What makes it wrong, and the idea of it even repulsive, to eat a pet, but okay to slaughter other animals and put them on the dinner table or in our children’s lunch box? Our pets earn a special place in our hearts and often are treated as members of the family. Great efforts and expense are taken to see that they are kept safe, well-nourished, comfortable and happy.
So, we care about our pets, but what about cows, calves, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, and other animals? Many of us, especially children, find such animals cute and endearing in so many ways. Are they not deserving of our care and compassion too?
Animals in today’s factory farms are subject to cruel and inhumane treatment including neglect, mutilation, genetic manipulation, subjection to harmful drug regimens, and gruesome and violent slaughter.
The factory farming system of modern agriculture strives to maximize output while minimizing costs. Animals are kept in small cages, in jam-packed sheds, or on filthy feedlots, often with little space that they can’t even turn around or lie down comfortably. They are fed drugs to fatten them faster and to keep them alive in conditions that would otherwise kill them, and they are genetically altered to develop commercially desirable traits. In most countries, animals in today’s factory farms have no real 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 pets we cherish as companions.
More than a staggering 47 billion animals are killed in food production each year; 10 billion of those animals are slaughtered in the United States alone. These figures do not include countless fish killed for human consumption.
Given the suffering these animals endure, and given that all our nutritional needs can easily be satisfied without eating these organisms, vegetarianism is a morally favorable choice. 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.
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.