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GUBAT, Bennet A.

Philosophy 173
98-30307 Prof. J Yasol-Naval

In Partial Defense Of Meat Eating

A lot of literature has been cropping up in support of the view to abolish meat-eating, not only

because of scientific considerations due to the different dangers it poses to the consumer, but also due to

the widely controversial field of animal liberation and animal rights. In fact, I’ve been skimming the Internet

for some time on this issue, and it seems like the battle is joined in a lot of fronts, the scientific, the

anthropo-cultural, the politico-economical, and the philosophical. Some of the threads I’ve encountered

even contain a certain amount of “flame,” which is net-user lingo for damaging, destructive, violent, or

otherwise inappropriate language. They even present it in ways that I can almost understand the need for

it. Kidding aside though, it is evident that there exists a lot of controversy regarding this topic and this

being a philosophical paper, I intend to make my contribution to this melting pot of issues and viewpoints

in the philosophical manner.

I choose to defend meat-eating, not for the reason that I am a meat-eater myself (in fact, I have

been cutting a lot of my meat intake with the view to making it a minimal part of my diet), Nor is it for the

reason, as some people with imaginative minds might think, that I am unaware of the suffering and pain

that the animal processing industry (not limited to food) is causing to individual animals. I am very much

aware of it and in fact experience a stab of emotion whenever I see a dog pulled around by a leash,

bloody and blackened, struggling to get up but every time being beaten down by a stick, being prepared

for the fire. No. I choose to defend the, shall we say, “culture” of meat-eating in opposition to the

draconian measures necessitated by adopting the exact opposite, that of veganism.

First, we will see how this attitude springs from the proponents of animal activism that we have

encountered. I will delve into an examination of these viewpoints and try to determine what these

perspectives require us to do, and look at the implications of it. We will see how the vegan world view can

be taken, for lack of a better term, only as a “pipe dream” in light of the current economical and biological
context. Next, I would like to propose an alternative that may be far more acceptable and livable for most

humans, a compromise, one might say, but may fulfill partially the interests of all concerned.

On top of our list is the progenitor of the Animal Liberation front, Peter Singer. Singer, in his

similarly entitled book Animal Liberation, was revolutionary in expanding the moral sphere to include

animals. He states that it is not any morally arbitrary quality such as species, reason, or capacity for

language or interaction that should be a determinant factor in moral adjudication. In fact, true to his

utilitarian tradition, the question to be answered is “can they suffer.” The capacity for pain and/or pleasure

is, for Singer and his utilitarian predecessors, the one prerequisite in order for a being to have any

interests at all, and in deciding on any moral issue, it is wrong to not take into account any being that has

this capacity for having any interests. That includes animals.

I have stated in a previous paper that I find this view of assigning pain to animals as terribly

anthropocentric. Far be it from me to repeat myself, it is necessary to give brief mention of the reasons for

why I hold this view. Pain is attributed to creatures with a nervous system, and an obvious pain-reaction

behavior. Both of which are derived from our understanding of our own nervous systems and pain-

reactions, applying them to animals as we are wont to apply familiar concepts in order to understand an

unfamiliar thing. While this does not debunk the case for animal liberation at all, I just pointed it out to

illustrate that there may be a tinge of speciesism involved in limiting the compass of the moral sphere to

include only animals and not living, breathing, procreating plants.

The upshot of Singer’s theory is that, we should not cause undue pain, suffering and death to all,

including animals, for merely trivial purposes. This however has implications on a wide scale. First, is that

under Singer’s methodology, people with CIPA or those unable to feel suffering and pain can be justifiably

treated as means to an end. Furthermore, disabled people or those with disorders that prohibit them from

being functional or are rendered unable to make known their personhood will also be lumped together in

this category. In Singer’s context, it will be equally justifiable if we were to experiment on and use mentally

and physically impaired humans in order to achieve other goals. This is one of the positions adopted by

critics of Singer, to wit:

“Singer's qualifications here foreshadowed his later attempt to distinguish between two different

classes of life, not humans and nonhumans, but persons and nonpersons. Defining personhood
as the possession of traits like the capacity to feel and reason, self-awareness and autonomy,

and the ability to imagine a future, Singer finds cases of humans who are not, by this definition,

persons (e.g., the comatose) and nonhumans who are persons (e.g., great apes and possibly all

mammals). While all "persons" have (roughly) equal moral status (whether they are animals or

humans), Singer values persons over nonpersons. It is this distinction that Singer's critics find so

objectionable, not so much because he brings animals into the realm of personhood, but because

he reads some humans out of it.” (Best)

Singer argues that he was misread in these cases. I will not dispute this point, or the other for that

matter. This was merely to show some of the consequences of his work. Another consequence that

concerns us in this paper however is the call to vegetarianism or even veganism. There is no doubt that

the meat food industry employs brutal methods in processing animals into food products. Kobe beef for

example, is harvested out of cows that have been kept in very small pens that prohibit their movement –

making for softer meat. Chickens are de-beaked and kept in crowded, unlighted pens in order to keep

them from pecking each other to death. Hogs used to be slid down a meat chute into big boiling vats of

water that will help remove their bristles and make them easier to skin. Singer would argue against this

using as his main principle the view to reduce pain and suffering. Points would be raised against him that

if, hypothetically, we were to revamp the entire meat industry to reduce pain and suffering to animals,

then we could eat meat. Singer would then bring his qualification of trivial purposes to bear, especially

since, as he says

“We regard their life and well-being as subordinate to our taste for a particular kind of dish. l say

"taste" deliberately—this is purely a matter of pleasing our palate. There can be no defense of

eating flesh in terms of satisfying nutritional needs, since it has been established beyond doubt

that we could satisfy our need for protein and other essential nutrients far more efficiently with a

diet that replaced animal flesh by soy beans, or products derived from soy beans, and other high-

protein vegetable products.” (Singer)


There is controversy regarding this point as there are multiple instances of conflicting research.1

There is contention on whether or not the best, or even the only, source of nutrients can be meat. This is

not limited to proteins but includes multivitamins such as Vitamin D, B12, and fat. Until we acquire

research work that is definitive regarding the sufficiency of nutrition for meat-eaters compared to

vegetarianism, I propose to let this matter rest. What is obvious, however, is that homo sapiens has

developed canines. Whether because of the introduction of meat into the diet of our ancestors or whether

man was originally an omnivore is beside the point. Fact is that we have developed them, and it is certain

that our metabolism has evolved parallel to this so much so that we are not only capable of digesting

meat but maybe also to the point of our needing it. Remember, the process of natural selection only

accords survival to the fittest, and modern man with his meat-eating capacity would not have survived

thus were it not absolutely necessary. There is even research attributing the onset of intelligence due to

meat-hunting among our predecessors (Stanford).

That being said, it is not now very certain whether or not meat-eating is an actual necessity or just

an affectation of taste. It is then therefore unjustifiable to curb, or abolish meat-eating without proper

research into the possible consequences, some of which may prove detrimental to our health.

On a properly utilitarian perspective, we can also argue that the continuation of meat-eating

practices in fact maintains utility instead of the opposite. Meat remains one of the less expensive ways in

order to gain fat, which is useful for body energy production. Granted that almonds and macadamia nuts

have a higher fat content per 100 grams as opposed to corned beef, they are certainly much more

expensive to buy. Also, the abolition of the meat industry would cause numerous consequences including

but not limited to, economic disturbances due to brain drain from the grain industry and increased

demands on the oil industry to produce artificial fertilizers which can further denude the soil of its nutrients

due to a prior lack in natural fertilizer – manure (Byrnes).

All told, there are certainly aspects of Singer’s utilitarian perspective that are lacking in order to

present a proper stand for vegetarianism. The changes that would be necessary will cause untold

upheavals in society and we may turn out to be worse off than how we were. Although I by no means

1
For resources and instances of cited research in defense of meat-consumption, see Byrnes.
disavow Singer’s view that animals do have a claim to consideration, I believe it is necessary to adopt

alternatives that would call for a less dramatic restructuring of society and industry.

The eco-centric view of nature presents a viable alternative that would makes use of existing

systems but will just modify them for increased sustainability. This view does not prohibit us from making

use of resources at hand, as long as there is restitution in the sense that we restore what we take. The

relationship of hunter and prey is a not an unnatural one. The only thing that I find objectionable is the fact

that we take more than what we need, and produce suffering as we do so. Food is in fact a basic need

and I find nothing unnatural in appropriating according to our needs for survival. We could also adopt

Singer at this point and further modify these systems in order to cause the least suffering and pain to

animals. Experimentation then, to find a cure for a deadly disease, and food processing must be re-

tailored to be, for lack of a better term, more humane. Other uses of animals, like sport hunting, are trivial

and these we should abolish. But I don’t find it necessary as of yet, to completely stop eating meat.
Best, Steven. “Philosophy Under Fire: The Peter Singer Controversy.” 14 May 2008
<http://www.animalliberationfront.com/Saints/Authors/Interviews/Peter%20Singer--summary.htm>

Byrnes, Stephen. “The Myths of Vegetarianism.” 15 May 2008


<http://www.westonaprice.org/mythstruths/mtvegetarianism.html>

Regan, Tom. “The Case for Animal Rights.” Animal Rights and Human Obligations. Regan, Tom and
Singer, Peter ed. Prentice Hall NJ: 1989

Singer, Peter. “All Animals are Equal.” Animal Rights and Human Obligations. Regan, Tom and Singer,
Peter ed. Prentice Hall NJ: 1989

Stanford, Craig. The Hunting Apes: Meat Eating and the Origins of Human Behavior. Princeton NJ: 1999