Beef: It’s what’s not for dinner

“It tasted like death.”

That is all Gered Williams ’07 could say after he tried his friend’s hamburger. He wanted to see if it was better than his veggie burger.

It wasn’t.

Williams has been a vegan for a year and a half, since he attended The Mountain School last year.

After seeing chickens he had raised for a month get their heads chopped off, “I couldn’t let myself eat it after seeing that kind of suffering first hand,” he said. 

“When you’re that close to it, it becomes apparent that animals can suffer in a very real way, exactly like humans.”

Fitness trainer and consultant Paula D’andrea, who gives her clients nutritional advice and guidance, thinks it is possible to be healthy while being either a vegetarian or vegan.
She notes that when someone chooses to be a vegetarian, the amount of protein and calcium available is severely limited.

To obtain protein without eating meat, she recommends eating legumes (black beans, chickpeas and lentils), nuts, seeds, nut butters, veggie burgers and soy based products. Calcium can be acquired by eating tofu, spinach, collard greens, mustard greens, kale, soy milk and orange juices fortified with calcium.

“The goal with being a vegetarian is always getting a good protein source in,” she said. “If you don’t, your body won’t function properly. You have to have a balance of fat, carbohydrate and protein. If you’re lacking in any one of those areas it’s not a good thing.”

Others may fear a vegetarian diet will cause a vitamin B12 defficiency. Vitamin B12 is essential to the metabolism of every cell in the body. A B12 defficiency  can cause headaches, bruising, depression, fatigue, anemia and irritability. B12 is commonly found in animal products; however, fresh alfalfa, lentils and sea vegetables like kelp are all vegetarian natural foods containing vitamin B12. In addition, a B12 supplement.

Many turn to a vegetarian diet because of the health scares and threats associated with eating meat. Eating too much meat is linked to heart problems, high cholesterol, obesity, irritable bowel  syndrome and even acne. Mad cow disease, poisonous pesticides and E. coli are other health fears that can be limited with a vegetarian lifestyle.

Eric Olliff ’07, another vegan, cites living “a healthier lifestyle” as one of his main motives for becoming a vegetarian, in addition to helping prevent environmental degradation and protesting the cruel practices taking place on America’s factory farms.

A vegan lifestyle entails not eating any food products from animals — that includes milk, eggs, cheese and meat.

Vegetarianism presents numerous problems: obtaining a sufficient amount of protein and resisting daily temptations. But being a vegan is even more difficult.

“It’s very hard to make sure that every little thing you eat has no trace of milk or eggs,” Olliff, who has been a vegan for almost a year, said. “Sometimes waiters at restaurants will lie about the contents in their food because they are unsure of them.”

Cameron Sheedy ’08 restricts herself even less — she is a pesci-vegetarian, meaning that while she will not eat meat, she eats fish. She includes fish in her diet because it is such a good source of protein and because she can’t give up her love for sushi.

Sheedy, who has been a vegetarian for a year, plans on remaining a vegetarian for the rest of her life. She once literally spit out vegetable soup after hearing the broth was made from chicken stock.

Yoga teacher Amy Bird is also a pesci-vegetarian. However, she only eats fish in order to avoid being a difficult guest, and she has been a vegan in the past.

Bird is a vegetarian for ethical and environmental reasons. She sees no nutritional problems with her diet because she obtains essentail B-vitamins without eating meat.

“The meat raising industry is expensive, in-efficient, environmentally disastrous and cruel,” she said. “Sure, the Thanksgiving turkey smells good, and I used to love a nice peppercorn-crusted hard salami from France, but I feel there are bigger things at stake than my appetite and cravings.”

D’andrea believes that a vegetarian lifestyle could actually help America’s youth in reducing current health risks such as obesity and diabetes. 

If one is looking to vegetarianism to lose weight or to be healthier, she points out that the same amount of iron is in 100 calories of spinach as that in 340 calories of a sirloin steak.
In addition to the healthy lifestyle vegetarians have, for many students, being a vegetarian has opened up their lives to new movements, such as animal rights.

Williams supports the Animal Defense League and Animal Liberation Front, which are organizations actively involved in fighting for the better treatment of animals through legal reform and civil disobedience.

“After becoming concerned with and researching the suffering that occurs on feedlots and slaughterhouses, it became apparent that animals were disrespected and literally tortured in countless other ways,” Williams said. “It is so wide-spread that it is nearly impossible to avoid.  You can assume that the shampoos, toothpastes, cosmetic goods and consumer chemicals (like bleach) in your house were all cruelly tested on animals unless they state otherwise.”

Olliff is also troubled by and fully against animal testing for cosmetic goods. He also sees the connection between environmentalism and vegetarianism because the livestock industry produces environmental degradation, such as waterway pollution, rainforest destruction and causes massive amounts of land to be cleared for grazing, he said.

Animal rights are an important part of Laura Barati’s ’08 belief system as well. She has not used leather products since she was twelve. Even though she may have always been an animal lover, she did not become an animal rights activist until she became a vegetarian seven and a half years ago.

“I don’t really care about other people’s diets; as long as they respect my choices, I respect theirs,” she said. “I believe that if you can’t kill your own meat, you probably shouldn’t be eating it.”

She decided to become a vegetarian after watching her family members eat a duck appetizer at dinner when she was nine years old. She misunderstood the situation and believed each was eating a whole duck.

“I told my father that I thought it was wasteful, or rather, mean, to kill and eat more animals than really necessary,” she said. “My father then told me I had no right to judge others for eating meat when I ate meat myself, so I told him I would become a vegetarian —  and I did.”

“In short, I’m vegetarian for myself,” she said. “It just fits.”