Within a week of arriving at Vassar last fall, I had discovered a thriving community of likeminded vegans and animal rights activists joining together to promote the message of compassionate living throughout campus. Individuals in this community soon became some of my nearest and dearest companions, upon whom I can now consistently depend to validate, question, contemplate, discuss, and commiserate about the myriad vegan/animal rights/social justice-related musings constantly running through my psyche. Formally, I and my fellow members of this community call ourselves the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC), and this year we have proven an inexhaustible force, both on and off campus. Below, I’ve compiled a list of our endeavors throughout the past few months.
- Continued our ongoing Meatless Monday campaign, in which nearly a quarter of the Vassar campus currently participates.
- Handed out a large amount of animal advocacy leaflets and literature at the Arlington Street Fair—an annual event that takes place just outside the Vassar campus.
- Hosted multiple special event vegan dinners in our campus dining hall, mostly surrounding the holidays (go Tofurkey and pumpkin pie!).
- Toured the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary (led by none other than sanctuary owner and author Jenny Brown) before enjoying lunch at Woodstock’s incredible vegan eatery known as Garden Cafe on the Green (check out my summary post of our visit to the sanctuary here).
- Attended the “Finding a Niche for All Animals” ecofeminist conference at Wesleyan University, where we had the immense honor of meeting such animal rights tour de forces such as Carol Adams, Sarah E. Brown, Lori Gruen, Lauren Ornelas, and Mark Hawthorne.
- Worked with Poughkeepsie community members to combat the deer cull enacted on the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve, including organizing a public protest and communicating with Vassar administration to discuss alternative deer management measures.
- Hosted the first annual Students for Critical Animal Studies Conference.
- Attended the 2nd annual Ivy League Vegan Conference at Yale University and interacted with an impressive array of passionate young collegiate activists.
- Attended the New York City Vegetarian Food Festival.
- In conjunction with Vassar’s Health Office of Education, hosted a campus screening of the top-notch documentary Forks Over Knives, the impetus for my own mother’s veganism.
- Planned how to approach Vassar’s science departments to discuss the implementation of a warning on course descriptions for classes that engage in animal testing (this endeavor is still in the works!).
- Most recently, we launched the Veg Pledge as part of Vassar’s Earth Week events, hosted in part by Vassar Greens and Slow Food. Within the first four days of tabling for the event, we received over 120 signatures from students promising to adopt a meat-free diet for Earth Week.
Whew, I didn’t realize the extent of the above list before I actually scribed it! Next year, I and my dear friend Katie have the honor of leading VARC as the club’s co-presidents, and you can rest assured that we plan to greatly add to this already commendable list of vegan outreach, activism, and education.
Of course, we’ll also continue to host various informal VARC get-together, such as the vegan brunch we enjoyed last Sunday. That morning, I whipped out my handy dandy waffle iron to create a batch of fluffy Apple-Raisin Waffles (recipe below), and sauteed up a gorgeously unctuous tofu scramble with spiced peanut butter sauce based upon this recipe from Ashlae at Oh, Ladycakes. While savoring delicious morningtime goodies, I and my fellow VARC members discussed in depth our thoughts on the profound and hugely important article by author and psychologist Melanie Joy entitled “Speaking Truth to Power: Understanding the Dominant, Animal-Eating Narrative for Vegan Empowerment and Social Transformation.” I urge you all to take a good long gander at the article, published on One Green Planet, and to also read Dr. Joy’s truly consciousness-shifting book—Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows. Why not do so while dipping the following Apple-Raisin waffles in a good hearty dose of maple syrup?
Apple-Raisin Waffles—Can be Soy & Nut Free, Low Sodium, Low Fat
Makes 5 Belgian-style waffles.
1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour blend (I used Bob’s Red Mill, but you could certainly craft your own; if gluten doesn’t upset you, you can substitute whole wheat flour and omit the flaxseed meal)
1 tbsp flaxseed meal
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup applesauce
1 1/2 cups plant-based milk of choice
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 tbsp maple syrup or agave
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup raisins
Preheat your waffle iron.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, flaxseed meal, baking powder, and cinnamon until well combined. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the applesauce, milk, oil, maple syrup or agave, and vanilla extract. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Stir together until well combined. Stir in the raisins.
When the waffle iron has heated, spray it with oil. Cook waffles according to the instructions specific to your waffle iron.
Serve immediately, keep warm in a 200° oven, or freeze the waffles for up to one month. Reheat frozen waffles in a toaster.
Until next time, Ali.