“We want to create a community for students of any dietary preference to get together, socialize and learn how to create positive change for animals, their health and the environment. If students are interested in advocating for animals, we want to be that resource for them.”
Sarah Pollock, senior biochemistry major, has her plate full with research, preparing for graduation and leading Retrievers for Animal Welfare and Sustainability (RAWS), formerly known as UMBC Vegetarians.
Like many transfer students, Pollock worried about finding her place at UMBC, especially as a new vegetarian. Luckily, Pollock was able to find UMBC Vegetarians and was elected as Vice President in her first semester, and this year she is making the club all her own.
“After our president left, I thought about how I could make this club more accessible to the student body’” Pollock said. “We started with the name change because we wanted our club to be more inclusive.” Many students, prior to this semester, worried that the club was solely for vegans and vegetarians, which in turn has led to low membership numbers for RAWS.
“That couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re open to students of all dietary preferences, whether they’re vegan, vegetarian or just interested in animal rights.”
Although not directly, Pollock’s career goals are related to animal welfare. Pollock, a MARC U*STAR scholar and member of the Honors College, plans to receive her Master’s in Public Health before heading to medical school to earn her Ph.D. in Health and Public Policy. “There’s definitely some overlap between Animal Welfare and Human Welfare, both health and environmental-wise.”
This past week, RAWS showed this connection through their showing of the film “Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret,” an event that included pamphlets on cruelty-free diets, discussion and, most importantly, vegan pizza. While there were more toppings on the pizzas than students in attendance, the event was nothing but educational, highlighting the environmental impacts of animal agriculture and factory farming.
Low membership and event turnout numbers are something Pollock and the rest of RAWS are hoping to change by increasing their presence on campus. This semester, you can find RAWS leafletting along Academic Row, hosting mock-meat samplings in the breezeway and bringing in guest speakers form the Humane League, to help educate students about “the veg-lifestyle.”
“We’ve hosted meat-out events, potlucks, and I’m most excited about hosting a feed-in for Thanksgiving,” said Pollock. “It’ll be like a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but vegan.”
One of the events Pollock is most excited about is the Baltimore Veg-Fest. “This is our biggest event of the year, and one of the most stressful. It’s actually held on campus.”
Veg-Fest hosted about 8,000 people and over 100 vendors last year, all celebrating plant-based eating and supporting cruelty-free lifestyles. “This event wouldn’t be possible without the help of the Humane League, and we’re in the stages of planning our 7th annual festival with them,” said Pollock.
While RAWS provides support for UMBC’s veg-community, there are still improvements to be made campus-wide. One of RAWS’ major accomplishments was their partnership with UMBC’s Dining Service to present Meatless Mondays.
“Obviously, there’s improvements to be made. I live in the apartments, so I cook for myself mostly. I know some places, like Masala and Tomato in the Commons, offer vegetarian and vegan options; even D-Hall has more than just salad,” said Pollock. “UMBC has been nothing but supportive of the veg-community.”