Growing up, my cat was my best friend. She would curl up against me each night and purr and meow with joy when I came home from a vacation. Wherever I was in the house, she would be too, sitting by my side. Going away to college and leaving her behind was terrible- worse than leaving a friend who I could talk to on the phone. But she still slept on my bed after I moved out and was still was overjoyed to see me every time I came home to visit, purring and following me around the house. She was my first pet and the one that inspired my love for animals.
Once, as a young child coming home from a camping trip with my family, I spotted two beautiful deer, a doe and a fawn, gracefully making their way through the trees. After admiring them and driving a short distance, we saw a pair of deer hunters, dressed in neon orange, searching for something to kill. I cried and cried the rest of the way home. I cried at the thought that someone could be so evil as to receive pleasure from murdering another creature. I cried for the innocent animals that did not deserve to die.
At age 9, I became a vegetarian. My father was cutting out meat for health reasons, and I decided that my beloved animals were not food. This was one of the best decisions of my life. While my friends ordered hamburgers and chicken, I ate grilled cheese or a salad. And when I claimed to love animals, I was not living a lie. I do not believe that a person can call themselves an animal lover and still eat meat. As a vegetarian, I could look my cherished cat straight in the eye, and I could have dinner without feeling guilt for supporting murderous industries.
I believe that all animals should be loved and treated with respect. This includes not only your pet dog, but also your neighbor’s cats, the cow at the dairy your milk is from, the elk you enjoy hunting, and the turkeys soon to be slaughtered for Thanksgiving. Who are we to decide which animals have feelings and which don’t? Why is dog-fighting considered cruel, but other violent activities against animals such as killing for sport totally acceptable? Why is it that people advocate aiding animals in shelters, but raise pigs and chickens in deplorable, filthy conditions only to be slaughtered? People would be outraged at the torture of the adorable panda at the zoo, but when cows are grown on factory farms and brutally killed for their flesh, those people look the other way simply because it bring meat to their dinner tables. I hope that someday this world can appreciate all creatures and beings, and treat all living things with decency and kindness.
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