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Runner-Up for Essay Contest: “Why It’s Unethical to Eat Meat” by Loren Fry

By Visiting Animal — April 26, 2012

We’re excited to announce another runner-up for our contest, “Calling All Herbivores: Tell Us Why It’s Unethical to Eat Meat.” It is by Loren Fry. Tomorrow we will announce the winner, so stay tuned.

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RUNNER-UP

Why It’s Unethical to Eat Meat

by Loren Fry

People refusing to eat meat affirm a truth that many others find fanatical: that eating meat is wrong. And while this opinion may consign us to the status of overly emotional dilettantes, I have not come to my conclusion based on my emotions but rather the emotions and feelings of animals, otherwise known as sentience.

Photo Courtesy Farm Sanctuary (www.farmsanctuary.org)

All living, breathing beings are sentient. While the degree of intelligence varies by species, each is imbued with the ability to feel pain, respond to threatening situations and experience heightened emotional states, just like us. When eating a steak, you’re consuming the bodily remnant of an animal who was self-aware, loved, was highly sensitive to pain, felt sadness and joy and avoided threats. What’s more, you’re consuming a being who endured both mental and physical agony just to become your dinner. While a cow may not be able to have a conversation or solve a math problem, shouldn’t sentience make their life worth something?

Imagine eating your dog or cat. Unthinkable, right? Like me, you’d exhaust any financial resource necessary to save and preserve the life of your companion animal. In western culture, dogs and cats hold a special rank in the human family and are afforded much consideration. Yet, in many non-western cultures, slaughtering them for human consumption is completely acceptable. Is it defensible that, since we’ve placed dogs and cats in a “do not eat” category, it’s fine to kill other animals of equal or greater intelligence simply because our companions have fallen arbitrarily into a group of favor?

According to the Cambridge University Veterinary School, pigs “have the cognitive ability to be quite sophisticated. Even more so than dogs, and certainly three-year-olds.” That’s a three year old human being, by the way! Researchers have taught pigs to play video games with joysticks, where they beat dogs in both speed and accuracy, and have also suggested that pigs can express an extensive range of unique personality traits, much like us. Despite this, the average American consumes 51 pounds of pig meat each year. Incidentally, it’s been said that pork is the most similar tasting meat to human flesh, but that could be a due to the fact our genomes are so similar when compared. (It’s evolution, check it out.)

Meat eaters consume certain animals, but spare others, simply because that’s what they do — not because of any scientific evidence suggesting that one species is more appropriate to eat than another, or that it’s appropriate to eat any for that matter.

If this were simply an emotional concern, it could be easily overlooked, but it isn’t. This entire argument is based on the fact that if something lives, breathes and desires deeply to continue living, then taking its life must be justified by an extraordinarily profound ethical defense. “I really can’t live without bacon” does not fit that criteria. In fact, given that human beings have advanced so far in the understanding of agriculture and the proliferation of food from plant sources, the excuse our ancestors tens of thousands of years ago could make for taking animal life has been thoroughly invalidated, simply by virtue of human progress. Therefore, we can only assume that the billions of animals slaughtered for human consumption in the United States each year are done so for selfish, superfluous reasoning, that I want no part of.

I consider every bite of a burger, chicken wing, or pork chop to be not only an expressed denial of human evolution and progress, but a decision to either remain blissfully ignorant or brutally aware.


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(6) Readers Comments

  1. Frank Language
    Reply →
    April 26, 2012 at 8:23 am

    Taking this further, that's doubly why it's unethical to eat dairy and other animal products; an animal is trapped and enslaved longer to provide its secretions and other "gifts" than the animal that's raised and killed for meat.

  2. Angela
    Reply →
    April 26, 2012 at 10:08 am

    An extremely well written essay, Loren! This excerpt especially struck a chord with me, "When eating a steak, you’re consuming the bodily remnant of an animal who was self-aware, loved, was highly sensitive to pain, felt sadness and joy and avoided threats. What’s more, you’re consuming a being who endured both mental and physical agony just to become your dinner. While a cow may not be able to have a conversation or solve a math problem, shouldn’t sentience make their life worth something?" So very true. Human intelligence and ability is not the metric by which we should measure an animal's worth. If we compared animals to humans based on strength, ability to fly, speed etc., humans would fall short countless times. And I agree, eating meat is not a mark of human progression, but regression.

  3. Margaret S.
    Reply →
    April 26, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Great essay. Having spent my entire life easting and enjoying meet, on January 4, 2012, that all changed. In truth, I was blissfully ignorant, and it is something that embarrasses me terribly now that I am now fully aware. It was not uncommon for me to say things like "I don't trust people who don't eat meat". I've rescued all of my pets, there is not one single animal that I would ever willingly harm, yet I believed other meat was ok. Recently I was reading Eating Animals while at the gym. I've watched movies and read books, but this book got me. The writer was talking about cows and their process. I had to end my workout and leave the gym. I was crushed with guilt and sadness. January 4, 2012 my life changed. We planned a party and one of the guest asked what the punishment would be for sneaking in some sausage. After considering it for 1 few minutes, I told him it was unacceptable and he would be joining us in our wonderful vegan meal or not joining us. He is eating vegan that night.

  4. Theresa
    Reply →
    May 2, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    As a person interested in psychology, I think its really important to recognize that even among people there is a large range of the types of intelligence, who knows maybe the are more emotionially intelligent than us.

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