A general reaction to learning that someone is vegan is “Why? How?” but the vegans at Hopkins are used to these questions.
Veganism is a lifestyle which excludes all forms of exploitation of and cruelty to animals for food, clothing or any other purpose. Madeleine Walker ’19 was inspired when “I visited a place called Farm Sanctuary, which rehabilitates animals that have been abused in factory farms and puts them up for adoption. It was super informative and I have always loved animals (I live on a small farm) so I thought it was just the next step in my life.” She eased into it, starting off by being a pescatarian, then vegetarian, then vegan, which she has been for the last five years.
Eva Brander Blackhawk ’20 adopted veganism for similar reasons: “Personally I am vegan mostly for environmental reasons. Meat uses a lot of resources whereas just plants do not. For example the water to raise an animal as well as the food they must consume uses a lot of resources and the transportation of those resources creates lots of greenhouse gases. I don’t fnd an inherent problem with eggs or dairy, but the industrialization of the dairy and egg industries has made a lot of violence for the animals, which I do not like.”
Eliza Barker ’21 explained the broadness of vegan beliefs: “I think the purpose of veganism is to respect the rights and welfare of animals. Along with eliminating animals products in food, veganism also incorporates consciousness in buying clothing and cosmetics. Becoming vegan really opened my eyes to the “behind-the-scenes” treatment of animals in factory farms.”
Veganism presents its own set of challenges. Walker explained how hard it is to be the only vegan in her family: “I wanted to be vegetarian for years, but my parents never let me because it’s a hassle to make different meals for people. But once my mom started working again, I made my own meals anyway, so they didn’t have much to complain about.”
Outsiders may wonder how it is possible to stay healthy and get enough nutrients without many of the normal foods. Walker said, “My iron levels have always been fine and I get a lot of protein, but I do still take cheap vitamins to supplement B12 and calcium.” She continued to explain that the food is not that much different: “I haven’t had real meats in so long that fake meats (not-dogs, tofu, soy nuggets, etc.) taste real to me. Plus, vegan baked goods are surprisingly easy to make. Just substitute applesauce or a smashed banana for eggs and it will taste the same.”
Brander Blackhawk added that “I eat pretty much the same thing I used to eat. I eat a lot of pasta and bread based foods. I like soup a lot. I also eat fruits and vegetables obviously. With all the fake meat, cheese, cream cheese, whipped cream, milk, you name it, it is very easy to replicate any dish I want to eat. At restaurants it can be more diffcult but fries are almost always an option. I tend to eat sides or rice/pasta based dishes at restaurants.”
Even though the foods can be very different from normal and sometimes hard to find, Brander Blackhawk said: “I don’t fnd it any more expensive that not being vegan. If I eat primarily beans and rice and frozen vegetables and order cheap side dishes, it can be cheaper than being non-vegan. I do buy fake butter, which is slightly more expensive than normal butter, and different fake meats can get expensive. As a whole veganism is just what you make of it and can ft your lifestyle however you see fit.” Barker added that even though it takes more willpower to be vegan, it can be less expensive. “I personally find that vegan food is less expensive than meat, and it really depends on the vegan products you decide to buy. I eat lots of legumes, grains, fruit and vegetables, and I get my protein from tofu and nuts. I think it’s important to supplement on a vegan diet, so I take vitamin B12.”
Veganism can be joked about, sometimes even negatively, but Walker explained that this comes from stereotypes. “I think the people who hate vegans the most just think vegans force their beliefs on other people, but I don’t really do that. If you eat a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich right next to me, I honestly don’t care. Live your life. I’m eating what I want to eat and you’re eating what you want to eat. It’s the American dream.”
She explained that vegan- ism has “become kind of an identifer at this point,” with her friends putting in her contact name on their phones as “a carrot emoji, or a cow emoji and an X mark, or “Carrot Tofu” because I’m a ginger and like tofu,” and Walker happily accepts that, as she put vegan jokes on her Student Council campaign posts and laughed at Deepak Gupta’s roasts during Assembly.
These positive jokes have led Hopkins to be aware of veganism, and Walker is proud to be a leader of the vegan ideas. “My friends defnitely bring up my veganism more than I do, which I fnd hilarious. I also ALWAYS have vegan snacks on me, so my friends are constantly joking about how they’re going vegan just because they ate one of my banana chips or part of a protein bar,” Walker recalled.
Jack Kealy ’21 explained that he’s encouraged by the grow- ing vegan movement. He said that he believes vegan haters come from the “stereotype that vegans find themselves morally superior to others, but I didn’t go vegan to be superior to other humans; I went vegan because I don’t understand why humans are superior.”
Although veganism can be diffcult at times, Kealy does not regret going vegan: “Occasionally I’ll think of how nice an item with dairy looks and want to take a bite, but then I remember why I went vegan and I feel much better.”
For aspiring vegans, Kealy advises to start little by little. “It can be hard at some restaurants, but I found it very benefcial to set a starting date one month after deciding to go vegan so I could go around to some of my favorite restaurants and find items I’d be able to order. I got used to it very quickly, and I found that I felt so much lighter andnbetter once I went vegan. About a month in, I was eating something that I was unaware had cheese in it and I could barely fnish a few bites because I had become rather intolerant to dairy. It just felt so heavy.”
People find that changing their food intake completely seems like an impossible challenge, but Kealy believes that the challenge is possible to overcome. Brander Blackhawk’s advice is “I think everyone can, and likely should, reduce their consumption of meat, but I by no means expect everyone to be fully vegan. I think as long as people know the facts about what they’re eating and supporting they can and should make the decision they think is best.”
Without any drastic decisions or changes, Brander Blackhawk said that she believes that everyone can make an effort for the vegan ideals. Barker was inspired by watch- ing documentaries: “I became vegan only for animal rights, after I watched Paul McCartney’s documentary If Slaughterhouses Had Glass Walls. It addresses the issues of animals used for meat, and also for dairy, and it makes you realize how connected the meat and dairy industries are. Another great documentary to watch is Earthlings.”
Although Kealy does not like imposing his vegan beliefs on other people, he did have a fun experiment with Canny Cahn, English teacher and Razor Advisor: “One day I baked a lemon blueberry bread that had a huge hunk of tofu in it, and it was delicious. I had a fellow (non-vegan) classmate give it to Ms. Cahn [who hates tofu] as a gift, without mentioning the ingredients.
We were all taking a quiz, but as Ms. Cahn took her frst bite I was peering over my shoulder to see her reaction. At frst, she didn’t have much of a reaction, but when my classmate asked her how it was, Ms. Cahn’s words were, “This is incredible! I have to have everyone in the class try some!”
With a victory on my hands, I screamed out, “ITS MADE OUT OF TOFU!” Safe to say, I haven’t let her forget about this little story!”