The Results Are In: Morality of Eating Meat

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A couple of weeks ago, a great discussion on the blog and Facebook was spurned by a question raised by the NY Times Ethicist. The question was a challenge for people to explain why they eat meat. The Ethicist invited responses and suggestions promising that the best ones would be selected and presented to the people for a vote.

That day has come and the responses are predictably weak. Six essays were published online and readers can vote for their favorite.

None of the responses justify eating meat en masse or the farming of animals purely for the sake of slaughter. I hope some responses of that nature were either omitted by the Ethicist as opposed to none being submitted.

A response that is sure to be popular is that indeed it is not necessarily the right thing to do, but we are not perfect so why start with eating meat? That’s an honest approach but not a logical approach.

The weakest answer is to “why is it ethical to eat meat?” was the guy who said it isn’t so he doesn’t but he will when artificially produced meat is for sale. Talk about avoiding the question!

Anyway, I don’t have much to add, I just felt it my duty to report that the Ethicist has selected some favorites and you can vote and comment on them.

Bon appétit.

Link: NY Times Magazine

  • Anonymous

    I agree. None of the 6 are satisfying. It seems like they accepted the ones that were long-winded 🙂

  • I’m dealing with exactly this issue recently. I may have to start eating meat for health reasons after 20 years as a vegetarian:

  • daized79

    Spurred, not spurned.

    Why is the onus on why eating meat is ethical? Why isn’t the question why is it unethical? Why is the burden on the people who are doing what we have done for thousands of years? Kabbalists say it gathers the ntisotsot from the meat and helps gilgulim make their way up the chain (interestingly Hindus avoid it for the same latter reason).

    I can’t tell you why it’s “ethical” (since I’m not a Kabbalist), but I can tell you that since it’s not “unethical” because animals have more in common with plants than they do us with us, despite our physical (non-intellectual) similarities, there’s no reason we can’t go on eating it. Or producing it en masse. hashem gave us the natural world to enjoy as He permitted. So it’s a neutral thing.

    • Well, according to Chazal, eating meat was a concession not bdieved. And anytime one takes the life of a creature I would think one needs a justification. The question here is if there is a non-religious justification.

      • daized79

        Is that a monolithic opinion? I have heard it before, but it certainly doesn’t seem to have been accepted by k’lal yisrael…

        I have a hard time with “ethics” outside of religion. And by that, I don’t mean ethics outside of “halakha” (pace R’ Lichtenstein), but without any belief that the world was created for a purpose and there’s reward and punishment. But if I don’t believe in G-d, I’d still say it’s neutral. We’re at the top of the food chain. Why is it unethical?

        • Pretty mainstream that Basar Taavah was only permitted after the generation of Noah. Some say there was no Basar Taavah for Jews until entry into the land of Israel.

          • daized79

            I meant the “concession” part. And what about the s’lav? Or do you literally mean basar b’hema v’khaya and not of?

            My point is that we don’t see anywhere rabanim talking about not eating meat as a midat khasidut that I’m aware of (and certainly not widespread). So my inference is that whatever happened was not a concession, but a neutral thing at the very least.

    • MarkSoFla

      “because animals have more in common with plants than they do us with us”

      This is untrue. Humans and animals have MUCH more DNA in common than animals and plants have in common. That’s because humans ARE animals (kingdom-wise).

      • daized79

        I was not talking about DNA but in the way that the tora views things. I am obviously aware that scientists classify us as mammals (and understandably so).

        • MarkSoFla

          Ah, you didn’t mention Torah 🙂 #onlykabbalah

          • daized79

            The first part was kabala. The second was tora. Sorry for the confusion. That steak looks so good.

      • daized79

        Hey I just re-read what i wrote. Is there a reason you stopped the quote where you did? Here’s the full quote:

        “because animals have more in common with plants than they do us with us, despite our physical (non-intellectual) similarities,”

        I anticipated the DNA argument right there!!! What goes? I’d really like R’ Fink to answer my question about eating meat being a “concession,” though. That does nto seem to be anywhere in rabbinic tradition (aside from the midrash about not eating meat until after noakh). And the Jews ate s’lav in the midbar and talk about the fish and meat they ate in mitsrayim. Couldn’t have been that verboten.

        • MarkSoFla

          It was the physical similarity comment that got me to think about the DNA thing 🙂