I hold a full-time office position and am a single mother of a sweet baby girl. As if working and being a mom isn’t enough, I am also dedicated to providing her with breastmilk for her entire first year of life. One day, proceeding a night full of screaming, teething, and troubles, I sat in my designated area at work; pumping milk. I thoroughly appreciate my pumping breaks. I can catch up on personal emails, check Instagram, or I can simply, but not usually, relax. For anyone who can’t relate, pumping takes a lot of time. You become a machine. So true!
My mind often wanders from this to that while I pump, but this was the first time that it had ever wandered to my topic of discussion for this essay. I pictured one cow, in a personal stall, being pumped by a machine of some sort. It was like the cow solely existed to produce milk. In thirty minutes, I usually produce about 4 ounces of milk per break. My mind suddenly flashed to the grocery store, where gallons upon gallons of milk are available in abundance and at a reasonable price. As my thoughts progressed, I realized that this was probably a common case scenario for a cow to exist in, being pumped all day every day.
What a cruel thought, that cows exist to produce milk for the human race. Is it ethical to eat meat? With a recently sparked interest in organic living, I still have not been able to determine my position on whether eating meat is ethical or unethical. I love the cow, but I also love the cheeseburger so very much. To get started, I googled animal rights organizations. I found several advocacy groups like PETA, Mercy for Animals, eventually landing on the ASCPA website. The ASPCA is the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the first and largest humane society that advocates animal rights.
The non-profit group highlights major issues, educates society, collects donations, and focuses on a mission “to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States” (ASPCA). According to the article on the ASPCA site, “Factory Farms,” most farm animals in the U. S. are raised on industrial farms with a “focus on profit and efficiency at the expense of animal welfare. ” Living in overcrowded cages, unable to participate in their natural behaviors, and with no access to the outdoors; these animals become “physically and mentally distressed” (ASPCA).
To work towards a more ethical practice of meat production, the ASPCA briefly discusses solutions for society; to support local farmers, to shop welfare-consciously, and to reduce consumption of animal products. This source was a good introduction to an unethical side of raising the meat we eat: factory farms. With multiple pictures of caged animals, the ASPCA left me feeling a little gloom, and with a greater understanding of why groups don’t support factory farms. To bring myself to the other side of the spectrum, I wanted to find a source pro-meat.
Starting with google keywords such as “meat eaters and ethics,” and “eating meat is ethical,” my search returned a series of results with no compelling information. Finally, I came across a contest conducted by the New York Times magazine, “Calling All Carnivores. ” The contest invited readers to argue the ethics of eating meat. Their contest winner and former vegetarian/vegan, Jay Bost, wrote an essay titled, “Give Thanks to Eating Meat. ” As anything produced through tillage can be arguably ethical or unethical, Bost believes that “NOT eating meat may be arguably unethical.
In some arid climates, it makes more sense economically to use meat resources instead of overusing the materials required to produce satisfactory results. His model lays it out like this: “sun > diverse plants > cow > human,” a much more reasonable proposal than “fossil-fuel-soaked scheme of tractor-tilled field > irrigated soy monoculture > tractor harvest > processing > tofu > shipping > human. ” Through the use of ecologically educated systems, the production of meat is becoming a more ethical practice.
Bost points out that eating meat is ethical if you accept that all beings exist temporarily and then they die, and if you chose to eat ethically raised food, eating meat is ethical. The author’s essay required me to think of eating meat as an ethical practice of utilizing resources thoughtfully. I wanted to follow up on a previous thought from the ASPCA, the idea that an animal can be contained, and killed, ethically or unethically, and that this essentially comes from a different quality of life for the animal. As I started fishing around, an email notification popped up on my screen.
One of my college professors directed me towards the author, Temple Grandin. I wanted to get some background knowledge on the author, so I did a quick search. An autistic philosopher, Dr. Grandin did not speak until after she was three years old. She communicated frustration through screaming and humming. I got on ACC’s library portal and found and few different selections from Grandin. One source in particular stuck out to me, a book titled, “Livestock Handling and Transport. ” The book is fair and focused on ethical meat production, handling, and transport.
Gradin believes that managers control morality on farms. In farms where abuse occurs, managers are lax and do not care, and experience great financial losses due to mistreatment of their livestock. Good managers will motivate his or her employees to treat animals with respect, and in return, those farms will produce better numbers. Consequences of poor handling include “bruises, injuries, lower weight gains, reduced milk yield, or lowered pregnancy rates. ” (P. ) This goes back to my previous statement, that eating meat can be situationally either ethical, or unethical.
She also developed a scoring system, where farms are evaluated on a yes/no basis as to whether or not animals are “stunned correctly, are prodded with an electric rod, vocalize during handling, and slip and fall during handling. ” (P. ) with vocalization being a major stress determination. Grandin reinforces that through treating animals ethically; farms can increase earnings, society will prosper, and animals will live a happier life with minimal stress levels. As welfare of a being is essentially immeasurable, it is entirely subjective to determine whether eating meat is ethical or not.
As I have drafted this essay, I have asked several co-workers to answer my question: is it ethical to eat meat? Some laugh hysterically and call me crazy, while others wallow in their empathy for the creatures that were put on this earth to fulfill humanistic needs. After exploring different angles and opinions, I do not believe eating meat is ethical when defining the term “ethical,” however; actually cutting meat out of my diet will present a great challenge in itself. I am extremely intrigued by this subject, and I will continue to read different sources for a better understanding of the ethical issues eating meat imposes.