I’m a vegetarian, and this LA Times op-ed piece today tells you why. (I eat some fish and once in a while I eat non-corporate-farmed turkey.)

Factory farmers may do as they please in the care of animals, with no standard to consult but industry norms dictated by a rigid economic calculus and a view of animals as unfeeling machines.

It’s just one more aspect of the corporate ethic that is harming us all in so many ways. No regard for the environment. No regard for our kids. No regard for the poor. No regard for the elderly. No regard for our health. And this kind of stuff – horrible, cruel treatment of animals.

In the merciless calculations of industrial production, the animals are not allowed to move because they would burn off more calories and require more feed. In short, as former presidential speechwriter Matthew Scully wrote in his book “Dominion,” “Instead of redesigning the factory farm to suit the animals, they are redesigning the animal to suit the factory farm.”

In their overcrowded battery cages, the birds would peck each other to death. The producer responds to this descent into cannibalism by searing off the birds’ beaks.

The tendency of stressed pigs to bite tails is addressed just as summarily by lopping off the tails.

What cannot be achieved through genetic manipulation is achieved by blunt force and sharp tools. For the misshapen and mutilated animals on factory farms, there is no breeze, no ray of sunshine, no rich soil under foot, no opportunity to root or graze in pasture.

What sort of harm does eating meat – participating in this corporate atrocity – do to our humanity? Is there karma? Do we have a spirit? I don’t know. I just know when something is really, really bad I shouldn’t participate.

An examination of the industrialization of animal agriculture raises important questions about public policy issues, including water and air pollution, public health threats from overuse of antibiotics and the loss of small farms as a result of corporate consolidation. But above all it raises questions of conscience and human responsibility in the care of animals.

I was volunteering at the Santa Cruz SPCA several years ago, and one day I took care of a little pot-bellied pig. It was just like a little dog. It wagged its tail and came running over to me. It liked it when I scratched it behind the ears. I haven’t touched red meat since that day.

Some of us distance ourselves from the violence of meat, milk and egg production through vegetarianism. But we can all agree on this: If animals are reared for food, their lives should not be plagued by the occasional torture and the daily torments and deprivations of the factory farm.