Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of talk about morals and ethics regarding agriculture and especially meat and its production methods… And it got me into thinking… Since when are people concerned with the MORALITY of eating meat? And why did this all of a sudden come about..? Why all of a sudden am I being required to justify why I kill and eat animals for a living…?

Meat was a huge part of evolving us to where we have become as humans today. Paleontological evidence suggests that meat constituted a substantial proportion of the diet of early humans. Hunter-gathers depended on the organized hunting of large animals as a main part of their food source. As time evolved, meat was considered a delicacy. In times when social hierarchy reigned supreme, people who had the most money ( the rich) were the ones who enjoyed the best and largest quantities of meat. Meat could have been considered a sign of wealth. Not everyone could afford meat and for those who couldn’t, it was often saved for special occasions and holidays.

When the promise of a New World with land became a reality and early settlers first landed here in the United States, people settled on farmlands and raised their own meat. For the first time in our history of a people coming from Europe, more people were able to provide for themselves. As well as enjoy some delicacies that were only allotted to rich people back in Europe. But as we grew as a society, people moved out of the farmsteads and into newly formed cultural epicenters or cities. Eventually the idea of a supermarket or grocery store came about in order to supply those people with a means to obtain food to feed their families. Soon, grocery stores and supermarkets became the food supply and the disconnect began. And as we grow, the disconnect continues until eventually we become so far disconnected that the average person relies on news media or people outside the industry to provide them with the connection of where their food comes from.

Now today, as we move back towards mending that disconnect between where our food comes from, an issue of morals suddenly arises. Suddenly meat is no longer viewed as the delicacy it once was. It does not hold that social status it once held. Why is it that the closer we move towards people finding out where food comes from.. the worse the sensationalism gets? The more my industry is battered and beaten up by the news media.. Between Pink Slime, Meat Glue and The New York Times running it’s Ethics of Eating Meat Contest, why should my morals regarding meat all of a sudden be in question when historically it was never questioned before?
My take on the issue is YES, emotion should play a key issue in food production and relating to our customers, consumers, whatever you want to call them. But morals… morals is a sticky road to go down. What is moral to one person may not be moral to the next..? And what defines our morals..? Upbringing, religion, experiences all can play a factor in what is MORALLY right or wrong to us. Everyone’s experiences and perspectives are different. So who are you to question MY morals..? What gives you the “moral high ground” to question the way I choose to eat..?

Rarely do I ask for feedback on my blog posts, but I’ve asked this question a few times on several social media outlets. The responses are so varied and to see different perspectives is really fascinating. And really, there is no RIGHT or WRONG answer here. Morals are morals and everyone’s is different. So now I am asking it to my readers.. I invite you to comment and give your two cents on if you think morals should even play a role in meat..? And why all of a sudden this issue of morals is brought to the forefront…?

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. An Irish Male In America

    Ya know, going to say “Yes”. Morals of course should play a role in meat. I eat meat, love the damn stuff too. I was raised in a poor family, heck most of the time I wouldn’t have meat, beans on toast was what I was raised on for the most part. I knew nothing about where my meat came from, to me, it came from a supermarket, or from a take away. Heck, I even hated steak as a kid (Irish steak must be ultra mega well done, as tough as a boot and be the cheapest cut possible). It was only after flying to Texas that I was introduced to REAL steak. Still, even then, I knew very little about where my meat came from. (don’t get me wrong, obviously I knew what animal it came from, I just wasn’t familiar with how the animals were raised, or slaughtered etc). As I grew older, I started to learn. Not just about animals, about other things, history, philosophy, geography etc. As the internet slowly developed in Ireland (very very slowly) access to online information became more prevalent. One of the first clips I saw must have been “PETA” approved. It was a music video called “Set me free”. Sure it showed the usual clips of lab rats, monkeys with wires stuck in their heads, rabbits with eyes clamped open as they put various drops in their eyes etc… it also showed clips from farms, slaughter houses etc of animal mistreatment. Frankly it was horrific. I remember tears in my eyes and the guilt I felt as I ate my hamburger watching it… (sorry, the other part of being raised a poor catholic in Ireland was not to waste food…)(plus it was a tasty burger)(no, I’m really not kidding). Regardless, a part of me said “This is wrong”. It’s so strange, yes, I eat animals that have been killed and I know it. However, what really bothers me the most is not the killing, but the suffering part. I simply don’t want an animal to suffer, to be mistreated, to not know a bit of happiness in it’s life.
    I still eat meat. It’s still tasty. However, if I was given a choice between two meat producers.
    Producer A: Mr Generic, here you go, it’s in a packet, it looks great, Eat it.
    And
    Producer B: Mr Generic, here you go, it’s in a packet, it looks great, Eat it. By the way, here’s a weblink to our farm. You can see the animals and how they are raised, You can see the conditions they are kept in. We’ve been signed off as treating the animals humanely. If you ever have any questions, you can ask us.

    I would very quickly choose Producer B.

    What’s really interesting though, is that I think a lot of people reading the above would also choose Producer B. However, I wonder if people would make a different choice if we gave the same options as above, but included a few extra lines…

    Given a choice between two meat producers, which would you choose?

    Producer A: Mr Organic, independent, small farm. No Antibiotics or Hormones ever used in the product. No Pink Slime at all. here you go, it’s in a packet, it looks great, Eat it.

    And

    Producer B: Mr Large Multinational Corporate Farmer, here you go, it’s in a packet, it looks great, Eat it. By the way, here’s a weblink to our farm. You can see the animals and how they are raised, You can see the conditions they are kept in. We’ve been signed off as treating the animals humanely. If you ever have any questions, you can ask us.

    I wonder which one people would choose then? Does animal welfare or morals matter when people are more interested buying their Organic, hormone free, antibiotic free, pink slime free meats?

  2. Nefarmgirl

    I agree with you completely! I think morals should be a guide for food production or consumption, but I don’t think it should be the only guide. As farmers you have to consider what is best for the animal. Sure we’d love to just turn them all out and let them be free range, but that wouldn’t be what was best for our animals, they would find trouble somewhere, they always do haha.

    As consumers you should definately keep your morals in mind but also your health. Lean meats are unmatched in terms of nutritional value, how can you agrue with that?

    So I say if you choose not to eat meat because of a morality clash that’s fine but don’t try to guilt someone else into choosing the same thing. Everyone is free to have their own opinon.

  3. Dana

    What about the millions innocent animals (rabbits, gophers, birds, moles, etc) that are killed during the harvest of grains and vegetables? What about the morality of destroying our top soil, native plants, entire eco systems and contaminating groundwater for the production of mono crops? Raising animals for food is less destructive to the earth and our environment than growing plants for food. Just sayin!

  4. Matt Thompson (@dakotapastor)

    Here’s the biblical basis for the morality of eating meat:

    And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.
    “Whoever sheds the blood of man,
    by man shall his blood be shed,
    for God made man in his own image.
    And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.” (Genesis 9:1-7)

  5. Angelo Ibleto

    I like what Apostle Paul said. He is my favorite from any others. If any of you fallow him on his teaching, always use common sense in everything he preached.
    Jenny! The mistake you made in your “moral” was to ask for opinion on it. Talk about moral on what we eat, meat, in this case, is, giving fuel to those who brought it up in the first place, to continue to bring the issue up with more ammunition to use. On the same line, it bother me quite a bit to see more and more people now days getting a (F -) in the report card, on the assignment they had to do, describing the different from an human and an animal.

  6. Linda Langerwerf

    My mother and father in law remember having just about nothing to eat during the German occupation of Holland during WWII. Until recently, the European countries have had protective tariffs and support for their farmers unlike the USA because they remember being hungry. My folks didn’t grow up with much during the Great depression but their families were farmers so they always had meat. We live in a country where food is plentiful and fairly inexpensive. People have so many choices. I do take issue with others telling us how to do our work or how to feel about what we do.

  7. chicoyaya

    Morals? or Ethics?
    Morals are beliefs based on practices or teachings regarding how people conduct themselves in personal relationships and in society, while ethics refers to a set or system of principles, or a philosophy or theory behind them.
    While I personally believe it is permissible (and healthy) to eat meat, I think that we should take an honest look at the ethics of the factory farming industry that has profit as its bottom line, with no regard to how it affects our health and environment.

  8. Pingback: Omnivore’s Ethics « The Photosophy

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