PETA2 Contest Creates Controversy
Last year, American University beat Wesleyan in the final round of PETA2’s (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals youth division) contest for the title of “Most Vegetarian-Friendly College” in the nation. This year, Wesleyan is back in the race, which has prompted controversy on campus over whether or not it deserves the honor.
Last week, food service provider Bon Appetit set up a voting station near the entrance of the Marketplace in Usdan, encouraging students to vote in exchange for free baked goods.
“I feel we are the best [provider of vegetarian options],” said Bon Appetit Resident District Manager Michael Strumpf in an e-mail to The Argus. “Overall I believe the students are pleased with the quality, taste, and variety of the options.”
Some students, however, feel that the contest skews the actual sentiments of the student body.
“This competition is all propaganda,” said vegan Hannah Monk ’12. “The way they did it last year, I felt that they were bribing us and I was pretty upset over it. I didn’t think the vegan food was very good, so why were they making us vote for them?”
PETA2 contacted the University about participating in the contest. In order to make it onto the bracket for the competition, each school was required to send in recipes and photos of vegan and vegetarian meals. Now that the competition has begun, students vote to determine which schools make it past each round.
On PETA2’s website, Wesleyan’s blurb boasts that its vegan options “live up to the hype,” with meals like vegetarian chicken red curry with steamed broccoli and organic jasmine rice, three-mushroom vegan ragu with penne pasta, and barbecue seitan. Many students have complained that such meals, however, are not as beloved as the website suggests.
“On the whole they’re trying to do a good job, and I appreciate their efforts to cater for vegans as well as vegetarians, but the cold options hardly ever change, and I feel like we only ever have one hot option,” said vegan Cordelia Hyland ’13.
Other students worry that the values behind PETA are not ones the University should be aligned with.
“Are we in line with PETA’s whole thing—the quasi-militant animal rights approach and the celebrity-driven shallow activism?” asked Ben Seretan ’10. “Probably not.”
Nonetheless, there seems to be a general upswing in positive reactions to the vegan options served this year in comparison to last. According to Strumpf, Bon Appetit’s production records show that more students are eating at the vegan station.
Monk said that she is more satisfied with the options for non-meat eaters this year than she was last year, but that she still feels limited by the venues at which she can eat.
“When my friends ask me where I want to go to dinner, I always say the Marketplace,” she said. “Summerfields has, like, one vegan option—and it isn’t good.”
Even students who are not vegetarian still find some appeal in the vegan dishes.
“The vegan foods are often the best choices, probably because they put more time into them,” said omnivore Maxwell Hellmann ’13.
Wesleyan is currently competing against Smith College in round two of the competition after beating Vassar College in the first round. Four rounds and 15 colleges remain. Other schools that made the cut are Warren Wilson College, the University of Pennsylvania, Northwestern University, and last year’s victor, American University.
“Compared to every other college I’ve been to, we deserve to win the PETA2 competition,” said Caitlin Palmer ’13. “The reason why the vegetarian food is so good is because there’s always something you can eat at each station. Winning the competition doesn’t mean you can have whatever vegetarian option you want, but it means you’re not going to have a problem eating vegetarian.”
Voting for round two ends on Nov. 9. Second round winners will be announced on Nov. 23. Students can vote for Wesleyan by going to PETA2.com.