The choice to remain a carnivore is one that I have recently begun to mull and waver over. I am a strong animal rights supporter, and believe, deep down, that production animals do not deserve the lot they are given. Vegetarianism makes the most sense morally to me; I can rationally say there is no real reason we need to eat meat in the 21st century, as more choices are readily available to us that mimic the nutritional value of animals. However, I am not intrinsically motivated to give up meat, and that is not a decision that keeps me up as night, as some moral decisions tend to do.
In a sense, I have a Kantian view of eating meat, as I believe the suffering of animals is wrong on a matter of principle, and we, having viable alternatives, have a responsibility to not perpetuate that suffering. However, I take a consequentialist view within myself – I do not despise my choice to eat animals (if I had to describe it, I would say very slightly uncomfortably aware). In fact, I enjoy animal products very much and am not actively working to eliminate them from my diet and lifestyle. I am going to attempt to analyze why this divide exists within me, and I am sure countless others, by examining the reasons I continue to eat meat despite my moral compass truly believing it is inhumane.
Eating meat is a difficult topic that can be completely decisive about due to its subjective and dual nature. If one were to ask; “Do you believe it is right to cause animals to suffer needlessly?” The overwhelming majority of people would say “No”. However, if the question posed is; “Do you believe it is morally reprehensible to eat meat?” There is a strong majority that would also say “No” (and most of this group would have answered “No” to the first question). Combining the two questions leads to a moral gray area, where I recognize three truisms, but are unable to connect them categorically within a right or a wrong. The three recognized items would follow as:
It is wrong for animals to suffer, or be killed baselessly.
We, as Americans, no longer need to incorporate meat to have a balanced diet.
I am not a morally despicable person because I eat meat.
I understand that there are a number of people that would disagree with the third point, on the basis that the first two points are facts. This position makes sense to me, but I am not compelled to completely change my lifestyle because of it, nor do I truly believe it. I know myself, my values, my motivations, and my shortcomings. To me, the larger choices that I make (that do not seem like choices, just “ams”) to continuously be kind to others, to contribute as much as my time and money to altruism that I am logistically able, to basically never be intentionally awful, make up more of my moral character than my choice to eat meat. Yet, I still pause when I consider my choice as a carnivore and recognize that it conflicts with some of my core beliefs.
In this way, I do not believe that anyone can adhere strictly to deontology or consequentialism. As hunter gatherers humans had to eat meat to survive, as modern Americans we choose to eat meat to sustain ourselves. The question of if it is “morally just” as a matter of principle brings up questions that could have their own essay analysis: What about the poor, who may not be able to afford suitable meat alternatives? What about organic, small-farm based animals, which may have lived a happy life and did not suffer during the slaughter? What about pigs, which have been shown to be just as intelligent and sentient as a human child, and surely suffer psychologically as well as physically in a production environment? All of these questions can be answered as a matter of principle (swine, due to their intelligence, should not be in captivity), and within consequentialist terms (those who live in poverty have a right to sustain themselves in any way they can).
I recognize that in this analysis I have been unable to justify my choice to eat meat, other than I like it, and in the grand scheme of things it does not factor, at this point in my life, as something I need to change in order to morally balance my inner sense of worth.
However, the topic and the recognized hypocrisy I practice have begun to encroach upon my conscious mind, to a point that I have become perceptively vexed by my continuous choice and unable to push it away as I have done for most of my adult life. I am unsure what nutritional path may be in my future – though I now acutely acknowledge the duplicitous nature of a carnivorous lifestyle and I am beginning to question whether it is morally bankrupt to maintain it, despite its deliciousness.