Does Ethical Meat Eating maximize Utility?

Should We Eat Meat? If So, What Meat? How Much Meat? Raised And Processed How?

I intend to explore various reasons why eating meat is wrong and when it can be justifiable to eat certain forms of meat. I support my argument that eating meat is wrong by exploring this issue from a vegetarian point of view and supporting it with the need to act in a friendly manner to other animals. However, under certain conditions eating meat can be an ethical thing to do. I support my second hypothesis that we should eat meat by employing utilitarian vegetarian theory in exploring when meat eating can be the right thing to do. This is in consideration of meat eating that can be analyzed as ethically right because it results in greatest good as opposed to vegetarianism. I will also examine various conditions that should be met when raising the grazing animals I propose we should eat and the way their meat should be processed.

In exploring the question of whether we should eat meat I will start by looking at the argument against this habit. A good argument is that a vegan diet is healthier than a meal made up of meat in its entirety or partially. Additionally, eating meat and particularly certain form of meat is unhealthy (163).  It has continuously been proved that meat eating is a habit that poses major health problems to human beings and vegan diets enables people to live longer and in a healthy way. There are many health dangers in meat eating including the fact that it contains various parasites like roundworms, microorganism, and tapeworms. It is also a major cause of disease related to foods like mad cow disease, salmonellosis, and Hong Kong bird flu (Fox 164).  Given these fact I support my hypothesis that we should not eat meat because doing so promotes an unhealthy society. Consumption of animal products will only cause us more suffering in form of diseases.

Besides, the fact that meat is unhealthy for consumption, the manner in which it is produced causes harm to the environment. The negative effect of meat industry on the eco system is well documented. It is associated with increased production of pollutants like animal waste and chemicals that end up as run offs to the water resources, it is also blamed for existence of particles of harmful chemicals in the food chain, erosion of top soil due to grazing, desertification and deforestation as land is cleared for grazing, overexploitation of energy and water supplies, and ozone depletion due to overproduction of methane by cattle (Fox 165). All these are harmful ways in which developing the habit of eating meat can cause harm and will continue to harm the environment. I therefore, support the hypothesis that we should not eat meat not only to live a healthy live, but also to conserve our environment.

The argument against meat consumption can also be supported from a philosophical point of view. Jordan argues that as human beings we befriend certain types of animals (309). From this tenet it can be argued that we should not eat meat because this would be harming our friends. This calls for a moral obligation on every human being before one decides to eat meat. It is morally wrong to eat an animal that is ones friend and it is also wrong to eat one that you can befriend. Jordan defines a friend as someone who wishes another well not for ones sake but for the goodness of the friend (312). As such when we consider an animal as a friend we accept not to treat them as things and as such we should not consider them as food stuffs as doing so amounts to treating them as a thing. Therefore, when we treat a particular animal as a friend then we are morally not allowed to treat them as food-stuff.

In favor of vegetarians eating meat I will use the utilitarian perspective. Utilitarianism suggests that we should follow a path that offers the greatest satisfaction. When employed to the argument of meat eating it implies that we should eat a particular amount of certain types of meat that can increase both human and animal pleasure and reduce the pains. Schedler argues that we should eat meat produced by grazing animals like goats, cattle, and sheep (499). Eating meat from grazing animals can have utilitarian justification because it offers greater satisfaction than universal vegetarianism.

Schedler explores various negative effects of vegetarianism on animals that can be eliminated by ethical meat eating. He highlights some of the filed animals living in areas where commercial production of vegetables takes place like house sparrow, ring-necked pheasant, house mouse, and wild turkey among others (503). Some of the activities that take place during production of these vegetables like spraying of agrochemicals kill these field animals. Harvesting by use of machines is also attributed to eradication of animal species like the gray-tailed vole.  Therefore, instead of dedicating these lands to commercial production of vegetables they should be used for grazing animals. Dedicating land to grazing would mean less suffering for animals as compared to the commercial vegetable production because harvesting machines would not clear their habitats. Besides, even when such machines are used to cut forage for the grazing animals they would not be as intensive as when land is dedicated to commercial production of vegetables meaning animals would suffer less. This is because in forage production there is less intrusion of land by tractors and alternative farm equipments (Schedler 503).

The meat that qualifies as ethical and offering greatest satisfaction to the consumer should not be produced from the factory farms. Schedler describes factory farms as place where a large number of animals are kept in terrified and miserable conditions and in confined places to maximize meat production (499). These are not the conditions for keeping the animals I suggest should be eaten. Instead a utilitarian vegetarian can eat ethically produced meat from grazing animals that are not mistreated. These animals would have more land devoted to them for grazing. This would result in fewer deaths of the field animals as is the case during harvesting of vegetables for commercial purposes. In addition, this would also increase pleasure to the grazing animals and those who keep them. These pleasures would then be extended to those consuming the meat of these animals. The grazing animals raised in this manner would be killed painlessly. It is only when these conditions are observed that the greatest satisfaction in terms of gains to the animals and human beings can be achieved. This way it can be argued that eating meat is justifiable to having a universal vegetarian culture because it results in the greatest good for both animals and the society.

Works Cited

Schedler, George. Does Ethical Meat Eating maximize Utility? Social Theory and Practice, 31.4, (2005): 499-511.

Fox, Michael Allen. Vegetarianism and Planetary Health. Ethics and The Environment, 5.2, (2000): 163-174.

Jordan, Jeff. Why Friends Shouldn’t Let Friends be Eaten: An Argument for Vegetarianism. Social Theory and Practice, 27.2, (2001): 309-322.


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