For me, the decision to be vegetarian came after a long flood of memory. There were three instances that stand out most.

When I was around eleven years old, I went fishing with a friend. My father and I had gone fishing many times before, so I knew the procedure. Bait the hook, dangle it in the water, pull the fish out. But after that came the part that neither my friend or I could do; hit the fish on the head and kill it. I remember trying a few times while it remained alive, flopping around on the ground trying desperately to live. Each hit was softer than the time before. I just couldn’t do it.

When I was fourteen, there was a beaver dam near my family’s cabin. For reasons that only made sense at the time, my father and I went out to stop the dam from being built. As is the procedure with hunting beavers, you destroy the dam then wait for them to come fix it. When one finally emerged, I took aim with the rifle and shot at the beaver’s tiny head above the water. The bullet caught the beaver in the neck but did not immediately kill it; it swam around in circles clawing at the sudden pain, suffering a great deal before finally falling beneath the water.

Finally, when I was in my mid-20’s, I went with some friends out to the cabin. We were setting up targets and shooting at them with the air rifle when a squirrel dashed across the ground and up a tree. I can’t explain why I took the rifle and shot that squirrel that day, but the image of it sitting in the tree struggling to breathe has haunted me since. Even at the time, I stood watching what I’d done without enough will and compassion to shoot again and actually kill it.

Man has a biased concept of what is humane. If we do not witness the suffering, then it does not bother us so long as we are disconnected from the act. Today, a steak to us is nothing more than a piece of food subconsciously separated from the animal itself. If people actually had to go through the process of murdering the creatures they consume, how many of us actually could? How many would say they could, but fail when the time came? Murder is a simple theory, but when a living thing is at your mercy, it is a far different matter to end its life.