In a time of juicing, waist-training and diet trends, it’s not surprising that people are becoming more and more skeptical about others’ eating habits. While some may argue it’s “un-American” to not eat a hamburger, others argue that it’s “inhumane” to eat meat and other animal byproducts. With all the skepticism surrounding veganism and vegetarianism, it’s important to understand the differences between the two and why people choose these lifestyles.
David Nibert, professor of sociology and teacher of “Sociology 280: Animals & Society,” is known for his class on animal cruelty. Many students can agree with the saying “it made me go vegetarian for two months,” like senior Kate Gustafson or senior Emma Arace, who is now vegetarian.
Nibert became a vegetarian in 1983 and went vegan in 1992. He went vegan as an adult, which is a lot easier than it is for young people. There is considerable pressure on young vegans to conform to the status quo. But his decisions were not merely dietary, more so based on the terrible treatment of animals bound for the slaughter house.
In his class, Nibert relays the benefits of going vegan and is an obvious animal rights activists because of the many benefits he says the lifestyle contains.
“By going vegan, one can distance oneself from animal oppression,” Nibert said.
He adds that by going vegan, you’re doing good for the climate, reducing the level of premature human deaths that result from eating animal products, helping to preserve vital resources like freshwater and topsoil and even helping to combat global hunger.
Nibert said that the consumption of the other “inhabitants of the planet” as food deeply saddens him, but is not just our personal responsibilities but “the system that socially engineers everyone to see other animals as food and to eat them.”
This compassion for animals is not unforgotten by vegetarians. English professor Kate Polak says that she doesn’t think that meat eaters are necessarily bad.
“Personally, in my own heart of hearts, I don’t like it,” Polak said. “But that’s not just because of the treatment of animals or the weird, disorienting experience it must be for animals to be purposefully bred, cared for and then killed in often horrifying ways. It’s also the lesser known environmental impact.”
Polak says that while she is not a vegan, she does her best to eat vegan most days of the week, and is known for making creative homemade vegetarian dishes.
“Cheese is the only thing I can’t quite get rid of, which isn’t an unusual reason for people not to go completely vegan,” Polak said.
It’s important to note that many people go through dietary and moral phases in their lives, which often lead to deciding whether to change their eating habits or not. Junior Blaine Davidson says that she used to be both a vegetarian and then vegan, but has now returned to eating meats. While not being able to balance a proper amount of protein in her diet, she has resulted to eating small amounts of meat.
“It is weird seeing how people react differently when you tell people you’re a vegetarian, vegan or neither,” Davidson said. “People sometimes can stereotype or be rude. It’s interesting.”
With normal, vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, it is important to know the differences between the three and the moral and dietary reasons before forming judgments about one another.