From a very young age, I knew I was passionate about animals. I was never afraid of dogs, always fascinated by wild animal documentaries, and wanted to be a veterinarian.
When I was a teenager, during Lent, I gave up meat for 40 days with my mom. We ate a lot of veggie burgers and some tofu. I thoroughly enjoyed eating vegetable-based products. My mom... did not enjoy the change of diet.
After the 40 days was up, I told my parents I wanted to continue leading a meat-free life. My parents had some concerns with this; they were worried I would not be eating enough vitamins and minerals and in turn, I would not develop as healthily. I respected my parents decision because I hated taking vitamins and I decided to return to eating meat although I had plans of stopping in the future.
In the summer going into my third year of college, I watched a documentary called "The Secret Reason We Eat Meat" by Melanie Joy. As a psychology major listening to the psychology behind eating meat and why we continue to eat meat today, I did not feel right. After I finished the 18-minute video, I made a decision: I was no longer eating meat.
I initially decided to stop eating meat because I don't understand why it is okay in certain cultures to kill certain animals but in other cultures, those animals are seen as holy or as family. For example, it is unfair of me to sign a petition that limits an Asian country's consumption of dog when other countries might not eat cow or pig.
In the Buddhist religion, cows are seen as holy. Yet we eat them in America and Buddhists don't sign petitions forcing us to stop eating beef. I decided I could no longer be a hypocrite. If someone is okay with killing one type of animal but not the other, that is unfair to the animals and other people.
As an animal lover, I decided I couldn't justify killing any animals for my own consumption. I decided that while I may like the taste of chicken, a chicken's life means just as much as a dog's life or a cat's life. Even though meat tastes good, it doesn't mean I need to eat it.
I also notice that I am lucky enough to not have to hunt for my food. I have so many grocery stores and convenience stores nearby; therefore, it is not necessary for me to eat meat. It is not as though I have to hunt for my next meal to survive; I can run to the grocery store and buy a pre-cooked meal to take home if I would like to.
I don't think I am any better or more worthy of life than any other living being around me. Animals deserve equal, if not more, respect in a world that used to be entirely theirs. We should cherish the beauty they bring, what they do for our ecosystem, and how they run the animal kingdom.
I do not judge those who eat meat; I understand that everyone's diet is different and that meat is cheaper than vegetarian products. I do hope, however, that people notice the mistreatment in factory farms such as Tyson and attempt to eat meat from local farmers.
I am an advocate for animal rights because we are all animals. Humans are animals! We must protect the lives of animals who cannot protect themselves and allow them to live in proper conditions with respect, even if they do end up becoming someone's food.