By Tyler Bui | Staff Writer
It all started 11 years ago, as 9-year-old me sat in my middle school auditorium in shock. My social studies teacher stood at the front of the room with a picture of a dead boar projected on the screen behind her.
Up until then, I had considered myself a lover of both animals and McDonald’s chicken McNuggets. I had never made the connection between the animals I loved and my favorite fast food meal.
As my teacher shared the details of her hunting trip where she had to kill animals in order to eat, I felt my body shudder as I thought about what I was putting in my body each meal. How could I be eating the things I claimed to love? What does that make me?
That summer I began volunteering at The Peace Abbey, a sanctuary located in Sherborn, Mass. I took care of animals who had all been rescued from slaughterhouses. Spending my summer with these animals, I bonded to them as I learned the stories that led them to their freedom.
I still remember the day I sat my parents down and told them I could not eat meat any longer. I couldn’t bring myself to eat the loving, fuzzy animals that I considered my family, and I was ready to adopt a plant-based diet.
They were skeptical and worried about the future of my health. At that point, I didn’t care. I had made up my mind and vowed to never eat meat ever again.
We met with my doctor and a nutritionist who assured my parents that as long as I kept a healthy balanced diet, I would be able to receive all the nutrients necessary.
Eleven years later, I’m still here and healthy and have never regretted my decision to become a vegetarian. I am a big believer in this lifestyle, and there is plenty of concrete evidence that can prove the benefits of being a vegetarian.
Personally, I believe the biggest problem in the meat industry is the inhumane treatment of these animals. Yes, there are many farms where the animals are treated humanely. However, the majority of the animals, especially those in factory farms, are forced to live in inhumane and unnatural conditions.
Society needs to learn the harsh reality that these animals live in—piled into overcrowded, filthy cages, unable to move and stripped of their natural born rights and instincts. They are fed unnatural foods and antibiotics and left with untreated wounds and illnesses.
Why do we treat these animals so differently than our pets? What gives us the right to leave them in inhumane conditions?
While inhumane practices is the main reason I adopted a vegetarian diet, there are also many proven health benefits that come from a plant-based diet.
The Cleveland Clinic said that a vegetarian diet can be just as nutritious as a meat-based diet and can help lower the risk of certain diseases.
“A plant-based diet has many health benefits, including lowering the risk for heart disease, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer. It can also help lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels, plus maintain weight and bone health,” said the Cleveland Clinic.
An article on Harvard Health Publishing’s website said that recent studies are now able to confirm the health benefits associated with a vegetarian diet.
“According to the American Dietetic Association, plant-based eating is recognized as not only nutritionally sufficient but also as a way to reduce the risk for many chronic illnesses.”
With the health benefits that a vegetarian diet provides and the inhumane treatment of animals on factory farms, there are many reasons to adopt a vegetarian diet. After all, animals are friends, not food!