I’m often faced with expressions of surprise and confusion, when I share that I’m a vegetarian. It’s usually immediately followed by questions and comments.

“What do you possibly eat?”
“Isn’t it so hard?”
“Why would you want to do that to yourself?”
“God intended for us to eat meat.”
“But you eat chicken, right?”

Gunn with her dog, Mikito. Photo courtesy Tina Gunn.

I don’t have an agenda to force the greater population to live, eat and think the way I do. However, in the midst of what I think are defensive comments from a flesh-eater, I do find individuals that are honestly curious about my way of life. For those with a genuine interest, I offer the following explanation.

I would never feast on my two dogs so how could I eat any other creature that has a soul, or cute eyelashes to bat? Now, I’m sure some of you are already up in arms. How can I compare eating a pork chop to that of eating a family pet? Because, my pretties, NOT eating a dog is simply an American cultural norm. My own motherland of Korea still participates in eating varieties of dog. On the other hand, there are regions of Asia that honor and respect the cow. The bottom line for me is that I live my life by example. All animals are equal to me. I would no sooner eat a pig than I would eat a dog.

Because I have a strong conviction for the humane treatment of animals, being a vegetarian is not a difficult choice for me. It all started when my Shitz-shu Poodle, Mikito, entered my life seven years ago. My connection went from admiring a cute puppy from afar to truly bonding with one of nature’s most loyal creatures.

At this time I was introduced to a video from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) called “Meet Your Meat”. It was disturbing, to say the least. I don’t typically cry from sappy romances or tragic dramas, but this short video demonstrating what goes on behind the walls of factory farming and slaughterhouses struck such an emotional cord within me. I was a fountain of tears. I viewed animals through renewed eyes and could no longer feed on their flesh. Four years later, my Dachshund, Woody, joins our family, completely reaffirming my conviction for animal rights. It is my belief that all animals deserve the right to live a life free of exploitation and suffering.

Farm animals have the same capacity to feel pain, loneliness and fear, as do domesticated pets. They also have the same capacity to feel love and joy. I understand that this is a difficult concept for most human beings to grasp. Most people are able to convince themselves that one animal is good for eating while the other is good for playing fetch with. This is a distinction that I personally cannot live with.

In addition, most people do not want to know the suffering that is involved in a cow, chicken or pig’s life as they consume that bacon cheeseburger or tray of chicken nuggets. The majority of meat-eaters do not raise their own free-range farm animals for consumption, nor hunt for their wild game. Mass-produced meat comes from factory farming that is deteriorating the health of the population of people and of the environment.

Factory-farmed animals are genetically mutated and full of toxins, causing great pain and inhumane conditions for the animals, as well as poisoning the consumer. Factory farms pollute the community in which they reside, from the water to the air, and deplete our precious land and resources. Please do not be fooled into thinking you are not contributing to the corruption if you are not a fast food eater, because the meat you are purchasing at most chain grocery stores and consuming at sit-down restaurants are from the same source of meat you find in your favorite fast food chain.

For all of these reasons, vegetarianism is a life style for me because it’s not just about healthy eating; it is about living a cruelty free life, to live my life helping to provide a voice for the voiceless.

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