Compassion for life leads vegan lifestyle

by Rachel Peterson, Perspectives Editor

When Trina Elam brushes her teeth in the morning, she uses toothpaste that has not been tested on animals. The same goes for her makeup, household cleaning products and shampoo.

Elam, a senior Integrated Marketing Communications major, is a vegan. She does not eat meat or any animal byproducts such as egg and dairy.  She does not use products tested on animals or wear clothing that originated from an animal such as wool or leather.

Elam began a vegetarian diet her junior year of high school. She transitioned to a vegan lifestyle her freshman year of college.

“I was in the grocery store once. I saw a jar of vegan mayonnaise. The idea that mayo, a very egg and milk based product, could be made without that was very intriguing. I asked my mom if we could go vegetarian for a month. She said two weeks. We did it and I just never stopped,” Elam said.

Elam transitioned to the vegan lifestyle because of her compassion for animals.

“To me, the more I learned about the cruelty and abuse just so we can enjoy a hamburger wasn’t justifiable any longer,” she said.

Elam recalls a vivid moment during her journey to become vegan when she was at a barbeque.

“This concept popped into my mind that chickens only have two legs, breasts, wings. But people eat four or five of each. An entire family can eat so much. How many lives are lost just for this one meal?”

This memory has stuck with her as she becomes more adamant about living a vegan lifestyle.

Her choice of lifestyle has even made an impact on her professional career path. This summer, Elam interned at a sanctuary for farmed animals in northern California called Animal Place.

As the advocacy and education intern, Elam curated a year’s worth of vegan recipes, went to Warped Tour to educate others on factory farming and helped with the beginnings of a museum about factory farming.

On Elam’s left wrist, a small infinity sign intertwined with the word compassion is inked permanently. This serves as a daily reminder of her compassion for all living things.

“At Animal Place, the phrase they use is “compassion with every action.” I saw compassion a lot this summer. The people that I worked with had compassion for everything, from people to animals to bugs,” she said.

Elam got the tattoo at a vegan tattoo parlor in Portland, Oregon where she plans to move after graduating in December. She describes her future home as, “a much more vegan-friendly place.”

Often a downfall to the vegan and vegetarian lifestyle is a lack of nutrients. Emily Hansen, assistant professor of sport science says a nutritional deficiency is easily avoidable, however.

“There are quite a few ways you can get protein from plant sources. The most common are legumes, beans. You can get protein from nuts, soy products and tofu. Now there are a lot of alternative meat substitutes that provide a source of protein,” Hansen said.

Elam reiterated, “You can basically get anything in plant form without hurting animals.”

Hansen also said it is possible to have a vegan or vegetarian diet and be a successful athlete.

“There is a risk of iron deficiency, which is going to hinder an athlete’s performance. However, if you eat a lot of leafy green vegetables then generally you will get adequate intake and this won’t be an issue,” she said.

Elam lives in an apartment and has an apartment meal plan. She frequents Kent, but said, “You have to get creative.”

“The hard part about being vegan is knowing what is in what you eat. Those animal products can hide, especially in dairy,” Hansen said.

Elam typically orders a salad or wrap with only vegetables in them. She also special requests vegan veggie patties from Pfeiffer.

Hansen suggested students should speak up if they think Simpson needs a more diverse offering of food options.

“I urge students to educate themselves about they’re eating. You’re in such a unique environment during your college years. You don’t have to think about making decisions about being a consumer,” she said.

Elam said she has become a more informed consumer by being vegan. Above all, she lives her life by the motto tattooed on her arm: compassion. She wishes others would do the same.

“People should be more aware of what they are doing in their lives. What they are eating was a living creature who had a life. Be more aware of your actions,” she said.