In August of 2011 my family and I were vacationing in Virginia Beach. Twelve-year-old me had spent the day frolicking in the waves with my brother Ford, his friend, and my little sister Frances. We were all seated on the outdoor terrace of our beach rental. It had been a long day; everyone was sunburned and exhausted. The kids had been banished to the terrace due to our unruliness, fueled by hunger as my mom threw together a quick dinner. After thirty minutes of angst, we were finally served the staple dinner of everyone’s childhood: chicken nuggets with a side of lima beans. Like the ravenous animals we were, we dove into our meal. Mid-way through the demolition of my dinner, I paused mid-bite with my chicken nugget en route to my mouth. Upon examining my nugget, I discovered that half of the nugget was not chicken but a mysterious white, rubbery liquid. Setting down the nugget in disgust, I stood up, handed my mother my unfinished dinner plate and announced that from then on, I would be a vegetarian.
Some vegetarians, like myself, had a repellent run in with a suspicious meat that left them irrevocably changed. Olivia Messer (‘17) is a vegetarian because “I was at dinner and my friend was eating a burger that was not well done and blood went everywhere. I was disgusted, so I decided to be vegetarian.”
Others choose vegetarianism due to compassion for animals. One can watch documentaries like Meet Your Meat which show the horrific conditions animals in the food industry are subject to. Chickens, who never see the light of day, are deformed and dysfunctional due to all of the hormones pumped into them to promote meat growth. This documentary also reveals the revolting living conditions these animals exist in:
chickens stuffed into cages that were meant to hold a fraction of those inside, and cows that are fed the wrong diet of corn. In light of all of these revelations about the meat industry, several people, like senior William Bennett (‘16), choose a vegetarian diet. “My parents were vegetarians,” says Bennett, “so I was born into a vegetarian family, but it was healthier and morally, it seemed right. It still seems right morally.” However, for those who oppose this treatment of animals, there is another option other than vegetarianism. Current pescatarian Margaret Davenport (‘16) says “I think some time in my life I will probably go back to eating meat but only meat that I know where it came from; that’s how I was before I became a vegetarian. When I’m older, it will definitely have to be a thing that I know where what I’m eating comes from.” Eating meat that you know is organic, antibiotic-free, and responsibly sourced is another option for those are repulsed by the current treatment of animals raised for food.
Health reasons are another promoting factor to be vegetarian. Davenport is a pescatarian “because a couple of reasons… it kinda’ started off for dietary reasons… so I stopped eating meat.” Brown University’s Health Promotion site says that vegetarianism has many health benefits, such as lower rates of
heart disease and some forms of cancer if the diet, like any other diet, is followed in a responsible manner. In order to achieve the healthiest vegetarian diet, one must abstain from eating too many fatty foods and look instead to fruits, veggies, whole grains, and other healthier options to get their nutrition. Another health benefit of vegetarianism is evasion of scary side effects of meat consumption. Recently, the Washington Post published an article that announced the World Health Organization now says that processed meats definitely cause cancer. A vegetarian lifestyle can evade these increased cancer rates.
I am a pescatarian and have been since the summer before seventh grade. While my initial reason for becoming a pescatarian was simple—a gross chicken nugget—I have since found more and more reasons to follow this diet; environmental concerns, economic and world hunger concerns, compassion for animals, and health reasons are just some of the reasons I don’t eat meat.
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