Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Huffington Post's Meat Debate: A Response

Image via Flickr
Earlier this month, the Huffington Post published a debate entitled "Can It Be More Ethical To Eat Meat?"

Two "experts" in the field, pro-veggie columnist Ellen Kramer of The Edgy Veggie and pro-meat columnist Daniel Klein of The Perennial Plate, wrote arguments for and against the morality of eating meat.

We noticed some pretty glaring problems with this "debate" right from the start.

1. There was no effort made to respond to the other writers' points. The debate was made up of pro and con columns placed side by side, written as if they had never seen the other's writing.

2. The debate topic was misleading as there are a variety of ways to eat both veggies or meat and varying degrees of what people consider ethical. It's safe to say, the pro-meat column didn't argue the benefits of the typical Western meat-laden diet which is all made possible by factory farming.

3. The pro-meat argument was making some pretty daring mental leaps and assumptions to try to frame meat as healthy and ethical.

Focusing on the pro-meat column specifically, we wanted to point out some problems with Klein's logic as it applies to the debate topic.

1. Klein only focuses on "limited" consumption of meat and only using meat that is humanely and organically raised, and allowed to graze. Though we all know that this type of meat is optimal to factory farmed meat, it isn't what the majority of Americans are eating and it doesn't address the question of whether it is more ethical to eat meat, which could include any number of "types" of meat that have been produced in any number of ways.

2. Klein claims that grazing animals help the environment, but he doesn't address how massive meat consumption is leading to animals being over-packed into factory farms and fed corn in order to meet demands. He acts as if grazing organic beef could supply the entire market of meat-consumers, which it sadly cannot at this point.

Due to the demand for meat, animals are being bred at an alarming rate, creating an unhealthy amount of cattle, that also produce an extremely unhealthy amount of methane gas. They also require food, which usually comes in the form of corn. We are in the midst of a global food shortage and the corn being fed to cattle could easily end this crisis if it was made available to those starving.

3. Klein claims that the only danger to eating meat happens from over-eating or consuming factory-farmed meat. He says that limited consumption of organic grass-fed beef is healthy. According to a 28-year Harvard study, those claims just aren't true.

The Harvard study found that any daily consumption of red meat (a portion the size of a deck of cards) can increase your chances of death by 13%. The China Study by Dr. Colin Campbell also found that animal protein can increase your risk of cancer and heart disease. Still Klein claims that eating organic meat can have substantial health benefits.


If Klein was trying to make the case that meat-eaters should limit their consumption and only purchase organic, humanely-raised beef, we would agree with him. If you are going to eat meat, that is the most humane and ethical way to go. That, however, does not answer the question of whether eating meat is more ethical than going vegetarian.

By skewing the argument into one of responsible meat-eating, we feel that Klein lost sight of the bigger picture, in which the only way to meet the demand for meat in America is to create a destructive factory-farming system.

Klein even acknowledges that there needs to be less meat-consumption and that people should consider going vegetarian, yet he still argues that eating meat is more ethical than a vegetarian diet. We just don't seem to understand that logic, but we do credit him for encouraging people to consider the vegetarian diet. We still find it troubling though, that he is arguing the ethical superiority of eating meat.

2 comments:

  1. All animal product consumption is ethically wrong. So-called "happy meat" is just a way for meat-eaters to feel better about what they do. The real issue is, whether factory-farmed, organic or free-range, animals bred for food end up dead.

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  2. I tend to agree that all meat consumption is ethically wrong, but I also think that if you are going to make an argument of meat eating vs. vegetarianism, you can't have the meat-eating side advocate a mostly vegetarian diet with a little bit of organic meat here and there. They are basically starting with the assumption that, yes, meat-eating is bad.

    Also, though I won't eat meat, I know others may not be where I am. For them, I'd encourage limiting their consumption as much as possible and sticking to organic grass-fed meat when they do eat it. I'd prefer everyone to be veg, but alas some people will never get there.

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