The Hofstra Student Organization for Animal Rights (SOAR) is a club dedicated to educating the student body about animal exploitation and fostering a community of vegan and vegetarian students at Hofstra. Although SOAR has been active since 2016, the group ramped up its activism this past semester.
The president of SOAR, Katya Freitas, a junior film major with a Spanish minor, went vegan nearly two years ago. “I’m an empathetic and compassionate person, and I should really extend my compassion toward animals,” Freitas said. She stressed that going vegan was not just a dietary decision, but a lifestyle choice that allowed her to connect her beliefs to her daily actions.
“The purpose of the club is to do outreach and educate other people,” Freitas said.
“Personally, I think some of the best work the club does is the sampling. It lets people try vegan food, and a lot of them are surprised by how much they like it,” said Nathalie Rincon, a member of SOAR
This fall, SOAR has been giving away plant-based food, such as vegan “BLT” sandwiches, in the Sondra and David S. Mack Student Center to diminish the stigma surrounding veganism. Before Thanksgiving break, SOAR hosted a tofurky roast, or a “kind of a mock-turkey roast,” Freitas said, and distributed vegan macaroni and cheese. On Wednesday, December 5, the group held a vegan eggnog giveaway in the Student Center.
“[There are vegan] alternatives to everything, and I don’t think people realize that,” Freitas said.
SOAR and peta2, the youth-led offshoot of PETA, the leading animal rights organization in the United States, have teamed up in the past and continue to work together. Peta2 came to Hofstra this fall during a countrywide university tour to host an “I, Calf” virtual reality (VR) experience, which allowed students to witness the life of a baby calf through a VR headset.
In October, SOAR held a screening of the documentary “Earthlings,” known for its display of the gruesome treatment of animals.
“My transition to veganism was heavily influenced when I discovered the horrors of factory farming in the dairy and egg industry,” said Rachael Ferro, a senior religion major and member of SOAR’s executive board.
Although some students left early due to the grisly nature of the film, many in attendance “were willing to sit through it and watch the truth of the food industry. The conversations we had with people after the screening were heartfelt and personal,” Ferro said.
Freitas, who educated herself about the meat and dairy industries, said that going vegan can be hard for many due to a feeling of loneliness and a lack of information.
“Some people are interested, but they just don’t know what to do,” Freitas said. SOAR has allowed like-minded people concerned about not only animal exploitation but also the environmental impact of animal agriculture and more, to establish a community at Hofstra.
“I just really felt at home with the club,” Rincon said. “There’s a lot of shared interests and beliefs and it’s generally just a really friendly and positive place to be.”
Next semester, SOAR will hold weekly meetings on Thursdays at 7 p.m. in room 141 of the Sondra and David S. Mack Student Center.
You can learn more about the club from their Instagram handle, @hofstraanimalrights.