Why It Isn’t Wrong To Eat Meat

Posted on February 27, 2018 · Posted in Blog, General, Personal

It actually wasn’t that hard for me to stop eating meat. My partner was already a vegetarian, so I wasn’t eating much meat at home. I just started picking the vegetarian options at restaurants. I loved the food and I felt great eating it. I felt in control of my diet and health in a way I never had before, and I did it for the first four months effortlessly. I don’t remember craving meat much at all.

I started eating this way because I had become convinced that it was the healthiest option, and I was bolstered by the many compelling arguments that a vegetarian diet is also more environmentally sustainable. About four months in, though, I started to cheat. I think that if I had been doing it for ethical reasons I might not have been so cavalier. However, since my reasons were health related, a cheat day here and there wasn’t really something I felt too bad about. It’s not like it made me akin to a murderer – despite what some other vegetarians might’ve thought.

With the health argument and the sustainability argument, I didn’t really need to get into the ethics too much. As I began to dip my toe into vegan activist circles circles online, I realized that this was something that set me apart from a majority of other vegetarians and vegans.

That’s not to say that there weren’t many others who, like me, were there mainly for health reasons – there were. Still, most vegan groups and pages are littered with images of factory farms and slogans like ‘meat is murder’. The rhetoric is thick with the implication that to end the life of an animal, for any reason, is little different than ending the life of a human. To say otherwise is speciesism and no better than racism, sexism, or homophobia – and that never sat right with me.

Certain ethical concerns did bolster my opinion that veganism was the best choice I could make. It was nice to think that my healthiest possible diet was also sparing animals from painful, torture filled lives. I was (and still am) vehemently opposed to factory farming and animal cruelty, but I am an unapologetic speciesist. I don’t see how any moral person couldn’t be, at least to some extent. I’ll explain that a little later.

To unnecessarily cause the pain and suffering to sentient, conscious beings is abominable to me. I have no doubt that animals experience pain and deprivation in much the same way that we do. We can see it in their eyes, and infer it from our knowledge of their nervous systems. It’s important that all animals raised under the care of humans, whether it be for food, companionship, or any other purpose, are treated with dignity and concern for their well-being.

Being in the vegan world, but not taking on the ethical vegan position, didn’t faze me too much. After all, whatever their reasons were, they were promoting a diet that I thought was the healthiest possible option for humans, and for the planet, too.

Then I began to read the contradicting information. And there is a lot of it. A lot of it that I had simply ignored and glossed over, initially. Detailed explanations of nutrition are beyond the scope of this article, but suffice to say that I became convinced that eating a vegan diet was not actually the healthiest choice. I began to eat meat again, although this time with a much stronger focus on obtaining pasture raised, grass fed red meats and eggs, as well as sustainably caught wild fish. These animal products are of higher nutritional value and I felt good knowing that my daily meals were not the product of animals who lived a life of torture.

And yet, I am arguing that it is okay to kill them. Isn’t this a contradiction? I don’t think so. I have never believed that the life of other animals have the same worth as the life, or even the well-being, of a human. Animals cannot write novels or plays. They cannot compose a symphony, design a computer, or research physics. Simply and bluntly put, they are intellectually inferior to us.

Animals do not, so far as I can tell, have ambitions, hopes, and dreams. Very few are able to display even rudimentary ability to set goals or plans for the future. I see no evidence of that kind of highly specific and specialized type of cognition, nor do I think that the way animals act gives us any indication that they experience these things. They do not display any outward signs of emotional or spiritual growth.

Humans have what appears to be a unique ability among animals to cognize our own death – to fear and worry about it, and often we imagine that animals must have the same experience, but I can find no reason to believe this is true. Animals certainly seek to avoid pain, but like a human child, I find it unlikely that they have any serious conception of death.

Every month or year a human is alive is an opportunity to grow and to achieve – to do more of whatever it is that we want to do. These are the most salient factors as to why it is so tragic to cut short the life of a human, regardless of how painless, or not, the death itself can be made. To cut short the life of an animal does not rob them of any of these things. Given these arguments, I maintain that it is the quality, and not the longevity, of their experience that must be maximized. If they were to live a life span twice as long, their last years would be spent much like their first – eating, sleeping, pooping, and if they’re lucky – fucking.

I shouldn’t even have to mention this, but I will. I fully recognize that some humans are deficient in the very same kinds of ways I just mentioned that animals are deficient. I maintain that the value of these qualities must be applied categorically to all humans, regardless of how much or little each individual expresses them. Animals are categorically incapable of the things I’ve just discussed. Humans are not.

Some may object that the kind of value I place on human life is anthropocentric. Perhaps a cow can’t write a play, but who’s to say that their experience is not as intricate, extensive, and forward looking as our own? I fully admit and accept that my values are anthropocentric, and that this is in some sense arbitrary. However, the position of veganism is zoocentric – it excludes the value it bestows on animals from other lifeforms such as plants and bacteria. It is also arbitrary.

I find this anthropocentrism to be highly preferable to the misanthropic view that a human is worth no more than a cow.

I said earlier that I didn’t see how any moral person could not be a speciesist to some extent, and I’d like to explain that further. Imagine this scenario:

You pull up to your house and see that the neighbor’s place is on fire. You rush over and see your neighbor burst from the front door, in flames, and begin rolling around on the grass yelling ‘my son is still inside!’ In a flash of heroism, you run into the burning building, up the stairs and into the child’s bedroom. Cowering in opposite corners of the room are a 9 year old child, and the family’s large husky. Both are in shock and neither look like they will make it out without being carried. Do you grab the human child, or the dog?

Hopefully you don’t even have to think about it.

How about this: is it right to kill or cripple a pig in order to transplant some organ from it into a human – to save or improve the quality of that human’s life? What if you were lost in the forest, and the only food to be found were roaming deer?

These examples are extreme. However, my hope in introducing them is to show that the question we as humans face has never been, and never should be ‘is the life of an animal worth the same as a human?’ but rather ‘when and for what reasons is it okay to kill animals for our benefit?’ We all recognize that when push comes to shove, human lives are more important than an animal’s.

It has been argued that the only valid answer to this question is ‘when it is absolutely necessary, in a life or death situation’. That the very fact that we can survive without eating meat means that we have a moral obligation to do so. Ultimately, this question of ‘when and for what reasons?’ does not have an objective answer. It comes down to a question of values, and the answers may never be the same for everyone.

I feel better when I am eating a clean, healthy, omnivorous diet than when I am eating a clean, healthy, vegetarian diet. The nutritional benefits (which I will detail in future posts), combined with the pleasure and enjoyment I receive from eating meat, are of a higher value to me than the lives of the animals that die for my food. You may not agree. You may not make the same value judgement and that’s fine. The animals themselves do not seem to have or communicate any discernible values of their own and so we are left to decide this amongst ourselves.

My only remaining concerns are the environmental implications. Even pasture raised, non factory farmed meat poses a problem for the environment. By some measures, more of a problem. Again, it is beyond the scope of this article to get into too much detail on this topic, but I believe that if we put our best minds onto solving this problem it can be solved. There are already people working on the problem of sustainably raising animals. Our current methods of transportation are also fatally flawed from a sustainability perspective, but we all recognize that this doesn’t mean we must give up transportation, but rather that we must reform its processes and infrastructure.

I am fully aware that these arguments are unlikely to convince most ethical vegans of anything. They aren’t meant to attempt that. I believe that the values involved in that worldview are so fundamentally different from my own that ethical agreement is likely impossible.

However, as with any worldview, there are the true believers, and there are those on the fringes. My hope is that some ethical vegan who is experiencing the kinds of health problems that are common on diets lacking in animal foods might find this article, and it might ease their transition back into the realm of the omnivores. –brighterbrains.orgNatural memory enhancer