Concerns for health, animal rights and the Earth are encouraging people to squash the beef and pass the peas to pursue a lifestyle in vegetarianism. Many young people are making a major change in their eating habits in response to the awareness about the origin of meat products, and for health benefits. With weight loss continuously ranking as the number one New Year’s resolution, reducing animal products from one’s diet can assist in shedding pounds.
In general, vegetarians do not consume meat, but there are various types of vegetarians such as vegans, lacto-ovo, lacto, or ovo vegetarians.
Vegans do not consume any animal products including dairy and honey. Lacto-ovo vegetarians consume both dairy and eggs. Lacto- vegetarians consume dairy products, while the only animal product ovo-vegetarians consume are eggs.
Geeshian Avril, a sophomore and St. Lucian native, has been a vegetarian for about two months. Avril stopped eating meat after he discovered the FDA approved the consumption of genetically modified and hormone injected animals.
“I no longer knew what I was consuming,” he said. “It became too tedious to make healthy decisions about meat, so I decided to cut it out entirely.”
The engineering major only eats meals that accommodate his diet, despite the lack of healthy food resources on campus.
“I don’t eat anything with a face,” he said. “I eat peas, beans, and legumes for protein.”
On the other hand, animal rights awareness has influenced many to take the “veg-pledge” through films like “Meet Your Meat” which documents the slaughtering process.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is a notorious animal rights organization that persuades people to cease consuming animal products. PETA uses media that document the severe abuse animals go through in order to be packaged and sold. The organization also has a site, www.peta2.com, which offers “free stuff” like clothing, jewelry, and books for going vegan.
Soft spoken, Yves Courtois, a native of Laredo, Texas, changed his eating habits because of the treatment of animals in the food industry.
“I wouldn’t want anyone to suffer due to my desires for something I don’t even need,” he said.
Courtois was a vegetarian for a year until crossing over to veganism which he has managed to sustain for four years and counting.
“I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, rice, soy,” Courtois said. “There are many healthy and alternative products for meats.”
Tofu was commonly known as one of the main alternatives for meat. Today there are many soy-based products on the shelves in the forms of mock burgers, chicken nuggets, and Italian sausage. Morningstar Farms is the largest vegetarian food producer in the U.S. The company offers products like veggie bacon strips and an assortment of veggie burgers that can be found in frozen food aisles in grocery stores.
Likewise, vegetarians do not only eat vegetables and tofu. There are many dishes that are still edible without meat like red beans and rice, pizza, sandwiches, and soups to name a few.
According to a 2006 United Nations report, Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options, Livestock, Environment and Development, the factory farming industry emits more greenhouses gases than all SUVs, cars, trucks, planes, and ships in the world combined.
Professors at the University of Chicago, Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin have targeted meat consumption as one of the suspects in global warming and encourage reducing animal products in one’s diet.
“However close you can be to a vegan diet and further from the mean American diet, the better you are for the planet. It doesn’t have to be all the way to the extreme end of vegan. If you simply cut down from two burgers a week to one, you’ve already made a substantial difference,” Eshel told the University of Chicago News Office.
Moreover, some people have adopted semi-vegetarianism, or flexitarianism. It involves a mostly vegetarian diet that incorporates occasional meat consumption, and is ideal for those who do not want to remove meat from their diet completely.
“Vegetarianism is one of the healthiest and smartest ways to eat,” Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD said in The Flexitarian Diet, “and it is perfectly acceptable to pepper in meat and still be able to gain all the health benefits.”
Mikolas Thompson, a senior from Detroit, saw the benefits of vegetarianism from his friends who practiced the lifestyle. He has been thinking of making the transition for some years now.
“They always had a lot more energy and they were always upbeat,” Thompson said. “I want my life to be like that.