Last week I decided to take on a new change in my life. I wanted to join the ranks of Anne Hathaway, Bill Clinton and Al Gore and go vegan. In the end, I lasted a total of 36 hours and decided that all vegans were crazy.
Being vegan means you cannot eat meat, eggs, milk, honey, gelatin, fish and most importantly cheese. As I have finished my vegan trial run, I decided to look into it more to see what I was missing out on. I caught up with Christine McPherson, a lifelong friend of mine who is mostly vegan.
I asked her if she was crazy for not eating a typical American diet.
“Am I crazy? Well, I think some people think so," McPherson said. "They are like, ‘well, people have been eating meat for forever.’ But I don’t think that anyone is really crazy for doing anything unless you’re depriving yourself or starving yourself.”
I also spoke with Lindsay Rajt, a spokesperson for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. She said people chose to go vegan for a variety of reasons.
“Many of us are motivated by our concern and compassion for animals," Rajt said. "Some people chose to be vegan for concerns for the environment, for the world’s hungry people or sometimes for health reasons. Vegans have lower rates for things like heart disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes.”
Rajt says most vegans not only change their diets but they also change their lifestyle by not buying products that are tested on animals or produced from animal products.
“It’s kind of a philosophy of trying to make a compassionate choice that benefits animals whenever you have the opportunity to do so,” Rajt said.
McPherson said she became a vegan because she doesn’t agree with factory farming.
“Just the way the animals are treated and the horrible conditions that they are put in," McPherson said. "The dairy cows, their babies are taken away from them and then they are milked and it is just really sad. I just don’t want another animal to have to go through that for me to have some milk or for me to have some meat on my plate. I don’t think that is fair to them.”
The most recent vegan movement has been by people going vegan for Lent. Rajt says it's appropriate for people to take on a vegan lifestyle for Lent because veganism is built on compassion for animals.
“Going vegan is the ultimate display of kindness and mercy to the meekest among us," Rajt said. "From egg-laying hens who have portions of their sensitive beaks seared off, to mother pigs who are confined to stalls that are these days so small that they can’t even comfortably lie down or turn around.”
Vegans are estimated to save 100 animals per year due to their lifestyle.
Some vegans are in it for the health aspect. According to Rajt, Bill Clinton was once known as the "cheeseburger president" because of his unhealthy eating habits. Rajt said he is now vegan so he can live to see his grandchildren.
McPherson said being vegan does have an effect on her health.
“If there are a few days that I don’t eat vegan, or I do eat meat, I feel a lot more sluggish than if I were to eat a plant-based diet with more fruits and vegetables," McPherson said. "That really does make a big difference in how you feel and it really does help you clear your mind a little more. It definitely helps with your physical stamina.”
The vegan population has taken off since 2011 and now makes up about two to five percent of Americans, according to Rajt.
“The exciting thing is, that a lot of people after they try it for a week, or 30 days, or Lent, decide to stick with it because they find themselves feeling better and really enjoying the flavors of the new food they are checking out,” Rajt said.
Between my passion for animal rights and my family’s track record of high cholesterol, obesity and diabetes, maybe I should give veganism a re-try; even if it means giving up cheese.
Morgan Pratt is a sophomore at Utah State University seeking a degree in Journalism and Communications.
For more information on being vegan, check out PETA's guide to going vegan.