By: Brittany Estes-Garcia
Brittany Estes-Garcia is a writer who has been a vegetarian her entire life and recently became a vegan. She is looking to promote an animal free diet through writing.
Introducing someone to veganism or vegetarianism, a lifestyle we all know is healthier for ourselves and the planet as a whole, is quite rewarding. Throughout my young life I have been able to do this several times, and no matter the outcome, I felt proud to at least be able to give someone a new perspective on things.
I’ve always been an activist. I remember the first time I put together a petition was when I was in 2nd grade and an older staff member at the private school I was attending was going to be let go because of his age. I got signatures from teachers and students alike, but despite my efforts, he was still fired. Nonetheless, I gave him the petition, which seemed to help his spirits, and I didn’t let that change my activist viewpoint.
Because of this experience, it’s not surprising that this is how I have continued to live my life. When I was in 5th grade, I spent hours talking to my friends about vegetarianism (as I didn’t become a vegan until I was a sophomore in high school). I had heard of videos that exposed factory farming, and even though I had a weak stomach and hadn’t seen them myself, I had read enough about factory farms to know the truth. I wrote essays about vegetarianism for school; although my teachers seemed impressed with my enthusiasm, they never told me their views on the subject.
One day that year during lunch my friend and I got into a discussion about what her dad did for work.
“What’s your dad do for work again?” I said, casually putting down a bottle of water.
“He’s a scientist. He works at the university,” she replied.
“What kind of scientist is he?” I said back, my curiosity piqued
“It’s stuff with eyes, that’s all I know. He does all kinds of tests but they’re kind of confusing,” she answered.
“What kind of tests?” I asked.
“Well… some of them are on animals….” she said, turning away from me, pretending to be concentrating on the food in her hand.
I asked her what she thought about that — she didn’t really say anything, just defended her dad. We got into an argument. I tried to explain to her what really happened during animal testing, but she wouldn’t listen. She put her hand up, in a way, trying to block out what I was saying. But she must have heard some if it, because despite this, she was the first person I introduced vegetarianism to.
To this day, my mom and her mom like to joke about how we grew up like sisters. She spent A LOT of time with us, especially because both of her parents worked. I felt like over time, she started ordering vegetarian options when we went out to eat. I don’t know if it’s because we talked about not eating animals so much as it just came up, or if she just felt pressured to in our presence. Eventually, she asked me to see the factory farm videos I had been talking about. I told her they were really gruesome, but she wanted to see them anyway. After viewing them, she was absolutely appalled. She had two other friends who had become vegetarian even though their parents disapproved, and their influence combined with mine made her want to do something. I started telling her about the health facts, and recommending books to her.
She had been wanting to lose weight/gain muscle because she was in sports, and thought this would help. So, she became a vegetarian. For 6 months, she ate no meat. I was shocked. I thought she would be like most kids that age who tried to change their diet without their parents’ consent, and last a week at the most. But for 6 months she ate no meat. She did lose weight. Her dad, unfortunately, wouldn’t leave her alone about it, and pressured her into eating meat again. Her mother shared his views. I was disappointed but I understood — they were the ones controlling the dinner table.
Even though her vegetarianism didn’t last, she no longer argued with me about dietary or animal issues, because she didn’t just understand — she agreed. More often than not, when I was talking about these subjects with other friends that didn’t agree, she would give me an approving nod and smile.
The second time I really introduced vegetarianism happened later on, when I was in 7th grade. The girl was also a really good friend of mine, and spent a lot of time with my mom and me. Kind of like with the previous friend, she warmed up to vegetarianism gradually. It started when we were out to eat and we would ask her to try our favorite dishes at various establishments, which were all vegetarian. If she didn’t want to, that was no matter, but more than often she did. I remember one specific conversation when she asked us why we didn’t eat meat. We were digging into our food at a Mexican food restaurant.
“Why don’t y’all eat meat again?” she said, as she lifted a taco filled with beef into her mouth.
“Well, to me, it’s about health and animal rights. I can’t eat anything with a face,” my mom replied. I had heard her say that a million times and nodded as I chewed.
“My mom’s dad had to have surgery and the doctors gave him a book about eating less meat and dairy. So she did research and learned more about the vegetarian, and then later, vegan lifestyle. She wanted to be healthier and always had a soft spot for the animals,” I added.
My friend shrugged and kept eating her meal, but I thought I saw the slightest bit of reflection in her expression.
I gave her books, just like I did my other friend, but she wasn’t much of a reader. She wanted to watch videos instead. So I showed her some about health, and others about the factory farms. It was kind of like a light bulb when off in her head. She loved animals. She said she had three dogs and didn’t understand why she hadn’t realized that the animals she was eating weren’t any different than her pets.
“What’s this garbage I’ve been eating?” she asked me one day when we were in my room.
“Haha, now you know!” I replied back, playfully punching her in the shoulder.
Just like my other friend, she was a vegetarian for 6 months. But her parents and her kid brother wouldn’t leave her alone. My other friend’s parents had been more concerned about her health — they thought she wouldn’t get enough protein, etc. just like many people who haven’t done their research do. But this friend’s family would just make fun of her. Every time they ate they would make fun of her almost. After awhile, it was too much for her to deal with.
“Sorry Britt, but I just can’t stand it anymore. Maybe I’ll do it again after I move out,” she said, looking down, clearly disappointed.
“It’s okay, don’t apologize to me! It’s your decision. It happens. Don’t worry about it,” I said back.
Even though both of them couldn’t keep practicing vegetarianism personally, they internalized the movement. Like my first friend, my second friend encouraged my activism from then on. And I like to think that someday both of them will try out being vegetarians again and stick to it! Always talk to others about being vegetarian or vegan, because you don’t know what kind of good can come from it.