Compassionate Campus: The College Guide to Animal Advocacy

By: Nick Cooney
October 28, 2013

To view a PDF of this guide, click here. If you are a student, you can order one or more copies by emailing us at activist@farmsanctuary.org.

 

You Can End Her Misery

Over the course of your time at college, you have the power to save the lives and end the misery of literally thousands of individuals.

We’re talking, of course, about helping animals. Rosa (shown at right) spent her entire life packed into a crate so small that she couldn’t even turn around. Every time you choose a meat-free meal, you’re helping animals like her. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you’re helping more than 31 farm animals (and many more fish) each year.

Want to know how you can have the biggest impact of all? By inspiring others to make the same change. Persuading just one of your classmates to stop eating meat will spare 31 individuals each year from a life of misery. Even convincing your peers to eat more meat-free meals will spare many animals. There are few other issues – even other animal issues – where we have the ability to do so much good.

And guess what: It’s easy! There are thousands of students around you. Some of them will decide to change their habits if they learn about the cruelties of factory farming and as vegetarian food becomes more available. All you need to do is put the information in front of them.

That’s what this guide is all about. We know you’re busy. And, we also know that you care. This guide can help you use your time, even if it’s limited, to do the greatest amount of good you can and to reduce the greatest amount of suffering.

If you’re associated with a student group that you can work with, great! If not, no problem — all of the tried-and-true programs on the following pages are things you can do by yourself. As Anne Frank said, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

 

Being The Best You Can Be

In order to present your message effectively, you should pay attention to how you present yourself. Here are some tips on being the best advocate for animals you can be:

1. ABK (Always Be Kind). Be warm, friendly, and considerate. You’re not trying to prove other people wrong; you’re trying to inspire them to join you. You’ll be most successful if they like you — and, if they know that you like them.

2. Hearing about the concrete benefits of a change makes people more likely to adopt it, so let your peers know that each of them can spare 31 animals every year by ditching meat. At the same time, validate gradual changes. Most people change their diets incrementally. Cutting out chicken and fish is the best place to start because doing so will spare the largest number of animals from misery.

3. Try to dress and speak like the majority of your peers on campus. Research covered in the book Change Of Heart indicates that the more similar we are to our audience, the more likely we are to persuade them to change. That means more lives saved. Wearing a school T-shirt or sweatshirt may be one way to do this.

4. Tell stories about individual farm animals and what life is like for them every day on factory farms. (Visit farmsanctuary.org/learn/factoryfarming for story ideas.) Emotional appeals are more persuasive than statistics or philosophy.

5. Remember to show people how to find or make delicious vegan food. Many people are willing to make changes if they know how easy it can be.

6. When you’re deciding how to spend your limited amount of time, money, and energy, always think about what will help the greatest number of animals.

 

Vegetarian Starter Guide Stands

On every campus, there are many students who have considered becoming vegetarian but don’t really know how to do it. Want to make it easier for them and give them the push they need to get started? Consider setting up stands that offer free vegetarian starter guides to anyone who wants them.

Most Student Union or Campus Center buildings already have stands like these that offer newspapers and magazines. Get permission from your school administration to put up a stand of your own. Just tell them that you’d like to set up a guide about healthy vegetarian eating so that students who become vegetarian are well-informed.

In addition to the Student Union, other good spots for these stands are dining halls, libraries, and gyms. Be sure to pick spots that will catch people’s attention. It’s not only the students who pick up guides who will think about choosing more meat-free meals but also people who simply see the information as they pass by it every day.

Once you have permission, all you need to do is to set up the stands and re-stock them with guides about once a month. The stands are cheap; you can get them on sites such as www.Display2Go.com for $30. If you’re not part of a group with a budget, VegFund might be willing to help buy the stands for you. Apply at www.VegFund.org. The vegetarian starter guides are free; just email us at activist@farmsanctuary.org.

It takes only an hour or two to get permission and order the stands and about 10 minutes to set them up — then you’re all set! Over the course of the semester, everyone on campus will see the stands and hundreds will pick up a guide and move closer to a cruelty-free diet!


Chris Guinn, Emerson College

“We put a vegetarian starter guide stand up in the Student Center, and it works great! It’s right in the front lobby, so people will see it every time they’re leaving; it’s constantly reminding people about the idea of eating vegetarian. We give out probably 300 vegetarian starter guides every semester, and it’s no work for us at all — all we have to do is re-stock it once or twice.”  


 

Campus Veg Dining Guide

In addition to the vegetarian starter guide stands, there’s another simple way to show students on your campus how easy it is to eat meat-free meals: create a campus veg dining guide.

Research covered in Change Of Heart indicates that the biggest predictor of whether or not people will make a change is whether they think it’s easy and convenient for them to do so. A campus veg dining guide shows how easy veg eating can be by listing all the options available in the dining halls, campus stores, area restaurants, and grocery stores. Be sure to include all the “regular” vegan options — things like pasta, fries, salads, rice and beans, vegetable stir-fry, and granola bars that typically are already part of people’s diets.

A simple, photocopied booklet will do the trick, and we even have a spiffy Photoshop template we’re happy to send you — just email activist@farmsanctuary.org. Many schools will give student groups free photocopies. If you want to make your booklet extra nice, you can get several thousand full-color, glossy copies for a few hundred bucks at sites like GotPrint.net.

Once you’ve printed the campus veg dining guides, the key is getting them into people’s hands. If you’ve set up vegetarian starter kit stands, you can simply put the guides next to the kits. You can also insert them into any leaflets or vegetarian starter guides you distribute, pass them out to freshmen, leave them in mailboxes at the dorms, and offer them at outreach tables. If your school has a weekly email blast, post them online and include a weekly link.

Just like that, you’ve made becoming or staying vegetarian much easier — and more delicious.


Emily Glassman, Drexel University 

“When I was a freshman, I was worried about finding good vegan and vegetarian options on campus. I know a lot of my meat-eating classmates have the same concerns; they don’t know that there are so many delicious vegan things to eat here. That’s why vegetarian dining guides are really popular — and not just among vegetarians!”


 

Vegan Options in the Dining Halls

The more delicious vegan options are available, the easier it’ll be for people to cut out meat. Some campus dining halls do a great job of providing vegan options. Others still have room to grow.

If your school falls into the latter category, you can meet with your campus dining director and encourage him or her to add more (or better) vegan options. Sometimes, all it takes is a few friendly visits, emails, and suggestions to get them excited about trying something new. Be warm and cheerful, and pitch this as a positive change that a broad range of students, not just vegans and vegetarians, will appreciate.

Ask for crowd-pleasing vegan dishes like veggie burgers and bean burritos — things that everyone will enjoy, even people who don’t know the dishes are vegan. Dairy-free macaroni and cheese may be mouthwatering to vegans, but it could be a turn-off for others.

Does your school already have tons of great vegan options? Consider meeting with your dining director to encourage participation in the Meatless Monday campaign. Hundreds of college dining halls already take part in the program. These dining services don’t go entirely meatless on Mondays, but they do offer additional vegan options and put up signs touting the benefits of meat-free eating.

Ready to get started? You can download a free Meatless Monday toolkit and get help on your campus by visiting http://tiny.cc/MMToolkit.


Jamie Berger, University of North Carolina

“We worked with our Dining Services department to get them to start a Meatless Monday program on campus, where they offer additional vegetarian options every Monday and put up signs promoting meatless eating. Once we were able to show the dining director how many students are interested in having vegan food available, he was willing to make the switch!”


 

Leafleting

Passing out booklets about factory farming and vegan eating is an easy and powerful way to help animals. The findings of a 2012 study conducted at the University of Maryland and the University of Delaware, paired with additional statistics, indicate that, on average, every two booklets handed out on a college campus will lead to dietary changes that spare one animal from a life of misery. Talk about having an impact!

And it’s super easy. All you have to do is find a narrow walkway on campus with a lot of foot traffic, put a big smile on your face, and reach out your hand to everyone passing by to offer them “info to help animals!” In just an hour or two, you can reach hundreds of other students with this powerful information. On most campuses, you don’t even need to get permission first.

Keep in mind that not everyone will care about this issue. Nine out of 10 people will flip quickly through the booklet and then go on with their lives. That’s okay. As long as you’re friendly and don’t force leaflets on people, they won’t mind you offering them. What matters is that one out of 10 people will be inspired to make some sort of change, and that will spare a huge number of animals from misery.

Ready to get started? The website www.AdoptACollege.org provides free leaflets. You can also get free leaflets from Farm Sanctuary by emailing activist@farmsanctuary.org. For more detailed tips and strategies on how to leaflet, visit http://tiny.cc/HowToLeaflet.


Gunita Singh, Boston University

“Leafleting is one of the most effective things our group does. We’re able to reach several thousand people every semester, and a number of other students have told me they went vegetarian because of getting a booklet from us. One of the things I like most about it is how easy it is — I can do it whenever I am free, even if it’s just for an hour around lunchtime.”


 

Dining Hall Tabling

Research covered in the book Change Of Heart indicates that the main reason people resist change is that they’ve settled into a routine. You can help your peers out of their meat-every-meal rut by setting up a table outside your dining hall every Monday during lunch and/or dinner to promote Meatless Monday.

The Meatless Monday campaign is sponsored by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. This nonprofit initiative provides excellent promotional materials that focus on health, environmental, and animal welfare reasons to cut out meat on Mondays.

Simply set up the table with Meatless Monday literature and posters (order a starter supply at http://tiny.cc/MMToolkit), pass out vegetarian starter guides, and make sure you have a sheet that lists the meatless options that are available in the dining hall that day.

If you’re out there every Monday and your school has a weekly email blast, be sure to add a weekly blurb encouraging students to stop by your table. That will keep the idea of meatless eating in front of the entire campus every single week.

If you want to really do it right, work with your dining hall to supply you with free samples of a few of the items that they’re spotlighting on Meatless Mondays, so you can pass these out at your table to students who are about to enter the cafeteria.

Remember, every meatless meal is a victory for farm animals.


Constance Li, Rutgers University

“We table every Monday to let students know about the vegan options inside. We also stock the table with things like free vegetarian starter guides and that might help people change their diets. Of course, we talk to the people who come up to the table, but I also like to stand next to the table and leaflet to reach people who don’t stop by.”


Pay Per View

Why not add a video to your tabling outreach?

Footage of the cruelty inflicted on farm animals is one of the most powerful tools we have for persuading people to change their diets. At Farm Sanctuary, we hear from thousands of people each year who have become vegetarian or cut back on their meat consumption after seeing these videos.

How can you get students at your school to watch these high-impact videos?

Pay Per View is a program where you set up a table in your Student Center (or other high-traffic spot) and offer people $1 to watch a four-minute video. The viewings not only have a profound impact on their own but they also give you the opportunity to hand out vegetarian starter guides and other materials for viewers to take with them afterward. One of the other great aspects of Pay Per View is that it provokes questions about vegan eating and factory farming — and you’ll be right there to provide information and resources to anyone who wants to know more.

Setting up Pay Per View is as easy as having a table with a few laptops, headphones, a sign, and some vegetarian literature. And the organization VegFund is likely to give you grant money to provide the $1 to each viewer, as well as signs, literature, and funds for supplies.

To learn more and apply for a grant, visit http://tiny.cc/PayPerView.


Kelly Kearney, Boston University

“I didn’t know how much of an impact Pay Per View would have until I started doing it, and I saw the looks on the faces of other students as they watched the video. Some of them were in tears. Pretty much all of them were shocked by how animals are treated, and many of them asked about how to go vegetarian or at least start eating less meat. Pay Per View is really powerful.”


 

Getting Campus Press

Studies covered in the book Change Of Heart show that the more popular or widespread a practice appears to an audience, the more likely that audience is to adopt the practice. Campus newspapers are a great way to reach students with a stream of articles, opinion pieces, and letters to the editor about vegetarian eating. As long as they’re written in an upbeat, welcoming way, published pieces can go a long way toward showing that veg eating is now mainstream.

Your college paper is almost certainly hungry for news stories, opinion pieces, and letters. Any article about the environment, food, health, or animals gives you the opportunity to draft a short, positive letter or opinion piece about why cutting out meat is a great thing to do.

It’s extremely easy to publish letters to the editor. Most college papers also welcome longer opinion pieces. Visit your paper’s website or reach out to the editor or opinion editor via email to find out the process for submitting opinion pieces or stories.

When possible, try to tie an opinion piece about veg eating to something going on in the world. This could be a social or political issue (such as the Farm Bill or climate change), or it could be an on-campus event (such as an Earth Day celebration). Consider trying to become a frequent contributor so that you can present information on veg issues regularly.

Also, be sure to let the paper know about any work for animals you’re doing on campus. Whether it’s putting up vegetarian starter guide stands, hosting a speaker, or pushing for more vegan options, keep the paper updated in case its staff is interested in writing a story about it.


Ben Sylvester, Drexel University

“Over the past year, we’ve been able to get several stories published in our campus paper about speakers and events we’ve hosted. We’ve also gotten a few good opinion pieces in there on the reasons to go vegetarian and the impact of factory farming. I spend so much time writing papers for class that it’s nice to be able to write something in an hour that the entire school will see!” 


 

Filming Screenings and Speakers

In our experience, most film screening and speaker events are high cost and have a fairly low return with regard to their impact on animals. First, they take a lot of time and energy. Second, with rare exceptions, attendance tends to be low and dominated by people who already agree with the message being presented.

If you’re going to sponsor speakers and films, try to: 1) find speakers and films that will appeal to a specific segment of the campus population (for example, bring in a feminist or faith-based speaker and ask the appropriate campus groups to co-sponsor); then 2) secure co-sponsorships from other interested groups and work with those groups to promote the event; and 3) have the event listed in the campus paper and on the campus “happening today” agenda of your college’s website.

Also, be absolutely sure to: 1) pass out literature to everyone who attends the event and 2) assign someone in your group to submit an article to your campus paper about the event afterward. The latter will ensure that the message of your event reaches the entire campus, not just the individuals who made time to attend.

Some campuses require attendance at six to 10 on-campus events annually. If you can work with the appropriate committee to get your speaker or film included as one of the approved events, you’ll increase both your numbers and the proportion of your attendees who don’t already agree with you.


Rachel Atcheson, Boston University

“We teamed up with the Philosophy Department at our school to bring in a well-known philosopher who talks about factory farming and vegan eating. It was a great way to get dozens of philosophy students — who didn’t necessarily care about animals before coming — to be exposed to this information and the ethical reasons to stop eating meat.”


 

We’re Here To Help

We’re always here to provide advice, support, and materials such as leaflets and vegetarian starter guides. Email us at activist@farmsanctuary.org if we can be of help.

Want to continue learning online? Browse the Compassionate Communities website for the most important essays, books, and videos on how to be an effective advocate for animals.

On behalf of all of the residents here at Farm Sanctuary, thank you! You have the power to spare thousands of individuals from misery.

 

 

Photo Credits: piglet, © Mercy For Animals; meatless mondays dining, © Mark Makela / for the HSUS; pay per view, © Mercy For Animals; goat, © Jo-Anne McArthur.

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