Academic Conferences and Vegan Dining

November is World Vegan Month. In celebration of food, let’s talk about vegan dining at academic conferences. An academic wrote about the food choices at a small conference. The menu served only deli meat sandwiches, and the academic was a vegan. The person asked for a meat-free meal and was told it was “neither important nor possible.”

The author wrote about the hypocrisy in academia – on one hand, academics unravel concepts like speciesism (animals are inferior to human) or colonialism.  At the same time, academics imply that ideas that are different are strange or bizarre.

Smoke and Mirrors

You may know that higher ed has a culture of smoke and mirrors. For example, in computer programming, smoke and mirrors is a program that doesn’t exist, but appears that it does.

In academia, smoke and mirrors examples are:

  • Opposing views that are outside of the culture
  • Selective outrage
  • Ignoring the elephant in the room.

The culture favors liberal education (empowering students to deal with complex ideas, diversity and change) over conservative education (choice in education, local control of curriculum).

I’ve worked in higher education (faculty and administration) and found that the smoke and mirrors culture is not unusual.

On one hand, academics are charged with creating new research and cutting edge ideas. And on the other hand, academics are stuck when it comes to changing organizational cultures – change is not easy and threatens the status quo.

Vegan Dining

What’s the big deal about vegan dining at the small conference? It was about choice, options and respecting differences in others.  The request for vegan food was ignored, and appeared to be strange or bizarre.

The blog author suggested that academics are “obligated” to serve vegan meals at meetings.

But there was strong resistance to vegan-only meals  – some academics believe that humans are not animals, and speciesism is alive and well.

In today’s academic environment, veganism is not rocket science. It really is about personal choice. We don’t have to understand all the choices that people make – it’s a waste of time and energy.

Respecting differences is also not rocket science, or it should not be…

Human Animals

Long story short, the culture of higher education needs to expand its thinking. Academics need to look at the bigger picture of human-animal interactions.

Is it possible to love some animals and eat other animals? Yes, but it’s a moral dilemma for some people.

We’re on this planet to do good, and being aware of the harm we do by eating animals is a personal choice. Acting on that choice should not threaten people who disagree. Veganism is not about judging others – it’s about a different way to pay it forward.

Final Words

World Vegan Month is a time to celebrate with a plethora of vegan-friendly products, from vegan chocolates to banana bread donuts. Try something different – your palate will appreciate new and interesting flavors!

And academics, think of food as an olive branch – let’s put judging aside. We don’t all have to agree.

Vegan or not, be respectful and try to get along.

Sources: Why All Conference Should Go Vegan

6 Percent of Americans Now Identify as Vegan

The ethics of speciesism

The Meaning of Liberal Education

Four Pillars of Conservative Education Policy

World Vegan Month


Dr. Bessie

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
~~~Mahatma Gandhi~~~


Author: Dr. Bessie DiDomenica

Food Policy Researcher • Resilient Agriculture Advocate • Public Speaker • Public Policy Wonk • Writer • Teacher • Social Entrepreneur • Associate Editor

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