Under the Sun
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Under the Sun

The Journey of Veganism Through a 2020 Lens

A vegan’s diet consists of anything that doesn’t come from an animal. They don’t eat meat, fish, poultry, or any other animal by-products, such as eggs or milk. According to Medical News Today, a web-based outlet for medical information and news, partaking in a vegan lifestyle can lower one’s risk for cancer, aid in weight loss, and improve heart health, among other potential health benefits. That being said, starting a vegan journey may not be easy, especially during a pandemic.

Introduced in the 1940s, veganism has become a well-known lifestyle for many Americans, especially those in California. Veganism itself has not been growing at a steady rate, however. The increase has happened more recently. According to Plant Proteins, a blog written by a certified holistic nutritionist, as many as 6% of U.S. consumers say they are vegan, compared to just 1% in 2014. Chef’s Pencil noted in a recent report that veganism hit an all time high in 2020.

Kate Whitham said she initially became vegan after being inspired by her friends.

“I wanted to do something that’d make the most impact as an individual and it was that,” she said. “I took a stab at it with [my friends], but became anemic. It was awful.”

Now, Whitham said her motivation has changed to focus on environmental causes.

Whitham’s passion for veganism could be felt as she was talking and it was clear this lifestyle has had an impact on her. She believes that the biggest investment one can make into saving the environment is to take money away from the meat industry.

“It’s also for the animals,” she said. “It doesn’t even sound appetizing to eat meat anymore.”

Handling the pandemic has not been easy for most people, causing many to lose motivation, even regarding veganism. “It feels like every previous issue I’ve had before has been heightened,” Whitham said.

She explained how she started transitioning into a vegan when the pandemic hit. However, it normally takes some time for the skin to get used to a new diet and because of this, her skin started to break out, but all dermatologists were closed.

22 year-old Kate Whitham, enjoying the outdoors.

Motivation has been hard not just for Whitham, but also for Eve Bauer and Kaitlyn Morris, who are also vegan. They said the pandemic has brought much stress and hardships to all of their lives, so staying busy with hobbies is a must.

Whitham said she was able to run a half marathon and enjoyed running as a hobby during this time, but some others just enjoyed being at home, and getting drunk with friends.

Keeping up a vegan lifestyle comes with its challenges, and motivation can be hard to keep up 100%. Whitman laughed as she recounted one time she broke veganism. “I had an insanely strange craving for Arby’s, and my body wanted only that. It was such a weird ballistic craving. And I ate it all in five seconds.”

Bauer explained her situation, saying it was easier for her not to lose motivation considering her mother was vegan, and always making her food when she was younger. For Morris, veganism is now a lot easier to stick to, considering her boyfriend is vegan with her.

21 year-old vegan Kaitlyn Morris

Morris opened up about how her time as a vegan was hard for her in the beginning. Having transitioned into veganism during the pandemic, she discussed the issues that arose, despite her being vegetarian for many years beforehand. Because her boyfriend is high-risk, it is important for both of them to stay indoors as much as possible during the pandemic, she said.

Morris said that simple things like getting groceries has been a threat to the person she lives with and loves most. She explained how she has to get most of her groceries delivered now. Many of the interesting new things and a lot of what they would accidentally stumble upon and try as a vegan could no longer be an option, and they had to think of what they wanted on the spot and stick to what they knew.

“It’s gotten way easier now and we’ve figured out a system, but in the beginning it was hard to remember our options,” Morris said. “But now it’s gotten easier. We had to look up vegan options and go from there.”

For Whitham, she had a drastically different answer. She said that if anything, the pandemic has made veganism even easier for her, as she is now able to put more thought and time into what she is eating and cooking. For Bauer, as she has been a vegan for over six years, she said not much for her has changed regarding the pandemic affecting her becoming a vegan. “Being a vegan for so long, the pandemic hasn’t affected me in that way. I can see how it might be for newer vegans, though.”

21 year-old vegan Eve Bauer enjoying time outside.

Through these interviews, it was clear that veganism affected each person differently, but they all shared similar struggles and could relate in some way. There are different goals, motivations, and lifestyles of each vegan. Some do it for the animals and environment, and some do it for personal health reasons. Though there are proven health benefits, it can be a challenge to figure out what works best for someone personally. These women have shown a variety of possibilities, with the pandemic making veganism easier, due to an increase of free-time and being able to do research, and also harder, for the reason of not being able to visit grocery stores safely. Though there may be challenges, all three women agreed veganism has changed their lives for the better, and will continue their journey for the rest of their lives.

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Abrielle Rounds

CSUN Photojournalism student with a passion for telling stories through photos