Bold Ambition: Instructor Adam Hoffman wants to make ASU vegan by 2021

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Jessica Carpenter • College Times

Animal rights activist and ASU instructor Adam Hoffman is on a mission.

Hoffman—who is also working toward a Ph.D. in English literature—wants to save the planet, one issue at a time. His goal now is to make ASU vegan by 2021 by participating in animal rights and environmental marches and participating in webcasts and podcasts to educate students and staff.

He’s used to being heckled, and sometimes passersby become confrontational and get in his face.

“In Arizona, you have this incredible destruction of our desert ecosystem for cattle,” Hoffman says.

“We are depleting our groundwater to grow alfalfa for cattle in Saudi Arabia.”

According to marketplace.org, a Saudi dairy company purchased 14,000 acres in Arizona and California to grow alfalfa, a water-intensive plant, to feed its cows.

Hoffman is fed up with the inhumane treatment of dairy and free-range cows, saying some of these animals live outside with almost no coolant throughout the year in Arizona. They are then slaughtered between the ages of 18 months to 4 years.

One of Hoffman’s goals through protesting on campus is to bring awareness to and change how students are eating.

“We can eat something and be better students and not destroy the planet. It’s such an easy fix,” he says.

Garden introduction

Born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Hoffman was introduced to gardening by his mother, who lived on a 3-acre lot. At the property, Hoffman took care of numerous animals, including dogs, cats, rabbits, frogs, turtles and fish.

While living in Michigan, Hoffman said his life changed. He shot a “chipmunk-like” ground hog with a BB gun because it was digging holes in the yard. The animal was only injured. When he went to finish the job the next day, Hoffman watched as another groundhog came running across the grounds to the injured one’s aid.

“It literally tried to pull its injured friend to safety—away from me,” Hoffman says. Crushed by his “callous action,” Hoffman vowed to never kill animals again.

“At that point I knew I’d try to befriend animals, not execute them,” Hoffman says.

While studying at ASU, Hoffman uses themes and situations from news stories and applies them to real life as he specializes in science writing and humanities.

“Growing up, I discovered in human societies, ‘The pen is mightier than the sword,’” Hoffman says. “Since I can do cool things with words, I decided that’s how I’d try to help people.”

Unsatisfied with the news coverage of issues impacting the environment and animals, he turns on his webcam and discusses these issues. The topics have interested Hoffman for years, but only in the last year has he been moved to educate those around him.

“I was writing these papers, and I’m realizing people need to know that scientists are trying to wipe out entire (bug) species,” he says. “People need to know the orangutans are probably going to go extinct in the next 10 years. It’s one of those things where I’m trying to do my part.”

In terms of cows, Hoffman shows 2015 Great Acceleration Charts by the Anthropocene Review that show trends in emissions from carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane. Methane emissions have nearly doubled since 1997.

“We need somebody who will say this is a justice issue,” Hoffman says. “That’s how I got involved. I can’t pretend like there isn’t a problem anymore. I felt like I had to do my part in trying to save humans and animals.”

Hoffman’s work to bring awareness to campus is based largely on his concern for the students’ health. He has spoken to the ASU alumni who own the vegan restaurant Twenty-Four Carrots, whom he says have “agreed to pitch a high-volume sales model to Aramark,” ASU’s restaurant provider, for a restaurant on campus.

Veg Out, an ASU club dedicated to promoting veganism and animal rights, is working toward the same goal. Veg Out President Katherine Poe says there are two powerful tools: education and protest.

“Educating students about animal agriculture and the benefits of veganism is critical, as is educating the administration about why veganism is in line with ASU’s values, particularly sustainability,” Poe says.

“We are in full support and want to be supportive of one another in whatever way is needed.”

Hoffman also wants to remove Chick-Fil-A restaurants from around ASU because they are “a wrecking-ball socially.” The restaurant has been protested for its alleged anti-LGBTQ stance. Hoffman is working with Friends of Animals, an ASU club of which he is a member.

Jeremiah Miller, an officer in the Friends of Animals club on the Polytech campus, says, “They not only treat chickens terribly, but they also support other outdated ideas like being against LGBT rights. We think that the common goals of LGBT people and allies, as well as the animal rights movement, will help get the ball rolling on moving towards a vegan campus.

“Adam’s been an amazing help for the club. He’s helped organize tabling and protests, as well as doing most of the administrative work for the club. We definitely couldn’t be doing what we are without his help and passion for the cause.”

Inviting conversation

As an instructor, Hoffman shares his movement with his students and openly invites conversation and disagreements.

“They don’t have to agree with me,” Hoffman says. “I am very tolerant of different points of view in the classroom. I enjoy helping people learn and try to give them the tools for their own liberation: language and writing skills.”

Through all of his activism, Hoffman says he does worry about it affecting his job at ASU.

“I care about academia; I don’t want to get kicked off,” he says.

He values the platform of campus and uses it as a helpful way to educate students on issues outside of the classroom. He is known to bring his protest signs with him everywhere, including English department meetings.

“We need to get justice for animals, humans and the environment, and there’s a lack of people willing to speak up in powerful places, which ASU is,” Hoffman says.

“Am I worried? Sure. But, the world needs something right now more than Adam Hoffman’s career plan. It’s not really my business what people think of me. I’ve been known to act on this urgent issue, and I think I’ve done my job.”  CT

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