Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
4 Apr

Is Eating Meat Ethical?

animalsBy now, you’ve probably heard about the essay contest the NY Times is running. The prompt is “Tell us why it’s ethical to eat meat.” To decide the winner or winners, they’ve assembled a diverse mix of self-hating omnivores, self-hating sometimes-vegetarians, self-hating “flexible vegans,” and the guys with all those witty one-liners about food and grandmothers and “mostly plants” – Michael Pollan, Jonathan Safran Foer, Peter Singer, Mark Bittman, and Andrew Light. A number of readers have asked me to chime in on the subject and I agreed to it, albeit somewhat reluctantly. After all, why does the burden of proof rest on us, the physiologically omnivorous hominids who are simply eating the foods we’ve been eating for millions of years? But then I realized it might be a fun thing to write, to play around with and explore my own thoughts on the “ethics” of eating. And hey, maybe I’d have some sort of revelation, renounce my former ways, and come away a vegetarian! You never know.

Is eating meat ethical?

I find it odd that in their prompt for the essay, the NY Times forbids entrants from mentioning conscientious carnivory, local versus organic, grass-fed versus factory-raised, or sustainable versus unsustainable. In other words, they expect us to simply explain “why it’s ethical to eat meat” without allowing for any of the considerations or external factors that might affect the “ethics” of meat-eating.

How do I proceed, absent the ability to actually discuss the nuances? It’s a tough question, but I’ll try.

“Ethical” implies that we have a choice. Both dietary choices – omnivory and herbivory – cause animals to die. We have to eat something, and whichever choice we make, animals will die. There’s no getting around that. If we’re going to ask whether or not meat-eating is ethical because it causes animals to die, we also have to ask whether or not other common consumptive practices that also cause animals to die are ethical:

Is living in an apartment or a house built on the former homes of a dozen different species, several ant colonies, and the site of an indigenous people’s encampment from a hundred years ago ethical?

Is wearing clothing made from conventionally grown cotton that required the use of chemical fertilizers whose runoff pollutes rivers, lakes, and oceans, thus hurting marine life ethical?

Is eating pseudo-burgers made of soybeans that hail from monocrop farms whose owners razed the land on which they grow, killing families of groundhogs and field mice and trillions upon trillions of essential microbes that compose the topsoil ethical?

Animals all die as a result of these practices. Anyone who makes it past their first year has blood on their hands. At least the meat-eater must face the unavoidable fact that he consumes dead animals directly. At least he deals with death head-on, shrink-wrapped though it may be. For once the plastic and styrofoam are removed, there it is, staring him in the face: a bloody piece of dead animal flesh that he is then going to put into his mouth, chew, swallow, and digest.

Does that make him unethical? Only if anyone who eats anything whose production resulted in the death of animals is also unethical. One could even argue that since the meat-eater at least acknowledges the fact that an animal died for his meal, he’s the more honorable of the two.

And indeed everyone has blood on their hands as a direct or indirect result of their choices, consumption habits, and dietary practices. Everyone steps on someone else’s toes or hooves or talons or cute little paws or flippers or probosci or roots for “selfish” reasons – even vegans. If meat-eaters are unethical by virtue of their meat-eating, so too is the vegetarian whose grain-based meals came from farmers whose tractors crush small mammals and whose cropland disrupts entire ecosystems. I don’t think either person’s actions are unethical, but I fail to see how someone could think the former was unethical without also taking issue with the latter.  If you’re going to indict eating meat because it kills animals, you also have to indict other dietary practices that also kill animals, like grain – even if those deaths are “unavoidable” or “accidental.” Sure, the farmer may not gleefully set out to murder field mice with his tractor (although the rodenticide used in grain elevators might raise a few eyebrows), but does it matter if the end result – a bunch of dead animals – is the same?

I eagerly await next week’s “Is Vegetarianism Ethical?” essay contest. If you’re going to indict eating meat because it kills animals, you must also indict the other dietary practices that kill animals.

Well, that’s my very brief take on it. For the record, I don’t think a discussion of the ethics of meat-eating can be truly entertained without full inclusion of the sustainability, organic, and local issues. In other words, without mentioning all that stuff the Times forbade us from mentioning, we can’t really dig deeply enough into the issue to get to the bottom. I suspect that this was by design, and that the whole NY Times contest was primarily a way to get the “meat-eaters” on the defensive without really giving them a chance (600 word limit… really?) to come out on top.

This is a tough issue, isn’t it? Death isn’t pretty. Killing animals is not easy, pleasurable work. And I love animals, and not just in an ironic, “because-they’re-tasty” kind of way. I’ll even admit that when I think of a cow or a pig or a lamb dying for my meal, going about its daily routine and then BLAM, suddenly being escorted away from the others to be put down, it’s not a pleasant thought. I feel bad for the animal, I feel a bit sad even, but I also feel thankful. If that sounds contradictory or confusing, you’re right.

That’s humanity for you. We feel sad and thankful and hungry and a bit weepy all at once (just check out Robb Wolf’s reaction to making the amazing atlatl elk kill in “I, Caveman”). These “ethical questions” rarely get hard and fast answers. I mean, people have been wrestling with them for thousands of years. There are no easy answers. It’s an essay question, not a multiple choice test.

Now let’s hear your take on it. Write your essays in the comments or provide links to them. Just be sure to defend your murderous ways somewhere, somehow. Thanks for reading!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. If our biology requires that we eat animal foods in order to thrive, then there is nothing unethical about eating meat.

    Tarek wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • Yup. To me, that is the beginning and end to the discussion. It is as complex and as simple as that. There can be no argument with the types of food our biological design requires that we eat. It’s nature’s law…who is anyone to dispute it?

      Sabasota wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • +1

        I’ll add that a mother who avoids all animal products prior to conception, during pregnancy and then never feeds her newborn animal products is a hell of a lot more unethical.

        It is an indisputable fact that animal products in some form are absolutely essential for optimal health. It’s just who we are.

        Primal Toad wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Just playing devil’s advocate here:
          So what you are saying is that your life is more valuable than that of other creatures on this planet? Why is that? Wouldn’t it make more sense to minimize the suffering of other creatures with the capacity to to feel pain and emotions by not eating them just so that you can be “optimal”?

          spayne wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Spayne,

          Is my life more valuable than other creatures on the planet? No.

          We are all going to die. If a women is going to have a child then she should take extra care in her health during that time period as well as feed her baby correctly.

          Primitive societies around the world took extra care for newborns and their mothers. They were the first ones to be offered the most nutrient dense foods. I don’t remember what society but pregnant women would eat 10 eggs a day so their child had optimal health. This is from Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.

          Primal Toad wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • @Spayne So what you’re saying… is that in order to be optimally ethical, we should just kill ourselves?

          If we eliminate human life… then we’ll allow all other life (plant and animal) to thrive.

          Hitler redefined Ethics for Germany. It’s a dangerous slope.

          Bruno wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • “…your life is more valuable than that of other creatures on this planet? Why is that?”

          Because I’m the one living it.

          John wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Is it more ethical to create the situation that would lead to the extinction of farm animals than to eat them?

          Galina L. wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Spayne, if you lived in the African savannah would a lion that spots you in the open think about the pain you may feel about being eaten? 1000 bucks says nope, creatures do what they have to to survive thats what nature intended. Maybe before we think about how animals feel about being eaten maybe we should focus on how other humans may feel about how we treat them (gays, ethnic groups, etc)

          Ethan wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Life eats life. It’s a continuous process and is evident in mother nature. Is it ethical that a fish eat other organisms to sustain life?

          I believe we’re analysing this idea at a conscious level instead of a deeper level – intuition.

          If we continue to conceptualise and over-analyse this to death, humanity will de-evolve into extinction.

          As Freud cleverly said – “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” Let’s not get too carried away by subjecting our own meaning to what eating or not eating flesh implies. Ultimately it is all subjective.

          Tony wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • My life is only more worthwhile than other animals to me and perhaps my family & friends. I am no better than the pig I eat, just happy that the positions aren’t reversed. All life forms “want” to keep their species going and so far my family has done a fairly good job.

          Nigel wrote on April 5th, 2012
        • Indeed, Toady. Surely admitting that forgoing animal products entirely would lead to suboptimal human health (which should be self-evident from the fact that extensive supplementation is necessary in their absence), is an acceptance of the masochism inherent in veganism.

          And isn’t promoting masochism speciesist? In this case, we’re considering the value of non-human animal life higher than human life and well-being. How can you argue within this framing that being speciesist, as long as you’re not eating meat, is okay?

          In other words, if humans deprived another animal, say a cow, of its optimal food source for the sake of ethics and it experienced ill health, vegans would flip a shit. Why? Because humans played a direct role in harming the cow. Well, by the same logic, humans would also be directly harming humans, merely a different animal, by the exclusion of substances that promote human vitality.

          Furthermore, all animals will die eventually. Even if you grow all of your own food and don’t contribute directly or indirectly to any death (a highly unlikely scenario), there’s no good reason why humans shouldn’t benefit from death, just like every other animal that eats.

          Alright, come at me bros! I’m curious to hear the counter-arguments. :D

          Jade wrote on April 5th, 2012
        • Hey just wanna say that I’ve had two sons, and I was a vegetarian during my second pregnancy (no longer am, of course), and there is no indication my vegetarianly gestated son is any less healthy than my other son… I don’t think it’s “indisputable” that animal products are absolutely essential, though I do feel they are for me.

          Ramona wrote on April 6th, 2012
        • Humans do not live because of animal products. I fact, people who do not eat animal products are much healthier than people who do. And yes, the dairy and meat industry are completely unethical.

          A wrote on April 10th, 2012
        • OMG – I’ve never eaten flesh in my life and went vegan 10 years ago. I rowed Division 1 Varsity Crew for 4 years while at MIT. I’m 6 foot 1 inch and optimal weight and athletic physique. I’m in amazing shape and look about 29 while I’m actually 41 years old with health stats that’ll keep me biking and healthy into my 90s+ while loving eating loads ridiculously delicious plant-based food that make my flesh-eating friends jealous. Myth Debunked! “If our biology requires that we eat animal foods in order to thrive,” = fail.

          AndreasNYC wrote on April 23rd, 2012
      • Yup is all I can say. The point perhaps could be made that these days having kids is unethical, with over-population degrading the earth 25% faster than it can recover. Has mankind become an unethical species?…

        B Willson wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Nonsense! The earth can supply food, water and shelter to many more people than we have, even now. The difficulty is that some of us have 99% of it, and some have 1%, and the rest have none. Just ask Europeans in 25 years, when they have been having zero children for two generations and are underpopulated, who is going to go to work in the morning to pay for their entitlements!

          Barbara Hvilivitzky wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • As I explain to our kids about emergency situations . . . people first, pets/animals second, things third.

          sethanie wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • There is no simple answer to this question, no beginning and end in one simple thought.

        Hi Mark. I am glad that you touched on this subject. Whether we are vegans or carnivores it is important to think about whether our actions and choices coincide with our ethics. That is what being informed is all about. Its about living in a way that has a high positive impact to all living things around us and trying to lessen our negative impact although, as you said, a negative impact on the Earth is unavoidable.

        I respect the initiatives you are taking in making people think about their health and thinking about how their ancestors lived.. I also think its important to think about the values and beliefs our ancestors had surrounding the way of life that was healthy for them. Many of them had a respect for the land and the other forms of life that they lived alongside. They thought about the impact of their actions and lived in a sustainable way. It is far from the lifestyle and impact that most of us have today. That’s why it bothers me how people think they are returning to a ‘primal’ way of life by following the primal blueprint.

        It sounds like you are suggesting that we shouldn’t even begin to start contemplating our impact because, the fact is, there is a negative impact to everything we consume. That is true. Every time we buy something or eat something there has been a practice somewhere that has probably breached your code of ethics. However, although all of us have a negative impact there are some people that live a life where we are conscious of our actions and try to reduce this impact where possible. There are many initiatives you can take – whether it is buying free trade chocolate instead of supporting child slavery on cacoa farms, products with no packaging, organic or local food. For some people, this involves being vegan. Often, people choose to be vegan because they are more informed about the impact of their choices. For most vegans, their lifestyle involves more than just refusing to contribute to the unethical practice of meat production. They are often conscious of their other choices as well, thus living a lifestyle that is more sustainable and beneficial to living things on the planet – including their other fellow humans.

        Although going vegan might not be one of the ways that you plan on reducing your negative impact, you have to respect those that do. They are not making this decision to feel ‘better’ than a meat-eater, they are making this decision with other living things beyond themselves in mind. It is true that local free-range meat is a hell of a lot more ethical than the factory-farmed varieties, and maybe that is what many primal blueprint follows are eating (I support you!!). But maybe for someone else, in a different life situation, can’t make that choice to consume ethical meat products and thus chooses to be vegan.

        The question shouldn’t be, “Is eating meat ethical?” or “Is vegetarianism ethical?”, but should be “Are you informed about the impact of your choices?”, “Are you a global citizen?”, “Is your lifestyle sustainable?”, and “What initiatives are you taking with other people and living things in mind?”.

        I support anyone who is asking those questions no matter which diet they follow. I think this post has both positive and negative things – overall I’m glad you brought the topic up. I’d love for you to promote primal living with global citizenship in mind – they are not mutually exclusive!

        Kayla Ruschkowski wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Kayla,

          Your reply is a way of dancing around the question of whether it’s ethical to kill other living things in order for us to thrive. Neither ominivores nor any variety of vegetarian can escape that question, unless your answer is that because our very survival requires those other deaths, they are, per se, ethical. It could be argued (as George Monbiot(1) and Michael Archer (2)have) that eating meat is at least as virtuous, if not more so, in regards to the total amount of killing required to feed humans.

          (1)http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/sep/06/meat-production-veganism-deforestation

          (2) http://theconversation.edu.au/ordering-the-vegetarian-meal-theres-more-animal-blood-on-your-hands-4659

          jake3_14 wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Word.

          Nicola wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • jake3_14,

          Did you even read the articles you posted links for? Monbiot makes the point that it CAN be, not that it currently is. He talks about the IDEAL animal farm system, which is far from what we currently have.

          Leif wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Nonsense.

          All vegans just need to do one thing. They just need to admit that they feel really bad for killing animals. The emphasis is on cows, pigs, chickens, etc, typical farm animals, fish and shellfish and not so much on other “smaller” or different lifeforms.

          Your comments above about vegans are not really true about what most vegans are like and what they really want. Just watch the youtube video of angry vegans throwing pepper in the face of “The Vegetarian Myth” author Lierre Keith. I know a lot of you will say not all vegans are like that but that’s just not true. Most of them won’t act on something like that but they will applaud it, just like they applaud the people protesting outside of stores that sell animal fur coats. I was a vegan in the past and I know that just because I was a vegan doesn’t mean all vegans agreed with my version of veganism but after meeting a few vegans I quickly learned that it is just really centrally based on the killing of animals and not about what is the true diet for a human to be as healthy as they can.

          They should say “I have no proof that this is a healthier way of eating and thus will provide you with a healthy long life, I just feel really bad for taking part in the killing.”

          Plain and simple thats what all vegans should say. No China study BS, no other vegan doctor and chef BS. Come on people. Those of you who are into the paleo stuff are supposed to be into the science of it right? Well scientifically, there are many essential nutrients that are only found in animal foods. Plain and simple. Real vitamin A is RETINOL and not beta-cartotene. And guess what, most people can not convert beta carotene into retinol in optimal amounts.
          Yes you can survive on plants but there is a difference between surviving and thriving. I got off topic.

          This question about whether it is ethical or not is ridiculous. There is one very easy way to solve this. Just ask yourself individually, do you feel bad enough of the killing of the animals that you eat, to not eat them anymore? That is what it really comes down to. Yes Mark said he feels bad, but he doesn’t feel bad enough to stop. When someone does feel bad enough, that’s when they become a vegan.

          This whole thing about meat being un-sustainable vs. plants being un-sustainable is also ridiculous. It can go on and on. The more evolved view is all lifeforms are equal.

          I am thankful for the farmers who raise the animals that I eat.

          Mr. Retinol wrote on April 5th, 2012
      • Our biology clearly does not ‘require’ meat to survive. otherwise all of the vegans and vegetarians of the world would have starved or faced malnutrition. No. it has simply adapted the ability to digest meat. The question is, if you can avoid killing an animal for food if you do not have to eat it in order to survive, should you. That question is not answered by acknowledging the fact that our bodies can digest meat. people are tribal and warlike in nature. we evolved in such a way that that trait was favorable to the continuation of the species and yet your argument would permit murder / other violent acts. just because something is the case, does not mean it ought to be the case.

        mike wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Exactly. We can also digest people…but just because we can doesn’t mean we should eat them. Why is that not extended to other sentient beings?

          Leif wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Thee is a difference between vegan and vegetarian.

          Hindus who are eating cultured dairy foods are going to get all of the complete proteins from the complete amino acids that are only in those dairy foods and not in plants as well as saturated animal fat.

          It is very hard to know exactly what a vegan is eating or supplementing with. Yes I am saying that I think a lot of vegans lie about what they eat/supplement with. It is the dogma at work. That makes your claim about them facing malnutrition a hard one to accept.

          Mr. Retinol wrote on April 5th, 2012
        • Leif,

          There is an Amazonian society that consumed people as part of a grieving ritual. In essence, it was to rid the material world of the remnants of a person that would otherwise torment the living with his/her continued presence.

          Was it really unethical to eat those people?

          Jade wrote on April 5th, 2012
        • I second that. Humans are remarkably adaptive herbivores and can survive(and thrive!!) on diets ranging from vegan to almost completely carnivorous. It’s about making a choice to participate–or not–in cruelty necessary to keep a whole planet humming on animal products. And, horsehooey, the accidental killing of rodents is not the same thing as the the planned torture and killing of sentient animals to provide us with their flesh and fur. Certainly, grass fed/finished is “better,” but in the end, most of those animals are hitching a ride to the same slaugherhouses as their less humanely-raised friends.
          Just because we had meat in our diet in the past, doesn’t mean we’re not meant to evolve past it.
          I’m a vegetarian and am slowly transitioning to vegan. My sons are not, but I have educated them to know where there meat is coming from. That is the first step for everyone: at least know the source of your food. (and as Mark said, your cotton, chocolate, toys, etc.)

          Milemom wrote on April 6th, 2012
        • Milemom,

          You seem to have a fundamental misunderstanding of evolution. Nothing evolves “past” something else, and certainly not because our current ethical thinking, in your view, should make it so. Evolution is random, in the biological sense.

          Furthermore, you say that humans have the potential to not require meat to thrive, not that we currently have that capability. Will future generations be more adapted to herbivory? Possibly, yes. But by the wording of your own comment you appear to believe that this isn’t the case today. To engage in veganism, then, is masochistic.

          Also, your thoughts on the accidental killing of rodents is blatantly speciesist. My guess is you wouldn’t support an industry that routinely killed huge amounts of humans, even by accident, if you knew about it. The fact that you know it happens makes you accountable for your actions.

          We both kill animals, milemom, by our very existence. The difference is, I see no reason not to benefit from the nutrients of their flesh, for both pleasure and health, while the animals you kill have died in vain.

          Jade wrote on April 6th, 2012
        • That is simply not true. The human body, like all carnivores, requires meat. Vegetable and soy substitutes do NOT offer the same benefits. Long term studies of vegans list a host of nutrition-based deficiencies that could all have been avoided by consuming meat. It is true that humans can survive without it, but why deny a necessity?

          Paul wrote on April 9th, 2012
      • LOL at “if our biology requires it” and the response. Have you ever actually looked into what humans are? We’re herbivores not carnivores! http://www.celestialhealing.net/physicalveg3.htm

        vita wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • So we were built to eat grains way before we ate grains? That link was pretty ridiculous. Have you looked up the amino acid profiles that humans require to operate optimally? Hint: you can’t get them in plants.

          Kevin wrote on April 5th, 2012
      • Who is anyone to dispute it?

        Vegans of course. They just passed a new law in California banning “Fois Gras” or goose liver. I want to see how quick this one will be overturned. Yep, vegans made that happen.

        The funny thing though is that vegans, paleos, or Weston Pricer’s etc, are all looked at as weirdos by everyone else. I find that funny because the non health conscious people look at all of us like we are crazy and they usually lump us all together.

        Mr. Retinol wrote on April 5th, 2012
        • That’s a very good point, Mr. Retinol.

          I despise the people who pass laws that do not pertain to themselves.

          The vegetarians/vegans who try to pass laws against meat are equal to the straight people who try to pass anti-gay laws.

          If you don’t like it, don’t do it. Lead by example, don’t force people to do what you believe by pointing a gun at them (which is kind of what making a law is).

          This same argument would have prevented our current “Preemptive” Wars. Everyone believes they are in the right, but we shouldn’t force everyone to agree or abide.

          Bruno wrote on April 5th, 2012
        • Wow, of all the self justified and uninformed comments this one is so far the most shocking. Fois Gras is not just goose liver, it is the liver of a goose that has been force fed by sticking a feeding tube down it`s throat and pumping food into it so that it can develop an abnormally large and unhealthy but more “desirable” texture for the fois gras eater.
          But then again, I guess that if you can manage to justify your meat eating by claiming that vegan food results in more deaths than meat farming (ridiculous), you also don’t mind a bit of torture before killing them off and eating them.

          Adriaan wrote on April 7th, 2012
      • There are only a few animal based products that you can’t get from plants, such as vitamin B12. But those can be gotten from insect (B12, again).

        Though it’s easier to get full nutrition by including animal sources, it is possible (with the above caveat) to be fully vegan and thrive. It’s just must harder and requires more planning. Consumer reports once noted that to get complete protein, you need a cup of rice plus a cup of beans; or four ounces of either one ounce of cheese.

        But with modern meat consumption in Western diets, we eat WAY to much meat and not nearly enough veggies and fruits. And many vegans eat WAY to much grain, especially monocropped grain, and not enough legumes and vegetables. As for processed meats and grain products, they are probably unethical, but for the seller, not the eater.

        But the short answer for me is that it is not unethical, and for most people, the expense and planning required for a vegan diet is not practical, which means poorer or less educated people would wind up malnourished in a vegan diet (and they more or less are malnourished now because of unethical processed foods).

        For the record, I’m an omnivore.

        Ed Oates wrote on April 6th, 2012
    • So by your assertion, eating dogs is okay, too, right?

      Truth wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Of course not, cute animals are exempt :)

        Certainly emotional responses come into people’s ideas of “ethics”

        Chris E wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • But not yours, of course! Only other people’s.

          B Willson wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • I have no objection to eating dogs.

        FatAsAnElephant wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • I always say that if the apocalypse comes then my three dogs are a type of insurance policy. Especially the fat one😄

          Diane wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Eating a dog causes suffering to the dog. With this logic, we should eat you. Is that OK with you? Please go to a restaurant, be murdered, cut up, cooked, and served to your friends and family. how does that sound? I do not wish that for you, that is simply your logic.

          Joe wrote on July 4th, 2012
      • I see no reason you couldn’t….though I would recommend against hunting and eating your neighbor’s pet! Check your local laws to see whether certain ‘pet’ species are protected from slaughter, too.

        Also, I’ve heard from various folks that carnivores don’t taste particularly good. Not sure whether that’s true or not, I’ve had alligator meat and it was pretty tasty.

        Ethics-wise, wouldn’t be much different than raising a pet chicken or rabbit, then having it slaughtered for dinner one day. Foodwise it’s no big deal, but if you’ve appropriated an animal as a friend, it might break your heart to see it on your dinner plate!

        Adrian wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • As a farmer’s daughter, it was often difficult to eat certain meats right after ‘processing’ because you do get close to some of the animals. After all, you got up at a ridiculous hour of the morning to call them in, feed them, and milk them (and some of us spilled our teenage angst out to Bessie). But in the end, we knew it was part of the life cycle. We didn’t, however, eat the dogs or cats, especially as they usually died due to a cow lying on them (cats) or getting hit by a car (silly dogs like to chase them). After a week, though, we were back to chowing down.

          Sandra wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Silly, There are people in countries who eat dog. China, Indonesia, Korea, Mexico, Philippines, Polynesia, Switzerland, Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Arctic and Antarctic

        piefrog wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • I’m pretty sure that Mexicans do not eat dogs. This is the first time I hear this.

          H.M. wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Yes, eating dogs is okay, too. But I choose not to eat dogs.

        Kathryn Saylor wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • No, eating dogs is not ok.

        Prey animals eat plant food, predator animals eat prey animals.

        On land and in air, all predator animals have eyes on the front of the head, for bi-focal vision, for depth perception, for hunting down prey animals.

        All prey animals have eyes on the sides of their heads, giving up depth perception in favor of a wider field of vision, to spot predator animals hunting them.

        Food:
        chickens, turkeys, deer, cows, cod, salmon

        Not food:
        dogs, cats, hawks, sharks, humans

        Jeffrey of Troy wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • “On land and in air, all predator animals have eyes on the front of the head…”

          I know some hawks, eagles, dolphins, sharks, and orcas who beg to differ.

          jake3_14 wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • actually hawks eat cats, sharks eat people, people eat sharks, people eat people. dogs eat dogs. Trying to Break down which animal will prey on which animal is pretty dumb.. in my humble opinion. White tip Shark is Delicious btw

          kay wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • What’s the difference between a shark and a cod? If a cod spots a spider on top of the water, will he not eat it?

          Chameleons have their eyes on the side – they hunt insects.

          Just because an animal is a [class] of predator does not mean it is not also prey.

          It’s a big complex world. Your simple categorization doesn’t make any sense.

          It’s also a matter of what is available. As Westerners, we have the luxury of actually being able to choose (mostly) what we ingest. If a Mexican widow has 1 milk cow and 26 dogs, you’d better believe she’s going to eat a dog or two or more – as needed. Your personal guidelines don’t fit… well, anyone but yourself.

          Put simply, don’t make rules for others. You got plenty of shit to figure out on your own.

          Bruno wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • I suggest you look at pictures of hawks and sharks if the eyes’ position is important to you… that theory makes no sense, anyway. In spanish we say “the big fish eats the small one” : predators eat whatever they can obtain through their strength, wits or group coordiantion.

          I wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Dude,

          I ate tons of Shark in Venezuela when I was a kid. Each one tastes different as it’s dependant on what breed they are & what they ate. Dog is enjoyed in many countries, many cultures. Chickens eat bugs & worms not grain when given free range, they they are techincally predators too…

          Denver wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • What nonsense; gorillas much?

          Eyes at the front, diet ENTIRELY vegetable – not even a HINT of ‘predator’ about them. Hell, they even pick bugs off their diet if they spot them.

          You’ve fallen victim to the shallow (dare I say “American”) argumentation – the sort of ‘plausible at first blush’ baloney that talks about canines (gorillas have those too – big’uns) or jaw extension (seen a gorilla yawn? – you could fit your head in there).

          If we’re going to base the decision to eat or not eat meat solely on some artificial taxonomy where we ‘rate’ life forms, why not permit folks to eat retarded babies (or grown ups, for that matter)? They’re no use to anyone, and they can’t run very fast (pretty soon there would be no grown-up ones left to hunt… which is why I always use the babies as the putative food source).

          Of course that’s an abominable idea – we would much rather pretend that having a cohort of drooling idiots is evidence of our humanity.

          Anyway… I’m a veggo. “Wreak as little unwarranted carnage as possible” is my motto.

          If my diet causes direct harm to anything that is likely to have any sort of ‘inner life’, then I am doing something wrong. If it causes indirect harm I can take corrective action to the greatest extent possible. And the batsman is given the benefit of the doubt at all times. (In other words, the ‘prior’ in Bayesian terms, is that animals DO have an inner life that has value to them).

          As to dingbats who think you can’t be vegetarian and be healthy… well, I’m 47 years old, 6’2 and 235lb, and this morning’s Cooper test gives me a VO2Max of 47. I can dip and chin my bodyweight for sets of ten, and bench 1.2x bodyweight (again for 10), easy as you like. Resting pulse is 56, bloods etc are super clean.

          Then again: my Dad eats meat like it’s going out of fashion, and his stats are as good (in fact WAY better on the Cooper: he’s not as outright strong though – but he’s 70).

          All this ‘evolution says’ malarkey is also a bit sophomoric and shallow – and is strained by the fact that your gut flora has an evolutionary timeframe of 2-3 weeks (microbes evolve fast, yo). 90% of your cells are exofauna with that sort of truncated evolutionary timeframe – and those little buggers participate in the chemical-signalling free-for-all that goes on in our endocrine systems.

          Think a bit harder, folks. If you are the sort of person who can eat meat knowing that it was a thinking, feeling creature that died for no reason other than its taste, then you’ve failed to grasp the salient central points of the Enlightenment. (In fact, go all the way back to Aristotle).

          And note to ‘Jake’… anyone who quotes Monbiot is a fortiori ignorant – Monbiot is a polemicist who could not undertake a scientific inquiry if you held a gun at his head.

          GT wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Disagree–shark steaks are delicious. And I wouldn’t be opposed to trying hawk if given the chance. Your reasoning is flawed and without factual support.

          Fritzy wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • @GT. It’s a shame you have a guy fawkes mask. I used to really like that.

          bruno wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Chicken and turkey eat insects, salmon eat shrimp.

          I choose not to eat dog (or cat for that matter), but what makes that different from eating chicken turkey or salmon.

          When was the last time you let your dog go out and hunt its food? I bet it eats from a can or bag.

          JohnGT wrote on April 5th, 2012
        • GT–

          “If my diet causes direct harm to anything that is likely to have any sort of ‘inner life’, then I am doing something wrong. If it causes indirect harm I can take corrective action to the greatest extent possible.”

          True, you can; that doesn’t change the fact that organisms have to die so you can live. To say that a plant has any less right to continue living than an animal is being as “specieist” as vegans accuse omivores of being. Because a cow demonstrates fewer taxonomic difference from you than a rutabegah, it’s less ethical to eat the cow?

          And while I’m glad you are healthy, using your N of 1 smacks of the same lack of intellectual rigor of which you are accusing others. But if we must look at case studies, there are plenty of former vegans blogging on the inter-webs of the various ways in which a vegan diet nearly killed them.

          Fritzy wrote on April 5th, 2012
        • Humans have compassion and free will. Therefore, choosing compassion is an option. Not choosing compassion is also an option but taking that option causes suffering. For all omnivores out there, would you eat your children and siblings? How would they feel? How do you think they feel? I do not wish that for anyone, just expressing an extrapolation of your logic. There is no condition in the human experience where causing suffering should be an option ever. We’re too smart for that. There are too many choices and options. For the survival of the human species, a conscious thinking awakened being, choosing compassion and the elimination of suffering should be the norm. Eating a dog, eating a cow, eating your cousins, eating your parents, causes suffering. You can not pick one and say, this causes suffering and this does not. That is a cop out and excuse and convenience for not looking at the obvious suffering caused by eating any animal (sentient being) whatsoever.

          Joe wrote on July 4th, 2012
      • In some countries, yes it is ok to eat dogs,kittens and horses. In America those things are pets in other places the idea of loving something that isn’t human as a family member probably seems odd.

        stefanie wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Note to GT:
          When I was 47 I could do all those same things…on a woman’s scale. I was invincible. But just wait 20 more years…things may be different.

          Kathryn wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Dogs have been bred for thousands of years to be companion animals. Natural selection has therefore caused them to be uniquely paired with humans – they respond to our verbal and non-verbal behavior, and otherwise have a symbiotic relationship with us that we have caused over thousands of years.

        So, yes, we have special obligation to dogs, as companion animals, to treat them as just that – companion animals. There is nothing hypocritical about believing it distasteful to eat dogs, given our relationship with them, while not finding it distasteful to eat animals that have been bred to be livestock. Livestock should be treated humanely while alive, and killed humanely. And then eaten.

        Duncan wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • In other cultures, it would be okay. So long you’re not stealing someone’s pet and eating it, it should be okay. =P

        Jenny wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • I would rather eat dogs than live without animal products and rely on supplements.

        Galina L. wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Yes. Dog tastes good. Seriously.

        man1 wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • In our family, we do not eat our pets. Even if we have a pet cow, we will still eat beef. We just happen to live in a culture where cats and dogs are pets and not food.

        sethanie wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • There is no difference between a pet and other animals. It does not make sense that a pet would feel suffering and another animal would not. THEY ALL feel suffering, the difference is, we are kept from the suffering of non-pets and deny, there is any suffering caused. That is simply not true. Causing suffering causing suffering causing suffering, causes suffering, even if it is not in your face and right in front of you.

          Joe wrote on July 4th, 2012
      • Yes. Can you provide a compelling reason why not?

        Jade wrote on April 5th, 2012
    • Exactly. As Richard from Free the Animal said in his essay… meat is the very food that allowed our brains to evolve to a point where we could perceive a thing such as ethics. It’s pretty ironic, given that fact, that we’re even asking the question.

      Burn wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Just because humans became ethical through an allegedly unethical act of eating meat (and driving some species to extinction even in paleolithic and neolithic times) does not *automatically* imply that we should or have to continue that practice now that we have the capacity for ethics. If I were a vegetarian, I would counter that meat eaters have to show proof that our capacity for ethical behavior is diminished, if not extinguished, by foregoing meat, in order to justify humans continuing to eat it.

        jake3_14 wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Homeostasis rules.

          If meat is what allowed us to question our behavior, it is also what continues to allow us to question our behavior. Thus, if we cease this behavior, we will lose the ability to question it, and promptly return to doing it again.

          Consider obesity. Strictly speaking, obesity can’t be maintained if we cut out the driver of obesity – carbs. Conversely, leanness can’t be maintained if we add back carbs.

          Homeostasis rules!

          Martin Levac wrote on April 13th, 2012
        • Modern man has a choice, to be compassionate or not, that is the only argument here. This supersedes all other arguments. We all have a choice to choose the causing of suffering or to choose compassion. Animals feel pain when they are slaughtered just as you would feel pain. Why do that? Science proves again and again we can get all nutrients from plants, just as the cows, gorillas and elephants do, why not us?

          Joe wrote on July 4th, 2012
    • is it ethical to look a pictures of naked women? is it ethical to love to ski and to do so occasionally on man-made snow? is it ethical to chew gum from a rubber tree on a possibly unsustainable plantation??

      another absurd distraction from an absurd establishment newspaper posing a worthless question.

      Tarak states the obvious and uses the exact amount of words this inanely stupid query deserves (apologies to Mark for all the work he did above… ;-) )

      ravi wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • It it ethical to look at pictures of naked women. At least according to my ethical system.

        Duncan wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • My God says it’s ethical too.

          Bruno wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • My ancestral tribe is of the Jewish people – the Torah and the oral law tell us exactly how to kill and eat animals, and what ones we may eat. The rules are crafted to reduce animal suffering; there are even rules about how to treat farm animals and how to give them rest. These careful rules make eating meat a divinely-sanctioned act. Altho’ I’m not religiously observant, I imagine those Jews who are must be deeply offended by this essay contest. It’s really insensitive, and the inclusion of the Jewish vegan Safran-Foer as a judge doesn’t ameliorate that – it’s pure tokenism, frankly. FAIL on the part of the NYT.

          moreporkplease wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • I don’t eating meat is required for humans, as plenty of vegetarians prove every day. They may not be eating optimally or be as healthy as someone who does, but regardless is not a requirement.

      For example, sleep is required… you dont sleep you will die :)

      pbo wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • There is a difference between vegan and vegataian.

        Mr. Retinol wrote on April 5th, 2012
      • vegetarians and non-vegetarians can eat poorly or optimally. Just because people eat meat does not mean they east opytimally. Check out the USDA obesity slide show. Check out the statistics on diabetes. Vegetarians and vegans do not contribute to the pandemic of heart disease, cancer and diabetes. That sounds like an optimal option of eating.

        Joe wrote on July 4th, 2012
    • I agree with Tarek. Arguing the “ethicality” (is that a word?) of meat eating outside of the context of biology is stupid. We are omnivores. If you chose to vegan, more power to you. As for me and my house, we will eat meat. There are no plants that contain all the essential amino acids needed for humans. However, all animal protein has the essential amino acids. That’s how human biology works. We eat what our body needs. Ethicality is a non-issue.

      Ryan wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • How about “Arguing the ethics”?

        Leif wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Bravo! Short and to the directly to the point. Well said.

        Kathryn wrote on April 5th, 2012
      • Correction: to Ryan: Bravo! Short and to the directly to the point. Well said.

        Kathryn wrote on April 5th, 2012
    • there was a study done with some plants, don’t recall all the particulars but the jist was plants hooked up to eeg sensors reacted when another plant was placed in a boiling pot of water to cook, inferring that they are sad? so, I guess we had better beware. remember the attack of the killer tomatoes?? could happen! idiots! if all this crap is true, eating is unethical, hence our survival unethical. I am hungry, I am having a ny strip steak tonight!

      terrence chaplin wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • I want a T-Shirt that reads,

        “I <3 NY (steak)"

        Bruno wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • That’s just the very beginning of the problems here. First, they pose the question in such a way that pre-supposes that eating meat is unquestionably unethical. That’s begging the question AND requires a belief in an absolute morality. A logical fallacy and a non-entity. Second, does anyone remember the smell of fresh cut grass? Well, recent research has shown that’s actually a plant distress call. Which means that plants might be more intelligent than we think, we’re just completely incapable of recognizing that intelligence. In other words, it’s highly likely that plants are just as capable of suffering as animals and there truly is no ethical choice.

      All of that pales in the face of the absurdity that the entire argument is built upon. IF humans are animals, and IF carnivorous or omnivorous animals eat animals, THEN the only case we can make for ethical eating presupposes that humans are unequivocally superior. Not is that arrogant, but the ants aren’t laughing at us because they’re ignoring us while accounting for more biomass than humanity. Superior, we ain’t.

      Steven wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Perennial grasses depend on intermittent grazing (cutting) for their survival and longevity. If a grass goes ungrazed, especially in drier environments it stops growing and becomes stale, and dies.

        Winnie wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • A distress call!?

        What good is a distress call to immobile life?

        “OH MY GOD, THEY’RE CUTTING US ALL DOWN! RUN FOR YOUR… oh, right.”

        Many plants, including grasses, need to be eaten in order to reproduce. The reason it smells wonderful is because it tastes wonderful too. This is by design.

        Bruno wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Au Contraire, we ARE superior. We are not JUST animals, we have a soul/mind and we are conscious of our actions and their consequences. Animals are not human no matter how cute your puppy is or how sweetly your pet pig looks at you – he is not human. We don’t eat humans – there has been a tabu against that since the year dot – albeit broken by some very primitive, dare I say barbaric, disturbed peoples. Oh, and please don’t tell me I have to respect their customs!!!! Again, nonsense!!

        It’s really crazy how this discussion gets off the track. Ethics doesn’t even come into eating meat. We NEED meat because we must have what meat contains. If vegans want to pretend they are healthy without amino acid supplementation so be it. But we don’t have to give them more space to prattle on, do we?

        We should get going with letters to the Times telling them to stuff it in their corporate hat. NO response is better than playing their idiotic game.

        Barbara Hvilivitzky wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • The problem is you’re saying that it’s probable that plants ‘suffer’ in some way, whereas we know for a fact sentient creatures such as pigs, cows, humans DO feel pain. So I do not believe that is a fair comparison by any means.

        Leif wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • Word.

      Karen P. wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • I think a much better question would be “Is it ethical to farm animals by the methods used in the US?”
      Mass farming in confined and unnatural ways does not say much about us as a species. Also there is a brutalising process that goes on for the people who carry out these cruel practices. It is well recognised that cruelty to animals is often followed by cruelty to humans.
      I would not eat meat or eggs farmed in the US unless guaranteed to be “free range” reared.
      If we cannot rear our food in a reasonable humane way we do not deserve to eat meat.
      New Zealand is far from perfect but doesnt have so many wrongs to right as your country.

      josephine Sutton wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • And the Creator,God, Clothe Adam and Eve in the skins of animals and their we have the first red meat meal

      William wrote on April 5th, 2012
    • I think that consuming meat and milk from animals is totally ethical – simple choice for me just like you all. However, I think it is the conventional manor in which they are raised and treated that is unethical. Buy from local farms that pasture raise their animals!

      Susan wrote on April 5th, 2012
    • I agree wholeheartedly…we born into this world, we did not design it. Even asking about “ethics” makes no sense to me. Why do we have to eat at all, or even breathe, for that matter? It’s just the way we are, just as all creatures on this world are the way they are- philosphizing about it isn’t going to change it.

      Paul wrote on April 5th, 2012
    • Our biology doesn’t require us to eat animal foods to “thrive”. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Animals protein, in general, as been proven to cause cancer and a host of of ailments. Don’t get me wrong…I don’t think there is anything unethical about eating animals..I do in fact. I just know it’s not as healthy as going animal free.

      Michael wrote on April 5th, 2012
      • To Michael:

        I politely disagree: we don’t need to eat meat to “survive”…but we do need to eat meat to “thrive”. Two different realities. Eating commercial meat can cause cancer, but eating organic/small farm meat does not cause cancer. Ditch the commercial grains and commercial dairy for the same reason(s).

        Kathryn wrote on April 5th, 2012
    • How about the demonstrated prayer after the deerhunt in Last of the Mohicans, where the hunters thanked the spirit of the deer for its body so that they could live?

      Jzstiner wrote on April 5th, 2012
    • there’s nothing unethical about eating meat. I would kill animals with my bare hands if I was a really, truly primal – but there’s a hell of a lot of unethical things about the way animals, especially on large-scale farms, are currently treated before they are killed.

      abcdefg wrote on April 5th, 2012
    • Animals eat animals we just happen to be at the top of the food chain Bon Appetit.

      Lynn wrote on April 7th, 2012
    • Our biology does not require us to eat animals, This is scientifically inaccurate. That is like saying, I need a toyata to drive to New York and a Honda to drive to San Francisco. That’s silly.

      Our body requires us to get proteins, carbs and fat. And, this can come from anything and does not have to come from animals at all. In plant based nutrition, it is easy to get all macro and micro-nutrients, anything.

      Joe wrote on July 4th, 2012
      • Everything you said is incorrect. If you know as much as you appear to, then you should know that humans can’t digest plant fiber. If we can’t digest plant fiber, we can’t extract the nutrition contained therein. Ergo, we must eat animals.

        Dietary carbohydrate is not essential to humans.

        Martin Levac wrote on July 4th, 2012
    • If our biology requires us to reproduce to survive as a species then there’s nothing unethical about rape. Oh wait…..

      Humans are intelligent enough to move past base natural urges.

      Pete wrote on August 5th, 2012
  2. Is eating meat ethical? Are Lions ethical? What about Honey Badgers?

    John wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • honeybadgers don’t care about ethics. :)

      jenella wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • They don’t give a shit!

        mark wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • I laughed out loud at this. Well played.

        mohill wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • awesome. LOL.

        Paul wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Neither should we. Posting the question like this is proof that we’ve gone soft in the head. Too much political correctness everywhere these days. Even towards animals. And I don’t mean those in congress.

        einstein wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Ahhhhh! I’ve been working all day on my response, counting words and editing to get it down to 600….and you beat me with a 5 word response!

        Well done, and spot on.

        Eating in Orlando wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • Do vegans refuse to feed their dogs meat?

      Abel James wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Yes, actually some of them do. Imagine being that poor dog!

        Jen wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • I knew someone who did that, and then they died…so she fed her next dog meat, yet continued to be vegan.

          Rob wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • why did she not just quit exploiting dogs as pets. Actually I like vegans, when Akins was the craze in 03, the price of meat inflated upon demand. more vegans less demand lower price.

          Dave S wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Actually, there are quite a few people who feed their animals (dogs mainly) “non-meat” diets. I think they should all be charged with animal cruelty and have their pets taken away… but that’s just me. My dog is an omnivore and loves vegetables and fruits but I would never deprive him of his most basic staple nutritional requirement to further my own food agenda.

        http://www.veganpoet.com/articles/dogs-can-be-vegan-too.htm
        http://www.peta.org/living/companion-animals/vegetarian-cats-and-dogs.aspx

        Lindsay Grok wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • They do. Even vegan people I know thinks people who do that are idiots.

        Chris E wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Unfortunately, many do. Many think it’s more healthy to feed dogs and cats a vegan diet. Sad.

        Kathy from Maine wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • They should be locked up for torturing animals. Stupidity is really limitless.

          einstein wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Actually, yes, some do. I recently read a news article about vegans who are turning their pets (mostly cats and dogs) vegan. Several vet experts were interviewed and they were all unanimously against the idea. It went on to say that a dog can survive reasonably well on a veggie diet…short-term. Then it will need meat. Cats need meat, period. One woman in the article actually said she would give up her pet, who she identified as a member of her family, to avoid having to feed it meat. “I can’t allow meat into my house,” kind of response.

        Penny wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Someone should tell this lady that if she has to give up her cat to avoid eating meat, there are some larger predators that would be happy to take care of her cat for her.

          Loren wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Grreeeaat, because a pet that ends up at the shelter because it’s owner can’t fathom the thought that it needs to eat meat will likely end up euthanized. Logic??? Yooohoooo, logic are you in there???? That woman is just plain cowardly. Certainly not ethical.

          Robyn wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • At least outdoor/indoor cats can survive on a vegan diet when inside… as soon as they get outside you know that they’re going to eat however many mice and other small mammals they want!

          Emily Mekeel wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Someone should tell that lady that if she were to die in her house, it wouldn’t be too long before her cat started eating her. Cats are carnivores – poor kitty.

          MamaB wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • look at the ingredients for dog food, none of us feed our dogs meat unless a special effort is made.

        bill wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • I knew some Vegans who put their cat on a vegan diet – a cat!!! Cats never eat anything but meat (a little grass, once in a while).

        The cat was constantly at the Vets, until the Vet basically told the owners the cat would always be sick if it wasn’t fed meat. They actually took the cat to a no-kill shelter rather than personally feed it meat.

        Duncan wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • I would have thought it unlikely that a vegan would keep a pet; they ought to view that in the same way as they view the keeping of bees for honey (‘proper’ vegans don’t eat honey).

        Apocryphal stories about such-and-so a ‘vegan’ who killed their dog by refusing to feed it meat are idiotic – again, the ‘plausible at first blush’ falderol that abounds on the internet, but which disintegrates the moment you think about it for more than two seconds.

        GT wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Interesting then that this article is on PETA’s website:

          http://www.peta.org/issues/Companion-Animals/meatless-meals-for-dogs-and-cats.aspx

          Let’s not pretend that people are above transferring human values to animals, pets specifically. Anthropomorphism is exceedingly common and logical fallacies abound (i.e., what’s good for the owner is good for the pet).

          As for your assertion that vegans wouldn’t have pets in the first place, that may be true for the purest definition of vegan (do we need a new term for pet-owning vegans? the absurdly specific “beegan” already exists for vegans who–you guessed it–dare to eat honey), but many own them anyhow. It’s not really that difficult to understand.

          les wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • Lions also tend to kill the cubs of a previous males when it takes a new pride. Is it then ethical for human males to kill the children of a previous relationship, too?

      Truth wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • I think the key thing with ethics is likely only humans have them, due to our ability to reason. Most (all?) other animals don’t have the higher intelligence to reason, and therefore are unable to grasp the concept of ethics.

        Chris E wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • So then it becomes a question of what we consider reasonable or unreasonable in our given circumstances.

          Winnie wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Yep…illegal too.

        Penny wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Of course one could argue that it’s illegal due to ethics.

          Chris E wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • You’re really stretching yourself thin, Truth.

        A catchy name like that unfortunately does not make anything you say actually “True.”

        It is understood that as humans we hold ourselves to different standards than other animals. And within each and every separate group of humans, you will find different standards.

        You’re young, I can tell, and naive. And you think you know how everyone else should live. I’d suggest you do what you want to do and allow others to decide for themselves as well.

        I’m sure you wouldn’t like it if the opposite were true and meat eaters were trying to forcibly sway you to eat meat.

        Just follow the golden rule and come back down to earth.

        Bruno wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • The well-being of off-springs is important, right? Than why is it ethical to feed children a diet that is deficient without supplements? Is it a sacrificing of children’s health?

        Galina L. wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Oh come on! What are you suggesting? We are human beings with a body and a soul/mind. Lions are animals. Why should their behaviour have any relevance to what we do? And of course we do kill our young. Ever hear of abortion?

        Barbara Hvilivitzky wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Nice.

        JohnGT wrote on April 5th, 2012
    • What he said!

      Catharine wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • You are all a riot. Because of your meat / fat fed brains your high cognitive skills are stronger. I like it … Oh yea, like minds think alike!

        Erin wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • Do lions factory farm? Do lions confine their prey in cages for a lifetime of suffering before eating them?

      Leif wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • You’d better believe they would if they could.

        Bruno wrote on April 5th, 2012
      • No, they just rip their guts out to immobilize them and eat them while they are still alive.

        Shalimar wrote on April 6th, 2012
        • But at least you can argue they lived a free, natural life up until their death. That’s an important difference, I think. A lifetime of pain and suffering in factory farming is worse than a few moments dying a natural death, in my opinion.

          David T wrote on April 6th, 2012
        • To put it into perspective:

          Which would you prefer?

          Would you rather live a happy, fulfilling life and have it end with a grueling 5 minute death, or live an entire lifetime in agony and torture, confined to a cage with absolutely no freedom, but die a quick, ‘humane’ death (if you’re ‘lucky’)?

          David T wrote on April 6th, 2012
    • You know what the sad thing is? I’ve actually heard vegans say that “It’s only okay for lions to eat meat because they don’t know any better.”

      How do you argue with that kind of ignorance and stupidity?

      Adam wrote on April 8th, 2012
  3. thanks, mark, for again putting to words what I think.
    Love my MEAT!

    jenella wrote on April 4th, 2012
  4. I got all weepy over that I-Caveman kill. It was the first time I’d really thought about the sacrifice animals make for us and how awesome and gut-wrenching and primal that is.

    I don’t think it’s unethical to eat them. But I do think it’s unethical to treat them horribly in order to eat them. But then we get into the sustainability argument. Ugh. It’s a difficult dilemma.

    Alison Golden - PaleoNonPaleo wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • +1

      Lindsey wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • Holi Canoli! I know what you mean! That video was amazing!

      I want to do that.

      Bruno wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • +1

      Dave wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • I encourage all meat-eaters to go for a hunt. At least once, and participate in every part of it. You really get an idea of what animals do to survive, and what it’s like to take a live, and get your hands dirty to the elbow in the choices you make. It’s intense, and really best if you do it with a group.

      Ghost wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • In Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” there is a section on the act of (and thereby implications of) hunting and eating your kill that is absolutely beautiful.

        Emily Mekeel wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • I don’t understand your comment…what difference does it make to hunt in a group? I’ve hunted North American wildlife for more than 20 years and have faithfully consumed every last bite. In groups, or alone, it doesn’t matter. Personally, I prefer to be alone when I shoot and field dress an animal.

        Regardless, the entire topic and support for this non-meat eating class is perpetuated by the far left liberals who are the same people that will crucify hunters and meat eaters in general, yet they will constantly be pro-abortion! They will prefer to protect a cow, while voting to allow for the murder of human life. Makes all the sense in the world to me.

        Aron wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Oh please. If you think that liberals are all vegetarians, well, that’s ridiculous. I know several republican vegetarians, so maybe you can ponder that. If you think real hard, you might figure out that there are illogical people on both sides of the party line. And this is absolutely not an appropriate forum to discuss your opinions on abortion.

          Qb wrote on April 8th, 2012
        • It’s different in a group because there’s the sense of comradeship that you don’t normally get when you go on a solo hunt. You have to work together, everyone having a part in ending an animal, and creating a meal.

          Um…yeah, I’m a liberal and a meat-eating pro-choice hunter. What’s your point?

          Ghost wrote on April 12th, 2012
    • I know what you mean. I had the same reaction when I saw the video a while back. That’s why when I went in on a pig share, I visited the farm to be there for the kill. I wanted to be part of the process – it was important to me to see the animals in their environment and witness their deaths.

      Deanna wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • I agree with the argument that it’s unethical to treat them horribly. If you are uneducated about how horribly they are treated. Get an education. Then once you are aware, comment. It took me years before I found out just how horribly each different species are treated, from calves, to dairy cows, to ducks and geese, turkeys, chickens, pigs, even sheep, none of them get a good deal. They live a horribly confined and painful life with a gruesome ending. There’s a humane way to raise and animal and a humane way to slaughter an animal. But unfortunately, these poor suffering creatures all go through hell and it’s all ended in a hellish nightmare. This is not a cut and dried issue.

      Laura wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Laura, you are right. And the truth is only a very small percentage of the US population will ever eat “humanely raised” meat. The people here are either in the “elite” that can, or are just looking for justifications or in denial.

        Truth wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Not just the ‘elite’. I think most could afford ethically raised meat, it’s just that people would prefer to pay for an ipad rather than pay 50-100% more for their food. It’s a societal mentality which needs changing.

          Chris E wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • How the animals are treated is where the real ethics come in. But I also think humans outstripping the earth’s ability to replentish itself is should be treated as an ethical question.

          B Willson wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • My son who is a student manages to eat grass-fed meats on less budget than he spent in a cafeteria. It is a redistribution of a budget. Step number one – the elimination of snacks and bought drinks. Eating organ meats besides regular cuts is the next step.

          Galina L. wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • You are totally correct about most animals being horribly treated (major suffering) before being killed (search CAFO). I submit that in this case, death is the better…and sooner is better. We raise organic free range chickens, goats, sheep, and have guard dogs. Our animals have a totally happy life with great food and clean water. When it comes time for them to die…they do NOT suffer for one second. We see to that. Their brain is “turned off” at the beginning process of the slaughter. It’s not pretty to kill an animal. But it’s necessary. Better than being eaten alive and wiggling. We cherish and guard our animals from predators. Many animals eat their food alive. Stuff of nightmares. A bear will begin eating at the sheep’s udder w/out first killing; Coyotes begins eating at the gut and rear-end of a deer w/out killing; a snake swallows smothers/ digests…without first killing the animal. And vegans think just humans are bad…

        Kathryn Saylor wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Thanks for your comment!

          Shalimar wrote on April 6th, 2012
    • +1 also! Amen Mark, amen! I look back at Native American spiritualism. When they took an animal’s life to feed themselves and their families, a prayer was said, thanking the animal for giving it’s life so that they may be nourished. Some tribes ate the heart immediately following the kill, as it was believed that was respectful. At least meat eaters might acknowledge the gift, appreciate the sacrifice. Maybe the question shouldn’t be “Is Eating Meat Ethical?”, it should be “What is Ethical Eating?” How you look at your food, animal or otherwise, and who or what was sacrificed to get it to your mouth should always be considered. Understanding that what you are eating is an animal naturally leads to how the animal was treated while alive. The Times is asking an unfair question. I’d like to see the “Is Veganism Ethical” question too – but that won’t happen.

      LizS wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Agree about the spiritual part, which is why most religions have a specific way of butchering animals: Jhatka (Hindu), Halal (Muslim), Kosher(Jew)). The Hindu aspect of considering it ethical to be Vegetarian is based on 2 concepts :Ahimsa (non-violence) and Karma (Feedback of your actions) and that is purely by choice!! Since the president cites Gandhi so often, maybe he should also consider Gandhi’s this saying :“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”

        Vaidehi wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Thank You, Liz!… for exactly putting into words what I had been waiting to read on this comment board.
        Respect for life. Period.
        And Gratitude.
        My Father, who would have been 102 now, used to say when I was a kid, back before there was even a discussion about this, “Who knows what broccoli feels?”

        martha wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Yes but this respect for life should start with human life, animals second. Why do we want to save the whales but let our neighbours in Sudan starve? Why do we want to save our neighbours in Sudan and kill the unborn who are too much trouble or too expensive to raise here?

          Barbara Hvilivitzky wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • Yep, it’s not treating them right that’s bad.

      If you don’t have the room to raise your own cows or the means to “meet the meat,” it’s either acknowledge that you are a horrible person or move down the food chain to eat rodents and crickets.

      Kelekona wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • In Thailand, crickets have been on the food stalls “hot sellers” list for a long time. Crickets deep fried in coconut oil w/ chillis, are like, well, they’re a super healthy tasty protein treat!! Yum!! I;ve eaten/enjoyed all the bugs on offer there, EXCEPT those water bugs which are basically oversized cockroaches, lol. And recently in Thailand, rats are the latest food craze, even city dwellers are actively seeking them out from the street vendors.

        Denver wrote on April 4th, 2012
  5. Vegetarianism has made overpopulation possible.There would be a lot fewer humans on the planet if everyone ate meat.

    Digger wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • Over population is a myth. Overpopulationisamyth.com

      The entire worlds population could fit inthe state of Rhode island, with room to dance. if anything I have learned from MDA, it’s that you can’t believe conventional wisdom.

      Meat is necessary for our life and health, therefore not eating has to come from a feeling of giving something up rather than ethics. The question is too vague to be a real question.

      Annie wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Love this entire thread. In a 2-dimensional analysis, that’s about 4 square feet per person – 2′ by 2′. NOw, in order to have room to dance, I’d like to be able to pick who I am that close to. Away from the main point, but I couldn’t help myself.

        Carl Barringer wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Are you serious?? Think about what you wrote. Hey, check out the Flat Earth Society, I think you will fit right in.

        Truth wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • I think you should go to law school, work as a DA for a couple of decades, then run for a Judge position, acquire a gavel – AND THEN start judging people.

          Do you know how many mountains had to be toppled to acquire the metals to build your car and your computer? How many humans had to be displaced? How many rivers were polluted and how many fish and other wildlife became diseased? Do you know how many animals die due to fertilizer and weed killer used to grow crops?

          Ethics goes beyond the topic of meat. Your “Ethical Superiority” regarding meat is trumped by your lack of ethics everywhere else.

          Bruno wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Very interesting website, great job with the videos. But, I have a problem with their base assumption that increased food production justifies an increased population. That is true only if the increased food production is sustainable and it’s not. So I have trouble buying their argument.

        Joe wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Well-said. What is wrong with 4 or 5 billion people in the US? Nothing comes to mind!

        B Willson wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • That’s a silly argument. Humans don’t just need enough space to be able to all squeeze in and dance. Overpopulation is a calculation of the ‘footprint’ we have, based on the area we need to provide us food, housing, and materials for all our stuff. Plus enough of nature for the ecosystem to survive and thrive–and process/biodegrade all our waste, from CO2 to garbage. And not all space is created equal; there are places we can’t live, can’t grow or raise food, etc. Can’t mine (and moreso, shouldn’t because it then poisons areas that we can use for other things).

        Patrick wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Overpopulation is not a myth. The world may have enough room for our actual bodies, but our consumption levels determine how many people the Earth can support.

        According to estimates, the average American requires 24 acres of productive land. That’s productive land, mind you, which cuts out millions of acres of deep ocean, desert, tundra, etc. If everyone on earth lived like an American, we would need 5 earths to support 7 billion people.

        This doesn’t even take in to account how 7 billion people are degrading the environment through things like overfishing, pollution, converting forest to farms and grassland, mountaintop mining, etc. These things are detrimental to the current carrying capacity and biodiversity of the Earth. Humanity currently has a population problem AND a consumption problem, and it is only a matter of time until it catches up to us.

        Adam wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Adam, spot on!

          Chris wrote on April 5th, 2012
    • I’m curious to learn more about this.

      Jenn wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • What do you mean by this? How does that work?

      Ashleigh wrote on April 4th, 2012
  6. Excellent logical approach, Mark, and one very different from the one that first crossed my mind.

    This essentially re-frames the question to be, “is it ethical to exist?”

    Well done.

    Lloyd wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • “Is it ethical to exist?”

      I love that. I’m going to use that whenever anyone tries to tell me about the ethical failures of meat eaters, if you don’t mind.

      Adam wrote on April 4th, 2012
  7. I think there’s an even bigger question here: what does ethical mean? Who decides for me what I should see as ethical? Ethics differ from culture to culture and as such is about as subjective as can be. Ethics do not enter into my decision to eat meat or not.

    Cody wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • This is actually the more important and revealing question. The original question presupposes that ethics exist, are relevant and mean the same thing to all people.

      However, attempt to come up with a logical argument explaining the existence of ethics and you run into some fundamental logical problems, such as appeal to authority without an authority.

      AnonyM wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Well, you know, unless you believe in God. ;-)

        Jeff Herron wrote on April 5th, 2012
    • Ethics are based on self-truths as I see it. The basic line is that you know, that for yourself, you would rather be: happy, well-fed, not in pain, not hunted, etc… From there you apply that same knowledge to things you understand, like other people. Then you argue if it applies to things that can: be happy, feel pain, feel fear, etc…

      Since I think its unethical to support big agra, I do things its generally bad to be vegan, eat GMOs, eat KFO meat, eat Fast food, etc…

      I don’t much care for the other ethical tac, the “good for the whole” angle.

      Kenneth D. wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Without belittling the importance for such things Morals and Ethics are there as a framework for belief to provide a common set of expectations in society, they may sometimes be or seem somewhat “universal”, because they are for “man” and by “man” to suit his needs for cooperation. So despite the delivery method (God, the State, wise-men, your friends, Simpsons….) the end reason is the same. We (as a group and individual) create and support the Ethics that are important to us for our lives.

        So….. is it ethical to eat meat… I guess that depends on what you choose to believe based on what you were taught.

        Is it tasty and nutritious ……Yes.

        Kiran wrote on April 4th, 2012
  8. Eating meat is obeying nature (if you’re human, anyway), enough said :D

    Mauricio wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • the human ANIIIIIIIIIIMMMMMAAAAAAAAALLLLLLL.

      craig almaguer wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • If that is true…why are there 10 billion artificially inseminated land animals and birthed and killed every year in the US?

      Chris wrote on April 4th, 2012
  9. Nice job, Mark.

    You’d also have to define ethical. Our very existence as a continuing species on this earth means we are utilizing resources that would otherwise be available for other creatures. That applies to every creature on earth as well. One might say existence is itself unethical.

    We have a human population on this earth that can only be supported by raising livestock and growing crops. If we want to be truly ethical, we would let the population die off to only what hunting/gathering would support…but there really is no realistic way of doing such a thing. We are left with what we have-make the best choices for health and nutrition.

    I will continue to eat meat and a primal diet that I believe will maximize my health and well being. Anything else is…unethical.

    Bob C. wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • Mark and Bob C’s comments were very well done. I enjoyed both of your responses.

      Bill wrote on April 4th, 2012
  10. It should be more like, “Is eating monocrop grains, fruits and vegetables; Ethical?”

    Dan Donovan wrote on April 4th, 2012
  11. I think you did a wonderful job making your case. Whether you eat meat or veggies, animals died to bring that meal to your table. “Death” is also required for nutrient rich soil/food. That is the circle of life. The fact that vegetarians and vegans (I have been both) are often blissfully ignorant of this does not make them more ethical, only more ignorant.

    Tiffany (NatureMom) wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • I agree with you 100%. Ignorance is NOT bliss!

      Kiki wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • AMEN! +1 Ignorance is not bliss…it’s just ignorant of the facts.

      Dave wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Dito. Ignorance stinks. The question reeks of ignorance. True ethics is for both sides to come to the table with real data, real evidence to either support their position or disputes the other. However, that was not permitted. Without the freedom to bring into play sustainability, organic, local, grass fed, etc they dismissed “ethical” from the onset.

        Erin wrote on April 4th, 2012
  12. I think it shows that people are either trying to force their beliefs on you or they really have too little to worry about. Go work…Food in mouth… Go seepy now… Nice bowel movement ah… Make Grok proud… Grunt!

    Grokitmus Primal wrote on April 4th, 2012
  13. Of course it’s ethical.
    Because in Nature everything is connected and one species requires the other.
    For food, for aid, for LIFE.
    Other animals support us with help and with their nutritious gifts.

    It’s a wonderful Universe!

    Also, don’t forget veggies are as alive as animals, but we cannot comprehend at the same level we comprehend other beings.

    Paul Alexander wrote on April 4th, 2012
  14. I can understand you feeling a little sad at the idea that an animal has to die to feed you but that animal would not have lived at all if there wasn’t a market for it’s consumption. Providing we go for well reared animals that have had a good life I think we are doing okay. As my neighbour explained to his vegetarian girlfriend, “They only eat ‘happy meat'”.

    Jean (UK) wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • Ah right, I completely forgot that argument applied to products other than silk.

      The domesticated chicken could probably breed back into something that almost has the survival rate of the jungle fowl, and escaped pigs are already more problematic than their wild cousins, but what can a jersey cow do?

      Kelekona wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • As we say on our farm (echoing Joel Salatin), “All our animals have great lives and then one bad day.”

      Jeff Herron wrote on April 5th, 2012
    • That’s right. The more happy animals we eat, the more animals are bred to live their happy lives as they please. That’s a net plus for the world.

      Etta wrote on January 22nd, 2013
  15. I read an article at ZeroHedge that recommends meat eating to combat loss of testosterone. In fact the article reads like a Primal Living primer. Everywhere I look Primal Living is verified. Article is at http://www.zerohedge.com/contributed/2012-14-04/man-boost-your-testosterone-level-health-power-and-confidence

    Craig wrote on April 4th, 2012
  16. I think it’s unethical to eat anything with a face. That’s why I always chop the face off first, before I eat an animal!

    SnarkyBastard wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • In all seriousness, I am deeply grateful for all forms of life that sustain my own.

      But I feel no guilt about eating animals, any more than they should feel guilt for eating humans, which many of them happily did for millions of years, and still do when the rare opportunity presents itself.

      SnarkyBastard wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • well said!

        efrain wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • A little bit of my shepherd’s pie just went up into my sinuses. Snort:)

      Michele wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • You gonna eat that face? Animal face fried in butter with some salt and pepper? Yes, please!

      Chris wrote on April 5th, 2012
  17. Like you said, grain fields, soy fields, corn fields, have destroyed entire eco systems, they have made entire species go extinct. And they are all staples of a veg*n diet. One cow could feel me for who knows how long, and I only buy grass-fed, which builds topsoil and is way more kind to the earth.

    Dani wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • I hope you meant “feed”… :-)

      SnarkyBastard wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • HAHA omg…

        Icepyk wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • I can understand those who love meat, but those who want to be loved by their meat….

          Chris E wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • That’s perfect !

        Erin wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • I’ll be your cow, baby.

      Bert wrote on April 5th, 2012
    • ‘one cow could feel me for who knows how long’, I am laughing so hard I am crying!

      Shalimar wrote on April 6th, 2012
  18. The attached video choked me up. It touched a serious primal nerve and now I must find a way to do that.

    zack wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • Your display picture is PERFECT for this topic. I love it.

      Bruno wrote on April 5th, 2012
  19. Eating meat is ethical because I say it is ethical. I am the ultimate source of my ethics, and need neither sanction nor interdiction by the father, son, holy ghost, nor post-modern, quasi-vegetarian urban hipster men who haven’t been really hungry a day in their navel gazing, hand wringing, angst-filled lives. I bet a dollar that if those a-holes got really, really hungry they’d be the first to shove me aside to get at a piece of meat.

    Samantha Moore wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • FTW

      Dirtylenz wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • How bout they just eat you. That hasn’t been addressed in any of the arrangement of words. I could bash your head in, cut you up and happily eat you. If I so choose. Illegal. Ethical?? Good times. We the people.. we the crazy people. We exploit everything under the sun. No matter animal, earth, element. We are the parasites it would seem. Eventually we will slide down the food chain. Super viruses anyone? Genetically modified mosquitos? We shall see.

      omnipresent wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Mmm, Soylent Green!

        Denver wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • And you know what? I’m edible. And so are you. However, being an apex predator has its advantages. And we’ll continue to experience ALL those advantages, including the ones that might spell the demise of it all. So it is.

        Samantha Moore wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • How can you think that people are parasites? Aren’t you one of us? I wonder where this idea comes from. I think we have seriously lost our way when the suicide of the human race seems like the way to “save the planet.” God help us.

        Barbara Hvilivitzky wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • I do not think we are parasites, madam. We are apex predators, as I stated.

          Samantha Moore wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • That’s why I am going to lay myself down on the compost pile whe I see the Grim Reaper coming. It’s only playing fair to give yourself to the microbes and worms and become soil.

        Shalimar wrote on April 6th, 2012
    • I love you Samantha!

      Hillside Gina wrote on April 4th, 2012
  20. I am of the opinion that pondering the ethics of an essential human and animal function such as eating is a useless endeavor, and only serves to gratify those who wish to assume a moralistic stance.

    Conan the Barbarian, though a fictional character, has a quote which I think is applicable:

    “I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content.”

    Rob wrote on April 4th, 2012
  21. Mark, I think your approach to this question is reasonable and sound. In some ways the question itself is framed in a pointedly “meat is inherently unethical, so now you should explain yourselves” way. Without being able to frame one’s answer with the obligatory information regarding grass-fed, organic, and sustainable farming of animals, it seems the the answer might necessarily be deficient enough to ensure that “no one could logically argue the ethical value of meat eating”. The answer to this question cannot singly be answered, nor neatly packaged in 500 words. The question is then reduced to a “titillation” of sorts; a feel-good way of “giving the meat-eaters a chance” all the while knowing that a narrowly dictated 500 word explication could not ever come close to the volumes of anti-meat-eating-sentiment, written and published by most of the distinguished panel of judges. Not a relevant form of dialogue.

    elle wrote on April 4th, 2012
  22. 600 words? I’ve written recipes longer than that…

    Nionvox wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • Recipes for dead animals?

      Good recipes can read like obituaries for the dearly departed animal. We are giving the creature a legacy beyond its last heartbeat.

      I can’t imagine an obituary for a cow written by a vegan. It would have so little feeling or emotion for something that is supposedly cared about so much.

      Primal Texas wrote on April 4th, 2012
  23. I have long maintained that if vegans are so concerned about being kind and harming no creature with their own dietary choices, then their only ethical position is suicide.

    I’m not sure it’s a good idea to play their game by accepting their straw man premise enough to counter it.

    Grace wrote on April 4th, 2012
  24. At a very young age I took a cue from “The Gods Must Be Crazy” (or maybe it was the sequel?) There is a scene where the tribal hunter kills the wild animal and thanks it for giving its life so that he and his people may live. Though I cannot legally harvest any of the animals that roam the wilderness by my home, I really think this is the best we can do: to acknowlege the gift of life from those we take life from.

    As a side note, I have thoughtany hours over the years how I could repay that gift when my time comes. Being embalmed and stuck in a box inside a cement box deep underground certainly doesn’t do anything to give life back to the creation that gives me such a good life.

    yoolieboolie wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • My husband is a (respectful) hunter. He is always moved to tears when he makes a kill. He then thanks God for providing this wonderful bounty for his family. Our family does not take any of it for granted, but see it as a blessing.

      When I was ten and saw my grandfather placed in a box in the ground, I knew I would never allow myself to be put to rest like that. It repulsed me, even at that young age.

      Kiki wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Yeah. I plan on being cremated and having my ashes scattered on the earth, so what’s left of my body can rapidly become a part of it and help nourish other life. As a Pagan, it’s really important to me that this happen once I’ve croaked :)

        Elizabeth wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • But even if you are respectfully buried in a casket you will very soon become the dust you came from. No need to scatter.

          Barbara Hvilivitzky wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Wow…you gave me an idea: be cremated and scattered in my gardens..and in my pastures…for the sheep and goats to eventually partake. The circle/cycle is complete. I need a new Will.

          Kathryn wrote on April 5th, 2012
      • I went to a Jewish funeral quite recently, a friend. As is the tradition in Judaism, it was a simple pine box, which holes positioned along the bottom to allow easy & speedy access for worms and such to do their handiwork. According to Jewish law, dust to dust is to be accommodated with, not fought against like modern measures of embalming & metal or otherwise impenetrably made caskets.

        The best tasting and feeling is from freshly caught fish and trapped or hunted meat in my experience. NOTHING tastes/feels better.

        Denver wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • My husband was a funeral director for a short time (less than 2 years) and he witnessed several different burial traditions. The norm of the time, however, is to keep the body preserved as long as possible and thus most caskets are sealed in thick concrete or steel boxes. This also helps keep them from “popping up” when a heavy rain comes. During a time of heavy snowmelt and rain after a cruel winter that took many elderly… it was like a scene from Poultergiest at this particular cemetery. This is naturally when we started to think about traditions that are more in accord with the laws of nature. Unfortunately most of our favorites aren’t legal without specific religious affiliation in our country.

          yoolieboolie wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • +1+1+1 Couldn’t agree with you more. While I’ve never been hunting myself, the several hunters I know are the most respectful, appreciative of their food people I know. I know some vegans and vegetarians as well, and they have an almost elitist, “holier than thou” attitude about food choices (and other things). Have they ever visited the farms their plant foods come from? Do they understand what microcultures do to the soil? Most I know, the answer is no. The meat eaters? They do understand. Looking back in time to the 1970’s and the rugby team plane crash in the Andes. When you are hungry, truly starving, you’ll eat what is available. Those survivors were treated as cannibals. They didn’t kill their friends, they ate meat that was available and already dead. They acknowledged the gift. While I’m not advocating anthropophagy, (it’s not exactly the healthiest thing for humans to eat), I’m making the point that even a die hard vegan, would most likely turn to meat for nutrition if that were the only option. We are fortunate enough in society today to even make choices about what we eat, vegan, vegetarian, frugivore, omnivore, or whatever. Respect for your food source, who nurtured it, helped bring it to your table, who prepared it, who you are able to share the meal with. Respect and acknowlegement and gratitude for the gift. You are right, this is the best that we can do.

      LizS wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • thanks liz, great example

        yoolieboolie wrote on April 5th, 2012
    • In Once Upon a Time (a show that shows a very interesting take on classic fairy tales), the Hunter that is supposed to kill Snow White always sheds a tear for the animals he kills, thanking it for its sacrifice. I really connected to it, and I think that’s how we should treat any [innocent] creature whom we kill so as to prosper.

      Marielle wrote on April 4th, 2012
  25. I love meat and won’t give it up as I think it is part of nature that we consume other animals.

    However, I have always thought (and some others on here have said it too) that we should at least treat the animals nicely before we kill and eat them.

    Cristina wrote on April 4th, 2012
  26. My husband and I just purchased a lamb from a friend who raises them on pasture. She had asked me if I wanted to come out and choose our lamb. I said no. I am grateful for the meat, but couldn’t bring myself to see it alive and prancing in the pasture. Am I hypocritical? Maybe just a bit cowardly. We are trying to consume only grass-fed meat raised by people we know are treating their animals well. That’s the best I can do for now.

    Teresa wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • I don’t think you’re cowardly at all! I think you’re doing exactly what’s right for you, and I think you’re doing a lot more than someone who has zero idea where their animal comes from at all.

      Ghost wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Agreed!

        Paul wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Yep. Good job.

          Erin wrote on April 4th, 2012
  27. It strikes me as hypocritical to say on one hand that humans are part of nature and not essentially different from other animals. And on the other hand to say that humans have the ability to choose and therefore we should choose to not kill animals.

    I believe humans are animals–very special and unique animals on this planet. If we need to eat meat to stay healthy, then we should eat meat. The ethical part for us is raise the animals we eat in way that is humane and to slaughter them in as painless and stress free way as possible.

    Stan the Man wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • I totally agree with you on this. Separating the “is eating meat ethical” out as a separate thing from WHERE you get your meat is ridiculous. It becomes for me a meaningless question, because the ethics are all in the details.

      Gydle wrote on April 4th, 2012
  28. I think that two books tackle this subject very well from a variety of perspectives – The Vegetarian Myth, and The Mindful Carnivore. I just finished the latter two days ago and I love the thought processes the author goes through. But, some of their arguments are in the “not allowed” areas. The contest is a joke as are most of the comments.

    Damon wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • so, is it ethical to joke?

      yoolieboolie wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Is it ethical for Mark to dodge the question asked by the NYT? And for you all to suck it up like drones so you can look yourselves in the mirroe?

        Truth wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • I have no problem looking at myself in the mirror. (Except, I get really distracted by how PRETTY, healthy, and strong I am these days!) Mark didn’t dodge the question, he called it out for the silly that it was.

          Ghost wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Hey “Truth”: Assuming that you know what I think and how I behave, assigning your judgemental disdain (even through the internet) is a sign of your own self-dissatisfaction and a true cop out, imho. But thanks for projecting! Is that angst really productive for you? It can be fun to declare “it’s all bullshit!” and play the devil’s advocate, but is it really productive? Turn that frown upside down, buddy! Life’s not so bad!

          yoolieboolie wrote on April 5th, 2012
  29. Of course its ethical, well really depends you are, don’t you agree?

    Martin wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • Thumbs up to that Ghost!!! I’ve never felt better, felt stronger or looked healthier too.

      piefrog wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Same here: looking good and sexy at 60, no shame about it :-)

        WildGrok wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • ::brofist:: Boom. You know it, I know it, when I look up at myself every morning and smile at how fantastic I feel…yeah, it’s good stuff.

        Ghost wrote on April 12th, 2012
  30. Yes. Next question?

    Nancy wrote on April 4th, 2012
  31. A few years ago I read Barbara Kingsolver’s book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.” It was a great read, and even though it doesn’t advocate a paleo lifestyle, it does focus on local farming.

    In the book, Kingsolver explains why she started eating meat again after several years as a vegetarian. I can’t quote it exactly, but she says that being a farmer had given her a great appreciation for all life, both animal and plant. She saw the plants from seed to table. She saw how hard they struggled to survive. They worked just as hard as animals.

    We can assume that plants have no brains, hearts, or souls, but is eating them ethical? After all, we are still destroying a life, a precious part of our ecosystem.

    Leslie wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • I will have to find that book! That is basically my perspective on this whole matter.

      Erik Istre wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • “If we were not supposed to eat animals, they would not be made out of MEAT!” ???

        Trout wrote on April 4th, 2012
  32. Fantastic post.
    Thinking about an animal dying for my meal makes me appreciate the food that much more. I got a lamb from a local farmer a while back, and brought it to the meat processor myself, carried it in and watched them kill it. It makes you think a little more about what you’re eating.

    Christopher (Squatchy) wrote on April 4th, 2012
  33. My basic response, and the one that shattered me world as a vegetarian, is why is it ethical to eat plants, if it is not ethical to consume animals? Its a question of life, not what most closely resembles us as humans.

    I have further elaborated, and have the essay I will submit on my blog. I would love to have my argument critiqued and analyzed.

    Erik Istre wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • It would be fun to give a critical analysis of your answer. I love critical theory, specifically deconstruction (merci, Derrida). I had planned on answering the call of The Times contest, but I don’t think it would be constructive attempt. I am an avid Times reader though.

      I think I remember the preceding article and contest rules/explanation exceeding 600 words itself! Maybe not though.

      elle wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Ah Derrida is fantastic. Deconstruction is a lot of fun! Feel free to deconstruct away.

        Erik Istre wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • Most ethicists believe it’s not a question of life, but of desire and/or suffering. Since animals have desires and the capacity to suffer, eating them is less ethical than eating plants (which have neither).

      Zac wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Ah I see.

        My issue with that is still that its a largely anthropocentric view. I don’t dislike humanity by any means, but I see no valid reason to hold us or our interpretations of nature to any higher standards. Desire/suffering is what our conscious minds are preoccupied with. I doubt it so dwells with other life. It often leaves even our minds, in those moments when we are concerned with the life we are living currently, and not the life we have/or will live.

        Thank you for the comment. I will probably rework my response to consider that.

        Erik Istre wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Is question of health is very different from the question of life?

        Galina L. wrote on April 4th, 2012
        • Health and life is in specific instances the same. However, as we know, you can have “more life” while having less general health. This is what happened during the agricultural shift anyway.

          Erik Istre wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • Because there is no scientific evidence plants feel pain the way sentient creatures do? Plants do not have the capacity to feel pain the way cows, pigs, and humans do for the simple fact they lack a central nervous system and a brain to be able to feel pain. You can argue that perhaps they feel pain in their own way in which we cannot currently perceive. However, until it is proven, it’s purely speculation, whereas we know for a fact sentient creatures very much feel pain the way we do.

      Leif wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • My stance is a bit different, in that I don’t think pain should be considered part of the equation. It may put me in a rather interesting position philosophically, but its what makes more sense to me. I feel as if in identifying with pain in animals, and thusly saying their lives should not be taken because they feel pain, is denying the fundamental role of plants and the fact that their life is just as valuable.

        Erik Istre wrote on April 5th, 2012
  34. I’m actually annoyed that anyone is still debating this question, let alone that there is an essay contest about it.

    Is it ethical to have sex? Is it ethical to go out in the sun? Is it ethical to exercise? Is it ethical to shower? All these questions make as much sense as is it ethical to eat meat.

    Good Grief, as Charlie Brown used to say.

    SpyderInFlames wrote on April 4th, 2012
  35. I am a hunter, and I do it for the meat it provides – can’t get any cleaner. Sad thing about most that eat meat though, is they don’t really get it. Their meat comes wrapped in cylaphane – most don’t realize the cost beyond the death of the animal (ever seen a CAFO?) many meat eaters demonize hunters same as vegetarians demonize meat eaters….We are all consumers, like Mark said, we ALL have blood on our hands, some are simply more educated on the cost beyond their checkbooks and the death of an animal.

    stefanie bryant wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • I am vegetarian, but believe me: I have far more respect for someone who actually hunts the food they eat than for those who buy it neatly packaged at the grocery store.

      Leif wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • Since when is fish a vegetable?

        Bruno wrote on April 6th, 2012
  36. OK…so I’m not that religious but there is a reason why gluttony is one of the Big 7. Not only does it show a disrespect for the consumer, but a disrespect for the meal being consumed. Is that not where one of the ethical issues lies? I just remember my grandmother telling me about the time, effort and thoughtfulness it took to prepare a meal before cellophane and the variety fresh fruits and vegetables that are now available year round. We certainly do live in a country of abundance.

    Judy wrote on April 4th, 2012
  37. I hope that you submit this essay as an official contest entry, because it’s way better than some of the ridiculous essays I’ve read on other websites. Some of them are embarrassingly bad and make the rest of us omnivores seem like idiots by association.

    dragonmamma wrote on April 4th, 2012
  38. From the perspective of pure naturalism, there is really no intrinsic difference between animals and humans. This is philosopher/ethicist Peter Singer’s argument, and I think Carl Sagan held to this view as well.

    Under the evolutionary perspective, killing an animal is just as unethical as killing a human. There is no distinction between these two acts because both animals and humans are merely composed of bags of chemicals. We know this to be untrue intuitively; however, from a solely naturalistic perspective, we cannot deduce this.

    Dana wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • Yes and Singer even advocates killing babies as old as 3 months….what a guy! And this is a man who is going to be deciding how cogent some arguments are for “ethics?” please!!!!!!!

      Barbara Hvilivitzky wrote on April 4th, 2012
      • It’s all about context. I’m pretty sure he didn’t say go kill every newborn in sight.

        Leif wrote on April 4th, 2012
  39. Not only should humans STOP eating meat because it is UNETHICAL, but we should force wild animals to also STOP eating meat.
    Evolutionary biology be damned – those amoral lions and bears can eat some berries and love it.

    Ben wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • Not a fair comparison. Last I checked lions and bears don’t factory farm or confine their prey to a lifetime of torture in a cage. That is what I mainly find wrong with the meat most people consume.

      Leif wrote on April 4th, 2012
  40. The essay topic is a trick question … It posits moral equivalence between humans and animals. Within an anthropomorphic framework the argument isn’t worth pursuing.

    http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2005/11/10/13730/

    http://www.opendemocracy.net/ecology-foodwithoutfrontiers/article_1224.jsp

    nemolene wrote on April 4th, 2012

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