You don’t have to look too far anymore to find great vegan and vegetarian foods around the corner from Drexel and in Center City. Plant-based foods have come a long way since the latter half of the 20th century. There are now vegan beers, faux cheese steaks and — believe it or not, Philadelphians — vegan scrapple! How has vegan and vegetarian gotten so popular, and why do even omnivores enjoy vegan food?
The answer is the ripple effect, or Drexel engineers can even think of it as an exponential curve. I’d be hard-pressed to prove the effectiveness of many animal-based groups, as the research and data are limited, but to say the least, someone, or some people, started making noise about factory farming long ago (a few Greek philosophers were vegetarian too, but that’s a whole other article).
As one person became vegetarian, and all of their friends saw how easy it was or how they really didn’t need meat to make a meal, maybe one or two of those close friends became vegetarian by influence. And then one of their friends started eating more plant-based foods, and then their friends, and then their friends, etc. Slowly, people started phasing out meat products because they saw the positive effects it has on the health and mind.
New ways of informing people combined with the old methods helped to multiply this growth of vegetarians even further. With the introduction of undercover media (some people start with “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair, others have various theories) and actual raw footage amassed over months of recording in one farm, the information published for public view whether by physical or digital media helped inform even more people.
Handing out pamphlets, as has been done for women’s suffrage and for civil rights in general, is an age-old practice of disseminating information cheaply and efficiently. Lecturers or speakers tour around the country to talk to student groups, with clubs and at public hearings to bring light to the various abuses in the animal industry.
Documentarians and directors have used their funds and skills to produce digestible amounts of abuse and information in a bias that is truly good in nature, albeit there being some issues in a couple films. The point is that you don’t have to look too hard anymore to see the writing on the wall.
You can type vegan into Google and the number of results seems insurmountable. The impression most people have, when I talk to people about being vegan, is that it’s like running a triathlon. Actually, it’s pretty darn easy to educate yourself on how simple it is to change your diet. The biggest mistake people make is going cold turkey; not only is it too harsh a change to your mind and body, but it’s also guaranteed that you’ll be forgetting important things like what vitamins and minerals you need in everyday meals.
Besides, you statistically will know at least one person who is vegetarian, at this point. Ask and thou shalt receive! The slower the transition, the better off you are staying vegetarian for a long time.
Another reason people make for not going vegetarian, or at least reducing meat consumption in general, is the lack of time — time to prepare food or educate themselves about nutrition. Unfortunately, educating yourself about nutrition is an essential part of life, even if you never go vegetarian.
You can eat a cheese steak everyday, if you want, but enjoy that triple bypass later on knowing full well it wasn’t just “your bad genes.” Is there any guarantee that eating right all the time will make you happier? No, there is not.
But the ethical and moral significance of your actions can be more satiating than any physical food. Leaving animals off the plate is an ethical decision no matter how you view it. And by doing so, you add to the ripple effect of people expanding their circles of compassion.
Benjamin Sylvester is the president of the Drexel Animal Welfare Group. He can be contacted at [email protected]. “Moo Over This” publishes biweekly.