I Was A College Vegetarian


V is for vegetarian. Image courtesy of Flickr user Renato Pequito. Licensed under CC 2.0.


I was a college vegetarian, and a high school vegetarian, and a middle school vegetarian. Still am, though I’ve eased my restrictions on tuna and cat fish because, uh, I like it. But yes, I’m one of those people and by “those people” I mean “white chick vegetarians.”

I understand that people think it’s fussy. I have no religious obligation to not eat meat, as that would require me believing in God. My family’s not vegetarian, except for various aunts and uncles that I don’t live with. I’ve eaten meat.

That being said, I’ve given it up. I don’t intend to go back. And it can be difficult! Sometimes compromises must be made, and I must sadly report that I will never eat at Fogo de Chao (I mean, not like it was an issue because I’m broke, but anyways). But guys, I promise I’m not a PETA nut. Because guys? Those people are batshit crazy. They think all pets should be put down! They’re really fucking misogynist! They throw paint on people’s clothing and I promise you that that seems like a terrible life decision, not to mention rude. (And, as a veggie snob note, I don’t know that many PETA kids who’ve stayed veggie for very long. I’m nothing if not a little smug.)

But no, I don’t want to eat fried chicken. Or, god forbid, a chicken nugget. Sometimes, I do want to eat pulled pork, but I don’t. And it’s not because I think eating meat is inherently cruel (though factory farming is). It’s because it’s a shitty thing to do to the land.

I had hippie elementary school teachers, and it only takes a few of them telling you about how Tyson chicken ruined the drinking water to change your mind about these things. And I care about ethical food production, I do. If I don’t want the water fouled in my home state, I shouldn’t eat what’s causing it. It doesn’t hurt me, and it helps others. Chicken is not good enough to ignore what producing it does to the environment.

Part of the school of feminism that I subscribe to says that you should limit your environmental impact and you should not needlessly pollute the water of others and if it’s possible to avoid causing harm to other animals (and it is possible for farming to avoid unnecessary pain and fear in the lives of its animals), and so yeah. The personal is political. I am what I eat–or don’t.

And yeah, I know that by eating eggs and milk I’m still supporting these same horrible industries. When I’m on my own, food-wise–away from the embracing bosom of Lil’s–I’ll need to make a decision about what I want to do about it. I wonder if I should go vegan or try to only consume organic, free-range foods, local foods. Because hell, I’m in college and when I’m buying my own food I’m not exactly going to be rolling in it. My extra pennies are going to my study abroad/grad school/support myself because the job market terrifies me fund.

While I ponder, I’ll still be eating at everyone’s favorite dining hall. There is perhaps limited praise that one can toss towards the Lil’s food, but it must be said that they do pretty well on keeping vegetarians fed. If it wasn’t true, I wouldn’t have put on the quite literal Freshman 15. (It was the damn cookies.) For that, I am thankful. But I wonder about what I’ll do as I move on into the real world. I can’t hide behind dining hall food forever.

2 Comments on “I Was A College Vegetarian”

  1. I understand, accept and respect your life choice of being vegetarian. I personally admire all my friends and acquaintances (and anyone else) who I know to limit themselves from eating meat. I guess a part of this respect comes somewhat from the fact that I might never have the determination to turn vegetarian, and somewhat from the fact that I am not going to try that any time soon. So, here’s a bow to your convincing reasons and determination for being vegetarian from middle school through college.

    I just wanted to point out something, that inclined me to remain a… meat-eater, if you will, and not try to convince myself or anyone else into becoming vegetarian. Restricting one’s diet implies restricting one’s body from receiving the necessary nutrients it needs. Now, I know and have heard a thousand times the “chant” that vegetarians have found a way and can supply their bodies with all they need, or so they think. A deeper look into the mechanisms of the body and chemical composition of food will show that several of the amino acids required to build the proteins in a human body can only be found in meat or in lesser quantities in milk/eggs/cheese. Even if this might be argued, the body is genetically encoded to extract the amount of proteins it needs from meat and meat products. I am aware of all the other sources of proteins such as soy, various special seeds and dietary supplements. None of those change the fact that, one way or another, the body doesn’t get the optimal quantity of certain substances. This is a strong detrimental factor during any illness, trauma, after the age of 60, but mainly during the development of a child (by child I mean <16), and especially during a woman's pregnancy. (We have to acknowledge that there are mothers who choose to be vegetarian.) Especially the last few cases, this is nothing other than voluntary malnutrition of a developing organism that needs all the building blocks it can get to grow and be able to further function properly. I guess my point is that being vegetarian is OK after the body has formed and doesn't need to grow any more, but it is simply a mistake otherwise.

  2. I see where you’re coming from, but I disagree. There are lots of cultures that are traditionally vegetarian or pescetarian which have (to my knowledge) no more health problems than any other group. Indian Hindus and most Asian cultures come to mind. Meat in abundance (which is how most American eat it) can lead to a lot of health problems; so can a lack of fiber from eating fiborous plant material.

    It’s certainly possible that the human body does better with small amounts of meat (which is what chimps do–mostly fruit and nuts, with the occasional bit of meat; bonobos eat even less meat), but in large quantities it can be just as bad for people. No human diet is completely natural, so trying to reduce the amount of harm we do ourselves with what we eat is the only reasonable path, I think.

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