photo by Kevin Dooley
I, Andie Mitchell, am crazy about animals. So let’s start there. I’m one of those annoying people who emails friends with the latest video of a squirrel and a duck playing together. I can’t pass a dog on the street without breaking into a wide-eyed grin and saying hello in this really crazy, babyish voice (absolutely as terrible as it sounds). I cry when I pass a dead raccoon on the side of the road. Just a month and a half ago, I found a teeny tiny mouse, curled up in a ball, dead, in the corner of my living room, and I was convinced he’d died because he had no way to escape my apartment since we blocked this small hole in my closet. I cried like you wouldn’t believe. And yet, I eat meat almost everyday.
photo by Thomas Vlerick
I have a very difficult time reconciling my love of animals and my eating meat. I really do. Not for health reasons, but for ethical ones. In the past, I’ve gone through periods where I’ve completely eliminated meat, and each time, I’ve failed. After a few weeks, or maybe months, I eventually find myself at a friend’s table, or a restaurant, or on some food tour, and I just can’t will myself to abstain. Meat is plentiful, a convenient source of protein, fat, and calories, and sometimes regrettably for me — delicious. Burgers are the reason I stay married to meat.
photo by Martin Abegglen
I give in not because I don’t care; no, I give in because it’s easy to give in, and I’m certain that’s not a good enough reason. I’ve spent a long time debating the ethics of consuming living creatures. At this point in my life, I just don’t know if I am capable of completely giving up meat. I can rationalize eating animals as being ethical and healthful — meaning, I listen to the argument in favor of eating animals and all of the positives behind doing so; I understand them, and I can certainly acknowledge a large part of the validity — but honestly, I’m not all the way there in believing that it’s right for me.
photo by Neil Turner
People often use the argument that eating meat is OK because other animals do it. “Is it immoral for a lion to eat a gazelle?” “Would a shark have an ethical problem with eating you?” The difference is that humans are capable of moral reason, sharks are not. Other animals are not bound by morality because they don’t have the capacity to comprehend the consequences of their actions. I have other food sources available to me; I don’t need to rely on animals to sustain me. And at the very base of it, I just don’t like the idea that I have the power to decide when another sentient being dies.
photo by langleyo
One aspect of this debate that I absolutely cannot ethically stomach is the role of factory farming. Animals in factory farms are largely treated inhumanely and the environmental impact of the industry is potentially disastrous. The meat produced by these farms is often less nutritious than the meat from animals that have been raised and slaughtered on farms where they’re able to roam freely and eat their natural diet, and that’s in large part because of the widespread mistreatment and the poor and unnatural conditions in which they live. And so, even though I have accepted meat as part of my life, I do strive to eliminate meat from factory farming sources. I’m not wholly successful because of the prevalence of factory farmed products (when I’m out to dinner, I can’t always be sure where the meat is from), but I avoid it whenever I can. One important thing to note is that animals can and do play an important role in sustainable farming, so I think there is a sound ethical argument for eating meat that comes from these sustainable sources.
I am not entirely sure of the point of this post, or where to leave it. I’m not trying to convince anyone to eat meat, or to avoid it. People are generally aware of the arguments on either side and have made a decision for themselves. And that’s what we’ve all got to do. It’s so personal. It’s cultural. Societal. You need to do what you need to do.
I’d love to hear about your thoughts on eating meat.