You may or may not have that personal connection with animals, but I think that ethical eating is also a matter of social justice: All beings deserve equal consideration based on their needs. Cats don't need the right to vote and dogs don't need to drive, but they both deserve to live in a loving home free from abuse. Pigs deserve their families, birds deserve to fly, and orcas deserve to swim. Not equal rights, but equal consideration. There is no argument that justifies our current treatment of animals. No just argument. No ethical argument. Might does not make right.
There are so many great resources for investigating this topic; so many brave and inspiring people on the front lines who are helping to expose what really happens in slaughterhouses or on a farm where concentrated animal feeding practices are observed. These people are my biggest heroes, because to experience what they do--the squirming terror of a cow who smells death and doesn't want to die or a chicken who is dunked alive, upside down into scalding water or a pig who is strung up by her hooves as she is mechanically moved toward the blade that will dismember her--all in the name of getting the truth out there, well, that's just a trauma I could not endure. Since these undercover investigators give their lives to this work, I figure I have a responsibility at the very least to watch the videos or read the accounts they post. You don't need to have laser eye surgery to know that it's really grueling. Really opening my eyes to the truth of what happens to food animals is the hardest thing I have ever done or will do, but it's nothing compared to what animals endure for their entire lives.
A snippet of these docs is enough to make me think, That's the old way of doing things. I don't want to be a part of supporting that system or those practices. I'm all about moving forward, especially when there are so many delicious, nourishing foods I can eat that don't come from an animal. It's incredibly selfish of me to think animals were put on earth simply to satisfy my appetite. That they suffer so badly and experience so much fear just makes it that much harder to justify.
So, if we start taking little bits of information, watch a minute or two of a video, read an article, then little by little, we are able to take in the enormity of what's going on and denial is chipped away. Thousands of years of culture that condones eating animals will take a long time to dismantle, but each time we look--really look--at what happens to animals, we take a positive step toward ending their suffering. As Albert Einstein (himself a vegetarian) famously said, "The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil but because of those who look on and do nothing."
To learn more, go to the websites for Mercy for Animals, PETA2, Farm Sanctuary, or Humane Society of the United States. Scan their videos (my top choices are PETA's "Glass Walls," Mercy for Animals' "Farm to Fridge," and Farm Sanctuary's "What Came Before"). Or Google "slaughterhouse meat" and/or "factory farming." Watch the documentaries Earthlings and Food, Inc. Take in as much as you can. Know that these horrific reports reflect industry-wide practices, not the actions of isolated, sadistic producers. Most of what you see are the everyday, legal methods of raising and killing the animals we eat. Or ate . . . before our eyes opened.