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What is Ethical Eating?… Is Eating Meat Ethical?

Hello, hello… and alert: I would love your input on the controversial subject I’m covering in this article. 

I was raised to believe that eating meat is devastatingly unethical. I believed that one day we would recognize the folly of our ways, and look back on omnivorism with regret and distaste. As such, my recent transition from vegetarianism to omnivorism has been made with much research and deliberation.

On April 4, 2012 I received a message from my brother. He wondered whether I’d thought of entering the New York Times essay contest: Calling All Carnivores Tell Us Why It’s Ethical to Eat Meat: A Contest. “U don’t have much time:/”, he texted. I read the essay prompt and calculated the 4 days I had remaining before the deadline. My blood sped and my thoughts buzzed.

English: Jonathan Safran Foer at Barnes & Nobl...

Jonathan Safran Foer

Having converted to omnivorism in January 2012, this subject frequently propelled my mind and heart waves. The essay captured my intention and the panel of judges positively arrested my motivation! Peter SingerMichael PollanJonathan Safran FoerMark BittmanAndrew Light! As it was, this subject had been monopolizing my brain-space for months. Organizing my thoughts in 4 days was not only “no problem”, it was unavoidable! My biggest hurdle was squeezing my arguments into less than 600 words. In fact, if you count the words in my essay below, you will find 599;)!

American science journalist and author Michael...

Michael Pollan speaking at Yale

Now, regardless of my current knowledge of the outcome of the contest, I find myself (once again) animated by the challenge! I must interrupt my excitement to share that I was not victorious. I write today to usher my readers to participate in the critical discourse on ethical eating. Our food choices have considerable influence on our future. With immediate ties to health, happiness, and vibrance and effect on our soil, environment, and global relationships, food must be principal curriculum for citizens of all ages and nations.

What is ethical eating? Is eating meat ethical? What does food mean to you? Please share your thoughts! Reading them will make me very happy! Below is the essay I submitted to the contest (with a few visual aids added). If you’ve visited my blog before, you may notice that I pulled many arguments from one of the first articles I wrote for Biocadence: “Is Eating Meat Sustainable?“. I recommend reading the winner’s, as well as the finalists‘ essays as well!

I Remember

By Annie Tichenor

I am eating meat after 30 years as a strict vegetarian. For decades I nurtured a sincere faith that evolution gives us the opportunity to rise above our barbaric ancestors and preserve the lives of animals. When health concerns ushered me to consider diet changes, I began to study. In hopes of evading a lifestyle change, I sought confirmation that eating meat is devastatingly unethical. The diagrams in Jim Merkel’s Radical Simplicity and compelling statistics in Anna Lappé’s Diet for a Hot Planet gave me comfort that I could hold in my hands, read on my flashcards, and roll on my tongue. But my fatigued blood whispered, “Keep reading.”

Joel Salatin holds a hen during a tour of Poly...

Joel Salatin holds a hen during a tour of Polyface Farm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Imagine for a moment how many living organisms are in a handful of healthy soil. This life-source has been squandered since the invention of synthetic fertilizer and mono-crop farming. In his book, Folks, this ain’t normal, farming revolutionary Joel Salatin writes, “[…] in recent decades we’ve used more energy, destroyed more soil, […] mutated more bacteria, and dumped more toxicity on the planet than all the cultures before us – combined.” Modern farming techniques that were once praised as the vehicle for record production yields are now convicted for the mass murder of ecosystems. While I thought I was preserving lives through my vegetarian food choices, how many ecosystems were destroyed in vain? Are the lives of micro- organisms less important than the lives of larger animals? If so, then why? In the coming decades, I estimate that we will be forced to learn just how important live soil is. The magic that our species has only recently forgotten must be remembered.

Ethical eating involves organic, local, in-season food, prepared at home. I reach further to find that it also requires feeding our food-source more than we are taking from it. Animals are a mandatory component of this equation. Life in the soil is re-established and maintained through its interaction with animals. Rotation of pasture, harvest, and cover crop allows us to use relatively few acres, nourish the soil, and yield an abundant edible output. Fogline Farm, in Santa Cruz, CA shares, “We graze our animals through our orchards and vineyards, constantly moving them to fresh pasture.” Followed by cover or harvest crop, the benefit of a happy-animal parade is captured. Each ingredient of the cycle is respected in an ethical farming strategy. Animals are incorporated in order to feed the soil while feeding the community.

Is eating meat ethical? Far too often not! Soft leather gloves of big business grip an industry that produces nutrient-light/toxin-heavy “food”. Feeding us from the prison cells of concentrated animal feeding operations is not only unethical, it is despicable. Can eating meat be ethical? “Yes!” resounds. Absorbing life with gratitude, kindness and grace is a lyric to an ancient song that still echoes through our land and is so often unheard. The delusional attempt to extricate myself from a life-cycle that involves death is a delirious vacuum. The suction allures me, inviting me to a familiar circus where lights glow as they deceive and music spins as it distracts. With piercing clarity and flashes of anger, Lierre Keith, author of Vegetarian Myth, writes about her arduous path, “Eventually we see our only choices: the death that’s destroying life or the death that’s a part of life”. Finding peace in surrender wafts a divine essence through the room. As we kindle this understanding, we will reconnect with the natural cadence of our life cycle. Connectedness will cleanse our systems and we may be overwhelmed by the thought, “Oh, thank heavens, I remember.”


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