Sunday, May 6, 2012

Ethics of eating meat

The NYTimes "Ethicist" column initiated a contest a few weeks ago for 600 word essays about why it's ethical to eat  meat.  The topic inspired lots of emails to the Ethicist, including remarks about the judges for the contest who were all men.  Today they printed excerpts from several replies and the winning essay as well as a column four times as long as usual.  Like a great many respondents, it seems, I cannot think of a reason why it is ethical to eat animals.  Once, and still in a few societies, I believe humans needed to eat animals because they lacked sufficient nourishment otherwise.  That is far from true for most of humanity today.  Many people cited the inhumane, greedy and ecologically destructive methods used by "factory farming" of animals. Some optimists seemed to think this replusive practice is waning, I don't think so. Animals are treated as if they were plants, not sensate creatures.  That is greedy, ignorant, and horrible.

From the article I learned only that NYTimes readers, as I knew anyway, tend to take the ethical high road.  There were, apparently, plenty of wisecrackers who point out that carnivorous animals don't think about ethics.  Duh!  The wonderful, late Wislawa Szymborska wrote a poem saying that only animals live with a clear conscience -- because they are incapable of ethical questioning.  Taken a bit further it seems to suggest that those who eat meat without compunction are, in some respects, no better than, say wolves or hyenas.  I love these tempests in a teapot that are now and then set to boil in editorial sections of the Times.   

6 comments:

Rubye Jack said...

On one hand, I look at it as vegetables are as much life as animals. Does that make it okay to eat meat, I don't know. I do know that eating meat does not sit right with my body. When I eat vegetables I feel better.
Men eat meat. So why not have an all men jury to say it is okay to eat meat? What the heck do a bunch of men know about what's healthy? Nada.

FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

June -- good post. I am with you all the way on not killing animals for the pure pleasure of eating meat when in today's world it is unnecessary. Of course, I believe if you follow the money on this horrible practice you will find power and corporate greed. One little thing -- you mention wolves and hyenas -- I feel they are better than many of the humans that promote killing in any form -- war, food industry and hunting. -- barbara

zippiknits said...
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zippiknits said...

The only time that meat eating can be justified, the discussion of whether it's actually ethical or not being fades when meat eating is a necessity as there is not other source of the nutrients it provides. And this is not the case in the modern world.

It's unethical to splice a gene into a crop without much of a care of whether it is harmful or not. Now there's a discussion for Ethicists.

May 7, 2012 11:53 PM

June Calender said...

Thanks to all of you. Rubye, I generally agree with you but I have two vegetarian grandsons which I think is a good sign.

Barbara, I'm actually fond of wolves, hyenas I know little about really except their reputation.

Zippi, yes the genetic alteration of plants -- or anything -- is a big ethical question, way beyond this blog.

June Calender said...
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