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Ethically Eating Meat

As many of you probably know by now, the New York Times launched an essay contest this week, asking writers to make a case for why it’s ethical to eat meat.

 I think this is a phenomenal idea.  Am I entering the contest? No.  But, I think a lot of people will and will make great cases – especially now, a time in our society when people are taking relatively extreme steps toward avoiding meat.  Veganism, though popularly accepted and widely practiced is pretty extreme.  Though this essay contest isn’t about all animal products (i.e. it’s not about dairy or eggs), it is going to spark some very interesting debate!

I feel very strongly that it is very important to purchase animal products from farmers with happy livestock. To me, “happy livestock” is defined by appropriate feed, comfortable living conditions, and humane slaughtering conditions.

Since I’m not writing a piece for the Times, I’m encouraging you to – and I’ll even give you a few tips to start!

  1. Harmful to Animals: arguments against drinking cow’s milk baffle me.  I’m not talking about people who don’t like the taste or are lactose intolerant.  I’m talking about people who believe that drinking milk is morally or ethically wrong.  Have you ever met a cow that hasn’t been milked?! I sure hope you don’t because they that will be one uncomfortable cow!  I would actually make the case that not milking a cow is unethical.  
  2. Human Nature: We are a carnivorous species, you can opt out of that practice but that doesn’t make it inherently wrong.  Humans function on a higher cognitive level than most other species, so we have the ability to make choices and act in a way we believe to be “right”, but when it comes down to it, eating meat is instinctual for self-preservation and survival.  Come on, all the animals are doing it. 
  3. Nutrients: There are some vitamins and minerals that can’t be consumed in sufficient amount on a vegetarian or vegan diet alone.  That indicates that we evolved as meat eaters, not as herbivores who started eating meat.  It’s an important distinction because choosing to be meatless could be damaging to your body.  Luckily, we have the food industry to fortify and enrich our food sources and the supplement industry to provide mega doses of vitamins in one tiny pill.  Without these, there couldn’t be optimally healthy vegan humans.  I don’t want my health depending on supplements – I like to eat food, the nutrients are better absorbed, suggesting that food (over pills) is what the body prefers.  Depriving your body of certain nutrients it needs doesn’t seem ethical to me.

So what will your 600 word essay be about?!

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8 Comments to "Ethically Eating Meat"

  1. hmhm says:

    hm….these are some lousy arguments – false premises. there is just no need for meat. period. everything else is rationalization (making excuses…). that is, it is only an attempt to rationalize…

    • Kate Gardner says:

      Can you explain why you feel so against meat? No one is arguing a “need” for meat per se, only that it can be part of a healthy diet, particularly for those who enjoy it. Please share your thoughts!

  2. Mijnheer says:

    Hello Kate. It is evident from your bio that you are not only a smart person but also a caring person. I’m sure you understand that the fact that meat can be part of a healthy diet does not necessarily make it ethically acceptable, especially when most of us can flourish without meat. The ancient Greek writer Plutarch was asking whether enjoyment of meat can justify inflicting unnecessary harm when he said, “But for the sake of some little mouthful of flesh, we deprive a soul of the sun and light, and of that portion of life and time it had been born into the world to enjoy.”

    If you are interested in exploring the ethics of the matter further, you might have a look at the chapter on meat-eating in one of these books:
    Animals and Ethics: An Overview of the Philosophical Debate
    Animal Rights: A Very Short Introduction

    • Kate Gardner says:

      Thanks for your comment! I completely agree that eating meat as part of a healthy diet doesn’t necessarily make it ethical; let me clarify my post. Eating meat is natural as it is human nature to be carnivorous. As humans, we function on a higher cognitive level than other animals, so we have developed ways to get enough calories and protein as vegetarians. However, eating meat is not inherently wrong and opting out of that process doesn’t necessarily make it more ethical.

  3. Richard says:

    I tried to send a comment and I’m not sure it went you go…
    Hi Kate-
    I stumbled upon your site and was scratching my head at some of your comments regarding a plant based diet. To clarify veganism isn’t a diet– it’s a belief that non human animals should not be treated as objects for human consumption or exploitation. A plant based diet is simply an extension of that belief. So when you say that a plant based diet is “extreme” that really isn’t true it’s simply aligning ones eating habits with their values so it’s actually being consistent. I feel what is extreme is when one claims to “love animals” but then pays somebody else to slit a cow’s throat while he is still alive. That sounds extreme to me.

    You state that meat eating is “natural” for humans. If humans were natural meat eaters, we’d have fangs and claws, and salivate at the sight of injured or dead “prey” animals, which we don’t tend to do. We are omnivores so we can live on both a meat based diet and a plant based diet.

    I read a comment about “not getting enough nutrients” You can get all the nutrients you need from a plant based diet and the ADA has now sanctioned that. The only supplement needed is a B-12 pill and an Omega -3 so thats not really “replacing” food with a pill as you stated.

    You have a section on dairy and how it’s not harmful to animals. On modern farms today cows are not milked by hand anymore Kate–they are actually hooked up to machines and pumped to give off 10x more the amount of milk they naturally would. they also have to be constantly pregnant to lactate so as a woman I would think you might realize that’s a pretty awful lifecycle no?

    Finally your comments on protein are simply untrue. It’s a little ridiculous how obsessed we are with protein, and yet the diseases Americans are suffering and dying from are not diseases of deficiency: heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Protein is just made up of amino acids, and amino acids are in all foods, including all plant foods. When you eat a variety of plant-based foods, you have no problem taking in enough protein.

    Thank you for listening and please please please eat all the meat you want but don’t perpetuate 1970′s myths about a plant based diet that are constantly already under attack from the awful enterprise of industrial agriculture. If you want to learn more please watch the documentaries Meet your Meat, Earthlings and Forks Over Knives. thank you.

    • Kate Gardner says:

      Hi Richard, thanks for your detailed comments! I appreciate everything you said though respectfully disagree. For instance, there ARE supplements needed when choosing a plant based diet, so vegans are required to replace B-12 with a pill. As an active member of the ADA, I can definitely say that they have not “sanctioned” that – and I would hate for my readers to think otherwise.

      However, I agree with you that the overemphasis on protein in this country is absurd, though fruits and vegetables do not contain enough protein. Nuts, seeds, soy, and whole grains are great sources of protein though – you’re right that vegans won’t come up short. There are other points that you’ve mentioned which I’ve addressed in a variety of blog posts so I encourage you to keep reading! And please feel free to email me with specific questions, comments, or concerns!

      • Richard says:

        Hi Kate,

        Thanks for the link on chia seeds–they are amazing.
        Yes–a plant based diet requires you take a B-12 vitamin dailiy..A’s not like you have to take all these pills to live on a plant based my health isn’t “depending on supplements” as if I have to take hundreds of pills…
        as far as the ADA–this is from their website–they most certainly approve ( ie sanction) a plant based diet:
        It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.


        • Kate Gardner says:

          Thanks Richard, glad you liked the Chia seed post. I completely agree with you that vegetarian and vegan diets are healthy for a variety of reasons. Dependence on supplements can mean one or many, but the point is that the diet is not complete — it requires additional nutrients. You’re right though, the ADA promotes a plant-based diet, as do I! However, eating meat is a personal choice and I’m not against it. Despite the tone of my posts, I eat a mostly vegetarian diet, so I hope you don’t misunderstand my position, I’m a supporter of vegetarian diets and of those who choose to eat meat; I do, however, think its important to consume ethically raised animals.

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