Veganism, Vegetarianism, and Plant-Based Eating

Maddy Snyder, Staff Writer/Editor

Veganism, vegetarianism, and plant-based eating have abundant benefits on health, the environment, and animal welfare. Despite this, meat-free diets are often uncommon and even unacceptable in our society. Here’s how four Zachary residents are changing that societal norm. 

Veganism, vegetarianism, and plant-based eating are all relatively foreign things in our society today. The City of Zachary only has three vegan friendly restaurants, according to Happy Cow, and one of them is Lit Pizza. In fact, abstaining from meat is so inconceivable to some people that it is actually seen as a taboo. However, Eva Godbold (10), Lillian Funk (10), Neshia Rowe, and Brittany Lawrence are changing that precedent by promoting vegan, vegetarian, and plant-based eating. 

Eva Godbold

There are many reasons to shift to a meat-free diet, but the four main reasons are health, the environment, religious beliefs, and animal welfare. Eva Godbold (10) is a seven-year vegetarian for the last of the four reasons. “In [my fifth-grade science class], we watched a documentary about the safari, and the lions were attacking [their prey] and eating it, and it made me really sad,” said Eva. Upon further research, however, Eva realized that the lions were almost humane in comparison to how the United States gets most of its meat.  

About 70% of the beef, 98% of the pork, and 99% of the poultry the U.S. consumes comes from concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, which are agricultural facilities designed to “fatten up” animals in the cheapest way possible. Along with a spew of environmental injustices, these facilities are extremely cruel to the animals that live there. Thousands of animals are crammed into spaces, often without windows, fresh air, or room to move. By consuming less meat, Eva is lowering the demand for these products and protesting CAFOs.

Lillian Funk

Four-year vegetarian, Lillian Funk (10) chooses to abstain from meat for environmental reasons. “I learned about how bad meat was for the environment,” says Lillian, “A lot of the greenhouse gases we release are from meat like cows and pigs.” And she’s right! Methane is one of the three main gases responsible for climate change, and it’s primarily produced by cows and pigs. Additionally, CAFOs produce large amounts of manure from the animals they house. This manure is often stored in manure lagoons (basically large lakes of poop). The fumes from these lagoons are dangerous to people in the surrounding areas as they can elevate rates of asthma, lung disease, and bronchitis. Plus, if the manure seeps into a water source, it can have detrimental effects on the people living in surrounding areas that depend on that water. Like Eva, Lillian is vegetarian to discourage CAFOs.

Both girls have experienced judgement from others for being vegetarian. “Like, you know, [one of my friend’s dads] would always comment on it,” says Eva, “Some people just don’t agree necessarily, I guess, and they give me a hard time about it. They just don’t understand my point of view.” 

Similarly, Lillian says, “Most of the time people are shocked that I don’t eat meat.” 

Both girls hope this societal response will evolve over time, with it becoming more common and more acceptable to be vegetarian. Business owners like Neshia Rowe and Brittany Lawrence are certainly pushing for a change in diets and minds as well. 

Neisha Rowe

Neshia Rowe, owner of local vegan restaurant, Golden Vegan, explains why she opened her restaurant: “I opened Golden Vegan so that the community would have access to vegan food options. Many people [want] to incorporate a vegan diet into their lifestyle or [want] to go completely vegan, but it is difficult because there are no vegan restaurants in the area.” Golden Vegan serves vegan burgers, using vegan ground beef, vegan chicken filets, walnut and mushroom mixture, and oyster mushrooms as substitutes. Neshia promotes vegan and plant-based eating for health reasons, saying, “Some positives to eating vegan [are] decreased risk of heart disease, cancers, and high blood pressure… People do not realize what the daily consumption of meat is doing to their overall health.” 

Brittany Lawrence

Brittany Lawrence, owner of Zen-Jus, a local all-natural juice shop, reiterated Neshia’s thought process on plant-based options in Zachary: “[I opened Zen-Jus because of] the lack of truly healthy options available locally.” Zen-Jus uses locally grown produce to provide all-natural juices and smoothies to their customers. Even the sweeteners are natural in the form of organic agave syrup, raw honey, coconut palm sugar, and organic medijool dates. Brittany believes in plant-based eating for health reasons, as well, specifically digestive health. “Drinking juices is a quick and easy to way to ensure that you are receiving adequate nutrients that our bodies require from fruits and vegetables… our bodies are, also, more easily able to absorb the nutrient when in liquid form, especially if you suffer from digestive issues,” says Brittany. 

Veganism, vegetarianism, and plant-based eating have immeasurable benefits and there are many reasons to shift to this lifestyle. Eva, Lillian, Neshia, and Brittany are promoting a future in which a meat-free diet is more normal.