Why I Am A Vegetarian

The chick stared up at me with dark, inquisitive eyes. I smiled as the yellow puffball shook out its soft downy feathers. “This one is getting big!” my friend exclaimed, as her father walked onto the sun porch where we sat, surrounded by newly hatched chicks.

“Mmmm. That one does look like it will make a good meal someday,” her father commented. I looked up at him in shock, but shook off the words he had uttered. He must be joking; these were my friend’s pets, not dinner. Her father’s big work boots clumped out the door and into the yard, so I turned back to the chick and its cuteness.

Only a few minutes later, he returned, carrying a large hatchet. “Which one is for dinner?” he asked.

“Take the black and white one, with the spiky feathers,” replied my friend’s mother. I sat in shock. They were going to kill a chicken! One that once was very much like the one that sat before me! And they were going to eat it! The very thought revolted me.

“How could you?” I whispered, but knowing I couldn’t change anyone’s mind. I left before the killing could occur.

I have not eaten chicken since that day.

Being vegetarian has never been hard for me. A series of experiences, like the one above, made the idea that all meat was once alive sink in. I started with the cute, fluffy creatures, because all I could think of as I looked at lamb or veal or beef was the face of the creature staring up at me pitifully.

I remembered the lamb one of my friends raised for the nativity at her church, so happy and playful, and how this lamb on the table had had its life cut short to satisfy the relentless demand for meat. That feels so cruel to me. Animals can feel, think, and make choices. They deserve rights, and by killing them we are snapping that away from them.

I have never felt that it is right to just not think about the meat I’m eating. That is selfish. People should know what they are eating, and if it disgusts them, they should change.

I remember after I stopped eating the cute animals going out to dinner and ordering the only non-fluffy thing on the menu: duck. I ate my meal quickly, and as I sat, what I had just done dawned on me. A duck, like the ones swimming peacefully in the pond near my home, had been killed to feed me. Because of me, a duck was dead. I felt my meal churning up in my belly and ran to the bathroom as stomach acid reached my throat. I felt ill, so guilty about the animal, and how no one has the right to cut any life short. I had to leave the restaurant.

Another Nail In Meat's Coffin

A little over a year ago, I was at a party with some of the people on my parents’ Frisbee team. I was declining a hot dog when one of the teenage boys walked up to me.

“I don’t get why you won’t eat it,” he began, “You know that the conditions at the factory farms are horrible; killing it put it out of its misery.”

This shocked me. If no one ate meat, then factory farms wouldn’t exist and the animals would never be in the horrible situation to begin with.

I learned about factory farming after becoming vegetarian, and it was just another nail in meat’s coffin. While perusing a magazine about American history, I came across an article about a book published in 1906 called The Jungle. Written by Upton Sinclair, it described horrific images of the meat packing industry and made me curious about today’s meat industry and slaughterhouses. This led me to a book titled Enter the Earth about how a town and all the land surrounding it can be destroyed by a single factory farm. These farms pollute the water and air and make the surrounding land unsafe for humans and animals, as well as creating horrible conditions for the animals within.

My cousin sometimes talks to me about how some people give her a hard time about being vegetarian. This has never been a problem for me. When asked why I don’t eat meat, I don’t feel like I have to defend myself. I just talk to them about why I choose to be a vegetarian. If someone’s being particularly rude, I simply say, “Why aren’t you vegetarian?”

I wish everyone could understand and accept the fact that I’ve chosen the vegetarian lifestyle. And it’s not just other kids; many adults scoff at my decision as well. They whisper words of sympathy to my parents, as if it’s a hardship to have an eleven-year-old who won’t eat meat. I hear the words “it’s just a phase” and “she’ll grow out of it” again and again, but the strength of my conviction is greater than what they might imagine. I started seriously eliminating meat from my diet when I was eight so it’s not like I woke up one morning and decided to become vegetarian. It has been a long journey, and I’m proud of being vegetarian.

Lila Hovey is an 11-year-old who loves all animals, especially her two rescue kitties Neptune and Saturn, and who dreams of getting a book published to help make the world a healthier, happier, and more peaceful place. She would like to become an alternative energy engineer, inventing ways to make solar energy more affordable, efficient and accessible to everyone.