I recently spent five days in Salt Lake City. I, along with 600-plus animal rights activists, came from all around the country — Canada, Switzerland, South America, Israel, Germany and Greece were also represented — to attend a conference billed as the Western Convergence.

Salt Lake City is beautiful. What a great surprise. Beautiful buildings and the Wasatch Mountains in the background. We stayed in Airbnb’s and hotels. We took countless Lyfts and Ubers to various places to attend lectures and seminars and, afterward, to go to restaurants and cafes that serve vegan food. It turns out that your city has quite a few vegan/plant-based restaurants.

We all had amazing, friendly conversations with almost everyone we met in Salt Lake City. You are a friendly, inviting city. It was fun visiting.

But we attending the Western Convergence were here on very serious business. Utah has two large animal processing/slaughter facilities: Smithfield Foods Circle Four, a pig factory farm in Beaver County, and Norbest, a turkey factory farm in Sanpete County.

Since I became a vegan 17 years ago, the animal rights movement has grown exponentially. As people learn more about the horrific cruelty that happens to cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, etc., they turn away from eating animal flesh and turn toward a heart-healthy, cruelty-free vegan/plant-based diet.

The world of animal agribusiness is a hidden world of abuse, blood, terror, sickness, antibiotics, filth, disease, pain and suffering on a scale the world has never seen before. Billions of animals are brought into this world every year in America, solely so we can eat their flesh.

These animals never experience the sun, dirt or anything that resembles joy. Their short lives are lives of terror and pain. These factory farms are not the small farms of the 1940s.

As people say, one day we’ll look back and wonder how we ate the flesh of tortured animals. We in the animal rights movement are trying to make this day come sooner rather than later.

Many of you reading this will recognize where I am from. I’m from Rochester, N.Y., and grew up about 25 minutes down the road from Palmyra. Rochester was home to Susan B. Anthony, mother of women’s rights, and Frederick Douglass, father of civil rights.

I joined the Navy at 18 and have traveled to about 20 countries. I saw the world is mostly poor. I grew up Catholic and have helped in soup kitchens and overnight shelters. Being from Rochester, rights movements are second nature, and including all animals in our circle of compassion is a logical step. This is a human/animal rights movement.

Speciesism is what this movement is fighting. Because these creatures are not human, we humans have enslaved, tortured and killed billions of pigs, cows, turkeys and chickens. The dumbest pig is smarter then the smartest dog. In the case of pigs, we might as well be slaughtering 3-year-old children — that’s how smart pigs are.

We the human animal and all other animals are the same in all the important ways. I ask anyone who is reading this to search your heart and make the compassionate choice to turn away from eating animal flesh and not support a soulless company such as Smithfield Farms with your money. Extend your circle of compassion to all who feel pain and suffer.

Type “vegan/plant-based breakfast, lunch and dinners” into Google. Thousands of recipes will appear. Download the Happy Cow App. It will show every vegan café in Salt Lake City and all of America. Peace begins on your plate.

Andrew Dunning, Rochester, N.Y., is a U.S. Navy veteran and an animal rights activist.