You are on page 1of 5

Butler 1 Sam Butler Lecturer Levin Writing 140 September 30, 2011 Ethics of Meat Arguments for eating

meat have always been along the lines of meat tastes good or eating meat is natural. While I cannot argue that meat does not taste good, I will say eating meat is not natural, at least not as natural as more critical traits of humans. What sets humans apart from the rest of nature are our ethics and our ability to cooperate and reason, much more natural to humans than eating meat. In fact, people have only recently begun consuming meat in large quantities. Plants sustained most hunter and gatherer civilizations. Meat had been a luxury and consumed only when the group was lucky enough to catch it. Even today the majority of the worlds diet is wheat and rice, with regular helpings of meat being only for those living in wealthy industrialized nations. On the other hand, what has given the human race the edge over competing hominid species is our ability to cooperate, and care for one another, in short, our ethics. During a time when industrialized agriculture and factory farms wreak havoc on the environment, these traits will be critical in solving the huge problems these industries cause. Due to the harmful effects meat production has on not only the planet, but also the people and living organisms populating the planet, consuming

Butler 2 meat is unethical because it clashes with our natural tendencies to cooperate and care for one another. The decision to eat meat is an ethical one; at least that is how Jonathan Safran Foer views it in his essay Against Meat. Foer argues that eating meat is unethical because most meat comes from factory farms, which are miserable for animals, the environment, farmers, public health, biodiversity, rural communities, and global health (Foer 3). In fact meat production is the number 1 contributor to global warming, and the Top 2 or 3 cause of all the most serious environmental problems, both global and local: air and water pollution, deforestation, and loss of biodiversity (Foer 3). He also argues that while there is alternatives to consuming factory farmed produced meat, meat sold under titles of free range, cage free, natural, or organic, seldom live up to what their meaningless names imply (Foer 5). In fact, factory farms that degrade the environment so perversely, now produce more than 99 percent of the animals eaten in [the United States] (Foer 5). Basically, he argues consuming meat is unethical because just about all the meat now produced for consumption in the United States, destroys the very planet that sustains all living organisms, may they be meat eaters or vegetarians. Today, there is no critical need for meat. Meat consumption contributes to increased rates of obesity and diabetes, while vegetarians enjoy lower rates of heart disease, type-two diabetes, and obesity. On the other hand, nobody denies there is not a need for ethics. Ethics are the core of human existence. The success of the human race thus far has depended on the ethics we have come to hold close to our

Butler 3 hearts, refined through thousands of generations. Just like our physical traits, our ethics are subject to the same changes of evolution. According to anthropologist, S.E. Bromberg, human ethics stem from natural selection (The Evolution of Ethics). There is a reason why almost every sane person on the earth believes murdering and stealing is unethical. Successful early populations of humans were able to out compete less successful populations through their cooperation and care for one another. Early humans that were able to work together and solve problems were more likely to find food and survive while those who lacked ethics failed to create stable societies and consequently did not pass on their genes. Things such as stealing and murder feel inherently wrong not just because they are, but because they hurt other people and put unfair burdens on the group as a whole. Since factory farming and meat production puts harm on so many people, consuming meat should actually go against our deepest morals, the morals that are there for our own survival. The problems we face today are of the same importance as the problems early humans faced in their effort to survive. If humans are going to continue to populate the planet, than we cannot neglect our ethical duty to tackle issues such as global poverty and climate change, even if that means giving up meat. Today, more than half the water consumed in the United States goes towards growing feed for cattle (Global Issues). Also, 85% of the grain here is used to feed livestock (Global issues). This is completely unethical considering 50,000 people die every day of

Butler 4 hunger (starvation.net) and 10,000 people die every day from a lack of clean drinking water (Water.org). How can we be dumping so many more resources into cattle, chickens, and pigs, than in our fellow human beings? Humans naturally look out for one another and if more people were to know the full damage of their actions and consistently see the hardships of the worlds most impoverished people, far fewer resources would be poured into livestock than into human beings. Consuming meat is far less of a part of human nature than is caring and compassion for other people. Ethics are what make humans distinct from the rest of nature, and to neglect them would be to neglect our humanity. True, humans have always consumed meat, but should we really let simple pleasures define who we are? People are more than just their likes or dislikes. Humans have evolved concepts of cooperation and ethics for a reason, and these concepts are far more critical to human nature that eating meat. Foer highlights this concept very clearly in the story of his grandmother. During her flea from the Nazis in WWII, Foers grandmother faced starvation and was once offered a piece of pork. She, being Jewish, and the pork not being kosher, turned down the offer. Her response was simply, If nothing matters, there is nothing to save (Foer 8). Humans without their ethics and morals would be nothing more than animals looking simply to gain the greatest amount of pleasure with the least amount of pain.

Butler 5 The ethics of eating meat go far beyond whether it is ethical to slaughter animals or not. The real problem is that when people consume meat, they abandon their morals, regardless of whether they agree or disagree with killing animals for food. Most would agree that when people fall into dire need, and their survival is on the line, that we have the obligation to help them out and keep them alive. When meat is consumed, we forget our obligation to the poor. People need to not only be conscious of where their food comes from, such as how the animals were treated and slaughtered, but also the value of their food. For every pound of meat produced, about fifteen pounds of grain and vegetables were used in the process (Nourished Magazine). No wonder there are so many starving people in the world. While there is plenty of farmland to grow the food needed to feed everyone in the world, people are failing at their moral obligation to offer a helping hand. The failure to address the problems of global poverty without considering reductions in meat consumption goes completely against human nature. Although people do not always act according to their morals, they still are the driving force behind human existence. Meat consumption will never be eliminated from human behavior because lets face it, meat tastes good and people enjoy eating it. This however, does not mean meat consumption cannot be reduced or the methods of producing the meat be reformed. As of now, meat production goes against human nature and is unethical, but is pervasive and needs some reexamination.