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Should We Eat Meat?

Edgar at Opposing Views contacted me a couple of days ago about posting on a couple of debates: Should we eat meat? and Should we have pets?

I encourage everyone to comment or submit as an expert. I’d rather pose even more questions, and I don’t think they’re looking for that.

Here’s what I’d say . . .

First, I’d change the question to: Should we eat animals? Then, I’d say:

Given the reality (similar to evolution in that it is contested by a certain special interest group) that there are nonhumans whose capacity for pleasure, pain, boredom and frustration is similar to ours, why would you hold someone captive and intentionally end her life when you don’t have to? Why would you pay someone to do that for you?

Would you cage, then slaughter, then eat your dog or cat?

Given the reality that you do not need to eat the flesh, menstrual excretions or breast milk of another species in order to survive, why would you cause pain to someone and end their life when you don’t have to?

Would you suckle at the breast of your dog? Would you even suckle at the udders of a cow?

If you are female, would you eat your own menstrual secretions mid-cycle?

If not, why would you eat those of another species?

Given the reality in the developed world in 2008 that fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and grains are available and meet your nutritional needs beautifully, deliciously and without cholesterol (but with a daily squirt of B12 under your tongue), why would you cause pain to someone and end their life when you don’t have to?

If you think that some animals are for eating and some are for petting, why do you think that? Do you realize that all that is is a statement about what a culture finds acceptable? Is there a rational reason why we should eat chickens but not parrots? Lambs but not dogs? Calves who are weeks old rather than kittens?

If you doubt that chickens or fish feel pain, yet so many other people have demonstrated that they do, wouldn’t you want to err on the side of caution and not eat them just in case everyone else was right?

If you think that we should continue to eat animals because those before us did, think about some of their other practices that no longer exist, like slavery.

Why should we do something today just because we did it yesterday? What is inherently positive, productive or spiritually nurturing about slaughtering another sentient being and eating her flesh?

If you think we are omnivores and are meant to eat other animals, therefore we should, there is plenty of evidence right in our own bodies that begs to differ and puts us far closer to herbivores (e.g., our teeth, our saliva, our digestive enzymes and our digestive tracts). And when you factor into the equation that a diet free of animals can be perfectly healthy, the herbivore/omnivore dilemma is no dilemma at all.

If you think there is a god who told us that other animals are ours to eat, why do you think that is so? If your evidence comes from some kind of religious text, just remember that it was probably written thousands of years ago by men who thought the earth was flat and didn’t understand what lightning was or why it rained.

If you think the flesh of animals, or their menstrual excretions (eggs) or their breast milk is tasty, and that’s why you consume such things, and you don’t care what had to happen in order for you to eat what you want to eat, there probably is nothing I can say (or ask) to change your mind, except possibly: Do unto others . . .

12 Comments Post a comment
  1. Bea Elliott #

    Yes. It is right to "err" on the side of compassion. I don't know why people fight that part so much either. And they do "fight it". Or there wouldn't be all the odd and desperate "exceptions" to their "rules" on why it is okay to murder sentient beings for thier flesh.

    Nothing makes any sense in thier "rationalizations" – but still they clinge to thier meat. And they refuse to objectively investigate what in their twisted logic makes it "exceptable" or "necessary" to take the life of another being. Those are the tyrants. That is the war.

    Very sad to have such non-thinking brutes wield such power over the innocent. Ditto on "Do unto others".

    August 27, 2008
  2. Here's what I'd say.

    Should we eat animals? No.

    Before you read the rest of my response, go vegan for one month. If you're seriously considering whether you should eat animals or not, then you ought to stop eating animals long enough to make a clear decision between the two behaviors. Without experience, your decision will certainly be biased and flawed.

    Now that the only readers are permanent or temporary vegans I can assume I don't need to dispel myths about veganism such as the myth that vegans are weak (vegans tend to be just as healthy or more healthy than meat-eaters) or the myth that it's too difficult to be a vegan (in today's society it's just as easy to eat vegan as it is to eat kosher or to follow any popular diet). I don't need correct people who say veganism is a privileged position only for the wealthy (poor people tend to eat less meat as a rule and don't have any major issue going vegan unless rich, powerful food lobbies make it hard for them). I don't need to explain where my protein comes from (beans, nuts, grains, vegetables, and fruits). And I don't need to prove that vegan food tastes great (there's a whole world of vegan food out there – plenty of it is extremely tasty).

    And now that the only readers are permanent or temporary vegans I can assume the readers reading this come to the question of whether or not we should eat meat without meat-eating guilt and absurd rationalizations. Now we can have an honest discourse about meat-eating and veganism.

    As you likely know, there are numerous reasons why people choose to eat animals or not. Here are some of the most compelling reasons we should not eat animals:

    1. For The Animals: It's immoral to force animals to breed, live, and die according to our arbitrary whims. Animals feel pain and can suffer. They have desires and needs. They do not want to become your dinner. Since we don't need to eat animals to survive, we shouldn't eat animals.

    2. For Your Health: Eating a plant-based, whole foods diet is healthy. There are numerous diseases associated with meat-eating. If you're concerned about your health, you should limit or eliminate meat-eating.

    3. For The Future: Animal agriculture is a major polluter. If you care about the environment and if you care about stopping or slowing climate change, you should limit or eliminate your consumption of animal products.

    Thank you for reading.

    August 30, 2008
  3. Paul Gilbreath #

    "Given the reality in the developed world in 2008 that fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and grains are available and meet your nutritional needs beautifully, deliciously and without cholesterol (but with a daily squirt of B12 under your tongue)"

    One sentence more than it needed. I don't know any vegans who require "a daily squirt of B12 under (their) tongue", and I personally haven't taken a supplement in my 13 years of veganism. Different people have different nutritional needs, of course, but please don't play up veganism's supposed lack of B12.

    September 1, 2008
  4. Paul,

    I originally wrote "maybe a daily squirt" then revised. If you don't eat foods fortified with B12 (I don't eat many), then, at least according to the expert I defer to, Kerrie Saunders, Ph.D. ("Dr. Food" at and a PCRM nutrition expert), you should be taking a supplement. And the sublingual B12 is the easiest/best absorbed. So I don't have to type a passage from her book, as I'm feeling lazy, here's one from the Vegetarian Resource Group:
    Also, B12 deficiencies don't show up for years, so you might not know you weren't getting enough until you were already deficient (because you banked the B12 you previously took in). Although we need only a couple of MICROgrams each day, for those who eat no processed foods and have yet to develop a taste for nutritional yeast, I have yet to see an expert in nutrition NOT recommend supplementation.

    September 2, 2008
  5. Paul Gilbreath #

    Forgive me for getting a little defensive, but:

    The "maybe" qualifier is important, as you're using a generality to cover someone's specific dietary history and nutritional needs. I'm raw vegan; mostly uncooked diet, no supplements or processed fortified foods. For me, the question of "where do you get your B12?" has the ring of meat eaters asking "where do you get your protein?". It doesn't gibe with my experience. If observation of a case (here, the raw and natural hygiene community) defies assumptions we need to reexamine those assumptions.

    From your article: "Plant foods do not contain vitamin B12 except when they are contaminated by microorganisms" and "When only active vitamin B12 is measured, plant foods including fermented soyfoods and sea vegetables do not contain significant amounts of active vitamin B12"

    I would need to know what "contaminated" and "not… significant" are here. While B12 in vegans' blood tends to be lower, this does not itself constitute a deficiency without symptoms.

    100 grams of oats contain 0.3 micrograms of B12. and suggest that B12 deficiency is an absorption & reuptake issue, not an intake one, and that vegans' need for B12 intake is naturally lower due to healthier immune systems. Quote:

    "Why would it be that we are created in such a way as to make us a natural plant-eater and hey presto, there is no vitamin B12 provided for us by plants? Just because a wild fruit or organic foodstuff contains only a small amount, this does not mean it is deficient. It means that we only need a small amount"

    September 5, 2008
  6. Paul Gilbreath #

    P.S.: I don't recommend PCRM sources in general. McDougall, while still recommending supplements (weekly at most, according to him), takes a much more conservative view: And he holds a Ph.D. ;>

    September 5, 2008
  7. Paul,
    I don't see McDougall as saying anything different from what I or Kerrie Saunders (who does have a PhD) says: His first shadowbox: "If you follow the McDougall Diet for more than 3 years, or if you are pregnant or nursing, then take a minimum of 5 micrograms of supplemental vitamin B12 each day."

    My thinking is that I wouldn't want to wait for symptoms of a deficiency; I'd rather be proactive. And I wouldn't want to lead people to believe that by being vegan they necessarily were getting all they needed. I probably should've just left the "maybe" in the original post.

    I have read in many places that B12 deficiencies are just as likely in meat-eaters (if not more) than vegans. Here's a whole thread on that for anyone interested (with links to articles and experts):
    I'm sure there are other threads.

    Also, if I lived in Minnesota and worked inside all day, I might now get all of the Vitamin D I need. I probably should've mentioned that.

    The reality is that any diet can produce deficiencies if not properly constructed, and that includes a diet that includes animals. I probably should have said that, too.

    September 6, 2008
  8. Not a moron #

    Animals are ours to eat. Just like when a wolf eats a rabbit. That rabbit is the wolf's to eat. Are we omnivores? Yes. Oh sure we might have indigestion and our teeth are maybe more suited towards agriculture these days vs. chewing raw meat, but we've adapted ways of overcoming those things. You think carnivores never have indigestion? Some non-human primates use blades of grass to catch ants, despite not being designed as anteaters. Ants are for chimps to eat, even if they don't have an anteater proboscis. While I believe in avoiding suffering, determining if I have or don't have a 'right' to consume animal flesh is an anathema to natural law.

    March 25, 2009
  9. By your reasoning just because we began our existance sleeping in caves and pooping in the woods – we should continue doing so. We are obliged, as a civilization to advance beyond primitive habits and archaic practices. Attempts to preserve ancient (violent) custom with modern awareness defeats it's own argument… and becomes exactly what it is: unreasoned justfication for a brutal, immoral act.

    March 26, 2009
  10. Not a moron, the thing is that's the only way a wolf will survive. We have other options. We're intelligent enough to recognize those options. And also, for the record, I think that just because a wolf CAN and does eat the rabbit, that doesn't mean the rabbit somehow belongs to the wolf and that the wolf is entitled. Same goes for us.

    November 14, 2009
  11. Plant food cannot substitute for meat. I already tried that and failed.

    My wife was just recently diagnosed with B12 deficiency. She need large amounts of B12 in raw liver, raw clams and raw oysters.

    This is her unfolding story

    August 12, 2010
  12. Kelly Crawford #

    I have this vegan friend who was found deficient of vitamin B12. Can anyone recommend something for her? Of course, she won't eat meats. But there were some who suggested taking this: It's not a pill or tablet, but a spray. Has anyone ever tried it?

    August 8, 2011

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