So a brief interlude here to talk about the ethics of meat eating, something most people don’t think or reflect about much. My basic argument is quite simple and rests on 3 premises:

(1) most animals that humans eat in the industrialized world such as cows, pigs, chickens, etc. are creatures that are sentient and capable of feeling pleasure, pain, and likely other emotions as well.

(2) You should not (it is morally wrong to) kill (or torture) a sentient creature unless you have a reason strong enough to override its right to exist. Killing someone because you need to in order to survive is one such reason, killing someone because you like the way they taste is not. Another way of putting this is, it is wrong to kill or torture a sentient being for the sheer pleasure of it.

(3) Most (probably all) people in industrialized societies do not need to kill sentient animals in order to survive.

Conclusion: it is wrong for most or all people in industrial societies to eat meat. It amounts to the killing (and often, torture) of sentient beings for nothing other than the sheer pleasure of it.

There are many other reasons to refrain from eating meat that rely on self-interest, but my basic moral argument is the one above. Many people resist it with all kinds of twisted and tortured arguments because they don’t want to believe that they are the kinds of people who do what the conclusion describes, but I believe the argument is sound.

From self-interest, there are two main lines of argument: health reasons (everything from BGH to E coli to mad cow, etc. in addition to the negative effects on cholesterol and the inflammatory effects of arachidonic acid), and environmental ones (the widespread effects of industrial animal agriculture on the water table, the amount of methane produced, the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the amount of grain that could be used for other purposes – if the U. S. reduced it’s meat consumption by 10% this would free up enough grain to feed 60 million people). Much has been written on these subjects already.

I welcome your comments!