4

votes

Hack Sisson's Response to Ethics of Meat Eating

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created April 04, 2012 at 6:39 PM

I think it's a valiant attempt with some major blind spots. He bases his argument on the premise that omnivorism is believed to be unethical (i.e. traditional PALEO is unethical) because it results in the death of animals. He then argues that if you accept that premise, you should also believe that being an herbivore is unethical because everything we eat (veggies included) results in the death of animals one way or another. One example: farming razes fields, killing cute little gophers. http://www.marksdailyapple.com/is-eating-meat-ethical/#axzz1r66vf5dG

I don't think being Paleo is unethical, but I do think Sisson misses some big points:

(1) If you farm your own veggies, or find small, environmentally responsible veggie farms, this could greatly reduce or even eliminate animal killing (ants totally do not count, I assume we're talking about relatively sentient beings).

(2) The premise could be inaccurate--it might not be the death of animals that is the root of ethical questioning, but rather, the sheer magnitude of the animal deaths or the mechanisms by which they die. So, for example, veggie farming might kill animals, but eating meat kills more animals. So maybe it's considered to be unethical because you aren't reducing impact when you could be, NOT because there is death per se.

What do you think?

[EDIT: I think this post has drifted into areas already covered by other posts (my bad!) we should probably close it (needs a moderator or three more votes). Look here for posts about ethics of paleo: http://paleohacks.com/questions/9826/paleo-vs-vegetarian-a-question-of-optimal-health-vs-evolved-compassion#axzz1r6SYVgbI).]

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on June 03, 2012
at 05:54 PM

from an ethical perspective, why does it matter who kills it? Is there some way in which "earning" the kill is significant? I think this fits into the "fair playing field" approach, where one would argue that the animal should be given a fair shot at life/survival before it became a meal, not just bred to die on a farm. In that case, I think the argument fails to pass the laugh test if people are using guns. Traps, bow and arrow--maybe (if you make it yourself). survival instinct against survival instinct.

2d090e680d86e2c768edb40b4b433978

(384)

on April 18, 2012
at 09:42 AM

Yeah. I have some dear friends who have been veggie for years, so I've had the occasion to witness it.

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 17, 2012
at 07:53 PM

bwahaha, do they really freak out? I've never seen that.

2d090e680d86e2c768edb40b4b433978

(384)

on April 12, 2012
at 08:35 PM

Nature is inherently cruel (and other things of course). I laugh when vegetarians freak out while watching nature videos of animals killing other animals for food. It's like they expect animals to just be cute and fuzzy, when that's far from the case.

2d090e680d86e2c768edb40b4b433978

(384)

on April 12, 2012
at 08:33 PM

The animals we eat are lower on the actual food chain. It's a fact of human civilization that in many places we are not the prey. but honestly, whenever we are the prey, I'm fine with that. Stupid human gets caught and eaten by a lion, shark, whatever; so, that's life. I'm not necessarily saying that organic and pastured farming is what puts us all on equal footing. the fact that we are all beings on this planet are. We do have more advantages due to technology, so I guess on that level, we are not equal. I was referring to the spiritual realm, though, where I feel that we are.

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 12, 2012
at 02:51 PM

Agreed, 100%. I fantasize daily about going back to HG. sigh. But I'd love to unpack more the idea that organic and pastured agriculture puts animals and plants on "equal footing," with humans. You can do eat meat respectfully, sure, but it's still choosing human health over other life when it's not strictly necessary for survival. I agree it might be more "at peace" with nature, but I don't think it's "equal," particularly if you believe animals have a natural right to survival, like humans.

2d090e680d86e2c768edb40b4b433978

(384)

on April 10, 2012
at 09:57 AM

I would prefer we live more at peace with the rest of nature, certainly not the status quo now, that's for sure. I'd prefer if we could go back to hunter-gatherer days, but that would require a massive cultural shift for most. Industrial CAFO farming is bad all around because it shows no respect for the plants and animals. Organic and pastured agriculture is at least a few steps better. I have no problems with taking life for the purpose of FOOD, but if it can be done respectfully and with honor for the life being lost, that's how it should be done.

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 09, 2012
at 02:13 PM

Finally, I'm not suggesting that we SHOULD dominate over other life, merely pointing out that we repeatedly choose humanity at the cost of of other life. It is, at the end of the day, a choice. Is it justified? That's the question here with respect to sentient life.

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 09, 2012
at 02:13 PM

Lol! I don't mean that the plants literally eat us! We kill plants in order to raise meat, we raze forests for all kinds of purposes, in fact. I'm suggesting that we sacrifice those pursuits for the sake of plant life. Also, saying that something is ethical purely because our biology dictates it is quite extreme. We have many 'unethical' biological impulses radiating from our limbic brains that we can choose to pursue or ignore, same way we can chose to eat or not eat meat. (continued...)

D8f58eba263277ec6119293137b85b02

(1071)

on April 08, 2012
at 11:35 PM

Hey Venus, I'm out of town for the week so my computer time is less consistent, but this is a very interesting conversation so I just wanted to put this here as a placeholder until I have time to form a more well thought-out response.

F38f19b6ec74b2c6bf49531fe5dae567

(486)

on April 08, 2012
at 11:07 PM

Good point. That article adds a new dimension to the debate. Looks like I should shut my mouth until I know what's what.

2d090e680d86e2c768edb40b4b433978

(384)

on April 07, 2012
at 02:02 PM

Because that is not what plants need; they don't require human meat to survive. They have their ways of getting their nutrients as we have ours. Some plants are even carnivorous, but they entrap bugs, s they are designed to do. We are built to be omnivorous, and therefore, we should be. The attitude of human dominion over other beings, IMHO, is a big part of what is wrong with human civilization. It's one of the reasons why I cannot be Christian. Sure, some people are more respectful than others, but I would say that those who are not have forgotten to be a part of nature.

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 06, 2012
at 08:54 PM

yes, definitely makes sense. But a foundational idea of ethics is to develop an external/objective code against which choices can be measured. They are, by definition, not individualized. Not everything that is good for you as an individual is also good for the human race. And not everything that is good for the human race is good for other sentient life. The question remains: why is it okay to promote humanity at the expense of other sentient life. I think you've got something with the biological imperative idea...but it reminds me of 'manifest destiny' which didn't end well for some.

D8f58eba263277ec6119293137b85b02

(1071)

on April 06, 2012
at 05:49 PM

... meat, but feel better with it, then I think it's ethical to eat it. This sentiment is only stronger when it comes to people who feel anything from kind of crappy to absolutely horrible without meat. Hope that makes sense, haha.

D8f58eba263277ec6119293137b85b02

(1071)

on April 06, 2012
at 05:47 PM

Because the definition of selfish is to be more concerned about your own well-being than others; I just think that selfishness is not necessarily an unethical thing - it's something that we all have in some form or another. And I chose not to defend anyone else's specific diets, because ethics is as personal and individual a thing as diet. In general I think that doing whatever makes you stronger, healthier, and feel better can only be good for the human race and is ethical, because our biological imperative is to survive and *prosper* as a species. If you're doing okay without (continued)

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 06, 2012
at 05:19 PM

ah! agreed. But why categorize it as selfish? Also, it sounds quite particular to your situation--what if you are not someone who would die or end your own life without meat? Is it still ethical? I think most people are in that boat (though I am in your boat, as I have major depressive disorder that is ameliorated by the paleo diet).

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 06, 2012
at 05:13 PM

this makes little sense to me. If nothing is better than anything else, then why do we get to kill plants for our own survival, rather than sacrificing ourselves for the plants? You can say you value all life (sentient or non-sentient) equally, but you have to admit we don't behave that way. We dominate other forms of life, though perhaps some of us do it more respectfully than others and with less impact.

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 06, 2012
at 05:08 PM

weaker in what sense? Maybe physically weaker, but ethically stronger? :) Think Gandhi.

D8f58eba263277ec6119293137b85b02

(1071)

on April 05, 2012
at 11:42 PM

Venus, that's exactly what I confronted. I mentioned in my essay that if I didn't eat meat I would have died (or killed myself) at an early age because of the diseases I suffer from and probably wouldn't be able to procreate before my death (also due to medical problem that paleo helped), if I hadn't adapted this diet. I also said that, "I respect the lives of animals, but for inherent biologically selfish reasons, I respect mine more; anyone who wouldn’t sacrifice their life to save a mouse feels the same way."

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 05, 2012
at 10:17 PM

I think it's impossible to make this argument without making comparisons. The question inherently requires us to consider why it is ethical to eat meat *given the alternatives.* To say that eating meat 'works for you and others' doesn't attack the core issue of why it's ethical to sustain ourselves on the death of sentient beings. If the answer is that its healthier, then, from an ethics perspective, one must confront the fact that we choose to value our collective health over the death of the animals--which is a completely supportable position!

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 05, 2012
at 09:43 PM

Truly interesting commentary. Thank you. I think (perhaps ignorantly) that it's a stretch to say plants are sentient, but I am really compelled by the argument that eating meat can contribute to more biodiversity. Combine this sustainability/biodiversity argument with Todd B.'s post about how vegetarianism and veganism may lead to more animal death than eating animals and I think we have a pretty solid answer, or at least a credible place from which to begin educating others.

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 05, 2012
at 09:37 PM

I think that a widely held view of ethics is that they exist as a result of the capacity to make reasoned choices that may or may not conflict with one's impulses and desires. I would suggest that the fact that we "rationalize" in the face of a challenge to behaving ethically is, itself, a deviation from what is ethical. You can fail at being ethical 99% of the time, that doesn't mean ethics are relative or that they can't exist.

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 05, 2012
at 09:25 PM

OMGeebies. Todd B., what a great resource, Sisson should have taken a cue from that article. This should not be hiding in a comment, post it as an answer!

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 05, 2012
at 09:21 PM

hmm...I don't think you can get out of it that easily. If i kill my neighbor and use his entire body for some purpose that i think is justified, does that make it okay> Killing with a purpose is still killing, the trick is to evaluate the purpose, e.g., killing for revenge versus the death penalty. I would argue that all ways in which we end the life of a sentient being (voluntarily or not) are on a spectrum and we have to draw the line somewhere and explain why we draw it.

Baa413654789b57f3579474ca7fa43d7

(2349)

on April 05, 2012
at 01:58 PM

Except many believe that a plant based diet will result in more deaths. So the issue is not just that farming kills animals, but rather increasing veganism/vegetarianism will result in more animal harm and suffering. (see here for example: http://theconversation.edu.au/ordering-the-vegetarian-meal-theres-more-animal-blood-on-your-hands-4659)

2d090e680d86e2c768edb40b4b433978

(384)

on April 05, 2012
at 10:02 AM

Exactly! We have to make do with what we can with the system we have now.

Bf57bcbdc19d4f1728599053acd020ab

(5043)

on April 05, 2012
at 06:05 AM

Good point. We are always telling ourselves stories to rationalize whatever it is we're doing.

Bf57bcbdc19d4f1728599053acd020ab

(5043)

on April 05, 2012
at 06:03 AM

we can't live without the props of civilization, true, but it's us that has put them there. :) the cows aren't shoveling their own manure...

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on April 05, 2012
at 02:04 AM

If Tom Hanks could do it, so could we ;) WILSOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!

Medium avatar

(19479)

on April 05, 2012
at 12:51 AM

The same could be said for us as well. How many civilized (i.e. domesticated) humans could live for more than a few weeks in the wild?

4ccf5d9bba64e54fc95802fe8ae33c47

(900)

on April 05, 2012
at 12:25 AM

I am sooooo 100% with you on that one! I don't practice any religion and wasn't raised religios either (I was raised in Northern Germany) but my entire world view and belief and value system I guess could best be defined as pagan. And I find it all so simple. The only thing complicated nowadays is human bred farm animal vs. wild prey, we humans have already messed up so much I have to make compromises and eat a species that was bred purely for food.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 04, 2012
at 09:15 PM

Self sacrifice weeds out the weaker of the species.

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 04, 2012
at 09:04 PM

also, take a look at this: http://paleohacks.com/questions/9826/paleo-vs-vegetarian-a-question-of-optimal-health-vs-evolved-compassion#axzz1r6SYVgbI

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 04, 2012
at 09:04 PM

see: http://paleohacks.com/questions/9826/paleo-vs-vegetarian-a-question-of-optimal-health-vs-evolved-compassion#axzz1r6SYVgbI.

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 04, 2012
at 08:43 PM

This is somewhat self-justifying. Paleo is not 100% irrefutable unless you already believe that the the elimination of sentient life is ok. It also does not make ethics moot because you can believe paleo is 'meant to be' and yet we should make an 'ethical' choice to endure self-sacrifice in order to preserve sentient life. I think you are hitting a key issue, though, by weighing humanity's health against the value of animal life. So maybe the real question should be: does animal life have greater intrinsic value than humanity's health?

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 04, 2012
at 08:16 PM

Agreed, Nance, Sarah-Ann makes a good point, as I'm sure from a practical perspective, many organic farmers do rely on domesticated animal waste for fertilizer. But from a philosophical perspective (and I do think this ethical question is a philosophical one) you make a good point that it is possible to produce fertilizer without relying on 'evil' farm stock.

4781cf8ae1bfcb558dfb056af17bea94

(4359)

on April 04, 2012
at 08:08 PM

I see. Agreed, the framers took an important issue off the table.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on April 04, 2012
at 08:07 PM

PaleoVenus, sarah-ann's question is a fair one worthy of discussion. sarah-ann, when I had a garden I didn't use fertilizer myself. I made compost from kitchen scraps and always used a generous layer of mulch. I also had a huge "butterfly" garden and many bird-friendly shrubs. I pretty much had to elbow my way through the yard-life to get to the garden but they left plenty for me and in 10 years there was no sign of decreasing fertility even without fertilizers and pesticides. I'm definitely a meat-eater but I don't know if you HAVE to have farm stock to garden.

A727956fa3f943057c4edb08ad9e864e

(4183)

on April 04, 2012
at 07:53 PM

Where do organic farms get their fertiliser from?

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 04, 2012
at 07:49 PM

(that is, if you DON'T consider a slow death-by-grains existence to be 'killing an animal') :)

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 04, 2012
at 07:48 PM

ooh interesting, i haven't seen that anywhere. It's not exactly a 'free willy' situation is it?!

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 04, 2012
at 07:47 PM

I agree that the framers of the contest were being unfair to eliminate those considerations. However, I think they did it because they wanted the writers to focus on why it is ethical to sustain oneself on other sentient beings (which can be considered unethical regardless of the life the animal lived or the mechanism of its death).

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 04, 2012
at 07:43 PM

Fair point, except--the nuances Mark was not allowed to consider would not eliminate the killing of animals. So they're not really on the same plane. What I'm saying is that it is possible to not kill animals when eating vegetables. It is not possible to not kill animals when eating meat.

Bf57bcbdc19d4f1728599053acd020ab

(5043)

on April 04, 2012
at 07:37 PM

But the problem was that the framers of the contest said you couldn't use in your argumentation anything about local vs monocrop, organic vs. conventional, factory vs. non-factory farming. Which in my book makes any discussion of "ethical" moot, since for me that's where ALL the ethics lies.

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15 Answers

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8
E687b5eb51456c9a0205aff406f44ca3

on April 05, 2012
at 03:19 AM

I suggest that anyone who is interested in this topic check out the book The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith. She essentially deconstructs the arguments in support of vegetarianism from three realms: biology, politics and ethics.

In regards to ethics, the arguments in support of vegetarianism can be dismantled from numerous angles. While vegetarians are justified in their disgust and horror over factory farming, the leap to disregard all meat eating as unethical often goes unexamined. The existence of vegetarianism can in many ways be traced to our increasing alienation from the world of nature. Keith suggests that vegetarianism is often intertwined with a denial of the reality of death (not to suggest that the SAD meat-eater is not also in denial), a refusal to accept the inevitability that our survival is dependent upon the death of others (be they animal, vegetable, fungi). Vegetarians are just as presumptuous about the lack of plant sentience as most meat-eaters are about non-human animal sentience (see: The Lost Language of Plants by Stephen Harrod Buhner, which presents a fascinating explication of the biological mechanisms suggestive of plant sentience). There is no escape from some kind of killing for our survival (good luck trying to be a fruitarian/scavenger), and only a people who get there food from the grocery store could think otherwise.

Fundamentally, vegetarianism is dependent upon the unsustainable practices of agriculture. Modern veganism, in particular, is also dependent upon the globalized industrial food chain. Vegetarianism (via agriculture) literally feeds on entire ecosystems in the service of its ideals. Animals raised on pasture (provided they are not allowed to overgraze) can actually build topsoil and enhance biodiversity, whereas agriculture erodes topsoil and consists first of all in the removal of all life from the land to be cultivated.

But to accept that agriculture is unsustainable would mean that we would also have to accept that civilization is not sustainable, that the Paleolithic (by which I mean "indigenous") is not something from which we can pick and choose. It is the only sustainable and therefore the only truly ethical social/ecological arrangement that is available to humans.

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 05, 2012
at 09:43 PM

Truly interesting commentary. Thank you. I think (perhaps ignorantly) that it's a stretch to say plants are sentient, but I am really compelled by the argument that eating meat can contribute to more biodiversity. Combine this sustainability/biodiversity argument with Todd B.'s post about how vegetarianism and veganism may lead to more animal death than eating animals and I think we have a pretty solid answer, or at least a credible place from which to begin educating others.

8
Bf57bcbdc19d4f1728599053acd020ab

(5043)

on April 04, 2012
at 07:40 PM

Another thing that was not mentioned was the fact that most of the animals we eat - poultry, pork, cattle, goat, sheep - would not exist had we not deliberately bred them over centuries for use in human consumption. These animals are just too maladapted (read: stupid - with the possible exception of pigs) to survive in the wild. So the question becomes: was it ethical to undertake husbandry in the first place? Is the "ethical" alternative to let these species completely die out?

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on April 05, 2012
at 02:04 AM

If Tom Hanks could do it, so could we ;) WILSOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 04, 2012
at 07:48 PM

ooh interesting, i haven't seen that anywhere. It's not exactly a 'free willy' situation is it?!

Bf57bcbdc19d4f1728599053acd020ab

(5043)

on April 05, 2012
at 06:03 AM

we can't live without the props of civilization, true, but it's us that has put them there. :) the cows aren't shoveling their own manure...

Medium avatar

(19479)

on April 05, 2012
at 12:51 AM

The same could be said for us as well. How many civilized (i.e. domesticated) humans could live for more than a few weeks in the wild?

4
Medium avatar

(19479)

on April 05, 2012
at 01:06 AM

I think that it is ultimately neither "ethical" or "unethical" to eat meat.

To the extent that we fancy ourselves as "ethical" beings, we at least owe it to ourselves to back that sentiment up with actions that show a concern for the well-being of creatures specifically bred, raised, and killed for our consumption.

Speaking to my original statement, however, is it "ethical" for a bacterium to fatally infect a child? Is it "ethical" for a lion to take down a gazelle? We can say, well, the lion and bacteria don't know what they are doing. So the problem is not the act itself, but the intention, or awareness of the act?

We want to conduct ourselves in accordance with our ideals, but when "pushed" or "pulled" we rationalize how we are still "good" in spite of doing something "bad".

I say this as a person who "tries" to be ethical and I do my best to buy more expensive food that was responsibly produced, harvested, raised. But, if I am broke (which has happened on more than one occassion), I will eat CAFO meat since my ultimate responsibility is to myself. Were we to live in a world of unrestricted abundance, we could also be unrestricted in our beneficence.

Can we be better stewards? Absolutely, it would ultimately benefit us as well as the animals we eat. Can we answer the question of whether or not it is "ethical" to eat meat? I suppose it depends on your ethics.

Bf57bcbdc19d4f1728599053acd020ab

(5043)

on April 05, 2012
at 06:05 AM

Good point. We are always telling ourselves stories to rationalize whatever it is we're doing.

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 05, 2012
at 09:37 PM

I think that a widely held view of ethics is that they exist as a result of the capacity to make reasoned choices that may or may not conflict with one's impulses and desires. I would suggest that the fact that we "rationalize" in the face of a challenge to behaving ethically is, itself, a deviation from what is ethical. You can fail at being ethical 99% of the time, that doesn't mean ethics are relative or that they can't exist.

4
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 04, 2012
at 08:57 PM

As far as I'm concerned, eating meat is natural and the right thing for me to do. I don't like the thought that animals have to die for me to survive but I have tried to live without meat and it did nothing but cause me health problems.

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 04, 2012
at 09:04 PM

see: http://paleohacks.com/questions/9826/paleo-vs-vegetarian-a-question-of-optimal-health-vs-evolved-compassion#axzz1r6SYVgbI.

4
4781cf8ae1bfcb558dfb056af17bea94

(4359)

on April 04, 2012
at 07:17 PM

I don't think it makes sense to focus on the magnitude of animal death since it is a function primarily of the magnitude of animal life, whether domesticated or wild. Rather, the relevant metric should be (i) the quality of animal life and death and (ii) the diversity of animal life. To that end, transitioning to pasture-based animal husbandry practices should alleviate some of the ethical obstacles to eating meat, provided it doesn't result in a material increase if deforestation (which I don't think it would).

Thus, I'm all for the focus on ethics of eating meat - but not because I think eating meat is unethical - rather, just because the likely result of that focus is an increased awareness of the horrors of CAFO facilities and perhaps an increased willingness to pay a bit extra for pasture-based meat.

Bf57bcbdc19d4f1728599053acd020ab

(5043)

on April 04, 2012
at 07:37 PM

But the problem was that the framers of the contest said you couldn't use in your argumentation anything about local vs monocrop, organic vs. conventional, factory vs. non-factory farming. Which in my book makes any discussion of "ethical" moot, since for me that's where ALL the ethics lies.

4781cf8ae1bfcb558dfb056af17bea94

(4359)

on April 04, 2012
at 08:08 PM

I see. Agreed, the framers took an important issue off the table.

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 04, 2012
at 07:47 PM

I agree that the framers of the contest were being unfair to eliminate those considerations. However, I think they did it because they wanted the writers to focus on why it is ethical to sustain oneself on other sentient beings (which can be considered unethical regardless of the life the animal lived or the mechanism of its death).

3
246ebf68e35743f62e5e187891b9cba0

(21430)

on April 04, 2012
at 09:30 PM

Frankly, the only reason we are able to make this distinction between ethical and nonethical eating is because of meat. Do other omnivores in Nature question their ethics?

No?

Our only distinction between them (other omnivores) and us, is complex communication and philosophy. Many (myself included) truly believe that we evolved those traits when we discovered something more defensive (and offensive) than anything else in the animal kingdom - the ability to collaborate beyond the mentality of the pack/herd.

Those skills of collaboration (communication, religion (love it or hate it), community, technology, art) were easier to develop when we gradually discovered the benefits of having multiple, calorie-dense food sources.

In other words, meat gave us the evolutionary tools we needed to survive. It gave us another food source when long-departed ancestors were (most likely) severely affected during famine and climate change due to having considerably less varied (and calorie-sparse) food sources.

The inclusion of meat into the hominid diet made us what we are today. Therefor, meat eating is ethical - and makes the implications of not eating meat quite unethical for our continued evolution.

There are many other variables that could be discussed in regards to ethics that might cast it in an unfavorable light. Many of those were not allowed to be defended or even discussed thanks to the ridiculous limitations set on the original essay. Is eating meat sustainable for the growing world's population? I'd like to say yes, but I don't believe that. Are modern factory-husbandry and slaughtering practices ethical? Again, I really don't believe so. Is distinguishing between what animals are "ok" to eat, and which ones are verboten, ethical? No, especially as it has the potential to alienate cultures which make no such (or considerably more liberal) distinctions.

This essay was doomed from the start, as the restrictions laid forth did not even go into the intricacies of "ethical meat". That is why, in keeping with their rules, by my "boiled down" primal conclusion, meat eating is logical, and in the Natural world, logic trumps ethics.

This sleep-deprived rant was brought to you by the letter M. For Meat.

3
85178e006119b00322a2401c494dd3a4

on April 04, 2012
at 07:05 PM

Regarding your first point: As Mark mentioned, the question he was answering didn't allow consideration of nuances such as local vs. factory-raised with regards to meat eating, so it only seems fair to not allow that consideration with regards to vegetable/grain farming as well.

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 04, 2012
at 07:49 PM

(that is, if you DON'T consider a slow death-by-grains existence to be 'killing an animal') :)

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 04, 2012
at 07:43 PM

Fair point, except--the nuances Mark was not allowed to consider would not eliminate the killing of animals. So they're not really on the same plane. What I'm saying is that it is possible to not kill animals when eating vegetables. It is not possible to not kill animals when eating meat.

1
C0fcb48d7da4f76fac17318efd2cd6b8

on April 05, 2012
at 01:11 AM

I want to know. Is dying ethical?

1
2d090e680d86e2c768edb40b4b433978

on April 04, 2012
at 10:03 PM

As far as I am concerned, per my spiritual practice, animals, plants, and humans are on equal footing. Nothing is better than anything else, and so we honor our bodies by eating what is designed to do, with an omnivorous diet. Now, I also believe we should do so with the least pain and harm to the ecosystem, as earth is our Mother. So my meat is pastured, and my veggies organic and local whenever possible.

Just in case you were wondering, I'm a Neo-Pagan. Certainly not all Neo-Pagans believe the way I do, but that's the path I take.

4ccf5d9bba64e54fc95802fe8ae33c47

(900)

on April 05, 2012
at 12:25 AM

I am sooooo 100% with you on that one! I don't practice any religion and wasn't raised religios either (I was raised in Northern Germany) but my entire world view and belief and value system I guess could best be defined as pagan. And I find it all so simple. The only thing complicated nowadays is human bred farm animal vs. wild prey, we humans have already messed up so much I have to make compromises and eat a species that was bred purely for food.

2d090e680d86e2c768edb40b4b433978

(384)

on April 05, 2012
at 10:02 AM

Exactly! We have to make do with what we can with the system we have now.

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 06, 2012
at 05:13 PM

this makes little sense to me. If nothing is better than anything else, then why do we get to kill plants for our own survival, rather than sacrificing ourselves for the plants? You can say you value all life (sentient or non-sentient) equally, but you have to admit we don't behave that way. We dominate other forms of life, though perhaps some of us do it more respectfully than others and with less impact.

2d090e680d86e2c768edb40b4b433978

(384)

on April 07, 2012
at 02:02 PM

Because that is not what plants need; they don't require human meat to survive. They have their ways of getting their nutrients as we have ours. Some plants are even carnivorous, but they entrap bugs, s they are designed to do. We are built to be omnivorous, and therefore, we should be. The attitude of human dominion over other beings, IMHO, is a big part of what is wrong with human civilization. It's one of the reasons why I cannot be Christian. Sure, some people are more respectful than others, but I would say that those who are not have forgotten to be a part of nature.

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 09, 2012
at 02:13 PM

Lol! I don't mean that the plants literally eat us! We kill plants in order to raise meat, we raze forests for all kinds of purposes, in fact. I'm suggesting that we sacrifice those pursuits for the sake of plant life. Also, saying that something is ethical purely because our biology dictates it is quite extreme. We have many 'unethical' biological impulses radiating from our limbic brains that we can choose to pursue or ignore, same way we can chose to eat or not eat meat. (continued...)

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 09, 2012
at 02:13 PM

Finally, I'm not suggesting that we SHOULD dominate over other life, merely pointing out that we repeatedly choose humanity at the cost of of other life. It is, at the end of the day, a choice. Is it justified? That's the question here with respect to sentient life.

2d090e680d86e2c768edb40b4b433978

(384)

on April 10, 2012
at 09:57 AM

I would prefer we live more at peace with the rest of nature, certainly not the status quo now, that's for sure. I'd prefer if we could go back to hunter-gatherer days, but that would require a massive cultural shift for most. Industrial CAFO farming is bad all around because it shows no respect for the plants and animals. Organic and pastured agriculture is at least a few steps better. I have no problems with taking life for the purpose of FOOD, but if it can be done respectfully and with honor for the life being lost, that's how it should be done.

2d090e680d86e2c768edb40b4b433978

(384)

on April 12, 2012
at 08:35 PM

Nature is inherently cruel (and other things of course). I laugh when vegetarians freak out while watching nature videos of animals killing other animals for food. It's like they expect animals to just be cute and fuzzy, when that's far from the case.

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 12, 2012
at 02:51 PM

Agreed, 100%. I fantasize daily about going back to HG. sigh. But I'd love to unpack more the idea that organic and pastured agriculture puts animals and plants on "equal footing," with humans. You can do eat meat respectfully, sure, but it's still choosing human health over other life when it's not strictly necessary for survival. I agree it might be more "at peace" with nature, but I don't think it's "equal," particularly if you believe animals have a natural right to survival, like humans.

2d090e680d86e2c768edb40b4b433978

(384)

on April 12, 2012
at 08:33 PM

The animals we eat are lower on the actual food chain. It's a fact of human civilization that in many places we are not the prey. but honestly, whenever we are the prey, I'm fine with that. Stupid human gets caught and eaten by a lion, shark, whatever; so, that's life. I'm not necessarily saying that organic and pastured farming is what puts us all on equal footing. the fact that we are all beings on this planet are. We do have more advantages due to technology, so I guess on that level, we are not equal. I was referring to the spiritual realm, though, where I feel that we are.

2d090e680d86e2c768edb40b4b433978

(384)

on April 18, 2012
at 09:42 AM

Yeah. I have some dear friends who have been veggie for years, so I've had the occasion to witness it.

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 17, 2012
at 07:53 PM

bwahaha, do they really freak out? I've never seen that.

1
51acbea34cdfbe9b94f4847b8b24bfb9

on April 04, 2012
at 07:51 PM

The real question should be "What are really meant to eat?" - once there is a 100% irrefutable answer ethics are mute, oh wait, there is! Now, where's my steak :-)

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 04, 2012
at 09:15 PM

Self sacrifice weeds out the weaker of the species.

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 04, 2012
at 09:04 PM

also, take a look at this: http://paleohacks.com/questions/9826/paleo-vs-vegetarian-a-question-of-optimal-health-vs-evolved-compassion#axzz1r6SYVgbI

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 04, 2012
at 08:43 PM

This is somewhat self-justifying. Paleo is not 100% irrefutable unless you already believe that the the elimination of sentient life is ok. It also does not make ethics moot because you can believe paleo is 'meant to be' and yet we should make an 'ethical' choice to endure self-sacrifice in order to preserve sentient life. I think you are hitting a key issue, though, by weighing humanity's health against the value of animal life. So maybe the real question should be: does animal life have greater intrinsic value than humanity's health?

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 06, 2012
at 05:08 PM

weaker in what sense? Maybe physically weaker, but ethically stronger? :) Think Gandhi.

0
6901e6fe6b15bd2e9f640353804085b7

(0)

on June 02, 2012
at 01:34 PM

I believe the main issue is that: could you yourself be the one killing the animal which you will eat. I havn't searched extensively on any discussion on this but this is what is hardest for me right now. I have friends who go hunting and kill the animals. I am having trouble with imagining my own self being the person to do it. I have been a vegetarian and vegan over the last 5 years, but for health reasons I have started to turn towards paleo. I eat fish readily, but want to start red meat again.

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on June 03, 2012
at 05:54 PM

from an ethical perspective, why does it matter who kills it? Is there some way in which "earning" the kill is significant? I think this fits into the "fair playing field" approach, where one would argue that the animal should be given a fair shot at life/survival before it became a meal, not just bred to die on a farm. In that case, I think the argument fails to pass the laugh test if people are using guns. Traps, bow and arrow--maybe (if you make it yourself). survival instinct against survival instinct.

0
Af3e3615beba642bcafd0f21d64d74f7

on April 05, 2012
at 08:43 AM

Killing is when there is no purpose to the act. The purpose for humans slaughtering animals is to utilize the entire body for multiple purposes (or as much as possible). If we just went around stabbing animals or stepping on them for the fun of it then I see the point about ethics.

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 05, 2012
at 09:21 PM

hmm...I don't think you can get out of it that easily. If i kill my neighbor and use his entire body for some purpose that i think is justified, does that make it okay> Killing with a purpose is still killing, the trick is to evaluate the purpose, e.g., killing for revenge versus the death penalty. I would argue that all ways in which we end the life of a sentient being (voluntarily or not) are on a spectrum and we have to draw the line somewhere and explain why we draw it.

0
F38f19b6ec74b2c6bf49531fe5dae567

on April 05, 2012
at 04:49 AM

The whole "farming vegetables kill animals, too" argument is flawed. We should not let perfect be the enemy of good. You wouldn't tell someone to either adopt paleo 100% or not make any lifestyle changes at all, would you? We can make better choices that reduce suffering, not necessarily eliminate it and that's something noble and worth striving for.

Baa413654789b57f3579474ca7fa43d7

(2349)

on April 05, 2012
at 01:58 PM

Except many believe that a plant based diet will result in more deaths. So the issue is not just that farming kills animals, but rather increasing veganism/vegetarianism will result in more animal harm and suffering. (see here for example: http://theconversation.edu.au/ordering-the-vegetarian-meal-theres-more-animal-blood-on-your-hands-4659)

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 05, 2012
at 09:25 PM

OMGeebies. Todd B., what a great resource, Sisson should have taken a cue from that article. This should not be hiding in a comment, post it as an answer!

F38f19b6ec74b2c6bf49531fe5dae567

(486)

on April 08, 2012
at 11:07 PM

Good point. That article adds a new dimension to the debate. Looks like I should shut my mouth until I know what's what.

0
D8f58eba263277ec6119293137b85b02

on April 04, 2012
at 10:03 PM

I'm sending in my essay to the NY Times in a few days (fine-tuning it at the moment; it's hard to condense the passion and the information into 600 words), and I avoided touching on exactly those two arguments. As someone who is very familiar with vegetarianism and veganism, those two arguments sprang to mind almost immediately when thinking out my answer. While I thought about mentioning and then trying to refute them, I chose not to because instead I wanted to focus on the individuality of ethics, health and diet. Though I did mention that many lives are lost in order to provide for most vegan diets as well, I didn't want to waste time attacking the "other side" and instead wanted to spend those precious 600 words explaining why I feel it's okay to eat meat (that I can't help but specify as humanely-raised - on the off chance that they pick my essay, I do NOT want to seem in any way supportive of CAFOs).

I do think it's a nice idea to try to harm as few creatures as we can, and if that's possible and works out well for someone then good for them; I just know it doesn't work for me, and many others, so I refuted the idea that it was unethical for me to eat it. Instead I try to respect and be thankful for each and every life that is sacrificed for my well-being, which I think is more than most vegans do (I say this not as an attack, but because they seem to be oblivious to the realities behind their food).

D8f58eba263277ec6119293137b85b02

(1071)

on April 05, 2012
at 11:42 PM

Venus, that's exactly what I confronted. I mentioned in my essay that if I didn't eat meat I would have died (or killed myself) at an early age because of the diseases I suffer from and probably wouldn't be able to procreate before my death (also due to medical problem that paleo helped), if I hadn't adapted this diet. I also said that, "I respect the lives of animals, but for inherent biologically selfish reasons, I respect mine more; anyone who wouldn’t sacrifice their life to save a mouse feels the same way."

D8f58eba263277ec6119293137b85b02

(1071)

on April 06, 2012
at 05:49 PM

... meat, but feel better with it, then I think it's ethical to eat it. This sentiment is only stronger when it comes to people who feel anything from kind of crappy to absolutely horrible without meat. Hope that makes sense, haha.

D8f58eba263277ec6119293137b85b02

(1071)

on April 06, 2012
at 05:47 PM

Because the definition of selfish is to be more concerned about your own well-being than others; I just think that selfishness is not necessarily an unethical thing - it's something that we all have in some form or another. And I chose not to defend anyone else's specific diets, because ethics is as personal and individual a thing as diet. In general I think that doing whatever makes you stronger, healthier, and feel better can only be good for the human race and is ethical, because our biological imperative is to survive and *prosper* as a species. If you're doing okay without (continued)

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 05, 2012
at 10:17 PM

I think it's impossible to make this argument without making comparisons. The question inherently requires us to consider why it is ethical to eat meat *given the alternatives.* To say that eating meat 'works for you and others' doesn't attack the core issue of why it's ethical to sustain ourselves on the death of sentient beings. If the answer is that its healthier, then, from an ethics perspective, one must confront the fact that we choose to value our collective health over the death of the animals--which is a completely supportable position!

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 06, 2012
at 05:19 PM

ah! agreed. But why categorize it as selfish? Also, it sounds quite particular to your situation--what if you are not someone who would die or end your own life without meat? Is it still ethical? I think most people are in that boat (though I am in your boat, as I have major depressive disorder that is ameliorated by the paleo diet).

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 06, 2012
at 08:54 PM

yes, definitely makes sense. But a foundational idea of ethics is to develop an external/objective code against which choices can be measured. They are, by definition, not individualized. Not everything that is good for you as an individual is also good for the human race. And not everything that is good for the human race is good for other sentient life. The question remains: why is it okay to promote humanity at the expense of other sentient life. I think you've got something with the biological imperative idea...but it reminds me of 'manifest destiny' which didn't end well for some.

D8f58eba263277ec6119293137b85b02

(1071)

on April 08, 2012
at 11:35 PM

Hey Venus, I'm out of town for the week so my computer time is less consistent, but this is a very interesting conversation so I just wanted to put this here as a placeholder until I have time to form a more well thought-out response.

0
4781cf8ae1bfcb558dfb056af17bea94

(4359)

on April 04, 2012
at 08:07 PM

I don't think it makes sense to focus on the magnitude of animal death since it is a function primarily of the magnitude of animal life, whether domesticated or wild. Rather, the relevant metric should be (i) the quality of animal life and death and (ii) the diversity of animal life. To that end, transitioning to pasture-based animal husbandry practices should alleviate some of the ethical obstacles to eating meat, provided it doesn't result in a material increase if deforestation (which I don't think it would).

Thus, I'm all for the focus on ethics of eating meat - but not because I think eating meat is unethical - rather, just because the likely result of that focus is an increased awareness of the horrors of CAFO facilities and perhaps an increased willingness to pay a bit extra for pasture-based meat.

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