Recently, the New York Times ran a contest for the best essay on why it is or isn't ethical to eat meat. You can go here to read the winning essays. The objections to meat eating center around this:
"Two main ethical objections are to the act of unnecessary killing of sentient beings and opposition to certain agricultural practices surrounding the production of meat. Reasons for objecting to the practice of killing animals for consumption may include animal rights, environmental ethics, and/or religious reasons. One major ethical objection concludes that consuming meat is no longer a necessity for most people living in the developed world therefore the slaughter of animals to please human taste buds is not morally justifiable. Others support meat eating for scientific, nutritional and cultural reasons, including religious ones. Some meat eaters abstain from the meat of animals reared in particular ways, such as factory farms, or avoid certain meats, such as veal or foie gras. Some people follow vegetarian or vegan diets not because of moral concerns involving the production of meat and other animal products in general, but the treatment involving the raising and slaughter of animals." --Wiki
Over the last few years, I have found it difficult for me to justify eating meat, and have slowly weaned myself away from it. One of the motivating factors was this video I saw narrated by Sir Paul McCartney. After watching it, I was overcome with feelings of disgust, grief, and remorse, and the images still haunt me anytime I even think about buying and preparing any meat product.
Our factory-farm raised animals endure unimaginable torture, suffering, and grisley deaths before their carcasses find their way to our tables. How could any product be enjoyable after that sort of life? I wonder about the levels of cortisol in these animals from living highly stressful lives and enduring brutal slaughter.
No wonder I find meat tasteless.
Is it ethical for us to abuse animals in this way when we really don't need to consume the amount of meat that we do? Not only do the animals suffer, but the feed lots that are needed to support these hundreds of thousands of cows, pigs, and chickens contribute to environmental degradation and pollution. None of this is necessary for a healthy diet for humans.
I grew up in a family that served meat at every meal--except on Fridays. My parents came from a region in Italy where people were poor and had very little access to meat, so their main diet, in Italy, centered around pasta, legumes, vegetables, cheese, fruits, nuts, eggs, and some fowl and fish. When they arrived in this land of plenty, that changed; and meat became the main focus of each meal. I remember when I was a child, I disliked eating the steak that was served each Saturday night and grumbled when I was told to finish it all, even the fat, because it was good for me. I remember my brother and I complaining to my parents, "Do we have to have steak again?!" And my parents remarking that only in America could they hear children say such a thing.
Preparing meals not centered around meat products is remarkably easy, creative, satisfying, and fast. I don't have to spend time waiting for hunks of meat to cook, so I spend less time preparing meals. My meals now consist of pasta, legumes, vegetables, cheese, fruits, nuts, eggs, and some fish. If my parents were alive, I wonder if they would understand the irony of that.
I don't seek to convert anyone from eating meat. I believe one has to come to that decision through research and education.
I welcome your thoughts.