WHY DO IT?
“How could you let me eat these sweet animals?” asked Ramona to her mother at a childhood age. At a small age Ramona Shapiro began living a vegetarian lifestyle, excluding any meats from her diet. Later in her life she would live as a vegan, excluding all animal products from her diet completely. There are many reasons to why someone might want to live a vegetarian or vegan life style. Although the removal of animal products from one’s diet may be just too weird for some, the practice can be traced back to many cultural beliefs. In Buddhism, its been known that Buddha taught his followers to avoid meat; meanwhile some churches, such as The Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints, teach their members to consume meat only sparingly. Furthermore, the space needed for meat farming and to produce enough food for these animals is one of the leading causes of deforestation, and a good reason for many to give up meat. A popular reason is also the concern towards animal rights and their protection.
Many people choose not to eat any animal products as a response to today’s method of farming. “Most people are unaware of factory practices,” states Ben Sturrock, a vegan since 2006. On the contrary to what we have been taught as children, today’s factory farms are far from the picturesque “mom and pop” image of a farm. The large demand for meat and other animal products has changed the farming industry drastically, calling for faster and cost effective methods of production. As a result, factory farms cage animals in tiny spaces, hardly enough to move. According to opposecruelty.org, many egg laying hens are packed in cages that on average have less than half a square foot of space per bird. Many die from asphyxiation, a condition that results from lack of oxygen, and are left to decompose side by side to live hens. “According to the egg industry, 98 percent of eggs in the U.S. come from hens in battery cages.” Male chicks are of no use to these factory farms because they do not produce eggs, so in order to get rid of them, factory farms either trash them or grind them up alive.
Factory farms have also been caught abusing animals and charged for animal cruelty. Pigs, for example, have been beaten to death with metal rods. Those who have survived the beatings were unable to move to reach their food and water containers, and were left to slowly die from starvation. Many of the general ways of killing have major faults in them too, and many animals do end up suffering a lot anyways. In cows, for example, a special gun is used to shoot a bolt in between the brain in order to stun the animal so that they do not feel anything; however, in many cases the bolt misses the right spot and the animal ends up feeling everything.
THE NUTRITION BEHIND IT ALL
It’s definitely possible to live a healthy vegetarian diet, but it’s important to monitor what you eat. Living a healthy lifestyle, whether vegetarian or not requires determination. On average, vegetarians and vegans have lower risks in heart disease, some types of diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain cancers. One reason is because meats are high on saturated fats, which raises the bad cholesterol (LDL) in your body; the higher the cholesterol level, the higher the risk for heart disease. Eggs and red meats are filled with cholesterol, but it’s saturated fat in general that raises your cholesterol levels.
However, eating enough fiber every day can reduce the risk of heart disease and can benefit your body in so many ways. There are two types of fiber that contribute to your body’s health, soluble and insoluble. Fiber helps lower the your risk of colon cancer and also lowers your bad cholesterol (LDL) levels, lowering your risk of heart disease. Because a vegetarian and vegan diet is rich in plant consumption, it is rich in fiber, which are low in calories and help you fill up faster and longer. Furthermore, because your stomach is filled quicker and for a much longer period of time, fiber helps improve weight control and can help you in loosing weight. The daily recommendation for fiber is roughly around 30 grams and can be found easily by eating vegetables (such as carrots, cabbage, and green beans), and fruits (especially with the skins). In addition, you can get it from whole grains, seeds and nuts.
One problem that people find from a vegan diet are the lost of nutrients which your body gets from eating animal products, such as protein, iron, calcium, vitamin B12, A, and D. But if you do some research you will find out how easy it is to find these nutrients in other foods:
Protein: many fake meats, such as soy burgers and tofu, are fortifies with protein, but you can also get it from nuts, peanut butter.
Iron: Broccoli, mushrooms, rice and breads, oatmeal, barley, raisins, tomato juice.
Vitamin B12: Soymilk, soy burgers.
Calcium: Fortified foods and juices (such as tofu and Orange juice), fruits and vegetables (especially tangerines, broccoli, spinach, snap beans).
Vitamin D: Soymilk is a good source of vitamin D, however your body also produces vitamin D when you are exposed to the sun, which shouldn’t be a problem in sunny California (especially Santa Barbara)
Vitamin A: Leafy green vegetables, nuts, fruits and vegetables (such as peaches, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, spinach, broccoli).
If you really love your In-N-Out burgers and pork chops but want to limit your meat consumption, you may want to start slowly. According to Ramona Shapiro (vegan 11 years) and Ben Sturrock (vegan 1 year), it’s not expensive to live a vegetarian or vegan diet. You can find many recipes online and find many cookbooks, and today, more restaurants serve vegetarian/vegan options than before. Also, you can find support through some organizations on campus, such as VIVO, who are happy to answer any questions regarding your brand-spanking new eating diet. Like Andrew Dunn states, your best advice if you’re going to do it is to “do it with research and do it right.” The last thing you want to do is claim yourself a vegetarian, eat nothing but pasta and chips, and gain a good fifty-pounds.