Meateater vs. vegan

| 07 May 2013 | 03:06

Nothing unethical about nature

Nourishment and reproduction are the two most important requirements for survival, and the evolutionary process, by creating great pleasure in these earthly delights, has assured that we indulge them. Human delight in food has, for the vast majority of cultures, encompassed a mix of animal and vegetable. Production, moreover, has been symbiotic, with animal labor and waste supporting the production of grains and vegetable waste nourishing the livestock. Close proximity with domestic animals has produced a practical and culturally important relationship between animals and humans.

Elaborate cuisines, communal dining and feasting rituals are a reflection of the intensity of food’s pleasure, but so too is the history of religious and cultural dietary restrictions. Our age is no different: ethical, health, and environmental arguments are made for a new asceticism. But rather than trying to lift ourselves further out of the natural world and away from our roots, we should be trying to reconnect. There is nothing unethical about one species eating another, a process that lies at the very heart of the natural world of which we are a part. And there is certainly nothing unhealthy about a mixed animal and vegetable diet: this is exactly what humans have evolved to consume. It is these traditionally mixed systems that have created the landscapes that draw people to visit Tuscany, the English countryside, or Warwick. Environmentally, pasture lands support not only grazing animals but a rich and diverse natural ecosystem both above and below the soil surface, an ecosystem that gets destroyed through repeated tillage for vegetable production.

We at Lowland Farm have the great pleasure of working with such a mixed natural and agricultural ecosystem, and agree with Temple Grandin who, in the movie version of her life, exulted: We get to have so many wonderful creatures because we eat them.

By farm owners Will Brown and Barbara Felton and farm manager Jason Friedman. Lowland Farm produces grass-fed beef and pastured pork in Warwick, NY

No appetite for suffering

I became a vegan in 2004 when I realized how much pain and suffering went into every cheeseburger or omelet I ate. How could I put social norms and my tastebuds above a creature’s life? I couldn’t. I stopped eating all animal products.

Eight years later, while I peruse the aisles of the grocery store for animal-free eats, I watch patrons examining shrink-wrapped slabs of flesh, completely dissociated from the factory farm nightmare that was life for those animals. Is meat really so tasty that we are willing to overlook such cruelty to get our daily fix? In other instances of animal cruelty, Americans don’t turn a blind eye. We are all very upset by violence against animals when it comes to dog fighting. Maybe if they started giving out free steaks at dog fights, we’d decide it’s not so bad after all? It seems to me that our priorities might need some serious re-evaluation.

There is an ethical alternative to your average supermarket atrocity, which accounts for 99 percent of meat in the United States. Discounting the inevitable slaughter of every animal bred for food, smaller local farms certainly offer the animals a happier life than the over-crowded, disease-ridden existence at a corporate farm. However, small local farms cannot supply this country’s entire population with food. There is simply not enough land to ethically sustain the current levels of meat consumption.The solution is to just stop eating animal products.

The benefits of ending the consumption of animals reach far beyond ethics. Meat protein takes about eight times more energy to produce than plant protein – and consumes more water and land. As an added bonus, a vegan diet is much healthier.

The result of a national diet change would be less cruelty, less water consumption, improved energy efficiency and probably an end to the obesity epidemic. So ask yourself, is the flavor of meat worth forgoing a better, more sustainable future?

By Alicia Marrie. Alicia grew up and became vegan in Warwick, NY