Students petition to remove Aramark services from campus

Paul Cobler

About 5,000 UT students have signed an online petition in one week calling on the university to cancel its food services contract with Aramark due to animal abuse concerns.

The petition, created by public relations senior Zoe Wright, cites cruelty toward poultry raised on Aramark factory farms through a rapid growth process, improper slaughtering procedures and inhumane living conditions as reasons for UT to cancel its contract with the company. 

Wright, a campus outreach intern for animal rights group The Humane League, created the petition as a part of a national campaign against Aramark on college campuses.

“They approached me and asked me to be the face of the petition and do some outreach on campus,” Wright said. “It just went from there, and it’s been crazy successful. I think a lot of people care about what they’re eating.”

Aramark currently provides food services for University Unions Catering at UT and is one of the largest supply companies in the country. 

Taylor Ford, The Humane League’s Corporate Campaign Manager, said The Humane League seeks to have the largest impact possible when addressing animal rights, and Aramark is the first target of their campaign.

“We think students are very well positioned to have a very strong voice in this campaign,” Ford said. “They’re the people that are eating Aramark food in Aramark operated dining halls nearly every day. When a majority of Aramark’s clients are universities and therefore students, so we thought that we would connect with students and provide them with the information about our campaign and see if they would be interested in getting involved, and it has been very successful so far.”

Aramark established an animal welfare policy with the Humane Society of the United States that included poultry and egg treatment in August, the same month The Humane League’s campaign began. According to a press release, Aramark will address various animal welfare issues, including those cited in Wright’s petition.

“We are pleased to partner with Aramark, and create this comprehensive animal welfare policy,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, in the press release. “Aramark’s efforts demonstrate a growing interest in animal welfare by consumers and the industry, and help drive toward continuous improvement in addressing farm animal practices.”

Ford said Aramark’s refusal to deny the allegations only proves they are true and shows the corporation’s insincerity in making any changes to their operations.

"This is a false, misleading campaign being driven by The Humane League," said Karen Cutler, vice president of corporate communications, in an email. "The sole reason for the campaign is that we are working with respected groups like the Humane Society of the U.S. and Compassion in World Farming, and not them."

Wright said she thinks the number of signatures on the petition will increase and draw the attention of University administration.

“The strong support for the petition shows the UT community cares how their food is prepared,” Wright said. “Animal rights has been an issue that’s very close to my heart, that I’ve always really cared about since high school. I think that what The Humane League is doing is really incredible and I’m really glad to be a part of it. ”

University spokesman J.B. Bird said they would review the petition, and the university takes all student concerns into account.

“We take the concerns of students seriously and will listen to them,” Bird said. “We always have to consider the welfare of the entire campus.” 

This story has been updated since its original publication with Aramark's statement.