Switching to a vegan diet is the single biggest change an individual can make to reduce his or her environmental impact. By cutting out animal products – meat, dairy and eggs – one can reduce their carbon footprint by up to 50%. Given the recent surge in environmental awareness on campus, it’s no wonder that DU Vegan Society has gone from strength to strength in its short time as an established college society while under the caring guidance of society chair Nicky Pochinkov. According to Ordinary Committee Member (OCM) Warren Pretorious, the society “offers a means to those who really care to play an active part in this essential movement,” and it’s no secret that an abundance of Trinity students fit that description.
Having received recognition from the Central Societies Committee (CSC) in March 2018, DU Vegan Society quickly proved its zeal by winning the Best New Society award in 2019. The society’s founding members garnered significant support from the student body from the beginning, as the Vegan Society provided a much-needed outlet for vegan voices on campus. While the founding members have since moved on, OCM Ava Whelan says that the new committee is “determined to follow the trail they blazed for the vegan movement in Trinity.”
Vegans often get a bad rap online for being pushy, preachy or pretentious but the Vegan Society dispel this myth by welcoming anyone and everyone with open arms. The society’s primary goal is to provide students with a support network as they transition to, or maintain a vegan lifestyle. This means it’s “open to all, whether you’re a curious omnivore looking to cut down on your meat intake or a fully fledged vegan!” The society says that it recognises “the challenges that can be encountered and how daunting it can be [to transition], from finding places to eat out to dealing with critics.”
While the society didn’t gain as much attention from Freshers this year as it did last year, the committee hasn’t been discouraged. The 170 members of the Vegan Society are described by Whelan as “loyal and dedicated”, with familiar faces returning and attending events, of which there are many. Liam Cullen, the society’s Ents Officer, has a range of social, discursive and informative events lined up for the coming year.
“Because nothing gets people to society events more than the promise of free food”
“More often than not we will have some sort of food related event, because nothing gets people to society events more than the promise of free food,” he told Trinity News. He added: “Most recently, our EGM doubled as a potluck, where everyone brought dishes they made to share.” Last year’s event catalogue included a panel month in November where guest speakers visited from around the country to give talks on nutrition, fitness and ethical entrepreneurship. Members of the Vegan Society last year also took part in a cliff walk to The Happy Pear in Greystones, and an array of nights out and screenings.
Diet isn’t the only aspect of the vegan lifestyle that the Vegan Society concerns itself with. Vegan cosmetics are on the rise, with many consumers boycotting highstreet makeup brands which carry out animal testing. Meanwhile, companies like LUSH who are certified with the Leaping Bunny logo to ensure that no animal testing takes place in the production of their goods, have a loyal customer base. The Vegan Society strives to “promote veganism and all it entails (including animal welfare, environmental and health concerns) in the college in the most inclusive, fun and accessible way possible.”
During Freshers’ Week last year, the committee of the Vegan Society created a vegan guide to Dublin which has been continued by this year’s committee. The new guide is being promoted as “perfect for anyone new to Dublin looking to eat less meat or trying to transition to veganism.” The guide consists of a vegan map of the city, advice for where to grab a cheap lunch in college, a guide to cruelty-free and vegan beauty as well as a few of the committee’s favourite recipes and vegan-oriented social media accounts. Following on from the success of this guide, the committee is in the process of developing its very own Vegan Society website to share even more information about succeeding in veganism while in college.
With 2019 having been christened The Year of The Vegan by The Economist magazine, now is as good a time as any to try the transition to a plant based diet. The fear of having withdrawal symptoms from cheese burgers and Haribo is easier to overcome in company, and Pretorious assures any wannabe vegans that “having like-minded people around you can help shore up your beliefs and keep you on track.” So if you’re inclined to try a meatless monday or a flexitarian diet, do it with the Vegan Society – at the very least, you’ll get some free food out of it!