Prior to spring 2013 I never ran more than the mile run required in middle school. Despite being a pudgy kid, I admired runners and tried out for the track team when I was twelve. I struggled immensely having no prior athletic endeavors. Within the first couple of weeks, I developed Osgood-Schlatter disease and had to quit due to knee pain. I secretly enjoyed the excuse, because it meant I could give up and sit on the sidelines as the team manager. I could still participate in the team activities, but I didn’t have to do any hard work. That was my mindset for the next 15 years, get by with as little effort as possible. I did not join any other athletic teams, and I most certainly didn’t run.
Back to That Alpaca
The title may be a bit of hyperbole, but meeting this majestic alpaca and his friends at the DC zoo in 2009 did actually have a profound impact on me. More specifically, a cow named Tulip was the most remarkable friend I made that day. She was extremely smart, navigating her way through the gates when she saw food coming and kids at the barn to pet her. Despite being a breed of dairy cow, there was a placard that said she’d never been milked. I’d always heard growing up that cows “needed” be milked and had no reason to question that, so even as a 24yr old I held that belief. But the placard went on to explain that just like any other mammal, cows only produce milk after a pregnancy. Seems obvious now but that hit me hard, thinking of all the pregnancies that had to occur for all the gallons of milk, pieces of pizza, and slices of cake that I alone must have consumed. But as I’d done several times before and would do several times again, I didn’t allow that epiphany to actually change my daily life. There’s a 99% chance I ate a burger and drank milkshake that same night.
To go back even further, I’ve always considered myself a huge animal lover ever since I was a kid. I have vivid memories of multiple (one-sided) conversations I’d have with stray dogs our family would take in from time to time. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, the go-to answer was often veterinarian. My dogs were always my best friends, and that’s why eventually in 2010 I began volunteering at the Humane Educational Society. I had an amazing time meeting so many loving dogs, but of course, it was equally heartbreaking to know that after each interaction those dogs spent their nights alone in their holding area. Through that repeated experience I ultimately made the connection that my burger, taco, nugget, and bacon all endured that same despair. In fact, their suffering was exponentially worse and on a scale thousands of times greater than all of the domestic animal shelters. I’d allowed myself to be exposed to far too much information now. There was no turning back. I became a vegetarian.