Picture this: The year is 1988. The month is February. The day is cold and windy. I leisurely sit in front of the television, attempting to pay attention to a Channel 2 National Geographic special. Suddenly I realize a baby cow is on the television. The narrator explains how it is being raised for the sole purpose of human consumption. The camera zooms in on the face of the little calf and the big brown eyes stare directly at me. They pierce my soul. The camera angle switches again to pan the field filled with other cows that are bred for human consumption. Those big brown eyes are imbedded in my soul. Somehow I feel connected to these animals.
HUMAN CONSUMPTION???? We, the humans, breed these animals just to kill and eat them.... All of my emotions began to stir within me. I was outraged yet at the same time ashamed. Up until that point in my life I didn't understand how the big hamburger patty got on my plate. But at that moment it all became clear. They came from another living, breathing, thinking animal with intelligent and beautiful eyes.
From that moment on, I swore off all beef and pork, as well as any and all by-products. As a human I could not justify killing an animal just so I could have a steak or bacon. I could live without pork or beef in my diet, and have done so for more than two years. I will never go back to eating beef or pork or any by-product because in life there can be no going back. As a vegetarian I've become a better person. I think of the consequences of buying things. Paper involves trees, so I buy recycled paper as well as trying to recycle it myself. I question the origin of any product I buy, and what was involved in its making.
I feel a tremendous need to pass on my knowledge to others. I don't consider myself a fanatic. Slightly obsessed - admittedly - yes! Yet, when I see people at restaurants ordering a steak I don't dive across the room and throttle them. Yet, I do realize that friends influence friends, and parents influence children. I have never forced anyone to conform to my ideals, but my friends as well as my family know I am a vegetarian, and that is enough. Two of my friends have decided to become vegetarians, and my family has considerably lowered their intake on beef and pork. I feel I fulfill my sense of responsibility to myself by being a vegetarian, and at this point I'm happy with this. Perhaps in the future, when I have children, I'll influence them not to eat beef or pork. n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.