Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A message to vegans

Ethically motivated diets should be a topic of conversation
(Caroline O’Connor/Daily Collegian)

I became a vegetarian on my own accord in elementary school, and a vegan in high school. As you can imagine, I have been conditioned to quickly slip my dietary restrictions into conversation when absolutely necessary, but to otherwise avoid the topic. The truth is, even with today’s progressing society and food trends, a vegetarian or vegan diet is not encouraged, even barely tolerated. Upon learning about my plant-based diet, the response is rarely a sincere asking of my motivation, but rather a disapproving look and evident dreading of the conversation that is expected to follow.

If you have chosen to cut animal products out of your diet to any extent, you know the look people give you when you tell them about it. If you are a meat eater, you have probably been the one giving this look of near-disgust. For most of my life, I have avoided explaining the reasoning behind my plant-based diet, only defending myself if absolutely necessary. I have, however, recently decided just as any person with a strong belief system should spread it, the same applies for people who have ethically charged dietary restrictions. Would a feminist, Black lives matter or transgender rights activist be expected to keep quiet about their beliefs, regardless of what the response may be? While it might not be widely accepted, it would be generally understood that those with a strong belief system about these issues would want to spread the word. It would be seen as strange, even, if an activist for any other social issue remained silent about their beliefs when “exposed.” Despite the progressive time we are in, however much of a facade it may be, those with ethically motivated dietary restrictions are continued to be shamed for their “preaching” in all spaces, and as a result, fail to spread the word about the detrimental effects of animal product consumption.

To my fellow pescatarians, vegetarians and vegans, I urge you to join me in spreading your belief system despite the disgusted looks people may give you upon learning about your dietary restrictions or seeing your plates at the dining hall. And to those who may be giving these looks of near disgust or rolling their eyes upon hearing about someone’s plant-based diet, I urge you to allow them to share their reasons for this lifestyle change. In my experience, there are few individuals who will fulfill the stereotype of running away from meat or forcing others to take on their same lifestyle. From now on I will do more to spread my belief system just as I would about any other ethical values I hold.

I am vegan for the environment, for the animals and for myself. Social progress is made primarily through individual advocates and the spreading of beliefs. A plant-based diet is the obvious ethical choice for more reasons than I could count, but is still far from the norm.

The lack of awareness of these issues is in no way to blame entirely on those who frown upon plant-based diets. It is due to large corporations covering up the harm they are doing to animals and the environment.

All that being said, there are also issues of passing judgement within the plant-based community itself. The notion that there is a hierarchy of ethical dietary restrictions or that eating meat every once in a while, makes someone a “fake” vegetarian is not only unnecessary, but is also classist. While I urge people with ethically motivated dietary restrictions to spread the word about the harm these products have on animals and the environment, it is important to know the limits of preaching beliefs. Being able to cut these foods out is a privilege, but the beliefs behind it can and should be shared within reason regardless.

Alya Simoun is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected].

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  • J

    James Earl JonesOct 16, 2018 at 1:40 am

    Veganism is cultural appropriation! Your vainglorious life choices trivialize the identity of the dope smoking, rose tinted glasses-wearing, draft dodging freaks of the 1970’s.

  • M

    MattOct 15, 2018 at 8:46 am

    Well said! It is very difficult territory to navigate. We should remember any move towards a plant based diet is positive. An all-or-nothing approach will alienate people. Let them find their own way to true veganism. People need to understand that carbohydrates from plants are not the boogie man they are made out to be. And that processed food (along with meat and dairy) is what we need to cut down on. Show them the way but be careful as you go, don’t alienate people with your fervor!

  • N

    NITZAKHONOct 15, 2018 at 6:24 am

    Q: How do you know you’re talking with a vegan?

    A: They’ll tell you, within the first five minutes.

    The sanctimonious holier-than-thou attitude is really sickening.

    Let me ask: How do you feel about a Campus Crusade for Christ person coming up to you to spread the Word? Annoyed? Guess what, that’s how we feel about you.