The Politics of Eating Meat

March 23rd, 2010 by Kathy McManus

Does eating “high-end” meat make you a morally superior diner?

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

A philosophical food fight about responsible eating broke out among readers of a Newsweek.com article. “No More Sacred Cows” questioned the perceived moral superiority of eating so-called “high-end” meat: “grass-fed, sustainably raised (and incredibly expensive),” as writer Jenny Yabroff described it. 

According to Yabroff, the “cache” of high-end meat means vegetarians can now have “their burgers without sacrificing the moral high ground.” The argument, in other words, is that eating meat isn’t unethical. But eating unethically raised meat — mass-produced, hormone-laced — is. 

What “flexitarians” and “steak apologists” are missing however, Yabroff said, is that “no matter how ‘lovingly’ the cow was raised, no matter how much grazing or rooting he did in his life, he gave up that life to become their dinner.” 

Readers bit into the subject. “The problem with vegetarianism,” wrote one, “is that people use it to fill their desire to be ‘good’ and ‘moral,’ yet their efforts are misplaced.” Another wrote, “Supporting the ‘meat’ industry = murder of animals,” which relies on “conscious decisions made on a daily basis and true moral responsibility.” How many “murders are pesticides responsible for?” someone asked. And this Darwinian comment: “Seals eat fish, whales eat seal. Is the polar bear immoral for gorging on spawning salmon?” 

Tell us what you think: Is it responsible to eat meat? Mass-produced meat? Are you what you eat?