Today being May 1, those who are too cheap or lazy (yours truly included) to subscribe to The New York Times online can use their first free read to see the top 6 results of "why it's ethical to eat meat" essay contest.
As you may have guessed, I entered the contest and, shock, did not place in the top 6. Compared to the winners, my essay wasn't as heartfelt or full of crazy stories. Mine was too practical and realistic, hallmark traits of my work here at BalanceofFood.com. Since this audience will appreciate it more than The New York Times, here is the essay in its entirety. Oh, and feel free to eat some meat, hopefully well-grown, while reading my essay.
Man is not the only animal that eats meat, but it's the only one who gives it any thought. Eat cow and chicken, but not dog and cat. Eat white meat but not dark meat. Eat the lean meat, not the liver. Eat cows but not veal.
When a tiger rips into the flesh of a smaller animal, the tiger never asks, "Was this grass-fed?" The tiger eats the meat, no questions asked.
Man used to justify eating meat out of self-defense. If he didn't kill the saber-tooth tiger, the tiger would eat him.
Man no longer needs to feel threatened by the animals in his world. The cow does not look at us as his dinner. Cows, chickens and pigs are meant to be vegetarians. Buffaloes eat grass.
So now man questions whether we should eat meat.
The Christian imagery in the United States is Adam having the animals at his disposal. Native peoples speak of respect for the animal, using all parts of the animal. The understanding: we have access to the animals in question, but in return, we must respect the animals.
The lack of respect for the animals is a major reason why mankind currently contemplates a world where animals are not eaten, and why many people have recently converted to vegetarianism. "If only we treat the animals better," is a common reason for new vegetarians.
About three generations ago, we had a society where we treated animals better, even as we were eating them. People ate dark meat and livers. We appreciated tougher cuts of meat because meat was expensive. Having meat on your table was a big deal.
The Interstate Highway System and fast food made for a convenient marriage. We decided we needed more meat but certain cuts, and meat had to be cheaper. We started being pickier about what meat we ate. Gone was the flavorful dark meat of the chicken. "Give me some of that white meat with 11 herbs and spices and deep fry it."
Then we decided that cows and chickens weren't fat enough fast enough. So we came up with a system to feed corn to cows. "Who cares if they can't stomach that corn? Feed them antibiotics and hormones to solve the problem."
We take inedible parts of the animal, clean them up with ammonia, and feed it to school children. Our value of the animal has been reduced to "pink slime."
So if we somehow magically go back to a time where we do treat our animals with respect, should we still eat them?
Humans can't eat grass, but cows and buffalo can eat grass. You eat what the animals you eat have eaten. When done properly and ethically, meat supplies mankind with nutrients in a distinctive and flavorful fashion.
In a world where we don't eat meat, we would have fewer cows, pigs, and chickens. Who would take care of those remaining animals? Farmers would be too busy raising vegetarian crops to feed people.
Do we want to shift our land priorities to bury cows and pigs? What about the deer overpopulation?
We would be better off if we ate less meat and more well-raised meat. The world also benefits from having more vegetarians, regardless of reason, and flexitarians, those who occasionally eat meat.
Pulling back to a time where meat was more rare (in temperature and availability) would make us appreciate the gift we have of the animals all around us.