I should start off by saying that I have no radical malice towards those within the vegan and vegetarian community. I should also state that I am not “Pro -meat”, in fact, I’d argue we all should eat less of it. It should go without saying that we should have some level of animal rights and should all condemn acts of cruelty & unnecessary harm to animals. This is simply a criticism of using this lifestyle for political motive or to argue superior morality.
The main thinking of the Vegetarian movement is rooted in Speciesism, a term popularised by the philosopher Peter Singer. The basis of these philosophical ideas lies within animal rights movement. The argument put forward is that there is no moral justification for human superiority over any other species, and it opposes the rearing of animals for meat, labelling it as unethical. In his book Animal Liberation (1975), Peter Singer describes it as “a prejudice or bias in favour of the interests of members of one’s own species and against those of members of other species.” It claims that all animals deserve the same moral rights as our own.
This concept removes us from the food chain and ignores the anthropological connection between other primate species. The term “unnatural” is thrown around a lot when talking about eating meat. This trend within the Vegetarian community has zero basis and is more an emotive response than based in any logic. Of course, thanks to evolution and the miracle of human biology, we can eat and survive off a meat free diet; but that does not make us natural Vegetarians, far from it. In a 2003 article in ‘The new Scientist’, researchers discovered that “Humans evolved beyond their vegetarian roots and became meat-eaters at the dawn of the genus Homo, around 2.5 million years ago…” It is also proven that through our evolution a meat diet helped shape our species evolution to where it is today. Eating meat and cooking food made us human, the studies suggest, enabling the brains of our pre-human ancestors to grow dramatically over a period of a few million years. In the article ‘Eating Meat Made Us Human, Suggests New Skull Fossil’ by Charles Q. Choi, Live Science Contributor (October 3, 2012), it explains that it would have been biologically implausible for humans to evolve such a large brain on a raw, vegan diet, and that meat-eating was an essential element of human evolution at least 1 million years before the dawn of humankind. To claim eating meat is unnatural seems more anti-science than anti-meat, especially when you look to our common evolutionary ancestors such as chimps, who still have meat in their diets too. Biology and evolution cannot be categorised as unnatural on the basis of moral purity; it is neither progressive or helpful to any cause.
Purely moralist arguments such as this are noble, but all too often equally irrational. Morals and lines of ethics are not always universal. Singer’s writings are clearly influenced by European minds and would be impossible to translate to the Native American tribes, who once practised animal sacrifices. The Yanomami tribe in south Brazil hunt tapir for meat and yet they are far better environmentalists than most vegetarian’s in the western world. It seems odd to claim moral superiority over these people because you avoid dairy products, especially when you most likely contribute to the destruction of the Yanomami’s homes. How many vegetarians/Vegans drive cars that pollute our air or pay their taxes that contribute to landfills and the destruction of rain-forests, yet simultaneously claim that due to the lack of meat in their diet that they are now environmentalists? For many around the world there is not the option of vegetarianism. A market of choice is a first world privilege, and this ideal is smug rather than morally conscious. Rarely does it seem that vegetarians have issue with the ethics of meat itself. One surely cannot argue with its process in human evolution, or its inherent need to some communities. The most common argument (and most legitimate) is ‘Cruelty’. To this I argue with the linguistics of this statement. ‘Cruelty’ is a human conception, one need only watch the work of David Attenbourgh, to see that Nature and the Animal Kingdom can appear barbaric. Yet, we must remember that such concepts are alien to the chicken & the cow. Not because they the lack consciousness per se but, because animals eat each other within an ecosystem and the human ideas of morality and ethics do not apply to other species. The mouse does not hold the cat accountable. From here the argument can only go to the ethics of caging and rearing animals, but at this point the argument is no longer about eating meat but how animal husbandry is formatted. Such things as intensive farming, chemical growth and hormone manipulation in which Vegans/Vegetarians point out as inhumane, have very little to do with eating meat, and are to do with modes of production. Farming and agricultural surplus are a result of capitalism and the industry of farming.