Head to head: Merits of a meat-based versus a plant-based lifestyle
Vegetarianism is often touted as an ethically superior and superlatively health-conscious dietary plan, especially when compared to the alternative of eating meat. However, many of the claims of vegetarianism fall apart when scrutinized.
The first and most important part of the assertion that vegetarianism upholds is that it is unethical to kill and eat animals. This rests on the idea that animals are sentient and can feel fear, stress and pain. Thus, we shouldn’t kill animals without their consent.
Though the first is debatable, the idea of animals feeling fear is definitely true. However, it is necessary to note that plants also sense electrochemical signals that respond to threats, such as is the case with tropism, or when organisms turn in a particular direction in response to external stimulus, as to repel unwanted attackers. Looking at plants with tropism in mind, it is clear they have an innate desire to live and do not consent to being killed.
Though we may feel sympathetic to organisms similar to ourselves — that use life-saving techniques the way we do — as is the case with fear, stress and pain — all tools to fight for life — we must recognize that plants also want to live. It can hardly be consensual to eat plants, then. This applies to every organism; it is simply the nature of evolution and of life.
All that is alive on earth will die at some point, or rather, will be killed at some point, in order to further the life of others.
There is nothing inherently unethical with this process and there is nothing inherently unethical with killing animals for food. It may feel icky to do so, but we must recognize that we feel that way because we think of animals as similar to us because they have the features we’ve deemed worthy of our sympathy. It is important to not elevate the value of other life to the status of our species.
Protein is often at the center of the debate concerning the switch to a plant-based diet, and there are no two ways about it: Meat is the most calorie-dense and nutrient-rich form of protein available to humans.
In one serving, meat can provide all essential amino acids, iron, zinc, and B Vitamins, of which B12 is necessary for digestive function. The paltry plant-based equivalents fail to reach the nutrient-rich levels we need to live.
One serving of lean beef has the same amount of protein as one serving of beans. However, the lean beef has half the calories of the other two, making it easier to lose weight while maintaining the health of the body by adding meat to the diet.
Eating meat also provides the body with necessary healthy saturated fats, which are necessary for a number of imperative chemical processes, such as the dissolution of fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E and K and the proper functioning of serotonin receptors.
These receptors are often touted as the neurotransmitters responsible for feelings of well-being and happiness. Serotonin receptors functioning at lower capacities would explain why vegetarians “suffer significantly more often from anxiety disorder and/or depression,” according to a Plos journal article.
Since meat provides both proteins and fats in substantial quantities, it is a more convenient and healthier option for the proper functioning of the human body.
This health benefit is evident when considering our evolution for the past 2.3 million years. There is evidence that suggests that a combination of protein-rich food, a low-calorie, high-nutrient dietary source, and carbohydrates was the basis of our large brains and our intelligence.
We have even developed to crave meat’s savory flavor, alongside the flavors of sweet, salty, sour and bitter, all of which were produced in order to sustain life. If even our tongues recognize meat as being imperative to life, how can we not?
We must recognize that eating meat is in no way unethical and that humanity only benefits by eating meat in a healthy manner.
Ali Hussain is the science and technology editor at The Ticker.
The intentional slaughter of animals for meat must be stopped. Shouldn’t killing another living thing without its consent be considered murder? We should not kill an animal against its will; no animal wants to die.
We as humans have come a long way from being Homo sapiens and subsisting on things that we hunted and gathered. We no longer hunt; we slaughter.
We breed animals with one another just to kill them and the essence of this is wrong. We breed life just to wipe it away. Humans have evolved from our primitiveness — we have developed technology to grow and produce our own food. We no longer need to live like the primitive beings we used to be.
If we truly are at the top of the food chain, and if we are more intelligent and have a stronger depth of consciousness than animals have, then we should not use our superiority to abuse animals. Surely if we were in the position that animals are in, we would hope for better treatment.
Animals are bred to yield the most meat and product instead of having a quality of life. Chickens are bred so large that they cannot even walk, and cows are pumped full of hormones so that they yield the most fat. There is no humanity in the way these animals are treated.
Animals have intense and complex emotions that are similar to humans. This is evident in the fact that when an animal gets hurt, it expresses pain.
“The emotional states of many animals are easily recognizable. Their faces, their eyes and the ways in which they carry themselves can be used to make strong inferences about what they are feeling. Changes in muscle tone, posture, gait, facial expression, eye size and gaze, vocalizations, and odors (pheromones), singly and together indicate emotional responses to certain situations,” Marc Bekoff described in a study titled “Animal Emotions: Exploring Passionate Natures.”
Meat is also detrimental to the environment. Not only does livestock produce the most greenhouse gases than any other human source, but entire ecosystems are decimated to create space for breeding livestock. If we bred less livestock, we would have more land for farming and we would bring down the cost of produce.
“Every second, one football field’s worth of rainforest is destroyed in order to produce 257 hamburgers,” HappyCow, an online list service, reported. “Two-thirds of Central America’s rainforests have been destroyed, in part to raise cattle whose meat, typically found in hamburgers and processed meat, is exported to profit the U.S. food industry.”
The nutrition that we get from meat can be obtained through vegetables and a healthy diet plan. We no longer need to rely on meat as our main source of protein.
I am not advocating that all humans should stop eating meat. But if you must, eat less of it. Humans lived for thousands of years on a low-meat diet and lived off of fruits and berries. We should not have meat three times a day, or even every single day. “More than 25 billion animals are killed by the meat industry each year — in ways that would horrify any compassionate person. The average American meat-eater is responsible for the abuse and death of about 90 animals per year,” HappyCow stated.
In a study published by the Archives of Internal Medicine — now the JAMA Internal Medicine — “People who consumed about one serving of red meat … per day had a 13 percent increased risk of mortality, compared with those who were eating very little meat. And processed meats raised the risk higher, to about a 20 percent increased risk of death from diseases including cancer and heart disease,” NPR reported.
Meat should not be the sole staple of a person’s diet. At the current rate that meat is being consumed, humans are destroying both the environment and themselves. A meat-reduced diet is healthier and better for the environment.
Noah Fleischman is the business editor at The Ticker.