Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >
Mar 21, 2012 04:23 AM

Is it ethical to eat meat?


The New York Times has opened up what I find to be a fascinating contest. The fundamental question is quite complex, though it can be asserted in a rather simple way: "Whether it is right to eat animals in the first place, at least when human survival is not at stake." Here is a link to the article which includes some clarification, the rules, the judges, and some thoughts (not always thoughtful or on point) from some NYT posters:

So, I'm curious. Anyone else find this to be an intriguing exercise? Anyone have any thoughts on the subject? Anyone else thinking of trying to submit an answer?

  1. I reject the premise, eating meat is neither ethical nor unethical, eating has nothing to do with ethics.

    6 Replies
    1. re: redfish62

      That's a fine way to avoid the question, but I'm not sure I can agree. If ethics is an examination of the moral nature of human conduct, your idea would require that either eating is not an example of human conduct or there is never any moral component to the act of eating. The first alternative is empirically wrong and the second would suggest that any consumption is morally permissible - including eating one's child or eating something known to be poisonous.

      Although, one could support the latter position on the notion that there is never any moral component to any human action, i.e., there is no right and wrong, I prefer not to accept that for my own belief structure.

      1. re: MGZ

        There are certain taboos that are universal in humanity, among them are eating your children and eating poison. Granted there are some cultures where eating other people is accepted, but even then they eat their enemies who they do not regard as fully human.

        I have no choice but to eat, or to cease to exist. What I eat is part of my wiring ... I did not ask to be born an omnivore.

        A tiger faces no ethical dilemma in eating, nor does an antelope, nor do I.

        1. re: redfish62

          A tiger and an antelope lack a consciousness, you do not.

          I do not believe vegetarianism is universal.

          This post will get very sticky. Eat meat and enjoy it. I do. Michael Pollan expands on this much better than I can in 'Omvivore's Dilemma.'

          1. re: CCSPRINGS

            <A tiger and an antelope lack a consciousness, you do not.>

            But we know elephants, dolphins and a few other animals have consciousness. I don't think dolphins have trouble eating fishes despite their consciousness.

            It is argued that dogs have self awareness and consciousness. Now, assuming it is true, then it wouldn't surprise me that a tiger also do as well



            <This post will get very sticky>

            Not sure if it will ever make it to 300 posts, let's alone 500 posts.

          2. re: MGZ

            Moral is such a big subject to start off with. In addition, what is moral to one person is not to the others. Yes, some are very widespread and widely accepted like you said: no to steal, kill...etc. However, many are very personal. Should you marry a person who is 10 years younger than you? Are non-believers of Jesus Christ moral? Is pro-choice or pro-life more morally sound? (no I am not asking for a real answer).

            As such, I doubt "eating animal" has a widely accepted position, and everyone will have a different position on it depending on their view points.

        2. Humans have the teeth of carnivores and not herbivores.

          4 Replies
          1. re: JAB

            Eyes on the front of our heads too.

              1. re: JAB

                As a rule, carnivorous mammals (land based, anyway) have both eyes facing forward for better stereoscopic vision. Non-carnivores (prey) tend to have eyes optimized for peripheral vision.

                1. re: egit

                  Yep. Humans are built to to consume meat. We are also built to consume things that aren't meat. We are omnivores, and I enjoy it.

          2. Is it ethical to eat meat?


            Depends on your ethics.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ipsedixit

              Clever, in an ipse dixit goes ipso facto kinda way.

            2. I have a problem with the basic premise that I somehow need to show why it's ethical to eat meat. Any time you eat you are taking food from another creature, so unless you are at deaths door you shouldn't eat anything.

              If you don't eat meat because it's unethical to kill would eating road kill be OK? How about if I only eat meat that I kill in self defense? That pig was attacking me. Mmm, bacon.


              1. I had another thought on a different angle. We have no way of knowing what the result of our actions will be. When we kill an animal for food we could be alleviating suffering. That anmial may have suffered a terrible fate if left to live, mauled by a predator, hit by a car or contract a slow and painful disease.

                To say that killing and eating animals increases the suffering may or may not be true. If the ehtics relies soley on, it's not my place to determine an aniamls fate, how far do you take that? Bugs, microbes? Is it ethical to mow my lawn? Take a walk in the woods? Where do you draw the line?

                Just some musings.