“Humane” Meat? I’m Over It.

Via Karl Saliter
on Feb 8, 2013
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“Stop Eating Flesh. That is Yoga.”

~ Sri Dharma Mittra

I’ve wrestled this alligator once or twice on elephant, if that’s the metaphor I’m after, but here we go. The keyboard is a shiny new backlit wonder, and there’s fresh coffee at my elbow.

Lately, every vegan piece I write gets riddled with holes from paleo eaters and sustainable farming advocates, who posit that eating meat like grass-fed bison or organic free range chicken is “okay,” some even claiming it is helpful, giving lifeblood to small independent farms. Uh huh.

This is less a concern for small independent farms, and more a milder form of the time-honored game of taunting the vegetarian.

Remember the game? Decades ago, in high school, it took familiar forms:

“Well, if you were on a desert island and the only thing to eat was a hot juicy hamburger, what then?”

“If you had the choice of eating a hot dog or getting punched in the face what then?”
“What if rice makes you dumb? Beans make you fart! Then you would be stupid and smelly!”

The only people I know personally who have argued that grass-fed angle with me, the only living examples of that path who I have met, talk it well, and then order meat whenever they feel like it.

News flash: at this time in our culture, grass-fed, organic meat is precious. Any restaurant using it will tout that fact, generally right from the menu. If they’re not shouting in your ear about how gently sourced their meat is, it lived its miserable life in a factory. (And grass fed does not mean not factory kept.)

It is a slippery slope from “some really kind meat is okay” to “I’ll have a chicken burrito.” So please allow me to disabuse you: unless its flagged as kind, that dead bird lived 24/7 punishment, from birth to your fork.

Source: myveganjournal.com via Eire on Pinterest

So cheers to you if you not only advocate for grass fed beef but also walk your talk, avoiding eating meat unheralded as merciful.

Hat’s off for the effort. On the scale of torture in your mouth, you are causing way less than a careless eater, and that matters.

But enough with all that “quit telling me how good and virtuous certain meats are and then merrily eating whatever you damn please” chitchat. Let’s explore the act that transforms animal to meat.

One recent cartoon shows a slaughterhouse with two chutes for cattle. On the left the line is “grass fed,” and on the right is “whatever.” Both chutes lead into the same door.

At the moment of death, living creatures fear the impending violence with every part of themselves. They scream and try to run. They are subjected to unimaginable cruelty, if they dare to defy. Their crime is that they want to live, just like us. We are more alike in this than any differences we have.

Source: Uploaded by user via Kayla on Pinterest

Did you take in the feelings, the expressions on those faces just above? People brave enough to observe slaughterhouse activity with an open heart generally stop eating meat. The accepted business practices around killing animals are unbearable in the mind. Most carnivores cultivate an attitude that since we are capable of creating cheap abundant meat, we should.

We shouldn’t. Fish sandwiches should not be two bucks apiece at Arby’s, when the oceans are two-thirds harvested to lifeless. A cheeseburger should not cost $1.50, when land and rivers all around CAFOs are riddled with pollution. Over 90 percent of contemporary meat eating is textbook unsustainable, and subsidized in taxpayer billions. Just because we can isn’t reason enough.

Just because we can, just because some of us want to, isn’t reason enough for all of us to pay for it. Vegans pay for meat in millions of gallons of fresh water, in horrendous environmental damage and in mountains of tax money. We pay for meat and are ridiculed for refusing to eat it.

But here’s the thing: eating meat is not necessary for our health and well being. There are enough vegan marathon runners and elite vegan athletes to back up this claim. I’m not inventing it. There is no nutritional reason to eat meat. There is no ethical reason to eat meat. There is no compassionate way to eat meat.

“When you start with a necessary evil, and then over time the necessity passes away, what’s left?” ~ Matthew Scully, “Dominion”

“Too late for that one” ignores that every bite is a vote, and CAFOs raise meat and breed it in response to demand. Lunch is a vote. Dinner is a vote. God, if one of you gives me the comment that plants are alive too and modern monoculture farming also causes harm to animals and the environment I will mail you a lemonade stand, I swear. I know. I know. Nobody is making claims regarding perfection or sainthood. To live is to kill; got it.

It is simply that carrots don’t scream. Radishes don’t agonize when you take their babies away. Kale doesn’t struggle in a net until suffocating. Trotting out the tired arguments kind of points out that really, there is no fundamentally kindhearted way to tear into a steak. All animals fear violence.

It’s all understandable, easily. If you want to understand it. There is some food which requires killing. Someone’s brother or father has to die to create the food. Lunch is made of somebody’s aunt. There is other food, perfectly capable of giving you all the nutrients you need, which comes from plants.

Eating meat is bowing to your taste buds, and giving powerless suffering beings the finger.

Eating is an act of entitlement, or an act of mercy.


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Ed: Kate Bartolotta


About Karl Saliter

Karl is a circus artist sculptor writer miscreant gypsy, living in Mexico. He has written two novels, "Compassion's Bitch," and "Breakfast In A Cloud," and has published neither. He often feels as if he was born under a silver whale of a frisbee moon in the back of a red cartoon pickup truck. That careening down route 66 at speed, he leapt up into the cab, took the wheel, stuck his baby elbow out the rolled-down window, and that though the truck had awesome chrome mirrors, he never looked back. He hopes you frequently feel the same.


68 Responses to ““Humane” Meat? I’m Over It.”

  1. On the whole, I agree. As humanely as an animal is raised, it still requires killing if it's going to be eaten. For me, that's something I'm not willing to do. I do appreciate that there are more mindful types of meat now, and I would definitely rather see people choose that than the factory farmed stuff. I guess the part that I wrestle with is whether the choices of others are any of my business. In a weird way (and run with me for a sec here) I think it's similar to the abortion debate. I am pro choice. I don't think I could ever choose to have an abortion. I can't forsee any circumstance where I feel like I would be okay with doing that (barring the extremes as you mentioned people saying with desert islands, etc.). But I don't and can't know what might make it necessary for someone else.

    Agreed, for most people it's a "this is easier & tastes good" decision where meat is concerned. But even looking through Ayurvedic texts, there are times where meat is prescribed due to health concerns—and those are from cultures where meat is generally omitted or at least very sparing.

    So, I guess my thought is, for me, it's out. No question. I just can't get around the fact that it's flesh and that bothers me. But for how I choose to relate to others about it, I choose to stay curiously compassionate. If they ask why I don't, I'm always happy to share. If they want to talk about why they do, I'm open to being informed.

  2. And as with any issue, I find it much easier to respect and discuss with those who have come to their choices in life after intentional consideration—even if they come to a different conclusion than I do!

  3. Chris Hurlbert says:


    Are you saying that eating meat is unnatural for humans? That’s like saying it’s wrong for the lion to eat the gazelle. At the end of the day, we are part of nature. Part of the food chain. The human genome has not changed in the past 10,000 years. We are basically a slightly more intelligent version of cromagnon man. Our bodies are designed to eat meat, fruits, and vegetables. It’s the processed stuff that has only come in, in the last few hundreds years that will be the downfall of the human race. If the food chain is not followed, then nature will be in big trouble.

    The problem is that man has the ability to think and reason. We then project feelings into a natural way of life and think that because we can reason, that we are better than nature. It’s the way of life, bigger stronger animals eat smaller weaker ones. It’s the way it has been and the way it will be. An utopian world where there is no death, no animal surviving off of the downfall of another, will never be possible…

  4. Maru says:

    Chris, but you are not a lion that need to hunt to survive and the cows, chikens and turkeys you choose to eat are not gazelles running in the wild. I wish meat eaters at least would come up with newer statements… have you done serious(any) investigation around this topic or it is about things you heard in 4th grade… the food chain, the happy cow in the farm, the calcium in the milk, ´our ´canines´, that we developed the brain we have thanks to animal protein, and all that… crap!

    It would be at least fair that people did some research before engaging in any topic…
    I am over it too…. poor animals.

  5. Chris Hurlbert says:

    But I do hunt for my food. I hunt and fish and feed my family with what I am able to catch. I have a freezer full of venison and trout. I have respect for the animals I take and make certain to use as much of it as possible. If there were not hunters, deer would starve or waste to disease. There has to be balance in the universe and that means things live and things die. It is the natural order.

    You have the right to decide how you want to live and what you want to eat. I do not take that away from you. It is your call. Please don’t tell me that I should not eat meat as it is my right to do so.

  6. here is one simple perpsective… nowhere in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali does it say 'do not eat meat' or 'eat this diet'.

    it does, however, clearly indicate "Ahimsa" – to not be violent, to not be aggressive…

    often, the 'vegetarian yogi conversation' foresakes the violence and aggression of this hyper-judgement of others and their diets. It's often downright attacking, shaming and accusatory, all flavors of violence and aggression.

    cite all your other sources, but the Sutras talk about how we should be with ourselves, not how we should judge, cajole, shame or demand others into being.

    on another note, urban sprawl, mass farming, highways, developments, polluted water and the like kill over 75% of the animals y'all are talking about – not factory farming. That amount, large as it is, is a drop in the bucket on 'human-made choices that exploit the wildlife and fauna'…

    so, if you're really serious about animal rights, talk about the majority, not just the very visible and emotional minority – that's how politics has become so divisive and polarized, the last thing we need in this community.

    how about – you make your own choices because you are an adult, a divine being, and a child of the universe… I'll make mine. Neither are 'right or wrong', they just serve our process.

  7. paul says:

    The only strong case I've seen made for eating meat in our modern world is that certain amino acids/proteins (necessary for all sorts of things, not just muscle) cannot be manufactured or otherwise made a part of the body by some people without meat. (A friend of mine had tried all sorts of different vegetarian diets over long times and none worked for her- and it wasn't that she did them half-mast and half-assed as many people do.)

    But I don't think the argument is so much about health or violence but what are our priorities and how do we best create them. Is valuing sentience and suffering a benefit or a necessity? I think so on both counts, but too I think people to come to this conclusion themselves, or it is ineffective to the point of being meaningless. Which is all to say that for whatever (good and correct) harrumphing articles like this get, I don't know a better way to present the issue other than as an imperative that is imperative.

  8. karlsaliter says:

    I like that, Paul.

    Chrispy could you site a source for "on another note, urban sprawl, mass farming, highways, developments, polluted water and the like kill over 75% of the animals y'all are talking about – not factory farming. "

    10 billion animals a year are killed for meat.

  9. Maru says:

    25 billion Karl

  10. Hayley Houston says:

    Can you prove that 10 billion animals are killed for meat in the US every year? You are making an extraordinary claim here and the burden of proof is on you . Your numbers are not consistent with those of the USDA.

    So if you can't prove it then you are making it up or simply lying …and of course misinforming people.

  11. paul says:

    I read this today and while it is written about political discourse, I think it's relevant to this issue, from Yanay's Ideology of Hatred,

    "While dialogue reflects, at least on its face, a will to resolve the conflict, negotiations often fail not only because the parties have reached a dead end or are unable to agree but also because negotiations reproduce the language that has failed the parties from the very start, because dialogue itself has become a venue for violent language, because dominant groups tend to see dialogue as their privilege and under their authority. If we are not aware of the workings of psychic defenses and thie signifiers, if we do not pay attention to psychic barriers in speech, dialogue itself can become a repetition of the unsaid and hence the normalization of violence." and that "…a dialogue between a racist and an anti-racist will always be simultaneously circular and parallel, reflecting the individual's subjective loyalty to his or her group."

    Both pro-veggies and those who reply in opposition to them (be they anti-pro-veg or not) typically try to posit themselves as the dominant in control of the health/ecological/moral sphere, but usually only succeed in putting up a wall with each barrage of words (ala Mara and Haley, me at more than several times), and so always talk around issues to show dominance, as in dismissing a position because some misrepresent the evidence (either by direct lie or misreadings), or use hurtful language.

    For example the 'greater number of killings' argument: all the field mice and insects killed by a mechanical harvester vs. the one cow eating in a field. These are really two different things (industrial and traditional agriculture), but I usually only see it argued as if it were one. When the industrial and traditional is brought out, the tone changes, and there is some comprise, but I don't see anyone really changing their minds. (And this turn often fails too to express some pro-veggies concerns because the arguments are predicated on the notion that serving the human is the de facto top priority.)

    Haley's links were somehow cutoff, and grossly undershow the poultry numbers, but this source (a vegan group) http://farmusa.org/statistics11.html summarizes the 10 billion, with 91% chickens, and matches the USDA numbers for 2010, which were slightly higher than in 2011.

    You can browse the statistics at the Economics, Statistics, and Market Information System of the USDA http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/MannUsda/viewTaxo… (they have links to .txt files, rather than the pdfs geven below)
    http://usda01.library.cornell.edu/usda/current/Li… says, "Commercial cattle slaughter during 2011 totaled 34.1 million head, Commercial calf slaughter totaled 852,500, Commercial hog slaughter totaled 110.9 million head, Commercial sheep and lamb slaughter, at 2.16 million head" = 143 million
    The numbers for poultry are what take it to the 10 billion, for 2011 http://usda01.library.cornell.edu/usda/current/Po… 8,683,067,000 chicken + 246,844,000 turkeys + 24,472,000 ducks = 8,954,383,000

    For eggs: http://usda01.library.cornell.edu/usda/current/Ch… "Egg production during the year ending November 30, 2011 totaled 91.9 billion eggs, up slightly from 2010. Table egg production, at 79.0 billion eggs, was up 1 percent from the previous year. Hatching egg production, at 12.8 billion eggs, was down 1 percent from 2010."

    For fish: This is where I'm guessing the other 15 billion might have come from. The USDA only looks at catfish and trout production, and I'm gilled out on stats for the evening and didn't look for other sources (they are presented as 'number of fish sold' and I'm not sure if that means for slaughter) http://usda01.library.cornell.edu/usda/current/Tr… Trout during 2011 totaled: 38,400,000 12+inches + 5,620,000 6-12 inches + 5,000,000 1-6 inches = 49,020,000 trout sold. http://usda01.library.cornell.edu/usda/current/Ca… (#s for US raised catfish sold): 201,880,000 foodsized + 76,685 stockers + 257,590,000 fingerlings = 536,155,000 so that's 585,175,000 catfish and trout.

    These are for US production only; what is imported, and what goes on in the rest of the world is going to be a very different story.

  12. karlsaliter says:

    Paul, you are making more sense than the rest of us.
    There is little debate free of bile and irrelevant attack.
    Of interest regarding your "any different way of eating (like offense at eating cats and dogs) can make it seem like a direct attack on the person who isn't part of that clique/culutre." I recommend Melanie Joy's work: http://www.carnism.com/index.php/2012-05-15-16-41

  13. oz_ says:

    Frankly, I think that virtually all food production – veggie and meat – as currently practiced here in America, wreaks tremendous harm on ecosystems, and the animals that inhabit them. In point of fact, this is inarguable and goes for vegans as well.

    It's not simply that ag fields are cleared of animals (shrews, moles, voles, gophers, etc) but that they become permanent exclusion zones. That's something like 3.8 billion hectares world wide, permanently off limits to animals (read: nature) and declared to be explicitly for ONLY human use (pollinators aside).

    Not only that, but what agriculture represents is the arresting of what's called the ecological process of succession at an early stage. This prevents the development of ecosystems associated with various seral stages up to and including the climax stage where stable ecosystems can produce massive diversity.

    If you want to talk ecological responsibility (which can be read: 'harm' or lack thereof in terms of the biosphere), then the goal is not to 'harm no single animal' but rather to enhance the biotic community – stable diversity is the true ethical goal. In other words, Aldo Leopold's Land Ethic is an appropriate basis from which to make such assessments:

    "A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise."

    (Read the whole thing here: http://home.btconnect.com/tipiglen/landethic.html )

    Absent this underlying ethic, all of these arguments miss the boat, and are all anthropocentric (in an unenlightened form) to one degree or another.

    Permaculture – which let us recall is what many indigenous cultures practiced in the form of forest gardens (see for example Mann's '1491') – is the only approach I know of that welcomes animals and other critters into the system and seeks to deal with them on the same basis (holistically) as the rest of the natural world. It is the only method of food production I know of that fits Leopold's ethic.

    Organic ag does NOT! Sorry vegans.

    You could also note that pre-agricultural revolution styles like horticulture and pastoralism fit better into that way of thinking, but those are vanishingly rare in America, though there are still many cultures throughout the world that do practice them and are worthy of study and emulation.

    Industrial methods are of course the worst – they destroy the very soil upon which all food production depends.

    But all 'farming' as we think of it – whether industrial or organic – wreaks harm on the 'biotic community' (not just animals).

    Are we really going to sit here and defend our positions based on assertions about who is doing somewhat LESS harm to the biotic community? This is what bothers me about the vegan position, because it claims falsely to be one of no harm (unless eating a wholly permaculture based diet). This is simply nonsense, from the holistic perspective of ecology. So veganism doesn't address the fundamental *systems* problems with food production any more than meat eating does. Both mindlessly buy into the current thoroughly lethal systems without questioning the underlying premises.

    I also wanted to comment regarding this assertion:

    "At the moment of death, living creatures fear the impending violence with every part of themselves. They scream and try to run."

    Well, this is not true in one case I know of, and it's in the case of humanely killed bison on the Wild Idea ranch in S Dakota, which is where I get my bison (and whose goal is not food production per se, but rather the restoration of the Great Plains ecosystems, of which the bison turns out to be the keystone species). No slaughterhouse, no screaming, no running. no panic.

    Karl, I do appreciate that you revisit this issue and continue to think about it, and so in the interests of that continuing self-education, I'd suggest two books, one regarding the aforementioned ranch, written by a conservation biologist who was instrumental in the reintroduction of the peregrine falcon species after DDT nearly wiped them out:

    Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch, by Dan O'Neill

    The other is a book that, while not in line with Leopold's land ethic, at least gets the facts right in terms of veggie vs meat production from various perspectives, which allows one to make an informed decision:

    Meat: A Benign Extravagance, by Simon Fairlie

    Good reading, and thanks again for keeping this discussion alive. The plain fact is that all of us – vegan, vegetarian, meat eater alike, have a helluva lot to learn about this issue and that NONE of us know enough to get all dogmatic about it.

  14. Maru says:

    For Hayley, no literature is more real than reality… http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/ag-gag-laws-animal-

  15. Kbee214 says:

    Those who advocate this position do not understand ecology. Many animals that we eat, if not industrially raised, eat things that we cannot, and on lands that cannot be used for tilling agriculture. And in an ecological system, their manures re-fertilize the soil that grows the food they (and we) eat. Those who claim that no one should eat meat for any reason are consigning 7 billion people to eating food based on tilling agricultural practices that totally deplete the soil. Especially because there will be no manures to re-fertilize it. Their stance means the razing of forests to create more arable land to raise more food on. Is it more ethical that wild animals will die from deforestation so vegans can have their soy products? There is nothing inherently more ethical about this stance. If farm animals are not raised for the eventual table, there will be no more farm animals. I am betting that were they able to speak, farm animals who are not part of the abhorrent industrial practices would say they would rather have a life and then die rather than no life at all. The problem is that ALL of our current modern industrial food raising practices are not ecological and not sustainable, There is a small percentage of ecological farmers and they deserve support whether they raise chickens on pasture or carrots in the field. Veganism is not a solution. it just righteously and blindly refuses to see the ethical problems involved in its position. Advocating for ecologically based agriculture, and patronizing those who practice it, is the most ethical solution.

  16. Karl Saliter says:

    Please read the articles before commenting.

    In this case the words just after “NEWS FLASH”.

    This argument you pose is already addressed in the article, as a common blind tedius answer too often encountered.

    Your “if not industrially raised” is something to ponder, because virtually all meat is now industrially raised.

  17. karlsaliter says:

    In other words, if you absolutely need this voice to be heard, then here is a modification that answers it:

    In the world now, as meat is produced presently, it is unethical to eat meat.

  18. karlsaliter says:

    Hayley, "You are not eating meat what about the tragic deforestation do you use paper?" is about as valid as getting parking ticket for sneezing.
    Really, your comments read like caricature.
    You traffic in mockery, ultimately validating my “Well, if you were on a desert island and the only thing to eat was a hot juicy hamburger, what then?” memories.

    "Vegans are just lazy" has as much intellectual firepower as a cotton ball.

  19. sordog1 says:

    Love your point of view. I will also offer that meat is tamasic. In yoga and tantra tradition, tama guna is static or lethargic. Meat basically goes rancid in the gut because of much longer travel time that veggie material. So a green smoothie made from totally fresh fruits and vegetables will have transit time of say 12 to 24 hours or so and chunks of steak more like 3 days. This means meat eaters breath and skin exudes a different aroma than vegans. There are truly subtle and not so subtle karmic differences between practices. Practicing vegetarian diet for a time can yield some very interesting experiences. I sometimes marvel also at the tremendous externalized costs of factory farming. When you have more pigs in a rural NC county than there are people in the city of Raleigh and you do not have a huge sewage treatment plant as Raleigh does, then you are creating an issue that is not included in the price of meat. Guess what, that cheeseburger at McD's is wrecking the planet and we are all paying.

  20. Marcy says:

    I'm going to put aside the ethical and environmental reasons not to eat meat here for a moment. I'd like to address the comment the author made: "eating meat is not necessary for our health and well being," citing how there are vegan athletes and the like.

    A vegetarian, and especially a vegan diet, does not provide sufficient nutrition for *long-term* maintenance and repair of the human body.

    There are more nutrients in meat than you could ever hope to find in plants. And it is the amino acids found only in meat that help us assimilate plant matter, vitamins and nutrients. Because of humans long history of eating meat, our brains are nearly double the size they should be for a primate of our size, while our digestive tracts are 60 percent smaller, making it more difficult to digest plant materials. By comparison, gorillas are the largest primates and are vegetarian. They have both the smallest brains of the primate kingdom and the largest digestive systems. We are the opposite. Our brains, the legacy of our ancestors, need to be fed.

    The human brain depends on meat to function to its greatest capacity. For example, Seritonin is made from the amino acid tryptophan–and there are no good plant sources for it. Animal fats are necessary to make your neurotransmitters actually transmit. Do you, or a vegan you know, suffer from depression or anxiety? This could be the reason.

    Secondly, agriculture brought the "diseases" of civilization." No one speaks of the diseases of hunter-gatherers, because they were largely disease-free. Since agriculture, and specifically monocrops, humans were introduced to arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, depression, schizophrenia and cancer, not to mention the rotting of teeth and degeneration of bones.

    To eat or not to eat meat is a personal decision. I encourage everyone to research why the human brain needs meat to function properly. It was how we were designed.

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