Is Eating Meat Really Unethical?

The passionate clamoring of the crowd which marched like ants. The ocean of signs which boldly screamed for attention. It was an animal rights protest in the streets of Boston. The protesters were so eco-friendly that they even recycled their chants. Slogans like,”Not your mamma. Not your milk,” and “Animal Rights are Human Rights” and “Eating Meat equals Animal Cruelty” echoed the streets disturbing the beautiful summer day as I casually ate my lobster roll while being shamed by ethical-vegans. Whether you agree that eating meat is wrong or are never willing to give up your slice of bacon, most likely you have an opinion on the ethics of meat eating. So, is eating meat really unethical?

Although I myself am a meat-loving omnivore the reasons to not eat meat are seemingly obvious. Both the rearing practices and methods of killing livestock are cruel, and there is a clear ecological impact that meat eating has on the environment. However many of the harmful environmental impacts of meat-eating are centered around issues with our current industrialized agriculture techniques. Land clearing for agriculture strips the land of deep root native vegetation which keeps soil in place preventing erosion. The crops we plant in their place are often shallowly rooted and when harvested leave soil exposed to the elements contributing to soil erosion. Farmland soil erodes faster than the rate at which new soil forms, drains our deepest aquifers and all this to say that we are draining our farmland resources faster than they can restore themselves. In addition to this runoff from farmland carries manure and fertilizer into water bodies contributing to the overgrowth of algae. Algae overgrowth beside being gross also causes an imbalance in the ecosystem which negatively impacts the environment. Seeing as though a vegan diet still relies on industrialized agriculture you would assume that no major dent would be made in our environmental impact, however, this is not the case.

More important than the ecologically harmful byproducts of modern agriculture is the amount of resources we use. The majority of global farmland is used to feed livestock which of course we later consume. So by resorting to a mostly or all vegan diet, we can make major strides in reducing our impact on the global ecosystem. But I’m not telling you to put down the sausage yet because by reforming current techniques, and utilizing new agricultural innovations we could reduce our impact on the environment without giving up our meat lovers pizza. I mean after all we are omnivores and a teeth and gut function proves it; eating meat is natural for humans even though some may try to argue otherwise.

Some claim that not eating meat will make us healthier. People with a more omnivorous diet tend to suffer chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and other heart-related issues, but this is not a causal relationship.These health issues thought to be related to “meat-eating” have more to do with the fact that we as westerners tend over salt and over sweeten our foods.  

Regardless of the facts some ethical vegans even go as far as to claim that our pre-human ancestors did not include dead meat in their diet and relied mostly on plants to sustain themselves. Interestingly enough the evidence shows us that this claim is just flat out wrong.Our ancestors were omnivorous hunter-gathers and the nutrients found in meats played an important role in our brain development as a species. People today on a vegan diet lack certain nutrients and suffer from conditions such as anemia due to such deficiencies.In order for our ancestors to get some of the same nutrients from plants as they do from animals, they would need to eat roots like potatoes which are extremely hard to chew when not cooked. It wasn’t until the discovery of fire that humans began to cook food. Cooking food makes it easier to chew, and because our ancestors did not need to dedicate as much energy into chewing their food they were able to evolve larger brains, the brains that make us human.   

Not only did meat-eating make us human but it is simply a part of life. Predator-prey relationships between organisms are an integral part of the circle of life. The food web and all its chains are pieces of natures grand design and necessary for balance within an ecosystem. Not only does the wolf killing the buffalo provide the pack with food so they may survive, but it also helps to keep the buffalos from becoming overcrowded. Would you call the wolf, a creature whose survival is dependent on eating meat immoral for doing what is necessary to simply live?  

Flesh and blood gave the wolf life like us, yet unlike the wolf, we humans are morally conscious of our actions. Knowing the suffering that results from killing an animal is it or is it not our responsibility as morally conscious beings to not eat meat? If we here in the west have the ability to sustain ourselves without devouring meat and still be healthy than would it be worth it to give up the burger? Well while I’m polishing off this drumstick I’ll let you decide.