Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Why I Am Comfortable With My Meat Eating- The Morals of Meat Eating

Cow lips- yummy, delicious, and moral
I have a dream to one day own our own land and be able to raise our own animals, learning how to slaughter animals and preparing them to eat. From then on, I want to be the one to slaughter all the animals that end up on the family's table.

Some of you are probably aghast at this- why would I have a dream to slaughter animals? Do I have an insatiable blood lust or something? Am I a cruel person who likes blood, guts, and gore?

Not at all.

I was present twice in my life when animals were being slaughtered. It was not a pleasant sight, I'll admit.

I'm really not a blood,guts, and gore type of person. I couldn't make it through the first five minutes of the movie "Saving Private Ryan" and watching my kids getting their blood drawn makes me weak at the knees.

The reason I want to learn how to slaughter animals is not because I relish the idea of being the one to end an animal's life. In fact, the first few times I try to learn how to slaughter would probably make me weak at the knees and a little nauseated.

The reason I want to learn how to slaughter and then slaughter all the meat that ends up on my table is because I feel it is important and the moral thing to do. Animal slaughter is gruesome. It's bloody. It's upsetting.
Buying your meat prepackaged from the butcher store ready to eat instead of slaughtering it yourself is divorcing yourself from the reality that an animal's life was ended- an animal is now dead for the sole purpose of nourishing your body. It is no more morally superior to buy cellophane wrapped chicken breast than to slaughter the chicken yourself.

I want to be the one to slaughter the animal that I eat because I think its very important the people realize that whenever they eating meat, they're eating the flesh of an animal- an animal that died for the sake of nourishing your body.

While vegans will say that the solution to this is to cut out all animal meat from your diet, I don't think it's a good idea to cut out all meat because you don't want to take the life of an animal.
It's a fact that a vegan diet doesn't provide all the necessary nutrients that's a human needs, for example vitamin B12. Other nutrients are not so bio-available when eaten from a plant source but are bio available when from an animal source.
I think it is necessary to eat meat in order to be fully healthy- there are many people who were die hard vegans and despite taking nutritional supplementation got very sick and were required by doctors to start eating animal products again, and once they did, they got their health back.

 "Animals are people too", and "Just like you wouldn't dream of eating a person, how can you dream of eating an animal?" - I've heard these sentiment from vegans and other animal lovers.
I think people who say "Animal s are people too", raising animals to the "level of humans" have gotten it all wrong. Animals are not people. In fact, I'd say "People are animals too"- and just like animals eat other animals, so can and should people. Nothing immoral about it. Not any more so than killing a plant and eating it.
And as for the argument of sentience, its been discovered recently in many different studies that plants are more sentient than originally thought, that they communicate with each other, respond to fear and stress, and have kin recognition.

That's the harsh reality of life- that in order to nourish one body, some life, whether animal, bird, fish, or plant, had to be cut short.

A lion killing a gazelle for food- is it immoral? Not anymore than it is for a rabbit to rip up a batch of wild mallow and chomp it down.

Each species has its own type of food that their body needs to function properly. Some people are able to be healthy on a vegan diet, but many people try out vegan diets and their health suffers as a result. I do believe that there are some people that are able to go on a vegan diet healthily, provided they supplement with vitamins B12 and make sure to not eat too much soy and take care to make grains as digestible as possible, etc...
However, some people, even if their health suffers because of their vegan diet, won't eat animal products because of moral reasons. Attempting to go against what your body needs in an effort to be a "good person" is not morality, it's foolishness. Its immoral to hurt yourself. And if you don't care about yourself, and would rather save an animal's life than your own, that's one thing, but if you have kids or a spouse, is it moral to put an animal's life ahead of your own, so that your family will end up suffering when your health suffers as a result? And when its not just yourself that is cutting out meat, but your children eats only vegan because of your moral beliefs, its even more problematic. Is it moral to put an animal's life ahead of the health of your child? I obviously think not.

Now, don't worry, its not that I think morality isn't a factor in eating animals. I certainly do! I'll get to that in a little bit.

But first- what do our bodies say? What types of foods are we built to eat?

Looking at the mouth of an animal tells you what type of foods they should eat. Carnivorous animals like lions have teeth that are all sharp and pointy, meant to rip flesh from bones. Herbivores like horses have incisors for biting off grasses, etc... and then a long row of molars, meant to chew up all the plant material.
Our teeth are not like either the cat- the carnivore (meat eater)- or the horse- the herbivore (the strict vegan).

No, our teeth are most similar to the chimpanzee's teeth- see the picture and compare for yourself, or similarly, the grizzly bear's teeth, both of whom are omnivores- they eat a diet that is largely of plant matter, but 2-10% of their diet is animal products. If we listened to our body and ate what our teeth tell us that our bodies are meant to eat, we'd do the same- eating mostly vegetable products with some meat here and there.

That's how my diet is- probably 3/4 of the meals I eat are vegan, and the rest are animal flesh together with plant matter.

Traditionally, that's how people ate as well. If you want to talk about the "Caveman", they didn't go hunting every day. They didn't eat animal products three meals a day, plus snacks, like most Paleo people do today. They foraged for veggies and fruit and supplemented that with meat, fish, and eggs, but certainly not as much meat every day as people on a Paleo diet do today.
But lets not talk about the caveman. Lets talk about people and how they ate for the last few thousand years, after the rise of agriculture.

It takes a LONG time to raise animals. If people raised their own animals, it would take a while for the animal to be grown long enough to make it worth slaughtering. I know that in my culture, at least in the past few hundred years, people generally slaughtered 1 chicken every week, maybe 2, and a few times a year slaughtered a bigger animal. If people had to raise all the animals they ate in addition to growing or foraging everything else they ate, there's no way on earth they would have been able to eat animals at the same rate most people do today- they'd decimate their flock/herd in a very short time, and have nothing left to eat.

But tradition and feasibility aside, what about the morals involved?

Assuming animal products are necessary for humans to be healthy, and based on much research I've done on the topic, I conclude that it is- is it really moral to be killing sooooo many animals just to satisfy your craving for animal flesh? Should we be eating meat 3 or more times a day, just because our body needs some meat? Should more animals be killed than necessary?

I think that while people on the vegan end of the spectrum go overboard with their concern for animal rights and morality over health, I think people on the opposite end of the spectrum go overboard with their concern for health over morality. Both aspects need to be considered, in my opinion.

Eat meat. Its important. But do you really need to be having it 3-5 times a day, or even once a day? Are you considering each time that you bite into your boneless chicken breast that you're eating the breast of a chicken? Are you appreciative of the fact that an animal gave its life for you to be able to eat your meal?

There are so many people today that love eating meat, but would never even buy a whole chicken (feathers, head, feet, and internal organs removed) and chop it up into portion size, because that's "too gross". And people that will only eat meat that comes already deboned.
Because they don't want to come to terms with the fact that they're eating an animal. The concept weirds them out. So they don't think about it. They eat their hot dogs and their hamburgers and their bacon, conveniently forgetting that what they're really eating is chicken flesh, cow flesh, and pig flesh. I assume that's why we generally use the words "beef, veal, pork, ham, and venison" instead of cow meat, baby cow meat, pig meat, and deer meat. Because we want to enjoy the taste without having to think about the morals behind what we're eating.
Pressure cooked cow lungs
People look at me weirdly when I tell them I eat animal gizzards, liver, kidneys, hearts, lungs, tongues, intestines, lips, skin, bones, etc... But morally, I feel it is important to eat these- you killed an animal, for goodness sake, so you could eat it! The least you could do is eat the whole thing and not throw part of the animal in the garbage!
That goes for wasting animal products and throwing out leftovers as well.
I can tell you this- if I were an animal and were killed for food, I would want every last bit of me to be used and used and used so there was no waste.
For anyone that argues that its immoral to eat meat, I'd say that that's debatable- but throwing out any edible part of the animal? That's, in my opinion, absolutely immoral.

There's a middle path.

Eat meat. As much as you need to be healthy. (Yes, everyone has different needs for that, and when someone needs to heal their body from a bad diet, they may need to eat more meat temporarily, but it typically isn't necessary to eat that way forever, just until the body heals.)
But don't forget ever that an animal died to nourish you. Appreciate it. Embrace the fact that its an animal, and have gratitude to the animal for giving its life so that you can eat your meal. Call it by its name- cow meat, pig meat, chicken meat, not by the euphamisms they're commonly known by. Eat the whole animal- don't throw out any edible part of it. Don't buy meat that comes already proportioned so you can't tell its an animal- bring dead animals with their bones into your house so that you're aware that what you're eating is an animal.

And maybe consider if you really need to be eating so many animals, or if you put your craving for animal flesh above moral concerns.

And that is why I am totally comfortable with how I eat meat. Because I am cognizant of the fact that I'm eating an animal, appreciate it, don't waste it, and at the same time, am not interested in sacrificing my health or the health of my family on the alter of morality.

Are you a vegan? Paleo? Somewhere in between? When it comes to diet, do you put morals first? Or health first? Or do you try to balance them both? How do you find that balance?
If you're a meat eater, would you ever slaughter your own animals? Why or why not?


  1. Another thing worth considering when speaking with aggressive vegans/vegetarians is that the harvesting process for grains and plant foods is in no way without animal death, either. Harvesting equipment destroys many many animals which then are not even eaten; just left to rot. Granted, it's a cycle, since the animals we eat may also eat crops. . .

    1. That's a pretty moot point. Even if what you're saying is true, there's still less death involved in eating plants than meat. I'm not even vegan or vegetarian but I just think it's a bit of a silly point.

  2. You raise many interesting points, and offer a lot of food for thought. Pun intended. But you neglect to discuss a huge issue intertwined w/ the decision of whether or not to eat animals: the conditions in which they were raised. Eating a pasture raised, free range chicken who ate worms and bugs and who basked in the sun daily is gonna give your body far superior nourishment than eating a factory farmed chicken that was pumped with antibiotics and vaccines. I for sure would eat a lot more meat and chicken if I could get high quality products locally. You also don't mention quantity and frequency of eating. As you said, it takes a long time to raise, slaughter and prepare animals to eat when you do it "old school"; this results in much less consumption than when all one has to do is run to the store for some shnitzel. And yes, I agree, there are many vegans w/ serious malnourishment; there are also plenty of very unhealthy meat eaters. Just sayin'. Anyway, thanks for sharing your ideas.

    1. The condition in which animals were raised definitely is a big issue- which is another reason why I want to raise and slaughter my own animals.
      I did mention frequency of eating- 2-10% of the diet being animal products...

      Meat eating vs not eating is not the only factor in a healthy diet- there are meat eaters who do it badly, and there are vegans who do it badly, meat eaters who do it correctly and vegan eaters who eat a pretty good diet. But morality is the topic I was focusing on.

  3. Very thoughtful post. I particularly liked this part: "People are animals too"- and just like animals eat other animals, so can and should people."

    I hadn't thought of it that way before but it makes a lot of sense.

    I've done strict paleo and it just didn't feel good to me, even with just eggs subbed in for some meals. Now I'm on a diet of mostly just meat at dinner and always with veggies. The trick is getting veggies into those first two meals - carbs are too darn easy.

  4. What really ticks me off is the vegetarians who feed their cats and dogs a vegetarian diet, too. To me that is very arrogant and bordering on animal abuse.

    1. I could not agree with you more. Diabetes among pets is on the rise because we are feeding our animal non-biologically sound diets rich in grains (look at a bag of dry cat food some time and see how much corn is in it!) which is unsuitable for a carnivore's needs. Now take away all meat and see how quickly the animal becomes malnourished and obese. Makes me angry.

    2. I am a vegan. I feed my pets as my vet instructs, which means a meat-based diet. I fed my babies meat as instructed by my pediatrician and nutritionist. One became a French chef [which means everything is cooked in duck fat ;) ], the other became a vegetarian who works in a vet's office.

      My philosophy in life is that everyone must do what is right for them.

  5. We use different words for the animal vs the meat due to class and linguistic history! (This is one of my favorite useless facts to share at parties...) It goes back to Normans and Algo-Saxons in Britain after the Norman invasion. The peasants (Anglo-Saxon) raised the animals, using their more Old English/Germanic origin names (Cow, pig, sheep, etc.), while the nobility (Normans) generally ate the prepared dishes only and used the Romanic language origin names (beef, pork, mutton, etc.). I'm absolutely fascinated with sociolinguistics!

  6. At 43, I'm the exact age my father was when he had his first massive heart attack. Heart disease has also taken the lives two of my grandparents in their early 60s. Luckily, I've been vegetarian for 25 years and vegan for 23. At age 40,after being tested found out that I had high cholesterol. If I had not been vegan all these years I'd have died by now from heart disease. I've raised my almost seventeen-year-old daughter vegan, and at nearly 5'10, she's the epitome of health. B-12 is in soil and is on vegeatable & fruits if we don't over wash them. Vitamin B-12 in not in meat but is there because of the fecal material that can't be washed off, so it's a falicy that we "need" meat. That being said,everyone has different genetics and some people can eat animals and not get heart disease but if I want to live long enough to see my daughter grow up and have children of her own, then I can't consume animal products.

    1. You might want to research your diet method and your cholesterol. Studies have been starting to find that when you don't get enough from your diet your body will over produce it. My entire family eats lots of meat and we have very low cholesterol. Yes there may be a heredity aspect to this, but the logic is actually very reasonable. This is sort of similar to what happens when not enough calcium is consumed.

  7. I am not a strict anything. If possible I tend to avoid meat-probably because that is how I've been brought up but for me there is no morality attached, it's simply a matter of taste. And, as such, I feel comfortable with the fact that others have been brought up to prefer meat.
    I refuse, however, to accept that any particular mode of eating/food group is vital to health.
    I also agree fully with the outlook that, if one wants to eat meat, one should access it as close as possible to the process by which it became food.
    But, again, for me personally, I would rather get it where it least resembles that from which it came :D. Cowardly, admittedly.

  8. Very well written article. You made some very valid points. I personally thing vegans are extremists (just my opinion) I think all foods have a place in our diets as long as they are organic, free range, hormone, antibiotic free.
    The Bible says that we have domain over animals. They ate animal flesh.
    Vegans diets I do not believe is healthy although at least not for me, but for some people its works. It depends on your body genetics, race and many different factors. But there is no doubt that you need B-12 for good health.
    I have never agreed with any extreme diet of any sort whatever it is was.

  9. This year I started eating meat again after fourteen years as a vegetarian - it was mostly because I wanted to eat a very unprocessed diet and focus on real food, plus I cut out gluten, which removed a large portion of vegetarian food.

    I haven't looked back since - and I agree with you about eating the whole animal. I enjoy liver, heart and some of the more unpopular cuts of meat (which is great because they're all cheap). I also eat kangaroo, which is an environmentally friendly option here in Australia.

  10. I live on a farm and have slaughtered and watched the slaughters of several animals. It's not gruesome, bloody and upsetting as you say. In fact, at times it's downright beautiful and spiritual.

    I've seen with my own eyes ducks come to my husband to be killed when he asked the flock which one of them would volunteer. There's a relationship and mutual understanding between animal and human that can exist and makes meat eating a normal and ethical choice.

    I say thank you to the carrots I pick just as I thank the chicken for becoming my dinner. Neither is worth more than the other.

    1. Beautiful! We hunt and I feel the same. When you have respect for food the way you think about food changes.

  11. I am vegan, and have various reasons for being one. Overall health (I don't get sick for more than a day at a time now, and I used to be sick for weeks on end), animal cruelty, and factory farming are a few the reasons, but the destruction of the environment, both soil and water, is another. The sheer amount of resources used in the production of meat products is staggering. The damage to the environment because of contaminated runoff, methane gas, fecal matter, and clear cutting is horrible. Water may not seem like a scarce commodity, but fresh water is becoming one. Yes, you need to clear land in order to grow plants to eat, but a lot of the crops are being fed to food animals. It's another "moral" point to consider.

    I agree with you that if you're going to eat meat, you should know where it comes from (raise it yourself), and you shouldn't waste any part of it. I'm not willing to do that, so I'll continue to be a super healthy vegan.

  12. Your argument kind of skips over vegetarians--people who do not eat meat, but eat other animal products such as dairy, eggs, and honey. It's easier to get good nutrition from a vegetarian diet than a totally vegan one. It does seem, though, that different body types thrive on different diets.

    Personally, I have been healthier and stronger since I reduced the meat in my diet. Here's a four-week example of how my family eats. My improved health may be partly from avoiding the bad stuff in the factory-farmed meats I used to eat, some of which were heavily processed. I don't like meat enough to justify spending extra money and effort getting healthier meat. I'd rather buy little to no meat and put the savings toward organic dairy and produce. But if my family was unhealthy or unhappy on this diet, we'd adjust our priorities differently.

    Morally, I agree that eating animals is no more "cruel" than eating plants. I do think that the environmental impact of food production is a moral issue. I think you addressed the not-wasting and being-grateful aspects of it very well. In general, it takes more resources to produce meat than to produce plant foods, so it's more sustainable to eat mostly plants--but the production of some plant foods can be very wasteful, too. It's important to think about the impact of all our choices.

  13. I know that you live abroad, but are you able to hunt or fish where you are? We are avid meat eaters in this family, and we strive to have as much of that as possible come from animals that we have harvested ourselves. My husband and I both hunt deer and small game. We make a point of wasting as little as possible (the goal to be wasting nothing). Yes it is not pretty work, but being able to feed your children something that they saw the process of is a learning opportunity and actually builds an appreciation for animals. We respect everything that we hunt and do it within the regulations provided. I see buying meat at store as supplementing our freezer.



    "In fact, I'd say "People are animals too"- and just like animals eat other animals, so can and should people. Nothing immoral about it. Not any more so than killing a plant and eating it."

    Only predators eat animals, so I think this argument is not valid.

    1. This is not true, many animals come to eat the remaining meat left over from a predators kill. They're scavengers. In fact, it is thought that we were scavengers as well, before we began to hunt.

  15. I appreciate the points in your article. I've cut down on the amount of meat I eat over time, and I try to buy it only if it's been more ethically grown. I'm not all the way there yet though, in that I don't yet eat the "weird" (not really, just not what I'm used to!) parts of the animal. I believe in it, but would rather find another use for them, like giving them to the pets, who are delighted. Is there not concern over residual toxins and so on in liver and other organ meats? I've heard that. I'd be interested to hear what you think about that issue.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking article.


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