Julia Weaver ’09
It seems that nowadays meat is just going out of style. On a recent trip to a restaurant known for its meat and potatoes, I was surprised to find the first few pages of the menu dedicated to vegetarian options. Days later, I saw an advertisement “veg is the new black.” My biggest question, why? Vegetarianism has become a craze, phase or simply a way of life for a reported 15 million people in the United States alone. Vegetarian cafes, cookbooks and meal options have become more than commonplace; they’re expected. But why have so many individuals decided that “veg” is the way to go? And furthermore, what exactly is a vegetarian?
The term is thrown around loosely in popular culture, but a vegetarian is simply a person who abstains from eating meat and fish. A pescetarian is someone that refrains from eating land animals, but eats any type of seafood in addition to all other food products. Finally, a vegan is someone that refrains from consuming or using any meat or dairy products. According to the American Dietetic Association, a vegetarian diet is believed to be beneficial because it increases one’s energy, contributes to weight loss and helps lower one’s risk of heart attacks, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. McNamara student and former vegetarian Eron Bryant said, “I became a vegetarian because I had low energy,” and accredited her increased energy levels during her stint as a vegetarian to her meat-free diet. Sophomore Kaitlin Thompson, a vegetarian for the past five years, agreed with Eron, discussing how vegetarianism has had positive effects on her health and describing it as “a way of life.”
While its health benefits draw many individuals to a vegetarian lifestyle, the stress that the meat industry places on the environment is reason enough for others. Studies published by goveg.com claim animals raised for slaughter produce 130 times more waste then the human population and require one-third of all of the raw materials and fossil fuels in the United States alone. Yet another popular reason for dropping meat products altogether is the highly publicized harsh treatment of animals raised for the food industry. Organizations like PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) have launched hundreds of campaigns against the meat industry and in favor of vegetarian lifestyles, including the infamous “veggie love” campaign, which was banned for the 2009 Superbowl. According to studies published on goveg.com, the meat industry kills 27 billion animals per year, many of which are subject to physical abuse and dangerous growth hormones. Junior Renata Malionek became a vegetarian three years ago for similar reasons. “I read a poem about the life of a commercial fish from the fish’s perspective. That night we were eating fish for dinner and I couldn’t bring myself to eat it, so I decided to give up meat altogether.”
But perhaps “veg” isn’t always the best way to go. Studies conducted by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) regarding the prevention of chronic disease showed the intake of meat to be beneficial, as it helps boost the immune system and lowers one’s risk of heart disease. Another up and coming pro-meat lifestyle is The Body Ecology, which cites meat as an essential part of one’s diet, which when coupled with the proper combination of food groups, is crucial to staying healthy. Further studies published by the CDC highlighted the negative effects the chemicals and preservatives in “veggie burgers” and other soy or tofu based products have on one’s health. When asked what he thought about a vegetarian lifestyle, Dean Harris ’09 replied, “It’s a bad idea. You’ll starve and you’re not getting enough proteins.”
So, with all of this is mind, is “veg” still the best way to? When asked this question, Renata Malionek replied, “Yeah, I think so. I mean it helps to have a balance, but it was the best thing for me.”