‘You won’t drop dead if you eat a vegetarian diet’

16 Apr 2019

One person eats about 250 gram of meat a day, the other protests against the use of animal products. Because of the Vox survey about meat-eating, three students tell about their eating behaviour. 'I eat a lot of chicken, tuna, salmon and minced beef.'

Elena Freudenberg, vegan:

For Elena Freudenberg, third-year Philosophy student, it’s a no brainer: eating meat is simply not done. Neither is eating other animal products, for that matter. Freudenberg is a vegan, and she tries to convince others to follow suit. As a member of the Anonymous for the Voiceless group, she frequently takes to the streets, to show the public images of how animals are slaughtered.

‘It’s incredibly violent, the way the meat industry deals with animals,’ she says. ‘Pigs are gassed, or killed with tongs that deliver an extremely high voltage. They are stunned first, but since the animals are so large, stunning doesn’t always have immediate effect. So either the pigs are choking for five minutes, or they’re still half-conscious when they get electrocuted.’

‘It’s incredibly violent, the way the meat industry deals with animals’

Elena Freudenberg

What a lot of people don’t know, she says, is that similarly horrible practices underlie the production of animal products such as milk and eggs. ‘A cow can only give milk if she’s calved. This means cows are continuously getting inseminated, continuously pregnant, until they’re completely exhausted. At which point, they’re slaughtered.’

The same applies to egg production: ‘Since only hens lay eggs, male chicks are put on a conveyor belt and gassed or minced as soon as they hatch.’ Freudenberg just wants to make it clear that animals also get killed for animal products other than meat.

In addition to animal welfare, climate change is another reason she refrains from eating animal products. ‘Large sections of the tropical rainforest are cut down to grow soy for cattle feed. When you see how much land the bio industry uses, you realise how inefficient this is compared to growing plant-based foods.’

Cecile Collin, vegetarian:

Cecile Collin, student in Communication and Influence, is a vegetarian. She believes people no longer need to eat meat. ‘Nutritionists and researchers agreed a long time ago that you won’t drop dead if you eat a vegetarian diet,’ she argues. ‘In fact, you’re more likely to live longer.’

The only reason people are still attached to their beef steak is taste and force of habit. ‘I also found it difficult to stop, so I can really understand this. If you’re used to eating potatoes, meat and vegetables every day, removing the meat makes for a boring meal. I’ve had to learn to cook differently. I make more curries, for example.

Cecile Collin

Culinary traditions from other continents are often more geared towards a vegetarian diet.’ An added advantage of being a vegetarian, according to Cecile, is how cheap it is. ‘I discovered being a vegetarian is really cheap, as long as you don’t just eat meat substitutes from the Vegetarian Butcher.’

‘I also found it difficult to stop’

Taking to the streets to convince others to become vegetarian is not something Collins is likely to do. Nor does she think Meat Free Monday is a good idea. ‘It’s not up to me to decide for others,’ she says. ‘You have to be motivated from within. It’s nice if you’ve really thought about it, and you can look at piglets on a farm and think: Relax, I’m not going to eat you!’

Sander Bouwmans, meat eater:

Sander Bouwmans, Business Administration student, eats approximately 250 grams of meat a day. ‘I do strength training and gymnastics, and it’s my hobby to get stronger. This means my body needs more protein. Meat is a simple, tasty protein source. That’s why I eat a lot of chicken, tuna, salmon and minced beef.’

‘I don’t think you can conclude a vegetarian diet is healthier’

According to Bouwmans, when it comes to muscle building, meat can’t be replaced so easily with meat substitutes. ‘Meat is an easier and cheaper source of protein than meat substitutes. Plus I don’t really like the taste and texture of meat substitutes.’

Sander Bouwmans

Eating meat is not unhealthy, in his opinion: ‘I have a healthy diet and eat 400 grams of vegetables a day. I don’t smoke, and I don’t drink much. I don’t think you can conclude a vegetarian diet is healthier. And if you eat only vegan, you have to take supplements. You miss out on some minerals that can only be found in meat and animal products.’

Bouwmans doesn’t feel bad about it. ‘I sometimes think about animal suffering and the climate, but on the other hand, there’re so many other things that are bad for the environment, that this doesn’t stop me from eating meat.’

The Business Administration student thinks it’s fine if some people don’t want to eat meat, but they shouldn’t put pressure on others to stop eating meat. ‘You can have your own ideology, but you shouldn’t try to influence others. Trying to scare people to stop them eating meat isn’t fair.’

Read the new Vox issue, which is completely about animals

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