Pursel opts for no meat, healthier lifestyle


By Nicholas Turner

David Pursel doesn’t eat dead animals.

And he is more than willing to defend his choice and encourage others to follow his lead.

Pursel, a public administration major at UNO, has been a practicing vegetarian for more than a year.

“I grew up eating meat — steak, hamburger, chicken, pork, fish, SPAM — I was a “McDonald’s Kid,” Pursel says.

But Pursel says that once he started reading about the meat-producing industry and the effects it has on the environment, he stopped eating meat immediately.

“Through reading about vegetarianism, and discussion with people who practiced this diet, I began to understand why they did so and began to question my heavy meat-eating more and more,” he says.

According to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, there were 97.3 million cattle in the U.S. in 2001. That is almost equal to one-fourth the human population of United States. And Pursel says Americans consume beef 77.8 million times a day on average.

Pursel says the waste from this large number of cattle produces enough methane gas to contribute to ozone depletion.

Moreover, he says, runoff from large-scale, “factory-farming”-type hog farms contains waste that pollutes the soil and important waterways.

“It has a profound impact on the environment,” Pursel says.

He says that he chose vegetarianism for spiritual reasons as well.

“In the U.S.,” Pursel says, “we’re about speed — getting the cattle slaughtered as quickly as possible, and getting them to fast-food restaurants as quickly as possible. It’s horrific how fast they’re put through it … I don’t want to be a part of that.”

Pursel, who is originally from Omaha, works at the Community Co-operative food store on 40th and Farnam streets, which gives him easy access to a variety of organic foods, cookbooks and vegetarian alternatives such as soy milk and tofu.

When he began his new diet, however, he says he had difficulty meeting his nutritional needs.

“My energy dropped. I didn’t realize it was because I wasn’t getting enough protein,” he says. “You have to learn what those sources are.”

Pursel says vegetarians must find the right balance of proteins and carbohydrates in order to maintain a healthy diet.

Soy products, seeds and beans provide ample protein when balanced with fruits and vegetables, he says.

Pursel says it is becoming easier to practice a vegetarian lifestyle in Omaha because more stores are catering to vegetarian needs.

He says that although meat alternatives are just slightly more expensive than meat products, the benefits far outweigh the costs.

“I just feel better, physically and mentally,” he says. “I haven’t had a cold in two years.”

Pursel adds that the Milo Bail Student Center Food Court provides several vegetarian alternatives, including rice, salads and banana nut bread.

“It takes some motivation, but if you can stay focused on the negative effects to your health and to the environment,” Pursel says, “Those are great motivators.”


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