An essay explaining why I became a vegetarian
|On December 23rd of 2023 I decided to become a vegetarian, to eliminate my consumption of eggs, milk, and honey, and to limit my dairy consumption as much as I, in practice, could; for the past four years I was a pescetarian(meaning that I ate fish but not other types of animal). I made the decision to go vegetarian for both my health and for the welfare of marine life. Here I will explain my rationale for doing so in relation to my interest in nature and entomology, and I will also consider why it is socially acceptable to consume animal products in the first place.
If you do not know me, then I am a lover of insects; entomology is the primary trait of my personality, and the one subject that I am genuinely, permanently passionate about. I appreciate insects both scientifically and empathetically; to see a fly struggle in a body of water is, to me at least, heart-rending. As a middle-schooler(which was not too long ago — I am fifteen now) I once had to use the bathroom, yet when I went to do so there was a geometer moth perched in the doorway, rendering closing the door without crushing it impossible; instead of killing it or even shooing it out I held my urine for an hour or so until the moth had flown out of the doorway. In my backyard there is a large swimming pool into which such creatures as bees, flies, and ladybirds are apt to fall and get stuck; I will stop my daily walks purely to save them.
Until recent months I had rarely considered why I expressed so much empathy toward insects but so little toward the fishes I formerly felt so content consuming as though they had never been creatures with souls. It is to me obvious that insects do not wish to be crushed or doused with pesticides, so why should I be able to enjoy sardines knowing that they had been taken from their natural home — the ocean — just so they could end up on my plate? I once tolerated eating shrimp(which are crustaceans) despite the fact that they are more similar to insects than they are different; both shrimp and insects belong to the phylum Arthropoda, though they diverge taxonomically at the subphylum rank. I adore spiders, isopods(which are also crustaceans), and scorpions, which are all non-insect arthropods. Part-by-part, they are all rather similar; they all have exoskeletons, eyes, legs, and nervous systems(albeit simple ones). Thus, it is inconsistent that I would eat one but love the rest.
I may compare this to the fact that, in the Western world, people have no issue eating pigs, cows, or chickens, but are appalled at the concept of eating dogs, cats, or their fellow men and women. They are all mammals, and mammals are, once considered to be sums of their parts, all more similar than different. I could extend this to animals as a whole; insects, fishes, mammals, and birds all have eyes, nervous systems, survival instincts, mouthparts with which they feed themselves, the knowledge of whether they are at this moment hungry, thirsty, or injured, reproductive organs with which they propagate their species, and the drive to find a mate and reproduce.
Whether through the air or through the water, all animals breathe the same oxygen. Their outer appearance, whether they audibly scream or not, how intelligent they seem to be by anthropocentric standards, the type of body parts they have in order to be able to move, and what humans decided they were made for are wholly irrelevant in determining their inherent worth as animals. All animals have the same goals — to (1) live and to (2) carry on their species.
Humans, as a group, value other animals only when they can be exploited in some way; we keep pets to make us happy, artificially inseminate cows to produce milk for us, hunt innocent wildlife so that we have trophies to bring home, ride horses so that they can take us places, breed chickens and turkeys so that they can be slaughtered for our meat, allow honeybees to outcompete native pollinators so that we have honey, and remove fish, crabs, lobsters, and shrimp from the seas so that their remains can feed us. The majority of people will kill cockroaches, wasps, flies, moths, spiders, scorpions, rats, and mice simply because (1) they think them inconveniences, even if they can be easily relocated and pose no real threat, and (2) they see no benefit from exploiting them.
This mindset is why it is socially acceptable to consume animal products; people can simply believe that animals are, in being slaughtered for meat or in having their milk taken from them, fulfilling their duties placed upon them by people; this is further reinforced by the fact that livestock are bred specifically to produce products for humans. One will be called strange for having a pet cow and a monster for cooking and eating a dog; this is because the former involves keeping what society has deemed livestock, destined to be turned into meat, as a pet, and the latter involves slaughtering and consuming an animal people have been conditioned to cherish and feel empathy for; in more abstract terms, certain types of animals have different "roles" assigned to them by humans.
My rationale for eliminating honey from my diet has less to do with welfare and more to do with conservation. For those unaware, most beekeepers use bees of the species Apis mellifera(European honey bee) to produce honey; these bees are not native to North America, but to Europe, Asia, and Africa, and are considered invasive in North America, Australia, and New Zealand. Apis mellifera consume from plants nectar that native pollinators also require; compete with native fauna for nesting locations; and pollinate nonnative plants that native pollinators neglect, and that will divert resources from native plants. To purchase honey is to support beekeepers in continuing to propagate nonnative bees that harm native pollinators.
Animals are not ours to be exploited. The love that people have for some animals despite the coldness they have toward others is morally inconsistent. Mammals — and animals on a larger scale— are more similar to each other than they are different. If people as a whole were more open to evaluating their consumption of animal products in relation to their beliefs regarding animals, then fewer people would be eating meat.