by Christina Russell
WHITMAN COLLEGE PIONEER
Last Wednesday marked Whitman’s annual Vegetarian Day, an event coordinated by Action For Animals in partnership with Prentiss Dining Hall.
For one entire day, all three meals in Prentiss were cooked entirely without meat products, many without using any animal products (such as egg or dairy) as well, in order to raise awareness for the animal and environmental abuses that are committed in the animal-food industry.
The event is intended to “show people how easy it is to have a well-balanced diet that is also plant-based,” said Action for Animals President Suzanne Zitzer.
Literature was displayed for students upon entering the dining hall, in order to garner an understanding for the implications of their decisions to eat meat, dairy, and egg products. Pamphlets from People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Veg For Life: A Farm Sanctuary Campaign addressed issues like animal abuses in factory farms, the lack of regulation of free-range labels on products from the poultry industry, ways to consume enough protein while still being vegetarian or vegan and a political campaign to support an excise tax on meat.
In general, there was support for the day, even from those who weren’t vegetarian.
“It’s good to be in an environment where if you want to be a vegetarian you can,” said first-year Nadim Damluji.
First-year Emma Burghart agreed, saying, “I feel like I’ve thought about the issue before. It is a good thing; I’m supportive of it even though I personally eat meat.”
Those who had already made the choice to convert to a vegetable-based diet were excited. “I think it’s important for there to be a day where people question what they eat and also a chance for people to learn about what they are actually putting inside their body. I would wager that most people don’t actually know how the meat industry works, the conditions under which it operates,” said first-year vegetarian Ian Jagel.
In response to whether Action for Animals received any negative feedback, Zitzer said, “There are always people that say things like ‘Well, I like meat and therefore I won’t try’ or ‘I don’t see a need to because I like the way I eat now.’ People have tried to make it seem like we are forcing them to eat vegetarian, even though it is just the one dining hall, just an exploratory thing. We want people to know that these foods are out there, maybe just understand a bit more about people who eat vegetable-based diets.” Why is Zitzer a vegetarian? “I love fruits and vegetables. Being able to eat a large salad, it makes me happy. I feel cleaner in a way.”
While this event does happen every year, this season Zitzer specified that Action for Animals is interested in promoting the environmental reasons for consider vegetarianism. “We feel that is a way that we can reach the most people,” said Zitzer. “I know a lot of the students here at Whitman are very environmentally aware. One of the best ways to help out the environment is to not eat meat, because its production is harmful.”
Zitzer’s advice for those inspired to re-evaluate their diet is to access web resources, like http://www.vegweb.com and to do it gradually, “so that you don’t feel like you are depriving yourself.”
In addition to advocating the consumption of a plant-based diet, Action for Animals supports locally grown produce. Zitzer encourages students to “enjoy the fall harvest!”