Horowitz ’16: The FAQs of veganism

Guest Columnist
Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Last week, AEPi went vegan. Along with members’ significant others, independents living in Marcy House and representatives from four other Greek organizations, the members of the house feasted on food donated by several companies focused on creating nutritious and satisfying plant-based products (such as Beyond Meat, Hampton Creek and Daiya Foods), and a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals employee flew in to cook the food. Having been the only vegan in a fraternity for almost three years, I assure you that I have been asked whatever questions you may have for me multiple times. Let’s go over some of the most popular ones (for the umpteenth time).

Question one: Why are you vegan?

Answer: There are three main reasons why one chooses to go vegan. The first point is the ethical impetus. Almost all farmed animals are kept in “factory farms,” which are large industrial complexes designed to produce large quantities of livestock as quickly and efficiently as possible. Therefore, the welfare of the animals is never taken into account and they are kept in terrible conditions. These animals are beaten, mutilated and starved by the millions before painfully being slaughtered.

Question two: (interrupting) Okay, but what about dairy and eggs?

Answer: Dairy cows and hen-laying chickens are treated just as badly as other factory farmed animals. When they stop producing milk and eggs, they too are sent to slaughter. Vegetarianism is a great start (I was vegetarian for four years before I went vegan), but the only way to fully boycott industrialized cruelty is to switch to a completely plant-based diet.

Question three: I don’t care about animal welfare. Why else should I go vegan?

Answer: What most people don’t realize is that veganism is not just about the animals; for instance, a diet consisting mainly of animal products is terrible for the environment. A recent Worldwatch report demonstrated that animal agriculture alone is responsible for more than half of all greenhouse gas emissions. It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce one gallon of beef. Using this water on beef is wholly inefficient, along with the millions of pounds of farmland used for growing feed for livestock instead of food for people. There is also the enormous amount of waste produced by livestock, the rainforests that are being destroyed to make room for cattle grazing in the developing world, and the estimate that by 2048 we may have fishless oceans due to farmed fishing.

The documentary “Cowspiracy” elaborates on these points, and it’s on Netflix! The bottom line of the film is that you cannot consider yourself an environmentalist without being vegan.

Question four: Don’t organic farms provide a happy environment for the animals and foster more sustainable agriculture?

Answer: The truth is that animals are still mistreated even on “cage-free” and “free-range” farms. A cage-free farm, for example, is supposed to offer chickens space to roam, but the reality is they are put in one large, cramped pen rather than individual cages. As for the issue of sustainability, it is environmentally inefficient to breed livestock for food no matter how they are raised. “Cowspiracy” addresses this, too.

Question five: I only care about my own well-being. What’s in it for me?

Answer: The third reason for switching to a plant-based diet is for health reasons. Most people have heard that red meat has adverse health effects, but many of these ailments have been found to extend to other meats as well. Moreover, scientists have discovered that there isn’t really any evidence that milk builds strong bones, only that it leads to higher rates of diabetes. Plant-based sources of protein and calcium are just as effective, if not more so, and are lead to reduced rates of heart disease and obesity. “Forks Over Knives,” another Netflix documentary, discusses the scientific and medical evidence related to the health of a plant-based diet.

Question six: So why did you go vegan?

Answer: My entire family went vegan four years ago due to animal welfare issues (we have four rescue dogs), and in recent years I have taken a great interest in the health issue, mainly due to the fact that I am in the process of applying to medical school.

Question seven: Let’s say I want to go vegan. What can I eat on campus?

Answer: Despite what you might think, Brown dining halls are not nearly where they should be in terms of providing a diverse array of vegan options to students. Progress has been made, however, and the Sharpe Refectory now often serves substitute meats and cheeses, with more exciting recipes on the way. Plus, as more students express interests in having plant-based options, it will become easier to pressure Dining Services to provide them. On the other hand, the city of Providence has an amazing assortment of restaurants that produce vegan meals. Nice Slice serves vegan pizza, and Like No Udder, a food truck, offers vegan ice cream. The Brown Veg Society is also working on a guide to being vegan at Brown which will soon be made available to the student body.

Question eight: Where can I find out more?

Answer: Feel free to comment below or shoot me an email. I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have. You can try to stump me, but I promise you I’ve heard it all. Plus, if there are enough inquiries, maybe I’ll get to write a second column.

Adam Horowitz ’16 does not spend his days eating only tofu and wearing Birkenstocks.

  • A Friend

    I don’t have an inquiry, but I want a second column.

  • Ann

    Definitely compelling reasons to go vegan. Thanks for the info.

  • disqus_bOxyE9Ygv6

    Wonderful article!

  • Same with Crossfitters

    Q: How can you tell someone is vegan?

    A: Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.