Googling “why not eat meat” leads to a whole lot of sites with lists of reasons. Here’s a general overview:
1. Global: If we all stopped eating meat there would be more resources for feeding the hungry around the world.
2. Physical: Animal fats raise cholesterol and clog arteries. Fewer people would die of heart attacks/diabetes/cancer if they abstained.
3. Religious/Historical: God/evolution didn’t design us to eat meat, and the Bible says you shouldn’t, so you’re sinning by doing so. Many cultures traditionally do not eat meat, so we shouldn’t either.
4. Ethical: Animals are living beings, so it is wrong to kill them for food.
5. Financial: Meat is the most expensive food, so we shouldn’t eat it.
6. Environmental: The agribusiness of meat production (usually beef is cited) is the number one cause of greenhouse gasses, pollution, and global warming. Meat husbandry is specifically at fault for the loss of topsoil. Therefore we should not eat meat.
As near as I can figure, even the lists with 30 or more items in them are basically summed up in one of the categories above. Let’s examine them more closely.1. Global. Will not eating meat end world hunger? If it actually would, it might be a worthy cause, but I don’t see it. Usually this argument begins to talk about how many resources are tied up in meat production and how much wheat, corn, or soy could be grown with the same resources. But many people on the ground in third world countries say that hunger and malnutrition is a political problem, not a resource problem. Food is a commodity, traded like arsenal in local wars.
I don’t know about you, but a bag of wheat kernels looks much less like dinner to me than a package of ground beef. What do you do with a bag of wheat? Sure, you can grind it into flour and make bread. Even though I love fresh bread, I know many people are intolerant of gluten and many others are trying to cut back on carbs. Why would we inflict this on a third world country and teach them to get fat on carbs?
2. Physical. Does eating meat raise cholesterol and cause disease? Some studies indicate animal fats do not increase cholesterol. As for disease, see #6.
3. Religious/Historical. Or evolutionary, depending on the point of view. I see the same argument on both sides: humans don’t have the teeth to be carnivores; humans do have the teeth. Anti-meat-eaters say we don’t have the digestive track for it, but we certainly don’t have four stomachs like cows, who regurgitate the grasses they eat and reswallow them.
As for a general biblical injunction against eating meat, where? There are specific mentions in Genesis 9:4 (not eating the life-blood) and 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 (not eating meat sacrificed to idols), for example. However Jesus would have followed a kosher diet, eating mutton and fish at least, and the vision to Peter in Acts 10 certainly spoke of “killing and eating.”
Many cultures eat only meat when they have it, or for special feast days. There are Hindu and Buddhist sects that are vegan. Being a Christian myself, I won’t argue with you if you refuse meat due to your religious beliefs.
4. Ethical. If you don’t want to eat meat because animals are living beings, I can appreciate that. However, see #6.
5. Financial. If you can’t afford to eat meat, or choose to eat less of it due to budgetary concerns, I respect that.
6. Environmental. This is where the biggest brainwash (with the possible exception of religious) is going on against meat-eating. Their arguments are really against industrialized farming. Mad cow disease and avian flu are problems because of factory farms. I agree that the ways animals are treated in feedlots is inhumane. I agree that factory farms pollute the air and kill the soil.
May I suggest that it’s not meat-eating that is at fault, but factory farming? You may argue that if people didn’t eat meat there would be no need for feedlots, and you’d be partially correct. Modern grain farming, however, provides no better stewardship of the land.
Anything that is farmed in a monoculture creates an unbalanced environment. The only way to have a healthy earth is to choose many types of crops, to rotate those crops, to have diversity and options and beauty and flavor.
The environmental argument insists people should eat grains instead of meat. All through the Canadian prairies and the American plains lie massive grain fields grown with GM (genetically modified) seed that repels disease and kills pests. The ground is naked and dead, requiring the use of ever more fertilizers to create a growing environment. How is that healthy or sustainable?
If we farmed organically and locally around the world, we’d find that marginal land would be used for grazing, leaving the “good land” for vegetables and fruit. Food wouldn’t be a commodity but eaten rather than sold. Very little land would be needed for grain. We eat far too much grain–wheat and corn and soy (GMO) are in virtually every package of food in the interior of the supermarket. Don’t tell me it is better to grow grain than beef. It’s the processed food and all its contaminants that makes people fat and kills their health.
Why yes, I do seem to have some opinions on the cons and pros of eating meat. What do you think?