When I was younger, I loved meat. Now, mind you, while I wasn't carnivorous, some of my favorite foods were chicken and fish. I couldn't imagine a world without meat because that's the only way I ever lived.
Little did I know that years later, I became somebody who couldn't imagine a world, my world, with meat.
I became vegan in 10th grade after watching a documentary on the animal agriculture industry (this is what I get for browsing YouTube after midnight). Suddenly, I began to understand how the food I was eating got onto my plate and where it came from. I began to see things more clearly, and they painted an interesting, however gruesome, picture.
I watched as cows were branded with iron rods and cows meant for veal were confined to caged enclosures. And the longer I watched, the more the animal lover in me was pained.
Cows and pigs and chickens are not dogs, I know. But they are vastly intelligent, beautiful and sensitive creatures. They feel pain, as all animals do. I didn't think I could call myself an animal lover or animal person and simultaneously eat meat. I knew that if I loved these creatures, if I cared for them, I wouldn't do anything to bring them pain.
I started to believe in an intrinsic equality between all animals and all products of nature. I started to see animals as living, breathing, feeling beings. And slowly but surely, meat began to lose its appeal.
The further I fell into the vegan rabbit hole, the more I read about the lifestyle I was leaving. The animal agriculture industry is not only morally reprehensible, it is damaging and degrading to the world we live in. Factory farms produce copious amounts of pollution and 14.5 percent of worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases, leading to a loss of biodiversity, polluted water, and augmented rates of climate change. Animal agriculture corrupts the world we live in, leaving future generations mere shambles of the earth and nature we know today.
I became vegan (and eventually vegetarian), not because I didn't want to eat meat anymore, but because I simply couldn't eat meat anymore. I care about animals feeling less pain. I care about the planet we are leaving behind. I care about these things more than I care about chicken burgers or bacon.
Believe me: I know how hard it is, giving up something you've always had and grown used to. I know how hard it is to stop doing something you've always done.
But, as I've learned, the hardest part is the first step. The second, third, and later, fourth become easier and easier. And eventually, the planet will thank us.