To be clear, I am not about to shame religious institutions that hold congregants to dietary restrictions like kashruth or halal, I’m about to shame industries that profit off hurting humans and the Earth who love to deflect blame to the general population.

I am one of the last people who would shame someone for how they eat.

I was vegetarian from ages 8 to 14, when my disordered thoughts and behaviors surrounding food finally overtook me and pushed me to veganism. The “high” I got from being vegan, the goodness that my body was supposed to feel from excluding all animal products except honey (which I later cut out) from my diet, was more of a correlation thing. The aesthetic of veganism was an emotional Band-Aid even though I was hurting my body. I loved telling people I was vegan, going out to eat with friends only to play the “I can’t eat anything on this menu” card. Eat my side salad while getting praised for my “self-control” and “how much I care about the planet.” In actuality, I was being praised for fooling my friends into thinking I was healthier, and letting us all fall prey to greenwashing. I was also pushing food taboos onto a particularly susceptible portion of the population. I’ve stopped doing this, but it still happens all around me, whether via ads or over dinner conversations. Especially this time of year, with New Year’s resolutions from people who intend to “eat healthier” or partake in the trend-based “Veganuary.”

If you want to be vegan, be vegan. I’m not going to stop you, even though medical professionals and family members worried about my low iron and vitamin levels stopped me. But please don’t go around telling people that it’s more sustainable and healthier when that isn’t necessarily true.

And if you’re not eating animals, there’s a good chance you’re eating food that was farmed by overworked, underpaid people who come from ethnic and economic minorities.

If you go vegan tomorrow, this is how you will impact the planet: When you buy groceries, you won’t buy any animal products, and either someone else buys it, or it gets taken off the shelf and thrown away. Nothing changes. If you manage to convince enough people to go vegan with you, any given local grocery store buys less of anything and it rots in a distribution warehouse. Nothing changes. You cannot cause less to be produced even if every store is distributing less. In December, the United States Department of Agriculture reported that’s already happening to up to 40 percent of food produced in the U.S. Farmers and farmers’ unions, with the help of Congress, get the federal government to purchase the excess to uphold the agricultural economy. Again, nothing changes. Your best bet here, as with most things regarding climate change, is structural change.

To eat vegan and balanced isn’t financially an option for everyone. Even People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, says a vegan lifestyle is more expensive, with Business Insider confirming that if you spend $150 on groceries per month for you and one other person, it’s considered impressive if you can manage to only spend $175 on vegan groceries per person, per month. But that’s in the U.S. — living in the U.K. can make veganism about 40 percent cheaper than an omnivore diet, according to Oxford University.

If you have (rightfully) placed doubt in me, a very opinionated 17-year-old, see a registered dietitian if you’re considering drastic changes to your diet.

Emma Meyers is a junior at Santa Fe Prep. Contact her at

(9) comments

Michal Mudd

If you were vegetarian from 8 - 14 and then vegan til whenever, you were a child, and your parents should have either directed you toward resources to learn or overseen your vegetarian diet with some educated input. This is no different from a child on Keto, Adkins, or thru the fast-food drive-thru everyday diet, or one who is binging and purging to fit into a cheerleader outfit. I’m sorry, but anyone with a lick of sense and a health class knows that a vegetarian or vegan must eat more than lettuce, although for a very long time that was the only option in most cafeterias and restaurants. Commonsense dictates that you know what you’re likely not to get in high amounts, like iron and B12, and compensate or supplement. Guess what, many girls in your school who are just dieting are also low in these, and it has nothing to do with PETA.

I admire young idealism - I was there myself, animal welfare as a child after seeing animals beat in the street overseas, the environment in HS and college, and I hold those ideals still, because they matter to me, not because I’m trying to impress anyone. And I never pointed out my diet unless it was pointed out to me. It’s mostly men who get defensive. Today everyone points out their preferences - football team, purple hair, no hair, flags and guns, pronouns, chevy vs ford, baby on board, I run, I just sit, I don’t eat animals.

SoI’m not understanding your need to broadcast your revolt from your previously held ideals. It’s not an either/or thing. Most “carnivores” eat meat AND vegetables. They too are eating food that was farmed by overworked, underpaid people who come from ethnic and economic minorities. Ever been to a slaughterhouse and seen who works there? But hey, the carnivores have that overworked, underpaid figured out. Eliminate the jobs. Have you heard about the practice of shipping slaughtered animals all the way to China for processing and packaging and then shipping the packaged parts back across the ocean to your store’s cold case? Sustainable? Idealism isn’t simple. You care about one thing for a decade, another the next. Wait til you’re 50, see what the climate feeds you then.

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Barry Rabkin

Interesting ... I absolutely love being a carnivore. But a rewarding feature for me is making vegans upset that I don't give a @@##%%##$ about plant-based foods.

Scott Showen

Worst thing about a vegan is they have to constantly tell people they are vegan.

Michael Grimler

You are confirming my thoughts below -- constant and consistent virtue-signaling, no matter the subject, boils down to nothing but "I'm better than you" BS and it is extremely tiresome -- at best.

JC Corcoran

If you hate vegans, why not ignore them, the same way you ignore world hunger, climate change, deforestation and animal abuse?

Michal Mudd

That's funny because unless you're dining with someone who is, how do they tell you? Walking down the sidewalk with a bullhorn? I grew up hearing some folks who constantly felt the need to broadcast their hunt kills and how much they had in the meat locker or the extra two freezers in the garage. A friend smokes meat constantly and feels the need to show it on FB. It's usually only mentioned in the context of a person in a group trying to find something they can eat on a menu, which is common to Jews, Hindus, Jains, Seventh Day Adventists, and some Muslims and Buddhists, all of whom are represented in the U.S. population. Ethical and environmental vegetarians and vegans could be among these groups, but make up another subset. The concerns they have are valid from humane treatment to land use and climate/carbon issues. Maybe you just don't recognize the constant meat virtue-signaling messages in our society because they don't register outside your own norms??

Jeanette Eckert

I know this is an opinion piece, but you've completely mischaracterized veganism and ignored the widely available scientific evidence supporting the health and environmental benefits of a plant-based diet. You've cherry-picked statistics and ignored geographical and cultural factors. A "vegan diet" does not look the same for everyone, and its cost depends as much on personal choice and preferences as anything else. Yes, fresh produce can be expensive in some areas--but even a non-plant-based diet requires fruits and vegetables for a balanced diet. That's not a veganism problem, that's an equitable food access problem. Further, you've oversimplified the impact of shifts in consumer preferences on long term industry trends. Vegans make up a very small portion of the population, yet look at the recent explosion in plant-based meat alternatives. Consumer preferences absolutely influence what businesses produce. Lastly, veganism is more than a diet. There are multiple definitions of veganism but at the core, it's simply about trying not to harm animals when you have the choice not to.

Personally, I've been vegetarian since 2001 and vegan since 2006, and I have never been anemic nor do I have any other nutritional deficiencies. Which I mention only as a counterpoint to your own anecdote. At times, I've lived in poverty so I know something about the cost of groceries (and there are many affordable vegetables, beans, rice, pastas, etc. that are vegan-friendly). So I've spent a couple of decades thinking about these issues, both personally and as a researcher. I didn't choose a vegan lifestyle to be better than anyone. I chose it to try to keep my actions in line with my values to the extent reasonably possible within the society I live in. Whatever issues one might have with individual vegans, veganism itself as an effort toward minimizing the amount of deliberate animal cruelty in the world is not a sham at all.

Michael Grimler

Congratulations on admitting that you got a "high" from meaningless virtue-signaling. This kind of virtue-signaling takes places across a variety of societal behavior.

It's seen in bicycle fanatics who revel in knowing (and telling everyone they know - over and over and over again) they are helping to save the planet by not emitting CO2, it's seen in those who buy electric vehicles even though most of the electricity that charges those vehicles comes from use of petrochemicals, it's seen in those who spend tens of thousands of dollars to install solar panels at their homes but won't see a return on their investment for many, many years....etc., etc.

Does that mean no one should ride a bike, buy an electric vehicle, be a vegan, or any other variety of lifestyle or social behavior adoption?

No. Feel free to do whatever you wish. But, don't cast yourself as being better than those who don't and don't signal your virtue by bragging about it.

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Barry Rabkin

Except the writer is correct in that the amount of meat eaten doesn't change - well, actually the amount of meat eaten in the US continues to increase. Personally, I love being a carnivore (including eating fish) and will continue to do so.

Welcome to the discussion.

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