Temple Grandin enters New York Times' essay contest

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The New York Times recently announced an essay contest, asking readers to sum-up why eating meat is ethical in 600 words or less. A panel of vegetarian and vegan judges then selected the top six entries.

Dr. Temple Grandin, animal welfare expert and professor of animal welfare at Colorado State University, also submitted an essay into the contest. Despite her expertise on the issue, her essay was no among the finalists selected.

Her essay is available for your consideration below - do you think she should have been considered as a finalist?

Eating Meat is Ethical

Humans and animals evolved together. Our brains are tuned into animals. Research with epilepsy patients who had monitors implanted in their brains, showed that the amygdala responds more to animal pictures, compared to pictures of landmarks or people. The amygdala is an important emotion center in the brain. Pictures of both cute and aversive animals got a big response. Recordings from the hippocampus, which is involved with memory, had no differences.

Human beings have an intrinsic bond with animals, but our treatment of animals has ranged from respectful to horrendous. Scientific research indicates that animals have emotions and they feel pain and fear. It is our duty to provide the animals that we raise for food with a decent life. I often get asked, “How can you care about animals and be involved in designing systems in slaughter houses that are used to kill them?” I answered this question in 1990, after I had just completed installation of a new piece of equipment I had designed for handling cattle at slaughter plants. I was standing on a catwalk, as hundreds of cattle passed below to enter my system. In a moment of insight, I thought, none of the cattle going into my system would have existed unless people had bred and raised them.

Our relationship with the cattle should be symbiotic. Symbiosis is a biological concept of a mutually beneficial relationship between two different species. There are many examples of symbiosis or mutualism in nature. One example is ants tending aphids to obtain their sugary secretion and in return, they are protected from predators. Unfortunately the relationship is not always symbiotic and in some cases, the ants exploit the aphids. There are similar problems in poorly managed, large intensive agriculture systems. There are some production practices that must be changed. In the cattle industry, I know many people who are true stewards of both their animals and their land. Their relationship with both the animals and the land is truly symbiotic. It is mutually beneficial to both the animals and the environment. Killing animals for food is ethnical if the animals have what the Farm Animal Welfare Council in England calls a life worth living.

I have been attended grazing conferences and I have learned that when grazing is done right it can improve the rangeland and sequester carbon. Ruminant animals that eat grass are not the environmental wreckers that some people say they are. Rotational grazing can stimulate more plant growth and growing plants help remove carbon from the atmosphere.  Ruminant animals, such as cattle, bison, goats, and sheep, are the only way to grow food on rangelands that are not suitable for crops.  Ronald C. Follett with the USDA-ARS-NPA in Fort Collins, Colorado, states that grazing lands have the potential to sequester carbon.  According to researchers at National University in Panama, converting South American pastureland to soybean production will reduce carbon storage. Organic agriculture would be impossible and extremely difficult without animal manure for fertilizer.  Another issue that must be looked at in perspective is methane emissions.  It is likely that 80% of all total methane emissions come from coal burning power plants, rice paddies, and landfills.

I have a final reason why I think eating meat is ethnical.  My metabolism requires animal protein, and I get lightheaded and unable to concentrate if I go on a vegan diet.  There may be metabolic differences in the need for animal protein.  There are practices that must be changed to be true stewards of both the animals and the environment.

Source: AMI

For more submissions not selected by the judges, click here for a collection provided by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance.

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Vet Barnes    
Caifornia  |  May, 08, 2012 at 12:14 PM

This comment is entirely relevant and correct on all its information. The reason this essay was not chosen is because it makes sense and the judges are all animal rights fanatics. These cults have cost American jobs and billions of dollars as they lie to the public about what ranchers, farmers, researchers and dog breeders do. Its time to stop these fanatics as they will take down this country as Maurice Strong said in his speech to the UN that they would need to take down american agriculture before they could control this country.

Ron Treatise    
Alabama  |  May, 15, 2012 at 11:40 AM

Grandin's background is in psychology and animal science, but she offers her opinions (importantly, not facts, supported by pure research, experiments, or observational studies) in the fields of climatology, ethics, medicine, nutrition, public policy and carbon sequestration, areas where she is clearly not an expert. And those opinions are factually incorrect or said in a way to support her case without explaining the rest of the story, and, as the adage goes, two half-truths equals a lie. In discounting or ignoring the guidance of experts in those areas, she does a disservice to all who take her expertise in one area as expertise in all areas. Let’s look at one of her opinions—albeit the key one—since it is the focus of the NYTimes contest: “Killing animals for food is ethnical (sic) if the animals have what the Farm Animal Welfare Council in England calls a life worth living.” Well, then, why do we need ethicists? We’ll simply assemble councils to decide for us what is ethical, and have others decide for themselves with the blessing of the council. Do those facing the executioners themselves decide whether the life was worth living? No, that task is up to others. Is human infanticide ethical? What if their first few days of life were “worth living”? Shall we help the elderly into their graves if they cost us too much? What if their lives were worth living? What if you had a falling out with your spouse, and decided that your spouse had already led a life worth living? We are each and every one of us animals, and if she is right, then the natural extentions of her claim would lead us into a murderous--but "ethical"--frenzy. Each of her arguments suffers similarly fatal flaws. But she is a consultant to the industry. Would anyone really expect her to say “Eating meat is unethical”? Whose bread you eat, their song you’ll sing.

John Z    
Alberta  |  May, 16, 2012 at 06:30 PM

For Ron to compare the life of animals to the life of human beings is to reveal the poverty of his ethics. While we think that animals have emotions, it is difficult to prove that they are different than habits and instincts. Regardless, animals are not humans, and it would be unethical to treat them as if they were.

Virginia  |  May, 15, 2012 at 01:48 PM

The only thing I would add, Temple, is that it may not be animal protein that you require, but animal fats. From a nutritional standpoint, I suspect that is a bigger differentiator of the quality of a vegan/vegetarian diet vs. one that contains animal products. There is too much emphasis on protein in the diet, and not enough on the quality of the fats we eat.

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