Calling All Carnivores: Is Eating Meat Ethical?

Calling All Carnivores: Is Eating Meat Ethical?

Thousands of readers entered essays explaining the ethics of eating meat in a contest hosted by The New York Times (NYT). The panel of judges, which includes Mark Bittman, Jonathan Safran Foer, Andrew Light, Michael Pollan and Peter Singer, have narrowed down the essays to a final six. Today is the last day to vote on your favorite; don’t miss your chance to represent American agriculture and select one that most closely aligns with your views.

Currently, the essay supporting test-tube meat is leading with 39% of the votes. I voted for the female farmer’s first essay, “We Require Balance. Balance Requires Meat,” which follows in second place with 16% of the votes.

Take a minute and vote for animal agriculture here: “Put Your Ethics Where Your Mouth Is.”

Here’s a sample of the top six essays:

We require balance. Balance requires meat.

A 27-year-old farm woman writes, “A farm animal is not a pet or a wild animal fending for itself. The farm animal and the small farmer must cooperate to build a stronger herd or flock; we literally cannot survive without each other. The eating of animals is paramount to the production of food in a system that embraces the whole of reality. This is why eating meat is ethical. To not consume meat means to turn off a whole part of the natural world and to force production of food to move away from regenerative systems and to turn toward a system that creates larger problems for our world.”

I’m about to eat meat for the first time in 40 years.

This vegetarian explains that test-tube meat will allow him to eat animal proteins once again, “Is it ethical to eat meat? Some 40 years ago, I took a long break from eating any animals, but soon I will be able to eat meat again without any qualms, without worrying about my health, cruelty to animals, or environmental degradation. That’s because this autumn, 14 years after it was just a gleam in the eye of the Dutch scientist Willem van Eelen, the very first laboratory-grown hamburger is to make its debut.”

This is the deal we’ve made.

This former vegetarian enjoys meat but criticizes the modern production system.

“Almost 25 years after deciding it was wrong to eat animals, I now realize that it’s not that simple. There is an ethical option — a responsibility, even — for eating animals that are raised within a sustainable farm system and slaughtered with the compassion necessitated by our relationship. That, in essence, is the deal.”

Meat is ethical. Meat is bad.

Humanizing animals, this writer says slaughtering animals is needless.

“Most of us love animals. When we first discover that the meat on our plate is the body of an animal that has been killed for our consumption, this upsets us greatly. When we learn of what goes on in slaughterhouses, we experience true horror. We are, however, very good at putting these ideas out of our heads and carrying on with our meat-eating (especially given the inconvenience and social costs associated with becoming vegetarian). But an idea ignored can continue to affect one. And in the case of meat-eating, I suspect this effect is profound. I speak from experience: there is a considerable freedom and lightness of being that comes with giving up meat. As science progresses, I have no doubt we will learn a great deal more about the depth and complexity of our own emotional lives, including perhaps acute suffering caused by an awareness of our hand in the needless slaughter of animals for food.”

For what shall we be blamed – and why?

This writer says our hands are dirty with animal blood.

“We must own the fact that our killing is blameworthy. But our guilt must be put in context. The question is not ‘How can we live blamelessly?’ but rather, ‘For what shall we be blamed — and why?’ Eating meat ethically, on this view, requires explaining why we kill by pointing to other things of moral worth. This does not justify the killing — if our situation is tragic, that cannot be our aim — but it does suggest how we can eat meat ethically, albeit wrongly.”

Sometimes it’s more ethical to eat meat than vegetables.

This ex-vegetarian says eating meat is okay, with a few conditions.

“For me, eating meat is ethical when one does three things. First, you accept the biological reality that death begets life on this planet and that all life (including us!) is really just solar energy temporarily stored in an impermanent form. Second, you combine this realization with that cherished human trait of compassion and choose ethically raised food, vegetable, grain and/or meat. And, third, you give thanks.”

Which essay most appealed to you? And, why?

Reminder: Saturday, April 28 is the final day to vote in the Farm Boy Authentic Brand Spring Calving Photography Contest. Check out our finalists here and choose your favorite!

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