Eating Meat: Providing for Others is the Ethical Choice
The New York Times recently asked the public to submit brief essays answering the question, “is it ethical to eat meat?” It’s a question worth considering. While the Times has yet to publish the entries, I’d like to share with you what we submitted.
25,000. That’s the number of people around the world, more than half of them children, who die each day from hunger and malnutrition. One billion others lack access to adequate nutrition. Assuring access for all is an ethical imperative and providing food choices that are culturally preferred supports better nutrition.
In particular, the developing world has a critical need for more and better nutrition. There are more than 5 billion middle- and low-income people outside of the world’s richest countries. Research shows there is an almost perfect correlation between global consumer expenditures and global total meat consumption. As people in developing countries raise their standard of living, as they are currently doing, the protein found in meat will become an increasingly important part of their diet and a step toward better nutrition.
While the nutrients needed for balanced nutrition can be found in plants, Dr. Ruth MacDonald, a registered dietician and chair of the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Iowa State University, says most plants are deficient in one or more essential amino acids that are required in a balanced human diet. A diet then that includes both plants and meat proteins, Dr. MacDonald notes, is more nutritionally balanced than one without one or the other.
Meat protein is the culturally preferred source of the critical nutrients needed for balanced nutrition in both the developed and developing world. Denying access to this critical source of nutrients is culinary colonialism and reduces the likelihood that those in the developing world will access the nutrients they need for better, healthier lives.
Just as obesity, lack of exercise and excessive consumption is a challenge to nutrition and human health in the developed world, limiting food choice – specifically meat – in the developing world will limit options for balanced nutrition for those who need it most.
The ethical choice is to provide access to affordable choices for culturally preferred food that provide the best opportunity for achieving balanced nutrition. That includes the meat, milk and eggs that will be part of meeting that nutritional need in the developing world.
We have a shared obligation to balance the needs of people, animals and the planet. It’s time to move beyond polarizing rhetoric to have a meaningful discussion of how we achieve that balance while doubling food production by 2050.
Posted by Charlie.