Vegetarian Journal's 2010 Essay Contest Winner - Second Installment


I have a few friends who are vegetarians, but I had never given much thought to becoming one myself. It wasn't until I was subjected to a very traumatic experience that I did more than just give it a thought - I wholeheartedly dedicated myself to the cause of vegetarianism. The goal of society should be to eliminate living by the death of others.

A couple of years ago, I was visiting my uncle's farm. There was a mother duck that had recently hatched several ducklings, and I noticed that one duck was being neglected. I begged my uncle to let me raise it. With fair warning that it might be butchered later, he reluctantly agreed. I nurtured the duckling, and she grew bigger and stronger. As she was developing, I couldn't help but notice that she had a deformity. Her feet were mutated, making walking difficult. The reason her mother neglected her became clear to me: it was nature's way of weeding out the weak. The duckling's disabilities only endeared her to me more, and as the months passed, I became very attached to her. I named my friend "Hope."

A year later, on a warm summer day, a sense of dread came over me. Feeling uneasy about my duck, I journeyed to my uncle's house. In his old, dilapidated barn, I discovered him butchering my beloved duck! The desperate cries, the foul odor, and the gory sight of an uneven fight haunt me still.

From that day forward, I found the sight of meat revolting, triggering painful flashbacks of my friend's slaughter. As such, it did not take much effort on my part to abstain from eating meat and become a vegetarian, a lifestyle that others might find challenging.

Although my decision to convert to vegetarianism was due to a traumatic experience, there are different reasons why one might choose this path. Some people become vegetarians for health reasons, such as lowering their cholesterol or reducing their risk for developing heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, or hypertension. Others may choose vegetarianism for spiritual reasons, or just because they prefer the types of food in that diet.

Although I have a number of reasons for championing this cause, I consider ethics to be the most important. Humans, as superior beings, should understand that killing other animals for food isn't necessary for survival; there are alternatives. Humans, as sensitive beings, should be caring and protective of the less intelligent animal world. Humans, as civilized beings, should abhor violence and refrain from harming any living creature.

Conditions at slaughterhouses are appalling. Animals are crammed into cages so small that they cannot move. They are fed drugs to induce rapid growth, resulting in the breaking of their underdeveloped legs. Oftentimes, the workers subject the animals to cruel treatment.

Chickens are tossed like footballs and are shackled upside-down. Many are still conscious as their throats are slit or as they are dunked into scalding hot water for feather removal. Paul McCartney was right on target when he reflected, "If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian."

To be truly informed, I investigated the risks associated with vegetarianism. The main risk of a vegetarian diet is the lack of quality protein, which aids in the development of muscles. However, protein can be obtained via other sources, such as nuts, seeds, tofu, veggie burgers, and grains, so the risk is minimal.

Hope did not die in vain. Had it not been for this defining moment in my life, I might have remained ignorant of the cruelty and despair imposed upon animals due to our selfish extravagance. Is there redemption for the human race? I have hope. Humans started out as barbarians. They hunted animals and thought nothing of cannibalism. As they evolved, they concluded that cannibalism was wrong, but they continued hunting. Today, the range of animals used for food is more limited. This is largely due to the domestication of animals, as well as to animal rights movements. I hope that, in the future, we advance as a society, such that it will only be natural to reject all inhumane treatment of animals. Although it was over 500 years ago, it was clear that Leonardo da Vinci was optimistic about the future. He predicted, "There will come a time when men such as I will look on the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men."

As for me, I'll take a salad over a hamburger any day. I am sure it will taste just ducky!