Monday, April 9, 2012

The Ethics of Eating Meat

Hopefully, this essay will end up in the New York Times in response to a "Calling All Carnivores!" essay contest...

Carnivores eat meat with a clean conscience, despite protests by vegetarians on ethical grounds. 

Disagreements between carnivores and vegetarians often emerge from two different value scales. One philosophy ascribes equal value to human and animal life. One species killing another equates to committing murder. The opposing paradigm holds that a Creator gave mankind authority to steward, or care for, all of His creation. Here, human life ranks highest; humans cannot “murder” animals. In the case for carnivores, may it serve as a reminder that the latter code of ethics deserves the same appreciation as the former. 

The practice of stewardship dictates that we care for what is loaned to us: we care for our bodies, and we care for creation. 

Bodily stewardship sanctions eating lean meat to efficiently consume limiting nutrients such as essential amino acids. With the exception of soy, legumes like beans must be eaten with grains like rice, because only in combination do they provide all the amino acids that our bodies cannot generate. Our bodies absorb minerals like iron more easily from meat than from plants (Halberg, L., 1981. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition), and only animal products contain natural Vitamin B12. I can ingest adequate quantities of these nutrients while consuming fewer calories than I would eating beans, peanut butter, or tofu. I eat meat because I care for my body. 

Creation stewardship guides the responsible use of animals in today’s agricultural industry. The entire modern food production chain is integrated to the point of recycling each other’s “trash” so that animals and humans hardly compete for food. Livestock utilize food waste as feed that would otherwise break down into methane or carbon dioxide in landfills and compost. Agricultural animals consume oilseed cake, crop stubble, and other food industry “scraps” to convert inedible byproducts into quality food products. 

Raising grazing animals preserves wildlife habitat, involving over 75% of this country’s wild lands as managed ecosystems for livestock production (BLM, 2012; ERS, 2002). This keeps undeveloped and unplowed land economically viable. Crop production notoriously destroyed most of America’s tallgrass prairie. Strong demand for beef, lamb, and cabrito provides homes for wildlife that strong vegetarian demand cannot. 

Livestock manure and litter generate significant quantities of fertilizer for crops. This suppresses the need for fossil-fuel generated inorganic fertilizer. If there were no carnivores, crop production would depend heavily on resource-costly, less-efficient, and more biohazardous sources such as chemical fertilizer, compost, and municipal waste, respectively. Furthermore, farmers in a purely vegetarian system would display poor stewardship in composting retired dairy cows and laying hens instead of availing them as human food.  

Finally, grazing animals have expanded the human food supply with their ability to use rumen bacteria to convert indigestible cellulosic plant fibers into energy for growth. They use something useless to us to create something useful for us. The USDA categorizes less than 20% of land as arable (ERS, 2002). Another 26% represents land unsuitable for cropping but ideal for grazing. Livestock production doubles land capacity for food production. I eat meat because I care for creation, stewarding what little land we have for the greatest good. 

Some of the greatest animal lovers in the world are carnivores. The honored stewards that raise animals for meat find it obvious that to abuse, neglect, or ignore creation offends their purpose as human beings and jeopardizes the sustenance that creation offers. In response to the prompt, “Is it right to eat animals when human survival is not at stake?” I believe it is right to eat animals because human survival is at stake. Responsible stewardship of life guarantees its sustainability.

...what do you Think?


  1. Good essay, Cassie. Hope it wins the contest.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Rachel!

  2. Whoop!

    A&M graduate student supports your stewardship.

    Awesome writing and profound insight.

  3. It was never God's will that we kill animals and eat dead flesh; although he allows it, it is better to follow his original plan-vegetarianism. It is better for all involved: health, environment and better for the animals

  4. Thanks for your thoughts, Annette. However, I find greater evidence in the Bible supporting this: God never operates on Plan B.

    1. I like meat. Let's get a burger in Austin sometime.