Dear Badger, 

I am a meat eater. I love meat. I am not ashamed to admit that. However, lately it seems that I am having to justify it more and more. After reading a previous feature in The Badger, I feel compelled to defend my choice.

Danish pork is indeed ethically dubious. Danish pigs are kept in very poor conditions such as small pens whereas most British pork is free range; the Red Tractor mark ensures this. So choose British rather than Danish meat to support ethical meat farming. The way the trend is going, British pork may dominate the shelves in the near future, just as free range eggs do at the moment.

The cultivation of crops also has a large carbon footprint. It can even be argued that it is greater due to the chemicals that are used such as pesticides. A nation of vegetarians or vegans would only increase this negative impact. The current level of chemicals that are used in crop cultivation would probably increase as demand would grow.

While many studies have linked processed and red meat such as bacon and beef to terminal illnesses, there have also been studies which have refuted this link. With such inconclusive evidence, it is impossible to say that red meat causes cancer. As with any food, it should be enjoyed in moderation but that doesn’t mean that a cheeky fry up once in a while is going to kill me (hurrah – pass the sausages). I also feel that it is important to stress that lean protein such as fish and poultry has not been linked at all to cancer; only red and processed meat, so if one were concerned, there are healthier options.

As to the notion that eating meat is unnatural for humans, let’s look at our teeth: we have incisors, which are used for cutting food, molars, used for grinding it down so that it can be digested, and canines used for cutting meat. Our mouths are built for the consumption of animal protein. If we compare a human jaw to herbivore’s jaw, a horse for example, we see a lack of canines, but huge incisors. Their mouths are designed to consume plants only as that is what evolution has decided is best for them.

Yet, my greatest argument in favour of meat and the main reason why I eat it is because it tastes nice. Personally, life is too short to cut out the fun things and because I am sensible about the amounts I consume, what danger is there really? If you’re vegetarian or vegan, then I salute you and respect your choice. I ask that in return you respect mine and don’t make me feel guilty for tucking into a burger. You will fail.

Harriet O’Neil 

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3 Comments

  • Whilst I totally agree that everyone is entitled to their choice, I don’t think that this piece is well argued.

    First and foremost, EU regulations (which the UK adheres to) dictate that a hen only has to have 4m sq of space: that is effectively the same as trapping you in a room in East Slope. When it comes to pork, there are no real regulations other than the “American” concept of free range (i.e. they have to see outside at some point in their lives): according to their website the red tractor symbol means that it adheres to this basic rule and no other regulations, so there is a chance that the pork you think is ethical isn’t really (of course this all depends on the provider etc.)

    When it comes to the environment, to even consider comparing a meat free diet to a non-meat diet is absurd (unless you raise and kill all of your own livestock or buy it from a local farmer who has made sure everything is organic). The Amazon is being destroyed for cattle more than anything else; we waste endless amounts of arable land on raising animals for the slaughter: pretty much every study I have ever read concludes that eating meat is irreparably more harmful to the environment than any other diet. The point about pesticides is kind of a straw man, in the sense that it may lead to an increase in the use of pesticides to cultivate extra plant life for vegetarian food, but on the whole agricultural food production makes far less of an impact than feeding livestock anyway and, more importantly, the whole argument could be completely avoided if everyone bought organically: the same cannot be said for meat. Also, pesticide use and carbon footprints are two different things.

    I agree with your point about us being omnivores: however I would also like to point out that we evolved to do lots of things that we now consider reprehensible and unsuitable for society (killing rivals, raping to impregnate people etc.). Now that we are intelligent enough to see what impact we have on the world (and have also proved that most people can survive on a vegetarian diet) surely the next step for us as a species is to accept that our meat-eating is unsustainable and plan around it?

    And my (least) favourite point of yours: it’s tasty so you want to eat it, so go ahead! Why shouldn’t you enjoy yourself? I once knew a guy who got his kicks by mugging old ladies, but you know, he had fun, so it was ok, right? Or maybe a less extreme example (that doesn’t involve attacking old ladies): if I’m a kleptomaniac and I really enjoy stealing, does it make it ok for me to steal things?

    If you want people to accept your choices, that’s fine. Just learn to defend them in a proper way, with actual evidence and logical arguments, or, if you know they’re indefensible, keep quiet about them.

  • “The cultivation of crops also has a large carbon footprint” – that’s true, but most crops are grown simply to feed animals. And the animals waste about 80-90% of what is fed to them. What on earth was Harriet thinking that her pigs ate?