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International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Dietary Dispute


WIS has many vegans and vegetarians, but they still remain a minority. The general hostility of the student body towards non-carnivores was evident during the recent ISU cabinet elections on April 21st.

There is a growing number of vegans and vegetarians, who aren’t always welcomed by their community. Vegans abstain from all foods that are derived from animals, including meat, dairy, fish and even honey. Vegetarians only avoid meat and fish. According to the Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG), five percent of Americans are vegetarian, half of those are vegans.

Carmen Musalem-Pinto, a freshman at WIS and a vegan explained her reasons for converting. “I believe that [animals] are equal to us. They are living creatures who deserve a life as good as ours, I don’t believe that they deserve to be tortured or killed for that matter because I wouldn’t have the courage to kill an animal myself just to eat it,” Musalem-Pinto said.

Co-ed ISU presidential candidates Victor Wallemacq and Mikaela Matera-Vatnik advocated for “Meatless Mondays”. The plan would eliminate meat from the cafeteria lunch once a week. Matera-Vatnick discussed the benefits of such a program, including environmental, physical, and social impacts. “The meat industry is one of the most important industries in producing greenhouse gases, and is very environmentally damaging,” Matera-Vatnick said. She also talked about how meat in excess is detrimental to human health, and how a program such as “Meatless Mondays” could improve the reputation of the school.

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However, Wallemacq and Matera-Vatnik were criticized by their opponents. Jasper Pearson and Leonardo Proaño, also running mates for presidency, called for “Meatful Mondays.” This proposal was met with laughter and applause during the assembly in front of the entire Upper School.

Ian Traphagen, who won a majority support for position as ISU Treasurer, also denounced the vegetarian plan. He said that such a small group should not be able to impose eating habits on the rest of the school. Every word of anti-vegetarian rhetoric was met with substantial support. The room was filled with cheering, stomping, and applause from what seemed like most of the Upper School students.

Traphagen apologized to Matera-Vatnick after the assembly; however, the reactions of many students during the pro-meat presentations revealed how divisive a topic vegetarianism is at WIS. She called the attitude towards vegetarians and vegans immature. “I feel like people take it as an offense to them… but it’s beneficial for them, it’s beneficial for the environment, but they refuse to look beyond themselves,” Matera-Vatnick said.

She had received a lot of criticism over “Meatless Mondays”, and wasn’t taken seriously when she proposed it during an ISU meeting. She said they didn’t really consider her idea; vegetarianism and veganism are often treated like a low priority issue.

There isn’t enough justification for a rift between people due to what they eat
Many carnivores just aren’t ready to give up meat, let alone dairy and other animal products.

Thomas Lanning, a 9th grade meat eater explained why he is sometimes irritated with vegetarians and vegans. “When they tell me that I can’t eat meat because that’s their opinion, that kind of annoys me.” He, like many others, has had some encounters like these with vegans and vegetarians. However, he stressed that it is their choice to be what they want to be.

It boils down to those sorts of social differences, as the vegetarians and vegans have science on their side. Red meat causes cancer and heart disease, billions of animals are slaughtered annually for the meat industry, and the business is responsible for 3.1% of all greenhouse gases produced.

Although carnivores may feel attacked by vegetarians and vegans, which was evident in the opposition to “Meatless Mondays”, they shouldn’t. Matera-Vatnick shared her frustration, “It’s one lunch for one day of the week. It’s frustrating and it hurts a bit, why are you criticizing me for something I’m trying to do for your school.”

Musalem-Pinto says she doesn’t feel like a victim, “I don’t feel victimized, I just feel inferior sometimes.” Alexandra Akhtarzandi-Das, also a vegan, says that many people think being vegan is stupid, and that humans cannot survive without meat.

Both sides are obdurate, and progress doesn’t seem to be nearing. “It’s a lifestyle, and I expect myself to continue this, not just for myself but for the animals” insists Musalem-Pinto. Akhtarzandi-Das put it even more simply, “I don’t plan on stopping.” Carnivores have demonstrated in their resistance to meat-free meals that they are as stubborn as their opposites. For now, the conflict will continue, as neither carnivores nor meat-free students will give in.

By Alfie Pannell

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