Depending on your background, your parents may have occasionally demanded that your plate was empty before you left the dinner table. We all know someone who, similarly, cannot see something go to waste. Those who do not follow this rule, myself included, at least see the good intentions behind it. Still, I think you would be hard-pressed to find someone who said it was a moral imperative that you eat everything on your plate. The food, at that stage, does not feel anything and would not help anyone whether it is in the garbage or in your stomach. So, most people go with whichever they prefer, probably the garbage. But under what circumstances would you be likely to denounce waste of a different sort?
What if the waste was one of pain or life? Furthermore, no one would be hurt if you did not choose to act in this wasteful manner. This is the situation one seems to face with regard to eating animals. One can live, albeit with a smaller selection of foods, and allow other life to remain intact, or one can engage in the active wasting of life and causing pain.
While finishing the plate to save the garbageman from hauling an extra half-pound of weight seems like a personal choice, refraining from eating animals and causing needless pain and death does not seem to be so trivial. Consequently, vegetarianism, if not veganism, seems to be a compelling lifestyle choice.