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Should I eat meat? That is the question!

Updated on June 19, 2013
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Why on earth am I tackling this topic?

The link you will see if you look to the right will take you to the excellent hub (by Mr. Happy) that inspired me to write this one. In that hub there is an eloquent defense of meat eating. Or at least a slap in the face of those zealous vegans who try and thrust their views upon others. I agree with him that those vegetarians who enjoy looking down on meat-eaters are irritating. I also agree that the vegan ideal can be ridiculous in its extremity. I do not, however, agree with his defenses of meat-eating... and I eat meat!

In a society as advanced as ours... is it necessary to take part in the food chain as a predator any longer?
In a society as advanced as ours... is it necessary to take part in the food chain as a predator any longer? | Source
Is eating meat an addiction? How easy would you find it to give this prized indulgence up?
Is eating meat an addiction? How easy would you find it to give this prized indulgence up? | Source

To the matter at hand...

This is a topic that is on my mind a fair bit at the moment. I have been a strident defender of the carnivorous trend for most of the years of my life. I am slowly changing, however. I have (admittedly slowly) begun the painful process of weaning meat out of my diet. I'm never going to completely give up meat - and I certainly won't ever expect people to prepare specially meat-free food for me if I come round for dinner... but I would like to create a lifestyle for myself that doesn't dangle meat in front of me all the time.

I am a thinking man, and for years I have come up with lots of very good reasons to throw at vegetarians that explain why they're foolish and why I should be allowed my steak thank-you-very-much! I have come to the painful conclusion however that the vegetarian question is a very simple one to answer.

Nobody should deny that if it is necessary for health or survival in your living circumstances, that eating meat is fine and natural. However, it is different when it is not necessary for health or survival. I confronted myself with the question in brute honesty... do I think it is morally acceptable to cause pain or kill an animal with a highly developed nervous system capable of suffering and being aware at least to some degree of what is happening to it... if none of that is necessary? What reason do I honestly have for eating meat other than the fact that I really enjoy the taste? (And god help me I really do!) Could I say in plain terms: I believe it is morally justified to kill and eat a cow because I like the taste of cows?

I have to admit that it doesn't sit well with me. When it comes down to it... I don't enjoy thinking of other living things suffering and dying for the sensual pleasure of a haute cuisine dining experience. If thinking of it is bad, what about the reality of it? This is real! I have done this many times, and indeed against my own moral implications continue to do it! I choose the delicious steak fully cognisant that a young animal has been slaughtered for that experience to take place.

I used to say that it is fine to eat meat as long as you take responsibility for it. As long as you understand the true value of the life that has been taken and give thanks as you eat it. As long as you knew in your heart that if the gun was in your hand you could do the deed yourself. It is, after all, the most shameless of attitudes to eat meat but not be willing to kill for it; to take pleasure in the result but not take responsibility for the act.

I used to be proud of the fact that I knew in my heart I could do this. I could take responsibility if I needed to... I could take that life in order to feed myself. With this accepted - I had no issue with eating meat. We had evolved to be an omnivorous species - meat was part of our natural diet! Or it had been for a good few hundred thousand years or so.

Meat mountain...Heaven or hell?
Meat mountain...Heaven or hell? | Source

Instead of continuing to pat myself on the back for my own cleverness and allowing myself some moral comfort I encountered someone that moved the goal posts. My fiancé, Ashley. We met on the day of the Royal wedding at a street party nearly two years ago. From the moment we met we have had the most fantastic level of conversation that never dries up. One of the conversations has been about the eating of meat.

At the time of our meeting Ash was a lapsed vegetarian – an occasional meat eater who had been a full vegetarian for years. She slipped into old ways and habits partly through my influence. She didn’t want her views to be an impediment to our developing relationship, I think. That didn’t stop her from voicing her opinions though – and I welcomed it.

I tested her opinions with my arguments – and for once listened to the vegetarian point of view without derision. It was the growing love I felt for her that enabled me to open my mind to her different perspective. That isn’t to say I was instantly swayed – or that our thoughts completely align even now. It is important I think to maintain independence of mind even when allowing oneself to consider holding a different standpoint to that which had been held before. However, the upshot of our conversation was that I began to see how my arguments for eating meat were essentially flawed. They were flawed because I had chosen an outcome that I wanted (i.e. that eating meat was fine) and was developing arguments to make the world fit that view. I was making justification for a position using arguments that were made biased by my own desires. It was no better than a sex addict justifying his habit by saying that it was natural – that it was because of evolution… Bollocks.

All this being said and done I am still in the process of making this positive change to my diet. I live in a society where ninety percent of the population have a meat addiction and have had many years to develop their linguistic systems of self-justification. The fact that so many people follow the same behaviors, does not justify continuing to do them. It is the duty of each member of our growing global community to take responsibility for their own actions and be more aware of their impact on the world and its inhabitants. There is an exponentially increasing number of voices that speak with compassion and respect for not just your fellow man, but for all living things.

Now that I have come to this revelation it has enabled me to cast aside my illusions. I live in a society where it is not necessary for me to kill beings capable of experiencing pain and suffering in order to survive. I am continuing to do so because I have a meat addiction that is reinforced constantly by the culture I live in. I am thus trying (and boy is it trying!) to wean myself off the stuff.

There is an argument mentioned in the hub that started me off on this little moralistic rant. That is the old 'What about plants? They're alive too?' argument - I used to use it and it ain't fooling anyone. Let's be honest here. When was the last time a plant screamed in pain or tried to run away from its predator? I don't mind eating plants - they have no nervous system... no pain... no consciousness to any degree. It's a silly comparison and it just doesn’t hold up.

It is quite funny though. I remember once going round to dinner at a vegetarian friend’s place. He served some ‘baby’ carrots to a mutual friend’s feigned horror. Much hilarity ensued…

To conclude...

So…I continue to attempt to mend my ways, and continue to engage in the debate. I’d be more than interested to hear any rejoinders or alternative takes on this hot topic. So please feel free to make your opinion known. Thanks for reading. :)

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    • Attikos profile image

      Attikos 4 years ago from East Cackalacky

      Should you decide not to, send me your freezer stock, please.

    • Laurinzo Scott profile image

      Live To Write 4 years ago from Phoenix, Az.

      You are very brave to tackle this issue Dan, and I too am changing my views on meat-eating...but it can't be stressed enough the benefits of protein for us as we grow older... and that are so many other sources of it!

      This is a very honest look at meat-eating my friend!

      Nice job Dan

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Honestly, Dan, I have chosen not to tackle this issue. I like meat....I understand the inner-debate, and I understand the arguments against eating meat....but I like meat. :) Good job on this issue; very honest writing.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

      You are obviously a "thinking man", as you say, Dan, and Ashley's influence caused you to give more thought to the various aspects of meat-eating and vegetarianism. You mentioned the moral aspect, but not the health reason for not eating meat.

      One has only to look at former U.S. president Bill Clinton to see that changing to a vegan diet can have excellent health benefits. Only a few years ago, most people would not have bet on Clinton's longevity--especially after his heart attack and heart bypass surgery. Now he's slim and full of energy, jetting around the world in a new career (doing good with his foundation as a senior statesman) and, from what I've read, doesn't really miss those burgers he used to pack away!

      Avoiding meat and dairy products has also been shown to reduce the pain of arthritis and other chronically painful disorders. Believe me, it's easy to stick to veggies, legumes, nuts, fruits, etc. when the payoff is less pain.

      If you do continue eating meat--particularly red meat--you might want to stay away from your local Tesco store. I recently read an article about that UK supermarket selling ground horse meat and passing it off as beef. Even the Queen had something to say about that!

      I'm a U.S. citizen, and this country has its own major problems with meat supplies in the form of huge factory farms. Those places churn out meat and poultry filled with antibiotics and other veterinary medicines, growth hormone and just plain filth. You couldn't pay me enough money to make me eat it! The agencies in our government that are supposed to ensure we have a safe food supply (the FDA and USDA) are notoriously corrupt, and they look out for the agribusiness corporations rather than consumers.

      Oops! Let me climb down off my soapbox. I did enjoy your philosophical essay about why you're giving a lot of thought to this issue and trying to eat less meat.

      Voted Up++

      Jaye

    • Dan Barfield profile image
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      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Thank you for the comment. I'll post any leftovers if you'd like though they may go off in transit :)

    • Dan Barfield profile image
      Author

      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Thank you for the comment Laurinzo. I have to say I don't feel too brave - it's really difficult to change my habits. I have only just got to the point where I can walk into a supermarket and not go to the meat section first. I used to build meals around whatever meat I'd chosen. Now I try not to. Decent vegetarian recipes will be what saves me I think - I've found a few fantastic ones but I'm constantly researching for more now :)

    • Dan Barfield profile image
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      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Thanks for dropping by billybuc! I would never have tackled the issue myself were it not for my lovely fiance. I am simultaneously grateful and enraged :) Life was alot easier when I just ignored certain moral issues. Now I've actually thought about it I can't just continue the way I was... Bugger!

    • Dan Barfield profile image
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      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Thanks for reading and thanks for the great comment! You are of course right that there are lots of health implications with eating (especially red) meats. It is strange - but I didn't actually consider this side of things as I was writing this article. Your comment has provided a perfect addendum to fill this gap. Many thanks to you JayeWisdom! :)

    • LMSommerauer profile image

      Lindsay Sommerauer 4 years ago from London, ON

      It's great to hear such an open, honest account of meat-eating habits FROM someone who eats meat. It reminded me of Jonathan Safran Foer's tone in "Eating Animals," which you might really enjoy if you haven't read it. I will be sharing this for sure - and thanks for linking my article above!

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Glad to give you an idea, Dan! Also, I recommend (as did LMSommerauer) Jonathan Safran Foer's book, EATING ANIMALS. It's one of the best I've read on the topic, and I've loaned my copy to various people. I think my grandson-inlaw currently has it, as he's re-thinking his eating style. I should buy more copies! At any rate, I recommend it to many people.

      Jaye

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Dan, a very objective view of this issue of eating meat or not. Though I am once in a while meat eater, I personally would like to become a complete vegan not just for the health benefits it offers but also the fact that eating meat amounts to a sort of sadistic pleasure in that it is related to the pain of death the animal goes through to become a source of pleasure for our taste buds.

      I love your rational take on this issue.

      Voted up.

    • Dan Barfield profile image
      Author

      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Thanks for the comment LMSommerauer! I try to live 'authentically' as Sartre would have it - and that means owning up to self-deceptions and doing something about it. It ain't an easy road - but then none are...

    • Dan Barfield profile image
      Author

      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Thanks for the comment rajan jolly! This is a tough nut to crack but worth it. Someone described it to me in analogous terms to living a carbon-neutral existence, except in this case it is one's Karmic-footprint one is trying to control rather than the carbon-footprint. I liked that idea :)

    • Dan Barfield profile image
      Author

      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Thanks for the comment JayeWisdom :) I shall have to look that book up and bury my head in it. It definitely sounds worth a read.

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      The first thought I got from reading this article relates to the following: "My girlfriend is a vegetarian, which pretty much makes me a vegetarian". And here is the full two minute clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBP0Mbc7VFw

      If You watch the following documentary, You will see that plants are not only alive but they have defense mechanisms when attacked, they even communicate with one another and prepare for exterior attacks and so on. A lot of assumptions are taken about plants (just because we are not fully knowledgeable in respect to their world/perspective) and just because they have no lungs to scream people think that plants can be killed all day long with no feelings and/or consequences. Here is the link - a great documentary done by the BBC: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VNt0mwStZI&lis...

      Saying that plants have no feeling can be seen as You "developing arguments to make the world fit that view" - no? lol ...

      Fun read! Thank You for writing it and for linking my hub.

      All the very best! : )

    • Dan Barfield profile image
      Author

      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Thanks for the comment Mr. Happy and thanks for engaging in the debate! It feels good to stretch the old brain muscles a bit eh?

      As to your point about the ability of plants to communicate and defend themselves... I disagree that this affects my argument. I have no doubt that plants communicate using chemical signals, and I am also aware of their having many defensive mechanisms to protect from predators. However, it does not logically follow from the fact that they have these things that they are also capable of feeling pain and a conscious experience of suffering. To be clear, by pain I mean it in the purest sense of the meaning i.e. the stimulation of pain receptor nerves. Plants do not have a nervous system. They do not feel pain. This is not to say that they have no physical reaction to physical damage or external stimuli - there just isn't a pain reaction. Neither is their any semblance of consciousness to be aware of the pain (if there was any).

      Anyhoo - I'm off to bed. I'm sure we'll chat more soon. Peace :)

    • iguidenetwork profile image

      iguidenetwork 4 years ago from Austin, TX

      Well, to me, meat eaters are just part of the food chain. The vegans are noisy because meat eaters are too silent, just quietly enjoying eating steaks and burgers. LOL.

      It's just a matter of personal preference. If you want to live longer and be healthy, be a vegetarian or vegan. If you want to taste all the good things while you're alive, eat meat. For now, majority of us are in the latter. Hehehe.

      Voted up, shared and a following. :)

    • Dan Barfield profile image
      Author

      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Thanks for the comment iguidenetwork! I agree that we are part of the foodchain in a pretty inescapable way... however due to advancements in the way our society works and how food is produced we can choose the way in which we are part of the food chain. In other words we have the choice to eat meat or not to without adverse affects to our health. I know it can be healthier to eat vegetarian food - but being somewhat of a hedonist this never really concerned me all that much. It is a moral choice rather than a health-conscious one. The fact it's healthier to go veggy is just a bonus to me.

    • Johan Smulders profile image

      Johan Smulders 4 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Thanks for a balanced article. I have never really given the subject much thought because I enjoy meat. We never really read articles about things that we do not want to hear about. i.e. smokers about lung cancer etc.

      Never say never, I bet you are on your way out as a moderate meat eater, but that is okay too!

    • Dan Barfield profile image
      Author

      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Thank you for the comment Johan Smulders - I do believe taking a balanced approach is important. Being critical of one's own assumption is an essential part of learning.

    • Lady_E profile image

      Elena 4 years ago from London, UK

      Thought provoking. You gave us a lot to think about. Plants are indeed living things.....but we eat them.

      At the moment I have been eating a lot of fish, after the nasty horse meat scandal we had in UK this month. God knows what else they are not telling us. Good luck with your choices.

    • Dan Barfield profile image
      Author

      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Thank you for the comment ladyE! The horse meat business is a wee bit dodgey, eh? Still... I do get annoyed when horsey types fuss over horses being eaten. Cows are much nicer animals than horses! Not to mention lambs! Aw hell... Never mind eh? Rant over for now :)

    • MrsBrownsParlour profile image

      Lurana Brown 4 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      Baby carrots, ha! I enjoyed reading this and appreciate your balanced, self-reflective, and deliberately not-too-serious approach. You made some very good points. I have been a vegetarian off and on since age 14 and my views are very similar to yours. I really like that you linked to other pro- and con- people. Also, it is wonderful to read of your happiness with your fiancee---congratulations!

    • Electro-Denizen profile image

      Electro-Denizen 3 years ago from Wales, UK

      I really enjoyed this hub. I'm a vegan. I used to hate vegans because I thought they were food extremists and full of neuroses and judgement due to their 'imbalanced' food intake! My relatives let me be a vegan and I let them eat meat, it's easy. I used to eat meat, though I haven't for 21 years. When I stopped meat I felt great, when I stopped anything animal related and became a herbivore, I felt better still. Loads of athletes switch to vegan for quicker recovery and more efficient muscle.

      I always like that 'plants have feelings too' debate, always amuses me. I was subject to it so many times, and of course it is true that plants have defense mechanisms. But as a woman said to me once: 'If you can't see the difference between a cow and a plant, then good luck to you!' I guess I do know the difference first hand, as I used to work on my uncle's pig farm during the holidays, and saw their intelligence, and terror first hand when being loaded into the lorry destined for the abattoir. No-one wants to know what goes on inside abattoirs, for obvious reasons.

      The biggest problem I see with any diet changes, is that people try something for a week or two, feel crap, blame it on the not-having-whatever-it-is, without realizing the body - and especially emotional wiring to food - takes a while to rewire. Months.

      Nice hub to read will def check out more of your writing.

    • Dan Barfield profile image
      Author

      Dan Barfield 3 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Thanks for the comment Electro Denizen! I'm glad you liked it :)

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