Starting a vegan or animal rights uni society is a great way to harness the collective influence of compassionate students who want to share with their student body as well as the community around their school the benefits of veganism. Going vegan is one of the easiest ways to help animals and people, too. Since it takes up to 13 pounds of grain to produce just 1 pound of animal flesh, imagine how many more humans we could feed if we ate the grain directly. Because vegans don’t consume all the artery-clogging saturated fats contained in animal products, they also tend to live healthier, happier and longer lives!
Uni is a place where many students really begin to question the world around them. It might be the first time that they actively think about what they are consuming. A vegan society is a great place to help them learn about the horrors that await animals who are raised on factory farms, killed for their skin, tested on in laboratories or abused in the entertainment industry.
Starting a vegan society is extremely easy, and while schools may differ in terms of what the criteria of starting a society are (check with your student union), the basics are generally the same. Here are five easy steps for starting a vegan society:
- Create a committee.
To start a society, you will need a committee of at least a president or chair, a treasurer and a secretary, so in essence, you need only two additional people to start your society. Talk with your friends, your acquaintances and that person eating a veggie burger over there! There are plenty of people likely to support your decision to start a group. Just speak with them.
- Write a constitution.
Your constitution will serve as the backbone of your group. It will let new members as well as the faculty know what your mission is. You can see a sample constitution here. Don’t copy it. Simply use it as a template to create your own.
- Recruit members.
Tabling at the Freshers’ Fair or setting up in the main campus square is the best way to recruit new members. Tabling is like leafleting, but instead of walking around handing out fliers, you get to decorate a table in order to draw people in. Try getting a laptop and showing a video to grab people’s attention. Have short conversations with people who stop by, and get them to leave their contact information so that you can let them know when you’re holding your next event. Tip: Make sure you apply for a stall at your Freshers’ Fair early, usually at the end of the previous year.
- Write a risk assessment of your activities.
A risk assessment is an evaluation of what, in your society, could cause harm to people so that you can consider whether you have taken enough precautions or should do more to prevent harm. The overall aim of the assessment is to ensure that no one gets hurt or becomes ill.
When carrying out your risk assessment, the important thing you need to decide is whether or not hazards are significant and whether you have them covered by satisfactory precautions so that the risks have been minimised. At some universities, a risk assessment can be completed with a form, whereas other universities require a short report. Check with your student union for your university’s guideline to submitting a risk assessment.
- Get active!
Now that you’ve gotten the administrative work out of the way, the real fun can begin. We suggest that you get your society members together at the beginning or end of each term to discuss what kind of events they want to be involved in. Your campaigns and actions are as limitless as the imagination of your members. However, if you hit a creative block, feel free to use some of our techniques that have time and time again brought awareness to important issues and instigated change.
- Get vegan options in the dining facilities: Petition for more vegan options. Talk with people in dining services. Show them how much support there is for healthy vegan food in the dining halls, and make it happen. Click here to read “44 Accidentally Vegan Snacks“.
- Host vegan food giveaways and vegan potlucks: Who doesn’t like food? Providing food is a sure-fire way to get people to listen to what you have to say, and with delicious vegan treats in their mouth, they can’t argue. Try some of the recipes in our Free Vegan Starter Kit.
- Leafleting: Do you have a campaign that you are currently promoting, such as asking Benetton to ban angora, putting an end to the hideously cruel live-export industry or putting a stop to bullfighting? Pass out fliers around your university and the surrounding community to inform people about the issues concerning your campaigns.
- Chalking pavements: Grab a box of chalk, and (with permission from your uni) go to town on your campus. Get some members of the group to join you, and leave slogans all over your campus’s walkways. It’s like leafleting to everyone the next day while you’re sleeping in.
- Host a film screening: Hosting a film screening is a very easy way of getting the word out there. Simply pop some popcorn and push “play”. Not sure which movies to screen? Check out this blog which includes some of our favourite vegan and animal-rights films.
- Organise a Talk: You may be able to find willing speakers from local animal rights organisations, environmental groups or local businesses to talk about vegan- and animal rights–related issues.
- Use social media: This may be a given, but create a Facebook group and an Instagram account. By posting photos of all the vegan potlucks, food giveaways and actions and events you’ll host, along with information about your society’s upcoming events, you’ll boost your participation numbers.
- Finally, don’t be afraid to use old-fashioned techniques, such as hanging up tear-off fliers with your group’s contact info on them. Leaving these on all the pin boards around your university will allow you to cover all fronts, IRL and online. Take advantage of every opportunity that you have to promote your animal rights group!
Be sure to drop us a line at Info@peta.org.uk when you start your society. We have resources such as videos and leaflets that we may be able to send you to help you in your endeavours.