August 8, 2008

How It All Started

I thought I could start off by letting you all know how I became a vegetarian. My college application essay happens to do a pretty good job of telling the story and even a little more! Here she is:
A Grown-Up Vegetarian
When I dozed off in the backseat, I had a feeling I’d be awoken unpleasantly. I figured my neck would ache or my little sister would wake me up for an I Spy rematch, or maybe the 95° heat would finally get to me. I, however, was roused by a smell. I looked around. There was only tan colored dirt for as far as I could see. “What is that?” I asked my dad, the only other person awake in the 1989 Honda Accord. The worst stench I could imagine had seeped into our car. He chuckled. I pressed my face into the pillow separating me from my sister in an effort to snuff out the odor. After ten suffocating minutes, I lifted my sweaty face from my pillow. The view had completely changed. We were surrounded by tens of thousands of cows. These cows were enveloped in mud, splattered with manure and crammed so tightly, there were barely inches between them. These weren’t the convivial black and white dairy cows I was used to seeing in my native Sonoma County either. They looked sick and demoralized, jammed into a mud pit. My dad came out of his silence and explained that we were passing Harris Ranch, one of the largest beef producers in America . He said the smell was a blend of cow feces, urine and blood. Moments later a signed popped up, reading, “Harris Ranch Steakhouse: Next Exit”. How could anyone in their right mind eat a steak (right?) just a few minutes after enduring that smell and witnessing the abused cows with their own eyes? How could I ever eat meat after experiencing that?
On the drive back home we passed the “Ranch” again. Although the smell was equally potent, this time it didn’t blind me to other twisted aspects of the massive slaughter house. I wondered how it would feel to be one of those many cows, not knowing fresh air, water or grass. I couldn’t bare to think of their short, uncomfortable, fly infested lives. My commitment to vegetarianism was born that day. Not only did the scene revolt me, I also hated the idea of victimizing these innocent animals for my own selfish pleasure.
Eight years ago I chose to become a vegetarian because I couldn’t bare to eat animals that smelled so horrible. As I’ve matured, my dedication to avoiding meat has been unwavering, but the reasoning behind my commitment has evolved.
My ideals strengthened when I researched the effect of the meat industry on the environment. What started as a mild interest in an editorial on the destructive tendencies of the meat industry became an obsession with finding out every detail about the industry. It was like uncovering landmines; I was appalled with the facts, but, at the same time, glad I knew that the problems existed. I annoyed my friends with horrific updates on the meat industry’s greenhouse gas output, or numbers comparing the water usage of a single human to that of a single livestock animal. Many of my friends ignored the information, just nodding, and then changing the subject. However, some were genuinely interested. A couple of friends even gave vegetarianism a try after being bombarded with my information condemning the industry.
Learning about the meat industry has not only activated me related to that industry, but this awareness has also caused me to investigate (be curious about?) the impacts of other industries or practices on our planet, and has born a lifetime environmentalist. Through this experience I’ve gained a deep desire to understand problems in our world. I strongly believe that if we don’t know of a problem, it’s impossible to with a solution. This craving for information has brought about a habit of waking up twenty minutes earlier every morning, because I’m eager to read the daily paper. It’s caused an every increasing pile of magazines and pamphlets on my bedside table, and also a fervor to aid in the solutions. These last two years I’ve become increasingly more aware of the impact of my choices on the larger world, whether it’s the water I drink, the gas I pump, or the clothes I buy. I’ve come to realize that it is my duty as a human being to make choices that have a positive effect on our Earth.
Through the years many of my values have evolved. Although vegetarianism has been a priority all along, my incentive for the commitment has greatly matured. Now when people ask me why I became a vegetarian, I still tell them it all began with a stink. But when people ask me why I remain a vegetarian, I tell them it is an expression of who I am and how I feel about our planet.

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