Many people who consider themselves animal lovers still eat meat. Few people realize that pigs are much more intelligent than dogs. Some cultures would be horrified at the idea of eating cows, while others would sit down to a meal of dog meat without giving it a second thought. Who is right? How can the life of a small cat be worth more in the eyes of humans than that of a large cow? Shouldn’t all life have the same worth, regardless of the package it is in? People have been culturally conditioned into thinking there is a difference between animals raised to be human companions and animals raised to be human food. People who are vegan for ethical reasons, however, have broken free of this conditioned thinking.

Eight billion animals are slaughtered for human food each year. Approximately 1,300 were killed in the time it took you to read that sentence. The life of an animal raised for food is the stuff of horror movies, and if people knew what happened to their food before it reached their plate, they probably wouldn’t even think of eating it. Factory farmed animals are taken from their mothers at an early age and fed growth hormones so they will grow to unnatural sizes very quickly. They are given antibiotics to prevent illness and to keep them alive in the filthy, unhealthy conditions in which they live. Moreover they are fed enormous amounts of pesticide laden foods through feeding tubes shoved down their throats. Their food – for lack of a better word – consists of grains, vegetables, carbohydrates, ground-up newspaper, molasses, plastic pellets, and reprocessed manure. For their entire lives, they are kept in overcrowded spaces in which they cannot move. Chickens have their beaks cut off to prevent them from pecking others in their cramped cages. Many animals have broken bones, because their bodies have grown too large for their limbs to support. Many also have frozen body parts or even freeze to death in cold stockyards. Most animals are slaughtered in ways so inhumane, it would make humans sick to see it. They are often hung upside-down, skinned or even boiled while fully conscious.

The average meat-eater consumes approximately 2,000 animals in a lifetime. While an animal’s life isn’t actually spared by vegetarians, it does decrease the demand for “meat” in the marketplace. Hopefully, this decreased demand will lead to fewer animals being born into a life of horrible suffering, confinement and early death.

If you are interested in the ethics of vegetarianism, you may be interested in reading Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation, Erik Marcus’ Vegan Ethics or Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals.