THE BLOG
04/21/2011 04:13 pm ET Updated Jun 21, 2011

Food Stories

I love the taste of animals.

I've eaten lots of every kind. Almost definitely more than you. Why? Maybe it's because I was raised in Birmingham, Ala. where Taco Bell was just sued for not stuffing enough beef into their tacos. It's a Southern thing.

Or maybe it's because I played college football in West Virginia, where I washed down post-practice water with gallons of chicken. Don't judge me: I needed the chicken for the protein -- for the nutrients. And eating all those animals brought my friends and family together. I couldn't imagine a life (ah, make that a week) without pig-led barbecues or those cheddar cheese-stuffed omelets before church. And my Jewish Grandma's lox (read: salmon) and bagel sandwich...It flat-out binds our love. I'm sentimental.

Food choices are wrapped so tightly into the story we tell ourselves; in the stories we tell each other about where we come from. The choices we make about what to eat are so personal -- so intertwined with our culture, our identity, our habits, our family biographies, and our deepest values.

Eating animals feels invisible, doesn't it? My dog has a name: Jake. A nickname: Boomya. A favorite toy: A pink pig with an even pinker necklace. A ritual: Rolling around -- daily -- in a puddle of mud at the park. And those soft, brown eyes...I'll stop there before I tear up. And those other more, ah, edible animals? Dead-eyed. Faceless. Nameless. Do we even know where they come from? Maybe from inside one of those country barns that I vaguely remember seeing on my last road trip, or maybe not.

To the impact-makers, the human rights champs and social entrepreneurs, to all you do-gooders thriving and struggling to force the spring of an ethical tomorrow: something is, radically, off. Because to shake one's head at the violence abroad, or in our own communities, while texting friends: "Should we go to KFC or McDonald's after practice" shows just how deep the rabbit hole of denial around all this really is. Trust me -- I've sent that text before.

Here's what I'm sure of: I wouldn't tolerate someone ripping my dog's teeth out (baby pigs); stuffing him in a cramped wire cage (egg-laying chickens); or swinging a pickax at his face (Blue-Fin Tuna). But sixty billion animals suffer from that type of cruel and inhumane treatment behind the walls of warehouses called factory farms. And 99 percent of all animals eaten or used to produce milk or eggs are factory farmed. You might not have thought so, but when we sit down for our own version of my post-practice chicken or Sunday morning omelet -- we're supporting all this.

To say that we've launched a global war on animals just sells the word "war" so pathetically short.

Do we abore violence? Bizarrely, a list of the world's four most violent places wouldn't include Misrata, Libya or Mogadishu, Somalia. A more accurate list would read: 1. Battery-cage facilities for egg-laying hens 2. Hog farms 3. Poultry farms and, 4. Tuna fisheries.

Are we environmentalists? It's simple: Eating animals contributes more to global warming than anything else.

Anti-poverty crusaders? By 2050, all the animals we eat will themselves consume as much food as four billion people. Just a thought, but I'm guessing all that food would be more effective in the stomachs of the 16,000 children dying from hunger-related causes.

It's extraordinary just how many of the values we stand for are fulfilled by a simple choice: Veggie burgers over hamburgers; plants over animals.

We're better than this. Our stories, both to ourselves and each other, need to be told anew. Let's tell stories that start -- and end -- with compassion. Stories that reflect the impact we all want; that mirror the values we all accept.