Most people like to think of themselves as animal lovers. We think negatively about people who say they don’t like animals. I always called myself an animal lover yet I ate animals. I wasn’t lying. I’m pretty sure that if I had to personally choose the animal that would be slaughtered for my dinner and see her killed with my own eyes, I would have opted for salad. The problem is that most of us don’t see the billions of animals that are bred, held captive and killed for our food. They are a nameless, faceless mass that are out of sight and out of mind. What happens when we stop to look and think about the animals we eat as individual beings who feel pain and joy, who love and mourn, who cherish and lose families, who die yet want to live? It might seem strange to have to convince people of reasons why any living being should be allowed to live and yet the reality is that we do. Here are just 10 of the animals we should love, not eat.

1. Cows

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Cows are gentle animals who are affectionate, emotional and intelligent. Mahatma Gandhi described a cow as “a poem of compassion.” Cows are certainly deserving of our compassion as well as our understanding and respect. Cows are very intelligent, curious, communicative, able to think critically, problem solve and have very good memories. They are highly emotional, forming friendships and close bonds. Cows have strong maternal bonds and are attentive, protective and loving parents. When a calf is taken away, the mother will cry and bellow for hours, even days, and fall into a deep depression. Mother cows will search for their babies, visibly distressed, just as the calves cry for their mother.

Cows can live up to 20 years but cows raised for meat are slaughtered when less than two years old and calves killed for veal don’t get to live more than a few months. If you think just being meat-free is enough, think again. Dairy cows are sent to slaughter when their milk production slows, usually around the age of four. There is no reason to eat cows or their body fluids when there are so many amazing vegan meats and non-dairy milks and cheeses available. Read more in 10 Things to Love about Cows.

2. Pigs

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In the Chinese zodiac, the pig represents fortune, honesty and happiness. How appropriate for this honest, happy animal that is smart, lovable and forgiving. Scientists have determined that not only are pigs smart, they are smarter than dogs, some primates and three-year old children. They are ranked as the fourth most intelligent creature on Earth! There are some bad stereotypes out there about pigs like how they are sloppy or eat too much. None of that is true. In fact, pigs are very clean animals who can live indoors just like dogs and cats. They can be very picky eaters. They eat slowly, nibbling and savoring their food and like to eat a variety of foods. Pigs are highly social, playful and form close bonds. They are very good mothers and are anxious when separated from their babies. Pigs are compassionate, forgiving and are highly emotional beings.

However, pigs do not get to be clean, happy or raise their families. They could live 10-12 years but are slaughtered at six months old because too many people think “everything is better with bacon.” Instead, eat any of the many types of vegan bacon and learn more in 10 Phenomenal Reasons to Love Pigs.

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3. Chickens

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I used to think I couldn’t live without chicken but I learned that it is the chickens who couldn’t live with me eating them. Chickens, which are descended from dinosaurs, are amazing, intelligent and affectionate animals. Chickens are intelligent animals who can solve complex problems, understand cause and effect, and anticipate and plan for the future. Chickens dream, have great memories and complex communication systems. They are also good teachers as mother hens begin to teach calls to their babies while they are still in their eggs. Hens are loving and affectionate toward their chicks and show empathy for them as well for other hens. Mama hens also defend their babies from predators.

Sadly, there are more chickens raised and killed for food than all other animals combined. In the U.S alone, over eight billion chickens are killed each year – that’s almost 300 per second! The natural life span of a chicken can be up to 10 years but chickens bred for meat are usually killed as babies at less than two months old.  Egg-laying hens are slaughtered when they no longer lay enough eggs at around one to two years old. Read 10 Things to Love about Chickens while you enjoy some Crispy Tofu Nuggets and Chicken-Less Burgers.

4. Turkeys

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Every year 45 million turkeys are killed in the U.S. just for Thanksgiving alone. On a holiday that is about giving thanks and being grateful, we should be celebrating life, not taking it away and that number does not include all the turkeys killed the rest of the year. Too many people think turkeys are just “dumb” birds but that is completely wrong. Turkeys are quite intelligent, good at geography and can solve problems. They are curious, inquisitive and communicate with over 20 calls. Turkeys are sensitive with good and bad moods. Turkeys are social, playful birds who have distinct personalities just like dogs and cats. The mother turkeys are protective, staying with their babies at ground-level to keep them safe and warm until they learn to fly and roost up in the trees.

Turkeys can live up to ten years, but these beautiful birds are killed when they are only a few months old. Before their deaths, they are confined to filthy, small spaced and bred to be so big, their skeletons cannot support their weight. Why not try a more compassionate option for holiday meals and eat an Unturkey Roast. Learn more about 10 Reasons to Love Turkeys and 11 Fun Facts about Turkeys you may not have known.

5. Lambs and Sheep

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The Egyptians believed sheep were sacred and the ancient Sumerians immortalized sheep in the form of gods. In the Chinese zodiac, sheep represent righteousness, sincerity, gentleness and compassion. Sheep are intelligent, able to solve problems and almost as smart as pigs. They have good memories, recognize faces and facial expressions. Sheep are emotional and display emotions with their ears. Sheep are social and like to be in groups. Ewes are very protective and caring mothers to their lambs and form deep bonds with them. They can recognize their own lambs by the sound of their bleats.

Lambs are often taken away from their mothers, though, and used for meat, dairy, and wool. Sheep can live 12-14 years but are often killed at just 6-8 months of age. Instead of eating these adorable animals, indulge in this Vegan Irish “Lamb” Stew or this Bad Ass “Lamb” Burger and Meet the 6 Happiest Little Lambs in the World.

6. Goats

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In the Chinese zodiac, goats represent creativity, shyness, introversion and perfectionism. If you’re a Capricorn, maybe you know that “capra” is the root of the word “capricious” which means quirky, whimsical, and fanciful which perfectly describes the cuties that are goats. Goats are highly intelligent, inquisitive and curious. They love to explore everything which is probably why people think they are such trouble-makers. Goats communicate with each other and while they are social, they don’t flock together as much as sheep do. They have great balance and coordination; they can climb trees and jump over 5 feet high! Mother goats are protective and call to their kids to keep them close. Kids love to be close to their mothers and wean after six months.

Unfortunately, the kids don’t get to reach six months or spend what little time they do have with their mothers. These kids are killed when they are babies, less than five months old, when their meat is most tender. Goat meat is common in several cuisines and goat milk has become more and more popular. Choose any non-dairy milk instead and sip a glass while watching this video of Benjamin the Orphaned Pygmy Goat Gets to Go to Work With Dad.

7. Rabbits

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Everyone thinks bunnies are adorable, right? From Bugs Bunny to the Easter Bunny, we all smile when we see rabbits. Renaissance artists painted rabbits to represent purity, unquestioning faith and gentleness. In the Chinese zodiac, rabbits represent sensitivity, compassion, tenderness and kindness. They are also symbols of fertility and rebirth which makes them even more popular at Easter time. Rabbits are affectionate, social animals that enjoy being around humans as well as other rabbits. They are not shy about showing their joy as they run, jump in the air and twist their bodies. If they like you, they might say it with a low humming sound. Rabbits are more commonly being kept as companion animals. They are easy to care for but do need proper care to be happy and healthy including companionship, a good diet, exercise and indoor shelter. They also need mental stimulation and social interaction as they can get bored easily.

Rabbits can live up to 12 years but many will not be allowed to live more than 12 weeks. Rabbits are killed for meat and their fur. Many are used in experiments, tortured in labs for products we support with our dollars. Learn more about which companies use animals in testing and 5 Hopping Good Reasons to Adopt a Rescued Rabbit. Rather than buying rabbits to eat at the supermarket, check out these 5 Adorable Rock Star Rabbits.

8. Geese

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We have all seen a gaggle or group of geese. Geese like to hang out together and work well together too. When flying, they take turns in the lead position giving each other time to rest. That honking you hear while they are flying might be the gaggle telling the geese in front to speed it up. Geese are affectionate and kind-hearted. They take care of each other when one is sick or wounded. Geese select their mates at three years old and then often mate for life. The couples live together and have baby goslings which they care for together. The males are caring and protective of their female partners and will defend them to the death. When the mother goose leaves her eggs, she covers them with sticks to protect them while the daddy goose keeps predators away. Once goslings hatch, they are taught to swim the next day and to fly at three months old. Geese have great instincts about geography and prefer to live where they were born. Geese have been known to fly 3000 miles just to return to a familiar place. That sense of home and loyalty keeps young geese with their parents even after they are independent.

Geese can live 8-15 years in the wild but many don’t get a chance to have a loving home and family and don’t live longer than 15-20 weeks. Geese are used for their eggs, plucked raw for their feathers (down) and killed for their meat. Then there is the whole issue of foie gras, the “delicacy” that has been banned in some places and fought about in others. To make foie gras which is basically chopped liver, geese are torturously force-fed multiple times each day for three weeks with a metal rod in order to fatten up their liver to 10-12 times its normal size. The geese are unable to walk or stand, kept in tiny cages and then slaughtered so people can feel snooty about eating something so expensive. Instead, make my vegan Mushroom and Walnut Pate and enjoy it while watching this video about Davina and Maisy, the Blind Goose and Dog who are BFFs!

9. Fish and Sea Animals

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Fish and sea animals are the animals that people seem to care the least about. They are the only animals that are shown being killed on TV cooking shows. People talk about fishing like it’s a sport and not killing innocent lives. Maybe it’s because fish are not soft and cuddly, or that we don’t interact much with them, or that they can’t cry and scream that makes us feel less kind toward them. Fish are actually intelligent animals with good memory and recall and ability to solve problems. Fish communicate with each other and speak with sounds humans can only hear with special instruments. They like physical contact with other fish and rub up against each other. Fish flirt and woo potential partners. They are sensitive and have personalities. Fish know pleasure and they feel pain. According to Vegan Peace, lobsters “have a sophisticated nervous system that allow them to sense actions that will cause them harm and feel pain. Lobsters don’t have an autonomic nervous system that puts them into a state of shock when they are harmed. For this reason, they will feel pain until their nervous system is completely destroyed.”

According to ADAPTT (animals deserve absolute protection today and tomorrow), an estimate of 90 BILLION marine animals are killed each year. Free From Harm estimates 500,000,000,000 fish die a painful death every year to feed humans food we don’t need. Fish are subjected to factory farming just like other animals and if you think eating fish is healthy, you might want to think again. These six fish can tell you why. Read 7 Great Reasons Why You Should Skip Fish at Your Next Meal and then Learn How to Make Vegan Seafood Dishes at Home without the Fish.

10. Dogs and Cats

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Are you surprised to see dogs and cats on this list? I’m sure I don’t have to write all the reasons we should love dogs and cats rather than eat them. We all know they are intelligent, loving, loyal animals who love their babies and feel pleasure, joy, happiness, pain, sorrow and fear. Many of us consider our dogs and cats family and celebrate their birthdays and adoption days. Most of us would not ever contemplate eating them.

However, there are many countries that do kill dogs and cats for their fur and their meat. Consumption of dogs and cats is legal in some countries including most states in the U.S. Other countries are trying to make it legal to cull privately-owned animals while protesters run “Say No to Dog and Cat Meat” campaigns in countries across the globe. Hopefully, attitudes toward eating dogs and cats will change toward compassion.

Showing Compassion for all Living Beings

These are just 10 of the many animals that are killed for food; there are many more like ducks, deer, frogs and alligators. We all rejoice when animals are saved from being killed for meat in other countries or when an individual cow or pig escapes slaughter, probably while we are eating a burger or chicken wings. Hopefully, this article will make you see that there are similarities between the animals we eat and call dinner and those we love and call family. Every living being deserves to live in peace and happiness and be loved, not eaten.

Lead Image Source: What We Can Learn About Parenting From Farm Animals