by R. C. Curtis
My name is Marcie, I’m eleven years-old and I’m a vegan – I’ve been vegan for a whole year now. Before that I was a lacto-ovo vegetarian since I was seven. That means I had dairy and eggs. But I stopped all of that once I got educated.
When I was seven, one time my family went to a steak house for dinner. We sat by a window that looked out onto a large grassy meadow across the way. Our steaks arrived and we’re all digging in and I happened to look out the window, and there was a cow, grazing in the meadow and just at that moment, the cow looked up, right in my direction. I was old enough to realize that animals had to die to become the meat I ate, but I never had what could have been my dinner staring me in the face. And I didn’t like that at all.
I had once asked my Dad, “Why do animals have to be killed?” and he said, “That’s the way it is, it’s just the way it is.” But now I didn’t think that was a good answer. When we got home, I informed my mom and dad, I said. “I’m not going to eat meat anymore. I don’t want to eat dead animals.” And you know what? They said, “Well, that’s your decision.” You see, they believe I have the right to make my own decisions – they’re great that way. They didn’t stop eating meat themselves, but they supported me, a seven year-old, in my decision because they knew how important it was to me. My mom did say, “Well, I’m not going to cook you anything special.” And I said that’s okay, I’ll just eat everything except the meat, which I did do for three years. I ate the vegetables, the fruit, potatoes, salads, bread, all that. But also eggs, milk, cheese, ice-cream, all that. And I thought I it was all good, you know, I was vegetarian and that’s all it took. I just didn’t know then what I know now.
Then, one evening last year when I was ten, my mom and me, we were walking through the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica and, you know, they have all these performers, musicians, acrobats, but also people they call activists, who want to educate you about their cause. And we come up to this group of people watching videos some activists were showing all about veganism and the way animals are treated on factory farms, that sort of thing. My mom says, “Oh, I don’t want to watch this, it’s sickening. Let’s not stop.” But I wanted to watch, I needed to watch. Even though I was already a vegetarian, I needed to take it all in, I needed to learn more, it’s just the way I am. So I told my mom, “You can walk away if you want, but I’m watching.”
And I did watch. And I cried. I never really knew just how bad things were for the animals, how much they have to suffer even before they are killed. There was this one video in particular, “Meat Your Meat” it was called, and it showed everything, but the hardest part for me to watch was the part about the laying hens and dairy cows and, oh my god, the horrible conditions and what terrible lives they had! The chickens are killed after they’ve stopped laying any more eggs and the cows are killed for hamburger once they can’t make any more milk, which they make for their babies anyway, and the babies are taken away from their mothers, the females to become another dairy cow and if it’s a male, it becomes a veal calf. A veal calf! Do you know just how horrible a veal calf’s life is? They’re chained in a stall they can’t even move around in and they’re fed stuff that makes them really weak and then they’re killed when they are really young and it’s just horrible, horrible.
And that’s when I really started crying, because, you see, I had been supporting all of that. Me, drinking milk, eating cheese, ice cream, scrambled eggs – and thinking all the time that I was doing the right thing. I felt so bad. But I didn’t know, I just didn’t know. And then this nice woman came over – I learned later that she was a veterinarian, and she talked with me and I told her about being vegetarian but not vegan and she told me that she thought it was great the decision I’d made back when I was seven. She told me that I shouldn’t feel bad, that most people don’t even become vegetarian until they are adults. Then she gave me a pamphlet called “Why Vegan” and her card with her phone number. She told me that if I had any questions to give her a call. When my mom came back I told her,” I’m going vegan.” Just like that, I’m going vegan. How could I not? Wouldn’t you? My mom said, “Honey, let’s talk about this later.”
So my parents were a little worried, they thought I might be taking the vegetarian thing a little too far. They worried about protein, stuff like that. They worried it was a little too radical, they worried I might harm myself. I said, “Mom, Dad, you’ve supported me all along. I’m asking you to continue to. If you saw what I saw, if you knew what I know now, you’d understand.”
And then my dad said something I’ll never forget. He said, “We want to learn about this too. If we’re going to support you in this, we need to know what you are getting into.” So they went on-line. They went to PETA, they went to Vegan Outreach, they checked out what the American Dietetic Association had to say. And in the end they said they approved. They approved of my decision! But here’s the most amazing, wonderful thing. A little while later my mom tells me that she plans on eating vegan one night a week and if she likes it, she’ll try to go vegan too! I couldn’t believe it. I hugged her and I cried. But these were tears of joy.
So I also stopped wearing any leather or wool, anything from an animal. And I guess you’d say I’m something of an activist myself now. I talk about the animals and being vegan all the time at school and some of my friends are even thinking of giving it a try. I try not to be pushy or too in your face about it but it’s so important, I just want everyone to know what I know and feel how I feel.
I want people to stop hurting the animals. I want people to stop paying others to hurt the animals. I want them to love animals, not eat them. You don’t need to eat animals or things that come from animals. And vegan food is delicious! I know I’m just one young girl, just one small voice and why should you listen to me? But I’ve met so many others who do feel the way I feel, who do know what I know. All our voices, young and old, are there for people to hear. Sometimes people listen. Sometimes they don’t. But no matter what, we’ll keep telling the truth. For the animals. Go vegan!