Being Vegetarian on an Animal Farm
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In a state where barbecue and steak are a staple in most people’s diet, one Texan prefers to be meat free.
UNT student Amy Nguyen has been a vegetarian for around six years.
She started this journey a couple of days before Thanksgiving in 2010.
It hasn’t always been the easiest journey for her, but it has been the most fulfilling.
“The reason why I became a vegetarian was because the thought of killing other animals for our own benefit kind of appalled me and I just find it kind of gross.”
From a very young age, Nguyen was able to get a first-hand look at how animals were slaughtered for their meat in her own backyard.
Her father raised his own chickens, ducks, and fish.
He did it as a means to put food on the table for his family, but Nguyen says that the sight of her father slaughtering animals still upsets her.
When she told her family she wanted to be a vegetarian, they were not very open to the idea.
“Most of my family thought I was pathetic and stupid and that I’m going to die early, but that didn’t really stop me from choosing this lifestyle even thought they continue to make fun of me.”
Even with her family’s ridicule, Nguyen stuck with her plan to be a vegetarian.
Not only did she cut out meat from her diet, but she also eliminated some meat byproducts from her diet such as gelatin, rennet, and shellac.
According to PETA, gelatin is a protein obtained by boiling skin, tendons, ligaments, and/or bones with water.
Gelatin can be found in cosmetics, and as a thickener in puddings, Jell-O, marshmallows, and yogurt.
Shellac, which is secreted by bugs, is used as a colorant and food glaze.
Nguyen’s passion for animals goes even deeper as she refuses to use cosmetics or eat food from companies that do animal testing.
“I know mars, the candy company, they test on animals. They feed it to rabbits and then after they feed it to them, they cut up their stomach to see if any reactions happened. And there’s some make up companies, like L’Oreal and mac, that test on animals which isn’t really morally right. I just choose not to give those companies my money just because its morally wrong and I prefer to not endorse that type of behavior.”
Buddhism has also played a big role in Nguyen’s vegetarian journey. Buddhism believes in reincarnation and karma. Buddhist disciples are encouraged not to eat meat because killing animals for their meat will bring bad karma, and another person’s soul could also be living in that animal’s body.
“The idea is to just live better by eating only plants, so you can avoid eating your family or anything. It makes you feel better and it helps you live better and plus its just more healthy in general and it just makes you feel less guilt about eating animals and like slaughtering them and murdering them just for your own benefit.”
Nguyen has continued her vegetarian lifestyle while in college by working at Mean Greens Café, a vegan dining hall at UNT.
Mean Greens Café has been on campus for five years and offers a wide variety of foods.
Chef Manager, Carla Trujillo, works with the dining director to help make sure the Mean Greens Café is offering students am out of the box experience that students will never have to question.
“In order to make something vegan, it has to be fully vegan. He did want to just have options from the dining hall…he wanted to have something where you could just come in and have no doubt in your mind that its vegan.”
In addition to having food like pizza, made-to-order paninis, stir fry, and fresh desserts, Trujillo works to help diversify the meals as much as possible for students.
“It’s not just the basic green beans and broccoli, I try really really hard to work with our produce company to see what else can be offered to the students.”
But the most rewarding part is when Trujillo is able to remind students of where they came from.
“Since we have such a diverse group of people that do come and eat here, a lot of times I’ve had students or faculty come up to me and say this tasted like my mom’s food or this tasted like my grandma’s food, I haven’t been home in so many years. So to me like when it hits home like that, it’s a big compliment.”
Everyday Trujillo work to see how she can make the Mean Greens Café a place that people will want to keep visiting.
“I’m already thinking about new menu ideas, okay what can we do with this lettuce, okay we can start making lettuce wraps. Looking up new recipes, creating them here, and that’s something that’s really fun about working here is that we get to play around. And we have to, if not we are just gonna be serving the same thing and that’s not gonna happen while I’m here.”
The Mean Greens Café is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner Monday through Friday.
By: Shelby Trahan and Anna Nguyen