Photo: Cow with a Farm Dog

What makes it wrong to eat a pet that has a unique and lovable personality, but okay to slaughter other animals and put them on the dinner table?

It’s true that pets often earn a special place in our hearts. When you get home from work and your dog runs up and licks you in the face to welcome you--wagging his tail wildly—you can’t help yourself. Your dog loves you and you can’t help but love him back. Some would say that’s because, indeed, there is a person inside there. We often feel deep compassion for such animals.

But what about cows, calves, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, and other animals we find cute and endearing in so many ways? Are they not deserving of your compassion, too? For those who enjoy eating meat, which is really the flesh of slaughtered animals, trying to answer this question can lead to a painful realization.

The fact is that animals on today's factory farms have no legal protection from cruelty that would be illegal if it were inflicted on dogs or cats. Yet farmed animals are no less intelligent or capable of feeling pain than are the dogs and cats we cherish as companions.

Each year in the United States, approximately ten billion land animals are raised and slaughtered for human consumption. Given the suffering these animals endure, and given that all our nutritional needs can easily be satisfied without eating these animals, vegetarianism is morally required. The fact is that eating animals is unnecessary because nature has provided ample vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes and dairy products for human sustenance. Therefore, the slaughter of animals for food is a luxury rather than a necessity and is morally wrong.

A vegetarian lifestyle awakens our spirit of compassion and guides us towards a kinder, gentler society in which we exercise a moral choice to protect animals—not exploit them.

Down to Earth’s slogan is Love Life! It is based on the idea that one should “Love animals, not eat them.”