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Lights on Laurentians: We Are Not Rabbits: The Struggle of Being Vegetarian at St. Lawrence

Photo by Kelsey Mattison
Written by Katie Corbitt

“What are you ordering?” Victor Clarke asks, as we both lean over the table in the pub. He taps his pencil vigorously against the pad of paper, never able to decide on what to get in any sort of timely fashion.

“The usual – a hummus wrap,” I respond, writing a list of veggies I want included on my order.

“Girl, branch out and order something new. You order the same thing every single day,” Victor responds, slightly annoyed.

“There just aren’t that many options for me… trust me, I’m getting tired of it, as well,” I grunt over my shoulder as I slouch through the crowd to drop my order in the blue basket located all the way to the left of the counter.

“It must be done now,” I moan 10 minutes later, dragging Victor back into the swarming pub for hopefully the last time. “If it’s not, you will have to drag my lifeless body out of here.”

“Well look what we have here…” he jokingly holds the wrap out of reach, before he finally hands it to me and we wander back over to our table.

I take one bite out of my long-awaited lunch, and immediately let out the most heart-broken moan that Victor had ever heard.

“There is only hummus on this! I ordered a hummus wrap and they literally ONLY put hummus on a wrap!” Enraged, I push my order aside and pack up my things for class. “I am so done with the food at this school. It’s impossible to be a vegetarian here.”

***

“They like to make jokes about me that aren’t even funny,” Roni Zabala tells me in an interview. “everyone thinks they’re a goddamn comedian.” Roni has been a vegan for years, and has been through every sort of struggle imaginable.

We are casually talking over lunch, and she takes the lid off of a bowl of what appears to be vegan chili. “I feel like I eat the same thing everyday,” she explains while taking a bite. Still attempting to talk with the chili inhabiting her mouth, Roni continues, “like this chili, I’ve never eaten anything else on a Tuesday but this chili,” referring to the yearlong Tuesday soup special.

She talks enthusiastically about her experiences being a vegan here at St. Lawrence – perhaps due to some pent up annoyance regarding it. Continuing to eat her chili, Roni looks slightly disappointed in her lunch choice, especially after just relaying that she has eaten it every week for the entire year thus far.

“At events, there’s never any vegan or vegetarian options, like school-sponsored dinners and stuff,” she finishes her bowl of chili.

“I think my biggest complaint is that the labeling on things changes so often – like changing things from saying ‘vegan’ to just ‘vegetarian’ – and like I wonder ‘is this a mistake? Or did they actually change the way they are making it now?’”

Although clearly a struggle, Roni acknowledges that these are not the biggest problems the school is facing at the present moment. “I also know being a vegan is a privilege,” she adds, still of the same beliefs that the experience could be a better one though.

While being a vegan or a vegetarian is just that, a privilege, it is also one that has become increasingly more common in the recent years. Five years ago, only one of my friends was vegetarian; as of now, over half are either vegetarian or vegan. Even though it is something we are still made fun of for, it has come to be accepted as a common norm, and the school needs to take this more largely into account when regarding the meal options here on campus.

“People need to come up with more original vegan jokes,” Roni laughs to herself, “because the content is lacking now.” No longer a new phenomena, the choice not to consume meat or animal products, regardless of its ethical or dietary determinants, needs to be significantly revamped and made more available to the abundance of students in search of such meal options.

The reasons for which people become vegetarians/vegans is completely dependent on the person. There are ethical reasons, environmental reason, health benefits, or, in my case, simply because meat scares me. Whether there is rational or irrational reasoning behind this decision (such as accidently seeing a dead cow and never touching meat again), it is still a personal decision that needs to be more highly regarded by St. Lawrence.

Upon admission, I was never asked what my eating preferences or choices were, and the school had no way of knowing I was a vegetarian. However, this is a simple dilemma that can be remedied.

Perhaps through sending out a survey, or adding another question or two in the application process, admissions would be able to calculate a more approximate number of students with preferential eating habits. Through this, maybe it would become apparent how underestimated the vegetarian population on this campus actually is.

 

About the author

Katie Corbitt