Back in spring, before the drought devastated farm country, before $8 corn and before we found out how bad replacement refs could be, The New York Times ran a contest asking readers to submit essays on “Why Is It Ethical to Eat Meat?”
(You might note that such a proposal begs the question of “Why do we have to write essays to justify eating meat?”)
Many readers responded, some with quite cogent arguments, ones that are good to file away should the need arise to counter the naysayers or address the criticisms of veggie believers who want livestock to disappear and people to subsist on processed soy protein.
Here’s a sampling of some of the better excerpts, including one from the winning essay:
● Evolution. Jan Cho, who writes on the Care2 Make A Difference animal welfare blog, is a former marketing executive and now a mother of two who “cares deeply about the quality of our food.”
In her essay titled, “Eating Meat to Survive,” she argued that in the wild, animals kill animals, predators devour prey and the strong conquer the weak. Humans, however, are “omnivores with a conscience,” as Cho phrased it. “We have a choice in what we eat and understand the ethical implications of our choices. But how did humans evolve the cognitive capacity to consider the ethics [of eating animal food] in the first place?”
Her answer: By eating animals. Meat is energy-dense, easy to digest when cooked and provides an excellent source of food for the brain. “Most anthropologists believe that it was by beginning to eat meat that our ancestors saw a substantial gain in relative brain size millions of years ago,” she wrote. “Bigger brains could accommodate more advanced cognitive functions, including abstract thought and language. So you could say that eating meat made it possible for us to deliberate the ethics of eating meat.”
● Sustainability.Nicolette Hahn Niman is a livestock rancher, environmental lawyer and author. Although she stated that she’s a vegetarian, she noted that in her work as an environmental lawyer she studied ecologically based farming and became convinced that animals are essential to sustainable farms. “They increase soil fertility, contribute to pest and weed control and convert vegetation that’s inedible to humans and growing on marginal, uncultivated land, into food,” she wrote.
● Perspective. Tovar Cerulli, a hunter and author of “The Mindful Carnivore,” wrote about how living in a rural community showed him that raising much of the food we’re familiar with comes at a cost. “From habitat destruction to combines that inadvertently mince rabbits to the shooting of deer in farm fields, crop production is far from harmless,” he wrote. “Even in our own organic garden, my wife and I were battling ravenous insects and fence-defying woodchucks. I began to see that the question wasn’t what we ate but how that food came to our plates.”