Veganism is not just a way of eating, but it is a philosophy people live by in order to exclude “all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.” In 1806, when the earliest concepts of veganism were formed with the help of Dr. William Lambe and Percy Bysshe Shelley. They believed that eggs and dairy were not important to their diet. Veganism is an extreme form of vegetarianism that was officially formed in Nov. 1944 by Donald Watson who met with other non-dairy vegetarians to discuss their lifestyle and felt that a new word was required to describe them. They wanted something crisper than ‘non-dairy vegetarians’ so they settled on ‘vegan’ shrinking the word ‘vegetarian’ to the first three and the last two letters. Donald Watson said, “This is the beginning and end of vegetarian.” Veganism wanted “to seek an end to the use of animals by man for food, commodities, work, hunting, vivisection, and by all other uses involving exploitation of animal life by man” because they felt that too many animals were being abused due to humans eating them or using their harvests. Sophomore Bekah Ford said, “I’ve been a vegan for nearly two years now. I’ve seen a lot of different examples of how badly animals are treated, and it keeps me on the right path.”
Being a vegan is a challenging lifestyle to keep, and vegan junior Ana Hanger said, “The most challenging part was probably giving up chicken fingers because that was one of my favorite foods, but now I don’t crave them or anything. My mindset changed. It has brought my mom and me closer together because she is really natural so we connected over it.” At first, it is very difficult to switch mindsets from eating all foods to certain foods that follow the vegan diet. Another junior, Sydney Anderson said, “I was vegan for about two years because I wanted to stop eating animals and I thought being vegan would be the best way for me to help them.” Ford said, “I have a lot of things I love about [veganism], but my favorite would have to be knowing that I’m saving a lot of animals, nearly 200! I love that.” Both Wesleyan students love the idea of saving animals. The average meat eater consumes 7,000 animals in their lifetime, which includes fish, chickens, beef, turkeys and pigs. The average vegan spares 198 animals each year from not being produced to kill, according to Chris Thomson with Education First. Protein is very important for the human body to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle, so many people resort to eating meat which is a great source of protein, but vegans do not eat meat. So how do they get enough protein? Ford and Hanger both eat good amounts of nuts, beans, and vegan protein powder (which is made not from whey, but from plants) in order to keep a balanced source of protein.
I have been a meat eater my whole life, but learned more information about vegans and I wanted to do a “vegan challenge.” I did not know how long to follow the vegan guidelines, so I ate vegan for 5 days, which does not make it long enough to form a habit, but it made me appreciate the people who chose to live this lifestyle. On the first day, I ate a smoothie bowl for breakfast topped with crunchy granola and fruit. At lunch, I ate a banana, a huge apple, ripe blackberries, hummus and pita and some trail-mix. Right after school, I made avocado toast which is really easy to make: smash the avocado and mix it with salt, pepper and hot sauce, then plop it on the toast. For my dinner, I was craving the meatball spaghetti that my mom was making for my family, but I had self-control. I made a smoothie bowl instead. I made sure I put a healthy amount of vegan protein powder in it and topped it with granola and strawberries. On the second day, I ate a huge plate of hash browns and fruit. For lunch, I ate pita and hummus along with a banana, an orange and a huge salad! I came home and had the same avocado toast that I made the day before, and for dinner I went out to eat and ordered avocado sushi rolls. I understand that I am eating a lot of avocado… but who cares? I am obsessed! Then I treated myself for dessert, so I went to Starbucks and drank a hazelnut soy latte. On the third day, I ate a smoothie bowl for breakfast, but for lunch, my mom brought me Chipotle, so I ate a bowl with no cheese, sour cream or meat, but I did have a bunch of other goods. For dinner, I went to Zoë’s kitchen and ate the rice pilaf, Greek salad with no feta cheese and the vegetable skewers. On the fourth day, for breakfast, I ate a smoothie bowl topped with my favorite pumpkin flax seed granola… what’s new? For lunch, I ate yummy hummus and pita and some fruit because I was not feeling well enough to eat a bigger lunch. For dinner, I went to California Pizza Kitchen and googled some vegan meals. I learned that the lettuce wraps without meat are vegan, so I ate those. Finally, on the fifth and final day, I ate a smoothie bowl for breakfast, once again. For lunch, I ate the typical hummus and veggies and pita, then I ate another smoothie bowl with my famous avocado toast for dinner.
I learned a lot about my health and my body over those five days, but, unfortunately, I craved everything that I was not supposed to eat. Thankfully, staff member junior Kelly Roth also participated in the challenge. Roth said that the hardest part about being vegan for a week was “probably paying more attention to what ingredients are in foods. It’s really just annoying; it was not that hard, but annoying.” Both Roth and I do not think veganism is the lifestyle for us because it is hard to maintain, but we both respect it. Unfortunately, there are many people who enjoy the vegan lifestyle, but there are certain circumstances where someone needs to stop. Anderson said, “Although I was happy to feel like I was making a difference and helping animals, I realized I could be vegetarian and do the same thing. Switching to vegetarianism was so much healthier. I have a well-balanced diet. I’m not anemic anymore, and my hair stopped falling out: all good things.” Veganism is an amazing philosophy that many people can absolutely achieve with beautiful success and life stories, but it is not for everyone. Vegans strive to live a healthy lifestyle because, most importantly, it makes them feel good about themselves for how they feel or who they are protecting.