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18 February 2001 Issue
Veganism

from Joelle Caputa - CRYSTLSURF@aol.com
The Beacon - William Paterson University

From religious beliefs to world hunger, there are reasons that lead vegetarians to become vegans. Thus, one says good-bye to leather boots and suede jackets and hello to tabouli (Arabic Salad) and Hunan bean curd. However, there's more about the vegan way of life than just what they eat. The strong feeling vegans hold for our planet and the life on it lead them to the choices they have made.

When she was ten years old, Emily Andrews became a vegetarian. Now 16 and attending high school in Indiana, Emily is a vegan. "I felt the need to make the switch because it's been something I've wanted to do for years. Animals are not just objects, they are beings much like ourselves. To me, it seems wrong to use any animal products when I know the types of torture and suffering our fellow creatures endure."

Becoming a vegan had changed Emily's life. She says that, "In everyday, in every situation, I consider the animals that were exploited for human benefit and become more motivated to make things better for them."

Carolyn Cabral, a freshman at Wilson College, originally decided not to eat certain products at the age of 15 due to her objection to factory farming. Over time, she added more reasons to her list. She explains, "Now it is a combination of wanting to help the animals, wanting the healthiest diet for myself and the general environment and making an ethical choice concerning world hunger." She also pointed out, "Many more people can be fed on a vegan diet than one containing animal products."

Carolyn admitted that she used to love meat, but now she finds the smell of it nauseating. "After you stop eating it, with time, it becomes obvious that the smell of cooking meat is the smell of burning death."

When Winter Smith was 12 years old she became exposed to vegetarianism on the Internet. A combination of health reasons, animal rights and her pity for the animals led her to change her eating habits. At first, her family thought this was a phase she was going through and would eventually outgrow. Now 17 years old and attending high school in Toms River, NJ, Winter has kept her beliefs active and is the only vegetarian in her family. "I feel good because I knew I could stick with this and stand for something and I'm healthier than everybody else," she says of her vegetarianism.

Although her family has come to deal with her decision, Winter's peers are not as accepting. She explains, " Everyday at school someone always has something to say." That does not stop her from voicing her beliefs. "I've gone to local protests and I'm a member of PETA."

Greg Lawson, a National Park Service Ranger of 17 years, also promotes his views. At 50 years old, Greg is the president of the Vegetarian Society of El Paso in Texas. His position has give given him the opportunity to appear on several television and radio shows promoting vegetarianism. In addition, he has spoken at local high schools and the University of Texas, among other venues.

Greg decide to become a vegetarian in 1978 after reading Diet for a Small Planet by Lappe and Animal Liberation by Singer. "I decided not to participate in the environmental destruction caused by animal agriculture," he said. However, there were also religious and ethical beliefs and health reasons that made him decide to become a vegan four years ago.

Now you may be wondering just what it is that vegetarians and vegans eat. Winter eats a lot of Morning Star products, which are all substitute foods. Carolyn enjoys seitan with mushrooms and onions, miso soup and salads. Greg recommends soyburgers, mushroom stroganoff, Asian stir fry veggie dishes, and macaroni and soycheese. He is an ethical vegan and uses soy substitutes such as meat analogs, soy milk and vegan cheese. Emily likes pita pockets filled with sprouts, spinach and hummus. To keep healthy, Emily says, "I drink lots of soy milk, take vitamins, drink Genisoy protein shakes, eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and lentils."

"There's no need to substitute foods for animal products. You're better off without them, and as long as you're not living on junk food or starving yourself, you will not be deficient in anything," says Carolyn. The only exception is the vitamin B12, because of the way foods are treated in America. "But if you're concerned about that, just take a supplement," she advises.

Going from eating meat one day to not having any again, may leave some vegeterians/vegans craving it. Greg admits that, "In my first 15 years as an ovo-lacto vegetarian, I cheated several times with a seafood dinner."

Carolyn said, "I did have cravings when I first went vegetarian, and I did give in once or twice. But, I haven't had craving for it in years and the thought of eating meat sickens me now because I think of meat as what it truly is...the rotting carcass of an animal."

So what happens when one of these folks is out to dinner and the person across the table from them sinks their teeth into a juicy piece of cooked cow? "I can't be offended, because meat has been a part of so many people's diets for many years, however, on occasion, it does bother me. I don't usually vocalize my feelings while others are eating though," says Emily.

Of that situation, Carolyn says, "Well, I don't like it, but I remember the qualities that made me choose to be a vegan -- kindness, compassion and wanting to make the world a better place -- can be shared with many people, not just vegans. Because of this attitude, I don't think people feel weird around me. They knew that I object to eating animal products, but they also know that I will not force my views upon them."

Greg's solution is simple. Because this situation does bother him, he says, "I try to arrange it so that the situation does not occur. I only dine with other vegetarians." On the other hand, Winter says it doesn't bother her, but she says her share when they eat it.

Emily feels sorry for the animals, but she says she feels sorry, "...more for the human race for being so misled." She continued by saying, "Knowing that I am not putting strange hormones, harmful fats and other disgusting materials into my body makes me feel cleaner, healthier and less hypocritical. I would recommend the vegetarian diet to everyone and the vegan diet to those who are ready to make a drastic change for the benefit of themselves and animals. As a vegetarian, you can live more peacefully knowing that your lifestyle does not contribute to animal suffering. The lifestyle also benefits the environment in various ways. Overall, it's for the better."

The biggest benefit Emily says she has gained by going vegan is knowledge and the change of heart she has experienced. For Carolyn, the benefits are endless. "My health has improved greatly. I have not had ulcers or even heart burn since going vegan. My hypoglycemia and asthma have also improved. I know that I am not hurting anyone and that gives me peace of mind. I am comforted to know I am doing all that I can to help eradicate cruelty from the world."

Carolyn promotes the vegan lifestyle every day, by educating others around her and by being an example to others. But, she says, "I do it with tact. You can't force it upon people, but you can gently lead them to a better lifestyle." She feels being a vegan is the most compassionate way to live. She explains, "It helps the animals. It helps you (your health). It helps the environment (less pollution). It helps alleviate world hunger. When you look at all the reasons there are to be a vegan...well, I have yet to hear one good reason for eating meat."

Greg feels that anyone who cares about the environment or about the suffering of animals should examine a vegan diet. This is, "So that they are eating healthy, have a minimal negative impact on the environment and so that animal suffering is reduced."

Because of Emily, a lot of her friends accept and are learning about vegetarianism. She says, "I have lots of fliers and stickers that I show people." Her hopes for the future are optimistic. "I truly believe that one day, mankind will wake up from the comatose state it is in now. Someday, animals won't be seen as possessions and objects that are for our use. It will take time and happen slowly, but eventually, I think that our world will be much like the introduction of Diet for a New America. But first, we need the extra push for the necessary turnaround in the right direction. I think we're getting there."

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