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This House Would Go Vegetarian

There have been very few human societies in which no meat or fish are eaten, although in some parts of
the world the normal diet is made up largely of staple foods such as rice, with meat and fish being
relatively rare additions; this has often been due to poverty rather than choice. In modern Western
societies, however, 'voluntary' vegetarianism is on the increase. Currently in 2009 in the UK alone, there
are approximately 3 % of the population (1.8 million individuals) are vegetarians, 5 % of the population
is partly vegetarian, not eating some types of meat or fish.[1] There are different types of
vegetarianism. People who make a choice never to eat meat are vegetarians, although some
vegetarians eat fish if it has been caught in the wild, many will not eat flesh of any sort. Some people are
vegans, choosing not to eat any animal product, include eggs and dairy (milk) foods such as cheese,
butter and yoghurt. Vegans and many vegetarians also refuse to wear leather or fur because it comes
from animals.

This debate is about whether it is right for human beings to eat other animals (including fish). To
take an even more absolute line, the proposition could argue for veganism - this means eating
no dairy produce or eggs (as well as no meat or fish).

AFFIRMATIVE NEGATIVE
POINT POINT
As evolved human beings it is our moral duty
Humans are omnivores – we are meant to eat
to inflict as little pain as possible for our
both meat and plants. Like our early ancestors
survival. So if we do not need to inflict pain to
we have sharp canine teeth for tearing animal
animals in order to survive, we should not do
flesh and digestive systems adapted to eating
it. Farm animals such as chickens, pigs,
meat and fish as well as vegetables. Our
sheep, and cows are sentient living beings like
stomachs are also adapted to eating both
us - they are our evolutionary cousins and like
meat and vegetable matter. All of this means
us they can feel pleasure and pain. The
that eating meat is part of being human. Only
18th century utilitarian philosopher Jeremy
in a few western countries are people self-
Bentham even believed that animal suffering
indulgent enough to deny their nature and get
was just as serious as human suffering and
upset about a normal human diet. We were
likened the idea of human superiority to
made to eat both meat and vegetables -
racism. It is wrong to farm and kill these
cutting out half of this diet will inevitably mean
animals for food when we do not need to do
we lose that natural balance. Eating meat is
so. The methods of farming and slaughter of
entirely natural. Like many other species,
these animals are often barbaric and cruel -
human beings were once hunters. In the wild
even on supposedly 'free range' farms.[1] Ten
animals kill and are killed, often very brutally
billion animals were slaughtered for human and with no idea of “rights”. As mankind has
consumption each year, stated PETA. And progressed over thousands of years we have
unlike the farms long time ago, where animals largely stopped hunting wild animals. Instead
roamed freely, today, most animals are factory we have found kinder and less wasteful ways
farmed: —crammed into cages where they can of getting the meat in our diets through
barely move and fed a diet adulterated with domestication. Farm animals today are
pesticides and antibiotics. These animals descended from the animals we once hunted
spend their entire lives in their “prisoner cells” in the wild.
so small that they can't even turn around.
COUNTERPOINT
Many suffer serious health problems and even
Human evolved as omnivores over thousands
death because they are selectively bred to
of years. Yet since the invention of farming
grow or produce milk or eggs at a far greater
there is no longer a need for us to be
rate than their bodies are capable of coping
omnivores. Even if we wished to we could no
with. At the slaughterhouse, there were
longer collect, hunt and eat our food in the
millions of others who are killed every year for
same way as our ancestors as we could not
food.
support the human population. We have
Further on Tom Regan explains that all duties
outstripped the pace of our evolution and if we
regarding animals are indirect duties to one
do not want to be turning ever more land over
another from a philosophical point of view. He
to farming we have get our food from the most
illustrates it with an analogy regarding
efficient sources, which means being
children: “Children, for example, are unable to
vegetarian.
sign contracts and lack rights. But they are
protected by the moral contract nonetheless
because of the sentimental interests of others.
So we have, then, duties involving these
children, duties regarding them, but no duties
to them. Our duties in their case are indirect
duties to other human beings, usually their
parents.”[2] With this he supports the theory
that animals must be protected from suffering,
as it is moral to protect any living being from
suffering, not because we have a moral
contract with them, but mainly due to respect
of life and recognition of suffering itself.

*COUNTERPOINT
There is a great moral difference between
humans and animals. Unlike animals, humans
are capable of rational thought and can alter
the world around them. Other creatures were
put on this earth for mankind to use, and that
includes eating meat. For all these reasons we
say that men and women have rights and that
animals don’t. This means that eating meat is
in no way like murder. It is natural for human
beings to farm, kill, and eat other species. In
the wild there is a brutal struggle for existence.
The fact that we humans have succeeded in
that struggle by exploiting our natural
environment means that we have a natural
right over lower species. In fact farming
animals is much less brutal than the pain and
hardship that animals inflict on each other
naturally in the wild.

Eating meat does not need to mean cruelty to


animals. There are a growing number of
organic and free-range farms that can provide
meat without cruelty to animals. Similarly, it
might be reasonable to argue for an extension
of animal welfare laws to protect farm animals
- but that does not mean that it is wrong in
principle to eat meat.

POINT POINT
Becoming a vegetarian is an environmentally
A vegetarian or vegan diet may result in a
friendly thing to do. Modern farming is one of
person not getting enough iron. This is
the main sources of pollution in our rivers.
because, although you can get iron from foods
Beef farming is one of the main causes of
such as pulses, green leafy vegetables and
deforestation, and as long as people continue
nuts, the iron in these foods isn't absorbed so
to buy fast food in their billions, there will be a
easily. The symptoms of this feeling breathless
financial incentive to continue cutting down
after little exercise, feeling tired and a short
trees to make room for cattle. Because of our
attention span and poor
desire to eat fish, our rivers and seas are
concentration.[1] These symptoms could
being emptied of fish and many species are
negatively affect proficiency in school and the
facing extinction. Energy resources are used
ability to perform well at work ultimately
up much more greedily by meat farming than
leading to a loss of productivity which has both
my farming cereals, pulses etc. Eating meat
personal effects and broader effects for the
and fish not only causes cruelty to animals, it
economy. Other conditions include frequently
causes serious harm to the environment and
becoming ill, frequently becoming depressed,
to biodiversity. For example consider Meat
and malnourishment.
production related pollution and
deforestation COUNTERPOINT
At Toronto’s 1992 Royal Agricultural Winter
The problems with fatigue, apathetic behaviour
Fair, Agriculture Canada displayed two
and concentration are mostly a result from a
contrasting statistics: “it takes four football
lack of iron in the diet. However as with any
fields of land (about 1.6 hectares) to feed each
diet this is only a problem when not eating the
Canadian” and “one apple tree produces
right things, this regularly means that such iron
enough fruit to make 320 pies.” Think about it
deficiency can be a problem in the developing
— a couple of apple trees and a few rows of
world where vegetarians have little choice –
wheat on a mere fraction of a hectare could
usually eating little else except what they
produce enough food for one person![1]
grow, normally just cereals. “Although the iron
The 2006 U.N. Food and Agriculture
stores of vegetarians are sometimes reduced,
Organization (FAO) report concluded that the incidence of iron-deficiency anaemia in
worldwide livestock farming generates 18% of vegetarians is not significantly different from
the planet's greenhouse gas emissions — by that in the general population”, there are plenty
comparison, all the world's cars, trains, planes of sources of iron that can be eaten by
and boats account for a combined 13% of vegetarians such as legumes and whole
greenhouse gas emissions. [2] grains that are a substantial part of most
As a result of the above point producing meat western vegetarian’s diets meaning it is not a
damages the environment. The demand for problem.[1] Research done in Australia
meat drives deforestation. Daniel Cesar concludes that "There was no significant
Avelino of Brazil's Federal Public Prosecution difference between mean daily iron intakes of
Office says “We know that the single biggest vegetarians and omnivores".[2]
driver of deforestation in the Amazon is cattle.”
This clearing of tropical rainforests such as the
Amazon for agriculture is estimated to produce
17% of the world's greenhouse gas
emissions.[3] Not only this but the production
of meat takes a lot more energy than it
ultimately gives us chicken meat production
consumes energy in a 4:1 ratio to protein
output; beef cattle production requires an
energy input to protein output ratio of 54:1.
The same is true with water use due to the
same phenomenon of meat being inefficient to
produce in terms of the amount of grain
needed to produce the same weight of meat,
production requires a lot of water. Water is
another scarce resource that we will soon not
have enough of in various areas of the globe.
Grain-fed beef production takes 100,000 liters
of water for every kilogram of food. Raising
broiler chickens takes 3,500 liters of water to
make a kilogram of meat. In comparison,
soybean production uses 2,000 liters for
kilogram of food produced; rice, 1,912; wheat,
900; and potatoes, 500 liters.[4] This is while
there are areas of the globe that have severe
water shortages. With farming using up to 70
times more water than is used for domestic
purposes: cooking and washing. A third of the
population of the world is already suffering
from a shortage of water.[5] Groundwater
levels are falling all over the world and rivers
are beginning to dry up. Already some of the
biggest rivers such as China’s Yellow river do
not reach the sea.[6]
With a rising population becoming vegetarian
is the only responsible way to eat.

COUNTERPOINT
You don’t have to be vegetarian to be green.
Many special environments have been created
by livestock farming – for example chalk down
land in England and mountain pastures in
many countries. Ending livestock farming
would see these areas go back to woodland
with a loss of many unique plants and animals.
Growing crops can also be very bad for the
planet, with fertilisers and pesticides polluting
rivers, lakes and seas. Most tropical forests
are now cut down for timber, or to allow oil
palm trees to be grown in plantations, not to
create space for meat production.

British farmer and former editor Simon Farrell


also states: “Many vegans and vegetarians
rely on one source from the U.N. calculation
that livestock generates 18% of global carbon
emissions, but this figure contains basic
mistakes. It attributes all deforestation from
ranching to cattle, rather than logging or
development. It also muddles up one-off
emissions from deforestation with on-going
pollution.”

He also refutes the statement of meat


production inefficiency: “Scientists have
calculated that globally the ratio between the
amounts of useful plant food used to produce
meat is about 5 to 1. If you feed animals only
food that humans can eat — which is, indeed,
largely the case in the Western world — that
may be true. But animals also eat food we
can't eat, such as grass. So the real
conversion figure is 1.4 to 1.”[1] At the same
time eating a vegetarian diet may be no more
environmentally friendly than a meat based
diet if it is not sustainably sourced or uses
perishable fruit and vegetables that are flown
in from around the world. Eating locally
sourced food can has as big an impact as
being vegetarian.

POINT POINT
There are significant health benefits to 'going It is natural for human beings to farm, kill, and
veggie'; a vegetarian diet contains high eat other species. In the wild there is a brutal
quantities of fibre, vitamins, and minerals, and struggle for existence as is shown by Darwin’s
is low in fat. (A vegan diet is even better since On the Origin of the Species.[1] The fact that
eggs and dairy products are high in we humans have succeeded in that struggle
cholesterol.) The risk of contracting many by exploiting our natural environment means
forms of cancer is increased by eating meat: in that we have a natural right over lower
1996 the American Cancer Society species. The concept of survival of the fittest
recommended that red meat should be may seem outdated but it is still the defining
excluded from the diet entirely. Eating meat order of nature. In fact farming animals is
also increases the risk of heart disease - much less brutal than the pain and hardship
vegetables contain no cholesterol, which can that animals inflict on each other naturally in
build up to cause blocked arteries in meat- the wild.
eaters. An American study found out that: “that
men in the highest quintile of red-meat [1] Darwin, Charles, On the Origin of Species
consumption — those who ate about 5 oz. of by Means of Natural Selection, or the
red meat a day, roughly the equivalent of a Preservation of Favoured Races in the
small steak had a 31% higher risk of death Struggle for Life., Literature.org
over a 10-year period than men in the lowest-
consumption quintile, who ate less than 1 oz. COUNTERPOINT
of red meat per day, or approximately three To suggest that battery farms are in some way
slices of corned beef.”[1] A vegetarian diet 'natural' is absurd - they are unnatural and
reduces the risk for chronic degenerative cruel. To eat meat is to perpetuate animal
diseases such as obesity, high blood pressure, suffering on a huge scale - a larger, crueler,
diabetes and types of cancer including colon, and more systematic scale than anything
breast, stomach, and lung cancer because of found in the wild. Furthermore, the very fact of
it's low fat/cholesterol content. There are humanity's 'superiority' over other animals
plenty of vegetarian sources of protein, such means they have the reason and moral instinct
as beans and bean curd; and spinach is one of to stop exploiting other species. If an alien
the best sources of iron. species from another planet, much more
intelligent and powerful than humans, came
COUNTERPOINT and colonized the earth and farmed (and
The key to good health is a balanced diet, not force-fed) human beings in battery farm
a meat- and fish-free diet. Meat and fish are conditions we would think it was morally
good sources of protein, iron, and other abhorrent. If this would be wrong, then is it not
vitamins and minerals. Most of the health wrong for we 'superior' humans to farm 'lower'
benefits of a vegetarian diet derive from its species on earth simply because of our ability
being high in fibre and low in fat and to do so?
cholesterol. These can be achieved by
avoiding fatty and fried foods, eating only lean
grilled meat and fish, and including a large
amount of fruit and vegetables in your diet
along with meat and fish. In general, raw,
unprocessed meat from the muscle is made
up of the following: protein 15 - 22 % Fat 3 -
15 % Minerals, carbohydrates 1 - 5 % Water
65 - 75 %, all things that we need in
moderation.[1] A meat- and fish-free diet is
unbalanced and makes it more likely that you
will go short of protein, iron and some minerals
such as B12 for which we are primarily
dependent on animal foodstuffs. Also, a
vegetarian diet, in the West, is a more
expensive option - a luxury for the middle
classes. Fresh fruit and vegetables are
extremely expensive compared to processed
meats, bacon, burgers, sausages etc.
POINT
Almost all dangerous types of food poisoning
are passed on through meat or eggs. So
Campylobacter bacteria, the most common
cause of food poisoning in England,
are usually found in raw meat and poultry,
unpasteurised milk and untreated water.
Salmonella come from raw meat, poultry and
dairy products and most cases of escherichia
coli (E-Coli) food poisoning occur after eating
undercooked beef or drinking unpasteurised
milk.[1]
Close contact between humans and animals
also leads to zoonosis – diseases such as bird
‘flu which can be passed on from animals to
humans. Using animal brains in the processed
feed for livestock led to BSE in cattle and to
CJD in humans who ate beef from infected
cows.

COUNTERPOINT
Food safety and hygiene are very important for
everyone, and governments should act to
ensure that high standards are in place
particularly in restaurants and other places
where people get their food from. But food
poisoning can occur anywhere “People don't
like to admit that the germs might have come
from their own home”[1] and while meat is
particularly vulnerable to contamination there
are bacteria that can be transmitted on
vegetables, for example Listeria
monocytogenes can be transmitted raw
vegetables.[2]
Almost three-quarters of zoonotic
transmissions are caused by pathogens of
wildlife origin; even some that could have been
caused by livestock such as avian flu could
equally have come from wild animals. There is
little we can do about the transmission of such
diseases except by reducing close contact.
Thus changing to vegetarianism may reduce
such diseases by reducing contact but would
not eliminate them.[3]
Just as meat production can raise health
issues, so does the arable farming of plants –
examples include GM crops and worries about
pesticide residues on fruit and vegetables. The
important thing is not whether the diet is meat
based or vegetarian; just that we should
ensure all food is produced in a safe and
healthy way.