I decided to become a vegetarian in July 2015. This wasn’t the first time I had chosen to attempt the lifestyle. But it would be the first time I would stick to it for more than 3 days. I decided to do this for no particular reason. It was simply a challenge I decided to set up for myself to see if I could do it. I opted to avoid eating meat for the rest of the summer and return to an omnivorous lifestyle once I returned to school, thinking that setting unnecessary dietary restrictions for myself while on a budget and a meal plan would be difficult and annoying.

When I returned to school at the end of August, I realized that vegetarianism was not as difficult as I anticipated it would be on a college campus. So my inner self-competitor urged me to continue to see just how long I could go without eating meat. Once I was back in school, I would eat fish from time to time when other options were limited, so I wasn’t technically a complete vegetarian. In early September, however, I quit eating fish as well.

As I ventured deeper into the lifestyle, I began to learn more about why others turn to the ways of vegetarianism and veganism. I had a good friend who had become a vegan over the summer, and I was interested in what she had to say about animal rights even if I didn’t always feel the same extremes as she. While animals have always held a special place in my heart, I was never much of an “activist” for their rights per say. But through the vegetarian and vegan community, I gained more awareness of what was happening behind the scenes of our dinner plates.

I had always had some knowledge of the cruelness towards animals that exists in the meat industry, especially after I learned about it more extensively during my sophomore year of high school. While I had learned a decent amount about it in the past, there was always a part of me that was somewhat afraid to learn more. But now that I wasn’t putting those products into my body, I wasn’t as hesitant to uncover more by digging deeper into the horrors of the industry.

From what I learned I decided that, while eating animals has been a part of humanity since the beginning, the cruelties that are inflicted upon the victims of factory and mass production farming are unnecessary and extreme. Animals do deserve to be treated humanely. They are still living creatures who can feel pain and torture inflicted upon their bodies.

Most vegetarians and vegans argue that there is no such thing as humane meat, and while I do generally agree with this, I do not necessarily feel the need to push everyone in the direction of vegetarianism. All people have the right to consume what they please, and I don’t have a problem with people who eat meat or even the fact that they eat it. What I do have a problem with is the way animals are being mass produced and tortured to get that meat. I would at least urge those who do eat meat to try their best to consume only organic and farm raised animals and participate in Meatless Mondays as an effort to eat less meat. At least this would cut down on some of the horrible effects of factory farming.

I began my journey of vegetarianism as a personal challenge, but as the challenge advanced, I ended up learning a great amount about why others take it on. I still don’t consider myself to be an extreme animal rights activist, and I am not here to force my beliefs down the throats of others. If someone doesn’t care about the well-beings of animals, that is that person’s decision, and he/she is entitled to it. However, if I could help to minimize the negative effects of the meat industry by even a small amount through sharing my thoughts with others, I would feel like I achieved something good, and my decision to go vegetarian made a positive difference.