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PBA: Lunch In a Whole New Light

Monday, November 20, 2017

Meat isn’t on the menu for all the students at PBA.

There are currently three students on campus who are either vegan or vegetarian. This lifestyle choice has roots in Buddhism -- according to tradition, on the sixteenth day of every month, a vegan or vegetarian meal is eaten to celebrate the death of Shinran Shonin, the founder of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism.

For senior Shala McKee, striving to become a vegetarian was influenced by the school’s commitment to peace and the interdependence of all things.

“Because our school is centered around peace and me becoming a vegetarian was kind of my passive way of becoming more peaceful to the earth,” McKee explained.

Sophomore Alexandrianna Harman, similarly, agreed with McKee.

“You have to think about what you’re eating and how it affects others,” Harman said.

Harman added that she’s been a “vegan for seven months” and hopes to stay one for the rest of her life. She changed her diet after watching an online video and encourages people who consume a lot of meat to incorporate some vegetables into their meals.

I was previously a vegan for over a year, but I am currently a pescatarian. I try to limit the amount of fish I consume, but I usually eat vegan meals since I’m used to them already. The reason why I became a vegan is that I never was a meat lover and I was always encouraged by my family to eat more vegetables than meat.

Interviewees from left to right: Alexandrianna Harman, Evelyn Wong, and
  Shala McKee.

McKee is “mostly a vegetarian” but, sometimes closer to pescatarian since “every month or two months I’ll have some fish or shrimp.” She’s been following this diet for over a year after watching the documentary Cowspiracy during her junior year.

“It really went in depth about what the meat industry is doing to the earth,” she said.

McKee was so traumatized by the video that she threw away the pork chops she had brought to school for lunch after seeing the video.

I learned many beneficial things from this diet. For example, despite what many people think, you don’t have to only eat fruits and salad. Sometimes I want a burger and there are vegan options, so I’m able to buy or cook one for myself. Additionally, an increasing amount of companies and restaurants are selling vegan/vegetarian products, so food options continue to expand.

“You don’t only have to eat salad,” Harman said. “It’s creativity that you can have with the food and you’re not only restricted to just eat leaves.”

While some nutrients are harder to get because of these diets, there are supplements to take. When I became a vegan, I notified my doctor and he performed a blood test on me to check if I lacked anything. The results showed that I had everything I needed, but my doctor recommended that I take some iron supplements so that I could maintain the iron level in my body during times when I have my menstrual cycle.

Not everyone has to dedicate their entire lives to being a vegetarian, but limiting the amount of meat that we consume can positively impact the earth and ourselves. Our bodies are not the only ones being affected.

“We could stop using any and all cars and change our ways but, if we still mass-produce cows at the same rate then nothing would change because cows produce so much methane,” McKee said.

Different reactions can come from people when revealing how you’ve changed your diet, especially if you’ve become a vegan or vegetarian. Sometimes what people say can really affect your decisions. Someone may regret changing their diet based on what a family member or friend said to them. At first, some may receive negative responses and feedback because people are worried about how you’re going to maintain your health with such a limiting diet.

“In the beginning, it was hard because it was discouraging, but now it’s more their opinion,” Harman said.

Others may have different outcomes when telling their family members or friends. They may receive positive feedback and support from their family and friends.

“My family at first wasn’t supportive because I tried to go straight vegan from like eating meat every day to a vegan and that was too much not only for me but for my family as well,” McKee said. “Once I calmed down from watching that traumatizing video, I decided to go vegetarian and then they supported me.”

It all comes down to you since this is your decision and it is totally fine to slowly change your diet one step at a time. Starting off by being aware of how much meat you consume and eating more veggies helps your body ease into this change. If changing your diet completely isn’t for you, you can just be a vegetarian once a week or you can try to go vegan and see how your body feels.

“Don’t let other people discourage you,” Harman said. “If it makes you happy you should do it.”

I think that changing a diet takes a lot of self-control and determination -- think of it as “I’m doing this for myself because I want to achieve a better me.”

“Honestly, just look at yourself in the mirror and go, ‘I don’t need meat,’” McKee said. “Sooner or later your body is going to be like, ‘You’re right, I don’t.’”