Co-president of Students for Animal Defense, Sara Benes, 20 years old, has been a vegetarian since eighth grade and became vegan over two years ago.
“Veganism was a step up from where I’d been before,” said Benes, in her second year at the college.
“My parents thought it was a phase at first.”
Benes first became vegetarian after a mind-blowing childhood experience, where she was taken to a pig farm on a school trip.
“They showed us how the pigs were killed for food, and then fed us ham.” Benes was petrified by the event.
19 year-old Nancy Huynh, co-president of Students for Animal Defense and finance major at the college, has been a vegetarian for almost three years.
“I feel so guilty [eating animal products.] I can’t have that burden on me,” said Huynh.
“And I’m not spending my money on something I don’t support.”
Huynh is thankful to have a cousin who is also vegetarian, whom she is very close with. Her parents, however, have concerns for her health.
“They think I’m going to faint in class one day,” she laughed.
Both Benes and Huynh purchase their own food, and say the extra money they may have to spend is definitely worth it. The girls’ try to stay creative with their daily meals, by cooking things like sweet potato burgers and mushroom burgers. Though, both admit becoming vegan/vegetarian doesn’t just affect meals; it’s a lifestyle change.
“The diet itself is plant based, but becoming vegan is a lifestyle choice,” said Benes, who researches clothing and makeup brands before going shopping to make sure they’re vegan, meaning the materials are not made from or tested on animals.
“I contact a lot of brands all the time and I send letters to brands I used to like,” she adds.
An important part of Huynh’s vegan behavior has included getting her hair done at an organic salon in Naperville for a number of years now, called Jus’ Hair Organic Salon.
“They are 100% committed to organic services, and it’s something really special.”
The girls also go as far as to make sure the Christmas presents they give to their families and friends are vegan.
“When you have this mentality, you wouldn’t go out and buy a gift for someone that is non-vegan,” said Huynh.
As for their holiday family gatherings, the girls stay grounded to their strict eating habits.
“I’ll make myself Tao Fu, or like last year I went to my grandma’s the night before and cooked my own food to heat up the next day,” said Benes.
“I try to make my food as similar in appearance as possible to my family’s food.”
Huynh is grateful to say her family makes adjustments for her and her cousin every year.
“They make us special dishes and we make some for them as well.”
The girls agree that it’s important that people don’t think they have hatred towards meat-eaters.
“I try to just set a positive example. I get along just fine with non-vegans,” said Benes.
“Inspiring people around you feels good. Even if someone random at work tries my food – it’s nice. Just the attempt makes a difference,” added Huynh.