Peta2, student animal rights group gather near Russell to gain support
A large “I Am Not a Nugget” chicken mascot joined a group of young protestors outside Russell House Wednesday, asking for more vegan-friendly food options from Carolina Dining.
Peta2 — also known as PETA’s young adult division — collaborated with USC’s new animal rights group, Students for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, for the demonstration. A vegan is someone who does not use or consume animal products such as meat, dairy, eggs, fur, leather or products tested on animals.
Their food options are currently limited at dining halls on campus, students said.
Students for the Ethical Treatment of Animals was founded by Amanda Arcamone, a second-year experimental psychology student who said she has been a vegetarian since she was 5 years old because her parents wanted her to have the health benefits.
“I felt like the best way to spread the word was to start a group full of like-minded people who love animals and help in any way we can,” Arcamone said. “The issue of animal rights is one of the most important issues we have today. I wanted a group at our campus to help fight cruelty as much as we can while having fun.”
On Monday and Tuesday Arcamone worked with Peta2, the largest youth animal rights group in the world, and collected signatures for the petition. On Wednesday, Arcamone dressed up in the “I Am Not a Nugget” chicken costume in order to draw more attention to the petition.
“The support for it has been overwhelming. Thousands of students have signed in support of vegan-friendly options at USC,” Lucas Solowey, a Peta2 representative, said.
Initially, the advocates were inside the Russell House trying to get students to sign the petition, but Chelsea Dunstall, a Peta2 intern, said Dining Services required them to have a permit to be in the dining halls.
“We’re not campaigning against the dining hall; we’re campaigning in support of more vegan options,” Dunstall said. “They’re very friendly petitions.”
Mike Gwiazdowski, operations manager for Carolina Dining, said a lot of vegetarian options currently offered are “probably close to vegan.”
Gwiazdowski said the current options often contain cheese, which prevents them from being available to vegans.
“A lot of strict vegans don’t eat the dairy, so that would take very few adjustments to meet their needs,” Gwiazdowski said.
Gwiazdowski added he has worked with PETA before at other universities. He said the organization has been very helpful developing dining recipes that can be used. He also said Carolina Dining has to adjust the recipes in the menu cycles to make sure there isn’t repetition in the food on the menus.
As petitioning was happening on Wednesday, Carolina Dining had customer satisfaction surveys at campus dining facilities in order to establish what students want.
“If we see a big need for students on those, we’ll definitely react,” Gwiazdowski said. “Even if we don’t see them, we’re always willing to sit down and talk to PETA to meet its needs.”
Marcus Nix, a first-year music student, signed the petition advocating vegan options.
“I think that all cafeterias should support not just vegan foods but offer a balance for everybody instead of the status quo,” Nix said.
Some initiatives Peta2 has completed at other schools include a Meatless Monday program and discounts on meatless products. Dunstall said the primary focus at USC is to create more vegan options. Arcamone said these options could include a vegan option such as a main entrée in the hot line or healthier vegetables that aren’t cooked in a lot of oil and butter. She also suggested soy or almond milk as options for cereal and vegan desserts.
“This would help our campus lead a more cruelty-free lifestyle while satisfying the growing demand for healthier food,” Arcamone said.