A $100,000 Voice for Babe

Gillian Kuhlmann
J.D. Candidate 2016, UCI Law
On behalf of UCI Student Animal Legal Defense Fund

UCI Law is exceptional because so many in our community hold fast to the oft-forgotten or discarded desire to change the world. Virtually every person I have interacted with here has made a tangible contribution to social justice. While I realize that a person can’t take up every cause with an equal amount of zeal, I am confident that our community of world-changers would be eager to make slight alterations to daily habits in the name of justice and the greater good. It is with this confidence that I propose our school make a more conscious effort to support the humane treatment of animals,through the addition of vegan options at our school events.

If you’ve ever interacted with an animal, I think you’d agree that they are not commodities. Most people don’t believe that animals have cognition sufficient to treat their lives with the same weight as a human life, which is a rational conclusion. However, even the most enthusiastic meat eater among us would certainly feel uncomfortable with the way animals are treated on factory farms. Furthermore, the United Nations has said that 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from animal agriculture. The vast majority of the meat and animal by-products we as Americans consume every day come from these factory farms.

For better or worse, we speak with our wallets. According to Dean Chemerinsky, UCI Law spends over $100,000 every year just feeding its students. Our speakers series alone has a $7,500 yearly budget for food, which equates to roughly $250 for each of the approximately 30 events hosted each academic year. What would it say if a portion of this budget went to ethically sourced meals? It would be consistent with our school’s reputation for being forward thinking and justice driven, that’s for sure.

While these ethically sourced meals at UCI Law could be omnivorous if our vendors began to source meat and animal by-products from family farms, it might be too lofty a dream for this moment in time.  Family farms, with humane farming practices that require more land and better feed, are more costly to run, which makes family farmed products more expensive. Therefore, I propose that the always-offered vegetarian option at our school’s events instead be vegan, so as to avoid foods that use ingredients from factory farms, like cheese and mayonnaise. This could be done either by specifically requesting vegan options at the vendors we already order from (I’m sure those vegetarian tacos can be made without cheese!),or ordering from different vendors with explicitly vegan options. If you assume that a typical Speakers Series event attracts 30 people and recall that the food budget for that event would be around $250, that indicates that currently the per capita budget for each event is $8. If we successfully petition for Veggie Grill to be added to the UCI approved vendors list, they could cater our events with delicious veggie burgers for $3.95 a person. Sourcing a vegan option, then, would actually bring us in under budget.

I surveyed a group of 15 students regarding their interest in a vegan option at school events. If these students were to RSVP to a hypothetical event with the option of Domino’s, Which Wich, or Veggie Grill, eleven of the students would request Veggie Grill, one would request Which Wich, and one would request Domino’s. Surprisingly, only one of the students surveyed was a vegetarian. Whether it is out of a concern for the humane treatment of animals, the effects of factory farming on the environment, or simply because you just can’t eat another slice of pizza, a vegan option is appealing to our student body. Pair that with it being cost effective and a compliment to the forward-thinking, justice-seeking nature of our school, and I think that UCI Law is in a great place to use its food budget to speak against factory farming.