As millions of Americans are taking steps to reduce the amount of meat on their menus, plant-based alternatives to traditional beef patties are popping up at Burger King, McDonald’s, and Carl’s Jr.
5% of the American population identified as a vegetarian in 2018, 4% higher than those identified as a vegetarian in the 1990s. With the normalization of veganism and vegetarianism, vegans and vegetarians now have endless options to choose from, no longer needing to comb grocery store shelves for an elusive block of tofu.
Vegans and vegetarians’ reasons for switching to a meat-free diet vary, but many believe that eating meat causes unnecessary suffering to animals. Some reference the environmental consequences of meat production, while others argue that eating meat is animal cruelty.
The surrounding debate meat is one common to many students at Georgia State. Vauhgn Roverse, a student at Georgia State, gradually switched to a plant-based diet after realizing many animal-based products made Roverse feel sick.
“I find [a plant-based diet] generally healthier,” Roverse said. “I eventually realized that I couldn’t stomach certain foods anymore, [and] I decided [that] I could live without them, so I cut them out of my diet.”
Those who choose to avoid meat might have more options in grocery stores and restaurants, Roverse feels that Georgia State has not followed suit.
“I ate in the dining hall once during orientation and found it difficult to find food that fit my restrictions,” Roverse said. “I opted not to get a dining plan and instead prepare my own food.” While the dining hall offers vegan and vegetarian options at their Wellness Station and Salad Station, they do not have a dedicated vegan outpost.
Georgia State received a 50% student satisfaction rating – or a “B” – on PETA’s College Vegan Report Card. PETA bases their grading system on factors such as whether or not colleges offer an all-vegan station, participate in Meatless Mondays or have a vegan member on their student advisory board.
“[Georgia State] always has [plant-based] options and salad bars with tofu, beans and other forms of plant protein,” a student review on PETA’s College Vegan Report Card stated. “Sometimes I wish for more variety, but I always have something to eat.”
Roverse explained that some students might be unable or unwilling to eat plant-based diets due to the school’s limited options.
“Overall, it’s more difficult and expensive to eat plant-based, especially if you’re a student without the means to prepare your own food,” Roverse said. “For some, might it might not be worth it. . . but it’s ultimately your decision and how you are comfortable living.”
Despite challenges, many students on campus choose to go vegan and even find communities of students who share their passion. For example, members of the PEACE (People for the End of Animal Cruelty and Exploitation) Club at Georgia State frequently hold events encouraging other students to consider a plant-based diet and do away with meat.