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Why Vegans and Vegetarians Should Cast Their Vote in the New York Times' Ethical Meat Contest

If you are remotely interested in the ethics of eating, you’ve probably heard about the the New York Times essay contest ‘calling all carnivores’ to tell them why it’s ethical to eat meat.

The contest was announced in March 20, 2012 and has stirred quite a bit of controversy over the past month, not because of the subject matter, but primarily because the panel of judges lacked any diversity. Carol J. Adams wrote a thoughtful article, criticizing the New York Times’ “Ethicist” columnist, Ariel Kaminer for her choice of judges. Since then, many others have chimed in with their criticism, and while Kaminer defended her decision, she reportedly admitted that the panel was inadequate in terms of demographic diversity.

Thanks to the general theme of the contest, as well as panel of judges assembled, I decided to largely ignore the responses and its outcome. However, yesterday, someone drew my attention to one of the 6 essays that made it to the final voting round and I was compelled to take notice.

While most of the essays offer an array of predictable justifications around why meat eating is ethical, one of them, titled “I’m About to Eat Meat for the First Time in 40 Years” truly stands out. It still makes the case for ethical meat (staying true to the contest rules), but provides a response that is not only the most creative, but also the most logical one.

Here’s an excerpt from the essay:

“Dr. Van Eelen, while a prisoner during World War II, had been badly treated, but what bothered him more was the abuse he saw meted out to animals destined for the guards’ tables. He was determined to find a way to reduce animals’ suffering, and eventually, he and the scientists he inspired all over the world succeeded. It is thanks to him that I can return to the table with my lobster bib tucked into my shirt front, my conscience clear.

In vitro meat is real meat, grown from real cow, chicken, pig and fish cells, all grown in culture without the mess and misery, without pigs frozen to the sides of metal transport trucks in winter and without intensive water use, massive manure lagoons that leach into streams or antibiotics that are sprayed onto and ingested by live animals and which can no longer fight ever-stronger, drug-resistant bacteria. It comes without E. coli, campylobacter, salmonella or other health problems that are unavoidable when meat comes from animals who defecate. It comes without the need for excuses. It is ethical meat. Aside from accidental roadkill or the fish washed up dead on the shore, it is perhaps the only ethical meat.”

Personally, I have no interest in eating any animal-based meat, but I voted for it anyway.

No matter what your views may be about meat eating or the specific conclusion this essay arrives at, I highly encourage you to read the entire essay and cast your vote if you agree.

The contest ends by midnight on April 24.

Image Source: Leonardo Pallota/Flickr