I’m going to put the environmental concerns aside and challenge you to stop and think about why it is that we should feel entitled to essentially enslave, torture, and kill animals to satisfy our nation’s yearning for cheap and abundant meat. We know that animals are conscious and we know that animals can experience and remember painful stimuli. So why is it that we condone the practice of factory farming? I can understand the Christian response to eating meat or even torturing the animals in the meat-production process: their god told them that they have dominion over all animals. What is the atheist rationalization for the differential treatment, though? Without invoking tradition or appealing to the evolutionary advantages of meat consumption in the past, how can you justify (1) the indignity and cruelty of factory farming or (2) taking the life of a conscious entity (after forcing it to live in truly horrifying conditions) for a convenient source of amino acids and vitamin B12.
Even if you can justify meat eating, how can you justify looking at vegans with anything other than respect and admiration? They are going out to fight on behalf of those who quite literally have no voice of their own. It isn’t a popular cause, it’s an intimidating change for most people to undergo, and they get no direct benefit for the work that they’re doing. There aren’t bovine or porcine lobbyists, paying vegans to go out and rally against meat consumption. The EPA doesn’t have a program where you get some dollar amount for every omnivore you convert. They’re just people who are going out and standing up for what’s right.