BEEF Daily

Calling All Carnivores: Is Eating Meat Ethical?


A New York Times essay contest on the ethics of eating meat has selected its finalists; now it’s time to vote on a favorite.

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!

Discuss this Blog Entry 9

Janet (not verified)
on Apr 24, 2012

I'm not surprised that the Times and that panel of judges selected these six very biased essays as their finalists. I was wondering how they were going to spin it. Amazing. Not surprising though. We should all learn a lesson here. Do not cooperate with the enemy. They suck us in and then use our cooperation against us.

John R. Dykers, Jr. (not verified)
on Apr 24, 2012

I agree with the comment above about bias, a bias I directly addressed in my own essay. Of those above, the first about balance is the best as it does not begin with the bias that eating meat is not ethical !!

Mark Mulhall (not verified)
on Apr 24, 2012

Animals are put on the face of the earth for man's use and food. However, the gift from God does not mean we abuse animals.

The Old Testament tells stories of animals being offered to God in sacrifice-- in fact,the finest creatures in the herd. Abraham was set to sacrifice his son, Isaac, until an animal appeared for slaughter, replacing Isaac.

People can abstain from eating meat and that's cool. Yet eating meat is moral, right, just and ethical.

Bob Gwilt (not verified)
on Apr 24, 2012

I agree with the first one by the farm wife.
We do need balance in our lives.

Rod (not verified)
on Apr 24, 2012

I only have trouble eating the ones I grow attached too.

Dan (not verified)
on Apr 25, 2012

Animals were put on the earth for our consumption. Proverbs 12:10 says the "righteous care for their animals" so we are to have compassion for them just the same. If we outlawed the eating of animals, 98% of farm animals would disappear. Cow, pigs, chickens and such don't make good pets so they would cease to exist other than a few novelties.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Apr 25, 2012

A biased contest where agriculture was set up to lose...

Tabuism (not verified)
on Apr 25, 2012

We Are The Living Graves of Murdered Beasts
By George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

We are the living graves of murdered beasts

Slaughtered to satisfy our appetites

We never pause to wonder at our feasts

If animals, like men, can possibly have rights

We pray on Sundays that we may have light

To guide our footsteps on the path we tread

We're sick of war. We do not want to fight

The thought of it now fills our hearts with dread

And yet we gorge ourselves upon the dead

Like carrion crows we live and feed on meat

Regardless of the suffering and pain

We cause by doing so. If thus we treat

Defenseless animals for sport or gain

How can we hope in this world to attain

The PEACE we say we are so anxious for

We pray for it o'er hecatombs of slain

To God, while outraging the moral law

Thus cruelty begets its offspring: war.

Tabuism (not verified)
on Apr 25, 2012

The Essene Gospel of Peace III

Translated by Purcell Weaver and Edmond Szekely the following is considered by some to be a true account of Christ’s original teaching. Based on texts from the Vatican library and the Royal Library of the Hapsburg’s and dated to the first century AD, it contains many references to fasting, vegetarianism and angels; all of which were altered or entirely removed from Christian teaching after the first Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. Convened by the Emperor Constantine the Council effectively hammered out what was to become the Holy Roman Law scriptures. In the process a lot of Christianity’s original spiritual essence was edited or removed entirely to serve the more earthly agendas of the emergent Holy Roman Empire. We leave you to decide whether the following is in fact the authentic word of Christ…

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BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”


Amanda Radke

Amanda Radke is a fifth generation rancher from Mitchell, S.D., who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s beef producers. A 2009 graduate of South Dakota State...

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