When I was in elementary school, my mom chose the movie “Year of the Dog” for a family movie night. She read the back of the DVD and said it sounded like a cute rom-com. Not far into the movie I thought otherwise. Maybe it was a rom-com, but that’s not how I remember it. I think I’ve blocked out most of the movie since then, but dogs die, Molly Shannon’s character goes vegan, and she takes children to a slaughterhouse.
It was one of the first times I was introduced to the dilemma of eating meat. To this day, I joke with my mom that the movie scarred me forever, mainly because of the scenes at the slaughterhouse.
I’ve felt connected to animals for as long as I can remember. I don’t think I’ve met one I didn’t love. It’s why I find myself smiling at dogs and slowing down for butterflies when I’m driving. It’s why I catch spiders in bowls and release them outside. And it’s why if I can convince someone else to catch a bug and take it outside, I end my spiel with “If there are any casualties, don’t tell me.”
I had been iffy about eating meat since first grade when I figured out it came from animals. I wondered why I hadn’t been clued in a little sooner and why I didn’t realize chicken was chicken. The year I got to kiss a baby pig on the head at the Kansas State Fair, I couldn’t bring myself to eat a Pronto Pup hot dog.
I slowly stopped eating animal products over time. First it was seafood. I said my taste buds had changed, while my parents said it had a little more to do with me thinking the shrimp in “Shark Tale” were cute.
Three Octobers ago, my mom and I had to have our cat, Spooky, put to sleep. She was a gray and black sweetheart who loved to cuddle on her own terms. She was part of our family for 13 years and had found a special place in our hearts.
It was the first time I’d ever had to say goodbye to a cat of my own, and the first time I’d ever witnessed euthanasia. For the last time, I told our tiny angel cat that I loved her, and the vet did her part. The experience was jarring and heartbreaking.
Not long after, I realized it wouldn’t have mattered what animal I was saying goodbye to — I would have been just as heartbroken, because I could form a connection with nearly anything. That’s when I decided to become a vegetarian.
Many people say they like animals, but they also like eating meat. But what’s possible for other people just wasn’t for me anymore. So I stopped.
I describe myself as someone who is usually having an internal conflict. I think it's partly because I’m indecisive and partly a result of my efforts to become a more critical thinker. I usually think it makes me a better human; I always think it’s exhausting.
Now, I’m having an internal conflict about consuming any animal product, and little by little I find myself ditching more and more of them like eggs and dairy milk. I’ve swapped meat for plant-based proteins and always opt for milk-alternatives.
And no, I don’t miss anything I’ve given up.