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Peter Ormand

1996 Essay Contest Winner

Peter Ormand won The Vegetarian Resource Group's 1996 Essay Contest in the age 9 to 13 category.

Why I Hate Meat

It all began with fish. My uncle would rent a boat every summer and when you got to be old enough, you were allowed to join the men for an early morning fishing trip.

At first the outings were fun, but as time went on I couldn't bring myself to eat the fish, the same fish I had tried so hard to catch less than twelve hours before.

I came to realize I couldn't eat the fish because I felt bad for placing them in the situation they were in. I told my family, and although they were a little surprised, they were understanding. I think it's important for vegetarians to have the blessing and understanding of their family to make it easier for them to continue to be vegetarian.

When I finally gave up meat altogether, a year ago, it was for two reasons, the first was my health. I was a little overweight when I first gave up meat. I decided I wanted to lose the extra pounds and rather than go on a crash diet or a fast, I decided to look at what I ate, find the most fat-filled items, and eliminate them from my diet.

The most fat-filled item in my diet turned out to be meat. I had already begun playing with the idea of being a vegetarian, and this was the extra boost I needed. After a few months, I had slimmed down considerably and really felt great.

The second reason was a social one. I felt that precious land was being wasted on the raising of livestock. I believe that all farmland should be planted with a crop such as wheat or corn. The yield from that same land would be so much greater when planted with a fruit, vegetable, or grain than it was yielding while being used to raise livestock. It's a wonder that more farmers who raise livestock aren't switching over to plants right now.

I also believe that animals were not placed on this earth to solely help us, but that we were all put here to help each other. It's unfortunate that this philosophy falls on deaf ears when money is involved.

It's been a whole year since I gave up meat, and I don't regret it in the least. I'm at a proper weight and my conscience is clear, although it hasn't been smooth sailing.

Some people refuse to accept the idea or even adjust to it. "Oh, would it hurt you to have meat just this once?" they ask. To that I respond, as nicely as I can, "Well yes, it would. I hold a strong opposition to eating meat and even eating it just once would be totally against that belief and I don't really want to do that. It's fine with me if you eat meat, but just as I don't try to change your beliefs, I would hope you wouldn't try to change mine." They usually understand and I'm not asked again.

And then there are those who don't want to accept that I've given up meat. They always seem to "forget." "Oh honey, I'm so sorry, it just totally slipped my mind." I'm understanding if they really did forget, but about the third time in a row it "slips" their minds, I begin to wonder if something's up.

It hasn't been nearly as hard as I thought it would be. When other people are eating hamburgers, I have a veggie burger. In dishes that require chopped meat, I fry up some of my own "meat." If we're eating out and there isn't anything for me to eat, like at baseball stadiums and parties, I'll simply eat beforehand or after. It really isn't fair to ask other people around me to adjust if I'm not willing to as well.

All this personal cooking has turned into a hobby. I've discovered a talent I didn't know I had, as well as new foods that I never would have tried otherwise. I never thought I would be eating falafel, spinach, and mushrooms, yet I've come to enjoy cooking and eating them.

Then there are stereotypes that all teenagers, or males who are vegetarians, are wimps or wusses. These stereotypes are portrayed on TV and in books, and it's a little discouraging.

It does seem, though, that all the press vegetarians are getting is turning more people on to our lifestyle. I've read articles that say there hasn't been such a large increase in vegetarianism since the 1960s, and no matter which way you look at it, that is good news. In my opinion, people who don't eat meat have a better respect and understanding of themselves, and the world around them. It's good to see that more and more people are wanting that for themselves.

by Peter Ormand, age 13
Robbinsdale, MN

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