Congrats on your new association. How did it all begin?
“Thanks! One day my friend Zeynep and I were discussing the fact that our campus lacked a vegan society where vegans such as ourselves can meet other vegans. Some other student towns do have such associations – for instance Groningen, Nijmegen, Amsterdam and Wageningen. They helped us found VSA Rotterdam.
“We’re still sorting out all the details. For instance, at the moment we’re drawing up an organisation chart and completing the forms we have to submit to the Chamber of Commerce. We hope to be formally recognised by the university at some point. But we didn’t want to wait for all the paperwork to be completed, so we actually launched the association last week with a potluck at the Sustainability Hub.”
So what was that like?
“It was a lot of fun. We attracted seventeen very keen students and members of staff who brought home-made vegan dishes. They were delicious. People were exchanging recipes and tips on things such as where to have a good meal as a vegan. And the Sustainability Hub supports us, which is great. They allowed us to use their place for the potluck, even though we’re not a formally recognised association yet.”
Why do we need a vegan student association?
“As a vegan, you sometimes feel like you’re the only one in your social circle. Sometimes people will mock you or refuse to take you seriously. I’m asked all the time: ‘So, what do vegans eat? Do you eat grass?’ So it’s nice to have a community where, among other things, you can exchange tips and experiences, but also discuss the challenges posed by veganism and do fun things together.
“By the way, our board also has a committee that will engage in activism, so VSA is not just about having a good time together.”
What kind of activism are we talking about?
“We’d like to a engender a debate about the vegan lifestyle because we think veganism is very important, not just for the environment and our health, but particularly for animal welfare.
“Having a vegan lifestyle means more than merely refraining from eating meat products. It also affects other aspects of your life. For instance, it makes you more aware of your ecological footprint or health. And a university is a perfect spot to raise other people’s awareness and help them make changes to their lives. For instance, it would be amazing if all the cafeterias on campus were to be vegan. It would show that the university understands the urgency of the movement and wishes to make the world a more sustainable place.”
What are you hoping to achieve?
“In the long term we hope to be the association for all vegan students in Rotterdam, so not just EUR students, but also students attending the Willem de Kooning Academy, Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences or Codarts University for the Arts.
“We mainly hope to build a platform where vegans and people who are interested in veganism can meet, so for this academic year, our goal is to recruit new members and organise successful events.”
Have you planned any fun events yet?
“On 29 February we’re going to the VeggieWorld trade fair in Utrecht. On 18 March we’ll have a lecture presented at the university by the vegan activist Seb Alex, and soon we’ll have a movie night as well.”