My Birthday Bash Day 3: The Real Reason I’m a Vegetarian

For complete context about why I’m not having a birthday party for my 27th birthday this year and how you can still celebrate with me, read You’re Invited to My 27th Birthday Bash.

Erica and Blossom the cow
Me and Blossom She was the sweetest cow whod lick your face if you let her

I’ve been a vegetarian for 11 years now, but I’m never told anyone the truth about my vegetarianism. When people ask me why I’m a vegetarian, I tell them about how I grew up on a ranch.

How my pet cows had names like Rose, Reese Pieces, and Dandelion, and how every fall, during frozen mornings, my school bus would drive passed cow carcasses hanging in trees. And how those fatten calves would end up in the freezer. My mom would then serve up “Dandelion Burgers.” Same with the lambs, chickens, rabbits, and piglets, though the latter never lived on our farm. And I talk about how the meat from groceries stores doesn’t look, taste, or smell like that from the animals I raised.

I tell about my family, and my maternal grandparents who moved my mother away from the farm and the hard way of life. My grandparents left for a better life. One that included indoor plumping and no need for my grandma to get up every morning and butcher 25 chickens to take to the market to break even.

But then how my parents had the romantic notions in their heads about the life of cowboys, and how I grew up surrounded by sage brush and the scenery in Brokeback Mountain may have been Wyoming, but that’s pretty much what it looked like where I lived. Add in a few more pine trees and mountains that were only a 30 minute drive away. How we moved five miles out of town and what was one more animal on 20 acres when I was 6-years-old.

The first time I declared my vegetarianism was at 8-years-old. My mom got it into her head that we were going to raise chickens for meat and went to the feed store to buy a dozen Cornish Cross birds. Cornish Crosses are the bastards of the chicken world; they are the mutt mixed to produce a lot of meat quickly. They consume all their food with a ravenous appetite. Because of their overeating, they are full grown after only six weeks and ready to be butchered. My young self had no love for them as they were neither cute nor sweet like my other egg-producing chickens.

When they were ready to be butchered, my mother, having never butchered chickens, called her parents for help. She also explained to my 6-year-old brother, Jonathan, and me that the chickens were getting so big that if they weren’t butchered, they’d die. Cornish Cross grow at such a rapid rate that their hearts do not keep up. Their legs also become twisted, and eventually they are too deformed and heavy to walk. They either gorge themselves to death or starve. My grandfather observed that chickens weren’t very bright.

My mom and grandma butchering chickens.
My mom and grandma busy slaughtering chickens on that fateful day

Butcher Day was a Saturday, and like every Saturday of my entire life, I was sleeping in. When I awoke, everyone was already at the barn readily butchering the chickens. Being too little to help, grandma allowed Jonathan to take pictures of the butchering process. I found the master photographer peering into a bucket of guts, snapping away. A deep feeling of injustice for the chickens swept through me as I saw my grandparents and parents killing and plucking the chickens. My grandmother said that it seemed easier in the old days, but she was glad to be here for only one day killing chickens instead of butchering 25 every day. I watched in horror as my dad chopped one of the feathered beings’ heads off, while my grandfather held its legs. I had to do something, but there was little I could do at 8-years-old.

I sat in my dad’s huge, red pickup truck and wrote my family a note. I told them that they were murderers, and I was going to be a vegetarian for the rest of my life. Too upset about the massacre, I left the note on the dash and rode my bike back to the house. My grandmother has kept the note as a memento of the experience.

My 8-year-old self would be proud that I’m a vegetarian for today. That I didn’t needlessly kill animals, and that stray, hurt, or abused animals tug deeply at my heart strings. (We’re not allowed to watch Animal Cops in my house.) And that my cat Winston sleeps on my bed.

But my fondness for all creatures is not the reason why at 16-years-old, I became a vegetarian. The real reason was a cute girl. Yes, my high school girlfriend Megan was a vegetarian. She was the one who taught me that tofu went great with noodles, veggies, and teenage make-out sessions in the back of her mother’s van. Megan, who’s also still a vegetarian, the one whom forever doomed me to being attracted to brunette women who cause trouble. (There would be a photo of us here, but I couldn’t find it when I dug through my boxes.)

So yes, friends and family, there you have it, I did it all for a lady. But something must’ve stuck because here I am 11 years later, still making you wonder what you’re going to feed me for Christmas.

If you don’t think vegetarianism is very geeky, you’ve obviously never seen a throw-down between a vegetarian and a vegan. Support GeekGirlCon — a convention and unapologetic coming together to celebrate geeky women — by donating for my birthday, and hey, maybe you will see a rumble and just maybe it will be me because “chez” is so NOT cheese.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *