Veggie speaker calls for veggie pride

Hannah Jastram

Pamela Rice taught the vegetarians of Lawrence how to battle meat-eaters last Saturday.
The Lawrence University Vegetarians and Vegans brought the New York author of “101 Reasons I’m a Vegetarian” to campus to speak about vegetarianism.
Rice decided fifteen years ago to become a vegetarian after spending a weekend at a conference intended to bring vegetarians together. She began writing down the reasons behind her choice and eventually published a book. She handed out a pamphlet by the same name before her presentation began.
The focus of Rice’s presentation, however, was not the 101 reasons. “I’m going to assume that most of you are vegetarians,” she said. “I don’t want to preach to the converted.”
Instead, Rice stressed the importance of making noise. “We need to be writing letters to the editor,” she emphasized. She spoke of how she had dressed in a sandwich sign that read, “Ask Me Why I’m a Vegetarian,” quipping, “I have no pride.”
She did, however, have a similar sign available should anyone care to purchase it.
Of equal importance, Rice said, was having “reputable sources.” She opened her pamphlet and pointed out how each reason was backed up with references. While they may be reputable, 23 of the references for her “101 Reasons” are 10 years old or older, and one reference, John Robbins’ “Diet for a New America,” dates back to 1987.
Rice devoted the next part of her presentation to examples of vegetarian news, which she defined as news that denigrates a meat-diet. “We need more amassing of vegetarian news to make our argument,” she said. “It’s our bread and butter. Or bread and margarine, if you’re vegan.” Rice went through several articles, whose topics ranged from the environmental to agricultural to health.
On some topics, Rice was very outspoken. “A meat diet is detrimental to our species,” she asserted, referring not only to the immediate side effects, such as clogged arteries, but also more remote effects. She explained the connections between several nasty diseases – including SARS, Ebola, influenza, and avian bird flu – to the meat industry.
Rice also traced the prevalence of meat production to the destruction of the environment. The ability to tap previously unusable water sources and the use of fertilization makes it possible for humans to grow enough grain to feed livestock. So much plant production causes excess nitrogen. As a result, Rice said, agriculture is throwing off the global balance.
Rice waxed idealistic when speaking of vegetarians as a whole. She identified two types of people: those that fit into the world and find success and those who want to change the bad things in the world.
“We see things that aren’t right and want to make them better,” she said. “Vegetarians must care about things outside of themselves.”
After her presentation was over, Rice opened a question and answer session. After a few questions, however, she made a suggestion. “She wanted to go around the room and have people say their name and why they were here,” said freshman Claire Gannon. “I left.”
Gannon felt that the presentation was very informative, but that it was not what she had expected. Rather than taking a positive approach to vegetarianism, Gannon felt Rice took a negative approach to meat-eaters. “Not all meat-eaters are the same,” she pointed out.
Gannon also commented on Rice’s halting manner of presentation. “She seemed a bit under-prepared or nervous. There were awkward pauses, but I liked how it was pretty conversational.”
Kristin Tamayo, who introduced Rice, agreed. “I believed her presentation was not as organized as I wanted it to be, but she is definitely a strong voice in the veggie community.”
For example, Rice did not appear to be too familiar with the articles. In the case of one article, she admitted that she had taken it from the Internet a few days earlier. Of another article, she seemed unsure of the source. “Kalamazoo Gazette,” she read from her papers. “I guess that’s a good enough reference for me.”
Gannon thought the news was pretty cool, but “it also felt like she was grasping at straws.”
Tamayo was happy to have Rice speaking on campus. “Having her here was a treat for us,” she said. “I feel that having speakers come to campus will hopefully make the veggie community here at LU feel more connected to one another.