Below is a transcript of a debate Worcester Roots asked us as volunteers to engage in on animals as food. If you want to get involved just make a comment below!
Topic: Which is better – eating meat or not eating meat?
Benari Wither Hat Edwards: Well, if we want to divulge this biologically, we (as humans) are omnivores. We can see from our digestive systems the ability to eat meats and herbs that are dangerous to either carnivores or herbivores. We can also see from our teeth, built both for gnawing on ferns with large flat molars and incisors for tearing at flesh, in that way its right for man to eat meat.
But interestingly we have limitations on both meat and plants. Because of our increased intellect we’ve learned to remove disease in meats by cooking our meat before eating. But because we’ve done this for millennia our bodies can’t cope with the bacteria found in raw meat anymore. Thus you could say were more prone to being gatherers than hunters.
Equally though our stomachs are not as tolerant to some plants, we can’t eat a large supply of the natural environment on its own. If we tried eating just plants then our bodies wouldn’t get the necessary nutrients to survive and we would die from malnutrition.
So from both methods of eating we cant survive without the other in the wild. Today we’re smart enough to gather the right nutrients from any diet providing we get the supplements from somewhere else.
From a health point of view, it is believed vegetarians can live longer, but only by 3.5 years more. But that’s because of poor preparation of meat more than anything. It is more about getting a good balance.
So in answer to the question, we can live being either vegetarian or carnivore. Overall our bodies are built to tolerate more than most animals, so we have the choice to eat meat rather than the need to. But I would recommend researching farming meat so you know what you agree to before you just accept that meat is needed.
So, my question – should animals suffer for the benefit of man?
Rhys Astbury-Jones: That’s a difficult one, it depends on what you define suffering as. Are we defining it as unethical farming practices such as battery farming or are we to consider the simple rearing of animals for the sole purpose of food for us suffering?
Early Christians believed God had created animals to be used by humans, and they further this belief by their ideas on the existence of the soul – animals were considered to not have souls.
However, not all early Christians considered animals unimportant, for instance St Antony of Padua preached to fishes.
St Francis of Assisi preached to the birds and became the most popular pro-animal Christian figure
Cows are protected by St Brigit.
St Columba told his monks to care for a crane
St Brendan was helped in his voyage by sea monsters
Personally I prefer modern Christian ideas on animals in that God created the world and all the animals and as such it would be wrong to cause suffering to any creature. In fact St. Francis of Assisi said that animals “had the same source as himself”.
Since an animal’s natural life is a gift from God, it follows that God’s right is violated when the natural life of his creatures is perverted.
Andrew Linzey: Christianity and the Rights of Animals.
Benari Wither Hat Edwards: What sea monsters?! Ok never mind, if we look at earlier philosophies, man still believed they were dominant over all life. Socrates explained that although some animals have speech they don’t talk, meaning there is no meaning to what they say, therefore no morale and no soul is shown through an animals speech.
Yet Socrates also explained that animals may still have intelligence and even their own language, it’s just so complex to us that we don’t understand it. He explained that even if you learnt the language of a lion instantly, you still wouldn’t know how to communicate to a lion, because we’d know speech, not explanation or the natural use of that speech.
This leads me back to animals suffering. The main way man tries to make an ethical food market with meat is to say the animal did not suffer when being farmed, slaughtered and reared. But because we don’t understand their behavior as well as a human, we merely assume we know if they are suffering. So we imagine a human in their place instead. This is being “anthropomorphic” and doesn’t help animals being farmed because they have different needs to a human.
Ok, here’s an easier question. Do you think compared with other countries; the UK farming market is more ethical when it comes to meat?
Rhys Astbury-Jones: That’s meant to be an easier question!? The simple fact of the matter is the majority of ethical decisions are made by individual people not countries as a whole. Although there may be some exceptions where national identity defines how a person behaves towards animals. I suppose at a push it could be said that certain countries are more likely to have people living inside their borders that act in an unethical way when considering farming, such as someone in a Third World country possibly being less likely to think about the rights of his or her animals if it’s the only food source for his or her family.
In conclusion I think it’s more likely that people within the United Kingdom are more ethical towards animals, but I’m still undecided on whether that’s because of our national identity being one which values animals or because we have the resources to expand on animal welfare.