Is it Ethical to Eat Meat?

Is it Ethical to Eat Meat?

Valeria Sierra, Design and Social Media Editor

The meat industry is responsible for perhaps one of the most controversial dilemmas regarding morality. From harming animals, polluting, and promoting harmful foods to human health, meat is highly criticized nowadays. This topic is no taboo for anyone on the internet, but there are indeed two sides to the argument. Considering the overwhelming amount of evidence that exposes the risks and ramifications of this industry and the fact that meat isn’t necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle; eating it is selfish. For the most part, anyways. 

Animal meats and products have not only been proven to be unnecessary for a human’s diet but also increasingly damaging. Eating meat increases the risks of cancer and diabetes. One serving of processed meat per day increments the chance of developing diabetes by 51%, a disease that causes millions of deaths worldwide. Yet, food companies and thousands of food blogs and books advocate for these kinds of animal products have proven to be fearful. Eating servings of animal protein with every meal has been the “healthy” way for so long. But now that facts confirm that overeating meat and processed animal products are terrifyingly harmful, why are people still doing it? Based on the preconception that eating a vegetarian or vegan diet doesn’t supply you with enough protein, many steer away from considering these lifestyle choices. However, Global Issues Network leader at TCS Britta McCarthy, states that “The biggest myth is that you can’t get enough protein as a vegetarian. This is untrue because all essential amino acids can be obtained through sources besides animal flesh.” Similarly, the acclaimed Netflix documentary Game Changers shows how many high-performance athletes benefit and thrive because of vegan diets. If they can stay off animal products entirely, have fantastic health statistics and outstanding athletic performances, eating meat can indeed be a selfish act.

It’s concerning how not many people feel guilty when they buy meat or consume it, considering how destructive it is for our planet’s wellbeing. The meat industry is responsible for deforestation, land degradation, biodiversity loss, water contamination, carbon dioxide emissions, and more negative effects on our planet. Livestock and its byproducts account for 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, and these emissions are projected to increase 80% by 2050. Animal agriculture is also responsible for the consumption of trillions of gallons of water annually. Not eating meat is the highest leverage personal choice a person can make to help the environment (McCarthy, Britta, 2021). Even the UN calls for a change in people’s diets because one that consists of so much red meat and other animal products is, to put it simply, completely unsustainable. In a world where climate change has become one of humanity’s most pressing issues, people argue that not eating meat won’t fix global warming. Nevertheless, there’s research proving that a change in human diets will have a positive impact. Efforts to curb greenhouse-gas emissions and the effects of global warming will fall significantly short without drastic changes in international land use, agriculture, and human diets, leading researchers to warn in a high-level report commissioned by the United Nations. It’s hard to process that most humans don’t acknowledge their negative actions. This is the only habitable planet we have. We are actively refusing to ignore the fact that we’re destroying it by contributing to the meat industry, contributing to countless pressing environmental issues. 

Let’s consider the ethical part of not eating meat. Contamination will decrease drastically, but additionally, animals will stop suffering, and some populations will stop feeling the adverse effects of the meat industry. Deforestation and land degradation are the effects of non-factory farms, which allow animals to graze through fields. This additionally clears land for crops that become animal feed instead of human food. (McCarthy, Britta, 2021). Minority groups feel the harmful effects of land degradation significantly more, which is what environmental justice seeks to reverse. Meat is an environmental issue and a social issue that does not have an equal impact across all populations. Regardless, it’s hard to say if eating meat is entirely ethical or unethical when considering various factors such as social and cultural ones. Many people do not have access to multiple foods or do not have the money to eat more sustainable and plant-based. In the majority of situations, local meat is more sustainable for these populations. 

But for someone who has lots of available choices, then it is arguably more ethical to choose to eat less or no meat at all. Additionally, despite some improvements in the efficiency of killing animals and making their experience somewhat more humane, it will still be cruel and brutal at some point in their lives. Many argue that humans eating animals is just the natural way of life, and giving animals a life worth living is better than no life at all. However, it all comes down to morality. Knowing animals have feelings and consciousness and that they coexist with us means they deserve the same chances at life. Going vegetarian, vegan, or even just reducing your meat intake is an act of compassion in a world so devoid of it. 

Similarly to almost any opinion, there are many sides to this. It’s not an easy thing to ponder upon, considering all the factors that go into this dilemma that make it so controversial in the first place. But truthfully, it’s a simple thing. If you have access to various foods, you can educate yourself on meatless diets and lifestyles. On the negative ramifications of eating meat, it’s a matter of taking a small step towards doing an excellent thing for our planet. Giving up something as unnecessary and straightforward as meat to contribute to the greater picture is a remarkable modern act of good.