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To be or not to be … a vegan

Seven years ago, USF junior Jenn Beck made the decision to become a vegetarian. As a yearbook staff member at her high school, Beck was given an assignment that involved visiting a slaughterhouse near the school. The yearbook staff wanted pictures of the pigs being slaughtered for a feature that was going to be printed in the yearbook.

“I went there, and I said ‘I can’t do this,'” Beck said. “That was it.”

Today, Beck follows an almost completely vegetarian diet. Occasionally, she will eat a small amount of chicken, but only if her doctor recommends that she does because of low iron levels. Beck is not alone. Mintel Meat-Free Foods reported in December 2001 that an estimated 5.7 percent of the population follows a vegetarian diet of some kind.

The term “vegetarian” is generally used to describe a diet that consists of no meat. Many vegetarians, however, eat fish, and some eat small amounts of meat, as well. Beck has sampled many types of vegetarian diets in the past. Her fruitarian diet was short-lived, and her vegan diet only lasted a bit longer.

Fruitarians only eat raw fruits and vegetables. They believe all things are living, and that any fruits eaten should not be picked off of a vine rather, they should have fallen off on their own. This diet only lasted one week for Beck.

As a vegan, Beck could not eat any foods that contained animal products or byproducts. This strict vegetarian diet does not allow one to consume any meat, milk or eggs, and many do not eat honey either. This diet stems from the belief that consumption of meat and dairy products promotes cruel treatment of animals.

“It didn’t work out,” she said. “I love cheese and ice cream, and I think that fake cheese tastes disgusting.”

Her vegan diet lasted only a month and a half.

Beck said she is very careful about what she eats. She follows the guidance of her doctor and takes four vegetarian vitamins every day. For those interested in beginning a vegetarian diet, she recommends speaking to a health professional first.

“They can lead you on the right path and help you to know what’s best for your body,” Beck said. “You really need to take care of yourself. Especially if you have previous health problems, you need to talk to your doctor.”

Dr. Egilda Terenzi, director for student health services at USF, said she agrees. She said that anyone considering a vegetarian diet should have initial knowledge before seeing a doctor.

“There’s no living off of iceberg lettuce and pasta,” she said. “That’s where complications are seen.”

Terenzi mentioned that many people who are vegetarians have problems with low iron levels in their blood because they don’t eat well-rounded meals.

Terenzi is an omnivore who eats meat, dairy products and vegetables, but she generally eats more vegetables than most others with omnivorous eating preferences. She said that the healthiest diet that anyone can eat is a well-rounded one that contains some meat products.

Junior Mandy Cretella also believes that people should eat meat.

“I would rather eat a juicy steak than, take my iron in pill form. That’s just not natural,” Cretella said.

Angela Vance, a sophomore, has different motivations for being a meat-eater.

“If we didn’t eat meat, animals would become so overpopulated that the world would smell like a giant litter box,” Vance said.

More information about beginning a vegetarian diet, is available at the Vegetarian Resource Web site at .

For more information on beginning a vegan diet, go to .

Contact Whitney Meersat