Why is it ethical to eat meat?

The New York Times recently held an essay contest entitled “Why is it ethical to eat meat?”.  A judges panel made up of gentlemen that are either vegetarian or “minimalist” meat eaters was selected to choose the winning essay/essays which will be published in the NY Times.  The essay was required to be less than 600 words and to focus on the “ethics” of meat eating.

My favorite cat loving, essay writing 6th grader...

When I read about the essay contest, I decided that it would be a great experience for my 6th grade daughter to write an essay on the topic.  I believe that it is incredibly important for my daughter to master the art and the science of expressing her thoughts in written form.  It is also important for her to have a good understanding of "where her food comes from".  This was a challenging essay topic for a twelve year old as the topic of “ethics” is very complex, but I was proud of what she put together.  Because I meant for this to be a learning experience in critical thinking and essay writing, I did not have her "write the essay for the contest".  She simply wrote the essay to learn--It was a fabulous experience for her and one that I would encourage other moms to do with their children!

Why is it ethical to eat meat?

Ashley Grace Burkholder

6th grade, Cozad Middle School

 Some people claim that it is not ethical (morally right) to eat meat because we no longer need it to survive.  Or do we? We are privileged in America to have enough food to go vegetarian, but some people cannot survive without eating meat.  Since we use 98% of every calf that is harvested, cattle provide a lot more than just meat to eat.  From medicines to basketballs, we use everything but the Moo!

Have you ever been really hungry?  I am guessing that for most of you the answer is “no”.  Here in America, we do not have to worry about whether we will get another meal.  When I traveled to Kenya last December, I saw people living in stick homes who had their only source of food come from goats and cattle.  The Samburu people eat and drink only goat meat, beef, milk, milk mixed with cow’s blood, and water.  Their survival is dependent on their livestock because the soil is not fertile enough to grow anything but grass.

As a runner, a well-balanced diet that includes meat helps to ensure that I run fast! Do you know how many minerals and nutrients come from meat?  Beef is a nutrient packed protein source.  A three ounce serving of lean beef provides 51% of your daily protein needs and 38% of your zinc needs. It also provides 37% of your vitamin B12, 26% of selenium, 20% of phosphorus, 17% of niacin and 15%, 14%, and 12% of your vitamin B6, iron and riboflavin requirements. Young athletes like me need these nutrients to excel. Why? Zinc helps power our brains and our immune systems, iron carries oxygen in our blood so we can function and move; and protein energizes our bodies and builds muscles.  Do you know a vegetable that can do all those things in just three ounces?

Close your eyes and imagine a world where no one ate meat.  Think about all of the items that we would lose.  Do you think that you could live a day without driving your car, wearing shoes, or using soap in the shower?  How would you clean your home, since detergents and floor wax are made from animals? If we did not harvest animals, we could not insulate our homes or use candles. I am sure that none of you want to go to work without using soap, deodorant, toothpaste, and mouthwash.  However, if the whole world stopped eating meat, you would. Without leather, I couldn’t do my favorite sport, track! Becoming a vegetarian may seem simple, but if the whole world did, it would impact our lives way beyond our diets.

These are the reasons that I think it is ethical to eat meat: some people (especially in poorer countries) need meat to survive, young athletes like me require the nutrients found in meat to enable us to be healthy and perform well, and all of us need products that come from food animals for everyday items.  Can you imagine trying to travel without antifreeze, grease, auto and jet lubricants, brake fluid, or tires without the stearic acid to hold them together?

Now that I have told you why I think it is ethical to eat meat, I want to ask you a question.

“Why isn’t it?”

Anne and Ashley Grace Burkholder

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