Eating meat, an ethical dilemma.

It would be very fair to say that I enjoy eating meat in most of its forms.

Now I don’t include offal in this as this is not for me. All the offal I have tried hits the back of my throat, after accosting my sense of taste and texture, and just wants to return from whence it came.

To put this in context when I was fifteen a Burmese ( as it was then) lad started at my school and we became quite good friends. This resulted in an invite to his house for some food. I had always been offered a rich and varied diet at home and was certain that I would enjoy the meal to come.

What arrived were a number of dishes with vegetables on a couple, a bowl of rice, a bowl of sauce and…. a dish of cooked chopped liver. At this point I probably wished I was a vegetarian but as I wasn’t, had not declared I was or was rude enough to claim it out of expediency I had to have a go. A small amount of liver came to my plate with a good pile of rice, veg and sauce.

In turn a small piece of liver went on a fork with a good quantity of all the other ingredients piled on it in the hope I could disguise the taste and the awareness in my brain that liver was about to enter my mouth.

The fork boldly went where no liver bedecked cutlery had gone for a very long time. This was followed by an attempt to rapidly pass the concoction beyond my throat and down to my stomach without pausing to alarm my various senses on the way through.

Despite the delicious sauce, crunchy veg and perfect rice my automatic defence system kicked in and repelled the encroaching food in a mixture of coughing and spluttering, scattering rice, veg, sauce and the offending liver across the table.

Apologies folks, I was diverted then by a memory that was not part of my original plan. I do the same when in conversation and often bemuse the listener as I jump in with a comment that appears to have nothing to do with the subject in hand and so back to the subject in hand, eating meat.

As I said I have always enjoyed eating meat in most of its forms. It can be red or white, have walked, flown or swum. I have chopped it, minced it and cooked it whole. I have pan fried, barbecued, put it in a pie and even eaten it raw. Vegetables often accompany it but the meat tends to be the star ingredient. This is the norm. If you read any menu a dish will often be described as some form of meat, how it is cooked and then what veg or pasta/rice is served with it.

Why not try Pan Fried Sea Bass with Ratatouille and Basil

And Sizzling Steak Stir Fry doesn’t even acknowledge the range of vegetables involved in the dish.

I have always enjoyed any food that is tasty and have no issue eating both vegetarian and vegan food. However my choice will usually include meat.

As I have adapted my diet, and more recently looked to reducing the meat I eat for sustainability reasons, I have learned to appreciate the vegetable on the plate as much more of an equal party in the equation and often more of a leading light.

This Lamb & Six Vegetable Dinner Bowl could easily be A Bowl Of Spiralized Butternut Squash, Green Beans, Broccoli, Courgette, Brussel Sprouts and Creamy Mashed Potato with Lamb Ribs & Gravy.

This has caused me, within my head and no further, to ask myself why I still eat meat.

The easy answer is that we are omnivores so are designed to eat meat as well as vegetables and this is true. However We are also predisposed towards survival of the fittest instincts, like all our animal kin. However I accept that the sick will be treated, aspire to ensuring the weakest are supported and that resorting to violence and intimidation are wrong unless in the defence of others and only then when there is no alternative.

I have flown in planes, gliders and helicopters. I have travelled on the sea rather than through it and watched people travel into space. These all defy my physical nature as a human but are drawn entirely from human intellect, the key aspect we say separates us from the animal kingdom and has given us supremacy over much that is on our planet.

Now this human intellect has also shown that we can meet all our dietary needs without eating meat. It has also demonstrated that breeding creatures to feed our population is both inefficient and damaging to our planet.

We seem to be evolving to overcome our nature rather than be limited by it.

The logical, and intellectual thing to do is therefore to stop eating meat entirely and rely on the wide varying alternatives diet options available to me in living in a rich and advantaged country.

If I then pass by logic and still eat meat I face the moral challenge , the one that has taken most people I know to vegetarianism. I am a pacifist at heart who also knows there are times when war is unavoidable and justified. Killing another person is also justified if it is in self defence and prevents my likely death. If someone harmed my family I would probably also have a different opinion on what a suitable punishment would be.

Allowing a living creature to be killed, to meet my choice to eat meat is therefore questionable at best and potentially hypocritical. When it is a hunter posing next to an elephant shot as a trophy I am both appalled and angry. Hunting for pleasure is morally objectionable for me, unless you eat what you kill.

How can I therefore continue to eat meat knowing each time an animal has been killed to allow me to meet my desire for self gratification in the form of a plate of food. No matter how an animal is killed it can never be argued as humane. A bolt to the temple in a secular abattoir, a sliced throat in a kosher or halal abattoir or a crab dropped in a restaurants pan of boiling water are all equally inhumane.

So far I have found the logical basis for continuing to eat meat less than sound. The ethical reasons are almost non-existent. All that is left is that nagging desire for gratification through the food I eat.

I am therefore forced to ask if this is a good enough reason to eat meat. Do my personal desires outweigh the logical and ethical reasons to not eat meat. Can I justify my reliance on meat contributing to this.

I think I know the answer. I am not yet ready to accept that answer but I wonder how long this can continue. With the meat fest of Christmas approaching I cannot imagine Christmas without turkey, pigs in blankets, ham and all else that comes with it. in other countries the Christmas table may have an even greater meat weighting. Look at this one from Hong Kong.

Will I be able to imagine moving to a vegetarian option in the future I do not know. Maybe…

For now I am faced with a dilemma that I have not yet resolved. What do you think.

10 thoughts on “Eating meat, an ethical dilemma.

  1. I think if you are considering becoming vegetarian for ethical reasons then following logic you would gave to become vegan and this is a while lot more than considering what you eat. I was vegan for a long time, it wasn’t a phase. There came a time when for reasons I won’t go into maintaining a vegan lifestyle wasn’t possible, and thus for a long time I was vegetarian, and this caused me lots of internal debating. I came to the conclusion after lots of soul searching that for me personally to only be vegetarian for ethical reasons was hypocritical and it was then that after about 17 years of not eating meat I had my first ever KFC.

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    1. Thank you nowtmuch. I haven’t got to the vegan thoughts yet although, as you say, the logical answer is the same. As for KFC, it would be hard to give it up.

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    1. I would find the loss of eggs and dairy products hard. However having seen the bake off vegan week, there are more possibilities and Ramesh R looks pretty healthy on a vegan diet ( even overweight) which belies the stereotype.

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  2. It’s not just about eating though, if you’re diet is going to be vegan for ethical reasons then should it follow that you take that into all areas? Clothing, alcohol, toiletries, cleaning products, car tyres to name a few .

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  3. Can’t fault your logic, Jem, nor its inexorable conclusion. But deciding to give up something that you (we) love – even if it’s for the sake of the planet – is a very, very hard thing to do. If you had to do it for the sake of your health, you would, but could you do it for the health of the planet? Don’t think I could.

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