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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Guest Opinion: Importance of Community in Animal Rights

The Block U on the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City. (Courtesy of the University of Utah)


Standing at my kitchen counter, I bit into a chicken tender, the familiar taste filling my mouth. A field materialized in my mind, and there she was: a living, breathing chicken. Her gaze locked onto mine, rhythmic breaths and subtle twitches reaving her essence. Blinking to dispel the surreal image, I hesitated but took another bite. The haunting vision persisted. 

This had never happened to me. And it was the first time I ever truly connected the ‘meat’ on my plate with the animal it was. Intellectually, I understood that meat was the body of an animal. But I didn’t know it in my heart. Meat and animals had been completely separate in my mind, until that day.

A few months later, I went vegetarian. Almost two years after that, in the beginning of the COVID-19 quarantine, I went vegan. And while I held a strong conviction to no longer eat animals or the products of their abuse, there was one problem: I knew no other vegans.

Friends, family and acquaintances failed to grasp this new part of me. They did not understand how seeing ‘meat’ triggered horrific images of slaughterhouses, where their blood sprayed across the ground. They did not understand that seeing dairy made me see a mother cow crying after her newborn was stolen from her. And they did not understand how eggs reminded me of the tiny baby male chicks, ground up alive. And worse, most people were uninterested in understanding my feelings.

Without friends or community, I felt isolated and angry. The online community did provide a semblance of connection but watching videos and writing a few comments failed to fill that void. 

Everything changed when I started at the University of Utah. I joined the Vegan Club in the fall of 2021. While the COVID-19 restrictions were easing, the club hadn’t begun events yet. I sent a Slack message about meeting up. Our first meeting was just 4 people playing cards in a dorm. This continued into a consistent club focused on creating a community for vegans and anyone interested in veganism. 

In the beginning, we mostly played board games in Lassonde Studios. We volunteered at animal sanctuaries, hosted free-food events and collaborated with Food Justice Coalition, a local non-profit that cooks and distributes plant-based meals from local organic food to Salt Lake City’s unsheltered population.

One of my favorite events is our Friendsgiving. We have done it twice so far, where eight to ten of us get together and make a vegan Thanksgiving meal together. The feeling of community and friendship is especially important during this holiday. 

Community is extremely significant in activist spaces. With a cause like veganism and animal rights, it can be extremely easy to feel isolated. One of the main ways humans connect with each other is through food. Vegans are no longer able to do that with their old community because we don’t eat the same food anymore. Without preparation, there sometimes won’t be any food for us at a social gathering. This loneliness can be extra challenging without vegan friends who share this sense of community and understanding. 

Vegan Club can fill that void within people, giving space and opportunities for vegans to forge friendships and share thoughts and feelings. 

Community is not only vital for existing vegans, but also crucial for animal activism. Much of the vegan space, online and in-person organizations, are focused on changing the individual and public perception of animals as objects for human enjoyment through street activism and protesting. And while these activities are extremely important for animal rights, I believe that community is just as vital. 

Our close friends and community heavily influence who we are and what we do. Our way of speaking, hobbies, values and lifestyles are largely shaped by those close to us. So, if the people close to us are vegan, we are much more likely to be vegan as well. And if not vegan, they will likely eat more plants anyway. Creating a strong vegan community, inclusive of both vegans and non-vegans, can significantly impact the size and support of the vegan community and animal rights. 

Vegan Club stands as one such community, offering friendship and love to all — humans and animals alike. Joining the club isn’t just about being vegan, but about making a collective impact on the community at the U and fostering connections with people who truly understand our experience.


— Teresa Rands, President of Vegan Club, and Taylor Stevens


The Daily Utah Chronicle publishes guest op-eds written by faculty, elected officials and other members of the public on topics relevant to students at the University of Utah. The Chronicle welcomes guest op-ed pitches here.

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    David WishengradFeb 6, 2024 at 2:32 pm

    Veganism was publicly exorcised in the name of the LORD on 8/13/20 by yhe actual person who has talked with more people about not needlessly harming the animals than any person alive for tricking people into replacing the truth of the importance of life itself as the reason to live, love and care for life with the nonsensical belief of veganism which has no defined reason as for how why and how much life is truthfully important and it does not define who we each are and why and how important would you charge and why and is not and never will be a truthful reason to live, love and care for life.