This I Believe

Chelsea - Orange Park, Florida
Entered on May 6, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
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I possess many central beliefs in my life. I believe most strongly that one should do what they believe is right, even when everyone else does something different. Its simple enough to do what’s right when everyone else does it too, but when you’re the lone dissenter, the decision becomes a little harder to make. This statement of belief may sound cliche, but many famous role models, like Martin Luther King Jr. and Ghandi, took it to heart. I may not grow up to be the next civil rights leader, but every little step in making up one’s own mind counts.

I can’t pinpoint the exact point in my life when this realization occurred to me. I remember reading the book, Standing Up To Mr. O, by Claudia Mills, in sixth grade. The main character in this book stands up against and refuses to carry out dissections, and, in doing so, realizes that animals are killed for many more purposes than biology labs. I mentally agreed with the brave protagonist’s rationale, but realized that every time I ate, I contradicted it. One word came to mind every time I consumed a cheeseburger or fried chicken: hypocrite. I knew I needed to stop eating meat if I ever wanted to respect myself again, but I didn’t know any vegetarians in my sleepy Colorado community, and my slow-talking from the Deep South didn’t even know what a vegetarian was. Despite my less than favorable odds, I became a vegetarian at the age of twelve; I haven’t found animal flesh appetizing for the past five years. This decision wasn’t hard to make, but it was extremely difficult to abide by. I made this decision for one simple reason: I have a voice. The animals I formerly ate didn’t. I didn’t take into account my personal suffering, but I most definitely considered theirs.

I’ve been criticized for making this decision by many people, including my own parents. Sometimes, sheer stubborn willpower was the only thing that kept me from touching the bacon my family cooked on Saturday mornings. I didn’t make this conversion from omnivore to herbivore for recognition, or for my own personal satisfaction. I didn’t set out on my journey hoping to convert the world, or to condemn the world for their choices in cuisine. I realize my abstainment from meat won’t make a remarkable dent in the number of animals killed across the nation, but I will save ninety-five animals a year, and that’s good enough for me.

Usually, the only thing that holds people back from doing something they desire is fear. Failing frightened me, but feeling guilty at every meal for the rest of my life terrified me even more. Dissidence is never easy, but its usually always satisfying. As Martin Luther King Jr. Once said, “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”