My Take on New York Times ‘Ethical Meat’ Contest

31 thoughts on “My Take on New York Times ‘Ethical Meat’ Contest”

  1. Once again Kara, you have eloquently organized your rebuttal in a cohesive, easily readable way! I will be referencing your blog in many arguments to come, so thank you for that.

    I have one suggestion I think would help your argument when you are taking about humans, cuts of humans, and roasted human…

    Are you familiar with Melanie Joy’s work on carnism? She defines carnism as “the invisible belief system, or ideology, that conditions people to eat certain animals. Carnism is essentially the opposite of vegetarianism or veganism; “carn” means “flesh” or “of the flesh” and “ism” denotes a belief system. Most people view eating animals as a given, rather than a choice; in meat-eating cultures around the world people typically don’t think about why they find the meat of some animals disgusting and the meat of other animals appetizing, or why they eat any animals at all. But when eating animals isn’t a necessity for survival, as is the case in the majority of the world today, it is a choice – and choices always stem from beliefs.” -Carnism Wesbite

    In this sense, she poses the questions… why is it appetizing and acceptable to eat cow, chicken or pig, but disgusting and repulsive to consider eating golden retriever or baby kitten? At what point do our beliefs take over and fool us into thinking that it a “given” and “ethical” to eat 6, maybe 7 species of animals but not any other animals.. Interesting take on the argument you are making here!

    Love it!

    1. Rima, I am so glad you enjoyed my post. And yes, I am familiar with Melanie Joy (and LOVE everything she does). About a week or so ago I remember you telling me you are connected to her somehow (at that vegan party in the marina). I love her invention of the words “carnism” and “carnist”, giving the ideology behind non-veganism a name. Unfortunately, I’ve found that many non-vegans find this term to be derogatory, whether we intend it that way or not. To us, it is what it is and if people are uncomfortable with what it means then they are perfectly able to change the behavior it describes, but to many non-vegans it’s just another insult. Anyway, that’s why I used the term “non-vegan” as opposed to “carnist”. While they are both neutral terms, “non-vegan” is perceived to be less threatening by non-vegans.

      Thanks so much for your comment, Rima!

      1. Why, if non-vegans react badly to the word carnist, do they proudly call themselves carnivores or omnivores, Kara? Is it that they know the former means that they have chosen this ideology and there is a current-day ethical connotation attached to that chosing?

        Excellent blog. Very well thought out and articulated. I’m going to mention it on James McWilliams’ Eating Plants blog on the NYT contest. I’m also going to try to find another of his blogs, in which a commenter explained in some detail the ethical implications of using animals for vat meat. I’ll come back here and link to that….

        1. I think it has to do with the idea that “carnist” is a name we have given them, whereas “carnivore” or “omnivore” is a name they have given themselves. It could also have to do with the subconscious connection between “carnivore” seeming tough, rugged, and powerful, as well as the generally accepted term of “omnivore” being attributed to humans (though biologically we are not true omnivores).

          I really appreciate your kind words and love what you do (I have gotten a few of my quotes from your site, so thank you). I will take a look at those posts you have linked to.

  2. Kara, this is truly brilliant! Your arguments are intelligent, solid, and persuasive. I wish everyone could read it! Thank you!

  3. Kara, you have once again shown an amazing ability to formulate thoughtful, well-reasoned, powerful arguments which persuasively counter the arguments on the other side of the issue. What I find truly admirable is reflected in what you have to say in your opening paragraph:

    “I was eager to read what their picks would be. Overall I must admit that the finalists are better than I had expected, but nonetheless they have yet to make a truly good argument.”

    You have the confidence and intellectual resolve to seek out these arguments; it’s as if you went into this not actually hoping to be persuaded but truly curious to see what they would come up with, like a skilled competitor eager to find a worthy opponent who would test your skills and then proceeding to exploit his flaws. I think you do prize intellectual rigor and are a truth seeker but you also jump into this sort of thing with an innate attitude of being on the side of the angels, if you will.

    You make so many excellent points and so cogently. I often lose patience with the likes of the Lierre Keith crowd, those ex-vegans who act as though they are even more compassionate and ethical for now eating animals. But you very logically expose their fallacies. I will read this sort of stuff and think, Am I missing something here? The arguments are full of holes but I often think that the writer must have something up his or her intellectual sleeve. You very methodically reveal that their is, indeed, nothing up there:

    “How this relates to meat being ethical is puzzling to me. There seem to be a few links missing from the chain between needing animals manure to cycle nutrients and meat being ethical. This is for the simple fact that in order for animals to create manure, they need to be alive: no meat required. Killing and eating them has absolutely nothing to do with necessary, sustainable nutrient cycling.”

    Absolutely! I mean, it seems so obvious, you’d think that any reasonable person would see this. And thank you, thank you, thank you for exposing the silly “give thanks” argument for what it is: a self-serving way of assuaging one’s own guilt — as if this made up for needlessly taking an animal’s life!

    Another thing I am very impressed with is your marshalling of facts — and in a way that is well woven into the fabric of your argument.

    This is a truly forcible response to the contest arguments and needs to be read by everyone who might be swayed by them. A terrific job!

    Kudos to you! (You do realize you continue to arouse my competitive spirit — you are forcing me to try even harder to best you! I’ve got my work cut out for me!)

    1. Robb, I love your comments so much. Be careful or my head might grow so large it’ll explode lol.

      I am also bothered by the ex-vegans who have returned to a life of cruelty and death. Meat eaters love these people. It reminds me of the same “welcome back”, if you will, that happens when an ex-addict returns to their old junkie friends after a period of sobriety.

      I have to say that your post “The Courage of Our Convictions” ( was excellent and I felt a little competitive myself after reading it 🙂 I’m looking forward to your next post.

      Thank you so much, Robb!!!

      1. Thank you, Kara, ye many layered champion of all creatures great and small. I’m glad I have you in my corner as I would not relish going up against you in a battle of wills. Perhaps one day we can join forces on a post that will prove a real vegan juggernaut. Hey, wait a minute — a comic book! Super Heroes! VEGAN JUGGERNAUT –Unstoppable Force of Compassion! Unstoppable Force of Reason! Unstoppable Ethical Power! What do you think??

  4. Well formulated critique! I think you hit all the spots that hinged their very weak argument.

    One of the toughest for me is the bushmen and the Inuit examples. Yes, granted these folks don’t have access to the same quality/quantify of plant based foods as the developed world… But that doesn’t solve the justice or fairness issues for the victims that are killed. It’s still a difficult argument though – As not everyone can move into a different climate… If they were born in such a situation I’m not as troubled – It’s the folks that move into a place that necessitates killing for survival that I have a real gripe with. And as usual – None of those factors address the “here and now” that 99.9% of us in this conversation are part of.

    Thanks for all your efforts here. You did a great job steering the debate back towards reason! Repeating your well founded conclusion: “No matter how “humane”, ”sustainable”, or “healthy” people try to make it, it will never be as humane, sustainable, and healthy as a whole foods, plant-based, vegan diet. Put your ethics where your mouth is — LIVE VEGAN.” (!)

    1. I agree with you about the Inuit and bushmen examples. The thing is, most people don’t fall into that category and using those examples as reasons for their own unethical eating habits when they live a few miles from a grocery store is completely irrelevant (as you said, the 99.9% of us who these examples do not describe).

      Thank you!

    1. Love you! ❤ ❤ ❤ I'm proud of you too! I'm so glad you have gone vegan. You have always been very into health and fitness (a master in six different martial arts) and have realized that there is no point in taking care of muscles and fitness without also taking care of the rest of your body as well. I'm so glad that your asthma and skin redness/splotchiness have gone away and I am also glad that you now feel more energetic than ever and are finally putting on some more muscle mass (since you're naturally thin, like me)! You don't know how proud I am to say that my dad is VEGAN. I love you!!!

      By the way everyone, my father is a master of six martial arts including:

      Kung Fu San Soo
      Krav Maga
      Jiu Jitsu
      Muay Thai Kickboxing
      Systema Spetsnaz Kadochnikov

      Please pay his site a visit. He runs a martial arts dojo in the Los Angeles area and trains mixed martial arts fighters in a system that incorporates the above mentioned practices into one called "Machatz".

  5. Vegan Rabbit, this is truly your manifesto. You exposed the logical flaws in the winning essay. The Times’ judges could have and should have declared that none of the essayists offered an airtight argument. Instead, they conferred legitimacy to a weak argument.

    Great work! Kol HaKavod to you!

  6. Excellent post! Made me think….

    If this is true: 1. ‘Meat is ethical because perfection is impossible.’

    then logically this is also true:

    2. ‘Killing humans is ethical, because some accidental deaths are unpreventable.’

    So how can a person accept 1., but reject 2. and not be guilty of hypocricy and speciesism?

  7. Actually the most “ethical” option of in vitro meat would involve horrific cruelty due to the use of Fetal Bovine Serum. FBS is used in nearly all culturing of mamallian cells. Every time you see a study involving “in vitro” work (provided they’re talking mammalian studies and not bacterial/yeast) you can safely bet they used FBS. I’ve read hundreds of studies and every single one has used FBS.

    FBS is obtained by draining the blood directly from the fetus’ heart after it has been ripped from its slaughtered mother’s uterus. Only the older, more well developed fetuses over three months are used, since the heart of a younger fetus is too small to puncture effectively. It is not known whether they are actually killed by the anoxia resulting from the mother being slaughtered or the draining of their blood.

    There are organizations working to promote non-animal-based serum alternatives within the scientific community. Despite the fact that chemical alternatives would actually be scientifically advantageous (more consistent composition, lack of microbial contamination, etc), old habits die hard, especially in science. Unless the “method” itself is the subject of study, results are expected to be obtained through accepted/established methods.

    This is also something advocacy groups pushing for in vitro work to replace animal testing must be aware of. In vitro is not necessarily any better, however it certainly can be if this issue is addressed. Of course there are other animal-derived products that need to be considered as well (e.g. antibodies), but FBS is far and away the most ubiquitous.

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