Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ethics of Meat Eating

There was an interesting competition in last week’s New York Times Magazine in which readers were asked to respond to the question, “Is Meat Eating Ethical?”  It’s a question that doesn’t get asked often enough on this blog, where most of the contributors are either vegans or vegan sympathizers.   Although I’m nowhere near as ethical in my eating habits as some of my colleagues, as a result of teaching environmental ethics over the past 15 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that the use of animals for food is ethically unjustified.   

Still, I was greatly impressed by the thoughtfulness that went into some of the reader’s responses to the question posed in the Times.  These were not crass libertarians who were arguing that we can do whatever the hell we want with animals because they have no moral status.   The finalists were mostly serious environmentalists who made some interesting arguments  supporting the idea that in certain specific circumstances (if the meat is grown in a laboratory, if plant-based options are not viable, if the animals are raised humanly and killed painlessly) eating animals would be morally acceptable. 
None of the arguments of the finalists in the end, however, persuaded me to change my views on this issue.  I’m convinced that we human beings can live healthy lives without chowing down on hamburgers or chicken wings.  In fact, all the evidence that I’ve come across over the years seems to indicate that, as a species, we’d actually be considerably healthier if we gave up eating animals and animal products entirely.   When one considers the pain and suffering that animals raised for food experience, even when those animals are raised in otherwise humane environments, I don’t think that meat-eating can ever be considered anything other than a moral evil. 

But I certainly am more than willing to enter into a dialogue with those who sincerely feel otherwise.   And who knows: there may be someone out there who will come up with a justification for eating animals that will make me change my own moral position.  The arguments, however, are going to have to be a heck of a lot more persuasive than those I read in the Times last week.


  1. The idea that one should never eat meat is a bit too rigid for me. I consider myself a pescatarian. I follow mostly a plant-based diet supplemented by fish two or three times a week. I feel very healthy following this kind of diet and I think that my environmental impact is minimal. I certainly don't consider myself to be immoral, as you would suggest I am, for eating fish on occasion.

  2. Wonders where ^^^ got his fish? Or did he catch it himself?


Popular Posts