This I Believe

Laine - San Luis Obispo, California
Entered on January 28, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

“So, why exactly are you a vegetarian?” I hear this question almost every time I eat with a new friend – prompted by the observation that I don’t have a meat dish in front of me. Mine always seems to be that odd plate standing out in a long row of animal products. My response? “I don’t think you really want to hear.”

If I do explain, I notice that eyes begin to glaze as I say, “I don’t think animals should be killed for my own consumption.” As glazed looks turn to frowns, I realize that I have said enough, and that’s when I stop. It’s not that I have nothing else to say. I’ve given an enormous amount of thought to considering all sides of the meat debate. I have just discovered from countless dinner conversations that most people just don’t want to listen. I’m not even trying to force my beliefs on others – I just wish to clarify to people who ask about why I choose to eat this way.

Sometimes, no matter how quickly I try to change the conversation, someone with a plate dripping with meaty juices stops chewing long enough to protest: “But humans are omnivores! We are the highest on the food chain. This has been happening since the beginning of time.”

I have to explain that animals don’t confine other animals to live unnatural lives in small cages, raising them solely to die. How long have animals been in factory farms? How long since hunting stopped and gathering from Albertsons began? People have become desensitized to the fact that a living creature had to lose its life just so humans could enjoy a BLT. As my argumentative writing teacher once stated, “We don’t even call meat by what it really is. We’re not having cow for dinner. It’s beef. Not pig, but pork.”

Yet challengers cry; “Animals are dumb. Nothing like us!”

Animals may not have language, reason or logic, but they can feel pain, and can have emotion. Have you ever seen an animal hurt? Hasn’t one been excited when you came home after a long day? Have you ever wondered why Spot can stay in the house but Bessy has to be on the dinner table?

I do have to say, if need be, I would hunt to survive. I know I can only be a vegetarian because of the society I live in. If I lived in a third world country, I would eat meat, because those societies raise animals differently than much of the United States does. Let’s be honest: food is often much scarcer elsewhere in the world. I do not have to eat meat because I live in a privileged country, permitting me to eat (and not eat) whatever I wish.

I’m not trying to change your mind from a string of thoughts put together under 500 words. I just wanted to say why I’m a vegetarian. I’m just saying what I believe in.