Fighting for animal rights: The vegan movement spreads


Carly Lundry

The popular Mexican fast food chain, Pancheros, serving vegan and vegetarian burritos with tofu in place of meat.

Carly Lundry, Editor in Chief

Veganism, the choice to abstain from eating or buying any animal products, is a trend reaching many animal rights and health activists on a wide scale and also at the local level. From Joaquin Phoenix to Miley Cyrus, celebrities have made an impact on a nationwide vegan movement. 

The motive behind transitioning to veganism consists of a wide range of factors. In 2015, The World Health Organization labeled processed meats as Group 1A carcinogens, meaning cancer-causing substances. Tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption and ultraviolet tanning devices are also included in Group 1A.

The title “processed meats” describes hot dogs, sausage, bacon, ham and deli meats. Red meats, such as beef, pork, lamb and goat are labeled as Group 2A carcinogens, meaning they “probably cause cancer.” The Cancer Council states that eating more than 700 mg of red meat a week increases the risk of developing cancer and eating a healthier diet can prevent cancer from coming back.

Another reason many have changed their eating habits is for the protection of the environment. Animal agriculture is the second largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and is the leading cause for deforestation, pollution and biodiversity loss. The best-known way to reduce one’s carbon footprint on Earth is to stop eating animal products, particularly red meat.

Senior Siobhan Morley has been vegetarian from a young age. “I think the movement has really picked up steam recently because of our generation’s concern for the environment,” she said. “A lot of celebrities have been pointing out how much the meat industry pollutes the environment and contributes to global warming.”

The most prominent factor in celebrity activists is supporting animal rights in favor of an ethical, non-violent lifestyle. After Joaquin Phoenix won the Oscar for Best Actor in The Joker, he gave a powerful speech mentioning some of his lifestyle choices.

Being vegan since the age of three, Phoenix proudly advocates for animal rights. “I think, whether we’re talking about gender inequality or racism or queer rights or indigenous rights or animal rights, we’re talking about the fight against injustice,” he said. We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow, and when she gives birth, we steal her baby, even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable. Then we take her milk that’s intended for her calf, and we put it in our coffee and our cereal.”

Phoenix is a member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and works with organizations to save animals from speciesism, the belief that animals are inferior to humans, reminding everyone that “we are all animals.”

Famous pop singer Miley Cyrus joined the movement in 2014 after the death of her dog. Cyrus came to the realization that life is precious and every animal just wants to live. She continues to be an activist for veganism through her large social media following. 

Other celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres, Paul McCartney, Kyrie Irving, Jenna Marbles and Ariana Grande have adopted a plant-based style of living. These stars are given a large platform to speak about the injustice and health concerns of eating animals.

The trend has also reached many local and national restaurants allowing more choices for those following the lifestyle. Chains such as Burger King, Taco Bell, Red Robin, Pancheros, Dunkin’ and Subway have added meat and dairy alternatives to their menu. The use of dairy-free milk has also gained popularity in most coffee shops. Even local businesses like Ross’ and Olive Tree Cafe proudly serve vegan options.

Senior Olivia Marchiori promotes vegan living and takes advantage of her new restaurant choices. “It is really cool seeing how many vegan options are being added to fast food chains; it shows how popular it’s becoming,” she said. “It also gives people like my dad who likes to eat plant based but isn’t completely vegan a change to eat healthier.”

The empathetic feeling of the vegan movement is contagious. The trend has grown immensely and will continue until “vegan” is a household phrase.