Updated: Feb 26, 2020
Contrary to some old, naïve beliefs, animals do have intelligence and emotions and do feel pain. (Yes, including fish.) And they are being exploited and abused in ways that should be alarming and jaw-dropping, but because of continued speciesism and the normalization of carnism, most people don't think twice about the meat they put in their grocery carts or the leather purse they buy. Cows, just like humans, only lactate for their babies, which means that their babies have to be taken from them at just a couple of days old so the calf doesn't drink the milk, and mother and baby cry out for one other. Dairy cows exhaust after 4-6 years of constant pregnancies and milking, living out only a quarter of a healthy cow's life expectancy before being sent to slaughter. Supporting dairy is supporting the meat industry.
Livestock covers 45% of the earth’s total land, and animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, habitat destruction, and global greenhouse gas emissions (source). If we continue at this rate, we won't recognize the planet our grandchildren grow up on. While you could argue individual person going vegan "doesn't make a difference," a vegan (plant-based) diet cuts your carbon footprint by 50%. And if you're going to use that argument, why bother recycling if we're piling up the landfills so quickly — and while we're at it, might as well litter since so many other people do it!
Unlike women in the suffrage movement or African Americans in the civil rights movement, animals cannot organize and speak up for themselves. And just as being silent about modern-day racism is equivalent to aligning yourself with the aggressor, being silent about animal exploitation is as harmful as being the one committing the violence — we just usually prefer paying other people to do it for us. No, we will not quickly change the minds and habits of billions of people. But if we don't start somewhere, we are just as culpable as those actively exploiting animals. We stand up by voting with our dollar, meal by meal, purchase by purchase. We give our voices to animals when we share the information that people need to know about what's going on in factory farms. We bust the myth of humane meat. Animals cannot speak for themselves, so we must speak and act on their behalf.