My story is a little different than those mentioned on here. Yes, I love the health benefits of being vegetarian, but my journey to being vegetarian began in the realms of my concern about animal cruelty.
To begin with, I grew up in an animal-loving family. We always had pets, who inevitably became a part of the family. I have never been able to stomach watching an animal suffer or die. I remember being in school and watching some nature videos, where the nature of nature was shown. Nature is cruel, and animals have to eat. I would always have to avert my eyes when that cheetah was chasing the gazelle. I am incredibly sensitive that way. To add to all this sensitivity, it pained me to hear people casually discussing their latest kill like that animal didn’t matter, saying things like, “I blew away Bambi this weekend.”--Don’t get me started on Bambi--Sometimes I would get sick of hearing about it (hunting season in Utah….Ugh) and vocalize my views, to which these people would respond by criticizing me for eating meat. To be clear, the actual act of killing something, while repulsive to me, I understand has its purpose. I graduated in Zoology and received an award particularly in the area of evolutionary ecology. I understand ecology. I also understand how people have impacted that ecology. But, I digress. The thing that has always been so abhorrent to me is the apparent apathy of the speakers. There is bloodlust in their words. Yes, you read that correctly, bloodlust--the actual desire to kill something and the pleasure derived therein.
I grew up with that sensitivity and that viewpoint--that animals have spirits just like us and that we are their stewards (https://www.lds.org/ensign/1977/03/i-have-a-question?lang=eng; see Where Do Animals Fit in the Eternal Plan of Things?). We are supposed to love and protect them. Now what about the Word of Wisdom? I don’t buy that we HAVE to eat meat. I feel like if we need it, then we can eat it and that is OK with God. However, I find it difficult to believe that an all-knowing, all-loving God would be OK with how we stewards are doing in terms of animals (I am of course speaking in generalities). This brings me to when I really started thinking about where meat comes from. When I was a senior in high school, I took a nutrition class. In the midst of this class, we discussed veal. My teacher was mostly vegetarian but when she ate meat, would only eat locally-raised, free-range animals. I remember being absolutely horrified by what she told us about veal. Now, I have never had veal (that I know of), but I just thought if that is how those animals live, what about my food? Veal, if you don’t know, is a cow-calf that is tied up so it cannot move much. This prevents muscles from being matured. It keeps the meat nice and delicate, but at what cost? I have since discovered--again, to my horror--what the conditions are in factory farms and slaughterhouses. It is appalling and disgusting on so many levels. The animals suffer extraordinarily and are treated like dirt, without feeling or compassion. They live in such unsanitary conditions that they use antibiotics to prevent rampant disease that such crowded living conditions would incur. This, of course, leads to many other public health problems (http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/27/opinion/fda-antibiotics-guidelines-opinion/; http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/23/health/antibiotics-livestock/, http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/11/health/fda-antibiotics-farms/).
In February 2005, I finally decided that I would live my views by making a healthier and kinder choice. I had needed a change in my eating habits--I wanted to be healthier. So, I stopped eating meat. It was incredibly difficult at first. I just didn’t realize how much my life had revolved around meat! Dinners planned would centralize around a “protein.” I would be like, “Ok, we will have chicken...and then what should we put with the chicken?? How about rice and corn?” Now, while I don’t feel like I am super creative in my meals, I never feel left out for not eating meat. I feel empowered that I gave up something for a higher purpose. By not eating meat, I am standing against what happens in factory farms and slaughterhouses. I am helping the environment and my own body (http://www.vegmondays.org/)! I am being a better steward. And that feels great!