Is Eating Meat Ethical?

By 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!

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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744 thoughts on “Is Eating Meat Ethical?”

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

    1. 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?

      1. +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.

        1. 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”?

        2. 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.

        3. @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.

        4. “…your life is more valuable than that of other creatures on this planet? Why is that?”

          Because I’m the one living it.

        5. Is it more ethical to create the situation that would lead to the extinction of farm animals than to eat them?

        6. 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)

        7. 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.

        8. 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.

        9. 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. 😀

        10. 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.

        11. 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.

        12. 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.

        13. You may want to dispute with American Dietetic Association tho.. It sounds llike you believe everything the meat industry tells you, but nevertheless, self-eduation goes a long way.

          ”It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.” ”Vegetarians also appear to have lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension and type 2 diabetes than nonvegetarians. Furthermore, vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass index and lower overall cancer rates. ”

        14. Bethany 6678:

          You mean THESE GUYS?


          A public policy workshop held in March 2001 was sponsored by American Soy Products, California Dried Plum Board, Egg Nutrition Center, Food Marketing Institute, Grocery Manufacturers of America, Kashi, National Soft Drink Association, Sodexho, and Marriott Services. (ADA Courier, 5/01)

          The American Dietetic Association has received funding from numerous companies and receives underwriting for “fact sheets” on topics related to the companies’ products. Major ($100,000+) donors include: Kellogg, Kraft Foods, Weight Watchers International, Campbell Soup, National Dairy Council, Nestlé USA, Ross Products Division of Abbott Labs., Sandoz, Coca-Cola, Florida Department of Citrus, General Mills, Monsanto, Nabisco, Procter & Gamble, Uncle Ben’s, Wyeth-Ayerst Labs. (Nov-Dec 1996 ADA Courier)

          ADA and DuPont have an agreement that enables ADA to place nutrition information on the web site Dupont is an investor in WebMD. (ADA Press Release, 10/16/00)

          Co-produced, with funding from the ConAgra Foundation, a packet of information on food safety titled “Home Food Safety: It’s in Your Hands.” (Funding disclosed on packet on file at CSPI, Nov. 1999)

          Published a “Biotechnology Resource Kit,” which was funded by the Council for Biotechnology Information.” (ADA “Dear Member” letter; 2000)
          [See entry for Council for Biotechnology Information]

          The American Dietetic Association has announced that it will be seeking to endorse food products (Nov.-Dec. 1997 ADA Courier).

          ADA and American Pharmaceutical Association (pharmacists) announced a joint consumer-education program on supplements; it is funded by Monsanto Life Sciences Company (press release, 11/8/99).

          In fiscal year 2000, the following companies contributed $10,000 or more: BASF Corp., Bristol Myers/Squibb, California Avocado Company, The Catfish Institute, ConAgra Foods, DMI Management, EcoLab, Galaxy Nutritional Foods, Gerber Products Company, Kellogg, Knoll Pharmaceuticals, Lipton, Mars, Inc., Mead Johnson Nutritionals, McNeil Consumer Products Company, Monsanto, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Dairy Council, National Fisheries Institute, National Pasta Association, The Peanut Institute, Potato Board, Procter & Gamble, Roche Pharmaceuticals, Ross Products Division, Abbott Laboratories, Viactiv, Worthington Foods. (ADA/ADAF 2000 Annual Report,; November 11, 2000)

          The following companies and organizations sponsored information sessions at the ADA’s 2002 Food and Nutrition Conference, held in Philadelphia, PA:

          Almond Board of California
          American Egg Board/Egg Nutrition Center
          ADM Kao LLC
          Balance Bar Company
          ConAgra Foods
          DuPont Protein Technologies
          General Mills
          Gatorade Company
          Gerber Products Company
          H.J. Heinz
          Internationl Food Information Council
          International Life Sciences Institute
          Mars, Inc.
          McNeil Nutritionals
          National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
          National Dairy Council
          Procter and Gamble
          Quaker Oats
          Ross Product Division
          Sodexho Health Care Services
          Sysco Corporation
          United Soybean Board
          United States Potato Board
          Wheat Foods Council

          (; accessed 2/24/03)

          In 2002, the ADA entered into a partnership with Gerber Products Company to form the Start Healthy Nutrition Advisory Panel. The panel includes both experts from Gerber and ADA. (; accessed 2/24/03)

      2. 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?…

        1. 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!

        2. As I explain to our kids about emergency situations . . . people first, pets/animals second, things third.

      3. 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!

        1. 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.



        2. 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.

        3. 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.

      4. 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.

        1. 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?

        2. 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.

        3. 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?

        4. 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.)

        5. 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.

        6. 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?

        1. 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.

      5. 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.

        1. 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.

        2. 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.

      6. 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.

      1. Of course not, cute animals are exempt 🙂

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

        1. I always say that if the apocalypse comes then my three dogs are a type of insurance policy. Especially the fat one????

        2. 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.

      2. 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!

        1. 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.

      3. Silly, There are people in countries who eat dog. China, Indonesia, Korea, Mexico, Philippines, Polynesia, Switzerland, Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Arctic and Antarctic

        1. I’m pretty sure that Mexicans do not eat dogs. This is the first time I hear this.

      4. Yes, eating dogs is okay, too. But I choose not to eat dogs.

      5. 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.

        chickens, turkeys, deer, cows, cod, salmon

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

        1. “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.

        2. 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

        3. 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.

        4. 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.

        5. 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…

        6. 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.

        7. 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.

        8. @GT. It’s a shame you have a guy fawkes mask. I used to really like that.

        9. 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.

        10. 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.

        11. 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.

      6. 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.

        1. 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.

      7. 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.

      8. In other cultures, it would be okay. So long you’re not stealing someone’s pet and eating it, it should be okay. =P

      9. I would rather eat dogs than live without animal products and rely on supplements.

      10. 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.

        1. 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.

    2. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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!

        2. 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?

    3. 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… 😉 )

      1. It it ethical to look at pictures of naked women. At least according to my ethical system.

        1. 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.

    4. 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 🙂

      1. 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.

    5. 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.

      1. Correction: to Ryan: Bravo! Short and to the directly to the point. Well said.

    6. 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!

    7. 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.

      1. 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.

      2. A distress call!?

        What good is a distress call to immobile life?


        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.

      3. 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.

      4. 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.

    8. 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.

    9. And the Creator,God, Clothe Adam and Eve in the skins of animals and their we have the first red meat meal

    10. 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!

    11. 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.

    12. 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.

      1. 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).

    13. 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?

    14. 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.

    15. Animals eat animals we just happen to be at the top of the food chain Bon Appetit.

    16. 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.

      1. 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.

    17. 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.

  2. Is eating meat ethical? Are Lions ethical? What about Honey Badgers?

      1. 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.

      2. 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.

        1. I knew someone who did that, and then they died…so she fed her next dog meat, yet continued to be vegan.

        2. 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.

      1. 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.

      2. They do. Even vegan people I know thinks people who do that are idiots.

      3. Unfortunately, many do. Many think it’s more healthy to feed dogs and cats a vegan diet. Sad.

        1. They should be locked up for torturing animals. Stupidity is really limitless.

      4. 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.

        1. 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.

        2. 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.

        3. 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!

        4. 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.

      5. look at the ingredients for dog food, none of us feed our dogs meat unless a special effort is made.

      6. 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.

      7. 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.

        1. Interesting then that this article is on PETA’s website:

          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.

    1. 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?

      1. 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.

        1. So then it becomes a question of what we consider reasonable or unreasonable in our given circumstances.

      2. 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.

      3. 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?

      4. 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?

      1. 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!

    2. Do lions factory farm? Do lions confine their prey in cages for a lifetime of suffering before eating them?

      1. No, they just rip their guts out to immobilize them and eat them while they are still alive.

        1. 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.

        2. 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’)?

    3. 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?

  3. thanks, mark, for again putting to words what I think.
    Love my MEAT!

  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.

    1. Holi Canoli! I know what you mean! That video was amazing!

      I want to do that.

    2. 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.

      1. 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.

      2. 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.

        1. 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.

        2. 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?

    3. 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.

    4. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

        2. 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.

        3. 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.

      2. 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…

    5. +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.

      1. 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”

      2. 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?”

        1. 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?

    6. 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.

      1. 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.

  5. Vegetarianism has made overpopulation possible.There would be a lot fewer humans on the planet if everyone ate meat.

    1. Over population is a myth.

      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.

      1. 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.

      2. Are you serious?? Think about what you wrote. Hey, check out the Flat Earth Society, I think you will fit right in.

        1. 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.

      3. 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.

      4. Well-said. What is wrong with 4 or 5 billion people in the US? Nothing comes to mind!

      5. 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).

      6. 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.

  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.

    1. “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.

  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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

      1. 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.

  8. Eating meat is obeying nature (if you’re human, anyway), enough said 😀

    1. If that is true…why are there 10 billion artificially inseminated land animals and birthed and killed every year in the US?

  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.

    1. Mark and Bob C’s comments were very well done. I enjoyed both of your responses.

  10. It should be more like, “Is eating monocrop grains, fruits and vegetables; Ethical?”

  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.

    1. AMEN! +1 Ignorance is not bliss…it’s just ignorant of the facts.

      1. 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.

  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!

  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.

  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'”.

    1. 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?

    2. As we say on our farm (echoing Joel Salatin), “All our animals have great lives and then one bad day.”

    3. 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.

  15. 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!

    1. 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.

    2. A little bit of my shepherd’s pie just went up into my sinuses. Snort:)

    3. You gonna eat that face? Animal face fried in butter with some salt and pepper? Yes, please!

  16. 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.

        1. I can understand those who love meat, but those who want to be loved by their meat….

    1. ‘one cow could feel me for who knows how long’, I am laughing so hard I am crying!

  17. The attached video choked me up. It touched a serious primal nerve and now I must find a way to do that.

  18. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

      2. 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.

        1. I do not think we are parasites, madam. We are apex predators, as I stated.

      3. 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.

  19. 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.”

  20. 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.

    1. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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 🙂

        1. But even if you are respectfully buried in a casket you will very soon become the dust you came from. No need to scatter.

        2. 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.

      2. 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.

        1. 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.

    2. +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.

    3. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

    1. 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.

  25. 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.

    1. 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.

  26. 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.

      1. 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?

        1. 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.

        2. 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!

    1. Thumbs up to that Ghost!!! I’ve never felt better, felt stronger or looked healthier too.

      1. Same here: looking good and sexy at 60, no shame about it 🙂

      2. ::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.

  27. 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.

      1. “If we were not supposed to eat animals, they would not be made out of MEAT!” ???

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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).

      1. 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.

      2. Is question of health is very different from the question of life?

        1. 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.

    3. 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.

      1. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

    1. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

    1. 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!!!!!!!

      1. It’s all about context. I’m pretty sure he didn’t say go kill every newborn in sight.

  35. 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.

    1. 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.

  36. of course it’s ethical to eat meat. There are certain animals put upon this earth for no other reason than to be consumed, part of which is for food. In truth, we too are put upon this earth to be eaten and will eventually be consumed. It’s all part of the predator-prey relationship.

  37. The question makes no sense. The only reasonable answer is “Is it ethical to read the New York Times?” Absent any cogent reason why eating meat would be a bad thing, the question itself is irrelevant. They might as well have asked, “Without knowing anything about my code of ethics, tell me why you are not violating it.”

    It’s guilty until proven innocent. I don’t play those kinds of games.

  38. I’m thankful for all the food I consume. Animal or not. Aside from that, eating meat is ethical because it is natural. The question becomes, what is the best way to slaughter the animal? There are people who work very hard to come up with practical solutions to minimize distress to an animal before and during slaughter. You can be sure that if left to our own devices to slaughter our own food, it would be a messy and painful experience (for the animal and us).

  39. Excellent essay Mark, especially considering the constraints imposed by the NY Times. You hit the nail on the head precisely, and I can’t see how any vegetarian or vegan could refute these facts without weakly claiming that killing animals as a byproduct of their lifestyle is somehow less incriminating. It’s not that they are killed by accident…it’s the logical byproduct of industrial agriculture, which means it can be foreseen, and that it is therefore acceptable to those who support it.

    I agree that one cannot fully discuss the ethics of meat eating without bringing up the various nuances of it all, aka grass-fed vs. factory farmed, local vs imported, etc. There is a huge, gaping chasm between animals raised in a natural environment who live a happy, meaningful life and those who are stuck in a dark, crowded hellhole and fed agricultural byproducts. There is just no comparison, and I think it is an issue that really should be thrust into the forefront of public consciousness. Factory farming is nothing but a blight on the landscape, and an embarrassment to this country.

    I didn’t mean for this comment to be anything close to this length, but I will just finish with one last point. The natural order of the world is such that in order for one organism to survive, another must die. There is no other way, and the only exception is autotrophs, which is why they are at the bottom of the food chain. This is called the circle of life, and it has been this way for hundreds of millions of years. Even though we humans usually do most of the consuming since we are at the top of the food chain, we all will eventually die, and our bodies will return the favor to all the plants, animals, and microorganisms that nourished us. To question this basic law of life is ignorant in the extreme, and potentially dangerous.

    1. The question should not be whether it is ethical to eat meat, but rather whether we should have to hunt for it.

      1. Are you saying we should question whether it is ethical to raise animals for food vs. hunting in the wild? Or did I misunderstand your statement?

    2. Good post Adam.

      I also believe that the Earth will still be here long after we are gone – Omnivores and Veggies alike.

    3. “The natural order of the world is such that in order for one organism to survive, another must die. There is no other way, and the only exception is autotrophs, which is why they are at the bottom of the food chain. This is called the circle of life, and it has been this way for hundreds of millions of years. Even though we humans usually do most of the consuming since we are at the top of the food chain, we all will eventually die, and our bodies will return the favor to all the plants, animals, and microorganisms that nourished us.”

      Word. The recognition that suffering is unavoidable in this natural world is the central tenet of Buddhism. There’s no fantasy world in which we can escape it, no matter what the NYT would like to say.

  40. I recently harvested my first Cow elk along with my two sons. We did a work trade just to be able to harvest the animal. We then processed the entire alfalfa free ranged elk ourselves. We experienced sadness,thrill, and above all thankfulness for animal. Nothing was ever done that was disrespectful or unethical. The whole experience has been extremely gratifying and like Mark mentioned honorable!

  41. I eat meat. But I am also interested in water issues. A thousand lb steer (of any kind) requires enough water in its lifetime to float a destroyer. Fresh, potable water which is less that 1% of all the water on the planet.
    None of this is simple to put it mildly…

    1. Yeah but next time you drive through big Agra country in the summer watch all the water being sprayed over the canola and soy crops!

    2. Mark, while it’s true that cattle consume a lot of water…they also “pee” back most of the water back into the soil, along with valuable minerals (from deeply rooted plants) that further enhance the pasture with it’s needed nutrients. And they keep doing this all day long. It’s a beautiful cycle if viewed as such.

      1. Oops…I meant Martin…
        …while it’s true that cattle consume a lot of water…they also “pee” back most of the water back into the soil, along with valuable minerals (from deeply rooted plants) that further enhance the pasture with it’s needed nutrients. And they keep doing this all day long. It’s a beautiful cycle if viewed as such

        Read more:

  42. Mark,

    What a truly great post! Well written and well done.
    It is becoming a rare treat these days to read something that does not leaving me choking on the moral self-aggrandizement of the author. So Kudos to you!

  43. That was… Interesting. Although you make a valid point about field mice and topsoil, it should be included in the literature on the topic, I went vegetarian because I figured I would try and minimize the pain I cause. It also sucks that the organic label can’t be trusted, their requirements are so awful, things like ‘free range’ lose their meaning. It’s my ever evolving impression that I can make the sacrifice of not eating meat if it reduces a lot of the negative sides of meat production.

    1. But that’s just the wrong headed way to go about it. It would be much better to support properly raised and humanly killed meat!!!! Supply would go up, and prices would come down. win-win

  44. Thank you so much Mark! I proposed the same type of argument in the comments over at Free the Animal, but you’ve expressed it here so much better. Since killing animals is involved in obtaining both plants and animals for food, the question really is asking : is it ethical to eat. 🙂

  45. I make it a point to thank my steak before I eat it. I don’t thank my broccoli. I do thank my butter for making my broccoli taste better, though.

  46. If it was not, and we paid attention to those ethics, then the human race would have vanished long long ago.

    It’s really a stupid question.

    So it’s either ethical, or it’s not and we ignored the ethics in order to survive.

    Maybe the question should be “would you ignore ethics in order to survive”?


    “Would you die of starvation in order to be ethical”?

    I’ll be nobody picks starvation.

  47. Funny to see this, I have actually written essays on this subject in online rebuttals to people who argued against eating meat.

    I have seen the movies “Earthlings” and “Food Inc.” and found them heartwrenching, especially Earthlings. I was in such pain after that movie, at the same time it was a familiar feeling and then I realized over the course of the next 48 hours I was actually grieving. Grieving for the animals, receivers of such unspeakable cruelty which winds up the fate of our world’s animals almost continuously.

    Its difficult to defend meat consumption without addressing the world situation with animals. But really it comes down to basic survival.

    One reason I really connected to the Primal Blueprint was because all the things that were recommended to be avoided were things that already had to be avoided in my household. My son was allergic to peanut while I’m allergic to soy- (no soymilk, no tofu) so the recommendation to avoid legumes only made sense to me. Second, my son is an officially diagnosed celiac while my sister is diagnosed intolerant to wheat, and I decided to be gluten free 5 years ago based on my own symptoms- so the recommendation to avoid grains was something I was already doing- and to add corn and rice to that was easy for me. I didn’t miss those things other than being there for variety. Hold on, I’m getting to the point…

    In my early 20’s I began becoming allergic to plants like apples, pears, peaches, mushrooms, beer (hoppes), tomatos, and other plants, from what I guessed to be a bad case of leaky gut. Meat was one of the few things I tolerated well without repercussions. When I stated this online, that I would not give up meat because my body tolerated it well whereas it rejected tree fruits, soy, yeast, grains, and some nightshades, and more- I lost some vegan friends, but, that’s ok. I felt healthy avoiding those things while eating meat with plenty of vegetables, and getting carbs from roots and fruits (sweet potato,carrot, mango, banana, etc.)and I was not going to lie about it to succumb to the pressure these days to avoid meat. No, I’m not going to avoid meat as terrible as I feel for animals because I need to live, too.

    Another perspective about the type of food we eat: Recently my dog was just diagnosed diabetic. He is 13, and I always fed him a mix of wet and dry food (buying a better brand dry, thinking I was doing him a favor) and whatever healthy scraps we had leftover.

    I am giving him 2 insulin shots per day- 12 hours apart. I have to feed him a meal at that time, too, and I am allowed to give a midday snack. I am testing urine 4X a day. When he first was diagnosed, I got him off all that dry dog food- even the better brands- turned out to be NO GOOD. It doesn;t matter what fancy stuff they put in it, real meat or not, it is too carb heavy for a dog. Especially a diabetic one.

    I began feeding him meat based wet food, a vegetable, and a few teaspoons oatmeal, because everything online stressed “fiber, fiber, fiber” to slow down absorption. Within 2 days I had his blood sugar down from the 500’s to negative. When the vet saw this, she lowered his dose of insulin by a half mark from 3 down to 2.5. At the same time, I made a new batch of fiber, this time whole grain long brown rice and I gave him the same as the oatmeal, 3 rounded tsp. His sugar shot back up to the 500’s a couple days in a row so I switched him back to oatmeal and got rid of the rice. Such a small amount caused the sugar to skyrocket, but was it also the fact that we took him down from 3 units to 2.5? I took readings with the oatmeal coming in at 250-500, occasionally lower like 100-250. But it was always different and I began wondering if 2.5 was not enough insulin. Then one night I decided to skip the grain altogether and I gave him baby carrots with dinner instead. Carrots are supposedly high glycemic yet he instantly began testing negative again. 2.5 *was* enough insulin, as long as I was not spiking his blood sugar with grains. The oatmeal and rice destabilized him while the carrots allowed him to remain level. Since then I also realized I could give him apples, and that his blood sugar would be reasonably stable through the day without any extreme spikes.

    If I can see this in my dog then I know its happening in people, too. A grain based diet is not the kind of diet I would want to be on. It is nothing but sugar, no matter how you look at it. It may go in as a grain but your body immediately begins the process of turning it to sugar. I’ve been taking my dog weekly to the vet for blood checks and the first visit, there was another woman with a diabetic cat and my second visit- TWO people each with diabetic animals. Unbelievable- now why do you think there is a parallel diabetes epidemic in our pets world? The food is garbage and carb heavy.

    And lastly, I want to mention that I often contemplate a creator. Could there be a creator? I think about what we do to consume animals and then I also think about animals in the wild, or from the past. Have you ever gone to a museum and stood below the teeth of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and then thought about the kind of creator that makes a creature with stubby arms and an enormous head with jaws that chase, tear and shred you apart alive? We’ve got cats with their fangs who chase down, then capture and maul prey. We’ve got hyenas that will tear apart another living animal ailve in a frenzy of a bloodfest. This is the brutal, stark reality of creatures on planet earth. I do not like hurting animals, but animals themselves have built in killer instincts as well, can be vicious, and must carry their genetic code for survival.

    People can filter their food and eat only grains, plants, and legumes as their fuel sources and protein sources but others will gravitate toward another way to survive and that’s by consuming meat and plants and not adapting to the “new way”- which some say is described in the Old Testament when Cain (Farmer) killed Abel (Shepherd. Some evidence has suggested that Cain and Abel are the metaphore for when hunter-gatherer tribes were pushed out so agriculture could take over.

    Sorry I rambled but my thoughts are really expansive on this. I have thought about it on many levels.

      1. Oh yes, all three eat just about any vegetable. I don’t feed onions or garlic, though.

    1. Sharon, my vet at some point told me that my Dachshund would get diabetes, because “they all do” – I was floored. My dachshund will never get diabetes because he has eaten a raw meat and bones diet since he was a baby. F#@% you, doctor.

      But most of us have fed our cats and dogs a very unnatural diet, leading them to get modern diseases like diabetes and cancer just like we do.

  48. As a meat eater who seems to end up dating vegetarians and vegans, this has come up in many a conversation 🙂 In my opinion, there is nothing unethical about killing an animal for the purposes of eating it as I believe animals don’t have ‘life plans’ and pretty much take things day by day. What is unethical is suffering. Suffering in factory farms, suffering in feed lots, and suffering in mechanized assembly line slaughter houses. It turns out meat from those sources tend to not be as good for us as well. Grass fed beef who live their lives in pasture in the sun and then eventually are humanely slaughtered? No problem.

  49. Is it ethical for companies like Monsanto to force GMOs on us in spite of scientific evidence that they are extremely harmful to our health as well as to the planet and any organisms that come into contact with them? All while pretending that Soy is a health food when is absolutely is not (just as an example).

    What is ethical will vary based on who you are and the society in which you were raised. Based on our biology and physiology we evolved as omnivores (B-12, anyone?), and short of devolving to back into a strict hunter-gatherer society, living within sustainable practices is what we have to do. In my mind, that includes eating meat. Besides, isn’t it ultimately for the Higher Power (whatever form that takes for each of us) to determine how ethically and morally we lived our lives?

  50. Also, I’m not sure if I’d group Michael Pollan in with the rest, he doesn’t seem to be against meat, just against factory farming.

  51. I do eat meat. I feel it is necessary for me to get sufficient protein and iron in my diet. My concern is not so much about killing animals for food. It is the way they are treated until they are killed and they way in which they are killed that disturbs me. This holds true even for milk, cheese, and eggs. You article does make me realize that we kill other animals whether we do or do not eat meat. There is no getting around it.

    1. Exactly. In fact I am more likely to pause when thinking about the fate of milk cows and egg laying chickens, than I am purely raising animals and slaughtering them for their meat.

  52. Plants are living things too – they breed, they reproduce, and now we’re discovering they even have clans and turf wars! Why then is it more ethical to kill and eat plants who are as much alive as us or any animal?

    1. Abby, it’s believed that plants don’t feel pain, and don’t have a central nervous system. It’s also been hypothesized that the reason plants don’t feel pain is they don’t have mobility to avoid injury like an animal (well, perhaps mobility in an extremely slow way). Of course all scientific theories are subject to change.

      1. Exactly my response to this argument. You would think that if nature intended plants to feel pain, it would have given them a pain avoidance mechanism (mobility).

  53. H.L. Mencken said that time is a good legalizer, even in the field of morals. Regardless what “new age” idiots have to say about humans eating meat, hominids have been eating other animals for millions of years. That’s a fact. Before ethics comes prime directives. We eat or we die. Period. Thanks.

  54. Is it ethical for the New York Times to be printed on paper, some of which is taken from rainforests where entire habitats and species are killed, some of which are becoming extinct?

    1. Do you have any sources? I have always assumed newsprint was from cheaper domestic timber rather than exotic rainforest timber. That said, I think it’s better to defend meat eating on it’s merits, rather than “they’re doing something bad therefore so can I”, since that argument doesn’t actually defend meat eating, when in fact it is defensible.

      1. You have a good point, and I don’t have a source. It was a bad assumption to make.

        That said, it’s unlikely that it’s 100% recycled, and though it would cause less in the way of irreversable extinction, domestic timber logging still causes the destruction of the habitats of the wildlife that live there.

  55. Eating plants kills them, too. Is it therefore unethical to eat plants? And if we don’t eat animals or plants, what’s left that would sustain us? Is there such a thing as “more unethical” vs. “unethical?” Personally, I’m a Christian, and in Genesis, God says, “I give you plants that bear seeds and trees that bear fruits that bear seeds… these I give you for food.” So, at the risk of being unethical, I’m going to do my best to follow God’s advice in Genesis. I encourage people to listen to and follow their hearts. 🙂 Love to All, Diane

    1. As Chris E. pointed out above:

      “It’s believed that plants don’t feel pain, and don’t have a central nervous system. It’s also been hypothesized that the reason plants don’t feel pain is they don’t have mobility to avoid injury like an animal (well, perhaps mobility in an extremely slow way).”

      If you’re religious (Christian, in your case), don’t you think that if god intended for plants to feel pain he would have at least given them a pain-avoidance mechanism to help them protect themselves? Or do you really believe he would have created a life form with the ability to feel pain, but no ability to avoid it? I’m not religious, but these are some things for you to consider. As you pointed out, in the bible it states that fruits, seeds, and vegetables exist to be eaten. So eat them. I’ve even read that there are verses in the bible that don’t support the killing of animals for our consumption.

  56. Does a wolf really give a rats ass it just killed a baby Moose? We have failed as a species due to over-evolving into something that “cares”. We have lost the survival of the fittest (how much money do you have?) and adapting through natural selection (some people just shouldn’t pro-create). We are sliding down a steep slope as a species and nobody fcuking cares.

    1. Well, perhaps unfortunately, at some point in the distant past humanity decided that an anarchic existence of a lifetime spent surviving and seeking food wasn’t as enjoyable as creating societies and the division of labour it brings, allowing portions of society to enjoy other cultural and scientific pursuits. Since that is unlikely to reverse itself, it is now up to science to attempt to stamp out bad genetics, although that is a whole other conversation.

      1. “at some point in the distant past humanity decided that an anarchic existence of a lifetime spent surviving and seeking food wasn’t as enjoyable as creating societies and the division of labour it brings, allowing portions of society to enjoy other cultural and scientific pursuits.”

        And how’s that working out for all of us?

        I look forward to the day we correct our numbers or totally wipe ourselves out so the rest of the planet can heal and carry on.

        1. You’re totally correct that the loss of that sort of genetic filtering has been lost, or somewhat lost. The problem is that filtering causes human suffering (death of people’s children, death of family members, your own death) and one of humanities goals has been to reduce it’s own suffering. The issue is who would be the first to offer up the lives of their own children in the name of getting evolution back on track? Most would not.

      2. “The issue is who would be the first to offer up the lives of their own children in the name of getting evolution back on track? Most would not.”

        I here your point. However we won’t have a choice in the not-so-distant future when oil dries up (peak oil is happening allready), mass production food declines (gues what powers this?), and the economy collapses (which is happening world wide now). Mark my words..

        1. I don’t disagree. I feel we’re in a constant race between whether science/progress will save us, or do us in.

  57. I don’t think anyone should have an opinion on this unless the have read the book;Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran which turned me in to a low carber to a low fat high carb vegan and yah I was prediabetic on low carb but my blood sugar is perfect on low fat high carb so my thoughts are if Is’s just as healthy for me why not, not eat animals.Crazy.dr mcdougall is a great “health guru” and he’s a real doctor google him! se why his program is better than this one, I can’t belive I wasted 7 years on this energy zapping ketogenic diet!

    1. Being physiologically IR doesn’t mean to be pre-diabetic. Ketosis keeps my pre-menopausal symptoms away, energy levels are perfect, I have not been ill or had an infection for almost 5 years, no need in asthma medications.

  58. My existence is unethical because I am taking up physical space and resources that an animal (or a possible existence of an animal) would need to survive.

    Oh well.

  59. Is donating your organs ethical? I’ve made my wishes clear to my family that everything gets donated to science when I die. I will have no use for this body once I die, so if others can benefit from it, I think it’s a good thing.

    Is breastfeeding a baby ethical? It is an animal product, just like using it’s organs or consuming its flesh. Sure, it doesn’t result in the death of the mother, but that fact that mammals produce nutritious and essential food for their young internally goes to show that animal product consumption is a good idea.

    1. The huge and key difference with breastfeeding is the ‘animal’ is volunteering.

      1. Ok, if someone doesn’t sign a donor card, and it isn’t possible to find out from their family what their wishes were, is it unethical to use their organs to save other human beings?

        I can see how some would think it is unethical, and others would not. What we are dealing with is if it is ok to use the no longer used flesh of a dead thing to sustain a living thing.

      2. This makes me think of the Restaurant at the End of the Universe and the obliging cow advertising his rump. “I’ll just nip off and shoot myself now.”

    1. There are several problems with this argument:

      It implies all vegetarians eat wheat. I don’t. Or that all vegetarians eat soy. Or, for that matter, that ALL vegetables come from this kind of farming source, though granted, most of it does. It assumes ‘humane’ farming does not exist. It doesn’t account for people who actually grow their own food, without a tractor, or pesticides, etc. He says it’s ‘impractical’, but that’s like saying grass-fed beef is impractical vs factory-farmed meat.

      Also, the rodents that are left on the field to die don’t go to waste. I’m pretty sure nature takes care of their rotting corpse just fine.

      He also points out that free-roaming animals are killed in the vegetable farming process…well, exactly?…they were not confined to a life in a cage or the horrors of factory farming to their bitter end…so how is that worse?

  60. Nice way of completely dodging the question.

    The question is “IS EATING MEAT ETHICAL?” To essentially say that the question doesn’t matter because everything is unethical is a cop out.

    Here is a quote from one of the very few reasonable responses, “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.”

    Do you think that is possible nowadays? Two words: capitalism, overpopulation. Those make it impossible, except for a very small percentage of the population who can afford to raise animals that way, or purchase meat at the premium price. For the remaining 90% or so of Americans, it is downright unethical!

    1. So you’re saying, then, that it’s ethical to kill animals so long as you don’t see or eat them (what we call a “soft cost” in the business world)?

      Or are you saying that it’s okay to kill animals so long as intent is pure?

      1. I believe they where were saying that the “reasonable” thought of ““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.”” is unaffordable to 90% so the 90% are unethical in their meat eating.

    2. “Do you think that is possible nowadays? Two words: capitalism, overpopulation.”

      I would argue that the issue with it being possibly is more simply that factory farming has created a population accustomed to ‘discount food’. It is indeed possible, but you won’t be paying bottom dollar for it. It’s funny how with many other goods it’s assumed that you pay more for quality, but with food many just care about cheap.

    3. Hey Truth, perhaps you missed the following paragraph from Mark’s post:

      “…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.”

      The NYT explicitly discourages any discussion of the ethics of how the meat is obtained. The question they ask is whether it is ethical to eat meat *at all*.

      There are many who would argue that it isn’t ethical, under any circumstances, no matter how humanely the animal is raised and slaughtered.

      I suspect a majority of the people on this board (myself included) would disagree with that position, while at the same time sharing your own preference for sustainable and humane practices. As for the feasibility/affordability of it, that’s a totally different question which is also outside the scope of the NYT’s question.

      But I encourage you to look up Mark’s three-part blog entry entitled “Can We Feed the World on the Primal Blueprint Diet?”, wherein he does address many of these very concerns.

    4. Yes but people like you just opt out of the whole thing and eat plants. Why not advocate for the animals you won’t eat? Why not march up and down with a sign outside the Cargill plant?

    5. You exaggerated the unaffordability , it is possible to eat an ethically raised meat, if you are really serious about it. More important not to be lazy in that effort.

  61. Mark: I would enjoy reading the essay you would write if the NYT had not imposed its foolish limits on discussion.

  62. Well I had a big diatribe about defining ethical, and how its not the same for everyone; but I deleted it.. no need to bore you with that stuff.. so my answer is… “if God didn’t want us to eat animals, he wouldn’t have made them out of meat!” Not implying anything religious here.. that is just the way I saw it written… 🙂 Have a good day… FYI I have my favorite cut of MEAT waiting for me in the refig… 8oz filet…

  63. To me, the ethics of carnivory are about how the animals are raised, fed and slaughtered.

    It’s in the treatment, not the eatment.

    1. haha “It’s the treatment, not the eatment”

      I’m totally stealing that.

      Also, EXACTLY.

  64. Man has eaten meat since the beginning of the human race. We are meat eaters with canine teeth. I believe it is not unethical to eat meat, but the way animals are kept, transported and killed should be of concern to us. The greater the animal welfare the greater the cost. We should be prepared to pay the cost. As human beings we have a duty to ensure the animals we eat have a good quality of life and killed as swiftly and painlessly as possible.

  65. I would say farming is more unethical than eating meat, which I guess is pretty much what Mark is saying.

    I would also say that having someone else kill and butcher your food for you is unethical. Because we are so disconnected from where our food comes from, most will eat meat, but think that the process to get the meat is unethical.

  66. I just found a book the other day that wrestles with this topic in depth.

    “Meat a begnign Extravagance” by Simon Fairlie.

    I havne’t read but the back cover yet but it seems to nip this particular argument right in the proverbial bud. Especially in regards to how the animals are treated/raised and it’s environmental, social, and economical impact.

    Happy reading!

  67. In my opinion, ethical is the minimization of suffering and environmental impact. If your meat consumption causes unnecessary suffering or excessive destruction to the environment, it isn’t ethical.

    Meat from factory farms is not ethical. The largest slaughterhouses kill thousands of animals a day. Most of these animals are diseased from being kept in crowded confinements and made to eat terrible GMO foods. Sometimes, in the haste of butchering, these animals aren’t fully killed before they get hooked up and cut apart. It’s disgusting that humans, who have the cognitive power of compassion, could treat another animal this way. And the waste from these CAFOs is huge, leaking into our waterways and polluting our air.

    If a person chose to become a vegetarian because they could not get access (or afford) humanely produced meat, I would absolutely support their decision.

    Nature may be violent, but that doesn’t justify the cruelty of the CAFO. I think you’ll find that the NY Times recent essay contest is trying to get people to consider the source of their meat. That’s important, we should always be considering the source of our food.

    “Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.”

  68. I am sure someone touched on this, but I think the case made for the vegans who are eating that way for ethical reasons would say that their impact is less and every bit helps. Just because we consume doesn’t mean we should consume with reckless abandon. Sort of like having to drive to work. I can drive a car that gets 35+mpg or a truck that gets 18mpg. Which is minimizing impact? Should I use more gas just because I have to use it anyway and have to get to work? You get the point. As far as where I stand, I think eating animals and their products is ethical but not in certain cases where we disregard their treatment for the sole sake of their consumption. That is why I chose to eat cage free and free range to the extent that I can afford.

  69. Excellent take. It is even crazier than that. I hunt & fish, and you would be amazed at the amount of people that think I am evil reincarnate for killing “bambi”, all the while they are choking down a hamburger.

    1. I’m sure “Bambi” had a much better life than the cow that made their hamburger.

  70. I come at these questions from a slightly different angle. I am sure that I will get crap for this but oh well who cares. First to lay the ground work, I dont believe in millions of years of evolution nor do I feel like you need to, to recognize the benefits of eating this way. I have done some research and feel that the Bible itself actually promotes eating this way. Did you know that the first time that eating grain or bread is mentioned after the curse. (Gen 3:19 By the sweat of your face You will eat bread,) Was it a result of the curse that we were introduced to farming and bread? I dont know for sure but it sounds like it there. Then as you continue to read through Genesis, after the flood of Noah we are given permission to eat meat. Gen 9:3 Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant…. So as it seems to me. When we were created we were vegetarians I have no doubt about that but when sin entered the picture so did the corruption of our bodies and God gave us permission to eat the animals because now we would need them to sustain ourselves. Primal, Paleo, whatever you want to call it, its the healthiest and best way to eat..

    1. You lost me at ” I don’t believe in evolution – and saying the word bible”

  71. God gave us meat to eat after the flood. We are the crown of his creation and are told to treat His earth responsibly. So that means, humane treatment of all creatures, but they are still there for our food. BTW, good response, Mark – well thought out essay. It really hogties (ha!) any real responses when the essay assigners remove the reasons behind the ethical choices we make.

    1. I amazed at this day and age people are still religious. I mean its crazy that the mythology of the original “sun” God has turned into a big plagurized money making empire based on fairytales.

      1. Why? The belief in scientific theories is as much a matter of faith as religion. If you do not understand why this is true, you need to do some serious study of the presuppositions required for scientific reasoning.

      2. Mark, shame on you for your apparent ignorance! “I (sic) amazed at this day and age people are still religious.”

        I’ve got news for you, pal, 99% of the world’s people are religious. Feeling kinda lonely out there?

        1. It is hard to find people in Europe who take religion seriously, even Canada is much more secular, there is no way 99% of world population are religious, may be it is true for Iran or Pakistan, but not for Western countries.

  72. The late, great Zen philosopher Alan Watts said that human beings must kill other forms of life in order to live. He said the only difference between killing an animal and killing a plant is plants don’t scream as loud. Therefore there is no good reason to avoid meat.

    The late, great Jungian psychologist William Brugh Joy said that “Life feeds on life.” Refusal to feed on other life means death by starvation. He reached the same conclusion.

    I for one, agree with the wisdom of these great humanist philosophers.

  73. Eating meat is ethical in that it is a natural process we share with many animals.

    As far back as we have cave art, we see the idea of the wild animal willingly passing the life force to the hunter. The mythical idea of mutual benefit, keeping the herd strong and the family alive reverberates over tens of thousands of years.

    However torturing an animal in the current factory farms of America is unethical. Supporting the torture of animals (be they human or otherwise) is unethical. And Gog would be absolutely baffled and ashamed. You want to be paleo? Get two hog-dogs and a spear. Your freezer will be full year ’round. Oh also get a bay-hound so you can find the pinned boar.

  74. as several ppl here already stated, plants are living things just as animals are.If vegetarians and vegans want to claim it is unethical to kill a living thing to eat then they are no better than meat eaters.they use the excuses that plants don’t have faces or mom’s but that is a false statement.the seeds came from a mother plant and therefor the plant that they eat had a “mom”.As far as a face, well who are we to judge what is what constitutes a “face” on a lifeform not like our own physically.
    The other side of the equation is as simple as we are part of the circle of life on this planet.regardless of our ability to “feel” we are held to the same requirements as all other life forms on the planet which is in essence kill or be killed, predator or prey and so on…
    I believe the only real issue concerning ethics is in the treatment of the plants and animals that are raised to be used as our food sources.

  75. Best. Response. Ever.

    I don’t feel the need to be an evangelist. People ask me how I’ve lost weight, and I’m happy to tell them AND share all the positive health changes I’ve experienced from paleo. I respect others’ choices.

    What burns me is the self-righteous, “We’ve got the moral high-ground,” of a segment of the vegetarian/vegan community for exactly the reasons you’ve outlined.

    I was standing in a grocery line in front of a vegetarian the other day, struck by the unhealthiness of what she had on the conveyor: fake chicken, fake hamburger patties, processed/processed/factory crap. On my portion were organic leafy greens, a package of grassfed hamburger, organic fruits…real food. Who was more ethical between us?

  76. My argument is that either I die or the animal I eat does. I don’t care for animals being stuck in cages and not walking more than 3 inches their entire lives though. I would not willingly support any farmer doing that.

  77. The Author misses the point. To produce animals to slaughter for meat, up to hundreds of pounds of grain must be grown to produce a pound of beef. So to say that the vegetarian does not have blood on his or her hands, misses the point entirely. Is it more ethical to eat a pound of grain that forced ten ground hogs from their homes or to eat a pound of beef and force a thousand from their homes.

    This brings up another point that the author misses, is it ethical to consume the thousands of pounds of food used to produce meat when millions of people struggle with hunger?

    The author proposes the ethics as an either eating meat or not i.e. why should we justify eating meat–we have done for millions of years. Again, it’s not that eating meat was always wrong or right, it is that in the 20th and 21st centuries we have grossly changed the way we treat animals killing them savagely, ravage the earth to feed them (through grain and water consumption), and eat way more meat than our ancestors ever did (meat used to only be eaten twice a week, now only our debilitating heart diseases clue us in that we have betrayed the earth and our own biology).

    Finally, eating meat destroys the planet. Meat production produces more greenhouse gases than automobiles. Fields of plants eliminate green house gas! So maybe in addition to carpooling we could avoid meat one day of the week and try to save the planet in that fashion

    I have heard this argument countless times that somehow meat eaters are the same as vegetarians because indirectly both kill animals. It is not an either or, it is a harm reduction. Choose to eat less meat and you are taking the more ethical actions for your health, for justice to life, the planet, and our children.


    1. Actually there was a recent study that showed that grass fed beef kills less animals both in numbers and in pounds. Plus grass fed cows dont produce crazy amounts of methane. Imagine that, reading what they are designed to eat cures their stomach problems too 🙂

    2. The “Author” misses no such point:

      “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.”

      You talk of sustainability. This is forbidden (for purposes of the essay) by the NY Times. The “Author” wanted to talk about this very discussion you said he was avoiding.

    3. I absolutely agree with you that subsisting on grain-fed meat ultimately kills more groundhogs than subsisting on the grain itself.

      However, pasture-raised meat is very different from grain-fed/CAFO meat. It’s better for the planet, kinder to the animals, and healthier for the consumers. Sustainable meat production doesn’t kill all those groundhogs as collateral damage. That’s why it’s so strange that the contest doesn’t permit entries that deal with the huge ethical difference between sustainable vs. non-sustainable practices.

      As for your assertion that eating meat causes heart disease, I’d really recommend doing more reading on the subject. has done some really nice analysis (and debunking) of studies that look at meat consumption and health.

    4. The Author’s name is Mark Sisson.

      And you should check out all his articles on this site – you may change your out-dated line of logic. That is if you have an open mind.

  78. Why are the lives of plants always conveniently left out of these discussions by vegetarians? Although they have a vast physiological difference from us, plants are living organisms that have the same basic processes we use to stay alive: reproduction, breathing, consuming, expelling waste materials, and adapting.

    Is it not just as unethical to crowd millions of individuals into a small space, make them compete for resources, and then cut them down en masse for food? If anything, more lives are taking through agriculture than any other practice.

    Point: If you want to argue eating meat is unethical because of the lives it takes, be prepared to philosophically examine if all life is created equal.

    1. Because the argument isn’t about whether plants are alive or not. They are. I don’t think anyone (vegans or otherwise) can argue to the contrary. The argument is whether plants have the capacity to feel pain. Are plants alive? Obviously. Do they feel pain? As far as current science is concerned: no. Why not? Well, for starters, they don’t have a central nervous system like pigs, cows, humans or other sentient creatures have, which is required to feel pain as we know it. Might they feel pain in another we we aren’t aware of? Perhaps. But until it is proven, it remains pure speculation, whereas it is scientific fact that sentient creatures such as pigs definitely, unequivocally, feel pain. My speculation? I doubt nature would give plants the capacity to feel pain without giving them a sort of pain-avoidance mechanism, namely: mobility. But that’s just, well, speculation. I’ll stick to scientific fact for now.

  79. Rather than polarizing everyone into two groups, carnivores vs. vegetarians, perhaps it might be helpful to envision a continuum of humans. Each individual chooses what point on the continuum is “ethical” within the confines of the law and to a general extent the culture. And just as you, Mark, argue for the acknowledgement of a range of carnivores, there is also a range of vegetarians and vegans; not all of them are mindless consumers of Big Agro grains.

    I do think that there is a qualitative difference between eating a vegetable whose harvest has resulted in the death of a field mouse and putting a dead animal in one’s mouth, but again, each individual must choose their own comfort zone. And maybe that’s what it’s all about, in the end, is your comfort zone, rather than arguing about honor or ethics. Apparently the majority of people in this culture are comfortable eating meat that has been inhumanely slaughtered, and each of us here has the opportunity to decide whether we are comfortable participating in that ourselves or not.

    1. Alice, I must disagree with your very nicely put statement. We simply must state clearly that we human beings were/are meant to eat meat. Teeth, jaws, stomach, gut, gall bladder, colon, the whole thing – all primed to eat meat.

      Vegans are living in a dream world not because they aren’t nice people but because their guts are not designed to digest huge quantities of plant material. so there is no point on the continuum to be chosen.

  80. broccoli had a mama, bacon had a mama it takes life to sustain life welcome to the planet!

  81. I also dislike the idea of animals dying to feed me, but I accept the circle of life and so try to buy humanely and sustainably raised meat as much as possible. To me, the most unethical part is around inhumane conditions and unnecessary killing, not the fact that we eat meat.

  82. I’m a very tender-hearted person…and I get weepy quite easily. I too feel for the creatures that feed me. I get emotional just thinking of it now….but grown ups have to put on their big boy and girl underwear and stop ignoring that life and death are all part of the plan and that we can’t have one without the other.
    When I’m cooking meat, I try to be mindful of the sacrifice of the dear animals that are feeding me. I’ll say a word of thanks to the animal, and a prayer to its maker for allowing me another day on this planet….And then I try to live the best life I can so the beast, or fowl, or fish that gives me sustenance did not die in vain.

  83. If ethics are a system of moral principles, than what is the desired end result? Is it the protection of individual happiness, or perhaps the promoting of planetary health? Regardless, in order to understand ethics, we must also define what ethics are NOT. Ethics are NOT purely a result of an emotional position, which I find is the vast majority of justification for NOT eating meat. Ever made a decision just based on an emotion? Yeah, me too, and there have been times I’ve regretted it. Ethics are NOT purely an intellectual construct either. How many times in history have intellectual ideas been false or dangerous? The earth is flat, slavery is acceptable, etc. So I guess that means ethics must be created from a combination of the two, which also requires a compromise.

    1. Ethics can either be based on one of two forms of presupposed truth (1) human opinion or (2) some truth that is beyond human existence. If ethics are based on (1) they are completely meaningless, if based on (2) it also means human opinion is completely meaningless, but implies something much more important.

  84. I grew up in the country, and a farm girl at heart I remain. I think it gave me a good balance of perspective. Sometimes we had to call the shot to put down a sick heifer, because that was the merciful thing to do…to end suffering. I absolutely don’t believe in any kind of animal cruelty, but there are ways to kill an animal quickly and painlessly. To me, that’s as important as making sure my beef is from grass fed, free range resources. Sometimes I do feel sad that an animal’s life was taken to help to sustain mine, but I feel immensely grateful to that animal as well.

  85. Who determines what “ETHICAL” is?

    What a crock of dung!

    1. Each person decides for themselves, depending on how convinced they are by the various arguments.

      1. If each person decides for themselves, what does that mean? That ethics are completely meaningless, unless you can come up with some logical argument why one person’s opinion has more value than another’s.

        1. “That ethics are completely meaningless, unless you can come up with some logical argument why one person’s opinion has more value than another’s.”

          I think this is mostly true. Perhaps not that ethics are meaningless, but that there are no absolutes in ethics, as ethical practices will be based upon whatever values a given society feels are important.

  86. People are the unethical ones, If it was you versus a animal in the wild and you had to eat. You would have to hunt and kill the animal with your own hands. You would prepare the animal for your survival so you then are just a predator and that was just your prey. That is part of the food chain just like a mouse to a Hawk. But humans don’t do that, we factory farm animals……

  87. I live my life independent of the opinions of others. I think it is ethical and necessary therefore I will continue with no regard to the NY Times.

  88. I have hunted and killed my food, and raised animals which I slaughtered and ate. Nothing could be more natural. My ethical framework must include the belief that it is ethical to kill another life form to eat. Otherwise, suicide by starvation? If we agree that it is ethical to eat, then the only issue is where we draw the lines to say, “Kill this, not that.” For me, it is with my own species. All other species are fair game (pun intended). So yes, I would eat dog, cat, mouse, or lion. Wasting food is the ethical issue for me. And in the US, vegetarian or omnivore, we waste much more than we eat. I also believe that as humans, we have an incredible responsibility to “tend the garden,” or be good stewards of the earth entrusted to us. That means taking care to preserve ecosystems and species, to eat lower and/or more simply on the food chain (organic when possible), and harvest from the natural biome whenever possible. Thus, I hunt.

  89. Vegetarianism has long been wrapped up with religious piety. “Oh NOES! Meat makes my ineffable soul dirty!”

  90. Animal-vegetable continuum? Aren’t there some things that fall between this two human defined categories. Is the argument about killing and eating something that shares more common characteristics with ourselves? Our sheer existences mean we consume something no matter what it’s category. Ultimately converting this planet into lots of us. The vegetarian argument just slows this conversion, making those currently alive feel less guilty for being part of this process.

  91. What about the worms that will dine on my musculature upon my death! Unmerciful wretches those earthworms.

  92. I would eat any animal on the planet to survive, beef, pork, chicken, monkey, fish, human, goat, dog, cat, shellfish, or any other thing that walks crawls slithers swims flies.

  93. As a Christian and pastor I have to laugh — in the New testament book of Acts, Peter has a vision in which a sheet is lowered from heaven containing animals and God says. “Kill and Eat”!
    That’s all I need to know!

  94. I read a great National Geographic article a while back that postulated the idea that hunting and killing animals informed all our spirituality and religion. The theory was based on the premiss that taking another mammals life is such profound act that one is irrevocably led towards spiritual considerations, ritual and the birth of religion. I agreed! Fantastic stuff.

    1. Packs of wolves must pray a lot. Those Lions are the most religious group on the plains.. Jesus H Christ! wake up! Christians / jews / Islamics / “insert here”. You’re just nut cases. tomorrow moring watch the sun rise – pretty powerful stuff – Say hi to the original “God”

      1. Hey pal no need to blaspheme! Watch your tongue please. We can certainly have a great old discussion without anyone going overboard.

  95. i think a big part in being a ethical meat eater is eating the whole animal… if your going to eat meat then i believe that you have a duty to eat the organs, bones, every single part of that animal. death is always going to go hand and hand with life and the least we can do is to honor the animals who die for our health and well being by not letting parts go unused. since going primal i have had a strong desire to learn how to hunt, slaughter, and butcher animals not because im a blood thirsty killer but because having a connection with the animal that is sustaining your life is very important to me. i believe it would truly give you an appreciation that most never have for food. at this stage in my life the best i can do is put my money towards animals that were raised in a humane and ethical way but in the future i plan on learning these skills so i can one day know that gratitude.

  96. My email was wrong and I corrected it–not that any violent vegetarians would email me, but in case someone is going vegan and needs to get rid of a bunch of steak and chops in their freezer you can contact me!

  97. I have hunted my entire life. There are several mornings every winter where I have killed geese and ducks, plucked them, butchered them and eaten them all in the same day. My mind set is as long as what dies never goes to waste, there is no reason to feel guilty about anything. Not to mention, the way I kill these animals gives them a much better chance of living than growing up in an animal concentration camp where they are mass slaughtered. I use the feathers to make pillows, I use the wings to help train my dog and I eat the meat. I have accidentally ill prepared meat and had it go bad before and I did feel bad about that.

    1. Hunting your own food to eat? That I can respect. Hunting for sport? Not so much.

  98. Just because it is might be ethical or unethical (to some) to eat the wheat that numerous mice and insect were killed in during harvest, etc. does not make it ethical or unethical to eat meat that was deliberately slaughtered. It might be more forgivable (think manslaughter vs premeditated murder), however. I think, Mark Sisson, that you should drop that argument and just tell the truth about the importance of eating humanely raised grass fed and finished animals that have not been injected with hormones, etc. Maybe even make it an editorial opinion, objecting to the exclusion of mentioning such things in the rules of the contest. Who knows, an OpEd in the NYT could bring even more exposure to your blog and website! And you are one of the best writers in the Paleo/Primal community!

    1. I agree with this. Based on the evidence available, I believe the primal lifestyle holds the nutritional high ground, but there’s no reason we should expect it to also hold the ethical high ground.

      Old arguments about mice being killed by grain harvesters have already been thoroughly dismantled by the veg*n community, so we don’t gain any credibility by bringing them out of retirement. We should simply focus on the benefits of humanely obtained animal foods and not feel the need to prove the ultimate superiority of everything primal. That’s one argument we’ll never win, but luckily we don’t need to.

    2. Agreed. The fact is, most meat consumption comes from factory farming. And what do factory-farmed animals consume? For the most part, grains…which come from fields that involve the unintentional killing of other animals. So for every animal that is killed indirectly by a vegan diet, many, many more are killed by factory-farmed meat.

  99. > comparing direct slaughter of hundreds of thousands of animals to a tractor accidentaly crushing a rabbit

    nice one

    1. At least the first instance involves intention and not just negligence and — more to the point — ignorance. If a death is a death is a death, then certainly the hundreds of thousands of deaths per square acre of tilled farm land count for something, Steve Holt?

  100. [I wrote and edited my post in notepad. Just before submitting, I noticed Ryan’s earlier post. Part of my post will echo some of Ryan’s thoughts.]

    I saw several comments referring to the “I, Caveman” video. I hadn’t seen it, but found and watched the group’s reactions to hunting and killing an elk.

    As a counterpoint to that video, I recommend watching the movie, “Temple Grandin,” starring Claire Danes, Julia Ormond, David Strathairn, et al. (Aug 17, 2010). While the story is about the life of an autistic woman named Temple Grandin, one of the things that make her story compelling is “her humane design for the treatment of cattle in processing plants, which have been the subject of several books and won an award from PETA.” (

    As for the ethics of eating meat, my ethic being formed largely from a Biblical worldview, I reference Genesis 9:3, “Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.” (New International Version.) Prior to “Noah’s Flood,” man was only authorized to eat plants. After the flood the rules changed. In my opinion that change recognized the difficulty of maintaining a growing human population on a planet where much less vegetation was going to be available.

    I like my prime rib rare, thanks.

    1. “Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you.”…that, by definition, includes humans.

  101. How is it not ethical to provide a happy, healthy life for these animals who might not otherwise every be born, while saving them from the pains and agonies of growing old?

    Only a Leftist could question the ethical nature of eating meat, while at the same time supporting the killing of the unborn. Twisted ethics at best.

    1. congrats on being the only person to bring politics into the the discussion. You also assume that everyone who is vegan/vegetarian is also pro-choice. Most people’s opinions on issues are more nuanced than adopting an across the board unthinking dogma of ‘right’ or ‘left’.

      1. Good for you Loren. So many people would walk a mile over broken glass to save a cow from being slaughtered in a nasty way, but would vote for the killing of the unborn.

    2. Sadly that isn’t the case for the vast majority of meat consumption, since it mainly comes from factory farming.

      The “might not otherwise even be born” argument is rather weak. Do you know how many beings weren’t born? It’s absurd. Do you know how much it affects them?…none whatsoever, because in order to be affected, in order to feel pain you have to be…alive? The point is those who are born should not be subjected to unnecessary torture and suffering.

      And who are you to decide what constitutes ‘the agony of being old.’ Would you like someone in the future to ‘put you out of your misery’ because they feel you’re ‘too old’?

  102. Meat-eating is a nuanced issue with no easy answers. It’s disappointing to see so many commenters on this thread parroting the usual “I’ve clawed my way to the top of the food chain and I intend to stay there” nonsense. I’ve assumed that we in the primal community are more open-minded than most, but now I’m not so sure.

    A handful of commenters have raised great points, but a few arguments keep coming up that don’t make much sense:

    1. “We were born to eat meat, so it’s ethical”

    This is a perfect example of the Naturalistic Fallacy (, which argues that something being natural does not make it right. It’s fine to reject this fallacy, but with centuries of philosophy and biology against you, you’ll have a lot of explaining to do before being taken seriously.

    2. “Meat is required for optimal human health”

    I agree that meat is necessary for an *optimal* human diet. But a well-planned vegetarian diet can be very healthy, even if it’s less than optimal. None of us need to eat animals, but we do because we value a slightly higher quality of life for ourselves over the lives and desires of the animals we eat. For most of us, eating meat is not a matter of life and death, so it’s silly to be commenting

    3. “I respect what I kill”

    Sure, that sounds very honorable, but how does it lessen the impact of the death? The terrified bleeding deer with an arrow through its abdomen couldn’t care less about my “respect” for its life. If I kill a baby, does saying a prayer afterward make my action any more or less ethical? If not, then why should it be different for animals?

    4. “Growing grain kills mice so it’s just as unethical as raising cattle for slaughter.”

    First, the playing field must be even: we’re either comparing industrial grain production to factory farming, or comparing small CSA-style produce farms to family-owned beef operations.

    If the former, I’ll admit you can make a case that killing mice is ethically equivalent to killing cows, but the brutality of factory farming is unmatched by anything on the grain farm.

    And when we compare small farms, then the ethics are even more clear: no animals are harmed by the produce farms, while animals are killed (even if humanely) by the beef farmer.

    I’m not criticizing those who eat meat — I eat meat myself. But I also don’t believe that eating meat is ethical (or at least, not the MOST ethical choice I could make). I eat meat because I selfishly value my own life and desires over those of the animals I choose to eat. Why aren’t we all more honest about this?

    1. I tried different diets during my lifetime, for some period in a past I limited meat, especially red meat because I read the Dr. A. Weill books. It impacted my health in a very negative way – more infections, allergies,weight gain… I don’t think it is ethical to expect from me or another person to do something what is unhealthy in order to fit some unnatural dream about life without pain and suffering. Humanity is always engaged in one utopia after another. It looks like almost no one is interesting in communism any more, but vegetarianism , unfortunately, is alive and kicking. When a person inflicts his/her choices on thous who are dependents like children and pets the following of that dream looks even more sinister. Utopias looks beautiful, but they are dangerous. As you said “that something being natural does not make it right”, but doing something unnatural more often than not is wrong, especially on a long run and on a bigger scale.

    2. Very well said. You, my friend, have the utmost respect I can possibly imagine a vegan/vegetarian having for a meat-eater.

    3. Very well said, Zac/David/Leif, etc.

      I’m so glad Mark allowed us an opportunity to speak our views on this topic of eating meat (ethically).

      Most of these posts show that we really all agree that CAFO’s/Cages for animals, and Big-Agra-grain crops are the real problems. All animals suffer a time in any of these commercial-type food-factories…whether grain or meat, or dying bees and insects(insecticides). The issues we all agree on is preventing the suffering of our food supply.

      Farming for money instead of farming to eat is a reality that won’t change. But we the human population can refuse the current mode of operation and force change: write legislators, boycott commercially-poisoned foods, grow your own if you can, gather neighbors to grow your own, write letters to newspapers, Talk to local grocers, call/write TV News agencies. The FDA and USDA are not our friends. Again, money talks. But they do work for us, contact them also.

      I respect everyone’s ideas of eating what they choose. My only issue would be if someone decided for me…what I should eat. It matters not, really, what folks decide to eat. I’m a meat eater because I choose to be, based on tastes and my beliefs in health.

      My hope would be that everyone on this site would (and probably does already) BOYCOTT all commercial meats, eggs, fish, fruits, veggies, and grains. Demand our right to ingest raw milk/products. Demand labeling for Genetically Modified foods/crops. And encourage everyone you know to do the same.

      Big corporations who GMO our foods are trying to get their crops into the organic food market. Money talks. That’s why labeling is soooo important.

  103. I actually just finished a book called The Vegetarian Myth by Dr. Lierre Keith. It was a good book written by a Vegan of 20 years, that is now an OMNIVORE. She does a great job disputing the vegetarians that don’t eat meat for moral, political and nutritional reasons.

  104. 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!

    1. People live wasteful life, generate unreasonable amount of garbage because they buy snacks, go crazy about stupid lawns, all that is much more unethical than eating normal human diet which includes meat.

  105. Could we have ethics outside of a cultural construct? If we could it would have to be in the biological sphere.
    There is the point that every animal should eat what it has been designed to eat and that if all life is equally sacred it should not matter if it is animal or plant (both of which have been pretty well covered).
    There is also the point that evolution cares first, foremost, and solely about spreading genes. In this context humans could not be doing better for cows, pigs, and chickens, as they are some of the most populous (successful) creatures on earth thanks to us.

    And what would we do about these billions of domesticated animals once we all turn vegan?
    1) Let them all go ‘free’ (which would result in a casualty rate of about 99.9% in the first month thanks to starvationm and predation), and have to deal with the issues of sanitation and removal of carcasses.
    2) Mercifully kill them all to avoid option 1 and waste all of that life (since we can’t eat them).
    or 3)Keep them all alive in their farms, still feeding them but not allowing them to breed until they all die of old age, placing a giant tax on everybody for no* benifit (*as far as I am concerned) while still consuming resourses and polluting our environment.

    The NYT really should have a contest “Is veganism ethical” if they want to remain balanced

    1. Considering that domesticated animals are mostly slaughtered before the age of 5 (or maybe younger?) I don’t see how that would ever be an issue, unless you feel the entire population of the earth would go vegan in 3 years.

      1. Actually it sounds like most are slaughtered before the age of 2. So every 1-2 yrs a whole new group of “billions of domesticated animals” are created and slaughtered, so that will never be any sort of worry.

    2. A good illustration to your question is the problem with wild or unwanted horses now after some bill passed that it is illegal to sent seek horse to the pet food plant any more.

  106. I eat meat and I feed my dogs a diet of primarily meat. Funny I have never noticed my boxers looking at me crazy or walking away from their bowls because it is full of meat. Now if I feed them grain they refuse to go near it and will only do so if I am out of town and their sitter runs out of their brand.My boys are smart they do not eat mess I fuel my body with the very best protien I can find. What I eat is not being tortured, caged, injected with growth hormones or created in a lab. That is as ethical as I get. Do they ever ask designers if the leather they use to create came from free range grass fed animals,,, of course not!!

  107. Humans are mammals, animals like other animal species on Earth, all of which ingest. In fact, all organisms require an energy source and all ingest in some manner, even plants. We assume ourselves to be the only organisms with self-awareness about the process, but seriously, we do not know how any other organisms feel.

    Anyway, there is no question of ethics imposed on the tiger or the tomato for ingesting whatever it needs to grow and thrive.

    However, as we are thinking/feeling creatures, I like the reverent approach of our Native brothers and sisters toward the taking of what they need to sustain life. If our food system was based on a reverence for lives of the the animal and plant foods we take for our nourishment most of the ills that beset our food supply would resolve.

    1. “However, as we are thinking/feeling creatures”

      So does this make us anymore special? We are so “not special” its rediculous. We’ve done a bang up job on this earth so far – I can’t wait to see the future destruction we have in store.

      1. Mark I’m starting to feel sorry for you because you seem so unhappy to be a person! Yes there are many people in the world who do many bad things but not everyone is like that. Not everyone pollutes. Not everyone is a slaughterhouse owner. Not everyone exploits the poor in poor nations.

        Not eating meat saves no one. Working towards being a shining example of GOODNESS will save the world.

  108. I’ve been fine-tuning my essay for them and will submit it at the last minute so as to make sure it’s as well-put as possible, and this certainly echoes many of my sentiments. The most difficult thing is making it only 600 characters – there’s SO much to say in defense of eating humane meat and it’s damn hard to condense.

  109. Oh, if only I had the time to write an essay for this! I currently work and live on an organic vegetable farm, though my dream is to run a multi-species, pasture-based farm, raising animals for my own and my neighbors’ consumption. In vegetable farming, I tear all plants out of the ground and strip the land to bare soil. Then, I plant what species I want to live there and work all season to keep the others’ out. I trap rodents. I use electric fences to protect against deer (and I’ll probably shoot one or two at some point under a crop damage license). I kill bugs by the thousands with organic pesticides.

    As a grass-fed rancher, I will not disturb the existing ecosystem, assuming I don’t have to clear land. I want the grass and the forbs and the insects, for they will feed my crop of cattle, sheep, and poultry. I don’t mind the deer or the rodents (so long as their holes aren’t ruining the fields), so they can stay. Most of the time, the only thing I will kill will be the animals I intend for my family or my customers to eat.

    You tell me which is less ethical.

  110. I think most credible ethical arguments against meat amount to objections against the conditions in which the animals are raised and then slaughtered. There really is no getting around the sheer horror of it, and it is probably inevitable in an industrial society, largely living in big cities. The arguments of “hunters” are simply unintelligent and irrelevant in a modern industrial society–just subjectivisms beside the point. Therefore, in the face of the horror, you make your choice. Your choice will make no difference at all as regards the larger picture, since meat production and meat eating will obviously go on. The best a protest movement could do is ameliorate the conditions somewhat. If you have the money, buy grass-fed–much more humane living conditions for the animals–create enough demand and maybe the cost will drop somewhat.

  111. Question for Times. Is being obese ethical?
    Rember an article that talked about people on airlines being charged over weight fee for luggage, not fee for being obese, but both effect the weight and safety of the plane taking off.

    1. I’d eat them – at least the ones who avoid grains as they probably have the correct omega-3 ratios.

    2. As Bucky the Kat of “Get Fuzzy” said, “I’m a vegetarianarian.”

  112. Sometimes I eat meat. Sometimes I don’t eat meat. It’s the saint and the sinner in me (and not necessarily in that order)

  113. I had a long debate on Facebook over this with a vegan who kept insisting that eating animals was the primary cause of almost all the evils in the world, including being responsible for over 50% of greenhouse gas, and other made-up statistics trotted out by the “Eating Animals is Evil” crowd. When I tried pointing out that farming kills many millions of animals every year, forces millions of other animals out of their natural habitat (and causes almost all farmers to use poison and/or hunting to control rodents, deer, etc.), introduces toxic chemicals into the water table, thus eventually into streams, rivers and lakes and kills even more animals, he basically ignored me and kept right on preaching about eating meat being worse for the environment, all without providing a shred of scientific evidence to support any of his claims. Good times.

  114. Dalai Lama eats meat 6 months out of the year. What is so great about him is that when he’s attacked by the vegan community he doesn’t respond with an attack. He always points his message back to what he believes in; compassion.

    Hmmm…I think he practices what he teaches. And he is flexible enough to know he can’t fight biology and conduct his purpose here on this planet if his body doesn’t have the proper fuel to sustain and carry around that amazing mind of his.

    We have evolved in our biology. Also, in our psychology and now it’s time to recognize and be flexible in our ecology. Do the things we do help others, self and planet? It’s a balance.

  115. Don’t leave God out of the equation when wrestling with what is right and wrong. While recognizing that the philosophy here is based on evolution, I hold that God created our universe. The simple answer is that He gave permission to mankind to eat meat after the great flood as He stated in Genesis 9:3. Speaking of beasts, birds, creeping things and fish, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you…” What was a no brainer to our forefathers, is now a subject of angst in our nation.

    1. Not everybody is religious. For such people reference to the Bible is not valid.

  116. I refer to the Bible on all questions of morality/ethics.

    It doesn’t get simpler than Acts 10:13:

    “Kill and eat.”

  117. As for eating dogs? Let’s reel things back a bit. I strongly believe it’s unethical to have domesticated canines in the first place. It’s highly unethical to selectively breed them to develop new breeds of dogs. It’s highly unethical to force dogs to eat a vegetarian diet when they are actually scavengers and eat anything and everything. It’s highly unethical to disallow dogs to not roam in packs…etc, etc. I could go on, but you get the point.

      1. It is unethical do go against nature. I have problem with manicured landscapes. It is considered to be dangerous by doctors who treat allergies to live next to a golf-course due to lawn-care chemicals.

  118. I’m not a writer, and I’m just gonna scribble this real quick from work:

    I am all for eating meat, yes like many of us here including Mark I feel bad about the killing of animals for sustenance, but I get over it. I think we are missing a few points to consider when we talk about it being ‘ethical’ or not. The How – Pretty simple, animals are kept and killed in some very unsavory conditions. I know paleo eaters tend to go for more farm raised animals, which helps that individual animal but not the overall population. The Where – Animals are kept in large numbers. They require a lot of open space (and still sometimes dont get enough) which damages the entire ecosystem of the area. The waste produced by having so many animals together absolutely destroys watersheds. Calorie transfer- I learned in an environmental science class (got my minor in it) that for every calorie of beef it takes 10 calories to bring it to your plate (includes everything from food, refrigerant, and fuel to bring it to you and cook it). Probably the best argument I’ve heard against this is that the problem with calorie transfer isnt necessarily from meat but from processed foods which paleo eaters generally avoid. Still doesnt take away from the calorie transfer of meat. I agree that literally everything we do is unethical from an ecological standpoint. But I think the argument is that not eating meat is less unethical then eating meat. Sorry for the text wall I just whipped this together at work real quick.

    1. The calorie transfer of grassfed beef production becomes a largely irrelevant when you consider that along the way, the extra calories the animal consumes (cf with feeding the grass directly to humans) supports healthier soils and soil biota, insects, birds, trees etc. It leads to much more productive grasslands (more calories of grass/acre). The net result is that an average acre of grassland, supports far more life than an acre of cropland. The sequestration of carbon to the soil and the increased cycling of carbon through the increased biomass,also reduces atmospheric carbon cf cropping systems.
      Just my ten cents worth 🙂

    2. I am sure the fuel used to raise grain used to feed the caw was used in the counting calories, and probably, the energy required to manage the cow shelter. My guess the calculation will be different for a grass-fed animal.

  119. As Primal human beings, we are actually being more honest (from an evolution perspective) by eating animals. Our DNA dictates this as a way of survival and a means to a healthier life. To criticize us for being carnivorous, an intellectually honest person would also have to be critical of the polar bear eating a baby seal, the cheetah eating a gazelle or the fox eating a rabbit. Are they unethical too?

  120. Mark,

    That was one of the coolest, well-stated perspectives on the topic that I’ve ever read! Way to make an incredible argument, without being able to discuss the factors that would normally be introduced!

    In the end, one thing that always rings true . . . Give respect to all life, be thankful for what we’re given, and love/support Mother Earth so that she’ll continue support us.

    Thanks for the pleasurable read.

  121. Ethics is a modern creation born from manipulation of the natural lifecycle, and over supply of all manner of stuff.

  122. is it unethical for lions to eat zebras? no! and my response is the same for humans who eat cows 🙂

  123. Heck, we’re all going to die some day, as the cliche goes. I think we need to treat the animals with respect while they are alive.

  124. Is it ethical to eat meat? Compared to what?

    The question is better framed “is it ethical to kill animals.” Since animals die directly or indirectly for our sustenance, and by extension our existence, the only logical conclusion to the vegan philosophy is it is unethical to exist (which is silly).

    Reminds me of the famous bumper sticker: “save the planet, kill yourself.”

  125. All I ask is to have a reasonably happy life basking in the awesome beauty of the natural world, eating what I evolved to eat, and dying a reasonably quick and painless death when my time comes. That’s enough for me. Most wild animals get that. Let’s provide that for the animals we raise to eat. If you torture and confine a human or animal all its life, I hope that Kharma provides that you live out at least one lifetime enduring such indignity and pain.

  126. Well I for one consider plants to be every bit as alive as animals. I thank all of the life spirits which have given up their life to nourish me, and pray regularly over meals. I also hunt, and pray beforehand that a deer presents itself that is willing to give up its life to nourish me and my family. I sometimes wonder if perhaps that fulfills that plant or animals life , and maybe it gives it up willingly, as many people sacrifice their lives for others.

  127. Wow!
    This is really much simpler than what I’ve been reading:
    About 6000 years ago (give or take), God created all creatures vegan. After the “first couple” sinned, they clothed themselves in vegetation. But God required (the first) animal sacrifice for sin, and then clothed Adam and Eve in the skins of the slain animal. After that, some creatures (including humans)started killing and eating meat, and some remained vegetarian.
    If God ordained it, it HAS to be ethical.
    I know that my view is in the minority, but consider reading the first few chapters of Genesis, and keep an open mind.

    1. Jesus Christ – rilly?? All animal life dates back 6000 years… We are doomed as a species LOL

  128. I have always ate meat and always will. I kill most of my own meat which consists of wild game and domesticated animals. I have hunted since I was five years old and my sons and wife hunt. What better way to get unadulterated meat than hunting and raising your own?

  129. You addressed the biological aspect. Great. The belief we “need” to eat meat combined with the constant input from food companies (aka MARKETING) suggests to us that we need to eat it every day. We don’t. Ethics comes in because that demand has made the farming industry bypass humane treatment of animals. Ethical means compassionate. Yes, they are food, but they dont have to suffer for us because some of us biologically have to eat meat. And yeah, it IS emotional when you watch the footage. There is a nagging belief that it could be done differently and that while some of us need meat, there is a thing called compassion that has totally been destroyed. Ethics is not just about the animal dying. It is how it was made to live its whole life (example: veal). Then how it was killed (scared to death). I mean with all the chemicals they give the animals, seems like they could give them something to knock them out, so they dont hear each other scream, groan, moo, whatever before there turn. AND the abuses that go on in the farming community. That exists because we think we need to eat meat and really, we are over indulging. And suffering is the point, not the deaths.

    1. Mostly people overeat grains and sugar. If you want to eat less, the meat is the best choice. I now eat two times a day, first meal is more like a snack, second consists of meat and veggies. It is amazing how less garbage our family generates now, not to mention numerous positive changes in health.

  130. I hope this nonsense NYT contest helps everyone to think about ethics for a second. I know this is a site dedicated to nutrition and good living, but I happen to think that a proper ethical framework assists in that endeavor. Look at some of the work of people like Peter Singer and even some of the comments in this thread and you will see the deep-seated contempt for human beings AS SUCH underpinning the arguments for veganism, radical environmentalism, etc.

    I don’t want to get too preachy but in order to win this philosophical battle everyone has to stand up and affirm the value of human life. Start with affirming the value of your own. Ethics is a system by humans, for humans. It doesn’t make any sense to speak of ethics outside of the context of beings capable of reason and self-reflection. You have absolutely zero responsibility to “minimize aggregate suffering” or any such nonsense. Ethics is about discovering how to live a good life as a rational being. Period.

    1. Thank you. I love you now. I was getting tired of the consequentialist remarks.

    2. I agree with much of your comment, but don’t understand why you claim that Peter Singer has contempt for human beings. I’ve read his more popular books and a handful of his essays, and nothing in his “preference utilitarianism” philosophy has ever suggested that to me. Unless you consider putting animals and humans on nearly equal ground to be “contempt.”

      Also, Peter Singer isn’t even opposed to eating meat. He’s previously stated that eating humanely-treated animals can be ethical. In fact, he wrote this a few years back:

      “You could say it’s wrong to kill a being whenever a being is sentient or conscious. Then you would have to say it’s just as wrong to kill a chicken or mouse as it is to kill you or me. I can’t accept that idea. It may be just as wrong, but millions of chickens are killed every day. I can’t think of that as a tragedy on the same scale as millions of humans being killed. What is different about humans? Humans are forward-looking beings, and they have hopes and desires for the future. That seems a plausible answer to the question of why it’s so tragic when humans die.”

      So you might want to become more familiar with his work before accusing him of contempt for humanity.

  131. I once heard a Buddhist monk speak about his eating practices, and being vegetarian. He said that all eating harms sentient beings, and felt that vegetarianism simply did the least harm.

    Relatively convincing if you imagine that eating a vegetable requires nothing more than a process of planting a seed, adding water, harvesting, and eating. This is not the case for millions of us.

    It is far more ethical and sustainable (hence, ethical once again) for me to walk into the woods and shoot, kill, and process my own meat here in Southeast Alaska, than to have my produce grown thousands of miles away and barged in.

  132. Great post Mark!

    I see the trolls are out en force. Gee, do primal people troll on Veg sites? Didn’t think so.

  133. The thing is, the definition of ethical varies from culture to culture, religion to religion, families to families and person to person. What is ok for one person may not be ok for the other. Unless every staff member at the NY Times shares the exact same view of what ethical is, and they wrote their definition of ethical so we could defend our opinions from that point of view, everything is moot.

    So the first question I ask is, what is ethical?
    From my point of view, it is not ethical or virtuous for other people to judge my eating habits that I have decided on for my ultimate survival and thrival (is that a word?) and vice versa.

    If I choose to eat real meat from real animals to sustain myself and thrive and choose to be grateful for what I have been given, then that is ethical.

  134. You’re undeniably correct that all consumption causes harm to animals but your argument seems to boil down to: a)anything else is unethical too b) we can’t have a meaningful discussion about this without considering contextual factors like sustainability.

    On the first point, I don’t think it’s sufficient to simply point out that all eating involves some animal death. With any harmful act, the extent or scale of things matters. We don’t say that killing one individual is the same as killing dozens for that same reason.

    On the second issue, about context, my guess is that they’re just trying to get people to address the core question. One piece of context that they didn’t take off the table is whether the ethics of eating meat is the same when we have other stuff we can subsist on than times that we couldn’t. So, “we’ve always done this” arguments seem too simplistic if we have reasonable alternatives now but didn’t in the past. Similarly, cannibalism just because humans have sometimes practiced it is looked at very differently than cannibalism during a plane crash/only means of survival situation.

    Let me be clear that I think meat eating is ethical. I just think it’s worth wrestling with the issues more deeply to clarify exactly why.

  135. I am an ex-vegan/vegetarian. I have to say that I did then, and do now, find the “thanking the dead animal” thing borderline offensive. I can understand being moved and grateful, however (as an atheist and pragmatist, perhaps), seeing this as important, meaningful or noble I think is pushing it.

    1. The animal’s dead. It can’t see your tears or hear your thanks, and even if it could
    2. It’s an animal, it understands neither tears nor thanks.
    3. It’s dead not of its own choice. It didn’t “sacrifice” itself for you. You killed it, as far as we can tell, against its “will”.

    Any tears, thanks, or rituals are to salve your own conscience, nothing more. Any deeply felt connection to a greater something-or-other is unlikely to be shared by the dying/dead animal. It’s probably an inbuilt coping mechanism we have, a way of imbuing an unpleasant event with meaning in order to justify it to ourselves. It’s okay for feeling sorry to be just feeling sorry, nothing more.

    IMHO, the most respectful thing one can do is simply to use as much of the animal as possible; ensure its death wasn’t wasteful or trivial.

    As for the issue of the ethics of eating meat. As a vegetarian/vegan I was obese and depressed, at one point suicidal. Any ethical stance which makes ones life unbearable is unsustainable. Thus, even if I were to argue that veg*nism is ethical and meat-eating not, it is not a viable life-choice for most people.

    Veganism in particular has the confidence of simplicity: killing is wrong. It’s a nice, neat, simple message, easy to understand and follow. That doesn’t make it true. Eating meat again after so many years, feeling better than I have in so long, has made me re-evaluate the moral certainties I held so dear. Is it OK to slowly kill oneself in order to avoid killing other animals? Is it better to be permanently sad and down than to eat animal flesh? Are the rights of other beings to a happy, healthy life more important than mine?

    If the answer to all the above is “yes”, then as another poster said above, the ultimate vegan would just kill themselves now. Not really a workable approach to life, is it?

    1. What you say about thanking the animal is true: it can’t acknowledge it, understand it, and it wasn’t by his will.

      Having said that, I understand being thankful in general for simply having food to eat, considering many people around the world die of starvation. I am thankful for the food I eat, be it a wild-caught salmon, or spinach. I am not necessarily praying for or thanking the fish or the plant thinking it’ll understand me, I am just grateful for what I have in general, so I can’t say I find it offensive in that sense.

      And I definitely agree about at least using the entire animal and wasting as little as possible. We could learn a thing or two from Native Americans.

  136. Plants are living things, too. Why do people assume that a vegetarian meal doesn’t kill living things?

    1. There’s no question that plants are living things. I don’t think anyone can argue that. The question is do plants feel pain? The answer to that, I believe, is no. They don’t Why? Because plants do not have a central nervous system like pigs, cows, humans, or any sentient being for that matter, through which pain, as we know it, is felt. Perhaps they feel pain in a way that we are currently not aware of? Maybe. But that’s pure speculation, whereas sentient animals feeling pain is a fact. I highly doubt plants feel pain. I don’t think nature would design a vessel for pain without giving it a sort of pain-avoidance mechanism; they have no mobility therefor would not be able to willingly avoid pain. Admittedly, the latter is speculation on my part, but it’s not needed for me to prove to justify my position that animals feeling pain is factual while plants feeling pain is speculatory until proven otherwise.

  137. Does the shark, feel sorry for the seal it is about to devour. Does the praying mantis pray or feel guilty, before capturing and consuming its prey. I don’t think the question is whether or not eating meat is ethical. Earth in its natural state is an ECOSYSTEM, animals eat other animals, some animals eat plants, some eat both. Fighting nature with ethics seems very ridiculous to me. Nothing besides plants make their own food. If all earth’s organic life (beyond plants and microbes and fungi) need to sacrifice another life to continue living, so be it. We as humans, have some responsibility because of overpopulation to farm animals and thus we could not all be hunters. So some ppl without this experience have an aversion to killing an animal for food. I think its a necessary function of animals to thrive from consumption of other life forms.

    1. Just as you compare animals to humans, I will ask you the same: do sharks factory farm seals? Do praying manti confine their prey to a lifetime of torture, confined to living in a cage, unable to roam freely and have a decent life?

      1. “Do praying manti confine their prey to a lifetime of torture, confined to living in a cage, unable to roam freely and have a decent life?”

        Humans do this to other humans, though they’re not necessarily prey.

        We’re beasts. We’re bred into an artificial society. But we’re still beasts.

        1. Have you ever heard of “just because you can doesn’t mean you should?”

          Humans are capable of doing many things. In some cases, like this one, it doesn’t mean we should.

        2. @ David T

          Well then clearly we have bigger problems.

          How about once humans stop killing, torturing, and locking one another up in cells – then we can start worrying more about how humanely we treat animals.

  138. I believe the ethical position on diet is to simply accept your place in the food chain. That is what our species co-evolved to depend on. This is what the whole planet’s ecosystem evolved to depend on. By grossly shifting our diet away from its natural place in the food chain we alter the whole ecosystem in unintended ways. By insisting on unnatural diets for ourselves, we cause immeasurable pain and suffering to ourselves, who leave sickened by our unnatural diets, and to the rest of the living beings whose environment we change due to our unnatural eating habits. Like the tons of chemicals we need to sustain monoculture practices so that everyone on the planet can eat tomatoes all year round. Like the need for tons of fuel necessary to ship them all across the world so that everyone can live in an endless vegetarian summer.

    To think that somehow what you eat makes you an ethically superior being is conceited at best. But this is what I believe anyways. Above all I believe that nobody should force on anyone else a diet. Regardless of the fact that I believe vegans are hurting themselves in the long run, I do not believe that I am better than them because I choose to eat animals. Nor do I think I am entitled to tell them how to eat, unless my opinion is asked for. The opposite is fascism, like the new trend of taxing fat consumption in some European countries. For this reason I do not welcome others telling me what to eat, or whether it’s ethical or not.

  139. It is unethical NOT to eat meat! Those cattle spend their whole lives converting grass into delicious nutritious beef and fat, if we didn’t kill and eat them they would get old and die and all that meat would go to waste!


    It’s easy to talk about the ethics of eating meat. It’s not so easy to shove a knife into the throat of a living animal and watch it bleed to death.

    If everyone had to kill their own meat these days, I think there would be many more vegans.

    I think that it is rather cowardly to have other (poorly paid) people kill animals for you, while you dine in peace.

    If you want to eat animals, that’s understandable, but at least kill them yourself.

    So here is a question for Mark:
    Do you kill your own meat on a regular basis?

    1. And in order to wear shoes, you should have to make your own shoes. And in order to use a computer, you should have to build it yourself.

      I’m sure if you had to build your own computer and make your own shoes, a lot less people would use those items.


      Trading (commerce) is a part of our advanced society. Simply because you cannot weld does not mean that you cannot drive a car that someone else has welded together.

      You could use this argument for absolutely anything.

      What you speak of is a nomadic society where trade does not exist. Where the only things that one can use and consume are the things that he/she catches or finds.

      If everyone had to kill their own cow, we’d have a lot of wasted meat – since it would probably take several months to consume the whole cow.

      Oh and what about children? Can their parents kill stuff for them, or should they wield a dagger too?

      Next time you have a problem with your computer, don’t call Tech Support. If you can’t fix it, then by your own standards, you don’t deserve to use the computer.

    2. Also – when is the last time you grew and picked your own vegetables?

      I’m assuming with such a high-and-mighty attitude, you must not buy a single food item from the store.

      Otherwise you’d be a hypocrite.

    3. Most people would kill themselves in order to get their own meat if they see the choice you described. May be not before reaching the point when they feel super-crappy without their perfect nutrition source.

  141. Also, a better question is:
    “Are the conditions that factory farmed animals live in ethical?”

    I’ve seen videos of the treatment that factory farmed animals endure, and it is truly horrific.

    If you’re going to eat meat, at least try to get free range animals and then kill them yourself.

    On another note: IS IT ETHICAL TO EAT HUMANS?

    1. The humans I know all eat too many preservatives and chemically-laden foods, so they’d probably taste bad anyway 😛

      I live on a farm where we do, in fact, raise goats and sheep and slaughter them occasionally for meat. We also have chickens for eggs and raw goat milk. Participating in animal butchering hasn’t turned me vegan, but it has raised my level of awareness about what, exactly, is involved in taking the life of an animal to eat its flesh. I’m more wary of my outside food choices now, as a result, so I think it’s been a good thing 🙂

  142. The whole idea of asking whether or not eating meat is ethical strikes me as absurd if no one is going to acknowledge that it’s only our privilege as Westerners from comparatively wealthy countries that allows us to even debate this issue. For a lot of people in the world, meat-eating isn’t a choice. They eat what they can get or raise. They have no Whole Foods or convenient vegan “burger” patties to make up the differences.

    I’d rather see an essay topic that isn’t so much about self-indulgent navel gazing, and is rather focused on useful ideas like “Is it possible to feed the world population sustainably and nutritiously?” pr “How can individuals take steps towards feeding themselves in hard times?” or “Should we let corporations take out patents on living organisms?” But I expect no better from the likes of the NYT, however, even though I’m about as liberal as they come 😛

    1. Whenever I’m on the “INTERNET” and I’m reading through or participating in these big blanket philosophical/moral questions, I always end up realizing that the internet is a terrible place to have an argument about anything like that.

      Until we can find some way to bring Internet Ready computers to all parts of the world for people from all walks of life to be able to participate in the argument, the question should always be confined to “Is it ethical for Americans, or for People in prosperous developed countries to eat meat”.

      Arguing about what is right for humanity won’t be possible until then.

      “Is it ethical for priveleged humans to debate philosophical/moral questions in the absence of the majority of humanity?”

  143. I no longer eat meat and its interesting how defensive some of you become. A vegetarian or vegan consider the welfare of another thing so that is admirable. I cannot eat meat after watching,”Earthling” and witnessing 2 abbaitoirs in Australia being shut down due to cruelty. There is nothing ethical about eating meat if you do not understand the process which takes place before it ends up on your plate. Yes nothing is nice about killing but there is no excuses for animals being factory farmed or treated inhumanely. Its interesting that vegetarians are teased because they care about this. If you are serious about your meat wouldn’t you be want that animal to killed humanely and not spend its life in a jail cell.

    1. We think it’s silly, you see, because vegetarians try to make this a simple Black and White argument.

      Just because we choose to eat meat does not necessarily mean that we support the factory farming practices. Many of us buy grass fed beef from reputable and local farmers and ranchers.

      I feel no guilt for eating meat.

      You’d be making a better impact by doing the same – buying local grass fed meat – instead of buying “Vegetarian” or “Vegan” food from the same companies that own and operate the factory farms.

      I’m speaking/voting with my dollar for more availability of humanely raised food.

      You’re still supporting the bad guys. Enjoy the corn!

      1. And why do you assume he’s eating industrial corn and supporting the “bad guys”?

        I’m no longer a vegetarian, but when i was, I obtained most of my food from an organic CSA and local farm markets (still do, but now I get my meat there too). I’m not saying whiverjoli does this, but it’s certainly possible.

        1. It was a general blanket statement in response to a general blanket statement.

  144. I just want to ask if Mark sent in this article to the NY Times. It is a good essay especially since it’s objective, which I always like for people to decide for themselves

    1. They wouldn’t care.

      They’re not trying to gather opinions, they’re trying to make a point.

      THIS IS The Western Media. They’re not here to inform, but to sway and divide.

  145. First off, The New York Times tactics and agenda are so transparent it’s laughable. Second, it’s amazing how high and mighty vegans can be.

    These psuedo-intellectual busy bodies should live the way they want and let others do the same.

    The food nazis need to get out of people’s lives.

  146. Thanks Mark, I was curious how you would answer. Those are really good questions to ask non meat eaters. I suspect they consider whatever damage done to grow crops is necessary to sustain life but eating meat is not necessary to sustain life, but whose life is more important? We know what they believe about that. They can’t have it both ways. Either all life is equal or it is not. If it is, then everyone is guilty of murder directly or indirectly by eating meat, grains, wearing clothes, etc. I love meat and I love animals and I try to be thankful for their sacrifice. I also try to buy meat that has been raised and killed humanely.

  147. Ask yourself this:
    If you were to die tomorrow, would you regret ever being alive?
    I sure wouldn’t. I’d rather live half a good life than not being born at all.
    Without us raising cattle for food, they would never have been born. So the way I see it, we owe it to our animals to provide them with a naturally happy life, which mean roaming in the grassy fields, and when the end come it should be with as little suffering as possible.

  148. I believe the only thing unethical about eating meat is the inhumane treatment of the animals and waste. As humans we are animals designed to eat other animals, therefore it’s part of our biology to eat meat, but we have to RESPECT the animal life we are taking and not be wasteful of the life we have taken from them. Proper hunters thank the animal for giving up it’s life and do not waste any part of it.

  149. Great piece of writing! I did enter the contest. I tried my best to follow the stupid rules, and explained that since nutrition science can’t prove whether a diet that does or doesn’t include meat is the healthiest, it’s unethical to deprive humans of food that may be what is necessary for them to live at optimum health. That to live at optimum health is our ethical right and duty. That overweight people observationally do better on a low-carb diet that by definition would include meat, and that to deprive them of meat would be pretty damn unethical. So there!

  150. I find this whole topic really sad.

    It’s just another attempt by the establishment to further separate people. To bring controversial differences to the plate and allow the hate to flow.

    No vegan will convince a Grok to stop eating meat, and no Grok will convince a Vegan to do the opposite.

    It’s an argument for argument’s sake – ultimately, for the sake of separation. Each side feels superior over the other. Each side is passionate.

    This is just tickling the suicidal hibernating bear, if you follow.

    1. well said mate.. all the arguing is just so unnecessary and unproductive. the debate of such touchy topics on a blog is bound to go downhill fast. too easy to be a tough guy behind a screen

  151. My brother once worked for several years in Saudi Arabia. When invited to a local’s home for dinner, the lamb or goat that would be the main course would be romping in the yard with the children prior to the slaughter. That was their culture and their ethic.

  152. I don’t know why anyone validates this contest…The better question would be: “Is it ethical to feed your poor, defenseless children frosted flakes, pop tarts, hawaiian punch, and peeps?”

  153. There are a lot of comments here and I did not read them all.

    “Is eating meat ethical”? Probably yes.

    “Is there times when it is not?” 100% Yes.

    While eating meat may not be unethical, it’s certainly unethical to raise animals in terrible conditions and murder them in terrible ways.

  154. I have no problem with eating meat. I have a HUGE problem with factory farms, so I buy organic. I will happily support the pro-organic/free range cause–but vegetarianism seems unnatural and unhealthy to me.

  155. I loved this comment in the NYT: ‘The prime example of a species that currently consumes resources at the expense of other living beings…’ and then the culprit was ‘homo sapiens’ (we can assume he meant Homo sapiens sapiens), but I suspect the real answer is probably wheat. Or perhaps maize. Or soya.

  156. I thought about doing this essay, but then I figured the same thing when I saw the restrictions. You can’t justify this argument without discussing those topics. When you can bring them up, vegetarians and even vegans fall under “unethical” practices. Pointless.

  157. Here is the article i submitted this morning. As Mark mentioned, the rules were constraining so I picked one of many possible arguments and spent my 600 words on that. I’m new to this forum but thought I would share and get your thoughts.

    The Least Harm Principle

    For 23 years I was vegetarian, determined to avoid the fate of my father who suffered two bypass surgeries and two carotid artery surgeries.  As a vegetarian I gained 1-2 pounds every year and just before I changed my diet my BMI was 25, right at the demarcation line for obesity.  I was fat and getting sick.  As a vegetarian I assumed a lot of things about my diet that I’ve since found out were untrue.  Now I eat a high fat, paleolithic (hunter-gatherer) diet.  This diet is the most ethical from an animal rights perspective because it does the least harm to animals.  It’s also the most optimal for health because it is nutrient dense and naturally regulates hormone levels.  This keeps me naturally lean.  I feel and look great now at my high school weight, but it wasn’t always this way.  

    My diet is the most ethical because far fewer animals die to feed me than to feed a vegan.  I respect the vegan diet premise that no harm come to animals. It turns out however, this premise isn’t true.  Thousands of animals make their homes in crop fields. Turtles, rabbits, pheasants, mice, raccoons, and myriad other fauna live and nest in the fields that feed my vegan friends.  Growing up in a farming area, I saw buzzards flock to farmers fields, and for good reason.  Research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics argued that 15 animals die per hectare of cropland.  That’s 1.8 billion animal deaths per year in US fields*.  That means 144 animals are killed for each of the 12.5 million vegans in the US each year. These animals are killed by plows, tractors, harvesters, irrigators, and other farm equipment. Vegans rely heavily on grains and their derivatives.

    By contrast, I eat no grains or legumes because they have toxins, particularly for the intestinal tract.  They also turn to glucose in the body, and lead to the storage of fat tissue.  Instead, I eat wild caught fish, grass fed meats, and local pastured eggs. These protein sources typically comprise 20% of daily calories. Healthy fats such as coconut oil, olive oil, and grass fed butter comprise 70%, and leafy vegetables comprise the rest.  I eat 1,000 calories less than as a vegetarian because my body burns fat as its primary fuel instead of sugar.  Fat is highly satiating and I spend less now on food.  Based on my macronutrient ratios, I require 210 pounds of animal flesh per year.  That’s only one fifth of a cow.  If everyone in the US ate this way far fewer deaths would be required and the free pastured animals would live a high quality of life.  Based on average weights for free range cows, chickens, and salmon, it would take 57 million pounds of meat per year to feed the US population.  That would result in 960 million animal deaths per year.   

    That’s 1.8 billion deaths for vegans vs. 960 million deaths for paleos.  Worse is the knowledge that none of the 1.8 billion deaths nourish human life.  This presents a deeper ethical challenge for vegans.  

    Additional factors must be considered for global populations eating a high fat paleo diet, but the US could convert crop to pasture land and make this sustainable.     

    If every American ate a vegan diet, billions of animal deaths would be required.  Based on the least harm principle, the most ethical diet is the high fat paleo-style diet that consumes animal protein from wild and pastured sources.  Fewer animals are killed on this diet than any other.  

    *Reference: Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 16: 387–394, 2003

    1. I agree with just about everything you say with one caveat: most meat consumed by the vast majority of people, unfortunately, isn’t grass-fed. It’s factory-farmed. And what do factory-farmed animals primarily consume? Grains. Far, far more grains than humans…and where do these grains come from? From farms where all of the animals you mentioned make their homes in the grain fields, and get killed incidentally.

      So as far as the least harm principle:

      Meat is both the worst and best option, depending on its source.

      I’m a pesce-ovo vegetarian: I only get organic eggs (or whenever possible locally pastured), and I only eat wild-caught fish. Those are my main sources of protein. I haven’t ate any land animal in 10 years, but I would actually (and I can’t believe I’m even saying this) consider adding grass-fed/’humane’ meats to my diet, though minimally. For the record, I also don’t consume grains and limit legumes.

      Of all of the arguments in favor of meat-eating, I have to say yours is by far the most convincing I’ve come across so far. You make a very solid case.

      Ideally; my meat source would be from animals who die of old age/natural causes. Just as I would like to be fed back into nature when my time comes, not stuffed into a coffin. If only we lived in an ideal world.

      1. For many people who are allergic to fish your option is not a possibility. I rely on the fat of grass-fed animals and pastured eggs and butter as a source of O3.

        1. Galina,
          Thanks for reading my article and commenting. I agree that not everyone likes or tolerates fish. The numbers don’t change much if you substitute free range chicken for salmon. The average weight is about the same (approx 4 pounds). I also eat alot of free pastured local eggs and these are an excellent substitute for fish in my opinion.

      2. Leif, thanks for the feedback. I went through quite a conflict when I changed my diet after eating vegetarian for so long. I’m pleased that you found my argument compelling. Grass fed is the only way to go for me. It’s expensive, but eating high fat I actually spend less now on food than before. I agree that if grain fed meat is consumed my argument isn’t very strong. I’m trying to get closer to the sources of my food and I ultimately hope to buy more local grass fed, free pastured meats. I’d like to actually go to the farm to get my food.

        1. Leif,
          You may be interested in reading about Whole Foods “five step” ratings for meats. I go for the highest number available, especially for organ meats. This system rates the quality of life from an animal welfare perspective. Step 4 and 5 animals for example, spend their whole life grass fed and free pastured. This link has more on the rating system if you are interested:

    2. Patrick,

      Your position is very honorable, I find. However, this is how the NYT judges are going to refute it, in my opinion, and maybe justifiably so:

      Your entire argument is based around the “Least Harm Principle.” However, does a grass-fed diet really result in the least harm possible to animals? I feel, as with Mark’s position, that you’re unfairly comparing apples to oranges. A grass-fed diet results in less harm to animals than a vegan diet sourced from mass-produced crops. That’s true. But do you see the problem there? You’re comparing the least harm method of meat-consumption (grass-fed) to the most harm source for a vegan diet (conventional, mass-produced crops).

      A fair comparison would be comparing a grass-fed meat diet to its vegan equivalent: vegetables from organic, local small farms/gardens, where very little harm to animals results. Much less than a grass-fed diet, I assure you.

      So in the least harm principle scale, from least to most harm, it would look more like this:

      1) Local organic vegetable farms/gardens

      2) Grass-fed meat

      3) Conventional mass-produced vegetable crops

      4) Conventional animal farms (factory farming)

      Granted: far more people source their vegetables from conventional farms, but the same thing could be said about meat.

      Personally, I feel the figure for the number of animals killed in conventional crop farms seems a bit exaggerated. I’m not saying it isn’t the case. Surely there are casualties. But I would like to see at least a few more studies conducted to get a more precise number. My suspicion is that it’s much lower.

      1. David,
        I appreciate you thoughtful response. I agree that if a vegan ate mostly local organic vegetables it is most likely less animals would die from farm equipment. After reading the research paper I cited, I don’t think that I would rank a vegan diet as least harm because most of the farm equipment that kills crop animals would still be used. Whether it’s a single tractor and a manure spreader or a commercial combine and irrigator, I see it as a matter of scale. Number estimates are difficult but the paper lays out their methodology and it seems reasonable. Perhaps the numbers are lower. It would be interesting to know. My article does contrast what you see as the “worst case” vegan diet against perhaps the “best case” paleo diet, however I see this as a true comparison between the diet I ate for 23 years and the diet I eat now. It’s somewhat anecdotal, but I know most of my vegan and vegetarian friends ate the same as I once did and continue to do so. Given that I think the comparison is fair. Thanks for reading my article and sharing your thoughts. I wish I had posted it earlier because the feedback would have helped me strengthen the arguments before submitting.

      2. I think it is reasonable to take into consideration that the amount of food is different on different diets. I eat only two times a day now on grass-fed animal products and veggies and produce very little garbage.

  158. I like what Paul Rezendez says about animals dying for food for another animal. He is a tracker. He says (more eloquently) that that animal took into itself other living things and that is how is grew from small to an adult and so you taking it into yourself is the same. We are all connected and so it is a circle.

  159. Wondering whether eating meat is ethical is truly a privileged first world problem.

  160. The better question is either option unethical. The problem is when others judge the choices as unethical. For example, eating meat is not wrong or right but a choice. On the other hand, if someone has issues with it they do not have to eat meat. In the same manner, if someone is vegan and that is there choice. It is not about ethics but about freedom of choice. When it comes to eating people should be able to chose based on their morals. So to answer the question directly either is fine however I do think there should be some regulation on how animals are treated.

  161. Who says humans biologically need to eat meat?The healthiest people on the planet are the Shaolin Monks and the monks of Mt Athos, Greece. Shaolin monks are totally vegetarian and famous for their Kung Fu feats, and the monks of Mt Athos are vegan for 1/2 the year and predominantly vegetarian for the rest of the year – they very seldom eat fish.Many of the comments here are derogatory of vegetarians and vegans. Why so defensive? Live and let live, and nobody has to justify why they eat what they eat – it’s between you and your body.

    1. I rather suspect those groups of people are healthier than the rest of us because they aren’t on the Internet all day!

  162. Regarding B. Wilson’s question–have humans become unethical. No, we have always been unethical. We are the only species that consumes/uses more of everything than we need. No other species effectively keeps us in “our nitch”. We never had a nitch. In order to enusre the survival of all creatures we humans must create our own nitch by becoming ethical. Virus’ have tried to contain us. Perhaps one day they will knock off enough people to let all creatures have a chance at contunued survival for a few more milennia. Perhaps the humans that survive will remember how harmful was the excess.
    Yes, I own a house, drive a car, birthed 2 children, have a dog, a cat & oh, a motorcycle too.I am including myself as being unethical but I try to live simply and I do share! I also eat a lot of meat. ’nuff said.

  163. Hi Mark,

    My husband and I just read your blog and believe that it’s true that we can’t live without harming other creatures in many aspects of life, including eating food. We think that the NY Times essay contest is rigged because it does not allow you to talk about differences in how meat is produced, and it not worth your time and effort.

    Rather, we would like to see one of your well-reasoned blog posts about how we best live, knowing that we harm other beings by the nature of our very existence. And, how we can best mitigate the harm done by our choice of diets.

    Thank you for all the wonderful work you do. We have definitely benefited from it.

  164. Consequentialism is not a good basis for ethics. It is important, but really it has little to do with ethics.

    I prefer to look back to Aristotle and use his ideas on what fulfills creatures, on what is the purpose of various things as a basis for obligations and consequently ethics.

    We have an obligation to ourselves to seek the good of health and life, and part of that good requires eating meat.

    But why other animals and not humans? Animals are not rational. Some can feel emotion, some can communicate, but until an animal demonstrates that it is self aware and aware of its own knowledge, I will not consider it rational. I have yet to encounter any animal with the capacity for rational thought.

    Humans on the other hand, have the capacity for rational thought. Going back to Aristotle’s views on the purpose of life, humans ought to fulfill their highest skill, and among that is our ability to think. Unlike animals who can only live and reproduce, we can think.
    What is the content of thought? Depending on your philosophical background, there can be several answers. Without going into too much detail, I say that I agree with Aristotle. The content of thought is the thing that is being thought of. The content of knowledge is the thing known.
    Since we have the ability to know all things, and that is our highest skill that separates us from the animals, we must do what we can to complete that ability. But we can know an infinitude of things; such a task could take eternity. But we can only do this while we are alive. That is why it is such a tragedy to die, and it is so wrong to kill other humans.

    Anyway, this little question of ethics requires the enquirer to first have an ethical philosophy from which to make decisions.

  165. The problem with this question is that we’ve let the frog lickers define the debate.
    We’re trying to convince idiots that it’s ethical for us to pursue our own well being.
    The meat debate is a red herring. Just as “green” energy, the population explosion, climate change, unfettered capitalism and all the other issues radicals fixate on.
    It’s just another way for do gooders to exert control in our lives “for our own good”.
    And they’re just useful idiots for the truly dangerous element that will stop at nothing to turn you into a modern day serf who is only allowed to survive through the benevolence of the enlightened.

    1. Bill, I’m disturbed by your comment. No one is suggesting that we turn into ‘modern day surfs’. No one is suggesting that you should not pursue your own well being.

      You are ignorant.

      As a young person with hope for the future I can only hope that people with ideas like you become more informed.

      1. Kayla, I believe he’s referring to the establishment and media.

        Also, it’s not very nice to call people ignorant.


  166. Who needs ethics when you’ve got a tender filet with a red wine reduction on there! Sorry Mr. Moo but it’s survival of the fittest on this planet ya know

  167. When Animals quit eating animals I will quit eating animals.

    Also, if vegans and vegetarians are so against eating meat why do they insist thath their soybeans look and taste like muatt?

  168. Oops! Let’s try that again!

    “”that their soybeans look and taste like meat?”

  169. The ‘I, Caveman’ video is incredible.

    I do not think hunting and supporting life with an animal like this is unethical. Here is another representation of that same phenomenon

  170. Veg or non-veg, you have to kill to eat, so eating meat is as ethical as eating vegetables!

  171. Native Americans revere the land and all that comes from it. A gratitude prayer is offered up for the animal life taken so that the human may thrive.
    For some, the mealtime prayer before eating has (or could have) a similar intent. I find eating meat to be part of the life circle…just as some animals are carnivore, the human animal is also.

  172. If a vegan runs over a squirrel while driving to the health food store . . .

  173. I think it is great that the majority of comments actually do consider the inhumane treatment of animals. I find the idea of paleo does make sense and agree I felt very fit and healthy following paleo. My choice to become vegetarian was a personal due to witnessing animal treatment before and during slaughter that made me cry for days. I imagine the reasoning behind marketed vegetarian food tasting like meat is because some vegetarians like myself actually enjoyed the taste of meat and it made the transition easier. I do not condemn anyone for eating meat but would condemn anyone thinking it is okay for an animal to suffer a life of misery so they can eat meat.

    1. Thankyou! Good to hear like-minded thoughts.

      I have also witnessed the cruelty of meat production.

      I have also lived in a rural community where they literally live alongside the animals they consume. (goats, chickens along the streets, etc.) Its a healthy, humane way.

      The question is not whether to eat meat, but to demand ethical meat.

  174. I can eat a small portion of meat and feel satisfied for a long time. Or I can eat a large portion of fruits and vegetables and feel satisfied for a lesser amount of time. Or I can eat a huge pile of grains (couple loaves of bread, anyone?) and feel hungry very fast. I think the meat solution does less damage.

  175. @ GT wrote, ” 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”

    Gorillas eat grubs and small mammals, when they can get them. Like most creatures, gorillas eat whatever is edible in their habitat. Including meat & (palatable) insects.

  176. If I believe that eating meat is right for me, then I have to believe it is the right thing to do for 7 billion people. Of course the reality is that 7 billion people will never have the luxury to eat meat as there isn’t enough resources to sustain a cattle industry of that magnitude. And sure one could argue, that people in Africa can eat meat other than cow and sheep, but would you eat anything else?
    This isn’t just an animal rights argument, this is a human rights argument. I chose a vegetarian diet because I want other people to eat, and to put an end to the cruelty and suffering plaguing our species.

  177. What about the poor plants and vegetables that get eaten? They’re alive too, aren’t they?

    We should just starve ourselves to death or eat rocks.

    1. I’ve heard this argument time and time again, but as far as I’m concerned plants do not have a central nervous system thus feel no pain the way sentient creatures (pigs, cows, humans) do. The bottom line is there is absolutely no scientific evidence that shows vegetation feels pain the way sentient creatures do. Also, it would help to have a brain to process the pain. Otherwise, it’s purely speculation. Whereas the pain felt by sentient beings is a fact.

  178. Sorry, I’m a late-comer. I’ve taken a GIANT step back on this issue…

    Genesis 1
    27 So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

    28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

    Ethics imply a moral order to the universe. I believe God solves this issue once for all. 🙂

  179. Mark,

    Sticking strictly with the subject of ethics:

    If you think it’s ethically OK to eat pigs, cows…why not also eat humans? We can digest human flesh just as well, and cannibalism is also found in nature. But just be cause we can…should we? Laws aside, would you eat another human being, while having other options at your disposal? In other words, not only in survival mode when you have no other choice but to eat someone else to stay alive.

    1. Human society lives with the system of tabus,and eating human flesh is basically everywhere is unacceptable now. In some societies it is tabu to eat dogs, in others horses, we don’t eat pigeons, but it used to be a suitable dish for a French king. During wars and famines people aet anything what could provide nutrition. Why to question the existing tabu? We try to defend ourselves against the attempt by vegetarians to turn the most traditional, healthy, nutritious food into some forbidden item supposed to be consumed with gilt or not consumed at all.

    2. Human meat is not good for humans in abundance. We didn’t evolve predisposed to eat human meat.

      We did, however, evolve to eat other animals.

      If your dog has cancer and you decide it’s time for it to go, you can kill it. Put a bullet through his head or have him euthanized.

      To pretend that humans and animals – or that the standard perception of both – are exact equals is beyond stupid.

      You’re really grasping at straws asking idiotic questions like this.

      1. “Human meat is not good for humans in abundance.” Care to elaborate?

        Are you trying to say that swine, bovine, or whatever other different animals you eat, are inherently superior sources of food over human beings? Do you ever eat pork without cooking it? Why would that be necessary if, according to you, we evolved to eat them. Notice how other animals have no need to cook their food? There’s no question they evolved to process animals without cooking. We can eat cooked meat, but have our bodies really evolved to digest it raw on a regular basis?

        I don’t think Leif is necessarily arguing that we’re exact equals to animals. I think the argument is that there isn’t much difference between what apparently justifies eating meat, and how that doesn’t ethically also apply to humans. Exact equals? No. similar? Certainly.

        I think the question is fair, if you ask me. There’s no need for childish name-calling. That won’t get us anywhere.

        1. You can eat raw meat. I can eat raw meat. Our ancestors ate raw meat and there are people today who make it a habit of eating raw meat.

          But really, you think “If you think it’s ethically OK to eat pigs, cows…why not also eat humans?” is a legitimate question given the context?

          I’ve read plenty of Leif’s posts, and I’m aware the he’s a pretty intelligent fellow. He’s also quoted things from Mark’s book, so I know he’s read at least part of it.

          The answer to this question is already known (since it was directed at Mark). Leif is simply trying to connect a bloody gruesome line from people who eat meat to cannibals.

          There is a distinct difference between a moose and a man (or a woman). Today we have all of these lovely movies that depict how friendly animals are and how we coexist, but a lot of them would kill us too, given the chance.

          We have different races of man – and I believe us all to be equal. The same is not true when you’re comparing a human being to a wild (or even domesticated) animal.

          So yeah. It was a stupid question.

  180. Other species can have the same rights as me when they have the same responsibilities as me. If a random human came up to me in the street and started humping my leg i’d be fighting them and calling the police and most likely be traumatised. But if a random dog tried that i’d probably laugh and push it away. Would a supposedly ethical “non-speciesist” veg*n expect the dog to be arrested and sentenced in a court seeing dogs should be treated the same as humans? Or would they alternatively simply laugh at the human attacker because humans are no better than dogs? Vegan ethics – what a contradiction. The more ethical one thinks they are, the more of a hypocrite they are by default.

  181. Eating meat is not the problem. Factory farming is the problem. IF you eat meat, then go hunt it or pay the premium for grass fed animals that were treated humanely. Also, take responsibility for the footprint that is left by the amount of land needed to raise the animals you eat (verses land for plant based diet) and give back to the earth by planting trees in equal amounts. Eat your meat but do it ethically. NO FREE LUNCH. You are part of Nature, not the center of the Universe.

      1. I’m growing several tree seedlings in my office.. just cuz.

        I think I’ll take them and plant them somewhere nice.

  182. Ivor Cutler. A Scottish poet, got towards the heart of this question in 1980:

    “Whale Badge”

    A young hiker
    with leather boots
    relieved herself in a ditch by a remote field.

    It was a disaster.

    She pulled up her jeans and strode off, singing a folk song,
    leaving millions of dying organisms, unable to cope withthe sudden change in the composition of their medium.
    It was fortunate that she never found out,
    for she cared deeply and wore a ‘Save the Whale’ badge.

  183. I’m not entirely comfortable with the way we deliberately breed animals to die, but at least our standards in aus are generally fantastic regarding animal cruelty. Animals are gassed or shocked to sedate them, then killed. Dogs in parts of China (my shanghai born friend suspects canton) are skinned alive deliberately because they believe the terror of the animal will result in tastier meat-called ‘the living meat’. At least we can take some comfort in the fact that torture of animals is illegal here

  184. Also, the fact that we are self conscious, intelligent and thus superior beings does not mean that we have the right to use and treat animals like dirt, but that we have a responsibility to ensure this doesn’t occur, i.e torture for food, entertainment, etc.

    B. Why are humans anymore important or special to deserve life as opposed to other beings sharing this earth?? The world we’ve built with our obsession with power and greed has only caused DAMAGE to our earth. We bring wars, pollution, hate, greed, everything negative to our world and the horrible effect we’ve had on earth’s existence ever since we started building politics, money, etc. I don’t want to rant too much now, I’m going on a different topic… BUT Anyways, animals haven’t stooped to our level. When they’re hungry, they eat, they don’t act like we do… lazy Americans, with disguistingly high obesity rates. This isn’t “biological” and it’s not simply eating animals because we need meat to survive. We only did in the beginning of of our existence, as we had no factories to mindlessly chop animals into million of chicken nuggets within a matter of seconds. We would hunt to legitimately struggle to survive. We were truly animals. We have now APPARENTLY, “evolved” and as humans, we’ve applied rules to help structure our society. eg. not condone rape, murder, violence, isn’t killing animals by the thousands and their only meaning to life is to feed us the same idea?? how is rape immoral, killing humans immoral and killing animals isn’t?! The only thing that differs us is that we’re greedy, powerhungry, lazy brats that aren’t ever happy with what he have. Have animals reeked havoc by damaging the earth with pollution and all the other shit we do to destroy it? No. We’re the animals that need to be tamed.

    1. Exactly. I also hate it when people ask “do you think a lion cares for the feelings of other animals before they eat them?” I always answer with: lions (or any other animal, for that matter) do not factory farm. They don’t devoid their prey the freedom to roam freely. They don’t torture their prey for a lifetime confined to a cage only to be brutally murdered in the end the way humans do to consume the vast majority of their meat.

    2. “how is rape immoral, killing humans immoral and killing animals isn’t?!”

      Because we feed on the animals. We use them to sustain our lives. Rape and murder don’t really benefit anyone.

      I understand that humanity isn’t great. When you toss money and possession into the equation, we really tend to become demons – but it’s not fair or realistic to compare killing a cow for food to raping a human being.

      Until we can respect humanity for what it is, we’ll never respect the animal planet.

      Keep people from killing and torturing and ruling over one another and I’m sure the solution for “Meat” would be easily handled… but you’re trying to solve the puzzle without even opening the box.

    1. No, we are on the top of a food chain. I don’t want to join herbivores on their level.

  186. The day humans stop thinking they are outside the laws of nature will be the day we start fixing the chronic illness epidemic

  187. If you’re going to kill an animal for any reason, it’s only polite to use it all.

    So even wearing fur is ethical – though if you want a mink coat you better be prepared to eat a lot of mink!

  188. I think a lot of the “ethical” ideas of vegetarians come from a fantasy that if we didn’t eat animals, then the animals (in the wild) would live long, happy, fulfilled lives like in a disney cartoon. That it’s only US being mean and killing and eating them. The truth is those so-and-so’s eat each other, and they don’t kill humanely.

    1. It’s not a fantasy to think the animals in the wild would not be subject to the tortures of factory farming. I think that is the main issue most people have with eating meat. It’s not really a matter of killing them ‘humanely’, because by definition, other animals don’t kill other animals ‘humanely’, it’s more about killing other animals naturally. Meaning that lions don’t confine their prey to ‘inhumane’ conditions for a lifetime of torture confined to a cage before they eat them. That’s an enormous difference. And a very real one, not a fantasy.

  189. Here’s an angle: food animals when first domesticated voluntarily entered into an arrangement with man whereby man would protect them from predation or the ever present constant fear of predation. Man would protect them, treat them with respect, value them, feed them, give them life and in return the animals would submit to being humanely killed by man as food. I understand that a lot of animal raising today, probably most, does not conform to the biblical ideal. But let’s work to change that rather abrogate the contract we have with animals.

  190. What an odd question, if it is ethical to eat meat.

    Is it ethical to breathe?

    It is not the eating that needs to be considered for its ethics, but how we approach the fact that we eat other animals.

    American Indians, AFAIK, thank the animal that was killed for giving up its life to feed them.
    Here in Germany, if a deer is shot, a small pine branch is laid in its mouth to symbolize its last meal.

    All this revolves around respect for the life taken.

    That is ethical.

  191. Mufasa has the answer:

    Mufasa: Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance. As king, you need to understand that balance and respect all the creatures, from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope.

    Young Simba: But, Dad, don’t we eat the antelope?

    Mufasa: Yes, Simba, but let me explain. When we die, our bodies become the grass, and the antelope eat the grass. And so we are all connnected in the great Circle of Life.

    1. I love this, Frederik! It sums up everything, for me – the entire ‘ethical question’ – in a few sentences from the Lion King 🙂 The ‘circle of life’, precisely.

      If we hadn’t developed the brain, intelligence and skill (gained through the eating of animal flesh) to build huts and weapons to protect ourselves – the Lions and other wild carnivores would have presumably finished us off a long time ago!! It’s only this fact that stops us becoming a more literal part of