Vegans at Sequoia plant diet in morals and health

Nick Abraham and Matthew Eisenberg

There are many reasons people decide to go vegan: disagreement with the treatment of animals by the meat and dairy industry, the processing of their goods and even reasons pertaining to personal health. The latter has been the rationale for many high-profile proponents of alternative diets, including former president Bill Clinton, who decided to leave omnivorism—a diet in which one eats a variety of food including meat and vegetables—behind for health reasons. Although it is widely debated among the scientific community, many links between health and a vegan diet have recently appeared.

“I used to have a lot of stomachaches and now [that I’m vegan,] I don’t anymore. I’ve also lost weight, my skin has cleared up and my hair has grown [more].” said sophomore Sonja Frazer, who has been vegan for seven months. “I have seen a lot of improvement with my happiness and how I feel after I eat.”

Just as there are many who advocate for an animal product-free diet, there are many who point to the benefits of a healthy diet that includes meat, dairy and eggs.

“I can see how it is a healthy diet for [some] reasons. If you have McDonald’s and bad meat or never eat vegetables, then it’s not good for you. You have to have a [balanced] diet. You can’t have only vegetables or only meat, you need to have a good meal where you have meat, vegetables and dairy—all the good stuff,” sophomore and lifelong omnivore Joe Adams said.                                        

Besides doing so solely for health reasons, many vegans left omnivorism behind because they believe it is the moral thing to do. Beyond allegations of the meat industry’s cruelty, they believe that the dairy industry also practices mistreatment of animals. One of those people is sophomore Alexandra Siri, one of the three founders of The Vegan Club. She was introduced to veganism by her mother.

“Milk is made by artificially inseminating cows whose children are forcefully taken from them hours after they’re born so [that farmers] have milk. The calves are either used in the dairy industry if they are female, or, if they are male, taken to a veal facility. Once the cows have exhausted their dairy producing abilities, they are taken to the meat industry,” Siri said.

Still, the majority of Sequoia students find eating a cheeseburger or an omelet to be perfectly acceptable. Despite what many vegans believe to be deplorable treatment of animals by the meat and dairy industry, omnivorism is the most popular diet at Sequoia by far.

“In nature, animals eat animals, humans will eat other animals and other animals will eat us too. It’s an animal eat animal world out there. The animals should live a happy life, but when it is time to die they should be eaten,” Adams said.

Beyond just a diet, veganism is a lifestyle for many. A lot of vegans who give up animal-based foods for ethical reasons also have to cut out many products that have nothing to do with diet.

“[Some] vegans won’t wear animal products. I don’t purchase leather. I don’t purchase wool, sheepskin or fur because that is still killing an animal. The process that goes into those products is really inhumane. A lot of vegans don’t wear makeup or cosmetics that involve animal testing because that is another inhumane process,” Siri said.

There are many challenges that vegans have to face on a daily basis as a result of their diet. One of them is convenience. Many restaurants do not have vegan options and it can be hard for non-vegan friends and family to cook an adequate meal from only plant-based ingredients.

“It’s hard because a lot of my friends aren’t vegan. If we go to a restaurant I have to make sure everything that I order is vegan. Usually I can’t eat a main dish. At my friends’ houses, or when I’m just eating anywhere I always have to double check which is kind of annoying, but that is just the way it is,” Frazer said.

Veganism hasn’t just been getting more popular at high schools—many celebrities have also pledged to give up eating animal products. The list of vegan celebrities includes singer Ariana Grande, athlete Venus Williams and rapper Waka Flocka Flame. Celebrities have a powerful voice in American society, and so vegan celebrities will often choose to spread awareness about their diet.

“I decided to go vegan because I had read a lot of articles on websites and a lot of accounts of celebrities who had recently gone vegan and their reasons for it. I also researched the health benefits and decided that it seemed like a really good way to insure my health and the environment.” said junior Morgan Taradash, who has been a vegan for over 2 years.

Vegans, despite their recent popularity boost, are not the only Sequoia students with dietary restrictions. Many students have either vegetarian diets, which consist of no meat but allow animal products like dairy, and pescetarian diets, which allow only fish and fish products.

One such student is senior Ben Zeiger, a pescetarian who fishes for some of his food.

“I definitely feel better since I’ve gone pescetarian. I don’t feel as lethargic after meals, which is probably the biggest difference that I’ve seen,” said Zeiger.

Although pescetarianism and vegetarianism are both diets that restrict the consumption of animal products, neither one is as extreme as veganism. So why do many vegans decide that they must go all the way and completely cut off animal products?

“Based on research if you just cut out meat it helps because you are not supporting the meat industry. But, there is also a lot to consider with the dairy industry as well as the bee industry which some vegans decide to opt out of. The dairy industry does a lot to hurt the environment, probably even more so than the meat industry or almost equally because dairy goes along with the meat industry, specifically speaking with cows. So to me, for the reasons to go vegan, it doesn’t make sense to go vegetarian as it would [only] be doing it partially,” Taradash said.

Despite a 400 percent increase in the amount of vegans present in the U.S. since 2009, most people are still omnivores and there are still 1.4 billion cows living as farm animals in the world, according to The Economist. However, this definitely does not mean that vegans don’t think they are making a difference.

“When I first started being vegan, I was the only vegan I knew. A lot of people didn’t really know what veganism was, and so I think I brought a lot of awareness to this area.” said Siri. “At my old school I inspired probably like six people to be vegan or vegetarian. Here, I’ve inspired other people as well who will then go on to inspire more people. I think it definitely starts small, but I think people can have a ripple effect in the differences they make in the environment and these industries.”