The New York Times announced the six finalists for the Ethics of Eating Meat Essay Contest. Yours truly did not make the finals. Fortunately for me, I have an alternate forum to share my essay. When I read about this contest I thought that the question was too elusive and vague. The definition of ethical itself made a comprehensive point of view difficult. That was a challenge. Below is my submission. I would love to hear what you think.
EAT MEAT: GO TO JAIL
Like all complicated questions of culture, government and society, the ethics of eating meat does not fit conveniently onto a bumper sticker. Further complicated by the split between a cultural question and a personal one, there are no hard and fast answers.
We as a society have deemed meat eating legal and justify it as a source of protein. We as a society accept an individual’s right to decline meat and meat products by providing many alternatives at the marketplace. We as a society have resolved any group ethical issues by letting live and let live, or die as the case may be.
In the United States it is illegal to butcher dogs, but in China and other parts of Asia dog meat is eaten regularly. Recently, there was a question of slaughtering
horses in the U.S.. It is a tradition in this and many other English speaking countries not to eat the meat of an animal that has become such a companion and fellow worker. But in other European and Asian countries horsemeat is considered a delicacy. Even established taboos are not universal.
As individuals, we all have to ask ourselves what guides us. Does our faith dictate what we eat? The Ten Commandments says: “You shall not murder”, but the bible condones eating meat. The Jewish tradition only permits the cloven hoof herbivores to be eaten. Seventh‐day Adventists do not generally eat meat because they believe that the body is the temple of God and that eating meat degrades the body. But, individuals in that church can choose to eat meat. Even faiths are sometimes conflicted on the issue.
Religious groups that dictate eating habits are a source of guidance for some individuals. But what about those whose beliefs lie outside of these groups?
What about the rest of us? There are several scientific studies that make clear the detrimental effects of
consuming meat. The Documentary film “Knives over Forks” sites studies that support a meat‐free diet. They often refer to The China Study, which is a comprehensive, large‐scale study that would have us eating no meat at all. Another long‐term survey released by Harvard recently indicates that eating red meat leads to heart disease, cancer and even early death. The scientific evidence may not be completely conclusive, but it points to a plant based, whole food diet (along with exercise) to achieve a long and healthy life.
We know more about the ways our bodies metabolize food (and the sometimes deleterious effects) than ever before. Yet, many people in our society ignore or reject this information or even deride it as not being science. Doctors are often the worst offenders. Less than 25% of medical schools in the United States require nutrition as part of their curriculum. And with obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes at all time high, obviously the medical profession is not effectively dealing with the core problem.
In the United States, the government still recommends eating meat. The over production of meat can be traced in many ways to the farm bill, the lack of FDA intervention and the influences of Big Food on government. If we are looking
to our government to keep us informed and protected from what might hurt us,
we better look again. Maybe the real ethical issue has nothing to do with
slaughtering and eating meat. Maybe the real question is whether it is the responsibility of the government and the health care profession to impart the overwhelming scientific evidence on society as a whole and let the individual make an informed decision.
Here is a little potato salad that I learned from Sally Schmidt. If you are expecting your mother’s mayonnaisey picnic salad, this ain’t it. But, you might find something similar in just about every bistro in France.
- 1 Pound Red Potatoes
- 1 Bunch Green Onions
- 1/2 Cup Really Good Olive Oil
- 1/4 Cup Juice of Lemon
- Salt and Pepper
- Bunch Fresh Italian Parsley, chopped
- Mixing Bowl
- Chef’s Knife
- Scrub the potatoes and boil them in lots of salted water until fork tender.
- Let cool just enough to handle.
- Slice the green onions thinly, at an angle making nice size bites. Cut well into the green.
- Slice the potatoes thinly and add to bowl with the onions and parsley.
- Toss with enough of the dressing to coat.
- Salt and pepper to taste.