“Humane” Meat? I’m Over It.

Via Karl Saliter
on Feb 8, 2013
get elephant's newsletter


“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.


Like elephant vegan & vegetarian on Facebook.


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. karlsaliter says:

    Cheers and thank you for engaging.

  2. karlsaliter says:

    The thing that I believe you would have to agree to Oz is this. Ir massive vegetable production for human food is x, then massice meat production for human food is x+7.

    The argument that creating veggies is bad for the environment too is dead. We know. It is just less bad for the environment than creating meat.

  3. karlsaliter says:

    Still, you were counting zeros wrong above when you claimed millions, its kind of lame to ignore that.

  4. oz_ says:

    Sure – deal. Always looking to learn more…

  5. oz_ says:

    "If massive vegetable production for human food is x, then massive meat production for human food is x+7."

    Actually, while this seems intuitively correct, and while I once believed that, I now believe it to be inaccurate. Let me know what you think after MABE.

    I obviously agree as a general proposition that less bad is better than more bad – but still may well prove insufficient for our present circumstance. In Cradle to Cradle (a world changing read for me), WIlliam McDonough makes the same point in regard to the 'reduce, reuse, recycle' mantra, and about pollution standards in general. Slow poison is still poison, after all, and we can and must do better.

    We do have the know-how to do actual GOOD, as it turns out. Thus I'd like to see fewer arguments about doing less bad and a lot more about how to do good. Especially here on the pages of EJ – which I see as desiring to be a force for good in the world. So let's stop celebrating less bad, because that tends to obscure the good – in my experience, the folks doing the less bad then pat themselves on the back for not being more bad, if that makes sense. It is something of an inversion of Voltaire's warning not to allow the great to be the enemy of the good. Here, we allow the less bad to become the enemy of the good. That's…errr… not good.

    We have to acknowledge that the term 'unsustainable' – as it pertains to our existing food production methods – has a real and proximate meaning – it means it cannot persist and will by necessity end (and in fact, this is an ongoing process, as cheap and abundant energy inputs are sputtering). The only choice we have is to either end it ourselves with some degree of intelligence (i.e. move quickly into a sustainable food production paradigm, preferably via permaculture), or allow some external agency to end it for us once we hit the wall. I suggest the latter is precisely where we are currently headed, in all likelihood leading to a common ecological scenario called a die-off or die-back within a few decades, as the forces kick started during the inaptly named 'green revolution' begin to reverse. In such a scenario, obviously, the argument between the carnies and the vegans becomes moot.

    So I guess my fundamental position is: we have considerably bigger fish to fry. I hope the pescatarians will forgive me my choice of metaphor. 🙂

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. Hayley Houston says:

    Well, unethical for you , not all people share your ethics.

    You are so wrong, eating meat is not in itself unethical treating animals badly probably is but in that case the responsibility falls on those who do it .
    Meat eating is actually the favorite strawman of vegans , the real villain is the meat industry but what are vegans doing to change it? Nothing , veganism is the most useless kind of "activism" there is , in fact I dont think veganism can be called activism at all. Vegans Are just lazy.

    So, good luck to you and all the other 2% of the american population who think they are saving the world by abstaining from eating meat.

  10. Hayley Houston says:

    Yes, the suffering of all those animals is inflicted by those who work there so the responsibility falls on them and the industy as a whole, not on the consumers.

    Using your flawed logic then it would be accurate to say that all of those who eat chocolate are resposible for the suffering of african children that are used as slaves to collect cacao.
    The same can be said for all of those who own diamonds…. Maybe all of those who use cars and electricity are directly responible for the BP spill in the Gulf too.

  11. Hayley Houston says:

    It's kind of lame to blame consumers for how the meat industry treats the animals.
    Should we blame those who use airplanes for global warming too?

  12. Hayley Houston says:

    Btw, do you make your own clothes? If not mabe you should be blamed for all the pollution the textiles industry produces.
    Do you have a computer or other gadgets? Then you are probably responsible for all the e-waste that is poisoning the planet .

    Omg, you are just as unethical as all the "carnists".

  13. 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.

  14. Hayley Houston says:

    Why bother with a good argument when the only argument people like you will take is "meat is murder".

    I think the relevant question here is why do you bother writing posts like this one when it seems like you are only interested in geting validation from other vegans and people who agree with you….perhaps you need the ocasional ego boost .

  15. karlsaliter says:

    Hayley, how would you know? You haven't posted a good argument.

    "The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has linked animal agriculture to a number of other environmental problems, including: contamination of aquatic ecosystems, soil, and drinking water by manure, pesticides, and fertilizers; acid rain from ammonia emissions; greenhouse gas production; and depletion of aquifers for irrigation."
    – Being Vegan

    If your question is sincere, I write posts like this because I enjoy writing.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. michelle says:

    modern farming of both fauna *and* flora is doing gross things to humans too. at least in the USA. as for making "compassionate" choices, i'm still not cinvinced plants don't feel pain when we cut their limbs off or simply mow ehmd down all together. as previously mentioned, we are part of the food chain. no amount of cognitive reasoning — or arrogance — is going to change that. as for the slippery slope you so cleverly invoke, those who have made the compassionate choice have actually climbed back up the damn thing. after all that effort, i doubt they're headed back down any time soon.