From preschool until late into my elementary school years, I begged my parents to no end about getting a dog or cat as a pet. I would constantly pester them about how great it would be, even resorting to making a PowerPoint presentation. I’m sure it was aggravating, but I couldn’t help it. From a very young age, I cared deeply about animals. It wasn’t until later that I started to question the food I was eating and connecting this to my love for animals.
In elementary school, I started learning about the environmental impact of the meat industry because of my school’s environmental focus. I was shocked by the information I learned, like the fact that it takes 660 gallons of water just to make one hamburger (Hallock, 2014), or that the amount of greenhouse gas emissions associated with animal agriculture accounts for a whopping 14-18% of emissions, comparable to vehicle emissions, which are estimated to be at 13.5% (Nahigyan, 2016).
This information planted the seed for my interest in going vegetarian. It seemed like a reachable goal because I had many friends who had done it successfully; even my brother was a vegetarian. For a while, I was pescatarian, but I wasn’t good at sticking to the diet change. I don’t beat myself up for this – in the society we currently live in, meat has a way of getting into many of our meals during the day, and it can be hard to avoid!
This past summer, I went on a trip to Mexico, along with a few other people from my school. Many of the people in this group were vegetarian. I got to talking with them, and they recommended the movie Earthlings, which Youth for the Voiceless member, Macy Jenks, also encouraged me to see. Watching this movie was hard, but I gained an important perspective on the kind of cruelty animals in the meat industry face. I realized there is a difference between hearing about facts and statistics surrounding this industry and actually seeing videos of so many animals who are suffering in horrific conditions. I remembered a statement my speech and debate teacher once made, “non-vegetarians will probably be on the wrong side of history,” and in that moment, I definitely believed that to be very true. I knew I could not continue to eat meat while aware of the cruelty I was supporting with every bite. So that day, I decided to go cold turkey (or maybe ‘no turkey’ is more appropriate) and stop eating meat.
What I found was that becoming vegetarian was surprisingly very easy, even easier than when I had previously tried to go pescatarian. With the support of many friends (like Macy), I found that it was fun to find the multiple tasty alternatives to food I used to eat (Tofurky for the win). I have found that I don’t experience the same sick feeling, both physically and mentally after I eat as well. I can easily say that while going vegetarian has not impacted my day-to-day eating significantly, it has changed my life in a big way for the better.
Hallock, Betty. “To Make a Burger, First You Need 660 Gallons of Water…” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 27 Jan. 2014, www.latimes.com/food/dailydish/la-dd-gallons-of-water-to-make-a-burger-20140124-story.html.
Nahigyan, Pierce. “How Much Does Agriculture Contribute to Global Warming?” Planet Experts, Planet Experts, 14 May 2016, www.planetexperts.com/how-much-does-agriculture-contribute-to-global-warming/.