Category: Voices

A Sudden Realization

Youth For the Voiceless Member Macy patting a pink pig in a grassy feild

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.

My Story

girl with brown cow

I spent 7 years transitioning from pescatarian to vegetarian and finally to vegan. This transition was the result of education. At 10 years old, I didn’t realize the secrets hidden behind pristinely packaged animal products, but the more I learned, the more I was able to adjust my actions to fit my morals. At first, I didn’t connect the dots between the food on my plate and the animals I loved, but as I became more educated, I was horrified by all the things that had been kept a secret from me.

I didn’t, however, cut all animal products from my diet at the flip of a switch, and I didn’t learn everything I know now overnight. I didn’t even understand or know anything about the majority of the problems within the industry until years after I first made the decision to go pescatarian, and to be completely honest, I’m still learning new things every day. There’s a quote by Maya Angelou that goes, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.” I believe wholeheartedly that every activist should take this quote to heart. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in feeling guilty about choices you made in the past when you didn’t know any better. There are still days I get down on myself for taking such a long time to make the switch to a vegan lifestyle, but I just must remind myself that it is so much more important to look forward and realize that now that I know about the injustices going on daily, I have the power to make a difference and speak up for those who are treated so incredibly unfairly.

I’m not sure if I can pinpoint exactly when it finally clicked for me that what I thought was normal for so long, was actually wrong and completely against everything I stood for, but one of the first times I began to make the connection was at the dinner table, eating with my family. We were all sitting there on an average day, enjoying an average dinner. Without meaning any harm, my dad made a joke about how once our backyard chickens stopped laying, they’d be dinner. Of course, this shocked me. I thought, “How in the world could anyone ever even think to kill and eat my chickens?”, and that’s when it finally started to dawn on me that that was exactly what I was doing at that very moment. There was no difference between the chickens on my plate and the ones in my backyard, or my dog for that matter. They are all sentient, feeling, and innocent beings that are just as deserving of life as anyone else. From that point forward, things got clearer, and that blind eye I had turned for so long began to see the truth. It was a slow process, and while I wish I had become vegan sooner, I can’t say I regret the way things happened.

Now I know a lot more than I did before and it feels so good to recognize that with every meal I eat, the clothes I wear, and the things I buy, I’m actively making a difference. It’s easy to feel like you don’t have a voice, especially as a youth, but every dollar you spend is a vote, and even the little choices you make can have a huge impact on the world around you. We all go through life differently, but no matter what you’re fighting for, remember you have a voice and the power to stand in the way of injustice.

You have the ability to educate people and inspire others to live more compassionately, become an advocate for those without a voice, and to join a movement that is better for you, the earth, and the animals!

Justice For All

girl posing with turkey

For the 45 million turkeys that are killed for a celebratory thanksgiving feast
and the 250 million more who are killed all year round

For the 11 million calves ripped away from their mothers at birth in the dairy industry
and raised in the same industry
or killed for veal meat

For the 280 million hens confined to a life in a cage
and the 260 million male chicks who are ground up alive

For the piglets who get their tails chopped off
and are killed for people’s breakfast,

I am sorry.
I am sorry that it takes so long for change to happen
and that humans do not like to admit that they are wrong.

I am sorry that I cannot make the world go vegan
because if I could, I would in an instant.

Until you can be free, I will do everything that I can
for justice does not just apply to humans
you deserve it, too.

Sources:
https://www.farmsanctuary.org/learn/factory-farming/chickens/
https://www.farmsanctuary.org/learn/factory-farming/turkeys-used-for-meat/
https://www.farmsanctuary.org/learn/factory-farming/dairy/

After Waiting So Long

bunny kissing girls head

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.

Works Cited
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/.

A Young Vegan’s Journey

young youth for the voiceless member smiles brightly

Going vegan at the age of thirteen is definitely cause for concern.  At least, that’s what everyone thought… including myself at the time. Actually, everyone I know still believes it to be negative. Not the age of thirteen (even though pre-puberty would say otherwise), but veganism, especially at such an early age. Throughout my journey with food, I’ve learned that veganism is not just about omitting animal products from your diet, it is about omitting the use of animal products from your life and understanding why. I am no scientist, but I am someone who has experienced the effects of veganism in all aspects of my life, rather than just in a textbook or blog. Veganism for me has been the most intimidating yet rewarding roller-coaster I have ever decided to ride. Except this one is for the rest of my life, and it all began in elementary school.

I lost my father at a very young age so when I turned to food as a coping mechanism, it didn’t raise much of an alarm to me or my mother since it was all due to our states of mind. After going on like that for close to two years, it was no wonder that the unknown sickness that caused me to be bedridden for two months straight was simply because I was unhealthy. I was told, after being in and out of the hospital, that I was intolerant to a plethora of everyday fruits and veggies.  I can now say that I most definitely am not, which has caused some mistrust between me and modern medicine. However, above all else, this traumatizing experience was a wakeup call; I needed to get it together… at the age of twelve. That is far too young an age to take on the pressure of learning to be healthy but coming in last place when we ran the mile at school and refusing to look at photos of myself (thank you, society, for the countless body image issues you have placed into every adolescents’ head), gave me the motivation I needed.

After that, it was as if a switch had been flipped. I began running the track at my school every single day. It started as two laps and turned into twenty, preparing me to come in the top five for the last mile we would run in P.E. that year. However, as they say, “Abs are made in the kitchen”, and that is where my now years of research on healthy eating blossomed. Thanks to society yet again, my research was bombarded with things like Kim Kardashian’s latest diet. Sadly, this resulted in me confusing my body, due to the new diet I was trying out every week. I was losing weight, but that was only because I was restricting calories, which is the most concerning aspect about the typical American diet – it not only results in binge-eating or unhealthy weight loss, but also the mindset of, “eating will make me happy, but being skinny is more important”.  After dealing with this for over a year, I discovered plant-based eating; it was a savior to my body and mind. I learned very quickly that there is a strong difference between being vegan and simply not consuming animal products, and that there is a way to eat all your fruits and veggies but still never deprive yourself of a cookie. As I became healthier, my energy increased, and I was happier with my body in general, so I began to research how to delve into the plant-based lifestyle even more. I was exposed to the wonderful impacts that such a diet has on our environment and the great ethics behind it. After that, I felt I truly understood what being vegan was, and after making the gradual switch to things like purchasing cruelty-free products and using the smallest amount of plastic in my daily life as possible, I could confidently claim that I was happy, healthy, and vegan. However, this research and lifestyle has not stopped. In fact, it has developed far beyond what I could have ever imagined.

I am now in what some may call the purgatory that is high school. In this place, every teen is suffering with not knowing who they are, in every sense, including how they look. The good news is that I can truly say that after being vegan for so long, I understand the difference between being healthy and being what society wants me to be. I may not be the weight that every female at my height should be, but frankly, I feel that if we all were, that’d be quite boring. Veganism has gifted me a healthy relationship with food, which is something I wish every teenager who is suffering with their uniqueness could have. Now that I’ve been researching the beautiful impacts of a vegan lifestyle for four years, I am well educated on things ranging from perceptive morals to animal agriculture and how the human body digests different types of bananas. While some of it may be a bit amusing, I use the knowledge I have acquired over the years multiple times a day. For example, I am a participant in Speech and Debate. I wrote an entire speech on veganism, and in fierce competition, I placed first; while the debate side may frighten me, the storage of facts regarding anything related to veganism in my brain has saved me time and time again (not to mention given me many shiny trophies).  

Personally, however, the lesson I value most from veganism is the idea of equality. Us humans have this idea in our heads that since we have technology and medicine, we are superior. However, that is simply not how the world works. We are animals, just like the ones we choose to torture and/or domesticate. We may be smarter, but that doesn’t make us better, and thanks to veganism and the world it has opened up to me, those morals have affected every part of my life. Thanks to simply learning how to be healthy, I truly understand the fact that animals, humans of different skin colors, different beliefs, even different looks, are all equal (take that, society).

Veganism is a personal choice, but it is one that people dismiss simply because of a negative connotation with that word. As a young vegan, I make it my duty to be a good example because I truly believe that if I can show that a teen girl can be vegan and healthy, people may not reply with, “but I never could… and I never would”.  Educate yourself, find what works for you, what makes you healthy, and what makes you happy. Remember we are all one, and our Earth is not limitless. For all that facts have shown, we only live this life once. Make it count – go vegan.

The Vegan Decision

laughing girl outside

Growing up, the “Vegan Decision” is difficult for everyone. Wandering through the twisted path that eventually leads to adulthood is tricky and testing.

A child is forced to leave behind immaturity and foolishness and focus on what is really important. No longer a byproduct of their parents, but an individual, blossoming into their own character. Along with this development comes the ability to make decisions for themselves, based on what they believe. Depending on the parents, this transition can be difficult, frustrating, and sometimes it may seem like their child is heading down the wrong path. However, part of being an adequate parent is placing enough trust in a child to make their own decisions.

When I was 13, my best friend, Eva, and I found ourselves in my school’s cafeteria during lunch. I remember her telling me about her new diet, vegetarianism. This was the first time I had ever heard this term. As she explained what it meant, she placed her carrots and hummus neatly on the table.

A couple months later, Eva was still upholding her vegetarian diet, while munching on foreign objects like tofu-dogs and Garden Sausages. I began to do some research of my own at this time. I started by simply Googling terms like ‘vegetarian’ and ‘animal agriculture’ and discovered some alarming statistics; however, my adolescent brain still struggled to fathom what was really happening in our food industry. I saw vegetarianism as a trend, a fad, a way to comply with my friends and share something with them, while possibly maintaining a healthy diet. So, I joined Eva and began calling myself a vegetarian.

I told my parents soon after I decided to make this change. No one in my family had any sort of dietary restrictions, and to this day still do not; however, that didn’t deter me. I gave my parents my spiel, complete with my contentions (i.e. I was saving the planet and becoming immune to heart disease. Totally rational, right?).

I could tell my parents were trying to be supportive of me and my decision, yet I knew it was hard for them to be open-minded and take me seriously when they had been taught otherwise. My mom would say things like, “We’re supposed to eat meat to be healthy,” and “I only buy organic meat”; however, I stuck to my decision to steer clear from murder.

My father was concerned for me for many reasons, but mostly, he would constantly wonder how I could possibly obtain all the required vitamins, nutrients, and proteins necessary to simply survive. I was dragged to a nutritionist shortly thereafter and left the appointment with regurgitated knowledge from many websites I had read along with quite a few pamphlets.

About a year after becoming vegetarian, I began to consider veganism. A term I was familiar with, having been in the vegetarian atmosphere for quite some time. I realized I could cut out a couple more food products for the good of animals, my health, and the planet. It just made sense to make that sacrifice, so I did it. I left behind my vegetarian label and gained a new title as a vegan. It was then that my parents really became concerned with my outrageous decision-making. I was taken to a nutritionist for the second time to really make sure I wouldn’t keel over without consuming meat or dairy. I went in and left the appointment with confidence that I was doing the right thing, and that I could do it right. I was ready to start the next chapter of my life as a vegan.

Another year later, and veganism remains the best decision I’ve ever made for myself. Despite my parents’ subtle disapproval over the years, I know veganism is the right choice for me. This lifestyle has its challenges, no doubt. I was at a family dinner at my grandmother’s when she called me a nuisance for refusing to eat what she served me: steak. Sometimes, when I go to restaurants, and they mix up my order, my family tells me to just eat around the meat or just eat it this one time ‘cause it won’t hurt me. Yet it’s things like these that help me stay on track. I’m constantly reminded of how stubborn and stuck in our ways us humans are. Progress is achievable yet difficult, and change takes a long time. I mustn’t forget that people react to change in a variety of different ways, denial being one of them.

I knew when I became vegetarian that there would be challenges along the road, but that wouldn’t deter me from sticking with what I believe in and choosing to be kind and compassionate. One should never undermine themselves due to what others think or believe. It can be hard; in many ways and places, vegetarians and vegans are still pioneers.

Being bold and different is challenging, but it’s always best to stick with what you believe in and to choose to love.