Today we continue our essay results with runner-up Britt LoSacco.
Why It’s Unethical to Eat Meat
by Britt LoSacco
Contrary to what many omnivores assert, whether to eat meat is not simply a matter of taste or personal preference. Because of its massive implications — spanning concerns of well-being for animals, humans, and the environment — it is, at its very core, a question of ethics.
The current methods by which 99% of animals are “farmed” for human consumption are appallingly cruel. Livestock are kept cramped in close quarters, often unable to move entirely, wallowing in their own waste. Because they are viewed not as living beings but as commodities, they are treated at best with indifference and at worst with violence. When the time comes to “harvest” their flesh for meat, their deaths are executed so inefficiently that the animals often continue to struggle well into “processing.”
Study after scientific study continues to reveal, with increasing poignancy, the significant capacity that non-human animals have for reason and emotion. If more people were honest with themselves, they would likely allow that their own personal experience demonstrates this as well. Animals are not unaware of or undamaged by the horrendous conditions of their existence. They slump helplessly in their misery, cry out in pain, shriek in terror when another’s life is taken, and clamber for self-preservation in the knowledge that they may be next.
The remaining 1% of meat production — the so-called “humane” farm — is not exempt from cruelty. Though the animals may live in more respectable conditions, they still suffer the same heart-rending fear when their lives are ended. Just as with factory farms, the deaths are not physically and psychologically painless nor as swift as their proponents would like people to believe.
As unspeakable as these atrocities are on their own, the very worst part is that they are wholly unnecessary.
It is not nutritionally essential for humans to consume meat in order to survive — or to thrive. Studies consistently show that those who eschew the consumption of animal products tend to be in far better health than their counterparts. Eating meat is correlated with an increased risk for virtually all chronic disease. Plant-based diets are associated with a reduction, and even elimination, of these risks.
And if compassion and health weren’t significant enough, there is also the environment to consider.
On a large scale, it is highly inefficient and, ultimately, unsustainable to expend water and energy on producing plants to feed animals. Those animals then require even more water resources, expel tons of toxic waste into the ecosystem, and have to be processed so that they can provide nutrient-poor food for humans — and far fewer calories’ worth than went into raising the animals themselves. It is notably more sustainable to simply grow nourishing plant foods and feed them to people directly.
Not to mention the massive amount of land required for farming both the animals and their sustenance. The depletion of the rainforests has been a concern for decades, and they are increasingly cleared to make way for livestock and feed.
Ethics are a set of moral principles, parameters that determine what is right and what is wrong. Something that is ethical supports that which is decent, honorable, and virtuous — that which is right. When considering that eating meat contributes to the unnecessary suffering of sentient beings, to a decline in the quality of human health, and to the degradation of the environment, it can only be concluded that to do so is unethical. That a person enjoys bacon or wants to eat a steak is inconsequential. The prevailing truth is that it is wrong.