In different societies in the world, the argument whether to be or not be vegetarian has caused a lot of controversies. The problem in this essay is whether the human race should stop eating meat or whether this practice is morally and ethically acceptable. The main argument presented by vegetarian individuals is that the average human being should be able to survive on a vegetarian diet that the nutritional needs can be met without resorting eating meat. Vegetarians usually base their argument on the moral and ethical implications of eating animal meat and that animals are caused suffering in the quest to feed the human population. In supporting this argument, vegetarians state that they are saving animal life by resorting to eating meat. However, the ethics of eating meat need to be reevaluated because, as will be shown, human consumption of meat is not ethically wrong, and is necessary for survival.
The main opposition to eating meat, as proposed by vegetarians, is the process taken to get the meat for consumption (American Dietetic Association 25). Vegetarian and vegetarian activists construe this as animal cruelty and state that animals should have as much rights as human beings since they have the same capability to pain and feeling. In this paper, the arguments for eating meat are presented, indicating the health benefits and the ethical and moral bases for the need to consume meat. Thereafter, a rebuttal of the arguments for vegetarianism is presented, showing that the arguments are baseless or not ethically and morally justifiable. The vegetarian position is presented and argued out to show that the world needs to reevaluate the ethics of eating meat versus being vegetarian.
The first argument proposed by vegetarians and pro-vegetarianism individuals is that it is cruel, unethical and morally wrong to kill animals for food. This argument is based on scientific proof that indicates that animals are sentient beings capable of feeling pain and suffering. Vegetarian supporters indicate that the killing of animals for food is a perpetration of animal cruelty. Additionally, this argument is supported by the treatment of animals before they are slaughtered, for example, their storage and transportation. The second argument proposed in favor of vegetarianism is that the production of meat for human consumption degrades the environment. This argument is based on emissions of greenhouse gases that happen in the course of preparing meat for consumption, right from the agricultural process. Additionally, proponents of this argument state that the farmland needed for grazing and rearing of animals for human consumption is destroyed in the process, due to the letting loose of soil and subsequent erosion. Vegetarians also state that the vegetarian diet is healthier that a meaty diet, for example, that vegetarian diets provide better forms of iron needed in the body, alleviates chances of getting kidney stones and gallstones, lowers the risk of getting cancer and Type 2 Diabetes.
The other main argument presented is that rearing of animals consumes more resources that the resources consumed in the production of vegetable products. The case here is that animal rearing is a means of depleting useful resources that could be utilized for other productive purposes. In this case, vegetarianisms state that it takes less than a third of the resources used to produce animal products to produce vegetable products. Hence vegetarianism increases environmental sustainability.
After an analysis of the arguments presented against eating meat, it can be concluded that the debate is baseless since eating meat is a natural part of the life cycle and is not unethical. Animals do feel pain, but it is necessary to kill them to ensure human survival. In presenting their argument, vegetarians unnecessarily elevate the life of animals over that of human beings, not considering that the evolutionary process means that the strongest survive. The animals have to be killed, albeit so that resources can be evenly distributed. For example, if the animals were not killed for food, they would overpopulate, and eventually, die of starvation of lack of resources, which is crueler that slaughtering them for food. Animal rights activists and vegetarians also fail to state that plants respond electrochemically to stimuli and therefore fear. This means that they are caused harm when killed, which by extension, should also be ethically wrong.
Vegetarians argue that vegetables can provide all the necessary nutrients for human survival, but they fail to note that animal protein is the most dependable source of protein in the planet (Key 36). The protein present in meat is indeed available in other forms of food, but is better presented in the meat, which means that meat is essential for human survival. The nutrient function of meat cannot be met by vegetables alone. For example, vegetables contain edible oils as opposed to the fats that animal meat provides, and both are essential for human survival. The cholesterol provided by eating animal meat cannot be met by simple vegetables, so the argument that vegetables provide the same nutrients as meat is essentially baseless (Key 120). Other essential nutrients that meat provides which cannot be found in a vegetable diet include Vitamins A, D, E, K, B12 and Iron. In fact, studies show that 90% of vegetables are Vitamin B12 deficient, indicating the need for a meat diet.
The argument that growing vegetables as opposed to raising animals is the most efficient way of utilizing farmland is not sustainable (Robbins 2). Research shows that more than 60% of the land in the country cannot be utilized for crop production, and the part that can be would produce more profit if used for animal production. In this case, animal rearing is a good thing for the environment as opposed to vegetable production (Thorne 12). The production of vegetables in these types of farms is not efficient, which indicates that rearing of animals is better for the environment. The argument here is that vegetarian arguments need to be reviewed, and instead of strictly eating vegetables, also include a meat diet that favors nutrition and the environment.
The argument that meat production degrades the environment is also not sustainable. Studies of statistics indicate that there is not reliable evidence stating that animals degrade the environment more than plants do (Thorne 12). First, it is useful to note that rearing of animals, at a responsible rate, is good for the environment. Animals help in turning top soil and ensuring that sufficient nutrients reach underneath the surface. In contrast, land that is predominantly used to plant vegetables is susceptible to erosion and not enough nutrients. It should also be noted that the production of vegetables for consumption is just as harmful to the environment. Most vegetables require the use of different herbicides for survival. The chemical component of the herbicides is such that they cannot be dissolved, so they seep under the ground and harm the environment.
One of the main arguments presented by pro-vegetarians is that a meaty diet will increase the chances of unhealthy living and myriad diseases (Key 24). Some of the most common diseases attributed to a meaty diet include cancers, heart diseases and obesity. However, it should be noted that all nutrients have to be consumed in moderation, which will be helpful to the body. People will still have the diseases mentioned above if they do not consume meat, so it is unfair to blame their diets. Chemically processed vegetables also cause the same diseases mentioned above, so blaming a meaty diet will not help the cause.
A rebuttal to the arguments presented for pro-vegetarianism should start by addressing the cruelty to animals debate. In the current world and advanced technology, cruelty to animals is far reduced, but considering the option of not slaughtering animals does not suffice. In this case, the animal population would increase exponentially, and available resources would not be enough to sustain them. This means that the animals would be fighting for the few available resources, and most would die of hunger. This would be a more inhumane method of killing them and hence the slaughtering is better. Additionally, vegetarian diets also kill animals, since the land used for the production of vegetables is usually cleared of animals. The economic effect of eating animals should also be considered. For example, last year in the USA, beef production was one of the highest income earners for the country, so it is not ethically wrong to produce meat that helps the population.
In conclusion, it is prudent to state that vegetarian arguments are not necessarily good for the environment or ethically correct. In fact, it would suffice to say that becoming all vegetarian would improve animal rights, but would cause suffering to the human being. The health benefits of becoming vegetarian are not completely proven, meaning that an individual is better off consuming both vegetables and meat. Vegetables are not able to provide all the nutrients necessary for survival, so it is prudent to include a meat diet. The argument is that, despite the few ethical challenges of consuming meat, the human need overrides these ethical considerations. Classic utilitarian argument states that when a right overrides another right, the right with the strongest motivation should be considered. There is no need to consider the need of animals if the human being would suffer in the process. Most developing countries do not have the resources to depend completely on a vegetarian diet and hence need the meat supplement for survival.
It has been suggested that cruelty to animals is perpetuated by meat eaters, but the above argument indicates that not slaughtering animals also causes suffering to different factions. Despite the fact that animals are sentient beings that feel pain, their ecological significance is to feed. The principal of prey and predator is a natural way for balance to be restored in nature, so slaughter of animals is justified. In the same way, the jungle operates on a principal and predator and prey, which is nature’s way of regulating the population. Additionally, meat is considered healthy if taken in moderation. The research above indicates that vegetarians are less likely to be as healthy as meat eaters, despite the argument that vegetables contain all necessary nutrients for survival.
Therefore, after the above presentation, the ethics of eating meat need to reevaluated to consider the ethics of not eating meat. This means that not eating meat would alleviate the alleged animal suffering, but would go ahead to cause human suffering. Additionally, alleviating one factor would not help if it increases another negative factor. Meat production and consumption has been happening for over 23 million years, and so far, evidence has suggested that the diet is more beneficial than purely vegetarian diets.
American Dietetic Association. "Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets." Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 21.2 (2009). Print.
Key, Timothy et al. "Health Effects of Vegetarian and Vegan Diets." Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 2.2. (2006). 12-35.Print.
Key, Timothy et al. "Mortality in Vegetarians and Non-Vegetarians: Detailed Findings from a Collaborative Analysis of 5 Prospective Studies." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 13.2 (1999). 41-50. Print.
Robbins, John The Food Revolution: Once Upon a Planet, Part I. 2007. Web. October 20, 2014.
Thorne, Peter. "Environmental Health Impacts of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations", Environmental Health Perspectives. 1.1 (2007). 20-23. Print