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June 1998
Growing Up Vegetarian


Although statistics are vague, a 1995 survey by Teenage Research Unlimited of nearly a thousand girls aged 12 to 15 and 16 to 19 found that 27 and 42 percent respectively thought that vegetarianism was fashionable. But, just in case moms and dads are worried about their daughters not eating properly, a 1989 study by the Centers for Disease Control which was published in the journal Pediatrics found that of the hundreds of children raised on a vegan diet from birth, all were healthy and normal size. There follows a selection of how some vegetarian girls are coping with their lives.


I became a vegetarian because I love animals and I didn't want to eat them. Mom explained why our family was vegetarian when I was about three. I agreed with her that I love animals and wanted to stay a vegetarian too.

Lots of times, when I bring fake meat in my lunch to school, the kids think it's real meat and tease me. I think they should mind their own beeswax! I don't bring fake meat to school any more. In gym, some kids think I'm not strong because I don't eat meat. Actually, I think I'm healthier. They are still my friends though.

We live in a place where there's not much great vegetarian food, but I love cheese pizza and tomato sandwiches. I can get those around here. We have a huge garden and pretty much all our summer vegetables come from it. My favorites are broccoli, cherry tomatoes and sweet corn.

Once, we had tiny chicks hatch in our second grade classroom. Everybody loved them. They seemed to forget that the cute chicks end up in their chicken sandwiches. I don't like how people kill chickens and other animals. I'm glad I'm a vegetarian even though some other people don't understand.

Chloe Field, age 7, lives in Maryville, Missouri.


I came to America from New Delhi in India four years ago. I have been a vegetarian all my life. I do not talk about my vegetarianism to my friends unless they are curious. If anyone is curious and asks me, I tell them vegetarianism is healthier. Sometimes when I tell them that I think it's wrong to kill an animal for food, they say, "So what?" Some have found it hard to believe I am a vegetarian. "How can you not eat meat?" they ask. "Won't you die without eating it?" I tell them I won't, because I eat vegetables and lentils and other things. People don't make fun of me, but respect me.

 I take my lunch to school--often a salad sandwich. My school doesn't really offer vegetarian options; it's usually hamburgers and pizza. There are salads and cheese sandwiches available, but people don't really eat them. I sometimes bring Indian food to school, and all my friends want to try it. They enjoy it.

I have vegetarian friends at school, but they are Indian like me. I don't know any American children who are vegetarian. I am too used to being a vegetarian to change. My cousin in California has been here for many years and still doesn't eat meat. But I know a lot of Indians who have become meateaters, both in India and in America. Some people, like my uncles for instance, won't eat meat in the house but go out to eat it. Even though it's not hard to be a vegetarian in this country, I think it's very important to have supportive parents.

Sandhya Venu, 13, lives in New York City.


I became a vegetarian at 14 (I'm 18 now). It seems so much longer than four years, not because being a vegetarian has been hard, but because I can't even imagine eating meat now. That's just not who I am. I can't believe I ever did. But I can't dwell on the past. Anyway, I came to the decision on my own without any outside influence. I don't remember the details of how I came to make the decision. I just felt that killing was wrong and that animals shouldn't be excluded from receiving compassion. Their suffering shouldn't be ignored and it certainly can't be rationalized away. I feel there's no excuse for slaughtering animals. To me it's just plain wrong. I try to put myself in others' shoes. I don't want to cause anyone or anything pain. I try to have universal compassion, not just selective compassion.


I became a vegetarian a year ago this July. My parents weren't too pleased with the idea at first. But I think they have adjusted. Most of my friends thought it was cool, but some others asked too many questions because they didn't believe me. I stuck to it, and I love it. It's kinda cool because I think I have changed a couple of people into vegetarians! In conclusion, I commend being vegetarian to everyone who is trying to lead a healthy life, and keep trying to make people see that this is healthy and worthwhile!


When I was 10, my grandmother would take us fishing at a little field pond in the middle of a cow pasture by her home in Missouri. The pond was isolated from other water and overpopulated with catfish. You wouldn't have your line in for 30 seconds and out would emerge...a fish! They were little and very cute. My grandmother would then take them off the hook and throw them into the hot field because there were too many to take home. I hated to sit and watch the little fish bake in the sun and die. Later we came home for lunch. What were we eating? Little catfish. This moment marked the first time I felt repulsed by meat, progressing into full veggi-dom two years later.


I don't eat meat or eggs or milk etc., and in Sweden that means I'm a vegan (I'm not sure it's the same in English). The people who eat milk and eggs are called vegetarians. In my class, almost half of the pupils are vegetarians, but only my best friend and I are vegans. All the meat-eating people are a little negative, but they never complain. But the vegetarians just seem to hate us. Maybe they feel guilty, but they have to complain all the time: "It's so unnecessary to be vegan," or "It's unnatural to be vegan"! Whose side are they on? I feel very irritated.


I became vegetarian a year ago when I started to picture the animals I was eating. I would be eating a hamburger or something, and all of a sudden a picture of a cow would pop into my mind. Once I started picturing where the meat came from, I found it very hard to eat it again, so I stopped.

We got comments from Sofia, Edana, Krissy, Violet and Elizabeth's from the chat group at, a great place for teen vegetarians to talk.


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