Ethics of Eating Meat
Recently the New York Times posted an essay contest that revolved around the ethics of eating meat. According to their website:
Ethically speaking, vegetables get all the glory. In recent years, vegetarians — and to an even greater degree vegans, their hard-core inner circle — have dominated the discussion about the ethics of eating. From the philosopher Peter Singer, whose 1975 volume “Animal Liberation” galvanized an international movement, to the novelist Jonathan Safran Foer, who wrote the 2009 best seller “Eating Animals,” those who forswear meat have made the case that what we eat is a crucial ethical decision. To be just, they say, we must put down our cheeseburgers and join their ranks.
In response, those who love meat have had surprisingly little to say. They say, of course, that, well, they love meat or that meat is deeply ingrained in our habit or culture or cuisine or that it’s nutritious or that it’s just part of the natural order. Some of the more conscientious carnivores have devoted themselves to enhancing the lives of livestock, by improving what those animals eat, how they live and how they are killed. But few have tried to answer the fundamental ethical issue: Whether it is right to eat animals in the first place, at least when human survival is not at stake.
So today we announce a nationwide contest for the omnivorous readers of The New York Times. We invite you to make the strongest possible case for this most basic of daily practices.
I wanted to share, now that I’ve submitted, my essay and thoughts on the ethics of eating meat:
The ecology of the animal environment is cyclical in nature. A predator versus prey relationship exists in our world whether humans participate or not. Humans are animals just with a higher level of reasoning. Regardless of the human’s ability for higher-level cognition or emotions, we all must eat and some choose to eat meat. Further complicating the decision homo sapiens make about food is that they battle a physiological conundrum of being omnivores.
Meat, not only as a source of food, but also the process for which it becomes food, has been demonized. Eating meat is not wrong and the delicate ecosystem of meat as food needs to be nurtured just as mindfully as how small family farm produce is grown. The ethos of how and why we choose to eat meat, in my mind, hinges on responsibility. Ethically speaking, it is not wrong for us, as a species to eat meat, just as it is not wrong for any other animal in the animal kingdom to choose to do so.
The death of animals in the great American Foodscape is inevitable in the practice of our current food production model, even for vegetables. As field mice get ground up in a combine, or an organic farmer kills a deer for eating his/her produce — it’s just a fact of farming that animals die. If Americans would understand and realize the true cost of their meal then it’s plausible that a moral high ground could be achieved on how meat is tended to in the animal’s life and how the animal is slaughtered. Additionally, if there is consciousness put into the process of raising those animals that will eventually become food, then their death becomes just as important as their life. Better yet, if just once in a person’s life they had to actually go out into the woods and hunt their own food, the resulting understanding for how an animal becomes meat would establish a karmic value for that meal and the ceremony around the dinner table would reflect that gift and sacrifice of food.
The battle of eating meat and the ethics that surround it are solely based on the fact that we as a species of animals have the mental aptitude to decipher right from wrong. There are many reasons why one chooses to eat meat, but whatever those decisions are it shouldn’t mean the omnivores are wrong. All living beings die, either by the grace of nature or by the hands of a predator, so grab a fork and a steak knife and dig in.