Survival of the fittest can be a skewed term. In apocalyptic scenarios, common methods of endurance tend to favour the idea of burly men cutting down trees, sowing and gathering seeds, and the inevitable hunting of animals. Although meat may seem like an element of a balanced diet and a necessity for survival, recent studies have proven that vegetarianism may be the way to go.
Research completed at Loma Linda University in California has proved that, on average, vegetarians had a 12 percent reduced risk of death from any possible health-related scenario as opposed to meat-eaters, who all appeared to be looking down the barrel of death.
In line with this research, five McMaster students share their veg*n stories and prove that following a meat-free diet can be a beneficial and accessible change.
Veg*ns on Campus
Second-year Electrical Engineering student Michael Podlovics chose to make the move to meatless when he started university. “When I was planning on living away from my parents, I realized that moving out was a chance to build my own lifestyle,” he explained. Podlovics has now transitioned to veganism and is still rooted in his initial cause for making the change. “The biggest concern I had, and still have, with the industry is the staggering environmental impacts and ethical issues associated with industrial production of livestock.”
A commonly overlooked trait of the food industry is that meat production doesn’t rely solely on animals that are born and raised naturally in farm settings. Livestock production and harvesting is a huge industry that uses valuable natural resources and fossil fuels to mass raise and transport animals that are born to be turned into meals. It’s both an environmental and ethical issue that resonates with many turned veg*ns.
“After opening up my eyes to the reality [of meat production], I knew that being vegan was the right choice for me,” explained Tori Jelilyan, a second-year Health Science student and a vegan since May 2013.
Both third-year Multimedia student Rebecca Annibale and fourth-year Philosophy and Multimedia student Mathew Towers made the transition to vegetarianism when they were in the tenth grade.
“The main reason I decided to become a vegetarian was the disdain I felt towards eating meat; not only did I find it not appetizing, but I found it unethical as well,” explained Towers.
Meg Peters, a fourth-year English and Arts & Science student, is also one of the presidents of the McMaster Veggie Club. Peters became a vegetarian at age 12, and a vegan at age 13. For almost a decade now, she has been devoted to maintaining her diet and has used knowledge of the practice to spread its pros and cons with the McMaster community.
Accessibility at McMaster
“Bridges is a godsend for veg*ns trying to eat on campus,” added Peters.
The on-campus vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurant has been run in collaboration with Diversity Services since 2005. The café also contributed to McMaster being ranked as a top veg*n friendly campus through the “peta2” list (a branch of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) in 2006 and 2007.
Bistro, or East meets West, has also been noted as a great campus spot for veg*n friendly cuisine as it easily makes substitutes for ingredients.
“A nice new addition to campus has been the Mac Farmstand in the summer and fall, which has started serving up wonderful fresh and local salads,” said Jelilyan.
Although McMaster has definitely proved itself to be a veg*n friendly campus, there is room for improvement to make it more inclusive for all dietary concerns.
“One of the main problems that I have heard from a lot of veg*n students at Mac is the lack of transparency on campus with respect to ingredients,” said Peters.
As tasty as Mac’s vegetarian and vegan options are, many of the servers that deal directly with the students are not well informed on the contents of dishes being made and served. The Veggie Club is looking into fixing this problem by developing a sticker system that would involve labels being placed next to campus foods that are veg*n or can be modified.
Common Misconceptions about Meatless
“The biggest struggle of being a vegetarian is gaining understanding from others, and constantly having to justify our choices,” said Towers.
Identifying as veg*n often leads to associations with pushy beliefs and an otherwise “hipster” culture.
“Sometimes I feel when I tell someone I’m a vegetarian/vegan they instantly assume I’m the leader of an animal rights protest who is going to push my beliefs of vegan-ism on them and everyone I meet,” explained Annibale.
Veg*nism is a lifestyle choice that is often rooted in ethical beliefs and environmental and societal concerns. With negative ideas surrounding their choices, sometimes the true reasons for their beliefs can get clouded in misconceptions about neighboring cultural patterns.
Another common misunderstanding is that veg*nism does not provide enough nutrients to sustain an active lifestyle.
“I have noticed no visible hindrance in my athletic or academic performance. I have actually noticed improvement due to being overall more conscious of my diet and nutrient intake,” explained Podlovics, whose recent veganism and yearlong vegetarianism has yet to affect his athletic performance in recreational sports.
“After substituting plant-based foods for meat, I can honestly say that I feel healthier, more energetic, and I actually have been getting sick less often,” added Jelilyan.
If a veg*n diet is maintained thoughtfully, it can include the same amount of protein as a diet including meat.
Considering a variety of veg*n?
“Should students consider a meatless diet? I say yes! Meat causes more emissions than all transportation combined. But if you’re not into binary solutions, just minimize the amount of meat you consume,” said Annibale.
“And as an added bonus for students, meat is expensive and I have found that going vegan has even left me with more money in the bank,” noted Jelilyan.
With a campus that has proved to work for other veg*ns and has been noted as a progressive school in terms of its food diversity, McMaster may be a great place to taste test veg*nism.
“There’s a strong community of veg*ns at Mac,” said Peters.
Keep in mind though that becoming veg*n isn’t a decision you should make overnight. It is a thoughtful diet that requires planning and understanding. The more restrictions you choose to make, the more difficult it will be to accommodate your diet. Look into the various types of veg*nism that exist and choose the right one for you and your lifestyle.
Going veg*n can have a positive impact on your health, the environment, and the ethical treatment of animals. And when it comes to the game of survival of the fittest, you may just come out on top.