I was raised vegetarian. My mom went vegetarian 15 years prior to me being born because she felt she could not eat a dead animal after learning about the torture they endure on factory farms. My father ate meat, but he wanted me to be raised vegetarian because it was healthier. They agreed that I would be vegetarian; however, they decided to avoid telling me about the violence towards animals. That caused me to never know why I was not eating meat. Despite their neutral approach, I did eventually figure out why. When I was nine, I attended a week-long farm camp. We planted food, performed farm chores, and played games. It was mediocre at best; however, on the final day of camp, we all got loaded onto a school bus and taken to another farm. This farm was much more exciting. It had animals!
As we arrived, the smell of the animal farm hit me like a slap in the face. Chickens, cows, goats, pigs, turkeys, and horses were all separated by unstable wooden fences. As we got off the bus, the group of nine-year-olds became more and more noisy. The owner of the farm then walked towards us, and the group fell silent. He began to take us on a tour of the farm, starting at the pig pens. He handed us each an apple out of a dirty metal bucket and explained why there were three pens. “The one on the left is for the baby pigs. The middle one is for adult pigs. The final one is for the butcher pigs.” That last sentence came out of nowhere. I did not understand why a farm that takes care of animals would want to kill them. “Throw your apple into whatever pen you’d like!” he called, as he stepped behind us to talk to our teacher.
Every single other child threw their apple into the baby pig pen. While the baby pigs were by far the cutest, they had their whole lives ahead of them to eat delicious apples. I did not know how long the butcher pigs had left. My heart ached for them. Because I knew their lives would soon come to a tragic end, I wanted to bring the smallest bit of immediate happiness to at least one of those pigs. I threw my apple into the butcher pig pen. In that moment, I made a connection that my parents had failed to make for me: the animals who end up on our plates were killed.
This experience changed me. It shaped me into the passionate animal activist that I am today. Yet it was difficult to come to this realization. Even though I did not partake in eating meat, nearly everyone around me did. My father ate (and still eats) dead animals all the time. Educating myself about the food system and becoming vegan was one of the hardest things I have ever done, not because I find it inconvenient to give up animal products, but because it is so hard to accept that we live in a society that violently kills animals without remorse. That realization is tough, but it allows you to move forward in a way where you can act in alignment with your moral compass.
The opportunity to change your actions for the greater good is so valuable. It allows you to better yourself and the world around you. That change is so rewarding.