Whether or not we should eat meat is, clearly, a serious question in the domain of practical or applied ethics. Aside from the obvious animal welfare issues, advocates of the vegetarian diet may also now be prone to argue that meat production is a hugely inefficient use of natural resources, and that in a world of burgeoning population growth, not to mention the potential shrinking of habitable land mass following from the byproducts climate change (rising sea-levels, increased desertification), a meat-based diet is environmentally unsustainable.
However, even accepting these arguments, a recent report in the Times suggests that we might, in the future, be able to tuck into a steak – or at least sausages – without being afflicted by the niggling pangs of conscience. Continue reading “Would you like fries with that…?”
Parke Wilde at the US Food Policy blog posts ten google maps illustrating different agriculture land uses, from a phosphate strip mine in Florida to the Polyface farm featured in The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food Inc.
Peter Singer’s argument for vegetarianism turns on the premise that the difference in the amount of happiness we get from eating a salad and eating a pork chop is slight enough that it deserves little weight against other considerations. The suffering and death of the pig, for example, is far more significant than our pork-chop/salad pleasure differential. This is a powerful idea and it’s gotten a lot of traction.
Looking at these maps, I wonder why Singer’s premise hasn’t been more broadly applied. After all, there is little or no difference between the amount we enjoy eating corn fertilized with mined phosphorous and eating crop-rotated corn. Given the huge difference in environmental impact between these practices, shouldn’t we care about agricultural policy more than we do? Singer’s argument has made many vegetarians. Why hasn’t it made more policy wonks?
Environmental Ethics: An Overview
By Katie McShane, Colarado State University (May 2009)
Morality and Psychology
By Chrisoula Andreou, University of Utah (December 2006)