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Twenty Seven Chickens a Year
A lot of people are shocked when they hear that I’ve stopped eating meat. They always tell me, “But Julia, you’re already so thin. You don’t need to be a vegetarian.” Like it’s some special weight loss diet or something. When I tell them that I’m not doing it because I think I’m fat or something, when I try to explain my beliefs to them, they all just kind of nod along and then walk away, still just as ignorant as they started.
I became a vegetarian, officially, last summer. Before then, I would go weeks at a time without eating meat, but I always went back to it. I was raised by a family who loved steak, chicken, ham, turkey… if it came from an animal, they’d eat it. And that’s just the thing that no one seems to understand. Meat isn’t like corn and strawberries. It comes from a living being. It comes from your pet dog and the neighbor’s parakeet and that pesky squirrel who keeps annoying you while you’re walking home from the bus stop.
Yes, yes, I know. It doesn’t LITERALLY come from those animals. But it might as well. Have you ever fed a baby cow, or raised a chicken? Have you ever held a piglet, born just that day? You really should, if you haven’t already. You should see the light in their eyes, feel the warmth from their wriggling bodies, and have them fall asleep in your lap.
Maybe I get attached too easily, but I’ve done all of that before. I’m an animal lover, through and through. I see fried chicken and I think of Red, my favorite little hen. I see steak, and I think of the calf who suckled my fingers last time I visited the farm. I see a roast ham on Easter, and I think of the unborn baby pig we just had to dissect in Biology class.
Maybe I just think about things too much, but I just can’t imagine how someone can confine an animal to a tiny, little, dirty, crowded space for the first couple years of his life, and then go in there and murder him. Strip the skin from his body, see his unmoving heart, feel the heat drain from his limbs. See his tail go limp.
Maybe I think of them too much like humans, but I truly think that they are. People, in order to make themselves feel better, claim that animals don’t have souls… but how is it, then, that they all react differently? That so many of them have a sense of humor, how some are calm and sweet, and how some are rebellious? There is no more proof of an animal having a soul than of humans having souls. I mean, if you’re going to go and say that you can eat a cow because it doesn’t have a soul, then why aren’t you eating your dog? You know, man’s best friend. Your buddy. The one who means the world to you.
My point through this all is that being a vegetarian is not a way to lose weight or be healthier… heck, most vegetarians have more health problems than meat eaters. We, on average, don’t get enough protein and we have trouble getting enough iron. But I think it’s healthier for the mind, for the conscience. How do you think the animals feel about us eating them all the time? Did you know that the average American eats sixty four to sixty five pounds of beef a year? Right behind that are fifty seven pounds of chicken, fifty of pork, and fourteen of turkey.
Let’s examine the facts there. You on average can get about two pounds of edible meat off of a chicken. That means that you, Average American, are eating about twenty seven feathery, squawking, adorable little chickens a year.
I’m not writing this to change your opinion on the practice of eating meat. It’s not my position to judge you, judge what you should or should not be eating. I’m a vegetarian from a meat eater’s point of view. I’m not out to change the world, I’m just out to prove my point.
The other day, my mom brought me a pizza at a play rehearsal, and the person at Little Caesar’s messed up and accidentally put pepperoni on it. I told her to take it home and give it to my brother, instead. She told me to just pick the pepperonis off of it. It wasn’t that big of a deal. But I told her I refused.
All of my friends wanted to know why… they just didn’t understand it. I told them it was because it was against my ethics to touch a dead animal. They said, “But it’s just pepperoni. It doesn’t even look like an animal.” And then, laughingly, they added, “It’s probably not even real meat. You know how cheap those pizza places are.” I told them it didn’t matter. I tried explaining my reasoning.
But, as always, they just sort of shrugged, nodded, and walked away. “Julia, why the heck are you a vegetarian, again? You’re, like, the skinniest person in school. You don’t need to be on a diet.”