BEEF Daily

Why Is Eating Meat Ethical?

RSS

It's time to reclaim the animal welfare debate; start with this essay contest on meat-eating and ethics.

Calling all carnivores! The New York Times (NYT) wants to hear from you! In a 600-word essay, a panel of judges wants to review why you believe eating meat is an ethical choice. This is certainly an interesting writing prompt, one that will surely ignite some passionate responses, and I hope you’ll take time to participate.

Now, be warned: the panel of judges may be a bit biased. NYT says they have “assembled a veritable murderer’s row of judges -- some of the most influential thinkers to question or condemn the eating of meat.”

Collectively, the judges are all those who have denounced eating meat and have many anti-animal agriculture positions, so words from farmers and ranchers may be quickly ignored. Judges include: Peter Singer, author of “Animal Liberation"; Michael Pollan, author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma"; Jonathan Safran Foer, author of “Eating Animals"; Mark Bittman, NYT opinion writer who focuses on the American diet; and Andrew Light, author of “Animal Pragmatism: Rethinking Human-Nonhuman Relationships.”

Despite the obvious slant of the jury, I believe ranchers should be present for this particular conversation. Essays can be sent to ethicist@nytimes.com and are due by April 8. Winners will be featured in an upcoming issue of NYT. For complete contest rules, click here.

Here are a few things I will focus on in my essay.

  1. Proper animal care is the responsibility of everyone in the beef production chain. Beef ranchers recognize that ensuring animal well-being is the right thing to do and critical to their operation’s success.
  2. From pasture to plate, animal welfare is a top priority, and there are six programs ranchers follow to properly care for their livestock including: the Beef Quality Assurance Program, Producer Code for Cattle Care, Humane Handling of Cattle in Transport, Humane Slaughter Act, Temple Grandin’s proper livestock handling audits and continued research on animal well-being conducted by USDA’s Ag Research Service and the National Animal Health Monitoring System.
  3. Families are behind the foods we eat; 98% of farms are family-owned and operated. A teen growing up on a Michigan dairy farm may have milked the cow that produced your favorite yogurt; a farmer in Iowa may have harvested the wheat to make your favorite breads; a rancher in South Dakota may have sold quarters of beef from the 4-H steer to the local restaurant in town; and a cotton farmer in Georgia may have grown the product to create your favorite t-shirt. Food doesn’t come from a grocery store; it comes from people who care. Get to know these people and hear their stories. Their ranching practices are based on sound science, family values, solid ethics and moral integrity.
  4. I’m Amanda Radke, a fifth-generation beef producer from Mitchell, SD. I feel confident in eating healthy steaks and burgers because they're produced in a manner that comports with my strongly held beliefs in caring for the animals and the environment. To me, beef is an ethical choice we can all feel great about eating, and in America, we are blessed to have an abundance of food choices at the grocery store. So whether you eat organic, natural, grass-fed or conventional beef, the options are great and the safety and nutrition is never compromised.

These are my top four points I plan to include in my essay. What would you say in yours?

Discuss this Blog Entry 28

Elizabeth Martin (not verified)
on Mar 22, 2012

I think its a setup... I don't think the question is well formed. Is the act of eating meat ethical? Or are they really asking the way we raise meat to eat ethical? Asking if its ethical to eat meat is like asking if its ethical to hold house plants hostage in "confinement." :)

And 600 words isn't a lot of space to defend such a question - not when the judges have written books against the subject.

Good Luck with your writing.

John R. Dykers, Jr. (not verified)
on Mar 30, 2012

Why eating meat is ethical.
I have moved the verb! On purpose. The original sentence structure posed the ethical dilemma as a question. Such a structure creates a bias of presemption against. Moving the verb changes the bias to a positive presumption.
The framing is an a priori assumption that the question is an ethical dilemma.
It is "ethical" for a single whale to eat krill by the millions. It is prima facie ethical for me to eat steak!
If a coyote can eat a newborn kid, and I have seen them do so, I can eat a goat!
If you are willing to kill all the predators in nature, then you may declare it unethical for me to eat meat. But you may not make the a priori assumption that it is unethical for me to eat meat unless you are willing to do so for every other predator. And many of you are in favor of returning wolves to their natural habitat. They may eat mostly mice, but mice are meat.
The ethic applies equally to lamb, pork, rebbit, horse, chicken, fish, dog, snake, goat, shrimp, lobster, oyster, conch, calmari, clams, beef et al.
If your own a priori assumption is that it is unethical to kill animals, may I remind you that bacteria are animals and if you are not willing to kill them, please forbid that you are given any antibiotic the next time you have pneumonia!

I am enormously impressed with interspecies relationships. The most improbable and dramatic is the story of the man in Central America who came upon a wounded and nearly dead alligator. He nursed the gator back to health, tried to return it to the sea, and it would not leave! They had bonded to such an extent that the man was able to swim and play with the gator in the water and make a tourist attraction out of their interaction. (I don't know if the gator was male or female, and my only knowledge of this is a video sent by a friend.)

My own end of life plan is published in the North Carolina Medical Journal.
"If you can fix me, please do. If you can't fix me, please help me avoid pain, fear, air hunger, thirst, nausea, loss of my dignity, and prolonging the dying process. I understand it may take a few days to determine whether you can fix me or not. Understand that thirst is better relieved by swabbing the mouth than by IV fluids that may prolong dying, and that air hunger may be better relieved by morphine than by oxygen which may prolong the dying process."
(I have no fear of being dead, am having too much fun to want to go yet, but have legitimate concern about the process of the transition. I grant the same to other species, and I beware the tiger and the shark!)

( you may stop here if you wish, as this is about the 600 word limit.)

Presume animal care from conception to harvest to be as kind as it is at New Hope Farm in the production of purebred Charolais breeding stock and trademarked CharLean Beef. Superb care of our animals is not only from our heart. Mistreatment of any kind is economically disasterous. We have had our own meat packing facility for all but the most recent year of our vertically integrated business, so we are atuned to the kindness of the harvest and for the past 16 years our finished product has been Halal. I have designed, but not built, a CO2 euthanasia chamber so the animal would faint before bleeding. I have personally been intimately involved in all stages since 1964, and have emotionally flourished with the intimacy of calving, tagging and nurturing each newborn, especially those who orphaned have been adopted by me and bottle fed. I have designed my own equipment for safe and gentle handling even before anyone knew of Temple Grandin and her wonderful work. I have walked through the chute and observed from the calf/cow/bull viewpoint. All this is relevant to good care but irrelevant to why eating beef is ethical. I have changed meat to beef because beef is what I know best.

But I do know about my personal attachment to my own calves and following them for their entire lifetimes, be it 10 months or 15 years.

We have witnessed the experience of the elderly horses denied a dignified exit into the food chain, only to have it replaced with suffering the slings and arrows of horse old age.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Apr 1, 2012

The question is whether it's ethical to eat meat which is a fair philosophical question. They said they aren't interested in what is the ethical way to raise animals before eating them, just whether it's ethical to eat them in the first place. Is it ethical to eat meat? I don't know but the fact that I'll be eating meat tonight means I don't have time to figure that one out..

Anonymous (not verified)
on Apr 7, 2012

RE: NY Times Essay Contest ~ why is eating meat ethical

Why is eating meat Ethical? Ethical....first off I would not even think of using the word Ethical in association with eating BEEF, BEEF Production or even the term Pasture to Plate. Oh, there you go
Pasture (vegetarian food.) The meaning: an area covered with grass or other plants used or suitable for the grazing of livestock. You see cattle eat plants, just as vegetarians do. So why is The Beef industry continually getting attacked.. So there can't be that much bad about eating BEEF.

Now if we were to turn the scenario around and say: Why is it ethical to eat plants? Aren't plants a growing product? If human only consumed plants the land now used to raise cattle / livestock would be used to grow plants. Plants need fertilizer and cattle help produce fertilizer. Without the consumption of BEEF our country as we know it would be drastically changed. What comes to mind when you hear the word "beef"? Perhaps steak, hamburgers, hotdogs or milk, butter or maybe even sports such as football, baseball?

I think it is unethical not to utilize meat from beef. Our country produces and raises some of the safest and best quality Beef in the world. Did you know 99% of the Beef and by products are utilized? Even though you might be a vegan, or vegetarian I bet you wear shoes, eat jello , chew gum, wear lipstick. Or your children may have a basketball, or football as a toy they play with. Many or our medical products today come from a byproduct of BEEF such as many of our anti-rejection drugs for heart transplants, liver transplants. Insulin is a byproduct, used for diabetics. There might even be fatty acids in your toilet paper to help make it soft. Also, soaps, lotions, make-up and lipstick which may contain stearic acids a fatty acid are all made from the byproducts of Beef. I'll bet you drive a car; the tires contain stearic acid which helps maintain their elasticity. The point is I could go on forever on the by-product from beef. But once again 99% of a beef is utilized with 64% of it being in meat cuts. What other product can match up to this.

I am proud to say I eat BEEF. in fact I crave it and my body is tired and sluggish if I don't eat it. The protein and the iron that come from beef is the best utilized natural source I can get.

I'm also proud to say that our family comes from a long generational line of Beef Producers. It is a wonderful feeling to know we are helping feed America and other countries.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Mar 22, 2012

Amanda,
The one thing I've never heard discussed concerning the quality of life of animals that most of these people say they are concerned about is: "Without beef consumption, millions of cattle would have NO life". Do they think that all these cows are going to be converted to pets or put in zoos? Without a market for beef, millions of animals would be gone forever. A lot of grassland that has no other use than pasture would be wasted.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Mar 23, 2012

I have nothing against meat eaters BUT..
Humans are a selfish species. They USE animals and if animals doesn't brings benefits to humans they will let them go extinct.
There is a big difference between loving an animal and using an animal.
Using is not loving.
Some people say they want to legalize ivory trade from the elephants, legalize these scam Chinese medical crap they uses tiger bones etc.
They say to prevent these species to vanish we must use their parts or we let them go extinct. That is totally selfish, It prove these hicks don't care for animals.
Look in Texas they have endangered Oryx they hunt in ranches to preserve it. If they ban canned hunts they let the oryx go extinct. It prove these hick hunters don't care for animals to exist. They only care to use / kill them breed to kill. That is totally wrong.
Every species has the right to exist.
Every species existence value are equal to our value to exist.
Well I care for the existence of an animal more than our existence because humans are a selfish species, has a lot of bad intention and commited genocide to soo many species and we're a conscious species and we do it on purpose.

If beef industry ever die out. Cows, sheep etc shouldn't go extinct.

AnonymousCowBoy (not verified)
on Mar 25, 2012

If it is unethical to eat meat, then it is also unethical to eat plants.

All species have the right to exist.

Morons.

Tabuism (not verified)
on Apr 25, 2012

To all the meat eaters, that say "Vegans kill Plants".

Look at the phylogenet­­ic Tree of Life !, I'm not closely related to any plant, we are mammals, more closely related to cows, horses, dogs, cats, mice and the like(hot blooded, endothermi­c), all that are hemoglobin based(red blooded, iron=heme=­red), placental breeders(b­­orn from a womb).

Plants are our most distant relative on the Tree of Life, so I kill plants, but you believe that slaughteri­­ng mammals is better, do as you wish, kill your own kind.

I am a Mammal ! and I share the same branch on that tree, to consume one own kind(mamma­ls) is as close to cannibalis­m you can get.

I'm more related to birds, reptiles and fish, than plants. So in view of the fact, that we must eat something, I choose plants, rather than slaughter higher life forms.

Ag Teacher (not verified)
on Apr 25, 2012

WOW! Anonymous, I take it that English is not your first language? No problem. Here in the USA we give everyone a chance to speak their mind. Congratulations on getting this off your chest. Now, please consider what you are saying. If you have such a low opinion of the human race, you are really condemning yourself. Even if one, hypothetically, is not a member of the human race, is it fair to suggest that the species is a bad species because of their diet choices? For example, is it fair to demand that the venus fly trap not trap flies? Is it fair to denegrate large fish because they eat smaller fish? Need I go on?
Name another predator species that forms an emotional attachment to their prey before they kill it. Is there a segment of the lion population who devote their lives to feeding, reproducing, and managing the health of the zebra? Again, need I go on?
It seems to me that, of the predators, humans are the most compassionate, fair, and ethical.

on Mar 22, 2012

I would like to tell them I will let them know why right after they ask the wolves, coyotes and mountain lions :-)

Seriously, I would consider re framing the argument. This is close to that old "why do you beat your wife" type of query- in others words- the framed argument.

Since there is so much emphasis put on natural ecosystems and ESPECIALLY since so many people have no trouble with introducing wolves in our backyards, the question is insulting at best.

A good start might be our genetic predisposition for doing so- not unlike the wolves, coyotes and mountain lions that a lot of non-meat eating folks adore.

It isn't a practice to defend so much with how we care for our cattle. That wasn't the the question- but it was intended to twist those of us who do.

Before I married my fifth generation rancher hubby, I ate beef- not chicken. My reason was the taste, and the strength it gave me. I tried vegetarian diets many times in my early years and they didn't work for me, but I never ate vegetarian diets because someone told me it was unethical to eat meat. I was smarter than that even way back then.

Tabuism (not verified)
on Apr 25, 2012

They say there is pleasure in old age, never for them(lives­tock), half a life at best, generation after generation after generation­, never to be free, I am African/In­digenous Canadian, and after 400 hundred years, the Africans were liberated. So I ask ? When will these fellow mammals ever be free, or is it their fate, at your hands, to suffer your way of life forever ? Great and profitable company, no retirement benefits.

Bob Neese (not verified)
on Mar 22, 2012

Amanda, sounds like your essay will be a winner. I saw this NY Times 'invitation' yesterday, and quickly shot off my own essay at them, which I do not expect to be a winner. I didn't have a clue how many words were in it...I just checked and it has 455 words.
Admittedly, not so much an "essay" as a rebuttal of the NYT. Here it is:

"From time immortal, this notion and the ethics of eating meat have not been seriously challenged.
Thus, I fail to see the seriousness of your question.....yet I will provide the "politically incorrect" answer.
God gave us four carnivorous teeth, with which to eat meat.
Good enough for God's creation? Good enough for everyone.
I know. "Politically incorrect"..... and unapologetically and proudly so.

You ask for the "ethics"?
Based upon the history of mankind and our natural proclivities and needs for dense, protein, mineral, and vitamin rich sources of sustenance, that question is actually a non-sequitor. Yet, you wish to make it one.

Long story short, there are no "ethics" with regard to this topic. You're not asking for "ethics". The "ethics" of meat eating is only called into question, because of your own hubris. Frankly, it is not an "ethical" issue, though you try to elevate it to one. You're asking for justification for going against the tide of the "politically correct meme". And really, what is there that is seriously "correct" about being "politically correct"? You've merely stacked the deck, given a pre-ordained conclusion, and dared that to be refuted, while all entries in defense of "meat-eating" are to be judged by a panel of completely one-sided, myopic "judges". (some kind of journalism, NY Times!)
Actually, it is not I, a meat eater, who needs to provide "justification". All of history, all of the God of the Bible, and all of evolutionary theory, (take your pick of the three), prove me right and justified, as a "meat-eater". Thus, it is not up to me, but rather up to you to who pose this "question", to prove against all historical evidence, against God, and against evolutionary theory, that eating of meat is 'unethical'. (I realize you may have no problem with revising history or taking out God, but standing against evolution could be more problematic.)
And, if it is as this N.Y. Times article says, that Pete Singer takes a "utilitarian view" in his condemnation of the eating of meat, he has already lost the case....for there is nothing "utilitarian" in that opinion. The purported "utilitarian view and postition" would actually be that of a 'meat-eater'. U-T-I-L-I-T-Y.

Since your "who's who" of judges has only their stacked and prejudiced view, with predetermined conclusions, this is, in all likelihood, an exercise in futility.

I would refer you to your own NY Times piece, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/magazine/how-to-be-a-pioneer-woman-wit..., which may help remind you of a broader perspective and the very valid and ethical decision of allowing the consumption of meat products to be an acceptable choice for humans, (as well as other animals....and we are all about CHOICE, right?), without making it a matter of your own misconstrued, so-called "ethics"."

ginny (not verified)
on Mar 22, 2012

If I had my way this would be on the front page! Love it, love it, love it!! Have no idea your profession, but as a farmer, I can only say thank you for such an eloquent essay.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Mar 22, 2012

I'm suspicious of the contest. Will that panel of judges really choose the best essay to print, or one with arguments that they have the best chance of refuting?

Annie (not verified)
on Mar 22, 2012

Exactly!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous (not verified)
on Mar 22, 2012

The judges likely believe that animals have human-like consciousness that allows them to experience pain the same way humans do. If you do not understand that , then you are wasting your time writing in. Animal liberationists' central tenet is that sentience, a human-like consciousness or self-awareness, in animals entitles animals to rights to not suffer pain. Killing an animal to eat it is not justifiable to them.

For example, the following is found in one of the very last paragraphs of the link provided.

"The consumption of animals and animal products inflicts unimaginable pain and terror on billions of vulnerable, defenseless, and innocent beings."

http://writ.news.findlaw.com/colb/20090803.html

If it is okay to fry a chicken, then why is it not okay to fight a chicken? The above quote explains that neither is okay in their eyes.

More than 360 years ago the healthy skepticism of Descartes, the father of modern philosophy, discredited the idea that any sort of human-like consicousness explained animal behavior. He and Galileo separately also discredited another popular idea of the time: that the world was flat.

One can argue that animal liberation could very well be a mutation of one of many national liberation movements foisted upon us by communist propagandists who never went away after the Vietnam War. The publisher of the NYT is a former Vietnam War protestor.
http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/individualProfile.asp?indid=1821
Regardless, there is no question that animal liberation is anti-capitalist.

From the other perspective, veganism is dangerous malnutrition. Peter Singer and others also believe there are too many people in the world. I get the sense that the idea is that there are too many healthy Americans. They are inconsistent for they believe that humans are also animals. But animals naturallly eat other animals and must do so to stay healthy.

Now disabled and former vegan Lierre Keith referred to animals and humans taking turns eating each other as "adult knowledge".

In the whole, activists would have us return to the days of hunting and gathering, but without the hunting and only about 50,000 people on the whole planet. And Europe and America are their places to start de-industrialization while the rest of the world industrializes.

The best place to start de-industrializing America is to ruin American agriculture that supports the production of heavy machinery, the same heavy machinery required to win wars and keep America a world power.

History proves repeatedly that no nation, even America, cannot become or remain a world power without the present capacity to produce lots and lots of heavy machinery.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Mar 22, 2012

Maybe it is not a waste of time to respond to the NYT, but realize the foregoing as you go in. Meat is critically important to health of the nation and to the strength of military personnel to carry on in battle especially under extreme weather conditions and over long distances.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Mar 22, 2012
on Mar 22, 2012

Why is eating meet "un ethical" might be a better question! We also might ask some questions about PETA and HSUS's "ethics"!

Look, the real issue behind this is the way meat animals are treated before and when they are "harvested" or "processed" or whatever the politically correct terminology for slaughter is these days.

Mankind has been eating meat for a long time. It is a nourishing, nutrient dense food and our ancestors recognized that. Eating it is part of our evolutionary development as human beings. Why after milllion of years, would we think that it was "unethical"? What were our hunter gather ancestors supposed to eat? Why would anyone question the "ethics" of eating meat? I supposed it is of some academic interest but in my opinion it is of little practical use; like a bucket of spit!

What we need to highlight for the well fed people who have no idea how meat animals are raised is the way we utilize our grassland to produce protein for a hungry world. Our ranch is open for anybody to see how well our animals are cared for. We have nothing to hide. And the same for the vast majority of our fellow ranchers.
Many people have strong feelings about feedlots. These are emotional feelings for the most part as they "transfer" their feelings to the animals. I call this the Walt Disney effect.I think there is a five dollar word for it, anthropomorphisis

Are there people in meat animal production who are not using best practiices? Yes, unfortunately there are, and these people are sought out by PETA and HSUS and all of animal agriculture gets tarred with the same brush. (Where is the ethics in that?) It the same thing with "puppy mills" yet we know that the vast majority of dog breeders maintain professional standards. ( I won't get into HSUS's teatment of pets under their care!)
I am fortunate to live in an area where people are educated and have enough common sense to know where their food comes from and what the necessary procedures are to make sure our herds stay healthy and productive. I don't see PETA or HSUS taking pictures of some rancher in the middle of the night calving out a cow with a difficult delivery in the ".....mud and snow and the 40 below...." The general public has no idea the effort and capital that it takes to put "meat on the table" and the realtively low return on investment. But money isn't everything and there are many intangibles that you can't explain to a person who doesn't understand those who steward the land and the stock. If I have to tell you why we do this, you wouldn't understand! We see the circle of life and the cycling of the seasons, the marvels of God's creation up close and personal every day. How can you put a price on that! Our kids grow up to understand the value of hard work, that life comes with disappointments as well as rewards. How many dollars is that worth?

Instead of letting PETA and HSUS define the discussion with stupid questions like "Is it ethical to eat meat?", the ranching community, the university ag departments ,and the vets need to accurately tell our story to the well fed public, focusing on what we do right and what we are doing to make things better, where better is defined by the producers, the professors and the vets with facts and data, not emotions. Then this information needs to be presented to the consumer. In my opinion, this will be more productive effort for animal agriculture than a silly academic debate on the ethics of meat consumption.

Matthew McClure (not verified)
on Mar 22, 2012

I would comment that all life depends on the destruction of other life on this planet. Cows and goats eat grass, bears eat berries and fish, lions hunt game. All of these are natural and 'moral'. One must also kill others to survive, grass produces its own chemicals ('organic' herbicides, fungicides, insecticides) to fend off those that would eat it. Also its natural for the diseases organisms to try and 'eat' our bodies so they can survive, and its natural for our bodies to destroy them (and digest their remains if possible) so we can survive.
If its natural, ethical, and moral for any living creature to use its innate abilities to survive and this causes the death of another creature (microbe, worm, fish, plant, mammal,...) than why would it be immoral for humans to not eat meat?

Dantherancherman (not verified)
on Mar 22, 2012

The bible tells me God created livestock for my nourishment so that's all I need to know. This will probably get these guy's fires stoked!

The Skeptic (not verified)
on Mar 23, 2012

You all obvious don't understand the question and, Amanda, as seemingly intelligent as your responses may seem, you are missing the point. The challenge is not in the upbringing or animal welfare or even in how "humanely" the animal is slaughtered. The focus is simply on whether enslaving and then killing the animal is at all ethical based on the general western consensus of "what is ethical". Seeing as how meat consumption is not necessary for human survival, there must be an agreed up and simple ethical conclusion for the continuation of meat consumption. we, human animals, are not wild and modern medical science has already proven we are not "natural carnivores" based on the structural composition of the human body. We cook our meat and we are certainly not immune to the cholesterol and harmful bacteria that reside in meat, but actual carnivores are unaffected by these things. Regardless, because I am not ignorant, nor bull-headed, I *would* like this challenge to be addressed by fellow cultural carnivores. The question is NOT framed and is quite simple, yet, regardless of many many years of experience and a Master's degree from that little school in Ithaca, I have no rational answer. All my responses are inadvertent ad hominem and, I must confess, I have been presented with a dilemma that forces me to address my own cognitive dissonances. I hope there is a sensible and simple answer from the carnivorous community. Dismissal of the challenge will only further and compound their claim to correctness and will make us look like uneducated barbarians.

debd (not verified)
on Apr 24, 2012

I'll try to address your challenge, and that of the vegetarian community with sensible, if not simple, arguments. Having been a beef cattle breeder for 35 years, and a grass-fed beef producer for more than a decade, long experience and the lessons of direct involvement and careful observation greatly override education in my response.
First, I'm sure cattle do not consider themselves enslaved, especially cows which often spend their entire long lives, sometimes twelve to eighteen years or more, in a herd. Rather, the cattle assume humans will be their providers, their caretakers, and their guardians: Cattle, sheep and goats, all long-domesticated (not wild) herd animals, have made a pact with mankind. We, in turn, consider them our partners in caring for the land. It is for the land's sake that we must consider the ethics of meat production and consumption.
The statement that meat animals are not necessary for human survival is an oversimplification. Meat consumption--or some kind of livestock husbandry--is actually necessary if we are to grow vegetables, fruits and grains in a truly sustainable manner. The manures of herbivorous animals are an absolutely necessity in order to rebuild fertility in farmed-out soils, allowing plants to take up a complete range of nutrients,. Sir Albert Howard's book The Soil and Health will back me up on this matter. He understood the symbiotic mycorrhizal relationship between the roots of plants and the fungi that help translate nutrients from composted manures into complete nutrition for the plant.
Our current epidemic of obesity stems in large part from the fact that our grains are being grown in what Howard calls "murdered" soils that have been fertilized for many decades with "artificial manures" initially left over from two World Wars, and since that time manufactured as a replacement for animal manures. We would do well to recall President Eisenhower's warning against the "undue influence" of the military-industrial complex. Manufactured nitrogen can grow vast quantities of grain, but its nutritional quality is incomplete. Regardless of how much of this grain we eat, our appetites are not satisfied. Industry profits from our resulting obesity.
The effective marketing of chemicals has led throngs of Americans to fear all microbes, yet microbes are absolutely necessary for human health as well as for plant health. Most Americans have little opportunity to ingest beneficial bacteria and a wide range of nutrients from grass-fed meats and milk that for many centuries came to us naturally through our diets. Our immune systems suffer when our diets do not contain enough natural beneficial bacteria, Omega 3s, CLA, beta carotene, and vitamins A, D & E—all of which were once plentiful in our old-fashioned diet of grass-fed meat and fresh unpasteurized milk.
The statement that humans are not true carnivores because we must cook our meat, is also false. Ask any gourmet who loves to eat steak tartare. The cleanliness of the feeding environment and of the processing facility makes an enormous difference in the safety of the meat of ruminants.
Meat from animals that are grown out on clean fresh grass that is carefully tended and rested after grazing is not subject to a barrage of harmful bacteria. Likewise, if pasture-raised with balanced diets, ruminant animals rarely need antibiotics. When meat animals are grown out to harvest at a natural pace on pasture in the place where they are born, they need no chemicals, no artificial growth hormones or steroids, and no petroleum-powered transportation. If all wastes are then returned to the place on earth that produced them, the ethics of true sustainability nourishes the life of the soil.

Ginny Messina (not verified)
on Mar 23, 2012

Since I'm a dietitian, I want to address the comment from "anonymous" that veganism is "dangerous malnutrition."

It's not. Humans can survive and thrive very well on a diet of all plant foods as long as it's supplemented with vitamin B12. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) and the American Academy of Pediatrics both agree that vegan diets are safe, and I don't think that cattle ranchers know more about nutrition than these groups! (And this, of course, is referring to vegan diets. Whether or not you agree that those diets are okay, there is absolutely no argument about the fact that vegetarian diets are safe.)

Animals may not experience life in the same way that humans do, but they most certainly do experience pain and fear. And on modern factory farms--whether or not they are owned by "families" it's a pretty good bet that at least some animals suffer. You can talk about the Humane Slaughter Act all you want, but it doesn't ensure that every single animal will have a good death. And chickens are exempt from that act. According to the USDA--not exactly an animal liberation group--as many as one million chickens are still alive when they are dumped into scalding tanks. That doesn't sound humane or like "good animal care" to me. I don't think it's acceptable for this to happen just so that people can eat what they want.

Given the fact that humans don't require meat and the fact that it is impossible to protect all farmed animals from pain and suffering, how is it ethical to eat meat--a practice based completely on desire, not a requirement for life and good health? That's the question that the NYTimes is asking. I can't imagine that there is any answer to it, so will be interested to see what people come up with!

on Mar 25, 2012

Eating meat has nothing to do with ethics. To eat meat or not is a dietary choice about nutrition and personal preference and that's all it is. As is the choice to consume vegetables or fruits or any other food or drink.

What "is" unethical; is the practice of those of extreme ideologies of one flavor or another to use a complicit mass media to coerce public opinion and blackmail pubic policy into cramming extreme ideals down the throats of mainstream industry and public.

Nathan Bonsal (not verified)
on Apr 4, 2012

Eating meat is ethical because ethics can only be determined by rational beings. It is not unethical for a lion to eat a gazelle, because the lion cannot process cellulose and must eat meat to survive. Like the lion, we lack a multichambered fermentation stomach, and cannot digest cellulose (the primary carbohydrate in all plant matter). We eat meat because we're omnivores, but not true omnivores- we are fruit,seed, nut and meat eating creatures, like bears. It's who we are, and it's no more wrong to be human than to be a tree, or a hawk, or a goat.
However, most of us intend to be compassionate creatures. We can choose to eat meat or not to, according to our own inner compasses. We can choose WHICH meat to eat based on farming practices, and we can choose not to eat any meat if none that is available meets our standards.
There is no dietary benefit to cruelty. Meat may someday become a premium commodity, if man would rather eat soybeans than eat an animal that lived a life saturated with suffering. It is every person's choice as an individual to either eat meat or abstain, and to rob a person of his choice is to be no better a steward of free will and the sanctity of life than those farmers a militant vegan loathes so much.

Y Redd (not verified)
on Apr 5, 2012

I submitted my reasons to the NY Times. I tried to think outside the box a little. Here they are:
Human beings were designed to eat meat. That's why we still have incisors in our mouths today.
Humans would not have evolved into what we are today without meat. The humans who survived had the brain power to pick up a spear kill a large animal to eat , not the ones who were only relying on nuts and berries as a food source.

But, I know you want the reasons why it's ethical to eat meat now that we aren't facing an ice-age, so I won't go into those facts any further.

So, here's my reasons why eating meat makes the world a better place today:
The meat producing industry employs thousands from the rancher, to the sale barn, to the feedlots, to the slaughter-house, and to the meat cutters at the grocer. In today's economy we all know how important keeping a good job is to Americans.
Plus, the meat industry helps support the farming industry. For all those animals to grow healthy and tasty they need to be fed grains. Heck, I even know of cows who love to eat their peas. So those veggie growers have even more work to be paid for because they are producing for humans and animals. So that's even more jobs created by the meat industry.
There wouldn't be nearly as much open country as there is now in America if it weren't for people keeping the land that way in order to raise animals to eat. A good rancher knows being conservative with the land and keeping it in it's most natural state is the best thing for his animals. Whereas those "vegetable growers" are constantly tilling up the land to make the earth grow what they want. Remember the Dust Bowl years? That's how over-zealous grain and veggie growth can ruin the planet.
You know what vegetables need to grow big and tasty too? MANURE. I'm not sh***ing you, all that manure would be a lot harder to collect if it weren't for meat producers raising animals to eat in a controlled, enclosed environment. So, there's way the meat producers are helping the vegans.

Michael E. Sellars (not verified)
on Apr 5, 2012

My essay, emailed to NY Times Yesterday:

Michael E. Sellars
New York Times Essay Contest
Essay Topic: Is eating meat ethical?
3 April 2012

Is Being Unethical Ethical?

In response to your question, “is eating meat ethical,” I, of course, looked-up the word “ethical” in the AP Stylebook (44th Edition), to ascertain its exact meaning in a journalistic context; a necessary step these days in translating modern American partisan progressive “media-speak” to plain English.

Lo and behold, “ethical” was not listed therein. Go figure. (Now there’s a subject for an essay contest. But I digress …)

So I consulted Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, the AP Stylebook’s designated go-to back-up definition and grammar usage stand-in. Guess what I found?

A) Webster doesn’t have your back on this one; B) The very question itself is, by Webster’s definition(s), a redundant non sequitur; and C) While I’m not surprised by A, I’m not surprised by B, either; intentional abuse of the language to champion the agenda of the radical left minority is the sycophantic mainstream media’s professional stock-in-trade. (In case you’re interested, that last part there is the thesis statement of this essay.)

Anyway, Webster says:

ETHICAL: Derivative of the Greek, ethikos (from ethos); character or custom.

Coupled with “custom,” “character,” in this context, would be inferred to read “feature or quality” wouldn’t you agree, linguistically? (No? … then go look it up.)

ETHICAL: 1- Having to do with ethics or morality; of, or conforming to, moral standards (emphasis added).

“Standards” fits neatly with “custom” and “feature,” does it not?

ETHICAL: 2- Conforming to the standards of conduct of a given profession or group (emphasis added, again).

Given that practicing omnivores are, overwhelmingly, the most populous human group on the planet, meat eating is, by clear definition then, unarguably ethical; it is the customary, standard, featured quality (or conduct) of the preeminent group, both contemporarily and historically.

So your question – applying the codified rules of the common language we are all utilizing to communicate with one another – in fact reads: “Is being ethical ethical?” By actual universally recognized definition, it’s the non-meat-eaters who are engaging in unethical behavior.

Your arrogant attempt to hijack the word “ethical,” unilaterally accrediting the patently false proprietary claim on it by the miniscule non-meat-eating sub-group, “jumping” the majority group’s unambiguously rightful claim to the virtue, is beyond hubris; it’s outright grammatical fraud.

Unlike the New York Times, and those to whom it shamelessly prostitutes itself, the rest of literate mankind acknowledge that words mean things – specific things – and know that attempting to convolute the meanings of words is the last, desperate effort to defend the indefensible argumentative position, e.g.: “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is” (William Jefferson Clinton).

So … do you wish to rephrase the question so it actually means something, or are you going to persist in being both colossally, intentionally wrong and in supercilious denial of the world’s ability to see through you like a Lady Gaga frock?

It’s no wonder your days as a credible news and information source are far behind you now and, too-long barren of such credibility, you find yourselves all but irrelevant in the public discourse (as evidenced by precipitously declining overall revenues and print readership), having eagerly sold your souls to your liberal masters; themselves morally and ethically bankrupt.

In conclusion, I’ve but two words for you; words of which the vast majority of the rest of us know well the true, crystal-clear meaning, while you – demonstrably – do not; two words that are the defining characteristic, custom and standard of a non-credible news source, which you – by any definition – absolutely are; the two words that have led directly to your well-earned, well-deserved downfall:

Unethical journalism.

Post new comment
or to use your BEEF Magazine ID
What's BEEF Daily?

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

Contributors

Amanda Radke

A fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell, SD, Amanda grew up on a purebred Limousin cattle operation in which she and husband Tyler are active. She graduated with a degree in agriculture journalism...

Sponsored Introduction Continue on to (or wait seconds) ×