PACIFIC GROVE — Numerous students within Pacific Grove High School have recently made the decision to cut meat out of their diet. Why are so many students becoming vegetarians? There are countless reasons to become a vegetarian–from advocating against animal cruelty to simply transitioning to a healthier lifestyle. Personally, I chose to become a vegetarian six years ago to promote sustainable practices. The mass production of meat produces an increasing amount of the greenhouse gas, methane, which proportionally causes an increase in the heating of the planet. Although, recently such detriments have become significantly more dangerous and critical. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, since the commencement of the Industrial Revolution, the Earth’s average temperature has rose by about 0.85 degrees Celsius. This may not seem like very much; however, global warming can also result in an unusual cooling of the planet within the northern hemisphere due to the melting of ice glaciers and patterns of convection currents.
The United State’s water supply is also facing an increasing amount of detriments due to irrigation and livestock. About 63% of the country’s water is used towards irrigation. Much of the crops grown within the United States contribute towards feeding our livestock. Consequently, about 67% of America’s water used in irrigation is responsible for raising livestock, not including the water needed to hydrate such animals.
The treatment of animals during the process of manufacturing meat and the effects of such practices is also an important aspect to analyze when considering vegetarianism. For example, many chickens are fed pesticides and hormones that cause them to grow almost three times the size of a naturally raised chicken. When such chickens are digested by the human body, these chemicals can become hazardous to the human digestive system. Cows also carry diseases, such as ebola, that can infect the human body when people eat cow meat, including hamburgers, steak, and fillet mignon.
Over the past few days, I investigated the reasoning behind why my peers chose to make the switch to a vegetarian lifestyle. Senior ASB Vice President, Jane Weichert, chose to become a pescatarian two years ago due to awareness of environmental health and her activism for animal rights. She claims that it was difficult for her to find sources of protein when she first began her journey towards a meatless lifestyle; however, she learned to adapt by eating sustainable sources of protein, including lentils and grits. On the other hand, Grace Woods (Junior) transitioned into vegetarianism with ease when she decided to make the switch at the early age of five years old. Similar to Caroline Lindenthal-Cox (Freshman), Grace claimed that vegetarianism only came natural to her because her parents were vegetarians. PGHS vegan, Parker Llantero (Sophomore), argued that transitioning to such a diet was difficult for her due to the fact that she craved meat and only chose to live by the diet for health reasons. All of the vegetarians I interviewed were also questioned as to whether they believed vegetarians were stereotyped by meat-eaters. Each of them voiced that vegetarians are perceived as “peace-loving, hippie dippies,” yet all of the students I interacted with appeared no different from any of the other students on our campus.
Additionally, I interviewed various non-vegetarians throughout PGHS. When Starting Varsity Linebacker, Joshua Fuller, was asked if he would ever consider becoming a vegetarian, he replied that there is no point in him ever transitioning to a meatless diet. So I wondered, why do students feel so strongly against vegetarianism? Many students, including Siena Fisk (Sophomore) and Caelum Kim-Saunders (Junior), explained that they eat meat for the protein and satisfying taste. In addition, the students described how eating meat in today’s society is easier when faced with conflicts, such as searching for a meatless dish on a restaurant menu or forcing their parents to prepare a separate vegetarian plate just for them. Senior Babe, Paola Morales, admitted that she may become a vegetarian once she moves to college and can buy her own groceries. Blake Moore, a PGHS Freshman, argued that he may become a vegetarian when he is older and doesn’t need as much protein from meat. All of the students I interviewed expressed that they ate meat with almost every meal, with cow’s meat being one of the prominent favorites. They also claimed that they are aware of the environmental detriments that eating meat, especially cows, inflicts upon the global temperature. However, the same students also stated that they enjoy vegetarian cuisine, including salad and tofu. Therefore, I hypothesized that it was not the taste of the vegetarian diet that is causing most students to steer clear from vegetarianism–it’s a dramatic lifestyle change that most students fear. Whether one chooses to become a vegetarian or not, it is essential for our student body to understand the detriments behind the corruption of the meat industry and its environmental impacts.