Values, drawbacks of veganism


Vegan meal consisting of strawberries, vegan “chicken” nuggets and pasta with a vinaigrette dressing

Cassidy Schmidt, Staff Reporter

As diet culture continues to gain popularity, so has veganism. While some people simply consider it to be another healthy diet, veganism’s uniqueness comes from its overall goal to eat only plant based products.

People who take part in veganism- whether for their whole life, or just for an occasional meal- may do so for ethical reasons, such as lowering carbon emissions from producing meat, or to show less support to companies that treat their animals inhumanely. Others may choose veganism for dietary purposes, such as to eat more whole foods.

“A vegan diet can be an ethical choice for some, while others may take part for weight loss reasons,” culinary teacher Autumn Tsang said. “I personally am not vegan, but occasionally have meatless meals and exclude dairy products.”

Veganism boils down to avoiding animal products; traditionally, no meat, fish or dairy can be included. It’s separate from a vegetarian diet, which includes anything except meat or fish. 

Although the term “veganism” wasn’t coined until 1944 by animal rights advocate and co-founder of The Vegan Society Donald Watson, diets avoiding flesh have been traced back to ancient Eastern Mediterranean and Indian societies and cultures.

“After reading ‘The China Study’ by T. Colin Campbell and watching documentaries like ‘Forks Over Knives’, my family switched from a standard American diet to a whole food, plant- based (WFPB) lifestyle,” Spanish teacher and former host of Make Health a Habit Club Emilie Hatzl said.

Animal cruelty is often overlooked in the food industry. For example, one may believe that the production of products such as milk are not harming any animals. However, popular dairy brands such as Fair Life and contradictory to its own title, have been proven to mistreat their animals, with journalist Ashley Capps exposing the company’s inhumane acts towards animals, such as physically abusing their cows and keeping them in tightly cramped cages.

Here, confined, bereft mothers nose a premature stillborn for longer than any of them will have spent with one of their own living newborn calves,” Capps said , in her 2019 article, “Fairlife? Biggest ‘Humane’ Dairy Label in U.S. Exposed for Horrific Routine Abuse.”

For this reason, many people go vegan or try vegan substitutes in order to reduce the support going towards these inhumane animal product industries.

“We originally switched for health reasons, but now understand the environmental benefits as well,” Hatzl added.

However, others simply enjoy the lifestyle of eating plant based, because it influences them to eat more whole and raw foods, which has health benefits.

“Six years later now, we feel a difference in energy levels, recovery time and a stronger overall connection to where our food comes from and how it is prepared,” said Hatzl regarding  how her family feels  since beginning their WFPB diet.

Some people consider veganism to be difficult and pricey, though. For example, if an individual loves hamburgers but wants to achieve a vegan lifestyle, there are hamburger substitutes that are entirely plant based and mimic the taste of meat ; however, because eating plant based isn’t as mainstream as simply eating animal products, plant based alternatives are often more expensive. 

For example, two vegan burger patties by Impossible Burger can be purchased for $4.97 at Walmart, while Walmart also offers beef patties in larger quantities of 12 per package for $9.97. Buying the same amount of vegan patties would cost $29.82.

Other hamburger substitutes may be offered as well, such as bean or vegetable patties. Some restaurants like Denny’s and TGI Fridays even offer Beyond Burgers, a popular plant-based brand that mimics the taste and appearance of a beef patty, and depending on the store or restaurant, may not be as expensive compared to beef patties. 

Veganism can require more preparation effort than a meat-based meal. . Many recipes may take time to prepare, and getting more exotic ingredients can be difficult too. 

For example, if one doesn’t want to eat heavily processed foods, they may use jackfruit to prepare a meat substitute. However, this requires shredding the jackfruit as well as seasoning it to taste like meat, as well as finding somewhere to buy jackfruit, as it isn’t commonly seen in stores.

But thankfully, lots of vegan substitutes are accessible, and even recipes relying heavily on dairy can be altered easily.

“I’ve made things like vegan Italian wedding soup and vegan mac and cheese,” junior Noelle Asiyanbi said.

Most raw or processed vegan foods contain little protein and lack in certain vitamins, so supplements- such as vitamin B or omega-3’s-  may be necessary to embrace  a vegan lifestyle. However, because veganism is plant based, it incorporates lots of raw or unprocessed fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts into a diet, which provides lots of health benefits such as vitamins and minerals that can’t be found in meat or dairy.

“[Veganism] expanded our vocabulary of foods we had never been exposed to before, such as wheat berries, tempeh, purple potatoes, hemp seed hearts, jicama, oat milk and sucanat,” Hatzl said.

A common misconception about veganism is that vegans can only eat raw foods; on the other hand, many unexpected foods are actually vegan, such as Oreos, Twizzlers, Skittles, Chex Mix and even some brands of dark chocolate.

“[Other vegan foods include] dairy free ice cream, dairy free cream cheese, and dairy free sour cream,” Tsang said.

Many restaurant orders can be altered to be vegan as well, so nobody feels stuck eating only salads. French fries and onion rings may be  vegan if fried in Canola oil, as well as most beverages offered. Salads and pasta are vegan by default, and can be ordered without cheese or dressing or sauce that contains dairy. 

“There are lots of vegan substitutes, like cheese made from coconut oil and or nuts,” Tsang said. 

It may take some experimenting, but animal product substitutes come in many different tastes, and people  on plant-based diets can find a particular substitute they enjoy.

“I think being vegan or vegetarian can be great, as long as it comes from the right place,” Asiyanbi said.