Is it okay to eat meat? (1 Viewer)

Is is okay to eat meat?


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jane

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Crap, this ol' chesnut again. I don't think it's wrong to eat meat. I don't think it's wrong not to, or even to believe it's wrong to eat meat. It's not up to any of us to decide what everyone else should eat.

However, given that the old nature/culture debate comes up here, I can't just not respond. The teeth thing falls apart when you consider fish -- they don't require ripping or tearing, and so, soft fish and sea creatures can be eaten with practically no teeth at all. The first humans were -- allegedly -- scavengers. They ate the crap that beasts of prey left behind, and even continued to do so after they started hunting. Also, plant foods also result in tooth wear, as would the use of teeth as a tool for other purposes (i.e. making non-food items).

The bulk of the human diet would have varied depending on the region of the world the communities inhabited, but it's still not a very strong argument for either side of the debate. People ate what was nutritious and accessible, and, despite our fantasies that early humans were economical and didn't waste food, it wasn't always the case. There's a fair bit of early evidence for food wasting, for overharvesting that exhausted local crops, and also for eating a varied diet that included both animal and plant foods, not just based on economic efficiency. Food does not have only to do with nutrition, but has always had cultural meaning, and cannot only be explained through an understanding of evolutionary biology acquired from the internet and a few books that encourage people to be vegetarian, based on abstractions that do not translate to political and social realities. It doesn't mean they are wrong, just that they over-emphasise the impact of simply being vegetarian.

The thing that separates us from the rest of the animals is a particular form of cognition that has, due to some inexplicable process, resulted in the culture that we have, and in the form of spoken language we use. There is an argument that other animals have 'culture', and I wouldn't discount it, but the same nature/culture debate is often used to support arguments about gender, 'race', and all sorts of other highly problematic subjects -- all cultural constructs, and too complex for biology to explain.

Humans eat what humans eat. Human bodies and animal bodies also don't fully process any food into pure nutrients, which is why we go poo poo and pee pee and sometimes pukey. Even the 'eating meat is part of our culture' argument can't really hold up. It is part of what culture is to change, and we can't pretend that the past justifies the present -- this same argument could be used to say that because slavery is part of our culture, it can't be wrong. The issue is too complex to rely on what people did in the past -- whether they were driven by 'instinct' or by culture -- as justification for doing it in the present.

As for the economic argument, it is somewhat stronger, but, in my view, only as far as you are personally not contributing to the over-use of resources in the production of meat. As Egg pointed out, world hunger is not the result of too few resources, but of political matters, aggravated by economic and climatic ones. A failed harvest in an already poor country will have a much greater effect on the population than in one that has fewer poor people, but not eating meat does not mean more food will be freed up for those who have very little. Theoretically, there is enough food produced annually on the planet for everyone to have something like 2300 calories a day (my memory is sketchy, so I can't remember the exact figure), but not if you consider adequate protein. When you add in protein foods necessary for human nutrition, that figure drops significantly, to a number less than what most of us would eat each day. However, the theoretical figure does not factor in politics. People aren't starving because there isn't enough food, but because of issues of economic access, political horribleness, and -- as I said above -- aggravated by environmental/climate issues. That's not an argument for not doing anything, but for recognising the problem for what it is.

I wouldn't use that argument to pretend that being vegetarian isn't doing anyone any good because that'd be pretty fucking ignorant of me. If people feel that it is against their ethical and moral beliefs, then who am I to say that's wrong? I just don't eat it because I don't like it, and people have all kinds of reasons for doing what they do in relation to the world around them. And anyway, I know lots of meat eaters and vegetarians alike that do a lot of good things, and have a lot of concern for social responsibility, and that, to me, is much more important than whether you like bacon with your breakfast.

PS: I second talkeyshitey's question: can vegans swallow sperm?
 

egg_

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jane said:
abstractions that do not translate to political and social realities.
... or biological realities
"Scientific" veggie propaganda irritates me because so much of it is just plain wrong, and all of it is unnecessary. If you just feel in your heart that it's wrong to kill animals, you really don't need to justify it to anyone
 

jane

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egg_ said:
... or biological realities
"Scientific" veggie propaganda irritates me because so much of it is just plain wrong, and all of it is unnecessary. If you just feel in your heart that it's wrong to kill animals, you really don't need to justify it to anyone
Exactly. Using a particular biological understanding in order to support a political claim is very dodgy ground indeed.

Even cultural arguments, about us being civilised, more evolved because we have freed ourselves of the need to eat meat, is quite insulting to cultures where eating meat means something very different than it might in the west. And assumes that western cultures, where there is a greater variety of food, and people have more choices when it comes to diet (because, by exploiting poorer people, we can afford it), are superior.
 

Super Dexta

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my body has been crying out for meat recently,i think it's looking for protein or iron or something, so i had some smoked salmon yesterday, mmm mmm mmm mmm.. it was amazing. then today i broke the non-drinking and had some mulled wine. xmas is a time for indulgence. or something.
 

Jimmy Magee

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Super Dexta said:
my body has been crying out for meat recently,i think it's looking for protein or iron or something, so i had some smoked salmon yesterday, mmm mmm mmm mmm.. it was amazing. then today i broke the non-drinking and had some mulled wine. xmas is a time for indulgence. or something.
:eek: :eek: :eek: :eek: :eek: :eek: :eek: :eek: :eek: :eek:
 

Super Dexta

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and i thought you were going tp make some high-larious pun about my body crying out for meat
fancy that
 

Jimmy Magee

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I think (perhaps optimistically) meat-eating could be one of the things that is commonly considered grand now, but that future generations will recoil in horror at. Having said that, I eat meat. So, I guess I'm saying I think I'm some sort of early 21st century Nazi.

I started trying to summarise my confusions regarding the rightness or otherwise of eating meat. But I just got horribly confused, and have decided to cut down on the rambling of-interest-to-noone-but-myself posts I've indulged in in the past, so I'm leaving it out. In short, I find the whole business confusing. But I'm leaning towards meat=bad, and so am trying to cut down a bit. But ultimately still undecided.
 

broken arm

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jane said:
Even cultural arguments, about us being civilised, more evolved because we have freed ourselves of the need to eat meat,
cultural arguments aren't always based on superiority.

I'm not overly clear on differentiating religious norms from cultural norms. many buddists, taoists, hindus, christians, jews, rastafarians etc. consider various levels/forms of vegetarianism to be central to the teaching of their religion. e.g., the book of genesis teaches that humans were originally vegetarian although after the floods meat eating became permitted by god. Many Judeo-Christians take this as meaning that although meat eating is allowed by god he originally intended us to be vegetarian so vegetarianism is preferential. This kind of thing can be seen in a number of religions.

on a nother note many of the arguments concerning world hunger and food distribution are silenced due to the politicisation of food distribution and how simply being a vegetarian cannot alter this. But the two issues can't be seen as mutually exclusive. If for example the massive amount of protein concentrates used in animal feed are to be retained in the countries that grow them (countries with people chronically malnourished) people eating meat in the richer countries will have to reconsider their diet. So a vegetarian diet alone won't solve world hunger but in a world with sustainable food systems less meat will be eaten.

The reason some countries import so much of the protein concentrates for animal feed is that they do not have the farmland required to produced the animal feed aand the cattle. Well, they could produce it but the land-use pressures would be unsustainable. The threats to things like biodiversity from farming are acute. I think Reading University produced a paper showing that in the UK a vegetarian diet would use half the farmland of a meat eating diet. The view being that the pressures on land would be less allowing for mitigation of biodiversity destruction or the the greater development of carbon sinks as a instrument for meeting kyoto obligations etc etc.

But I think that questions regarding meat and diet may not be answered by cultural, physiological means but be determined by environmental and economic factors. For example we know what impact the over-fishing of economically viable fish stocks has on the economy and the environment and similar situations will be played out when the production of meat (on a present levels with future population growths considered) become environmental and economically unacceptable. NOt that we will all become vegetarian but we will eat less meat (unless it's grown on some chemical feed that can be produced off-land etc)
 

egg_

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broken arm said:
I think Reading University produced a paper showing that in the UK a vegetarian diet would use half the farmland of a meat eating diet. The view being that the pressures on land would be less allowing for mitigation of biodiversity destruction or the the greater development of carbon sinks as a instrument for meeting kyoto obligations etc etc.
There is lots of UK (and Irish) farmland already left fallow (setaside), and not being used for habitat creation or carbon sinks

Perhaps if prices reflected environmental costs more accurately, meat would be so expensive that people would eat a lot less. That'd require enormous changes to the economic and political structure of the world, so it ain't gonna happen anytime soon and in the end it might have no effect (I know that price has very little effect on my choice of foods, but then I am odd)
 

broken arm

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egg_ said:
There is lots of UK (and Irish) farmland already left fallow (setaside), and not being used for habitat creation or carbon sinks

Perhaps if prices reflected environmental costs more accurately, meat would be so expensive that people would eat a lot less. That'd require enormous changes to the economic and political structure of the world, so it ain't gonna happen anytime soon and in the end it might have no effect (I know that price has very little effect on my choice of foods, but then I am odd)
'odd' being posh like.:p

there are no actual plans that I know of for habitat mitigation and all the carbon sink initiatives seem to be happening as flexible instruments under Kyoto*. The whole land-use argument is simply future speculation on land capacities with increasing demands of a growing population and climatic effects on farming etc.

I wouldn't imagine that economic instruments would ever be used to influence peoples diet (although proposed taxes on fatty foods look just like this). We will just have to move further from recognised methods of farming to keep prices stable etc.


* which poses unrelated problems
 

egg_

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broken arm said:
We will just have to move further from recognised methods of farming to keep prices stable etc.
But if meat gets more expensive, more farmers will want to produce it, no?
Ah I dunno, no time to think about it today, my last day in the job so I'm trying to cover my tracks ;)
 

#10-7

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personally i think having meat five or six times a week is fine. a by that, i mean, morally fine.
but eating a fry up for breakfast, having chicken for lunch and a steak dinner i think is kinda taking the piss.
but i hate people telling me i'm wrong or somehow a bad person for eating it.
 

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