Veganism has become an increasingly popular lifestyle throughout the younger generations. In the past five years, the number of vegans and vegetarians in the country has more than doubled surpassing sixteen million according to therawfoodworld.com. The vegan diet cuts out all animal products whether it be dairy, meat, eggs and even clothing products that use wool or leather.
There are many that do it for health purposes to help high cholesterol or digestive issues and others that do it to support animal rights. What people don’t realize is that high cholesterol and heart disease are way more prevalent among people eating the American Standard Diet, which typically consists of meat, dairy, fat, and sugar, than among those following a vegan or even vegetarian diet.
Studies from the Harvard School of Public Health have shown that less red-meat consumption can lead to lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and a lower risk of diabetes and heart disease. Mary Harris, a Specialist Professor of Public Relations, switched to a vegan diet seven years ago, and even after having a vegan pregnancy she managed to lose weight and lower her cholesterol.
Harris works alongside chair and associate professor of the health and physical education Dr. Christopher Hirschler, running a vegan organization at Monmouth University called Plants for Peace. They host vegan potlucks on campus that are always open to the public and feature notable authors and vegan restaurant owners as speakers.
Senior music industry student, Huascar Holguin, has been vegan for about two years without ever looking back. He attended the vegan potluck and roundtable discussion this past Sunday and thought it was an amazing experience. “It was a very welcoming environment and exciting to be surrounded by others who share similar values. It is important to vegans and non-vegans alike to be exposed to this growing community and to show the world veganism isn’t just a phase, but an increasingly popular lifestyle,” said Holguin.
Aside from the health benefits, a more compassionate reason people go vegan is for the support of animal rights, to take a stand against the inhumane treatment of other living creatures we share this planet with. The meat and dairy industry are based on the unethical and inhumane treatment of the animals that are raised and slaughtered for human consumption. Organizations like PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, are one of the loudest voices in the animal rights world and have taken a large stance against the animal industry. They are responsible for a large number of the graphic videos of life on an animal farm or slaughterhouse exposing the practices of major corporations like Tyson.
There is also an extreme amount of damage being done to the environment from meat production. One of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions is animal agriculture like animal farms and slaughterhouses. A 2006 study conducted by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found that 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions are directly attributable to livestock production, which is more than the emissions attributable to the entire transportation sector. Aside from the emissions, the amount of food, water, and energy necessary to feed, clean and host the animals on one of these farms is enormous and could be utilized in a more efficient way.
On campus, Monmouth has made great improvements in their ability to accommodate for students with all sorts of dietary restrictions. The dining hall now offers an entire vegan section on the food line as well as a fridge containing smaller snack type vegan options. Dr. Hirschler is to thank for the changes as he worked closely with Monmouth’s food provider, Gourmet Dining, and the certified nutritionist to ensure there were enough options for people from all walks of life. Ayse Yasas, a senior communication student, said, “I noticed that they’re definitely trying to add a few more options which have helped a lot. Last semester, a vegan food truck came to campus and that was really cool. It was nice to meet people who were also vegans because they understand what you go through. There’s definitely a lot more that can be done at Monmouth, but there is a start.”
By going vegan or vegetarian or even pescatarian you’re not conforming, you’re adapting. It isn’t a trend or a phase, it’s a way of life. It’s a choice to not participate in the surplus of violence going on in this world. We as humans do not need to eat animals to thrive or to live.
“Most people haven’t thoroughly researched the topic to know how their diet is contributing to violence inflicted on animals who are capable of the same range of emotions as their dog or cat, environmental degradation, and the physical and emotional suffering of workers who are paid to kill all day long on the kill floor of a slaughterhouse,” said Hirschler.
So, clear your conscious, practice nonviolence, and make a difference. Try to limit your use and consumption of animal products or at the very least be aware of what is going on and know where your food is coming from.
PHOTO COURTESY of Ayse Yasas