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Vegan vs. vegetarian

By Cecily Lane

Before civilization, when mankind had fewer choices for dinner, he was forced to forage or kill his meal a short time before eating it.

Fortunately, now mankind has more choices, healthier choices. While fruits, vegetables and grains have been around for just as long as meat, most meals are dominated by meat.

But vegetarians and vegans have disowned the notion of needing meat for survival, and some have defended the lives of animals as more important than the health of humankind. As vegetarians refute only meat, vegans oppose all incarnations of animals, including eating and wearing them.

Even though the human body is wired to be omnivorous, people don’t have to fight their food in order to survive anymore. The palate of people living now has been expanded past grass and fresh kill, and the varieties of food available have, for many years, been able to meet the needs of the average person.

Whether the philosophies of the practices deprive the carnivorous aspect of human beings of the needed protein, the lifestyle raises moral questions.

Giving up meat is not like starving oneself to the point of being underweight, but it can be healthier in the sense of thinking about the fat count in foods everywhere. As on airplanes and in cheap food places, the green option is usually more trustworthy and healthier.

The American Dietetic Association has stated that a vegetarian or vegan diet, one that substitutes meat with something else (with protein), are “well-planned diets [that] are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle [and] provide health benefits, nutritional adequacy and prevention of certain diseases.”

Recently, several doctors have claimed that high animal fat and protein diets are excessive and detrimental, whereas a vegan diet can actually reverse some diseases caused by a high-fat diet. Not only is this practice better for animals, but also it also benefits the practitioner.

Meat in the human diet has become less and less crucial as alternative diets have arisen for many reasons concerning animal products. While vegans oppose the use of any products involving animals, vegetarians only oppose eating meat.

Vegetarians have been around for ages, and their values have surpassed most fad diets as a more ethical choice concerning food. Whether the protest of eating animals is for the sake of the animal or for health reasons, vegetarianism is a well-rounded practice, with morals concerning many aspects of life.

On the same moral page, vegans refute every product involving or derived from animals, including clothes, food, and animal-experimented products. According to www.vegan.org, it is so imperative for all vegans to be animal-free that some don’t even keep pets.

The lifestyle of a vegan is a common misconception and a highly attacked stereotype. The idea that vegans are rebels making a statement about the living and killing conditions of animals isn’t entirely true.

Practicing a plant-based diet has been adopted by many cultures for ethical, health, environmental, religious or economic reasons.

The stereotype that vegans are skinny, smelly hippies who preach to others about animal cruelty has proven to be incorrect, as many vegans have found that they live healthier and cleaner lives after giving up meat, dairy and other animal-based products. Vegetarianism is not only practiced by hippies, animal rights activists, or weight-loss fanatics.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a well-known American animal rights organization, is often confused as the “voice” of both vegetarian and vegan people. Because of their straightforward and rash ads and protests, non-meat eaters are often confused for being hasty over-thinkers.

Vegetarians are not necessarily associated with PETA, whose extreme animal rights ideals have sparked hatred among many people. Though many “veg-heads” give up animal products because of the animals, many do it for health reasons.

Those who abstain from animal products and animal meals aren’t always bad hunters or pretentious jerks trying to “one-up” society with rebellion. The philosophy accounts for the conditions of animals, animal testing, animal rights, health concerns of consuming meat, and religious or cultural backgrounds that respect animals.

The opposition to not exploit animals has become more popular, and while one is more serious than the other, the two lifestyle choices follow the same guideline — animals are people too.

Cecily Lane is a student at the University of Mississippi. Contact her at clane@go.olemiss.edu.