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When meat is not your meal

September 06, 2005|By TYLER AUSTIN and ROWAN COPLEY

To most people, meat is part of everyday life. The fact is, though, some people won't even think about putting a piece of meat into their mouths.

Why would someone eradicate meat from his or her diet? Well, there are a multitude of reasons.

Kyla Stigdon is 15 years old and is home schooled. The Carroll County resident enjoys acting and traveling. She decided to stop eating meat when she was 12.

"I don't like the way meat tastes," she said.

Kyla does not find it difficult to be a vegetarian, even in a meat-loving culture.

"I can always order a salad at a restaurant, and you buy what you want to eat for at home," she said.

Kyla eats fish, dairy and eggs. She is not as strict a vegetarian as her friend, Susan Davis, also of Carroll County. Kyla said Susan, 17, drinks milk but does not eat any other dairy products, eggs or fish.


Susan also does not like the taste of meat, Kyla said, but she became a vegetarian primarily for animal rights.

Wendy Heyser, 17 and a senior at North Hagerstown High School, feels the same way.

"I don't like to kill animals," she said.

Wendy is a cheerleader for North High and a dancer. She has been a vegetarian since she was 8. She still eats fish, dairy and eggs but land meat is not part of her diet. To compensate for not eating meat, Wendy takes protein and vitamin supplements every morning. She does not find her choice hard nowadays, but back when she was first starting to change her lifestyle, she found it a bit difficult.

Another reason teens are vegetarians is their religion. Many religions sanction some kind of diet. Catholicism, until the early 1970s, forbade the eating of meat on Fridays. Buddhism's ethics teach that vegetarianism is preferable to eating meat. Buddha taught that killing any living thing is wrong. Hinduism forbids the eating of cows, which are sacred.

The Bible makes several references to not eating meat, at least certain animals. In the 11th chapter of Leviticus, Moses tells the Israelites God's criteria for "clean" (spiritually acceptable) and "unclean" (acceptable) meats. Some Christians go further, according to Megan Voggess, 17, of Martinsburg, W.Va., a Seventh-day Adventist who is a vegetarian in connection with her faith.

"The Bible says there's some definite meats we're not supposed to eat ? pork, shrimp, animals that eat dead animals," Megan said. She has been a vegetarian all her life.

"My whole family is vegetarian, so it's not hard for me," she said. "That's one of (Seventh-day Adventists') main things ? vegetarianism. Mostly for the health benefit. We say the body is a temple."

How do you replace meat in your diet? For many people, meat serves a multitude of purposes in their diet ? as a main course, as the heart of a sandwich. Megan said she uses substitute meat.

"I eat a lot of soy meat. On holidays, we typically do the usual ? mashed potatoes, the usual dishes. We'll make a cottage cheese loaf, but we don't have anything that takes the place of the turkey or ham," she said.

For most teenagers, meat will continue to be a regular part of their lives. But for some teens, whether for spiritual reasons, concern for animals, or just because they don't like the taste, abstaining from meat is their preference.

A survey of American vegetarians: 1 person in 25

In a July 2005 Time magazine/CNN survey, 4 percent of 10,000 Americans surveyed said they do not eat meat. Of those, 47 percent said they chose their diet because of health or meat-contamination concerns, 21 percent because of love of animals or concern for animal rights, 13 percent because they don't like the taste of meat, 6 percent for religious reasons, and 4 percent because of concern for the planet.

There are many kinds of vegetarians, including:

  • Lacto-ovo vegetarians, who eat dairy products, eggs and plant-based foods. In the Time/CNN poll, 36 percent of vegetarians said they were lacto-ovo.

  • Lacto vegetarians who eat plant-based foods and dairy products other than eggs.

  • Ovo vegetarians who eat plant-based foods and eggs.

  • Vegans eat only plant-based foods ? no meat, dairy or eggs. In the Time/CNN poll, 5 percent of vegetarians said they were vegan.

    ? Tyler Austin

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