To be a Vegan

Imagine no burgers on burger day, no ice cream from the soft serve machine, and no pizza whatsoever. Being vegan means avoiding the consumption of any animal products whatsoever, including meat, cheese, and milk. Three Choate vegans described their journey into veganism, its benefits, and its challenges.

Leila Cohen ’19 became vegan following her older sisters, who run a vegan food blog called “Dat Vegan Life Doe.” Cohen’s process began with research into the environmental benefits of veganism, which reduces the water waste of the beef industry. She said, “If I was really going to care about advocating for animals, why not go the whole way? Once you learn about an issue deeply, you can’t turn back.” She added, “It’s not realistic to say that veganism is going to cure global warming, but to an extent I think it’s about awareness.”

Cohen’s experience as vegan was initially challenging. When Cohen first became vegan in sixth grade, she did not tell her parents, who she described as “super carnivorous.” However, that summer, one of Cohen’s sisters accidentally revealed her veganism. At that moment, Cohen realized, “I just didn’t care what other people had to say. No matter the circumstances, I was going to advocate for what I believe in.” Cohen has been vegan since sixth grade and hasn’t looked back.

Kelly Moh ’18 chose to be vegan for three reasons: her health, the environment, and animal rights. Originally, she thought of going vegan purely to save animal lives, but after further research, she learned that meat and dairy impacts the environment through the methane gas emissions released from producing animals. Moh also realized the health benefits of veganism. She said, “When you’re vegan, you’re not eating meat and dairy, so there are a lot of vegetables and fruits which constitute your diet.”  Moh added, “I have been more conscious of what I am eating, which has benefited my health. Being vegan forces you to really think about what you’re eating and also to realize what your priorities are.”

Moh, a member of the Kohler Environmental Center (KEC), has enjoyed veganism at Choate thus far. She has not experienced veganism on Choate’s main campus, but “feels it will be challenging next year to be vegan just because there are so many dining hall meals that contain milk or egg.” She feels it would be helpful for Choate to  “do away with some of the meat options that not that many people eat or have them less often.”

Danielle Young ’17  has been vegetarian since age eleven, but has been vegan since her sophomore spring. Young stated, “Initially, I became vegetarian because of the factory farming industry, but I had wanted to go vegan for a while before I actually did.” Young decided to go vegan because of aches and pains, which Young believes were caused by dairy consumption. When Young became vegan, the pains stopped, convincing Young to make a permanent switch.

Young described the vegan experience as difficult due to the lack of vegan options at many restaurants. A main improvement the Choate dining hall could make to better support vegans is to make “a warm pot of well-seasoned beans,” which offer a non-meat source of protein. Young also feels SAGE would do well to remove margarine, an imitation butter spread which often contains trace amounts of animal products, from its dishes.

Although veganism can be difficult at times, these Choate students have remained committed to the lifestyle. As Cohen put it, “It’s important to show people that you can be someone who really does make a difference.”

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