Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about eating meat.
I like meat; I eat it almost every day, and have for almost all of my life.
I know a few vegetarians, and lately I’ve been talking a lot to someone who recently went full vegan. She has provided me with a number of arguments in favour of an animal-free lifestyle. It’s something I have avoided considering too closely in the past because, well, I like meat. And eggs, cheese, milk, honey…
This is also difficult to write about without coming across as defensive at best, and small-minded and contrary at worst. One of the biggest arguments I’ve seen against eating meat recently is that it’s bad for you and bad for animals, but the business behind it is huge – and proportional amounts of money and effort are spent on making sure that people prefer it. I can understand that, too – it’s the same for a lot of products, and it does work (cigarettes, alcohol, diamonds…). Most arguments I’ve heard recently are in the ethical, animal-cruelty vein, so that’s mostly what I’ve considered. If you don’t eat meat because you don’t like it, that’s cool!
Here is why I eat meat:
- I feel that, up to a point, there’s an inevitability to large-scale farming ventures. Not to deny the cruelty of many factory farms, but I think that with a little effort you can eat meat which didn’t come from animals which were cruelly treated. Completely aside from the fact that meat from ill-treated animals tastes worse, free-range chicken and eggs are available everywhere, and I’m happy to pay the higher price. Here’s ecoeggs’ Chook Cam where you can take a look at the hens.
- It’s good for you. Probably not with things like cheeseburgers and triple-caramelised pork belly, but meat is a good source of nutrition. Again, not to say that other foods aren’t, but it can’t be denied that regardless of its origin, meat does have nutritional value. Except maybe the plastic deli ham and McDonald’s ground beef-related food items. Moderation, as with most things, is the key: trimmed steak, lean chicken, fish… not cooking everything in oil and serving it with fried starch objects helps too. I’m the first to admit that my diet is not as healthy as it could – should – be, but meat isn’t inherently unhealthy.
- Here’s a controversial one: I don’t have any ethical problems with the way food animals are farmed – in most cases. I am against battery chicken farms, but I’m happy to eat a free range/cage free chicken. I don’t find the slaughter of food animals, when done as intended, to be particularly cruel. However, I know that it doesn’t always go that way, and I am in favour of increasing protection against mistakes and poor practices which do result in unnecessary pain. I suppose as a previous owner of chickens, I feel more strongly about battery farming than about cattle farming, for example. I do know from experience that a chicken is happy if it has food and water, somewhere to scratch, and dust to bath in. They are simple animals with simple needs. Those who know me personally are already aware of my attitude towards chickens (ie that everyone who has the space should own at least a couple), and really, if everyone had a couple of chooks in the backyard, the battery industry would die out and the world would be a happier, more chicken-filled place. Which is a plus for everyone.
- Building off the inevitability thing I mentioned earlier – it seems like such a cop-out, but there you have it – I think that humans are, in an evolutionary sense, omnivorous. Like a lion has claws and fangs, and cows have grinding teeth and four stomachs, humans have big brains, opposable thumbs, and tools. We shape our food chain to fit our numbers, tastes, available resources. We’re animals, just like the lions and the cows, but our personal attributes allow us to modify our habitat (ie, the entire planet) for our purposes. To kill the ramble: it’s natural progression. It’s not pretty, and we can do better, and we will do better.
Alright, this is a huge minefield, and like I said, it’s so hard to write about without coming across as defensive, or even of attacking a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. I understand almost all the reasons I’ve been presented by it, and I suppose this post is really just me finally outlining (for myself more than anything) why I eat meat and why I’m okay with it. Turns out that I recognise the bad stuff while still standing by the good – there’s progress to be made, and I’m all for helping to make it, but I just can’t see veganism as anything other than a lifestyle choice.
One thing I am genuinely excited about on this topic is in vitro meat. Currently it’s not feasible for mass production (according to that wiki article, it costs around one million US dollars to produce 250g of meat), but technology is always on the march. Ideally – that is, ignoring the issues with genetic modification, growth hormones, etc – the cheap mass-production of nature-identical animal muscle tissue would solve a lot of problems. And be kinda cool.
Anyway. Comment! This is a tough one and I’d like to know what other people think.