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Having Your Meat and Eating It, Too?

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cowsI do not have a problem recognizing that we are at the top of the food chain – I think that it is no more wrong for us to eat meat than it is for lions or wolves to do so. Of course lions and wolves do not have consciences or ethics that tell them eating meat is wrong, like we do; but perhaps it is not so simple, or even so ideal, for us to deny our animalistic carnivorous natures.

Lions and wolves also do not have the ability to find alternate protein sources, like we do. Yet it is not absolutely clear that these are better for us, or for the planet. Proponents of the paleo diet insist that legumes, including beans and nuts, are full of toxic lectins; paleo message boards and blogs are filled with former vegans claiming that they were at death’s door until they started eating meat again.

Soy can provide us with all of the essential amino acids, but some think that its high phytoestrogen content mitigates its nutritional value. Fish is a terrific source of protein, but our current appetite for it has brought the world’s fisheries to the brink of collapse and severely disturbed the oceans’ ecosystems. And of course dairy and eggs can provide protein – but the animals raised to provide us with dairy and eggs are not treated any better than those raised to provide us with meat.

Although I do not have a problem with the idea of eating meat, I do have a problem with torturing animals to make it cheaper for us to do it - so I pay more to buy meat from animals that have been “humanely and ethically” raised right up until the moment they are slaughtered so I can eat them. I buy from http://kolfoods.com/ and http://growandbehold.com/. I think of this as the truer cost of eating meat; industrially produced meat might cost fewer dollars when I am purchasing it, but I will pay for it in other ways – my health, my conscience, and the state of the environment.

Since the meat I buy is so very expensive, I definitely eat less of it than I otherwise might. Hopefully this ends up being better for my body, the animals I end up eating, and the planet, although it is certainly not better for my wallet. In eating this way I can practice curbing my primal carnivorous nature without completely denying it. But I know that this option is not available to everyone for financial reasons, and that is the crux of the problem we face.

With great power comes great responsibility, right? For better or worse, humans are the lords and stewards of this planet and the animals that inhabit it. While I do think it is within our rights to eat them, I do not think it is not within our rights to treat them cruelly just to save a few bucks.

Image: Robert Joppa, from KOL Foods

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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