Letter writer: Ethical meat is a profitable oxymoron

Graphic by Lori Deaton

I was appalled at the glorification of butchers in “The Art of Butchery: An Ancient Craft is Reborn in Asheville” in the July 15-21 issue [of Xpress]. A butcher is a skilled tradesperson, much like a pipefitter or welder. “Ethical meat” and “process animals respectfully” are oxymorons used by those who wish to profit from the public’s increasing awareness of the horrors involved in confined agricultural feedlot operations (CAFOs), otherwise known as factory farms. The marketing tactic of “happy meat” appeals to those who consider themselves compassionate and environmentally conscious. However, if we examine what is behind this marketing ploy, we see a different picture.

Regardless of an animal’s living arrangements while alive, a “free-range” animal and a CAFO animal endure the same fate: an early and brutal end to their lives. They are killed as they approach adolescence and are not yet fully grown. At the slaughterhouse, cows are shackled by one leg and hauled up into the air, upside down, along the assembly line. They are terrified and conscious while their throats are slit, their legs hacked off, and they are skinned.

Webster’s synonyms for slaughter include bloodbath, carnage, murder, death, holocaust and massacre. In both cases, the animals are commodified, that is, they are converted into objects used and consumed for the purpose of making a profit. This commodification does not respect the inherent dignity and worth of the animals.

No one who consumes meat can consider himself/herself a committed environmentalist. As U.N. scientists discovered several years ago, animal agriculture is the No 1 source of greenhouse gas impact, far greater than that contributed by all modes of transportation. Production of food for a diet based on grains, nuts, vegetables and fruits uses several times less energy and water and creates vastly less pollution than a diet based on meat, milk, and eggs.

Furthermore, Washington State researchers found that “pound-for-pound, beef produced with grain produces significantly less greenhouse gas emissions than grass-fed beef. A grain diet is more easily digestible than the cellulose fibers of grass, producing less methane.” According to this research, it takes 226 more days for grass-fed cattle to reach market weight than grain-fed cattle, meaning that each pound of grass-fed beef requires 45 percent more land, 76 percent more water, 49 percent more feed, all while generating 51 percent more manure and 42 percent more carbon emissions. In short, no form of animal agriculture is sustainable, and all are contributing to the environmental catastrophe we are facing.

The term “ethical meat” belongs in the same category as “ethical child abuse” and “ethical torture.” It is a mythical concept!

— Robbie Coleman

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8 thoughts on “Letter writer: Ethical meat is a profitable oxymoron

  1. Stewart

    Great letter, excellent points! Webster’s New World Dictionary defines humane as “having what are considered the best qualities of human beings: kind, tender, merciful, sympathetic, etc.” Can robbing animals of their lives to satisfy a culinary preference to eat their corpses ever be called humane, or does using the phrase “humane meat” distort the very meaning of the word?

    • Jim

      Just call it a choice. The death mills do. And I’m not talking about animals.

      See, you feel better already.

      • Big Al

        Good point. When the Left stops slaughtering inconvenient babies, THEN they can talk about the horrors of eating animals.

        • Gary L

          “Meat” chickens are killed at only seven weeks old, 1/50 of their lifespans, and laying hens come from hatcheries that grind up or suffocate newborn male chicks. You don’t have to wait for “the left” to do anything to stop killing these nonhuman babies. Websites like cohesive.com and bvegankit.com have helpful tips on making this compassionate transition.

      • Kayla Worden

        Attempting to make excuses for senseless cruel behavior by pointing the finger at something else you don’t like makes no sense whatsoever and cannot take away the fact that murdering animals all for a learned palate craving is ethically indefensible. Take responsibility for your own actions and choose Compassion: Go Vegan today.

  2. chops

    There are ways to consume meat without harm to the environment, including some which actually improve the environment (hunting wild overpopulation), or offset more harmful farming practices. Especially when we are talking about replacing CAFOs in our economy.
    A change in the right direction is absolutely “Ethical”.
    I support that and you should too. If you are not advocating for more environmentally-friendly meat production practices, Robbie Coleman, then you cannot consider yourself a committed environmentalist.

    • Gary L

      Free-range meat is actually worse in some ways, e.g., greenhouse gas emissions and water usage. Furthermore, there’s not room to convert even a tiny fraction of the 9 billion land animals killed in the US each year to free-range. There’s no way around it; we have to seriously reduce our intake of animal products, as the UN, the Worldwatch Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, and a growing number of scientific and public health organizations urge.

      We’re also causing fish populations to be on the brink of extinction; scientists estimate that large fish populations are down 90 percent.

  3. Kayla Worden

    Excellent letter, Robbie, and right on point. Eating animals and their bodily excretions in NO WAY can be considered healthy, humane or environmentally-friendly. To suggest otherwise is simply foolish. People need to wake up and smell the horrors and GO VEGAN already!

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