E3’s intern, Sophia, met with Guilia Piscitelli and Serena Chang, two UCLA students who are currently vegan. Guilia is a first year pre-International Development Studies major with a possible Food Studies minor and Serena is a first year Anthropology major. Read their interview below to learn more about the process of becoming a vegan and reasons why one should consider cutting out animal products from his or her diet and lifestyle.
Finding a meaningful reason to go vegan is key to staying motivated and maintaining a vegan lifestyle. From wanting to lead a healthier lifestyle to reducing your environmental footprint, there are many good reasons to choose veganism.
Sophia: Why did you become vegan? Guilia, I know you were vegetarian first, and then were you just like, "I’m just going to go vegan?"
Guilia: I became vegetarian mostly for health and animal rights reasons, and once I became vegetarian, I started to get more educated in terms of the environmental impacts of vegetarianism. So once I became a vegetarian, I found more and more reasons to stay vegetarian. I went vegan mostly just for the environmental aspect of it, because I felt hypocritical for not being vegan.
Serena: I had taken environmental science the year before, so I learned a lot about the environmental impacts of the meat industry. I watched a lot of animal documentaries that taught me a lot about animal rights. The reason I went vegan is I was at the Nice attack, and I saw everybody running and everybody scared, so it kind of made me feel differently about suffering. It made it a lot more firsthand. Animals are experiencing this kind of torture everyday but they can’t run from it. It’s scarier when you’re trying to get away but you can’t.
Veganism is defined by The Vegan Society as “a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.” It’s more than a simple diet. It’s a lifestyle choice.
Serena: There’s a difference between being plant-based and being vegan. Being vegan is when you make the connection that eating animals and supporting animal industries is cruel and harmful to the environment.
Sophia: Did you find it hard in the beginning? Because I think when a lot of people think about being vegan they’re like, “Oh my god, I’m going to have to find so many other foods that I can eat, how is it going to work into my normal routine, I’m probably going to have to spend so much money because vegan food is so expensive,” and they think that it’s just such a hassle to be vegan.
Guilia: Well you [Serena] went straight to being vegan so that was probably harder for you.
Serena: Yeah, I went straight to being vegan, but my mom was super supportive about it, and she was really good about transitioning and making foods that were vegan friendly for me. But, I think veganism is what you make of it. There’s this idea that all vegan food is expensive, but it really doesn't have to be.
One tip that One Green Planet offers is to “crowd out, don’t cut out” foods from your diet when transitioning. Instead of restricting yourself to certain foods or thinking about all the foods you can’t buy, focus on all of the hearty foods that you can use to crowd out the animal-based ones currently in your diet.
Sophia: Guilia, was it easier for you? Going from vegetarian to vegan?
Guilia: It was definitely easier to transition, going vegetarian first, then going vegan. If I were to advise someone who was thinking about going vegan, I’d probably tell them to go vegetarian first, because I think they’d stick to it more if they do it that way. I think it’s pretty easy to be vegetarian or vegan here in California or in big cities. With all the options that are in grocery stores, it’s really not that difficult to try to at least replace some meat with vegetarian or vegan options.
Serena: Also, I think it’s not that difficult to get yourself to stop consuming animal products when you make the connection. If you're just doing it to lose weight or as a kind of diet, you’re like “Well this is something I’m doing for myself, so what’s wrong with cheating a little bit?”
Being a well-rounded vegan
Veganism doesn’t stop at paying attention to what you put in your body. What goes on your body is important as well. When shopping for clothing and shoes, be conscious of materials like leather, fur, and wool. As for cosmetics, do some research on the companies you like to find out whether they make cruelty free or vegan products. Some well known cosmetics brands that are cruelty free or vegan are Glossier, Fenty Beauty, Korres, and Yes To.
Sophia: What about clothing and other products? Do you also pay a lot of attention to that?
Serena: When I shop firsthand, yeah, I do. But when I shop secondhand, I’m more lenient about it. Still, I don’t see myself ever buying a leather jacket or a fur coat. I’m really about the cruelty free aspect of it, but I think waste is also important to think about, if you’re looking at it from an environmental impact point of view. It’s better to buy something that not quite vegan, but secondhand, rather than going out and creating more waste by getting something that is vegan but firsthand.
Guilia: Yeah, that can be a struggle. I feel like I’m contradictory sometimes with aspects like that. I’m vegan for the environment, but I shop a lot. But, at least I’m striving to be more sustainable and make less of an environmental impact.
Serena: Part of the definition for veganism is ‘to the best of your abilities.’ If you’re doing what you can, I think that’s good for now.
Sophia: Do you think you’re going to stay vegan for the rest of your life?
Sophia: What would you tell people who are hesitant about going vegan or just opposed to it?
Guilia: It’s not like an all-or-nothing thing. You don’t have to be completely vegan to make a positive impact. If you like eating chicken…
Serena: … Maybe just cut back. As for people who are opposed to being vegan, I don’t know…
Guilia: I don't understand that.
Serena: But for the people who are trying to be vegan, don’t beat yourself up if some things aren’t feasible for you. Just do it to the best of your abilities and maybe one day you’ll get to that place.