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.





  1. stop using survival of the fittest as though it justifies some kind of super-fit athletic human being as the top of the evolutionary scale…

    fit = best suited to the environment you inhabit.
    fit != strong, atheltic, smart, good, etc

    1. @jr: I am a little confused about how it can be inferred from this article that ‘survival of the fittest’ is analogous to a super-human and I don’t think that this article is saying that veg*ns are somehow superior humans…if that’s where your concern about the use of the word ‘fit’ was coming from.

      1. fitness does not mean physical fitness, in the context of “survival of the fittest”.

        it means fit, as in to fit in. To fit into a puzzle. To fit into an environment.

        The example the article gives is a post-apocalyptic scenario in which “burly men” live a hunter-gatherer-farmer lifestyle. The association of “burly men” with “hunting animals for meat” is not only a ridiculous scenario, but in comparison to a vegan I don’t see how this example makes sense. Show me a veg*n post apocalypse and I will show you a carnivore. We adapted to eat meat for a reason – calorie density – in the same environment that you would be in, in a post apocalyptic world. Meat-eating humans survived better than non-meat eating humans. It’s why you have canine teeth at the front of your mouth still.

        And if we’re not in that fantastical scenario… well then sure, I might agree with you. However.. I have a preference for meat, because it is tasty, calorie dense, easy to prepare, and easy to obtain. There are a myriad of ways that I can reduce my carbon footprint eg. I do not drive a car.

        I’d like to see the scientific peer reviewed paper saying that meat causes more emissions than all transportation combined.. thats a serious claim with absolutely no evidence.

  2. “For example, the statement that 18% of anthropogenic global GHGs is cauesd by livestock production and that livestock produces more GHG than transporation (FAO, 2007) is based on inapproriate or inacurate scaling of predictions, and thus is open to intensive debate through the scientific community”

    “in the united states, transporation accounts for at least 26% of total anthropogenic GHG emissions compared to roughly 5.8% for all of agriculture”

    “if domesticated livestock were reduced or even eliminated, the question of what ‘‘substitute’’ GHGs world be produced in their place has never been estimated. While never explicitly stated in any publication, the idea that if livestock were simply eliminated, 18% of anthropogenic GHGs would also be eliminated as well, is unrealistic. In fact, many of the resources previously dedicated to domesticated livestock would be utilized by other human activities, many of which produce much greater climate change impacts. It is also important to realize that livestock provides not only meat, dairy products and eggs, but also wool, hides, and many other value-added goods and services. Livestock are often closely integrated into mixed and some landless (e.g., landless dairy) farming systems as consumers of crop by-products and sources of organic fertilizer, while larger animals also provide power for plowing and transport. Therefore, to estimate accurately the ‘‘footprint’’ of all livestock, ‘‘default’’ emissions for nonlivestock substitutes need to be estimated and compared to livestock emissions (e.g., manure versus fertilizer, leather versus vinyl, wool versus microfiber, etc.). The net GHG differences between livestock and other land-use forms can then be used to estimate a more accurate GHG ‘‘footprint’’ of livestock’s impact.”

  3. We happen to agree with pretty much everything stated in this article. Following any kind of diet that restricts specific foods is a huge decision that can yield huge benefits. It IS all about understanding what you want to accomplish by choosing to follow a specific diet. The most important thing to remember is maintaining a proper nutritional balance in your meals. Thanks for sharing your insights!

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