By Alyssa Bates| Business Manager
The average American consumes an average of 270 pounds of meat per year. Therefore, going a week without eating chicken, beef or any other type of meat can be difficult for many people. For senior Maddie Howell, however, she hasn’t eaten meat for over three years.
“I had always been against eating meat from a really young age. Back when I was in preschool, I found out that chicken was a chicken. I had never made that connection,” Howell said. “So, when I made that connection, I was really distraught. I was like wait; beef is cow and I love cows. I play with cows and oh my gosh, what’s bacon then? Bacon is pig? No! It was mindboggling.”
After a few years of reluctantly eating meat, Howell became a vegetarian as a New Year’s resolution at the start of 2014.
“For the first couple of weeks I was really craving all the meat that my sister and parents were eating,” Howell said. “But after those two weeks passed, I didn’t think about meat or want it at any point. It takes 21 days to form a habit and stick with it, but it took me only two weeks to quit meat and form a habit and I haven’t looked back.”
Howell is not a vegan, although she said she has thought about becoming one if the ingredients were more accessible and if she had the funding. However, for now, she gets some of her protein from dairy products and eggs.
“Eggs are not considered meat which is a typical misconception about vegetarianism which is why many people are afraid of it. Eggs are not fertilized so we are not eating baby chickens. You aren’t killing any animals in the process.”
Mrs. Kern, the AP environmental science teacher at Avon was part of the reason Howell became a vegetarian as she took the class when she was a sophomore and proceeded to be involved in Eco Club.
“I’ve always been an advocate for animal rights,” Howell said. “So, with APES, when I learned that there were environmental impacts that the meat industry caused, I was very much turned away from the idea of eating meat so much so that it was time to quit.”
For Howell, her family accepts her decision to become a vegetarian, but they do not follow the diet themselves.
“The rest of my family doesn’t like me “preaching” about being a vegetarian,” Howell said. “They accept me, but they don’t accept the principals for themselves.”
However, her parents did not always support her becoming a vegetarian. When Howell was younger, her mother was wary of her following the diet.
“My mom was afraid I would become unhealthy because I wouldn’t get enough protein, which is one of the misconceptions of vegetarianism,” Howell said. “Also, I don’t eat tofu. I hate tofu. I won’t eat it for the life of me. But when I was younger, that was one of the things my mom told me I’d have to eat every single day.”
Being a vegetarian became slightly more challenging when she was diagnosed with gastroparesis in July of 2016.
“Gastroparesis means that my stomach doesn’t digest things at the normal rate,” Howell said. “So if I eat a lot of food, then I get sick because my stomach won’t digest it quick enough.”
Howell has to eat smaller portions of food more frequently and she cannot eat certain foods like bread and dark leafy greens.
“I’m basically a vegetarian that can’t eat salads well because my stomach is messed up,” Howell said. “That’s something I’ve had to overcome for vegetarianism.”
Planning meals out based on her diet makes it easier for Howell to eat healthier. Howell said that when she thinks about what she is going to eat, she must individually plan breakfast, lunch and dinner which helps her to have better control over what she is eating.
“I have to make sure I’m getting enough protein so I’ll eat a lot of almonds, eggs, peanut butter, and pistachios,” Howell said.
Aside from just eating like a vegetarian, Howell speaks it too. Recently, Howell presented a speech to 3 different clubs discussing the stigmatisms of vegetarianism. The presentation was heard by many students including senior Becca Stein.
“I have known Maddie since the third grade and she has never been super pushy about me being a vegetarian,” Stein said. “I was really surprised she was able to spark interest in over 50 people to come and learn about vegetarianism in one day. It’s fantastic.”
Next year, Howell will be attending IU to study in the School of public and environmental affairs to major in public management and environmental science.
“I want to major in something environmental or public management,” Howell said. “I’ve always been really interested and invested in helping the environment out.”
All in all, Howell faces some push-back against her being a vegetarian, but Howell said she is happy that she made the choice to eliminate meat from her diet once and for all.
“Being a vegetarian is worth it because it has taught me to respect myself and others more and to love everything and appreciate it more,” Howell said. “I also feel like I can make a difference.”