Some of the 5% are here at UAIS

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Isabella Feaheny, Author

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NOTE: This article was not intended to preach but rather clarify some reasons and misconceptions that may exist.

I am one of over 6 million people in the US that practice vegetarianism, and here at UAIS, I am not alone. Vegetarianism has been going on since basically the beginning of time, but recently it’s received more attention. With 5% of the US population following a vegetarian diet, according to Gallup. That leaves 95% of other Americans perhaps wondering what it is, why people do it, among other curiosities and misconceptions.

The vegetarian diet consists of avoiding certain foods for varying reasons. There are also different types of vegetarians, like vegans and pescatarians. Simple vegetarians (lacto-ovo vegetarians) will avoid foods with any meat product, such as chicken, pork, ham, etc. and sometimes foods with gelatin, rennet, and lard. What are those? Gelatin is a thickening and gelling agent made from the skin, bones, and hooves of animals, often found in marshmallows and gummy bears. Rennet is an enzyme found in the lining of a cow’s intestines, often found in various types of cheese. Lard is fat from the abdomen of a pig that can be found in canned beans and pie crusts. For these three, avoidance depends on the vegetarian.

Vegans avoid everything already mentioned, plus other animal products, those being; cheese, milk, honey, or any products that are derived from animals, even in small amounts.

Pescatarians are very similar to vegetarians, but only they eat fish. Regular vegetarians do not eat fish. Charlotte Hall, a sophomore, is, in fact, a pescatarian. She said, “I was vegetarian for around a year… but then, I missed sushi.., so I ended up starting to eat fish again.”

There are many reasons for someone to be vegetarian,

Health reasons

One of the more common reasons to be a vegetarian is to address or prevent health issues. Some people who are only vegetarian because they want to lose weight, or would like to decrease their chance of type 2 diabetes or have lower blood pressure. And sometimes one’s body could begin rejecting certain proteins that are only found in meat.

Religious practice

Within various religions, consumption of meat is often addressed somewhere in their various holy books. Hinduism and other Dharmic religions tend to follow this lifestyle. According to Wikipedia, “Vegetarianism is strongly linked with a number of Dharmic traditions (religions) that originated in ancient India (Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism)”

Ethical treatment of animals

Some vegetarians don’t eat meat due to concerns about animal treatment. For these people, their concerns range from not wanting to support the way farmers pump animals with hormones, overcrowded living conditions, or simply not wanting to eat something that once had the ability to think and feel. Jennifer Holdstock, a senior, said, “I just don’t like the idea of animals being slaughtered for their meat.”

And these are valid concerns. Turkeys, for example, have a natural lifespan of 10 years, yet at factory farms, they are slaughtered at only 5 months old. Just like dogs and cats, turkeys enjoy spending time with people, being petted, and can form emotional connections. Animal rights vegetarians like my mom can recognize this and ask, “Why can we kill and eat some animals but not others?” (TOK students could ponder this one.)

Environmental concerns

The last main reason that people decide to go vegetarian is because of its benefits on the environment. First, livestock can waste large amounts of water compared to plants. In fact, Cutting consumption of animal products in half would reduce the U.S.’s dietary requirements of water by 37 percent. The average U.S. diet currently takes 1,320 gallons (4,997 liters) of water a day to produce.

Vegetarianism also can decrease methane emissions, more specifically, ones from cows and other livestock. Methane is one of the worst greenhouse gasses. More livestock, more methane, more problems.

 

Ok, now that we know what exactly is vegetarian and why is vegetarian, here are the two most common questions that I get.

But… Don’t you miss bacon/sausage/other meat?

Well, sure. But it depends on the person. For me, I will admit that McDonald’s chicken nuggets seem appealing every once in a while. But I don’t think that I would go back to eating them.

Following this dietary plan, you get protein deficiency. Right?

Not necessarily true. According to Healthline, A vegetarian diet should include a diverse mix of fruits, vegetables, grains, healthy fats, and proteins. Although there are some vegetarians who don’t get enough protein due to simply not knowing good sources of protein, the vast majority are totally well-nourished. Here are some good protein-plenty foods for vegetarians.

Vegetarians are always all super healthy. Right?

It is important to note that vegetarianism isn’t the be-all-end-all diet plan. For example, Oreos are actually vegan, but if you’re over-indulging in Oreos and french fries, that wouldn’t be very healthy.

 

Overall, vegetarianism definitely has its benefits for some. For me, vegetarianism was the right lifestyle choice I made around 2 years ago. I feel healthier and happier overall.