Why I’m a vegetarian


I was at a Ducks game recently, when the loudspeaker announced that if Oregon scored 40 points, every attendee would receive a free Burger King hamburger.  A cheer went up.

Not from me.   Let’s be clear; the deal was – college kids on a field had something to do with how many animals would die and be casually eaten.  I found the correlation offensive.

How cheaply we buy and sell their lives!

I’m in that position a lot.  When I hear children whine who don’t want to finish their “McNuggets,” just to have parents dump the food as if it had no connection to anything that ever lived  – I’m bothered.

I grew up on a farm, and though a lot of people who do say they got inurned to the idea of killing animals, it didn’t go that way for me.

Somehow, seeing animals react to each other, seeing them move, listen and play, made it very clear they felt things intensely.

It’s not so easy to kill something like that.

Or, it shouldn’t be.

Yet, during the holidays, when we ask what someone’s “having” for dinner, we mean meat more than anything else.  And we are not embarrassed by it.

Earlier this year, I dined with good friends who spent the meal expressing outrage about a local animal abuse case, dogs kept in close kennels without room to turn around.

Well!  I had never heard such moral outrage!  Discussing the abuser, my friends said, “they should throw away the key for her,” and, “I guess I like animals better than people, because I’d like to punch her in the face.”

The table was mounded with plates of Mongolian Beef and Pork Fried Rice.  Only one of us was not eating an animal.

Pigs have been shown by legitimate research to be as intelligent as 3-year old humans, second only to chimpanzees.  They are certainly much smarter than dogs, and any dog owner can tell you the acute suffering a dog can feel.

“Pigs are known to dream, recognize their own names… and lead social lives of a complexity previously observed only in primates,” according to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

If you’re amused to read this, and ready to discount it – I’m not surprised.  But it is certain misery for a pig to be “farmed” in today’s industrial livestock hell.

So, when you see that “Turducken” rolled out for Christmas dinner – that grotesque assemblage that makes special mockery of the bodies of animals – and when the company you’re with laughs and cheers – and when you remember that “produced” poultry is kept in cages in which they cannot turn around their whole lives – think of me.

I don’t expect to change your mind, but I do hope you feel the stirring of sorrow.

Marydee Epstein is related to a Salem Weekly staff writer.  She doesn’t “do” the internet, but can be contacted through sarah.epstein1990@gmail.com.


  1. Brian Hines says:

    Marydee, thank you for writing “Why I’m a vegetarian.” Nicely said. I’m 65 and have been a vegetarian since I was 21. That’s 44 years of not eating animals. Have never regretted the decision.

    Your guest opinion will make some people think. Or better, feel. I’ve talked to lots of people about vegetarianism over the years. Often I’ll hear, “I tried it for a while, but gave it up.” This typically is the case when meat-eaters try to justify becoming a vegetarian for health reasons.

    You talked about the “moral” reasons, broadly speaking. I put that word in quotes because I’m not a moralist. I don’t think there is any objective right or wrong. There is just what we humans believe to be right, and what we believe to be wrong.

    For you and me, causing pain and suffering to creatures who have a vibrant inner life is wrong. So too is it to most meat-eaters, as you pointed out in your piece. If they see someone abusing a dog or cat, they step in and do something about it. Yet treating food animals cruelly in factory farms somehow is OK. Probably because it is hidden.

    I stopped eating meat before I stopped eating fish. Then when I was on Christmas break from college, my mother fixed me some prawns from a frozen package. I looked at this curled-up thing on my plate. I thought, “That prawn once was living, and now its dead. Because of me. My demand for fish.”

    After that I never ate a bite of fish.

    And I haven’t knowingly eaten a bite of meat in those 44 years. Not because I have such great willpower or am such a marvelously moral person. Because emotionally it would hugely bother me to know that I caused an animal to die for my eating pleasure (of course, now meat wouldn’t give me any pleasure at all).

    Your words will enter peoples’ minds, where they will germinate in mysterious unconscious ways. I’m confident that your guest opinion will make a difference. To some meat-eaters who will consider eating less or no animal carcasses. And to those animals.

    Again, thank you for that.


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