By Samantha Ward
With the amount of vegan food in the dining halls continually growing, especially with desserts like cupcakes and brownies, one can often overhear the conversations of students who are curious about what exactly veganism is and why some people follow this lifestyle.
Strict vegans are those who abstain from eating or using animal products, so this includes many things such as eggs, milk, leather, and even the many soaps that are made with animal fat. It is important to remember that veganism is more of a spectrum rather than a black and white matter. The goal is to strive towards a 100 percent cruelty-free lifestyle, but that is a process that takes many months if not years to achieve.
Molly Smith, a third year Environmental Health Science major, said, “When I first tried it, I really didn’t think I could last a whole month even though I’d already been vegetarian for 2 years. But here I am 2 years after that and still going strong. I love being vegan and it’s definitely one of the best choices I’ve ever made.”
With only 2.5 percent of the United States population being vegan, it is easy to understand why there are so many misunderstandings about it. To help clear up matters, here are answers to the top seven most frequently asked questions about veganism.
1) Where do you get your protein?
This is by far the most frequently asked question vegans get, and the answer is simple. Vegans get protein from plants! Per cup, soy products like tofu and tempeh respectively have 20 and 31 grams of protein, garbanzo beans contains 39 grams of protein, and even rice contains five grams itself. When you add everything up, vegans can easily meet the daily recommended amount of protein.
Terra Morgan, a third year International Affairs major said, “There’s a perception that you need to eat foods particularly high in certain nutrients to get enough of them. People don’t realize that eating 10 servings of things with 10 percent of the required daily amount is the same as eating two servings with 50 percent.”
2) So are there any nutrients vegans have to worry about?
With a little bit of forethought, vegans can get nearly every nutrient from their diet. Vitamin B12 is the only nutrient that must be supplemented, and rather than using animal sources, the majority of vegan B12 supplements use bacteria cultures of Propionibacterium shermanii and/or Pseudomonas denitrificans. As organisms who use bacterial synthesis for their B12 levels, humans once relied on the cobalt levels in soil to provide all the necessary elements for such bacteria to be present. The depletion of this nutrient from the soil as well as the fact that people wash dirt off their produce is why vegans must take a B12 supplement.
3) What do you eat?
Vegans are able to enjoy anything and everything that doesn’t include animal products. Some of the most surprising vegan junk foods, for example, include Sour Patch Kids, Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos, and Oreos.
4) Isn’t veganism really expensive?
While it is true that substitutes for animal products and specialty health foods can be pricey, it is certainly possible to be a healthy and satisfied vegan while maintaining a budget. In some areas of the globe, meat is considered to be a luxury that many can’t afford. Some examples of affordable vegan staples include dried beans, rice, pasta, potatoes, and seasonal produce.
5) What is the point of veganism?
While the majority of vegans made their choices based on ethics, there are other reasons as well for making the switch. Many boast of the health benefits while others are more concerned with how environmentally sustainable the lifestyle is compared to their previous omnivorous ways.
6) What about free-range farms? They’re ethical, right?
Unfortunately, labels such as free-range can be used by many farms that are far from what the average person would call humane. The only requirement is that the animals have an opportunity to go outside, but there is little to no regulation beyond this. This means farms using the free-range label can stuff sheds to the brim with chickens and only provide one opening to a small patch of dirt outside.
7) Alright, you convinced me. What are some good resources to learn more about veganism?
Despite their controversial methods for activism, PETA.org is a wonderful resource for everything from vegan junk food to the most common plant sources of nutrients like iron and calcium. For those who love to eat out, happycow.net will become your best friend, and barnivore.com is the ultimate guide to vegan beer, wine, and liquor.
While this is far from a fully comprehensive guide to veganism, it covers enough of the basics to allow those interested to start their own research as well as hold better conversations with those who choose to follow this lifestyle. As a bonus tip, vegans are tired of hearing hypothetical questions as well. An example of this is if someone would be willing to eat an animal if it was the only source of food on a desert island.
Namita Money, a second year Wildlife major, said, “This hypothetical situation is never going to happen and therefore, you sound dumb. if it were to happen, of course not. Odds are that we’d both end up starving to death.”
That being said, those who are open to learning more about veganism should not be afraid to talk about it with someone who already follows that lifestyle. It is important, however, to realize that this is an important and personal matter for many vegans.
Liam Polk, a third year English and Women’s Studies major, said, “I wish people understood that most of us don’t actually want to shame people for what they eat or how they live their lives when we talk to them about veganism. But for me personally, I’m an ethical vegan who loves animals, and when I get heated during these discussions, it’s because it hurts me to know that animals are being abused and killed for other humans’ temporary pleasures.”