The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.I have been a vegetarian (though not a vegan) for most of my adult life. My choice not to eat meat started in late high school as my own form of rebellion against a father who had a penchant for serving cooked meat exceedingly rare. As I studied vegetarianism -- one book that had a great impact on my thinking was Diet for a Small Planet -- my revulsion at consuming nearly raw meat morphed into a philosophical position. It came to the point in which I simply didn't feel right killing other creatures to sustain myself.
~ from The Moral Basis of Vegetarianism by Mohandas Gandhi ~
While I certainly understand that eating plant-based life involves killing as well -- almost all life entities must kill to live -- my thinking often returned to the Gandhi quote cited above. I have less qualms about so-called primitive societies -- like the American Indian -- who had a spiritual connection to the animals they consumed and made every effort to utilize all portions of the animal for utilitarian purposes. However, so-called modern society has lost this sort of spiritual connection and the animal as food industry is marked by exploitative and abusive practices.
As Zoe Well points out in Including Animals in Our Circle of Concern, treating animals more humanely and respectfully is not only good for the animals themselves, but it is in the best interests of humanity.
Our system of meat procurement is not only unimaginably abusive to animals, it has contributed to a host of problems, from environmental catastrophes as soil erosion, water pollution, water depletion, global warming, deforestation, ocean dead zones, and poisoned and depleted populations of sea animals, along with human health problems such as escalating rates of various cancers, heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, mercury poisoning, antibiotic resistance, and more. Choosing to eat fewer, or no animals or animal products would not only go far toward our own health (and save massive amounts of money on healthcare), but also toward slowing global warming and protecting our environment...What started out for me as an act of teenage rebellion has turned into a long-term life choice. With one exception in the mid 90s -- and this exception made me very ill -- I have not consumed any meat for over 25 years. I can't imagine ever eating meat again.
I would like to take the last step by eliminating dairy from my diet, but alas, I don't think this is very likely. I must admit that I love to drink milk and eat yogurt -- both of which I consume daily. But I still hold out hope for myself in this area! ;-)