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Vegan Fraternities? At UC Davis, Frats Compete For Meat-Free Street Cred

Julia Mitric / Capital Public Radio

A banner outside the Theta Xi fraternity in Davis, California, announces the house is going vegan.

Julia Mitric / Capital Public Radio

The words vegan and fraternity don't usually go hand in hand.

But that's part of the point with the Vegan Frat Challenge.

"I think it makes it more interesting and it intrigues people more," says John Eakin, a UC Davis sophomore and a member of Theta Xi fraternity.

Theta Xi and Theta Chi are competing to see which house can accrue the most vegan points by consuming meat-free meals, going to film screenings and other campus activities sponsered by the activists.

The idea for the Vegan Frat Challenge came from a Davis student group called P.E.A.C.E., or People for the Elimination of Animal Cruelty through Education. 

P.E.A.C.E. is making it easy for the frats by stocking their fridges with mushrooms, bell peppers, soy-based sausages and foods made from almond milk.

Money for the groceries comes from peta2, the youth wing of PETA. The group received donations from plant-based food companies such as Miyoko's Kitchen and Kite Hill.

To kick off the week, a group of female activists came by Theta Xi to show the young men how to make a tofu scramble. Eakin appreciated the demo.

"Most of us don't know how to cook tofu," Eakin admits. 

He says he and his fellow fraternity members normally eat a meat-based diet: "If we started cooking [tofu] all of a sudden and it tasted really horrible, maybe that would deter us. I think they're trying to make it as tasteful as possible."

P.E.A.C.E. president Iliana Zisman frames it as a collaboration.

"It's not so much about women cooking for men. It's vegans working to empower non-vegans with knowledge on how to cook this way," she says.

PETA, the national organization, is better known for confrontation.

But, as Zisman points out, "there are a lot of different avenues to making change." 

She sees the Vegan Frat Challenge as a friendly way to raise awareness about animal welfare (and vegan cooking) with a crowd that might not be open to it otherwise.

All this week, the competing frats are busy snap-chatting photos of their vegan meals for points, to see who gets the highest tally. They can also up their score by attending a lecture with vegan body builders.

The winner will be announced at a vegan barbecue on Friday.

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