Diabetes Diet

The Ethics of Eating Meat

Diabetes DietHow do you love animals, hate waste and environmental damage, and yet eat meat, fish, dairy and eggs at the same time?

I ask myself this a lot. I was a vegetarian for years because I called myself an animal lover and meat-consumption didn’t seem to fit. As a long-term lover of vegetables and pulses, I found the food delicious—certainly the stuff I made for myself in the house. I suffered my way through plenty of bad pasta dishes in restaurants staffed by unimaginative chefs.

In 2010, I embraced low-carb living. At first, I only added fish to my diet. You can do a low-carb version of vegetarianism, but it’s limited. Fish added variety and health benefits even if my ethical self shuddered at the thought of being one of ‘those’ vegetarians.

Bacon temptation

I started eating meat in 2013. The stance didn’t feel as big as a jump as going from vegetarian to eating fish, so it wasn’t such a dramatic shake-up of my internal moral compass. And blimey, bacon… it’s a cliché that many a former vegetarian stumbled at the bacon hurdle and it’s well founded.

Diabetes Diet's picture of the cover of Louise Gray's bookThe reason for all this pondering is a book I’ve just bought—The Ethical Carnivore: My Year of Killing to Eat by Louise Gray. The premise is that the Daily Telegraph’s onetime environmental journalist decided she would only eat meat she’d killed herself, and the book begins with her first experience of shooting a rabbit.

I’m 75 percent certain I couldn’t kill an animal deliberately. I’m of the generation that’s become completely detached from the animals we put in our mouths. My father shot rabbits and gutted and skinned them, and he could do the same with birds. I have a razor-sharp memory of him standing at the back door, one back foot of a dead rabbit in each hand, and ripping it apart to allow the cats to dig in

Chickens coming to life

Meat’s almost always appeared in front of me packaged, its origins neatly obscured. Handling chickens makes me flinch as I visualise a head sprouting from that gaping cavity or feathers poking through the skin.

Veganism’s argument for greater health benefits doesn’t convince me. An omnivorous diet of unprocessed foods and plenty of fruit and vegetables will provide the same health gains. But I’m still left with the conundrum—how to eat meat that minimises animal suffering and doesn’t cost the planet dearly?

The ethics thing trips me up all the time. Buy free-range eggs—yes, but they clip the birds’ breaks and kill the male chicks at birth in a horrible way, anyway. Buy Red Tractor meat—not according to this article about what it means for animal welfare standards. Eat meat from the Farmers Market—but it’s so expensive. Eat organic dairy—what about the forced separation of cows from calves and what the industry does to male calves?

I’ve only started the book and I’m hoping it will end with a neat set of guidelines. Follow these and you too can be an ethical carnivore kind of thing. I doubt reading The Ethical Carnivore will turn me into a hunter, but if I emerge with a better understanding of what I can do, I’ll be delighted.

How do you deal with the ethics of eating meat? Any tips or advice gratefully received…

Ethics picture – Madhamathi SV and licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International Licence. 


11 thoughts on “The Ethics of Eating Meat”

  1. I’ve been a city dweller all my life but as a kid, I’ve had friends whose parents had farms and run cattle and other livestock. I’ve watched livestock being shot and slaughtered and from time to time I’ve broken the neck of a chicken or two and helped pluck feathers in preparation for an evening meal.
    I try not to take my food for granted and even though I have a good job I think twice before I make a meat purchase given how expensive fine cuts of meat cost these days. When I finished my specialty training I promised myself I’d eat fine steak when I wanted, but now when I look at the price of lamb, pork and beef it’s no wonder I’m eating more chicken and ground meat and cheaper cuts more often.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’ve probably more experience than most, watching livestock being shot and slaughtered, and killing chickens yourself. I’ve only watched it on TV (and even then, I think I walked out the room or changed the channel.) I love eggs and cheese much more than I like meat (except for bacon…), but they’re problematic too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is an issue most non vegetarians don’t get. It is a moral issue. Its like telling someone they need to kill their own family member to eat. Its not wrong, it is a choice. As you said it is how your moral compass is pointing. I’ve never had an issue with eating meat but I also know many who do not. As much as I try not to offend them with my food choices, I hope they can not try to force are guilty me into following THEIR moral compass. You are a brave woman to battle that compass for such huge change in lifestyle. lol I’m not British or from any part of UK so I hope I’m using the right term here but, bully for you Emma.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bully for you is indeed a British term! Some vegans can be a bit…preachy, and there’s a whole set of ethical issues there, such as the damage excessive avocado growing does in countries such as Peru and the concentration of other mono crops. If someone could just set up a farm that produced meat from animals who eventually dropped dead in the field, I’d be laughing…


  3. why can I love animals and still eat meat? hum, it is true adam and eve were vegetarians, in the garden, but because God altered the weather via the global flood (the water expanse above the earth allowed growing stuff all year long)one is not obligated to eat meat if they don’t want, and no one is obligated not too, after all God is the ultimate authority and he told noah and his family after the flood that it is now okay to eat meat. and he has not retracted it so it still goes. it was not okay to eat the blood. once drained properly you can eat the meat. so who here can say they love animals and humans more than God?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Round these parts animals are usually grazed on marshes and watermeadows, and elsewhere mountains and hills which could not be used to grow crops. Without the constant input of cultivation and spraying used on the arable areas there is far more wildlife all the way from flowers to small mammals. Then many of the Big Arable guys use animal dung and also grow pheasants and partridges on the field margins which give them an added income and encourage them to support nature which has the knock-on effect of reducing the use of chemical fertiliser and pesticides.

    The animals mostly have a good life and a better death than they would achieve in nature, which is NOT a Disneyfied fantasy place. Tasting good and being full of nutrition is an added bonus.

    Lierre Keith’s The Vegetarian Myth is a good read.

    Liked by 1 person

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