Giveaway offers a taste of veganism

A West Bank food giveaway signed up almost 500 students to try giving up meat.

Liala Helal

Physiology junior Zuhur Ahmed put aside her love for eating meat and pledged Wednesday to become a vegetarian for a week.

“I know I’ll miss chicken,” she said.

Ahmed and approximately 1,200 other students sampled vegan foods at the Compassionate Action for Animals’ second-annual vegan food giveaway on the West Bank Campus.

This year, Gopher Express and North Country Co-op offered samples. The two stores are a resource near campus where students can find vegan foods.

Approximately $2,000 worth of food was given away and almost 500 students pledged to try veganism or vegetarianism.

“I just want to see what its like to live without meat for a week,” Ahmed said. “Who knows? I might become a revolution.”

Students stood in lines to try vegan smoothies, animal-friendly cookies, vegetarian jerky and nondairy ice cream and chocolate.

“A lot of people don’t know that there are a lot of amazing substitutes for meat,” said volunteer Marysia Miernowska.

Second-year law student Zach Biesanz sampled vegan candy bars and said they tasted “great.”

It’s much easier to attract people with positive things, he said.

“Instead of showing how bad it is to eat meat, you can show people how good it is not to,” he said.

Since Biesanz went vegan four years ago, he said, he rarely gets sick.

“I’m healthier now than I’ve ever been,” he said.

Vegetarianism doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing stance, said campaign coordinator Gil Schwartz.

The average American eats approximately 80 animals each year, he said.

“Just reducing your consumption can help make a difference,” he said.

Vegetarianism not only helps animals, but people as well, said religious studies senior Matt Sexter, who has been a vegetarian for a year since he tried it out for one week.

When he tried going back to eating meat after that week “it felt really unnatural,” he said.

“It’s a lot cheaper not to eat meat; it’s good for the average, low-income University student,” he said.

Mechanics junior Faraz Currimbhoy said he thinks everyone needs meat for protein.

“After you work out, you need meat, you can’t just eat peanuts,” he said.

He sampled the meatless jerky and did not like the taste.

“It tastes like crap, but it’s nutritional,” he said.

But Schwartz said it’s “a big myth” that if you don’t eat meat you won’t get enough protein.

“It’s such a common misconception,” he said.

Protein deficiency is basically nonexistent in the United States, he said, because many foods contain protein. Some studies show that vegetarians are getting more protein than others, he said.

Alternative sources for protein come from grains, rice, beans, veggie burgers, soymilk and pastas, he said.

Junior Naima Bashir said she pledged to try something new.

“It’s for a good cause, and I think I’ll let those chickens live,” she said. “Being a Muslim, I know the way they slaughter those animals is really wrong.

“Animals, in a way, are meant to be eaten, but they shouldn’t be abused,” she said.

This year’s event doubled last year’s record in the number of people who pledged.

At last year’s event, some students who pledged took a survey later in the year and many said they remained vegetarian or vegan, Schwartz said. Others said it was an eye-opening experience.