Activists distribute vegan food, pamphlets to recruit U students

Britt Johnsen

Compassionate Action for Animals gave out food on the West Bank plaza in hopes of taking on some new supporters Monday.

Members of the student group, which has about 70 active members, gave pamphlets and food to help spread the word about veganism, outreach coordinator Greg Oschwald, who graduated from the University’s Morris campus, said.

For some, outreach efforts such as these events turn people away from all meat and animal products and onto a vegan diet, he said.

Vegan Outreach, an international animal rights activist group, has done research that shows how students often become vegans after trying vegan food at outreach events, Oschwald said.

The student group used pamphlets from Vegan Outreach during its event Monday.

Matt Ball, executive director and co-founder of Vegan Outreach, said the organization focuses on reaching college students.

“They’re our target audience,” he said. “College students tend to be more open-minded and more willing to question the status quo than the population on the whole.”

Ball said an average of four out of every 200 people who are given at least the pamphlets will become vegans. He said this is based on a 10-year study.

Though supporters of vegan diets – which consist of not using anything tested on animals, made from animals or that caused any harm to animals – said they help animals and the environment, some experts warn the lifestyle can be disconcerting.

Mary Story, epidemiology professor in the School of Public Health, said in following a vegan diet, a deficiency of nutrients such as vitamin B-12, vitamin D, iron, calcium and protein can negatively affect the system.

“You have to know what you’re doing,” she said.

A vitamin B-12 deficiency left untreated in its early stages could damage the neurological system, Story said. Also, women who go without iron might have problems concentrating or will be irritable, and might have pregnancy complications, she said.

But Story said these things are rare. It is possible to get the same nutrition from soy products and fruit as a diet with dairy products and meat.

“You don’t see a whole lot of deficiencies, but it’s potentially a problem,” Story said.

Although some support the vegan diet, others are more hesitant. Junior Elizabeth Camp tried vegan food at the event but said she was unsure about transitioning to a vegan lifestyle.

“I don’t know if I could handle vegan all the way Ö (but) it’s definitely a great thing,” she said.

Most of her meals end up being vegan anyway, she said.

– Bridget Haeg contributed to this report.