I don't know how many people may have seen this discussion of the moral justification for eating meat on the New York Times web site so I am posting a link to it here:
The Times solicited essay submissions from its readers and then a panel of experts evaluated and selected the "best" from among them.
I have to say that the level of the discussion was quite disappointing to me. Most of these essays make interesting reading, but what strikes me about most of them is how evasive, artificial and intellectually contorted most of their arguments are. The authors so obviously struggle with the justification of their positions that it seems to me that these essays could actually serve as an illustration of why meat eating is no longer acceptable in our society. (Oh, what a tangled web we weave...")
The exception I would make is the entry by a farmer who raises vegetables and animals for her own consumption. This situation seems to avoid many of the ethical questions that arise with regard to eating meat in the modern, urban and industrial societies, but it is also a position that is available to only a very small number of people who are genuinely engaged in raising plants and animals for their own consumption and livelihood and doing so in a conscientious way.
It doesn't seem to me that the other authors are able to make a very convincing case on strictly intellectual grounds. Clearly people will continue to eat industrially raised meat. But can simply offering these ad hoc and somewhat rambling reflections be counted as a justification for doing so?
I'd be interested to hear other peoples' responses to this discussion.