FIRST PLACE, Grades 7-9 Division, 2005
Grade 7, Alice Deal JHS
The campfire is hot and orange, standing out against the cool, navy sky. I’m sitting on a log with my friends, talking and joking about the upcoming play our camp has worked hard to put together. We’re having fun, but when our counselor calls “Dinner!” we stop our games and hungrily head off to the tables where our meal is waiting. My face falls as I see what it is: fresh, tender hot dogs all ready to be roasted over our fire; everyone else eagerly grabs one and skewers it onto a branch of wood. Instead, I’m sifting through the packages of buns, looking for something I can eat; finally I find a small pack of tofu-dogs. I take one out and impale it on a stick, wincing at its slipperiness. A few minutes later, I put my roasted vegetarian hot dog onto a bun, smother it in ketchup, and take a wary bite.
Ah. It tastes like genuine rubber. I look jealously at everyone else, enjoying their succulent hot dogs, and resign myself to try to force down the rest of my dinner. No one died for this meal, I remind myself.
As you may have been able to guess, I’m a vegetarian: I don’t eat mammal, bird, or fish. Unlike most other veggies, though, I once loved those foods; my ideal dinner would probably have included steak and chicken wings. Just because I no longer eat meat doesn’t mean that I’m never tempted! I sulk at every barbecue; Thanksgiving is agony. Why did I choose to torment myself like this?
Well, we all remember our kindergarten trip to the farm, cooing over the funny chickens and the fat pigs and the spotted cows. At that age, I didn’t realize my fuzzy friends were to become my dinner, but about 2 years ago, I decided that eating something that had once been alive wasn’t very nice. So I decided to cut out meat from my diet. I didn’t know what I was getting into; before, I had taken protein and other essentials for granted. Now I was faced with all sorts of health problems, as well as nagging friends and family. And substituting a stale cheese sandwich for a luscious steak can be pretty grueling.
Despite all this, deciding to become a vegetarian was one of the best choices I’ve ever made. A quality that I want to have is the ability to stand up for what I believe in, even if I have to suffer the consequences. I don’t want to be the kind of feeble person who rides the bandwagon to get their opinions; I’ll think for myself. In addition, I want to have a lot of willpower; I don’t’ want anyone or anything to be able to control me. Becoming a vegetarian helped me to become the person I want to be: I express to the world that I think killing animals is cruel, despite the fact that most of the people in the world don’t care, or don’t do anything about it. Additionally, forcing myself not to eat meat is like aerobics for my will; now that I can (for the most part) conquer my meat cravings, I feel I can do anything that I set my mind to. These two qualities will help me become great in this world; I’ll be strong enough to stand up for my rights, and the rights of others. And I’ll do it all without the help of a hot dog.