Remember how you and your friends created games when you were children? And do you remember making up the rules as the game progressed? That’s what is happening at The New York Times with its phony essay contest about the ethics of eating meat.

“Calling all Carnivores” was the headline on the article in The Times imploring readers to write – in 600 words or less – why they believe it is ethical to eat meat. Author Ariel Kaminer begins the sales pitch for why you should write such an essay by claiming that vegetarians and vegans have “dominated the discussion about the ethics of eating.”

Really? Maybe those groups have dominated the discussion inside the pages of The New York Times, but there are many other places where the voice of the anti-meat crusaders is drowned out by common sense.

“In response,” Kaminer continues, “those who love meat have had surprisingly little to say.”

Hello? Haven’t you been listening? Does The Times not have reporters? Meat eaters have had plenty to say, though we’re not often afforded a platform as large as The Times gives to the anti-meat folks.

But, wait. Here it is, an essay contest that will finally allow those of us who love our steaks medium-rare, our burgers topped with cheese and mushrooms and our pork ribs slow-cooked and slathered with tangy sauce, to tell the world why we think such eating behavior is just fine.

Just as my excitement was building to write such an essay, Kaminer revealed the phony part of the contest. “We have assembled a veritable murderer’s row of judges — some of the most influential thinkers to question or condemn the eating of meat.”

That’s right, the judges for this essay contest about the ethics of eating meat are all anti-meat. Is it any wonder why Kaminer and The Times believe vegetarians and vegans have “dominated the discussion about the ethics of eating?”

Let’s examine the judges of this contest. First is Peter Singer, a self proclaimed vegetarian and a “flexible vegan” as stated in a May 2006 interview in Mother Jones. Singer also authored the book Animal Liberation that is cited for being the touchstone for the animal liberation movement.

Then there’s Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma which openly critiques modern agribusiness. In his most recent book Food Rules: An Eaters Manual, Pollan’s principal is "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

Mark Bittman is also a judge, an American food journalist and author of the book Food Matters which covers environmental challenges, lifestyle diseases, overproduction and over consumption of meat.

Are you seeing a pattern here?

Next is Jonathan Safran Foer, American writer and author of Eating Animals, his third book. Foer explores the topics of factory farming, commercial fisheries, and slaughterhouse conditions and said that “in American slaughterhouses, cows are consistently bled, dismembered, and skinned while conscious." Foer also analyzes the risks in the health of human consumption of meat.

Andrew Light rounds out the panel of judges, a philosopher at George Mason University, specializing in environmental ethics and policy. He edited, with Erin McKenna, a collection of essays, “Animal Pragmatism: Rethinking Human-Nonhuman Relationships.”

Does anyone really think this collection of judges could pick a winning essay that says anything positive about the eating of meat? Not likely.

If we really needed proof that this whole contest was phony, that it was just another reason to put the vegetarian, anti-meat agenda in the limelight, The Times announced its six finalists last Sunday. Here’s a sampling of the first sentences from four of those entries.

  • "We would be foolish to deny that there are strong moral considerations against eating meat."
  • “In 1989 I decided that I could no longer justify the slaughter of animals on my behalf.”
  • “As a vegetarian who returned to meat-eating, I find the question ‘Is meat-eating ethical’ one that is in my head and heart constantly.”
  • “I’m about to eat meat for the first time in 40 years.”

Sorry, but those don’t sound like ringing endorsements for the livestock industries to me, and it doesn’t sound like the authors are carnivores. I’m pretty sure that none of them were written by Larry the Cable Guy.

So why bother? It’s obvious The New York Times doesn’t want to hear our story. What they wanted was another opportunity to call for an end to livestock and meat production – your livelihood.

In a few days they’ll announce a winner to this phony essay contest and we can all go back to ignoring The New York Times.

Source: Lisa Henderson is a sophomore in Agricultural Economics and Ag Communications at Kansas State University