AI: One Man’s Meat

Last week the food critic AA Gill became a trending topic on Twitter because he shot a baboon for pleasure and wrote about it in a restaurant review. The internet went into ‘moral indignation’ mode, and the guy was burned at the steak, [sic, sick, and excuse the puns], for his honesty and blood lust. I was curious about the outrage, because it seems to me that killing a baboon (and bear in mind this wasn’t the endangered sort, and is considered a pest) for blood lust isn’t any less noble than killing a wild deer for the pleasure of an incredible (and entirely unnecessary) Michelin-starred loin of venison.

In the West at least, we don’t need to eat meat, we have many options for protein including tofu. We certainly don’t get any health benefits from a Big Mac, and yet are happy that someone killed a cow for us to have the pleasure of the burger. Meat is indeed sustenance, but optional for most of us, and personally I eat meat purely for the pleasure – indeed I am a fan of foie gras, veal, and many other ‘delicacies’ considered to be cruel. So I’m not going to condemn AA Gill for admitting he just wanted to kill something, when I’m perfectly happy for someone else to kill something because I just wanted to taste its delicious flesh. If AA Gill had eaten the baboon afterwards, it would have been less of an issue, it seems, although of course the real issue is that he was daft/brave/desperate/weird enough to publish the story in the first place.

However, what came out of my debates on Twitter about this was a very interesting side-debate about what animals its ‘OK’ to eat – culturally, many of us have emotional ties to certain animals (e.g. those we’ve domesticated, those we consider intelligent or ‘like humans’, those which are endangered), but the lines are personal, arbitrary, and blurry. For example, I used to refuse to eat shark because “sharks are cool”. No other justification, I just liked sharks a lot and wanted to leave them alone. I make no pretence of rationality, I made an emotional decision, which is perfectly fine. I would eat dog, but not someone’s abducted pet cause that’s not very nice, but I wouldn’t eat insects because they are spindly and creepy. I suspect most people wouldn’t eat kitten casserole, but may well eat rabbit casserole.

So what I’m asking is this: What’s your edible animal line? Which animals are you OK with eating, which not, and why do you make the distinction?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET (except Fridays when Tracy can’t figure out the timezones and just posts it at noon BST).

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  1. I’ve had shark before, and while it is good, I probably won’t be going out of my way to do it again, both because of the above reason (sharks are cool) as well as the practical reason that they are in trouble because of over fishing and the like. I have never had dog or cat, or rat for that matter, and don’t know if there is anything I would not consider eating. I might be willing to try anything once.

  2. I don’t understand. What does a cow have to do with a Big Mac?

    I agree there’s no logic behind it. It’s all conditioning. I was raised where it’s ok to eat beef/chicken/pork/fish and don’t have any squeamishness about it (probably because I don’t have to kill them myself). Then there are others where I have to gear myself up to eat (like rabbit or snake). And some I wouldn’t knowingly eat for exclusively emotional reasons (dogs, cats, chimps, well-behaved babies).

    So I don’t have a line as much as a sliding scale where hunger, curiosity, and squeamishness interact. All that can be overridden if someone with authority (i.e., Skepchicks) tells me to eat something and shut up about it.

  3. I’d like to quote Denis Leary here on why we eat cows but certain animals are taboo;

    “We only want to save the cute animals, don’t we? Yeah. Why don’t we just have animal auditions. Line ’em up one by one and interview them individually. “What are you?” “I’m an otter.” “And what do you do?” “I swim around on my back and do cute little human things with my hands.” “You’re free to go.” “And what are you?” “I’m a cow.” “Get in the fucking truck, ok pal!” “But I’m an animal.” “You’re a baseball glove! Get on that truck!””

    To actually answer the question, I distinguish by taste. Some meats I just don’t like the taste of. I’m okay on venison, but I don’t like squirrel. I never tried raccoon because I didn’t like the smell of it (as a note, my uncle is solely responsible for expanding my list of meats eaten past domestic animals to others indigenous to this area).

    Also don’t eat foie gras because of taste. The stuff I had tasted like a wet dog smells, not eating that again. Same for elk, kind of gamey tasting (though maybe it’s because it had to be moved to Mississippi to be prepared so I could eat it). Pretty much everything I’ll try once. If I like the taste, I’ll eat it again.

  4. I tasted snake when I was a wee one. That was weird. Apparently they have chocolate covored scorpions available to eat here, which I’ve no desire to try, but I’ve been told it feels like you’re biting into a chocolate covered stick.

    I’d eat rabbit and veal and lamb without any problems (I don’t think I’ve ever actually had rabbit, though).

    I wouldn’t eat dog or horse unless I was starving and there were no other options. Then I probably would, because I like my life.

    I would never eat road kill unless, again, I was starving and there were no other options, because ew. I’ve known people who have eaten road kill. I’m from the middle of the desert. People here eat weird, weird things. Like chocolate covered scorpions.

  5. I join with the chorus. Acceptable meats are cultural. In this day and age we can apply a little more logic and focus on meats that are produced sustainably which are remarkably few. I eat mostly plants, but in the past have indulged in most things that people consider edible.

    I cannot abide hunters, however. Everyone I know who hunts does so for pleasure and I like to keep at much distance as possible between myself and people who think killing is fun.

  6. I prefer to eat farmed animals. I view it as a symbiotic relationship-they feed us, we keep the species going. Sound weird? Here’s my logic-To feed a population of 6B+, we need a lot of farmland. When we run out, we make more, and displace the native animals, which can lead to extinction. As a compromise, we farm certain animals. I think its a fallacy to think that it takes X calories to make 1 meat calorie, simply because you’re racking up what you’re counting on the meat side, but not the vegetable side. Once you’ve factored in all the man/machine power it takes to raise meat v. raise crops, I think you’ll find they are pretty similar. After all, that corn plant isn’t going to come to you for water, or fertilizer, or harvesting.

    BTW, I’m perfectly ok with any reason you give to be a vegetarian, except moral “specist” argument. When someone pulls that, I go into a full throttle assult. Would anyone like a debate?

  7. I’m a vegetarian but I’d be okay with eating fish if I didn’t think it smelled and tasted so disgusting. Mostly I just think fish are too dumb to know whether they’re in pain or dead. I don’t mind shrimp, but it makes my tummy feel gross and kinda barfy.

    Even the thought of eating something like squid or octopus or whale triggers my gag reflex.

    But I think I could eat penguins… just to spite all the penguins in Happy Feet. Those fuckers deserve to be deep fried for being so annoying and preachy.

  8. I do my best to eat only meat that was as humanely treated as possible, so I buy my meat and eggs from a farmer where I can be sure of the condition in which they are raised. I don’t eat beef and pork outside of my house unless I know for sure where it is from. I make an exception for chicken, sometimes, and fish and seafood -according on the Seafood Watchlist. It’s not so much what I won’t eat as the kinds of what that I won’t eat.

    Ideally, I would be a vegetarian or a vegan, but I just don’t have a wide enough palate for that -and my husband would never go for it…

  9. I think we all know by now that I have a couple of decades on most of you. I also grew up in Ohio, spending my summers on a farm and have eaten a fair amount of game in my life. (Rabbit and squirrel rock, but if someone offers you coon, possum or skunk, politely decline. Trust me on this.) Animals are part of the food chain and it’s naive to deny that . . AND, factory farms suck. I blame Disney for a lot of the disconnected that younger generations have with Nature and the rest of life on this planet.

    I really replied here to point out that MOST of you have alternatives to meat . . SOME of us can’t eat legumes, esp soy, and have to be careful about dairy.

  10. A few years back I had the fun experience of being a vegetarian in a non-vegetarian-friendly country. E.g South Korea
    Strangely, my Western co-workers believed I should join them in their outrage at such delicacies as dog, cow spine soup, live squid, peeled pig faces, stir-fried chicken anus and silk worm larvae.
    And yet, the pork BBQ, steamed crab and exorbitantly priced steaks were considered normal.
    I knew where my line was, but their’s seemed to zig-zag depending on their alcohol consumption and the level of peer pressure.

    *BTW, my line is drawn around the mantra; if it has eyes…. I ain’t eating it.

  11. just to freak out my kids, i eat ants once in a while. they are not too bad but do have that formic acid taste to them. Lived on Taiwan in the late 50’s (i was 0-5 years old) and might have had dog or monkey, i have no idea. I have a problem with veal… because SouthPark told me I should. Had snake, gator, squirrel, opossom, rabbit… and yes they do kinda taste like chicken! I grew up (after 10 years of age) in Texas, so have been exposed to edible varmints most of my life. I think I might draw the line at armadillo however, simply because of the Hanson’s disease legacy.

  12. @Elyse: But I think I could eat penguins… just to spite all the penguins in Happy Feet. Those fuckers deserve to be deep fried for being so annoying and preachy.

    This brings up a good point. While I can’t generally endorse eating cat, there I are couple I’ve met that I’d make an exception for. Maybe it’s a mistake to make food choices on a species basis. Maybe we should make it on a case-by-case basis. ID Ribs anyone?

  13. Well, I live near the Louisiana border, which is nothing to brag about, unless you’re talking about the food that comes out of there. There’s not too much folks in the swamp won’t eat, and goddamn, they make it taste delicious!

    I’ve had many things you’d prolly consider “not very appetizing”; sometimes out of experimentation for another culture, and sometimes out of necessity. Hey, when you’re hungry on a surfing trip and nowhere near civilization, you’d be surprised what you’ll stuff into your face.

    But for normal, everyday chow, I like beef, chicken, fish/seafood, pork, lamb,. Things farmed and customary to western cultural.

  14. Have we done this one before? It feels really familiar.

    I’ve traveled a little bit and lived in rural Texas for a few years.

    I have personally killed, cleaned, cooked and eaten: Fresh water soft shelled turtle, squirrels, rabbits and quail.

    I’ve raised and taken to the slaughter house and then cooked and eaten: cows, sheep and pigs.

    Pigs are freaky smart, smarter than most dogs I have owned but damn they are just made of yummy.

    In my small amount of travel I have eaten: horse, dog, squid, octopus, shark, rooster and some stuff that I have never positively identified but must have been some kind of beatle.

    I draw the line at primates and endangered animals.

    Otherwise I am an omnivore, evolution evolved me through millions and millions of years to be an omnivore. Who am I to flip off evolution and tell it to suck my ass? I’m not going vegitarian.

  15. Back in August, Dana McCauley’s blog had a post/scale kinda covering just this.

    Now personally I’m like Tanstaafl56. Grew up in the blue ridge mountains and have eaten alot of different things along the scale : snake, rabbit, deer, cow, calf, steer, ram, lamb, etc. Even been the one to slaugher the rabbit way back in the day. To me I think as long as it doesnt have a name, or been someone’s pet, then ya… it could be lunch.

  16. @Gabrielbrawley: Otherwise I am an omnivore, evolution evolved me through millions and millions of years to be an omnivore. Who am I to flip off evolution and tell it to suck my ass? I’m not going vegitarian.

    On tonight’s menu we have braised carrots, arugula salad, and a lovely Brawley Ass Suck served on a bed of couscous.

  17. Ha, it didn’t occur to me that we might have had this topic before, this is my first AI. Gotta remember the rule, there was life before Tracy. I think there have been vegetarian topics before, but I don’t recall seeing one specifically asking which animals it’s OK to eat. I should prolly go search but I’m busy making giant hamburgers.

  18. @Tracy King: I don’t know if this has been one or not it just feels really familiar. Could totally just be the other people who live in my head. They won’t shut up.

    While there may have been life before Tracy, Life after Tracy has been the bee’s knees.

  19. Personally, I’m mostly a vegetarian, except I eat eggs sometimes.

    It is interesting how the lines are arbitrary though. By coincidence, Wednesday night’s new episode of South Park (titled “Whale Whores”) started with scenes of the Japanese killing whales and dolphins by the thousands, and with Americans expressing disgust at the practice.

    The episode ended with a scene where the Japanese switched to the mass killing of cows instead, and an American character said, “It’s okay, now they’re normal, like us.”

  20. @Elyse: Hahaha! Sometimes I think I am the only one that thought Happy Feet was the most horrible f-‘n movie. I mean, he had a f’n antenna sticking out of his back towards the end!? What little kid wants to see THAT!?

    @Gabrielbrawley: Oh, THAT’S original.

    I like to say I don’t eat anything with a central nervous system. :-P

    I’m vegan for ethical reasons. I don’t need to eat anything that comes from an animal because I just don’t need to.

    Plus I wouldn’t still be sucking on the breast of my Mom so why would I continue to do it on a cow?! Bleh!

  21. @SidBB: Aww, I missed that episode.

    Yeah, it’s interesting. I joke sometimes with people about my veganism but it is curious how it differs from culture to culture.

    A friend sent me a link once about the killing of dogs in China for food. I told her that it was awful but I really don’t understand how a cow is any different.

    I mean, come on people — if you are going to eat meat just EAT it and stop trying to justify one over the other. I won’t harass you . . . really, I won’t!

  22. @Surly Nymph: “Plus I wouldn’t still be sucking on the breast of my Mom so why would I continue to do it on a cow?! Bleh!”

    agreed about cow’s milk… ickkk, sure mom’s milk is much healthier for humans anyway…. don’t think we evolved suckin cow.

  23. Hmmm – killing for bloodlust v. killing for food? I was brought up with “you kill it, you eat it “. Killing just to kill something? Meh. Reminds me of the city-boy hunters who used to invade my area of Connecticut, jack-light deer, polish them off with high-powered rifles and hack off the heads to show their city friends how macho they were. [Being idiots, they also shot at local cattle and dogs. The local humans shot back. A faux-hunter with an ass full of birdshot is a joy to behold.]

    If Gill had gone after a lion, taking only a crude spear, well…

    I don’t eat bunnies. A) I don’t like the taste and b) we’ve had pet bunnies, so it would be like eating a friend. I will eat Bambi, but only if shot by someone I know.

  24. This might be a tad off topic but it made me think of something I saw once in my own wanderings. We are talking about “needless” killing of an animal vs. for food and this reminded me of a character created by author Gary Francione:

    “Let’s imagine that we encounter Simon, who is torturing a dog by burning the dog with a blowtorch. Simon’s only reason for torturing the dog is that he derives pleasure from this sort of activity.

    Simon is the exact sort of person who is of interest to those concerned about the link between animal “abuse” and human violence.
    Why? What is Simon doing that is so troubling?

    Simon is violating a moral and legal rule that just about everyone agrees with—that it is wrong to inflict unnecessary suffering or death on animals. And what do we mean by “unnecessary”? We mean that it is wrong to inflict suffering or death on animals merely because it gives us pleasure or we find it amusing. Simon is inflicting unnecessary suffering and death on the dog; he is torturing an animal for no reason other than his pleasure and amusement.

    The problem is how is Simon any different from everyone who eats meat, dairy, or eggs?

    We kill more than 50 billion animals every year (worldwide) for food. There can be no doubt that animal foods involve an enormous amount of pain, suffering, and death. Animal foods produced under the most “humane” circumstances involve treating animals in ways which, if applied to humans, would constitute torture.

    No one maintains that we have to eat animal foods to have optimal health. Indeed, mainstream health care professionals are increasingly of the view that animal foods are harmful for human health. And animal agriculture is a disaster for the environment.
    What is the best justification that we have to inflict pain, suffering, and death on 50 billion sentient nonhumans?

    The answer: we enjoy the taste of animal products. We derive pleasure from using animals even though there is no necessity involved.

    So how are we different from Simon the Sadist?

    Answer: we are not.”

  25. @Gabrielbrawley: Part of the reason I don’t hunt. I’d have to get in shape, train myself up, and go after wild boars, babboons, and other such things with a spear so there’s some real thrill in it.

    Mostly because hunting with a gun would leave me bored and quickly turn into The Most Dangerous Game.

  26. Humans. I draw the line at Humans. I’ve no rational justification for drawing the line at people. Perhaps it’s the knowing look in their eyes. I’m just a great big sentimental softie.

    Under exceptional life-or-death circumstances I’d eat human flesh. Under unusual circumstances, say Thursdays, I’d happily eat any kind of flesh.

  27. This is a big issue for me at the moment, as someone close to me is in some legal trouble for animal cruelty for killing a wild horse. Firstly, it must be understood that in Australia, horses are a feral species, and they do considerable damage to the native ecosystem.

    Although going out and shooting animals isn’t something I’d enjoy doing, I don’t really have any problems with hunting, as to me, one less feral animal is a good thing, and it seems to me to be an environmentally friendly way to obtain meat for pet consumption (as was the case in this instance). However, people that disagree with hunting are fine by me too – in the end it just seems like it comes down to value judgements and differing cultural values.

    The thing I hate, however, is the uproar simply because of the species. There wouldn’t be nearly as much anger if the animal had been a wild goat, or pig – both large mammals that are also feral in Australia and regularly hunted. My point is, if you are going to be against hunting, you may have many valid points, but at least try to be consistent – ‘because it is pretty’ isn’t a very strong argument in my opinion.

    It’s the same reason that I don’t quite understand the anti-fur protesters. If the concern is for the welfare of the animals, then why not just focus on improving the conditions? There doesn’t seem to be nearly as much uproar about leather, and I just get the impression that it comes down to how cute and furry and charismatic animals with snugly warm fur are. I know that there are alternatives to real fur, but being synthetic, aren’t they worse for the environment? Admittedly, I’m not very well versed on the topic, so I’m entirely open to being corrected.

    As for the AI questions – I’m not really sure. As long as it wasn’t an animal I had an emotional attachment to (i.e. pet), and doesn’t enter the area of primates (probably cetaceans too?), I might just be open to anything. But the subject of the line of distinction is something that I have thought about a lot, and still don’t have an answer for, because I can’t seem to base it on any logic, just values. The range of species is such a continuum that it’s hard to draw a line anywhere, for whatever reason.

  28. @russellsugden: Ha! Funny thing that is strangely true and don’t know if I should admit . . .uuuhhhh . . . but . . .

    My husband is vegan as well and when I was breastfeeding our daughter he seriously contemplated making cheese out of it.

    Yeah, consider my line drawn.

  29. I eat seafood because it is delicious and I avoid chicken, pork, beef, etc., because they don’t taste good to me.

    For me, eating meat is about taste. I’ve never enjoyed meat, I’m just not that big on it. But I like the taste of lobster, scallops, crab, and shrimp and so I eat them.

  30. @Surly Nymph: @davew: It’s a really strange taboo. Imagine explaining “Cheese” to a Martian. And then explaining that while Cow’s, Sheep’s and Goat’s milk is acceptable but milk from our own species is Verboten, the milk best suited to us as a species.

  31. @davew: COTW!

    @Surly Nymph: Thanks for making the distingishment between morals and ethics. People use tose words interchangably, but I think there are serious differences in the word. Morals are a single person’s rules by which s/he interacts with the world, and ethics are rules that at least 50% of the people agree at least 50% of the time.

    At least, that’s my definition, and that’s why I don’t buy “ethical” reasons.

  32. These discussions usually remind me of the comic strip “Bloom County” In one strip the characters guilt Steve Dallas into not eating meat. When he starts to boil some carrots one of the kids looks at him and says “Boiled carrots never have a nice day.”

  33. I know people who rank more intelligent animals over the less intelligent ones (for whatever definition of intelligence they’re going with, presumably ‘human’ is at the top of the scale more or less). So the death of a dolphin or an ape is somehow sadder than the death of a cat or chicken or a salmon. Some of those people choose what they’re comfortable eating based on the same intelligence scale. I generally ask them if they’d be OK with eating a very retarded orphan baby. Apparently I’m an annoying dick :D

  34. @Surly Nymph: But I eat cheese. It’s crazy when you think about it, but tasting nice is a good enough reason for me.

    I’ve yet to taste human placenta (not something you can pick up from Tesco easily) but I’d like to. Human placenta with Breast Milk cream sauce.

  35. @Gabrielbrawley: There is a humorous video somewhere on youtube about human cheese.

    Oh god and if we did market human cheese, imagine all of the low income mothers and mothers in poor countries that would be used and abused for that industry.

  36. The idea of drinking breast milk (or eating a placenta) makes me feel icky, but I’ve eaten fish eyes and often eat offal (well I am British) like kidney, liver, heart etc.

    I am pretty sure that in a plane-crash mountain survival scenario I could eat a dead stranger, but I’d probably rather die myself than eat a dead loved-one in the same scenario. That’s perfectly reasonable though, we have emotional attachments to our loved-ones (hence the name). But there’s nothing rational about my finding breast milk or placenta icky. And yet here I am, feeling queasy at the thought.

  37. @Surly Nymph:

    Yes, it’s true that we derive pleasure from eating meat, but I still think it’s worlds different from killing an animal in cold blood.

    Also, I take issue with this:

    No one maintains that we have to eat animal foods to have optimal health. Indeed, mainstream health care professionals are increasingly of the view that animal foods are harmful for human health. And animal agriculture is a disaster for the environment.

    When there are no sources or references proving it. Harmful for human health? I have a hard time believing that.

    And while a good majority of us might not “need” to eat meat, some do. Gwenny upthread can’t eat eat legumes, especially soy. Her options are cut drastically. And those who are allergic to gluten have a hard time going vegetarian/vegan as well.

    And what about those who just don’t have the option? Many poor people in poor cities really *don’t* have the option of going vegetarian.

    It’s great taht you’re vegetarian/vegan, but to claim that we omnivores are exactly like someone who goes out and tortures and kills an animal is, quite frankly, offensive.

    Currently in Phoenix, we have a serial cat killer. He goes and literally cuts live cats up.

    I’m sorry, but I’m nothing like him, even if I do go home and eat a juicy steak.

  38. @Tracy King: Or a foetus?

    The main sticking point for me is the disease transmission potential of eating other humans. I believe tribes in Papua New Guinea until the mid-20thC used to suffer from a form of CJD related to their tradition of eating their defeated enemies.

    Other than the potential for catching some horrible disease I see know logical reason not to eat, say a retard child or foetus, who’d already died. It’s wasteful not to.

    Delibrately killing them for meal would, though break Le contrat social we’ve all signed up to. But there must be enough retard children and abortions in the UK to keep us supplied.

  39. @marilove: Could you/have you killed an animal for food? I have killed an animal (for humane reasons) but not slaughtered for meat, but I am pretty sure that I could. I don’t think I’d enjoy it, which is the difference between me and the cat killer you describe, but many hunters who eat what they kill do enjoy the blood sport aspect. Then again, many abbatoir workers are vegetarian, I daresay. But it would be interested to see how many meat-lovers would still be such if they had to be hands-on. Maybe I wouldn’t be able to do it after all and would go back to being a vegetarian (I was one for about 5 years). Or maybe a secret blood-lust would awaken in me! Or maybe I’d just view it as necessary (I’m thinking that in the weird Mad Max world in which I have to slaughter my own meat, alternative sources of protein are not readily available).

  40. @marilove: sorry if that is how my post made it sound. i just think milk is icky, and i believe we did evolve drinkin mum’s milk… not sure when we first started drinkin cow…. possibly shortly before we domesticated them. disingenuous has too many syllllables for me to grok. ;)

  41. @marilove: I don’t fault anybody for eating meat in poor countries. There is not eating meat when you don’t have to and there is survival. If I was somewhere where I had no other options, I would sure as hell kill something to survive.

    There is also a difference between eating small portions of meat here and there in moderation than there is going every morning to McDonalds and eating a breakfast sandwich that has beef, cheese and eggs on it simultaneously — or a sandwich for lunch that has cow, pig and cheese on it all at once.

    I don’t agree with everything said in the above quote — one thing that upsets me are those who are quick to say that everyone on the planet can always subsist on a meatless diet (and like you said, especially without significant proof to back it up), but I do find it interesting when certain people find killing a kitten horrible but will they will sit an eat a dish of lamb.

  42. @russellsugden: WAH! You made me have a mental debate with myself about whether I’d eat an abortion. It went like this:

    “No, that’s gross, unless it was strictly necessary because you were starving”
    “Isn’t the same true of veal or foie gras?”
    “Gnnnnnggh. Yes, but dead babies are tragic”
    “But you are pro-choice, which means you don’t view an aborted fetus as a baby. It’s just so much meat and bones”
    “Ah. Er…not enough fat on a fetus to make a tasty meal. GET OUT OF MY HEAD”.

  43. “Meat is indeed sustenance, but optional for most of us, and personally I eat meat purely for the pleasure – indeed I am a fan of foie gras, veal, and many other ‘delicacies’ considered to be cruel.”

    I grew up on a small farm and I can’t imagine someone using the phrase, ‘considered to be cruel’. I don’t know how else you would use the term, for veal, the small calf is locked by itself in a pen where it isn’t allowed to move more than a step in any direction and then it is killed. This is a herd animal, now isolated from others, tortured and killed. This because someone wants to have less chewy meat. I would never sit with someone while they ate veal, they might start torturing human children next. When we killed an animal to eat, we made sure it did NOT know it was about to die. If cattle are killed instantly without fear, the entire animal is tender and tasty and no need to torture a young one. So because we consume so much meat cheaply, we kill adult animals with cruelty so we have to extend that to calves since we made the adult cattle so filled with hormones from fear that it is tough and stringy. Two wrongs doesn’t make it right.

  44. @Tracy King: Yep, I could. I haven’t, but I could. I don’t know that I’d want to go hunting — I have no actual *desire* to shoot and kill an animal, but I could if I needed to, and I grew up around hunters (who ate the animals they killed), so I don’t have anything morally against hunting. And I’ve fished plenty, which is messy (and tasty). And exactly — I wouldn’t enjoy it, though I don’t think I’d feel negatively about it, because I’d be planning on eating it. But killing something to EAT is much different than killing something because you get some sick pleasure from it.

    That cat killer? Will likely move up to violence against humans — if he already hasn’t, and he probably has.

    That hypothetical Simon guy? Same thing.

    Also, there are definitely some hunters that are WAY more into hunting than they should be – because they get off on killing animals. And it’s creepy. And they tend to be abusive fucktards.

    I’ve also known hunters who only kill meat because they love the meat. Getting pleasure from eating meat is not the same as getting pleasure from killing something.

  45. Tracy, as you already know, I am a veg-head. My wife and I do not think it is right to knowingly kill animals (including people), and eating them alive is a tad distasteful.

    I am curious about you Skepchicks, though. You seem to cover the spectrum, from your willingness to eat virtually anything, to Rebecca’s vegetarianism, to Elyse’s vegetarianism +fried cartoon penguin.

    On a side note, when I became a veg, 25 years ago or so, It was tough if you enjoyed cooking. Now, it is actually much easier, because of the variety of subs. With the exception of “put meat on fire; sear; eat”, there are few meat-eater recipes that we cannot try by using a meat substitute. That makes me happy, ’cause we both really like to cook (and eat), and we can share recipes with our meat eating friends and family.

  46. @Tracy King: Exactly my point. I, personally, could never do it so I honestly don’t find it right for me to eat what someone else has killed for me.

    I’ve seen videos of things that go on in slaughterhouses that have scarred me for life. Having seen that, there is no difference between those people and the person that tortures a kitten.

  47. @frisbeetarian: this brings to mind an early memory from Taiwan. Used to be, occasionally i would hear pigs squeeeeeling and asked dad what was up, once he said ‘let’s go see’. It was a pig farmer hauling a pig in a wheel barrow to market. My dad asked him was the pig scared, was that why it was squeeling so. My dad’s chinese was much better than mine so he translated for me. The gentleman said ‘ no not scared, DRUNK!’ apparently they felt that if the animal knew it was not long for this world it would be tense and that would make the meat tough. So they would get ’em drunk and they never knew what happened. :)

  48. @frisbeetarian: this is difficult to express properly, but I think the cruel part of the process is killing an animal just to eat it when we don’t need to. So I work backwards from that. If I’m OK for an animal to die for my pleasure, I am not going to get all concerned for its welfare while it’s alive. If I actually cared, I’d say “er, don’t kill that on my account, I’ll eat some carrots instead”. I’m not one for “what’s that you say? It was happily running around in a field up until the point you grabbed it, put a bolt through its head and skinned it? That’s OK then!”

    You should be aware, however, that veal crates are banned in the UK and the method you describe would not have been used for any veal I’ve ever eaten. Not that it would make a difference to me, because, as I say, if I gave a rat’s ass about the animal I wouldn’t eat it at all. I don’t find any compassion for things I’m about to digest, I don’t think it would be consistent of me to.

  49. There is also a difference between eating small portions of meat here and there in moderation than there is going every morning to McDonalds and eating a breakfast sandwich that has beef, cheese and eggs on it simultaneously — or a sandwich for lunch that has cow, pig and cheese on it all at once.

    Why is there a difference? It’s still meat. I’m somehow a horrible person for eating a bacon cheeseburger, but I’m not if i just ate the burger? (without cheese, of course!)? Really? That makes no logical sense.

    I love bacon cheeseburgers. And I don’t feel at all guilty about it.

    but I do find it interesting when certain people find killing a kitten horrible but will they will sit an eat a dish of lamb.

    I find killing kittens for no other reason than because you get off on killing kittens way different than eating a dish of lamb. Even if you don’t like lamb or have a personal problem eating lamb, you must see the difference.

    I had lamb the other day. I will not kill a kitten.

  50. Here is a thought: I know that all of us would never torture a kitten.

    I also know that a lot of people here would never torture a cow but would purchase a cow that was killed for them to eat.

    Would it make a difference if that cow was tortured before hand but you didn’t know?

  51. @marilove: First I have to correct myself first because I meant to say veal. I am not fully aware of how lamb is raised and killed.

    Veal is made by taking a newborn male away from his mother shortly after he’s born. Then he is placed in a small pen where he can not stand or move around. Then he is force fed until he is fat and his muscles are soft due to lack of use, never seeing the light of day.

    If that isn’t torture, I don’t know what is.

  52. @marilove: Way to put words in my mouth.

    There a lot of people who don’t know this information and don’t know how to get this information. I do not fault people for not knowing. A slaughterhouse isn’t going to give you a tour of the kill floor.

    Eating meat is not simultaneously evil in my mind as if factory farming.

  53. Intensively reared livestock is subject to cruelty by some people’s standards because of the way it is reared and slaughtered. Any ‘efficient’ system is subject to mistakes – there are accounts of cows being skinned alive because they weren’t properly stunned etc. This isn’t deliberate cruelty, but the animal dies in pain. Not very pleasant to witness, I’m sure, but also not something many people consider when they order a steak that doesn’t have a ‘free range’ label (although in the UK a lot of ‘free range’ is marketing hype).

    Bring on the meat vats, I say, whereby meat is grown artificially without any need for living animals at all. Does away with all the ethical issues and is way more practical. Not sure what stage that’s at but it was going well a year or so ago, I recall a few articles about it.

    Curiosity of UK law (not sure about the USA): kosher and halal slaughtering is exempt from certain animal welfare laws because it’s a religious sacred cow (excuse the awful pun). There is evidence that the method of death is much more painful for the animal, which cannot be stunned first according to those religions, and yet they’re allowed a different standard because their god says so.

    And yet I know people who generally like to avoid battery-farmed animals who will go for a kebab (which is of course halal) or eat at a local Subway (which where I’m from are largely halal) without thinking about this.

  54. I don’t feel bad about eating poultry and fish at all. The domesticated chickens I’ve been around barely had enough sense for self-preservation so I don’t feel any remorse for finding them delicious in nugget form.

    One thing that I like to eat that sets off others is goat. It’s strange to me that people are fine with cow but not with goat.

    @Gabrielbrawley: I’m the only lactose *tolerant* member of my family, so I taunt them that I’m more evolved. I loves me some dairy products. I could go vegetarian without too much complaint but I could never give up cheese, yogurt, and milk.

  55. @frisbeetarian: First and foremost, I question where you got this information. You mentioned you grew up on a farm, so is this first-hand? Have you considered the possiblity of regulations/practices changing? If not, have you considered that the farmer is selling a product and thusly needs to protect his product from harm as long as he can?

    Additionally, I don’t see the leap between eating veal and torturing children. I live with a guy who raises chickens, and asked him if he slaughtered them. He went into a story about how his son was in tears, and the mess, and all that good stuff. But, wouldntchaknow, that boy still eats chicken! There’s a vast chasm between eating meat and killing someone.

    Now, my question to you is, would you kill a bug in your house? If you’re going to extend to a cow the same status as a child, why not to the colony of ants that have invaded your home? Wasps building a nest on your front porch? the spiders in your attic? The mice roaming in your kitchen?

  56. @Surly Nymph: I’m proud of it. When I was a student in York, one summer I worked at the abattoir at the Malton Bacon Factory (where every type of animal is slaughtered oddly enough)

    It’s a job like any other, and for people in rural communities it’s the best paid job you could possibly get if you don’t have any qualifications (back in the 90’s it was paying ~£20k more than a teacher got at the time)

  57. A lot of it I’m perfectly prepared to accept as cultural. I won’t eat a cat, (carnivores mostly don’t taste as good as herbivores anyway), but if somebody else thinks they’re yummy I say go for it.
    The baboon thing, though, gives me pause for thought. Endangerment issues aside, I have the uncomfortable feeling that eating an ape is something a wee bit too close to cannibalism, and hunting one for fun seems equally creepy.

  58. @Tracy King I’m surprised you’re “curious about the outrage”. I can’t say I know you but I doubt you would be suprised by the outrage if it was a human that was killed. Seems to me that it is a very normal reaction to show greater outrage the more similar in behavior and/or genetics an animal is to us.

  59. @infinitemonkey: Now, my question to you is, would you kill a bug in your house? If you’re going to extend to a cow the same status as a child, why not to the colony of ants that have invaded your home? Wasps building a nest on your front porch? the spiders in your attic? The mice roaming in your kitchen?

    In my opinion (and I think you will find this of other vegans as well although I don’t speak for them) there comes a point when you have to take action either for self preservation.

    I don’t judge anybody and I’m not now — just debating. I was there once so I understand both sides.

    The bug issue is like this: If the bug is harmless and just doing it’s thing, I let it outside. If it’s invading my house, getting into my food, etc. I take action.

    Case in point: I get a LOT of black widows in the little yard of my condo. My dog runs around there and likes to jab her noise in dark places. In order to protect her (thus one that I love) I deal with the black widows accordingly.

    It makes me sad because black widows are awesome animals, but I do it for the sake of my love for Sheila.

    Now I have gotten into the habit of sweeping up religiously — this keeps the black widows from even making home of my yard, so I can deal with the situation without harming anything.

    Another point: I don’t eat honey either because it is the product of bee labor. Sounds humorous I know, but I would hate to work so hard only to have it stolen from me.

    Other exceptions are things like medicine: Yes, animals have been harmed in the testing and manufacture of medicine but if it’s needed for survival, than an exception is made.

    It’s a fine line and everyone has their own idea on when it should be crossed but it is what it is.

    Edit: I just noticed about forty-thousand typos in this comment so if you find one I missed, please ignore!

  60. @coreyjf: That’s what surprised me, though. It wasn’t a human that was killed, it was a baboon, an animal considered vermin locally and routinely shot to save crops.

    The guy who shot it admitted that he’d always wanted to shoot something to see what it felt like – I can’t see why that’s outrageous, other than the fact that he admitted it in print. Hunting is hardly rare. Blood lust is hardly rare. So the outrage when ‘one of us’ admits to it is surprising to me. The baboon would have been shot anyway, does it make it OK that it would have been shot by someone who wasn’t fulfilling an ambition?

  61. I like the idea of happy food. Everything dies in the end. Might as well be happy while, we, it, them is alive. Veal can be raised humanely. It doesn’t have to be put in a small pen, it can be allowed to roam you just have to kill it while it is still young and tender.

    What about cotton? I am wearing a cotton shirt and pants. The cotton didn’t feel anyting but it was farmed and harvested. These actions damaged the environment. There is a better than good chance that whoever made these clothes weren’t paid a fair wage. It is possible they are treated as slaves.

    What about computers? or the internet? The construction of computers, servers, fiber optic lines all damage the environment. The factories deystroy habitat, animals die. The people who perform the work are often exploited.

    Cars, houses, roads, windmills, solar cells, cell phones, ipods, dvd’s. The list goes on and on and on. All of these things are created through processes that wreak havoc on the environment, deystroy habitat, directly cause the death of animals and exploit humans.

    Buying any of it supports that destruction. How do you choose what death and destruction you are willing to support and what death and destruction you are unwilling to support?

  62. @Surly Nymph: When did they stop? We toured one as a school field trip when I was in the second grade. Cows came in on a huge converoy belt, guys with spring loaded bolt guns stuned/ killed them, then they were gutted and hung on hooks.

    Being the bloodthirsty little monsters that second graders are we loved it.

  63. @Gabrielbrawley: And thus we come back around to the original topic, lol

    It’s an answer based on cultural, religious, maternal, paternal, educational, political, circumstancial blah blah blah experiences.

    The only thing we can do unfortunately is state our cases. It’s impossible to do everything all of the time, so to chose one thing you feel strongly about and argue for that is perfectly fine with me. Why do people run for breast cancer but not lung cancer or heart disease? Why do people chose to help children over less fortunate adults? Just because you favor the one over the other doesn’t mean everything else doesn’t matter. You try what you can with what you are given.

  64. @Tracy King:

    I don’t agree with, but understand your logic as to why you don’t think it is outrageous. What surprises me, is that you don’t “understand” the outrage. Our evolutionary pumps have been primed to show more empathy to a primate than a dear.

    I don’t see that it matters that the baboon would have died anyways. I’m sure you would see plenty of outrage if someone said they wanted to volunteer at an execution because they always wanted to kill someone. And yes I know a Baboon is not human, but that is my point – the closer something is to being human, the more outrage one can reasonably expect.

  65. @Gabrielbrawley: I did not know that. That’s interesting. I’d be curious if they still do that. If they do, wow. Why is it people freak out then when Peta hands out flyers? (btw I hate Peta for other reasons)

  66. Tortured kitten with veal stuffed in straw men sounds like an interesting dish; followed by poached curried fetus with Sudgen toe croutons’ for the main course. Yummm.

  67. @James Fox: Ok, I’ll agree to the straw man fallacy only because torturing a kitten usually takes blatant knowledge of the fact that you are torturing a kitten and not a lot of people know that the majority of veal is produced in a torturous manner.

    However, if someone knows how the veal was raised and continues to eat it knowing that calf might have suffered I fail to see how this is a straw man.

  68. @Surly Nymph: How about some low fact misleading soup to go along with that straw man.

    Nearly ALL calves are removed from the cow after birth. That’s how the dairy industry works. The cow then returns to the dairy barn to produce milk that otherwise would have gone to the calf.

    There is a lot of veal production around where I live which is typical of most dairy areas. Most all veal producers in the US, according to some quick googling use much more humane methods than you mention, as well as those veal farmers I’ve observed personally. Veal calves are housed in well lit and ventilated barns where they are allowed to stand and have physical and visual contact with other calves.

    I’ll bet you could even arrange a tour of a veal farm with a phone call to see for your self.

    Here is some factual information from the USDA you may find informative.

  69. @coreyjf: Hmm, did I say I didn’t understand the outrage? In the post I said I was curious about it, but there are a lot of comments here so if I said I didn’t understand it since, I’ve forgotten! I understand Twitter outrage all too well, the logo might as well be a pitchfork in front of a bonfire. But I was certainly curious why people would leap on this when it’s, to me, no worse than eating meat for pleasure. But yes, the ‘baboons are like us because we live in the West and have the luxury of not seeing them eat our valuable crops’ factor is one that I shouldn’t be so curious about, it’s been around a long time.

  70. @James Fox:Nearly ALL calves are removed from the cow after birth. That’s how the dairy industry works. The cow then returns to the dairy barn to produce milk that otherwise would have gone to the calf.

    I know this already, that’s true — which is why many argue the merits of veganism over vegetarianism because the production of milk continues the cycle of production either for females as dairy cows, or male’s as veal calves. You produce until spent, and then you are slaughtered.

    As far as the production of veal, I only know through certain things I have read and seen and if the link you show me is accurate than I do stand corrected.

    It doesn’t do much for how I feel on the subject, but at least you have opened my eyes so that I don’t use that particular argument in my debates anymore — at least until I find other credible evidence/sources.

  71. @Elyse: @Surly Nymph: , add another to the “I hate ‘Happy Feet'” bandwagon. It made me realize that Disney and Pixar should really consider not letting Lasseter out of his cage without the rest of the Pixar writing team, or at least Brad Bird. That movie was so damn self-righteous it made me want to slaughter all penguins on the spot. If it hadn’t been for “Surf’s Up” (a much better penguin movie, done as a surfing documentary featuring voices of Jon Heder, Shia LeBouf, Jeff Bridges, Dedriech Bader, and some others whose names escape me at the moment), I’d probably still feel that way.

  72. Well, I won’t eat shellfish. Although I’m jewish, it’s not really because God doesn’t want me to but more because a: they’re icky and nasty and b: I’m allergic. Okay, b is a little more important than a here.
    I don’t think I’d eat any kind of primate either.
    And I definitely won’t eat roaches or spiders.

    I won’t get into the morals of shooting a baboon for bloodlust, but I will say that someone who’d kill any kind of animal (let alone a fairly man-like one) out of nothing but bloodlust probably isn’t someone I’d want as a dinner companion while eating whatever meat I’d eat. Whether the animal is considered a pet or not doesn’t really enter into it here, since that wasn’t his reason for shooting the baboon.

    On the other hand, I haven’t felt strongly enough about it to blog, twitter or in any other way write about up before now.

  73. I’m confused. Surely we all would agree it’s bad to be arbitrary with epistemology. Why then is it okay to be arbitrary with ethics?

    I don’t think it’s true that where you draw the line is necessarily arbitrary. Philosophers talk about that very issue all the time and there are lots of lines drawn and justified for very non-arbitrary reasons.

    I think you can reasonably draw the line just about anywhere, although I would argue that some places are more justifiable than others, but at least be reflective enough to come up with some reasons.

    Personally I draw the line at seafood and invertebrates, as well as animal products that don’t involve killing the animal. And I happen to do so as a part of a very consistent and carefully thought out ethical framework.

  74. @killyosaur: No kidding! I mean, I consider myself somewhat of a treehugger but COME ON! The fact that people can say “Aww, that movie was so cute!” had to have been watching it on mute with the ending edited out.

    When he’s in the habitat with the rest of the zoo penguins in that weird fugue state, it’s more creepy and sinister than educational on the plight of the penguin.

    I wanted to see Surf’s Up but just never got around to it.

    Wall-E was a little self riteous as well but it was sarcastic which to me, is more acceptable? I actually really love that one.

  75. General response before I read everything: I don’t have a hard line. There are likely some meats I don’t like (I’m not a big fan of rabbit, for example), but I don’t have an ethical objection to pretty much any meat animal you can name, except long pig… and even then, I’d eat it if it was that or starve.

  76. @banyan:

    As in it’s not ethical to kill needlessly. Killing an animal for food is not needed when other sources of protein etc. are accessable. Therefore, killing an animal for protein, etc. is unethical?

    Not an argument, just trying to make sure I understand what you mean.

  77. Then there is the point that if it wasn’t for agricultural production these animals would mostly go extinct. You don’t see heards of wild cows roaming around for fairly straight forward reasons. We created them through breeding.

    In India they do have some cows wandering the streets. They aren’t killed or eaten because it is against the norms of the dominate religion. But these cattle aren’t living pleasant lives. They are disease ridden, full of parasites and often have untreated injuries.

    Even if you don’t deliberatly kill an animal. Or eat the flesh of an animal doesn’t mean you are doing an ethical thing.

    Do vegans wear leather shoes or belts? I don’t know if they do or don’t.

    Would a vegan use medicine that was developed through animal testing?

    I understand not eating meat because you don’t care for it. That is a concept small enough for me to understand.

    Veganism on the other hand. I don’t understand it. It seems that if you spin the idea out far enough you can’t do anything. Everything you do causes hardship or death in one way or another.

    If you hold to the idea in the extreme it can be a real problem.

  78. @Gabrielbrawley: I know more vegetarians than vegans, but the vegans I do know do absolutely nothing with animals. No leather, no milk, no cheese, no nothing. Plants only. Though I’ve been meaning to ask my veganest friend whether she gets vaccines that are grown in chicken eggs… I’d have to think she wouldn’t. I’ll have to get back to you.

  79. wow, aborted chicken fetuses (pardon me but what is the plural of fetus?) would this make them antivaxxers? no no no.

    i would think that would be one of the epitomies of veganism.
    I believe they would weigh the benefits and take the vaccine. I am not making any kind of judgment. i am just saying.

  80. @Gabrielbrawley: The point is to do as much as possible. Animals sometimes are unfortunately killed in agriculture as well, but far less than when you combine that with the meat industry.

    I mentioned the medical aspect above — in short, you do what you can but when it comes to health/survival you make exceptions.

    As far as leather and wool — it depends. There are some that do not wear leather, wool, silk, etc. and then there are those that will wear those things as long as they are second hand. The two arguments being: if you wear leather at all, you promote the killing of that animal for the hide OR by wearing second hand leather, you keep something else from being made and less clothing ends up in a landfill.

    Any idea can be taken to the extreme really. It’s a tough argument to explain but the idea is to do as much as is possible for you. That is even in the definition of veganism because the group of people that originally founded the word understood it’s impossible to live without harming SOMETHING.

    I could chose to live off of the grid, in a little house somewhere with solar panels, a large garden, etc. etc. but you can’t fix anything by living in a vaccuum. It still doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t do anything just because I can’t do everything.

  81. I grew up eating anything with a face, including all the usual suspects, plus more exotic animals like black bear. Went through a few years of vegetariansism, during which I was shocked by many carnivores’ vehement mistrust of vegetarians, as if my abstinence from meat was somehow depriving them. I sympathise with you, Surly Nymph.

    Since that time, I married a french woman. Witnessing well-fed and healthy animals with huge pastures to fill their gullets with all sorts of flavour got my salivary glands salivating again, not to mention appeasing any guilt after seeing geese eagerly waddling to their next liver-fattening session. One could tell by that waddle; they loved it.

    I now eat most things, from foie gras (faux gras is just blasphemy), to boar, venison, and the occasional rabbit.

    My only sacred cow is, well, cow. Not because it’s sacred, but because only a generation ago my family, living in India, relied on just a few cows for dairy food (milk, butter, cheese, yoghurt), fuel (i.e. dung), and labour (plowing the fields). It just seems rude for me to eat their species after all that service. Thanks, cows.

    I stopped eating pork for a while after hearing a story about a scientist who taught a pig how to play a piano. I was struggling to learn the piano at the time, and out of respect for the pig I stopped eating his species. Having not been able to verify the story, I have since gone back to eating pork. Sorry, pigs.

    So, while my own views are clearly led by my stomach, cultural bias, and inability to play the piano, I still find fault with AA Gill’s bloodlust. Baboons may be a pest needing to be culled, but his intent is more akin to an Englishman’s desire to return to the wild after coming from a land where the most dangerous animal is a hedgehog. If he wrestled the baboon (while naked) I’d give him machismo points, but weilding a shotgun on safari just doesn’t do it for me. He’s a tourist, not a hunter.

    For more ridiculous justifications on what animals deserve being eaten, check out this fantastic and delusional video:

    In the meantime, sadly, tonight I am eating fish and chips. Tasteless, and yet smells so good; cod’s evolutionary downfall.

  82. @Tracy King:

    I know people who rank more intelligent animals over the less intelligent ones (for whatever definition of intelligence they’re going with, presumably ‘human’ is at the top of the scale more or less). So the death of a dolphin or an ape is somehow sadder than the death of a cat or chicken or a salmon. Some of those people choose what they’re comfortable eating based on the same intelligence scale. I generally ask them if they’d be OK with eating a very retarded orphan baby.

    To weigh in on this, I’ll start with this comment of Tracy’s. I think that intelligence probably isn’t the best place to start when deciding what to kill or treat humanely, but I do think a knockoff of this argument is absolutely necessary for anyone who wants to make an informed decision on the matter. The criteria I would use would be more like how advanced the nervous system of the animal is, and how mentally-complex they are.

    Just to throw this out there, there is absolutely no reason, short of being lazy with your science, to assume that there are more than minor differences between how us humans and how many non-human mammals perceive pain. The mammalian nervous system (this includes the brain) is vastly, vastly more complex than something like an invertebrate’s. When a cow or a cat is subject to pain, there are very few good reasons to think that its subjective experience of that pain is incredibly different than ours, or that they are somehow immune to physical suffering.

    (A quick sidenote: some cephalopods have been granted “honorary vertebrate” status as far as scientific testing is concerned, which means they must have anesthesia applied before any potentially-painful experiments can be performed. This is due to their unnaturally advanced nervous system)

    So what does this mean? It means we can arrange animals perception of suffering on a spectrum: we can be reasonably confident that there is probably not much suffering going on if you pluck the legs off of a cockroach, but pulling the legs off of a dog is probably a lot more on the “pulling legs off of a primate” side of the spectrum.

    Personally, on the topic at hand, I have no problem eating meat. However, it does matter to me, a lot, how the animals were treated. As long as something is humanely treated while it is alive, I’m cool with it. I honestly have no idea what the majority of farming practices are like in different places around the world, however, the US included. I know that it’s gotten a lot better in this regard, but I don’t know how much.

    I also have a few issues to take up with Marilove. I agree with a lot of what you’ve said, but I have a few bones to pick.


    Harmful for human health? I have a hard time believing that.

    Several studies have suggested that increased red meat consumption increases one’s risk for cancer and cardiovascular disease:

    There are a variety of studies suggesting that people who consume more vegetables and less meat are more healthy. Whether we can be reasonably confident that a causal relationship has been established, I do not know.

    Why is there a difference? It’s still meat. I’m somehow a horrible person for eating a bacon cheeseburger, but I’m not if i just ate the burger? (without cheese, of course!)? Really? That makes no logical sense.

    I think there’s a clear logical distinction between doing a lot of a bad thing and doing less of a bad thing. The logic runs like this. The only reason there are, to pick a number at random, 50 million cows killed each year is because there’s people willing to fund that with their meat consumption. If everyone ate 50% as much meat, there would, by laws of basic economics, only be 25 million killed each year. If people ate 1/1000th as much meat, there would be only 50,000 cows killed each year. Clearly, there’s a difference between a death and a massacre. Now if some percent of those cows suffer while they are alive, eating less meat equates to less animal suffering. This is certainly not a logic-less argument.

  83. @Surly Nymph: Beekeepers don’t steal honey from bees. Its their fee.

    Bees are far more instinct driven than humans. When the work is done, they can’t knock off and go bowling. They have to keep working, even if, by midsummer, they have depleted the resources in their area. Their solution is to hire beekeepers who will provide mobile platforms for the bees to build their hives in, and then to move those platforms to areas with resources aplenty so that the work is not wasted. With bribes of their excess honey, they also get the beekeepers to provide protection from predators, such as black bears, which will not only steal the honey, but destroy the hive and the mobile platform in the process. Often the bears will kill the queen, thereby destroying the entire swarm.

    Mites are another danger that can wipe out swarms, and humans have been successfully utilized to keep mite devastation to a minimum.

    With access to lots of resources, the swarm can get much larger than it might without hiring a beekeeper. Even so, they will produce a large excess of honey for what they will need over winter. They use the excess to pay the beekeeper.

    Honey bees are not pets or domestic animals. They are wild animals utilizing an unusual resource – humans.

    Interesting (to me) aside: When kit foxes first leave the den to play in the larger world, they can run under the bottom wire of the electric fence (keeps bears out). There comes a day when they no longer fit, and they get a jolt. It doesn’t harm them, but they don’t make that mistake again, and, what I find interesting, the other kits that were playing with the jolted one don’t try it again either.

  84. I wonder if you’re an egg-eating pro-choice vegetarian, what is the rule on balut?

    If you don’t know what it is, Google it yourself… but everything you need to know is in the question.

  85. As for the studies on the health of vegetarian or meat diets. After about an hour I have come to the conclusion that there is no conclusion either way. If you search for harmful effects of vegetarian diet there are as many studies as for harmful effects of a meat diet. So the bad news is your screwed either way, your still going to die.

    Now for the good news:
    Veal is good, grass fed veal is just as good and the little fellas get to romp around in an open field until I want veal.

    As for the amount, by that logic we should do away with most farmland as most is corn and goes to feed cows, get rid of the cows, and switch to buffalo. They can grow larger than cows on the native grass don’t require antibiotics and can be left to roam free on the now vacant farmland. Buffalo meat is leaner then cow and much tastier (personal opinion).

    More meat from a single animal = less killing.

    No more need for massive corn crops to feed beef cattle = better for the environment.

    And I still get to enjoy suculent, red, juicy, tender meat.

    I’ll be going out for a little snack now.

  86. I draw the line at mushrooms and any “food” that looks like snot.

    Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about it because I am a vegetarian. After all, cows are vegetarians, and you are what you eat. Which makes me wonder about that guy who has his own TV show where he travels the world eating various species of penises…penii?

  87. @Surly Nymph: Yeah, take the time and see Surf’s Up, you will not regret it (ok, maybe you will but I certainly found it enjoyable, and it din’t have any stupid musical numbers or self righteous messages). The messages in all Pixar films are thanks to John Lasseter, who is of the opinion that a movie, especially a family film, needs to have a message. Wall-E was also a bit self-righteous but the rest of the writers who have been with Pixar for a while knew how to properly place that message in the film in such a way that it never really overrode the basic story and kept the film good. I got the feeling from Happy Feet that the Disney writers didn’t have the strength of will to stand up to Lasseter (because he’s from Pixar, and therefore must be good at everything) and let his freak flag, or in this case self-righteous, overbearing message flag, fly. The man is the director of a lot of my favorite Pixar films (which is pretty much all of them, although the Incredibles is way up at the top of the list, Brad Bird is a god) but the dude really needs to tone that shit down a bit, or always have at least one other writer from Pixar accompanying him when off Pixar grounds.

  88. @jabell2r: That reminds me, there is a guy in Kansas who runs a bison preserve that he funds through the sale of bison meats. He kills a select number of the bison, and sells that to people, uses the money to buy more land, maintain his largely self sustaining farmland, and maintain the free range bison population. He wanted to start selling online but some stupid regulations set up by the cattle industry requires that something like 10% of the meat shipped has to be cow meat. Also, for US$4000, you can kill a bison yourself and he will give you all the meat, the pelt, and the skull (the full head, taxidermied and mounted for an additional cost). It’s kind of like the bee keeper/bee situation, except with bison.

  89. Can’t help thinking about a quote from Kryten in Red Dwarf (“Tikka to Ride”):

    “It seemed to me that if humanoids eat chicken then obviously they’d eat their own species. Otherwise they’d just be picking on the chickens.”

  90. @James Fox: If I had the spare change (and the skills with a rifle necessary to do so) I’d probably do so as well. Actually, I would probably join my dad, grandpa, uncles and some of my second/third cousins on the (almost) annual elk hunting trip to Wyoming. I need to hit a shooting range and at least get a grasp of the shooting (only using firearms when I am up at my grandpa’s farm is simply not enough).

  91. @killyosaur: I would definitely do that (if I had the cash). The only shame would be the head. Bison’s Head en Tortue sounds great right now. I also arrived too late for the marrow at dinner tonight, so that may make it sound even better right now.

    @russellsugden: I’m glad to see Saint Fergus’s Temple mentioned in this thread. My first stop when I can finally make it to London.

  92. @russellsugden: You’re thinking of kuru, which became epidemic among the Fore tribe. They weren’t eating their enemies, however. They practiced ritual consumption of deceased relatives as a funeral rite, which they believed recycled the life force of the dearly departed. The epidemic likely got started by sheer bad luck when somebody got sporadic CJD, then got eaten.

    Women and children were far more likely to get kuru than men, possibly due in part to men getting the choice cuts of meat while women and children got the less-coveted but more infectious-prion-rich brains.

    The weirdness of this story gets even weirder. Carlton Gajdusek won the Nobel Prize for studying kuru, but it was later revealed that he was doing something more than just disease research while on those trips to exotic places like New Guinea. He was just as “accomplished” in… uh…. “researching” under-aged boys as he was in science. Quite prolific in both areas, and thus went to prison.

  93. I only eat beef, chicken, and fish. I don’t care for pork, and nothing else sounds very good, so I don’t eat it. Also, I don’t eat lobster or crab, due to a long standing dietary rule: I don’t eat insects, or things which resemble large insects. The distinction between edible and non edible is arbitrary and based on my opinions, nothing more. I have had pet cows, and yet I still eat beef. I have a dog, and could never eat one. I don’t pretend to understand why. I just go with it.
    Going vegetarian would be a massive problem for me. I have problems eating most vegetables (they taste incredibly bitter to me) and tofu is impossible for me to ingest. Legumes make me gag, period.

  94. I don’t have much to say on the subject, other than I eat Cow, Chicken, Pig, Tuna, and I think thats it other than the odd things found in hot dogs and jerky.

    However this topic did remind me of one of my favorite shirts that says,
    “Meat is murder, Tasty, Tasty Murder”

  95. I’ve been in places where being a dog-lover was a culinary preference. Picking between a cat or dog was a menu choice…

    I draw the line at household pets.

  96. @Surly Nymph:

    Oh, I wouldn’t eat a kitten. I have been conditioned to not think of kittens as food.

    But if kittens weren’t cute, people would recognize what bloodthirsty little bastards they are, and my conditioning might have been different.

  97. @Tanstaafl56: Yeah, it’s hard to imagine cats sitting around discussing whether it’s morally acceptable to eat humans. Probably the only subject up for debate would be how long to bat us around before going in for the kill.

  98. I just realized I never answered the question. Having done the whole hunting thing, I can see the appeal of eating what you hunt. I personally don’t care for venison. I would definately do the Bison hunt. Will have to check into that.

    I did not get the enjoyment out of hunting that some of my freinds seem to get so I don’t do it for sport. I would hunt for food if necessary, so my line is whatever I would hunt. I would never hunt an animal that is on the verge of extinction.

    Of course that line might also become blurry if I happen to be on the verge of extinction.

  99. @Tanstaafl56:

    we have 4 cats…. and i have been tempted a few times… kittens are heartless lil temperamental bastards!

    At least they outgro-… hmmmm… okay, at least they get too pampered and fat to bother.

    FOUR cats. Your Stockholm Syndrome must be severe!

  100. was curious about the outrage, because it seems to me that killing a baboon (and bear in mind this wasn’t the endangered sort, and is considered a pest) for blood lust isn’t any less noble than killing a wild deer for the pleasure of an incredible (and entirely unnecessary) Michelin-starred loin of venison.


    And your wrong. Killing a baboon for fun is killing a baboon for fun. Killing a deer for meat is killing a deer for meat. These are different acts with different implications.

    To say that it’s entirely arbitrary to separate the pleasure of eating from the pleasure of killing is sort of like comparing Michael Vick to the ASPCA. Both kill dogs, right? Who cares what their motivations are!

    Of course, if he had a grudge against this particular baboon, that’s a different story.

    Personally, I don’t eat mammals that don’t have hooves.

  101. @Surly Nymph: That’s a fine argument, though you’d have to justify the line between animals and plants. Would it be okay to kill a sponge which is technically an animal? Why or why not? And so on.

    For myself, I put the line at where I feel some natural empathy. If I were to live with the animal in question and get to know them and feel bad about hurting them in those circumstances, then it doesn’t make sense for me to not only indirectly pay for someone to kill them but then feast upon their body. If other people lack that empathy, then I suppose it would okay for them to eat meat, but I’m not going to think very highly of someone who could live with a rabbit, say, and spend any amount of time with them, and then feel okay about killing them later. That strikes me as sick, and if you do share that empathy, it strikes me as inconsistent to look the other way while other people are killing animals that in other circumstances could have been your friends.

    As Surly Nymph points out, the issue of necessity is of course important. If it were a question of dying versus killing an animal (or person) I’d have to choose the latter, but nowadays it’s easy to be a vegetarian.

    I don’t happen to feel bad about fish, although the environmental issues with mass fishing do concern me. I also don’t feel bad about arthropods of any sort that I’ve met so far. I don’t like the way egg-laying chickens are treated and I certainly have concerns with the dairy industry, but to me that’s the difference between wearing clothes from sweatshops and wearing clothes made out of human skin.

  102. Terrestrially, I only eat herbivores. Aquatically – no mammals (well, I’d try them if I were in the arctic and it was offered), but anything I don’t think is gross/poisonous (I really dislike uni).

  103. Oh, and yeah, I eat very little meat and the (terrestrial) animal products I do consume, I go to pains to make sure I’m getting them from a source where the animals were humanely treated. As much as possible – I’m not going to get all high and mighty if I’m at someone’s grandma’s house and start grilling her about whether or not the meat in the meatloaf is sustainable, grass-fed, cruelty-free..

    Factory farming blows, and if everyone just ate less meat and paid more for it, everyone would win – animals not living in horrid conditions (and they taste much better), people being healthier.

  104. @Tracy King:
    If you don’t care about how an animal (or a human?) lives because they are going to die anyway, then what do you care about? Is it OK to be cruel or negligent to someone who is soon going to die from cancer or old age? I believe we should treat all animals with respect, even the ones we are about to kill, it is what I would like for myself. I rarely eat meat and then only to be polite while visiting or traveling.

  105. What about all of the animals killed because they are attempting to eat plant products in the field, storage or transport? How many insects are killed to maximize the farmers harvest. How many mice and rats are killed trying to get grain in silos, boxcars,etc . There are probably a lot of rabbits,groundhogs, etc killed by farmers raising crops. If you buy plant products from those farmers you have subsidized the killing of many living things.

  106. JOHNEA13 has a point: killing animals is often necessary to raise crops. It’s easy to forget that we are competing with other animals on this planet for space and for food. A while back Gourmet published an article by a farmer who described killing what I believe was a sloth. (damn, can’t find the article right now). In the next issue there were some outraged letters, but also an interesting response from another farmer who pointed out that in his part of the country farmers were not subject to limitations on the number of deer or other animals they could kill to protect their crops, unlike hunters. Out of necessity he had to protect what he grew from deer, rabbits, raccoons, chipmunks, and other animals that often are considered “cute.”
    I also have a problem with all the highly processed meat substitutes. The amount of fuel it takes to turn soy beans into fake chicken nuggets, package and ship them seems crazy.

  107. No real logic at all behind this (and if I liked veggies more I would be a vegetarian… except for tasty, tasty fish) but over the years I’ve decided that I would not eat any more animals then the ones I grew up eating on a regular basis. Those are enough for me, no need to kill any more.

    Edit: Lobster and crab needed to be included here. I am a bit more free with what I will eat that comes from the ocean.

    I won’t eat anything else – no rabbits, gator, dog, goose, goat, sheep etc.

  108. Initial disclosure: I’d estimate that I eat something like 0.6 vegan meals (no animal products at all), about 0.2 “vegetarian” meals (including products of animals that do not require killing them… like milk, cheese, eggs, and (best of all) butter), and 0.1 omnivore/carnivore/meatatarian meals.

    I have no problems with killing animals for food. However, so far I have only done so personally for shellfish (oysters, mussels, clams) and a few fish. I do not have pre-conceived attitudes about killing various mammals for food (except for staying away from primates for possible cross-species diseases). In other words, I am not dying to shoot a deer for food, but would be interested in learning about it.

    That said, I think that drawing a line between killing one type of creature (say, plants) versus another type of creature (let’s say, animals) for sustenance, is very arbitrary and ethically/morally dubious. I am not convinced that people that wantonly kill and eat living creatures (plants and fungi) are morally superior to those who eat animals. Those of us who eat animals killed for food need to accept that we do so. Hopefully a balance can be found in which animal suffering vs. human enjoyment can be optimized. I will continue to eat (in particular) pig-products, while hoping that the killing of them is done with as little suffering of the animal as possible.

  109. Oops,

    Re-reading my comment at #182, either my numbers are A) more pedantic than they need to be with regard to significant figures and precision or B) I had a total arithmetic fail in adding up to 1. Neither reflects well on me…

  110. @sethmanapio: Well no. See, the thing about opinions is, they’re neither right nor wrong, they are merely opinions. Given we’ve acknowledged this is not a black and white issue, then you can no more claim I am wrong than I can claim you are wrong. However, what you will is find that I claimed it’s no more NOBLE to kill an animal for someone’s pleasure of eating than to kill it for your own pleasure of satisfying blood lust. For example, tonight I will cook and eat pheasant. I didn’t shoot it myself. I fully expect that whoever did shoot it got some satisfaction from bringing the bird down, and some further satisfaction from the money it brought in. I will get satisfaction from roasting it with bacon and eating it. I think all of these satisfactions are equal – one cannot say that mine is more justified because I didn’t have a hand in the killing.

  111. @frisbeetarian: How weird. You inserted ‘or human’ into the hypothesis yourself then acted like I’d leave a dying cancer patient in the snow to die. I believe that’s called a ‘strawman’.

    Show me where I said I don’t care about people, and we’ll discuss your query.

  112. I would say I’d have a hard time eating anything that has looked me in the eye while it was still alive. I also don’t know if I could really kill my own food.

    Although, that rule probably gets less strict as the species of the specimen the eye belongs to split off from our own evolutionary pathway longer ago (i.e. picking out your lobster from the tank in the restaurant).

    But that’s just individual animals.

    I probably wouldn’t have a problem eating what are considered “pets” for many people (cats, dogs) particularly rabbits and horses are no issue at all, and I have already eaten those on many occasions.

    I’d pretty much try anything at least once. More than once if it tasted particularly good, or was somehow very healthy for you, or had a drastically smaller environmental impact than beef for example.

    Rather than one single line, I think there’s a number of them.

    As a first, very vague line, I don’t eat meat with every meal. But I try to get enough of it in my diet because, as a single guy living alone, it’s probably healthier not to try any fancy non-meat diets and miss out on the easy nutrients.
    I also tend to miss meals several times a week because I don’t like to eat before going to martial arts training, and then it’s past 11PM when I get home and I don’t feel like cooking and just eat whatever’s warmed up quickly, like frozen pizza, or nothing at all.

    I could and probably would stop eating something if I knew there was an industry-wide abuse of the animals in question taking place. But since those things usually get quite a bit of media attention, I see no need to use that as a reason/excuse to stop eating all meat.

    For the next line, I probably won’t eat chocolate covered grasshoppers on a daily basis. Partly because they’re more or less a novelty kind of thing, and also because they’re probably not as inexpensive as they would be if you lived in a part of the world where they’re a plague and essentially useless for anything else. But I’d still try them if the opportunity presented itself.

    A different line would be the famine/survival scenario, where endangered species and even humans would become acceptable menu items.

    The last line would be parts of myself I suppose.

    They’re all consecutive lines however. I’d have to cross one before I could cross the next, so they are pretty much consistent.

  113. @banyan: That’s a fine argument, though you’d have to justify the line between animals and plants. Would it be okay to kill a sponge which is technically an animal? Why or why not? And so on.

    This is true. I suppose for me it is empathy as well. I have a nervous system, animals have a nervous system, therefore I have an understanding that they would feel the same pain I would so I refrain from inflicting it as much as possible.

    Without the knowledge in biology, I am sure there might be some animals that are considered as such (as opposed to plants) that do not have a nervous system, but I don’t know so I refrain in order to be consistant and out of pure ignorance. I don’t know, therefore I abstain just in case.

    I also would like to point out that I don’t think eating a diet based solely on plants is morally inferior — some thing MUST die in order for us to seek nourishment, but I also kill less plants by refraining meat because I don’t have to feed them to the animal before hand. I just cut out the middle man, if you will.

    I also want to put out there that eating meat and being vegan both have health benefits and both can also have problems. If people eat the amount of meat they need to keep them healthy than it’s no better or worse than a smart vegan diet. The poor health comes from eating meat in excess — you know, like those breakfast sandwiches and triple decker burgers everyday. :-P

    I’ve seen overweight vegans, so the “veganism is healthier” concept doesn’t always apply and is not really a great agrument.

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