to Meat or not to Meat

In honor of Blog Action Day 2011, I am tailoring today’s post around food. Specifically, the debate between carnivores, vegans, and everyone in between. How can one group of people feel so strongly about never using or consuming anything from animals, while others happily partake on a daily basis?

As with most issues, it depends on what you know and what you believe. Let’s start with a popular group of non-animal eaters: PETA. PETA’s mission is to ensure the world treats animals ethically, or more simply, that they should have similar rights to life as human beings. In regards to this conversation, since we don’t eat humans we should not eat other animals. There are also studies that suggest that eating meat is physically dangerous and could lead to cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses.

On the other side of the spectrum are billions of people who believe that, since we have been eating animals for thousands of years and they taste so delicious, it is okay to eat meat. Some also argue that we are omnivores, and like other omnivores in nature, part of our diet should consist of meat.

Let’s assume that everyone is right: we must treat animals ethically, eating meat can make us sick, and meat must be a part of our diet. What should we do? Is there a way to behave that would satisfy all of these requirement?

What if everyone had to hunt, fish, or raise their own animals for their supply of meat? Would there be the same risks of cancer and disease if our meat intake was significantly less and restricted only to organic/wild animals? Is it possible to treat animals ethically and receive nourishment from them at the same time? What do you think?

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About Dave K

Creatively solving problems by listening objectively to all sides, my goal is to advance prosperity by focusing on common ground issues and uniting leaders with solutions for tough problems.
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4 Responses to to Meat or not to Meat

  1. Brent Cochran says:

    A question that has been and will continue to be wrestled ’round and ’round. All I can offer is my personal opinion. I think we are omnivores and require some animal protein to maintain proper health. Yes any vegans or vegetarians reading this are screaming “blasphemy,” but there is just as much evidence for and against the health benefits of consuming animal protein. I just happen to prescribe to the evidence for. That being said, we in the western world consume entirely too much meat, and too much “bad” meat. Without getting into the arguments regarding human population, social equity, etc, I think limited consumption of organically and ethically raised animals can provide for an environmental, ethical, and healthful compromise.
    Personally, I love bacon, but it comes from a friend of mine who births and raises her hogs on her farm. They roam and forage on a large beautiful farm, eating grass, acorns, and whatever else they find, spending days laying in the sun, and nights in their protective “houses.” In short, they’re living “high on the hog.” When it’s time to go, their death is short, sweet, and instant, right there on the farm where they were born and raised. Granted this is not the average life of pigs, and industrial agriculture treats animals horrifically. But this situation provides me with animal protein and fat high in good omegas, which and overworked grad student brain needs, my friend with income, and the pigs with the best life they could ask for. I hope when it’s my time to go, it’s short and sweet, and I provide some sort of life form with the nutrients it needs.

  2. Taryn Washburn says:

    Dave, good job showcasing the issues that surrounding meat consumption in this country. Like Brent, I am conflicted with meat and its place in our food system. I am extremely fortunate to have the education and accesses to humanely raised and organic meat options. I believe that animals have a place in our food system but I don’t believe we should be eating them 3x a day! I strongly believe that our bodies weren’t designed to digest high levels of animal fat (beef especially) and I also believe that if we want a balanced and healthy ecosystem we need to stop raising meat at the current scale. Regardless of consumer’s position on the humane issues, the future of the environment requires that we cut down on meat consumption all together! Livestock operations in the U.S. alone are contributing to over 18% of the greenhouse gas emissions. If I were PETA I would use that as a marketing campaign!

  3. Dave R. says:

    To meat or not to meat.

    Dave, I think you make an obvious, but important point. Meat has been a part of the human diet for millions of year, but only in the last 10,000 have we been able to raise it ourselves. Prior to the invention of agriculture, humans had no option but to hunt if they wanted meat, and this made it important and valuable, as well as a way of gaining status in the group. How nice it is to have the dilemma of whether or not to eat meat. As you point out, many people don’t have the option of eating meat on even a semi regular basis, whilst many in the developed world eat far too much (especially red) meat. I’m all in favour of treating animals equally. I think that if eg, all cattle in the U.S. were grass fed, not only would the animals be better off, but the increased cost of beef would make it more of a special item, consumption would decrease and general health would improve.

    I also feel that sometimes, PETA shoot themselves in the foot. Take for example their campaign to rename fish as “Sea Kittens”. This is so pathetically risible that it undermines all the good work they do. As someone who was vegetarian for 10 years, I have no problem with people being veggie or vegan, or even fruitarian, if they choose, but I do draw the line at dietary Jihadis who would force their beliefs on others.

    I think it is possible to treat animals ethically and eat them as well. However, it would need a major social and economic shift to realign peoples’ attitudes in order to do so. I’d love to see eg Mcdonalds announce that they are switching to wholly organic grass fed beef for their burgers – the beef industry would be forced to change overnight, but I doubt if anyone would be prepared to pay $25 for a Big Mac.

  4. Alex H. says:

    If we stop eating meat to protect the farm animals, I can imagine that farmers would have no use for them. How would you introduce a domesticated animal back into nature? Seriously, how long do you think a chicken would last in the wild? I’m only curious.

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