all animals, big or small.
“I think a big thing is knowing there are people out there that think the same way, especially with animal rights,” said Michaels.
Michaels had always cared for animals but it wasn’t until she found out that she was allergic to dairy and eggs that she decided to take that next step in animal activism and become a vegan. This lifestyle change led her to lean a lot about how farm animals are treated.
“It was a very strong wake-up call to advocate for the better treatment of animals,” she said.
Her transition to a complete vegan has not been an easy one and the support of a group is what has helped keep her from cheating with her favourite foods, nachos being her latest indiscretion.
“I thought there must be people here who feel the same way but just don’t have a community, so part of it is community building, which I think is really important, not only to help with resources but it also helps with support,” said Michaels.
The Animal Rights Collective isn’t just for vegans. It’s for anyone who cares about the ethical treatment of animals.
“As long as you don’t think it’s okay to kick a puppy, you’re in,” Michaels said.
While Michaels’ focus is on the treatment of farm animals, the club brings attention to all animal rights issues, such as puppy and cat mills, as well as product testing on animals.
For Michaels, advocating for animal rights isn’t more important than any of the other serious issues facing the world.
“There are so many other issues in the world that are important, there are human rights, womens rights, but a lot of people don’t understand that when you care about animal rights it’s part of that scope, you’re just extending that scope of compassion to include non-human beings,” she said.
Michaels said it isn’t the goal of the club to force other students to change, but to promote thought and discussion. She also hopes to bring more vegan-friendly options to the Kwantlen campuses.
For more information on the Animal Rights Collective, contact the club by email
Friends 4 Food is not friends with Sodexo.
The reactive Friends 4 Food was formed in opposition to what they see as “a corporate bully”, Sodexo, moving in as operators of Kwantlen’s cafeterias through what they say is an all-too-murky process.
Friends 4 Food is run by a small group of criminology students and serves vegan food to students in the Surrey campus courtyard four days a week, offering an alternative to what F4F sees as overly expensive and unhealthy food, provided by Sodexo at Kwantlen’s cafeterias.
In the first week of operations, F4F was shutdown by Fraser Health Authority and slapped with $615 in fines for various health code violations, but not before being warned by Kwantlen administration of the potential health violations and of not properly booking space in the courtyard at Surrey Campus.
The idea was to serve vegan food by donation to students who don’t wish to spend their money at Sodexo.
“We thought we’d call for a boycott, but we can’t really call for a boycott if we have no means for students to boycott it,” said Eva Botten, who is a lead organizer of F4F.
Started as a research project for a criminology class, F4F organizers looked into the history of the company now running the cafeteria at the school.
“So we’re trying to get [Sodexo] out,” Botten said.
On the Surrey campus, there are other food options, such as the student-run Grassroots Café, but campuses in Richmond, Langley and Cloverdale only have Sodexo-run cafeterias.
F4F has gained wide support from Kwantlen’s criminology faculty in its vocal protests against Sodexo on one side, but has been dealing with Kwantlen aministration and policy on the other.
“In an era where there is so much student indifference or apathy, to have a student who is smart and politically engaged and have some political moxie, is a student to be celebrated,” said Hollis Johnson, the criminology professor who assigned the project.
Johnson also harkened back to an incident over the summer when Emery Warner, another Kwantlen criminology student, was booted off campus for refusing to show identification while handing out leaflets protesting Sodexo’s (at the time) new place on campus.
“Why would anybody get in trouble with the university and members of Sodexo for leafleting, handing out pieces of paper on a university, which to my mind is an open, public institution?” Johnson asked.
“Does that mean that anybody who walks on campus who we don’t like what they look like, or have to say, have to identify themselves?”
Joanne Saunders, Kwantlen’s Director of Marketing and Communications, said,”everyone is allowed to voice their opinion, I don’t have any concerns about that at all.”
“We’re just a university. The only reason we’re really involved, is we need to make sure that everything that the students are involved in, they’re in a safe environment… the proper space has been booked if they’re planning an event,” Saunders said.
Saunders said Kwantlen’s concerns were solely to do with the booking the required space and making sure the group meets the required Fraser Health regulations.
“We’re not there to hound the students to take up their time and ask them to do unreasonable things, but that is the procedure here at the university,” she said.
Jody Gordon, associate vice-president, students, wouldn’t comment on F4F, even though Friends 4 Food has singled out her office as the source of its troubles.
They believe that someone in Gordon’s office is responsible for tipping Fraser Health off, meaning that F4F was inspected even before the newly-opened Tim Horton’s on Surrey campus.
But according to Gordon, during the first week that F4F was set up serving food, Fraser Health Authority was alerted by an article that appeared on The Province’s website, prompting the health to shut F4F down amid concerns over food safety.
“Fraser Health [Authority] was involved… because of the much stricter regulations that Fraser Health has now on serving food. There’s other things that get involved with more than just occupying a small corner of a very large area,” Gordon said.
“What about free speech? What about freedom of academic inquiry, just to name a few,” he asked.
And for Friends 4 Food, it’s a simple choice — a choice between student-made, vegan food — or not. “We’re only serving vegan food, and they do not offer vegan food,” Botten said.
“They offer carrot sticks, celery and French fries for vegan options.”