Vegetarians: animal activists, or not

Dining options on campus are increasing in response to the growing number of students and staff practicing some form of vegetarian diets. Animal rights, however, are just one of many reasons people practice the diet. Gil Schwartz, the campaign coordinator for Compassionate Action for Animals, said within the last five or six years vegetarian demands have drastically increased. âÄúIn 2005, Aramark found that one quarter of students would like to see more vegetarian meals offered on college campuses,âÄù he said. Compassionate Action for Animals will be holding a weeklong event starting Tuesday, which focuses on the ethical treatment of animals and promotes vegetarian diets. Schwartz said he was a vegetarian for four years before switching to veganism eight years ago when he became aware of factory farming and concerned about animal cruelty. While animal rights activists are often the most recognized group that follow the diet, there are several other reasons people adapt their eating habits. Carrie Earthman, assistant professor of clinical nutrition and director of the Didactic Program in dietetics said there are plenty of reasons people become vegetarians. âÄúThere are a lot of misconceptions,âÄù Earthman said. âÄúFor some itâÄôs religious practices, for example, Hindus donâÄôt eat beef. I know a lot of Indian students choose to be vegetarian, and there are certain traditional foods which happen to include lot of vegetarian dishes.âÄù Heather Mueller changed her diet in seventh grade in attempts to improve her figure skating. âÄúA nutritionist came in during a skating camp and told us about not eating red meat,âÄù the marketing and entrepreneurial management student said. âÄúI was so young, I equated eating meat and being a bad skater.âÄù Mueller said her decision to exclude meat from her diet was based on health, and not the stereotypical âÄúanimal ethics issue.âÄù âÄúSome vegetarians get really defensive about their choices. I donâÄôt think itâÄôs my place to push that into peopleâÄôs faces,âÄù she said. âÄúItâÄôs a personal choice, thereâÄôs no reason to be self righteous over it.âÄù Earthman said there are many people that choose the diet, and not necessarily for animal rights. Some environmental activists, for example, choose to practice vegetarianism in response to how livestock feeding can negatively affect the earth. In his book âÄúDiet for a New America, âÄù John Robbins lays out the amount of resources needed to generate certain meat products. An average of 2,500 gallons of water is needed to produce a single pound of meat, for example. More than 1.3 billion human beings could be fed each year from the grain and soybeans that go to livestock in the United States. Vegetarian diets can be divided into four main categories: lacto-ovo, lacto, ovo, and veganism. Two flexible variations include pescetarianism, which allows for the consumption of seafood, and pollotarianism, which permits poultry and fowl.