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Monday, March 8, 2021

Opinion

Vegans hungry for more options at UH


Callie Parrish//The Daily Cougar

Callie Parrish//The Daily Cougar

In today’s society, more and more people are becoming either vegan or vegetarian. According to ofcoursevegan.com, “every day, 2,000 people become vegetarian, with the current numbers reaching one billion.” Also, Elizabeth Cherry of the Department of Sociology at the University of Georgia estimated in her article, “Veganism as a Cultural Movement: A Relational Approach,” that there are 1.7 million vegans in the United States. That’s a pretty big growing minority.

Some people believe that vegetarians eat fish or chicken. This is, of course, false. A vegetarian, to put it vaguely, is someone who does not meat. I myself have been vegetarian for eight years and find it ludicrous to find that some people believe that vegetarians eat fish or chicken.

How can you think that fish and chicken are not meat? They’re part of the animal kingdom, for crying out loud. If you eat fish as your only meat, you are then pescetarian. If you eat chicken or fowl as your only meat, then you are pollotarian.

If you eat both fish and chicken and no other meat, then you are a pollo-pescetarian. These three different types of diets are examples of “flexitarian” diets. People that eat flexitarian diets eat meat and by definition are not vegetarian.

Before I start, I would like to distinguish the differences and similarities between vegans and vegetarians. There are four main types of vegetarianism. The least strict type is that of lacto-ovo-vegetarians; this type of vegetarianism allows you to eat dairy and eggs along with eating no meat.

The next is a lacto-vegetarian; this type of vegetarianism allows you to eat dairy but no eggs on top of eating no meat.

Then there are ovo-vegetarians; they eat eggs but no dairy along with eating no meat.

The next is the most strict type, vegan. Vegans are a subset of vegetarians; they’re not disjoint sets. Another way to put it is that all vegans are vegetarians but not all vegetarians are necessarily vegan. Vegans don’t eat any animal byproducts at all, meat and non-meat alike. This means that they can’t have eggs or dairy, or even honey. Some vegans say that they eat honey. But honey is by definition an animal byproduct, as bees are a part of the animal kingdom.

So really, those people that say they are vegan but eat honey are, in fact, not vegan. Some people will debate you about the whole honey thing, but you can’t change the fact that bees are part of the animal kingdom.

It’s no problem being a vegetarian or even a vegan at the University of Texas at Austin. Austin is known for being liberal. I used to go to UT and had no problem eating there. They even had vegan desserts at the dining halls. But here in Houston, it’s probably a good guess that there aren’t as many vegetarians than there are in Austin.

Last year, I went vegan here at UH. I was at a healthy weight but then lost thirty pounds and looked rather sickly. It wasn’t directly because I was vegan. No. It was because the dining halls at Moody Towers and at Cougar Woods didn’t offer much to choose from for a vegan diet. On a good day, you could eat something other than salad at least at one meal. I already hated salad, it being really the only thing you can eat at restaurants here in Houston as a vegetarian.

As you can imagine, eating nothing but salad every day can be rather drab. The only dressing you can have is olive oil and vinegar. It’s not 100% olive oil. The “olive oil” they have is actually 75% canola oil and 25% olive oil. Who puts canola oil on their salad? No one. You use canola oil usually for medium-heat cooking, not for salads.

Sure they have “Meatless Mondays”, but it’s not really meatless. They’ll offer at most two vegetarian items, not including the vegetarian soup. But most of the time, vegans go unnoticed, as they seem to put cheese on everything. They offer pasta a lot at the vegetarian station, but what most people don’t know is that egg is an essential ingredient in most pasta. So even when the vegetarian station has non-dairy items, it’ll still have eggs in there somewhere.

Also, last year, the vegetarian station was closed on the weekends. So what were you supposed to eat when you were here at UH for the weekend? Soup and salad, maybe. And what were you supposed to eat when you were here for the weekend and you’re a vegan? Pretty much nothing. Same old, same old. Just salad.

Do they think that vegetarians and vegans just eat Monday through Thursday and don’t eat during the weekends? We’re people too, you know. We have the same biological requirements as everyone else: food.

I would often complain and write suggestions about offering more vegan-friendly dishes, but it seemed to go unnoticed. The only reason I am no longer vegan is because I didn’t want to go through the same hell that I went through last year at the dining hall. I went back to being a lacto-ovo vegetarian, despite the fact that I am lactose-intolerant. They put cheese on everything. There is pretty much no getting around it, and it’s really hard to be a vegan when there’s nothing to eat.

You pretty much starve here if you’re vegan. It just isn’t right to be misrepresented and be unable to even get a hot meal nine times out of 10. The dining halls need to incorporate more vegan-friendly foods. It would be a start to actually get something to eat. But as for vegan desserts, I know that’s an impossibility. I don’t see any problem in aiming high. But being realistic, it’s probably going to be some time before they offer more vegan-friendly foods.

As for the “can be made vegan upon request” sign that used to be in front of the vegetarian station — dream big, my fellow vegans. Dream big.

 Opinion columnist Callie Parrish is a math and arts senior and may be reached at [email protected]

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