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I don't think about food choices in connection with religion or faith, but I do refuse to eat veal because of the way in which the baby calves are raised (if you can call it that). Chickens have a terrible life as well, being forced to share a small cage with several others for the entirety of their lives although I do eat chicken. For me, the higher the level of consciousness of the animal, the more pathos I feel for it. I do eat meat, but it does bother me when I consider the circumstances of the animal's death. It's really everything that leads up to the death that concerns me and not the fact that an animal has died to feed me. I think cattle feel a sense of impending doom when suddenly rounded up and driven through a narrow gate to be led to slaughter. There eyes are full fear and panic…that is the worst possible feeling in the world and no living thing should ever feel that.

I'm not a religious person nor am I particularly spiritual, but I have a deep and abiding respect for all living creatures. I'm deeply disturbed at the treatment of animals raised by large companies to be slaughtered for human consumption. There is no good thing about confining large hordes of animals in an unnatural way and depriving them of the joy of living. It's intrinsically wrong, but has nothing to do with God, religion or spirituality. It has to do with care and respect for nature. The Bible says man was given dominion over all the animals, but this is not a license to treat them as we do. Ironically, some of the worst offenders tout themselves as good Christians given the right by God to do with animals as they please. Keeping baby calves in a crate so small they cannot move and are therefore crippled just so we humans can eat tender muscle tissue. Is this really what God meant?

I was raised in a small community in West Virginia where nearly everyone had a garden and a few animals. My grandparents had a big garden and always had a milk cow, a hog and some chickens. All our animals lived a good life and were treated with dignity and respect. My grandfather was very kind to his animals and always showed compassion toward them. He even put lights in the chicken coup to keep them warm. He said you could tell what a man was like by the way he treated his animals. Simplistic as it is, I have found it the most accurate way to size up a person. So I think about food in terms of how it was raised and what care was put into it. I have high regard for those who raise food in a thoughtful, caring way.

My decisions about food have changed as I have become more aware of how food is grown or raised commercially. And since I grew up in an environment that allowed me to participate in the growing, tending and caring of plants and animals, I have a perspective not everyone has been given the opportunity to have. But it is a perspective that everyone should have.

Everyone should witness the planting of onion sets by large groups of migrants in the fields of the southwest. To watch "illegals" spend an entire day bent over from the waist planting individual onions only to earn a few dollars would surely make anyone question what business they have declaring these people criminals. They are tireless and are abused by our system in so many ways. The whole system of organized commercial growers should be made visible to all Americans. This would be a start to help educate those who cannot seem to tolerate foreign workers.