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Students speak out for vegan ideals

Vegans motivated by animal rights, health, environmental benefits

By Jessica Neville, staff writer

Published: Sunday, November 8, 2009

Updated: Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Americans across the country are celebrating National Vegan Month throughout November. A vegan is commonly defined as a person who chooses to avoid using any type of animal product, although the degree to which a person practices veganism and their reasons for doing so may vary.

Vegans are estimated to comprise about 1% of the American population and also represent a small minority of the student population. Vegans on campus practice their ideals for animal rights, environment, and health reasons.

Whitney Campbell, a freshman in English, has been a vegan since she was three years old. Her grandparents on her father's side and her parents are all vegans, and she was brought up in the lifestyle.

'My decision to stay vegan has primarily been because of the health benefits,' Campbell said. 'My grandfather has written a book on evidence that meat and dairy products may cause cancer.'

Since Campbell has always been vegan, she can't compare it to any other lifestyle.

'I've always felt healthy and my mother has always made sure I get all of the nutrients I need,' Campbell said. 'There are a lot more choices than people at first think.'

Students Promoting Animal Rights Collectively is an organization that has many vegan members.

Angela Owens, the President of SPARC and a senior in business administration, became a vegan three years ago after being a vegetarian for eight years.

'I am vegan because I care about all animals, not just the cute fuzzy ones,' Owens said. 'It's hard to delicately explain to people that eat meat that they can't care about animals if they are supporting the industry that causes pain to countless animals.'

Owens said vegan ideals affect all aspects of her life, and are also influenced by her respect for her own body.

Dr. Sarah Ash, associate professor of nutrition science, said enough fortified foods are available today that vegans and vegetarians should have no trouble getting all the nutrients they need.

'I don't consider people who eat animal products, whether that be meat or dairy, to be vegetarians,' Ash said. 'True vegetarians only eat plant products.'

Lisa Eberhart, resident dietician, provides free services to all students. She said she encourages any student, but especially vegans and vegetarians who want to ensure they are eating the right way, to make an appointment with her through student health services.

'The most important thing for students who don't eat meat is to make sure they are getting B12, because it is only found in animal products,' Eberhart said. 'They also need to be concerned about calcium and iron. But if students are willing to eat a wide variety of foods vegetarians and vegans can lead a very healthy lifestyle.'

Eberhart said there is a vegan entree provided at every meal in the campus cafeterias, as well as other options such as fruits, vegetables, hummus, and a salad bar.

Brandon Williams, a senior in meteorology, has been a vegan for the past year and said he has not been satisfied with the school's options for vegans.

'The options are very limited at school, although there are things I can eat,' William said. 'If I lived off campus I could shop for my own food but here I have to eat what is provided. The University should do more to create options for vegans.'

Williams said he decided to become a vegan because of ethical concerns as well as environmental reasons.

'Raising animals is not an efficient use of the Earth's resources because they have to be fed crops,' Williams said. 'It takes less energy to simply raise the crops for humans to eat.'

Campbell said it has been harder for her to remain a vegan since she has started school.

'At home, my mother made a variety of vegan foods,' Campbell said. 'But I don't have as many choices in the school cafeterias. '

Campbell has a rice cooker in her dorm if all else fails, but she plans on getting an apartment next year so that she can cook her own vegan food.

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