On Wednesday, Sept. 26, UAA students from the club Plates for Compassion – Vegan Outreach at UAA took to the lawn of the quad outside of the Cuddy Hall to talk with students and make vegan BLT sandwiches. The club members were joined by a special guest: a pig named Rowan.
Plates for Compassion is a UAA club that formed in the fall of last year. This semester marks the first semester that the club is actively engaging the student body.
Plates For Compassion’s self described “hype man,” Ralf Allen, was dancing in a pig costume and helping draw a crowd to the booth and get bystanders excited about the cause.
“It’s been really bumping. We got rid of all the sandwiches we made, so now [we’ve] got to make more,” Allen said.
Ali Stover, an economics and business management major, serves as the club’s president. She stood on the lawn passing out vegan sandwiches and different types of vegan bacon for students to try.
“We’re just providing a solution to that harmful way of providing bacon… These BLTs taste just as good even better, according to a lot of students who have been stopping by,” Stover said.
Rowan, the 3-year-old pig, was joined by his “pig mom” and owner, Mechelle Munsell. Munsell connected with members of Plates for Compassion originally through Facebook, and through various events, she built a relationship to collaborate on raising awareness around animal rights related issues.
Stover is aware of criticisms of vegan ideology, like the idea that a vegan diet isn’t necessarily better for the environment when weighing factors such as carbon footprint in regards to shipping foods to Alaska.
“If you look at the protein process… you have to grow plants… then feed [them] to the animals and then take the animals,” Stover said. “That is completely inefficient. You can just skip the middleman and [eat] the plants themselves. I don’t understand that argument.”
The club is aware of and respects traditional diets, such as subsistence diets of many Alaskan natives that consist largely of salmon and game meat.
“We have people in Alaska who are [self-subsistent]. They live in the village, and we totally respect that,” Stover said. “We’re not asking them to go vegan. If you have the availability to go vegan, then we are supporting you.”
Stover wants students to know that a vegan diet can be very affordable and suggests that the bulk areas of grocery stores, where beans and dry foods can be found, is a good place to start. Plants for Compassion even provides resources for students, such as meal plans, meal prepping information and grocery shopping trips to teach students all about the vegan lifestyle.
Munsell wants to educate the community on the misconceptions surrounding pigs.
“Most people want teacup pigs… They don’t exist,” Munsell said. “We’re trying to spread that word… Pigs don’t stay small. So you want a 20-pound pig, but you’re going to get a 100-pound pig.”
Munsell and a few other “pig moms” are hopeful to have a pig sanctuary in Alaska one day. Additionally, the group advocates for spaying and neutering pigs to prevent unwanted piglets.
Munsell wants people to know that, when given proper care, pigs can make great pets.
“If you work with them, they can be amazing animals at home so they can live inside, they can be trained, they’re great to have,” Munsell said.
You can find Rowan and “Pig Mom” Munsell on Facebook under Rowan the Pig to hear more about Rowan’s journey.