Couple of weeks back in his Point of Inquiry podcast, Peter Singer put up a great case for vegetarianism from atheistic perspective. (Details here)
He argued the case on the basis of animal rights and attacked speciesism. The problem with meat eating is not just about taking lives of animals, it is also about subjecting the animals to cruelty and inhumane treatment. I never had any doubt in my mind that vegetarianism is higher form of ethical practice than meat eating and coming across this interview just made my vegetarian dinner more delicious. But I can understand why it could be difficult for other atheists to give up meat for ethical and humanist reason. I guess it is enough for secularists, humanists, atheists just to accept that vegan lifestyle is higher ethical standard and one should aspire to reach there, but he may be limited by his will power to do so.
Around a month back, i had written a post about vegetarianism and Hindus. Although, vegetarianism is ethically superior practice, if one follows vegetarianism only for hindu religious reason without any other rationale behind that, his vegetarianism is no more different than his blind following for other vacuous religious rituals.
Unlike Peter Singer, I was born in vegetarian family. I never ate meat until I came to question myself about my rationale for meat eating. When I could not reason the strict vegetarianism on any other rational ground, I decided to break the oath. I occasionally ate meat just to make a point to myself that I am really not a vegetarian for religious reasons. Today, I am back to being vegetarian as far as possible. I am not averse to meat eating occasionally or accidentally, but more than ninety percent of the time my diet is vegetarian.
It is important to be a vegan/vegetarian and also it is important to do so for right reasons.