The Horse Meat Scandals Reveal We Are More Psychologically Screwed Up Than We Realized About Eating Animals


Dr. Raj Persaud and Dr David James / Huffington Post Lifestyle / Feb 20, 2013

Recognizing cognitive ability in animals

Recognizing emotions in animals

Everyone’s getting upset because horses are turning up in our dinners rather than cows. But is it possible that this ‘scandal’ is revealing more about our relationships with animals and conflicts in our inner psyches, than the nutritional content of our meals?

We develop relationships with certain animals, such as horses, dogs and cats, so we assume they have ‘minds’. But other animals, such as cows, are not kept as pets or companions, and therefore we decide they are ‘mindless’, in comparison to horses.

A series of recent psychology experiments demonstrates the mental somersaults we are prepared to turn in order to eat some animals, while befriending others.

The research also reveals our malleable nature, explaining how we’re manipulated into waging war and killing others.

Psychologists Brock Bastian, Steve Loughnan, Nick Haslam and Helena Radke started their investigations into this subject because they were interested in the way we resolve inner conflicts.

Their study, recently published in the academic journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, is based on the fact meat is central to diets around the world, yet most of us are also fond of animals, becoming disturbed by the prospect of harm to them. This inconsistency between a love for animals and enjoyment of meat, creates what the authors of this research refer to as a psychological “meat paradox”.

We are conflicted because our concern for animal welfare is at odds with our culinary preferences. So the authors argue, people therefore avoid thinking about where meat comes from; the processes it goes through to get onto their tables. This involves a denial of the living and mental qualities of the animals, from which our meals are extracted.

One reason therefore the horse meat scandal is so emotionally disturbing is that we have suddenly been forced to confront unpalatable truths we prefer to be in denial about.

Love one, eat the other

Love one, eat the other

Brock Bastian and colleagues based at the Universities of Queensland and Melbourne, plus the University of Kent, contend that meat eaters routinely mentally disengage from the origins of meat. This reduces the strain aroused by enjoying meat but disliking the harm that animals endure to produce it.

Secondly the kinds of mental capacities we feel exist in animals we view as companions, such as horses, and which facilitate our relationships with them, now become inconvenient, if they also exist in cows, which we eat.

So the psychologists speculate people deny the existence of such mental capacities in animals they devour.

The authors of this new research entitled Don’t Mind Meat? The Denial of Mind to Animals Used for Human Consumption contend that recognizing that the animals we scoff have minds makes them similar to us in morally important ways, and this recognition conflicts with our use of animals for food.

People are afforded moral rights on the basis that they possess minds and it is this possession of a mind that affords us the right to humane treatment. Being reminded that animals have minds, but are killed for food, creates moral and psychological conflicts for meat eaters.

The authors argue that when people want to reduce the conflict between eating meat and their moral concern for animals, denying them minds is a particularly useful strategy. This is an extremely important psychological process and could explain atrocities and wars through history and all around the world; people deny minds in enemies to justify their ill treatment. It might also explain why the mentally ill have been particularly prone to harsh discrimination.

In the first experiment conducted by Brock Bastian (School of Psychology, University of Queensland) and colleagues, participants indicated the edibility of various animals and as predicted, animals considered appropriate for chomping were rated as having less of a mind than animals considered inappropriate.

In the second experiment participants looked at a picture of a cow and a sheep surrounded by grass. When either the cow or sheep was presented, it was described as living on a farm, including the description:

“This lamb/cow will be moved to other paddocks, and will spend most of its time eating grass with other lambs/cows”. When the cow or sheep was presented again in another condition of the experiment, it was described as being bred for meat consumption, including the following description: “This lamb/cow will be taken to an abattoir, killed, butchered, and sent to supermarkets as meat products for humans”.

After reading each statement and looking at the pictures, participants rated the extent to which each animal possessed mental capacities. The results were that when reminded that an animal would be used for food, meat eaters denied it having a mind.

In the third experiment participants were explicitly instructed to write an essay about the processes involved in raising cattle/sheep on the farm right through to the eventual packaging of meat for human consumption. Participants were also told they would be sampling beef/lamb. In another condition of the experiment participants were asked to write the same essay but were told they would be eating apples.

At this point the experimenter placed a bowl of apples and a plate of appetizingly presented beef/lamb on the table. Participants then proceeded to write their essay in full view of the food they were about to sample.

The results of the experiment were that participants denied mental capacities to food animals when they were asked to think about the origins of meat. However, this denial was significantly stronger for participants who were told they were going to sample the animal. Participants who wrote about the origins of meat but were told they would sample an apple, did not deny mind or mental capacities to animals to the same degree, indicating they did not experience the same level of mental conflict.

By denying minds to animals, people bring their beliefs in line with eating meat. We change our minds and turn mental somersaults in order to justify to ourselves what we do.

This research has implications well beyond meat eating and dietary choice. Denying minds to others appears a widespread mechanism by which atrocities, wars and other harm to others is metered out.

This study also could explain why leaders keen to go to war and needing to take a more ambivalent population into war behind them, seek a pre-emptive strike. Once hostilities have been started people tend to believe the enemy deserves being killed – our behaviour influences our thoughts – rather than the other way round.

The study suggests a novel means by which wars and atrocities could be prevented in the future, as well as avoiding meat scandals. We could educate ourselves more, or be more educated, about the mental capacities of our enemies, and those we propose to eat.

This research suggests the real reason the horsemeat scandal bothers us so much is for deeper emotional reasons, than we are prepared to admit.

We become psychologically disturbed about killing or eating things that are too much like us.

AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
  • Margaret

    To complicated for me. I simply won’t eat horse because of my love for them. That simple.

    I ate beef growing up and while I don’t dine on it every night I’d like to have the choice to do so when I feel the need. It isn’t complicated. For me cattle are raised to be millers, beef or even pets. Yes, I do know a lady that adopted a cow as a pet. PET RAISED COWS ARE NOT FOOD SOURCE ANIMALS. I don’t care who says what. You raise an animal as a pet (or an assistance animal like seeing eye dog)they are simply not food source.

    I like chicken and ground turkey. But now with this contamination I’ll probably go with buying a breast of turkey and grinding it myself as well as chicken.


    February 21, 2013
    • RF

      You can never test the meat in your kitchen. You buy from supermarkets, chain stores and delis then you buy maltreated, doped up food producing machines, mass enslaved in abusive farms endorsed by governments all over the world. Every piece of meat you ingest has been a part of destroying the life of an animal. “contamination” of horse meat is the very least of your worries.

      February 22, 2013
    • MB

      Horse meat, turkey meat, dog meat, cat meat, chicken meat, pig meat – there is no difference. All are sentient beings, all value their lives and all want to live. Animals are NOT food. We have overwhelming scientific evidence that animal protein is toxic to our health. Please watch as an introduction. There is no such thing as ‘humane’ meat see As food inspectors will attest to, it is cleaner to lick the rim of your toilet than to eat animals mistakenly called food. Animals no matter the species are not food.

      February 22, 2013
    • On what grounds is it decided which animal is to become a “meat animal” and which is to become a “pet animal”? And by whom? Why is killing one of them wrong and killing the other is not?

      March 1, 2013
  • Margaret

    My iPad did it again! Millers? Really iPad that’s suppose to be milkers.

    February 21, 2013
  • BlessUsAll

    Thank for for your courage and compassion in republishing this article, Jerry.

    Another book that explains our “cognitive dissonance” on this subject is Dr. Melanie Joy’s “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows.”

    The masterpiece, in my eyes — and in the eyes of many of its readers — is Dr. Will Tuttle’s “The World Peace Diet” (it was #1 rated on Amazon last year for a few days).

    My journey into “compassionate” eating started when I learned about horse slaughter — from you, Jerry! At first, I scoffed at the idea that animals we designate as “food” — cows, chickens, pigs, turkeys, ducks, goats — have feelings, but it wasn’t long before I realized I had to be honest with myself. That was the day I could look any and every animal in their eyes and say, “I will never again knowingly hurt you.”

    What a freeing, peaceful feeling it is to love one’s fellow creatures equally — to treat them with the justice and respect with which we want to be treated. All of God’s creatures deserve our best motives and acts.

    Again, thank you for sharing this honest article with your honest readers, Jerry. You are an honest man — just like the horses sent by Love from Above.

    February 21, 2013
  • Paula Denmon

    I agree. Thank you Jerry. But is it ok if I still believe that dogs and cats and horses are different. I probably just need to have a calf and a piglet for a pet. That being said it must be the height of cruelty to a child to have th care for a show animal that is going to be slaughtered. I haven’t eaten any mamal in years. But know from having had them that fowls are pretty stupid. Oh my. More crisis. And I’m so deeply involved with the horse slaughter issue.

    February 21, 2013
    • Hi Paula… I don’t know why you’d want permission to believe something that’s not true. I’m confused. Would you want your auto mechanic to lie to you about the soundness of your vehicle? Certainly not – Then why would you want to lie to yourself about a something that you obviously know is true? There really isn’t any meaningful difference between cats or chickens or horses and cows. I think this study reveals that our minds have falsely “convinced” us that there is. It’s sad enough to be dishonest with others – But when we lie to ourselves… Well – Isn’t that intellectual suicide?

      Finally, the thought of birds, specifically chickens being “stupid” – Gee, I live with a small flock of rescued chickens and I’m always amazed at the way the operate in their very intricate world. They are fully equipped to survive quite well without us – They have a complex language and a social order that we’re only just beginning to understand. I don’t think they’re “stupid” at all! I think (as this study suggests) we call them such in order to continue our very unkind treatment to them.

      Glad you don’t eat any land mammals – Now on to fish sentience perhaps?

      February 21, 2013
      • Kathryn Pullyblank

        I agree with Bea Elliott about chickens being smart. I also have some beautiful ex battery hens in my garden who are very smart and interesting. It seems that as a rule people expect animals to be smart in the same way as humans ie. able to count, recognise words, etc. How often do you hear that “scientists say a border collie can understand 27 words” or “a dolphin has shown an ability to count his toys in a marine park”. What does this prove? Different species are born with different skills and abilities in order to function with the bodies and in the environments they were made to live in. Different abilities does not make one smart and one stupid and it definitely doesn’t make one more eligible to be eaten that the other! There is NO difference in the level of feeling and intelligence in an animal who is kept as a pet or raised to be meat except in the mind of the human.

        February 22, 2013
        • Absolutely Kathryn – I understand you loud and clear! It’s tragic that we use our standards to measure their intelligence and then punish, use, confine, torture, kill and eat them when they don’t measure up to our notion of what’s valuable. It only takes a bit of empathy to see how wrong this is – Thanks for pointing that out! 😉

          February 22, 2013
  • It is said that man isn’t rational… But often rationalizing – And with the arbitrary myths he must apply in order to consume some animals over others – It certainly is true.

    To think that the purpose of (some) others is to serve our frivolous wants does require us to manipulate and deny that life has equal value to us all. I think when we are truthful with ourselves we all know that the sparrow is no different than the chicken – And the pig no different than the dog… And the life of he is no less cherished than my own…

    Yet the treatment of these similar beings doesn’t reflect this honesty. And in the course of this betrayal we sacrifice our clear thinking minds and certainly make ourselves callous in our treatment to other humans as well.

    People will make all sorts of excuses to do the most horrible things to innocent life. If this “horse-meat” scandal directs more people to courageously question that there really is no meaningful difference between a horse and cow, then we’ll be the better for it.

    I’m very grateful too for articles such as this that help move us toward that enlightened end. Thank you for bringing this topic into discussion. It’s centuries over-due.

    February 21, 2013
  • Sue

    I SO totally agree with this research/article. I stopped eating beef over 20 years ago because I met a cow. (and I don’t like Western rancher’s attitudes). Shortly thereafter, I stopped eating “Babe.” I must also agree with Bea, having interacted with chickens myself. They have their own world, their own way of being-in-the-world. It is merely different from ours, not better nor worse nor stupid!

    February 21, 2013
  • What about the fact that horsemeat isn’t safe for human consumption? With “Bute” in them and all sorts of other chemicals in them it isn’t safe for human consumption.

    February 21, 2013
    • DD

      Yvonne, if you do some research, you will find horse meat isn’t the only kind that isn’t safe for human consumption. Most animals mass produced for human consumption are fed with steroids, antibiotics and can be contaminated with who knows what in the slaughter process. By consuming any animal from a factory farm you are also ingesting all of those things.

      February 21, 2013
  • TJ

    First, this article is summarizing a study on human relationships with animals and how we rationalize eating some animals and not others; not a statment against eating meat. Some of you are obviously missing the point. While I agree with most on here that the article is an interesting read, the idea of giving up meat because animals have feelings is silly. They are a part of our diet, whether we like it or not. I am by no means condoning the ill treatment of animals in slaughter houses, nor cruelty to any animal simply because it is food, but raising animals for meat has been a part of human culture for thousands upon thousands of years. Dogs, cats, and other animals have also been raised or bread for other purposes. We tend not to think of these animals as food because they were, and in some cases still are, tools. Whether they be hearding animals, transportation, alerts, security, ratters, or what have you, these animals evolved past simple nourishment. We have bonded with these animals over the centuries in their various roles, and those relationships have evolved and found other purposes within modern culture.
    To look down on any food, be it cow or broccoli, is to take it for granted. It is irrisponsible. No one should be rationalizing where their food came from. It is a sign of our society and culture: not taking ownership of anything. If you have ever had to work on a farm, been placed in a survival situation, or lived off the land, you would understand. And don’t give me the veggie/vegan crap. While I respect these diets as a choice, if the modern world came to a crashing hault, these diets would not be sustainable.
    As far as disassociation goes, people will always turn a blind eye to what they don’t want to see. It’s human nature. God forbid we be responsible for something we don’t like…

    February 22, 2013
    • Julie

      You are sadly misinformed. Animal agriculture is not sustainable. It is over using and wasting valuable resources, it is polluting our water, soil, and air. it is decimating rain forests. it is causing serious health problems in humans AND animals, and it causes unconscionable suffering and violent deaths to more than 150 BILLION animals (land and sea) annually. The fact is that not only can humans survive and thrive healthfully on a plant based diet, but there are more of us (vegans) every day who are living proof that humans do not need to eat animals or their secretions (eggs and dairy.) Humans are not carnivores, we do not need to eat animals.

      February 25, 2013
  • Hello TJ – I can understand your reluctance to accept a point of view that is contrary to everything you’ve been taught thus far… But frankly, challenging old perceptions has enabled us to expand our knowledge and forge through outdated habits and customs. Such is the case with what foods are considered (socially and physically) healthy. It’s not “silly” at all to consider the feelings and value of another – Even when that “other” is nonhuman.

    Many times in our history we’ve looked to people of other colors or races to claim their difference were “inferior” and unworthy of consideration. But we certainly were wrong then… I believe with nonhumans given their low ranking on our moral radar – the same infractions are being done to them and for the same narrow minded thinking.

    As far as the necessity to continue eating nonhumans the science just isn’t there to support it. As more evidence is gathered we’re learning that a plant based diet is not only possible – But indeed more healthful. And it certainly is more sustainable. We can feed 10 times more people on a plant based diet than one that filters grains to fatten “meat” animals. Not to mention the growing concerns of droughts and global warming exacerbated by the livestock industries.

    The modern world is not in a crashing halt – We’re not forced to a position of having to choose our lives over the lives of cows, or dogs… It would be silly to base our ethics or our health in a compromised situation as if it were “them or us”. We certainly do have abundant choices to live and prosper otherwise.

    February 22, 2013
    • TJ

      Bea- I couldn’t agree with you more on challenging old perceptions, outdated customs, etc, but I think you may have misunderstood my statement. I was commenting on people needing to take ownership of the process and not disassociate themselves with how their food is produced. I think we would see far less meat consumption if people were required to do the “dirty work”. American, Australian, and numerous other cultures consume far too much meat, and modern culture has made it too easily accessible with no relation to where it came from. That being said, if people are responsible, it should not be removed from our diet when it is necessary.
      As far as science is concerned, in order to have a complete diet, multiple types of vegetables need to be consumed that don’t necessarily grow in every climate. Complete proteins necessary for the human body are not contained in any one vegetable, and not all populations have access to the variety needed to supply half the vitamins and amino acids contained in animal meat. Its easy to promote a vegetarian diet from a first world platform.
      While I understand the modern world isn’t coming to a crashing halt any time soon, I meant it as a metaphor for places outside our privileged cultures. Consider also the many poor individuals in first world nations that cannot afford complete nutrition from a vegetarian diet. Living on fresh produce is ideal, but by no means cheap.
      I respect all life, and would never take even an animals unless I planned on using every piece of meat possible with respect to the life forfeited. And that is the attitude that should be common place with meat consumption, in my opinion. And if I may be “ignorant” enough to state, animals eat other animals every day, though not to the point of gluttony humans display at every fast food shack. Its the way of the world, and to think humans will evolve past nature anytime in the near future is optimistic at best.
      Lastly, I only used our ancient cultures breeding animals as an example of how we have developed our relationships with animals, not a rationalization for sticking with the status quo.

      February 22, 2013
      • TJ

        And while I am thinking about it, comparing the way humans have viewed “inferior cultures” to how we look at cow seems a bit ignorant. Humans share communication and compassion, education and history. Animals have the right to live and thrive, but I would never consider them on the same level as humans. You may interpret that as “ignorant”, to which I would advise you reference the food chain. The vast majority of animals are not able to return the same courtesy you would extend them.

        And I do believe science does support our consumption of animal meat. Without extensive use of supplements and extracts from a multitude of plants, there is no way to provide the same nutrients and minerals we get from meat. Its basic biochemistry.

        February 22, 2013
        • Good Morning TJ – We ascribe rights to varying degrees all the time. At a certain age one doesn’t have the right to vote or drive. Minors also don’t have the “right” to avoid (or be denied) an education. No one is saying to give animals the same “equality” as humans in choices of that aren’t relative to their needs or capabilities of enjoying. No one is saying to give them “a right” to drive, vote or buy property.

          But there are negative rights – And the right not to be harmed is one of them that many are struggling to achieve. If all things are equal in the way that nonhumans value their lives equal to us – Then at the very least they should be give “the right” not to be property; To not have their bodily integrity compromised. Simply put – They should have the right to be left alone.

          “The food chain”? Honestly, those who eat closest to the main source of energy (the sun) are the ones eating closest to that nutrition. Plants provide that. Animals filter it – Inefficiently I might add.

          Furthermore, 92% of the species on this planet operate in mutual cooperation and harmony with each other. Only a small handful are “true predators”. Why should man model himself after the most violent and destructive of those when he has other options not to? We don’t follow nonhuman’s mating rituals, their care for their bodies, or their defecation habits – Then why fashion our food choices around what other beings do?

          Finally, you’re wrong about the “extensive use of supplements”. Please do some research on the web regarding vegan nutrition. The way I figure Bill Clinton has the best health care that money can buy… Not only has his physical condition improved dramatically since living on a plant based diet but his doctors suggested this option to begin with. There are countless Vegan success stories and Vegan athletes dispelling every myth there is about needing meat (or supplements) to be strong/healthy. It’s just not true. 😉

          February 22, 2013
  • Stacey

    Interesting article! I am equally fascinated by this phenomena of denial in human beings. I see it with friends of mine who all claim to be animal lovers, having studied animal science with me, but all of whom are meat eaters. Somehow humans have developed this hierarchy for animals where companion animals are on top and deserve to be treated with respect and animals bred for food at the bottom. Yet it is known that pigs have an intelligence equal to or in fact higher than dogs.

    February 22, 2013
  • Stacey

    This kind of argument was used by whites to justify keeping slaves, as they led themselves to believe their slaves had lesser intelligence. But I am also interested as to why we believe that things of lesser intelligence are able to be treated poorly in the first place. Life is life, and it all deserves to be treated respectfully. I mean we don’t mistreat or kill folks with mental disabilities or lower IQs than ourselves. Having lower intelligence doesn’t mean you can’t feel fundamental things like pain and fear. I like to live me life trying my best to not inflict either of those two things on ANY living creature.

    February 22, 2013
    • Excellent point Stacey! May you live long and well in the model of the Golden Rule!

      February 22, 2013
    • Exactly what I wanted to say! Thank you 🙂

      February 22, 2013
  • Hi – I’m sorry I must have misunderstood you when I read “the idea of giving up meat because animals have feelings is silly” – You must have meant to say that “giving up meat if it’s necessary for survival is silly”. And I would agree with that. No one is recommending suicide by starvation if there are no other food sources around – Say if we were Inuits or lived in the bush… I totally agree that eating anybody is probably fair game under those conditions.

    Actually most of the world does indeed live on mostly plant foods. Flesh is a rare addition into many diets. You’ll find with a bit of research that it is the U.S., Canadian and Australian meat industries that are literally pushing their products and our Western diets into these other countries who have done quite well without.

    That said, certainly in our first worlds – we have access to all the vegetables, fruits, legumes, beans, nuts, seeds and so forth that can be made stable for year round storage and use. Again, no one is advocating starvation or deprivation.

    I respect all life too and would never steal anyone’s life unless mine were threatened if I didn’t… And I would do it with much regret and grief. A planned meal with other alternatives would never fit that criteria – No matter how many parts of the animal I consumed… To the victim none of that makes any difference at all.

    And yes other animals may eat each other but they aren’t moral agents. They can’t calculate the preciousness of life. We can. We do. And we should! Furthermore – They absolutely need meat for survival. If a lion, a hawk or alligator kills it’s because he must. The same cannot be said for humans. So those other animals get “a pass” on two fronts.

    Man was given great gifts – With that comes the enormous responsibility of using them wisely and justly. When there is no imperative to kill we should refrain from inflicting harm. And we certainly shouldn’t look to other beings to derive our moral position.

    The way of the world is to constantly challenge our preconceived notions – Especially when there are better ways. Given the health implications – The environment – Sustainability and yes, even the treatment of the “lesser” beings who are at our mercy – I have no doubt that change is inevitable. Or as Albert Einstein said much more eloquently “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”

    February 22, 2013
    • TJ

      Bea: have you looked at what it costs to live on a vegetarian/vegan diet in North America or Europe? How about a family of 4-5? How about the millions on socialized programs in Canada and the US alone? Meat is engrained in our culture and the cheapest way to get nutrients (despite the terrifying levels of hormones, etc, contained in the majority of meat products).

      And concerning meat for survivability, I will ask you to please excuse my bluntness. I have been stuck in several survival situations, lived in 3rd world countries, and had to scrape by in meager living situations. It tends to give you a different perspective on the world and food. I have and will always advocate life above culinary enjoyment, though I can’t say the same for the majority of humans.

      I did mean just what you discerned from my comment about sparing feelings, despite the lack of eloquence in my hasty response. And while I almost agree with every point you have made, practicality comes to mind more than anything else. Living on plants is dependent on culture and location. Yes, many cultures are able to live on plants. Yes, the meat industries have infected the education of North American and Australian (not to mention many of the South American and European) university systems, but again: its a question of availability. The time turn-around, water consumption, and logistics required to convert every culture to plant based diets is… almost impossible to imagine. Which brings me to my original point: is it more realistic to turn eating habits the world over to plants or teach respect and restraint to the existing cultures. Regardless, many many animals will be consumed in the mean.

      And regardless of how much we banter back and forth over what the ideal is, reality is evermore harsh. With the population of the world booming to 9 billion in the next 15 years, I don’t see every country being able to sustain a plant based diet.

      I have done my research. What’s best for humans ideally is one thing, reality and human nature is another. To give animals a pass on eating other animals out of necessity is stating we are above animals. We are animals, albeit with higher level of consciousness. And while we theoretically have the ability to sustain ourselves outside of meat (though again, not very practically), that is denying the what we are. I hope humans evolve one day in the near future, but ideals for our race rarely come to fruition. We can just as easily evolve past our sickening systems of government and embrace anarchy; only one thing keeps that model from working: human nature.

      Like it or not, we are the top of the food chain. Meat has been part of our diet since the dawn of man. I agree completely that we need to exercise responsibility in respect to life, but you are talking about turning the wheel 180 degrees on the nature of humans.

      February 22, 2013
      • TJ Not only have I looked at the cost of food but my buying habits revolve around pennies saved here and there. I am on a fixed income and my husband is disabled. Honestly, I don’t know many people who are living on less than we are.

        That said this is also one of the main reasons a plant based diet has benefited my life – Contrary to myths a whole foods vegan diet is NOT expensive at all. Compare the cost of beans and legumes to “quality” meat protein and you’ll see what I mean. I also buy very affordable ingredients to make seitan and other wheat meats. Textured vegetable protein is sold in bulk. It’s about $3.00 per pound. A few pounds can last months. Peanut butter is 11.9 cents per ounce… BTW none of these foods require refrigeration – So if push came to shove I can live from my cupboard.

        I also buy my fruits and vegetables from the farmer’s market who always has a table of “less desirable” produce. Maybe a few bruises or some “over ripened” veggies. Even if I purchase “fresh” it’s hardly as costly as flesh is! Tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, broccoli, sprouts, peas, beans carrots and other tubers are actually very cheap in comparison.

        And in the end – The money I save on future health bills can’t be calculated!

        But the most horrifying fact in our food system is that subsidies are what keeps meat, dairy and eggs “affordable”. Remove them and allow whole foods the opportunity to truly “compete” in the market and the reality of what’s expensive or not will become crystal clear:
        Please see the agriculture subsidies for yourself:

        Your next point about meat being engrained in our culture… Well so were a lot of things that were proven bad ideas. Should we just shrug our shoulders and “go with the flow” down a river of denial that there ARE other choices??? Speaking of turning things 180 degrees — Aren’t we glad Copernicus insisted that the sun did not revolve around the earth! 😉 The only thing that’s inevitable is change. We see it happening as we speak. Gradual shifting in our dietary choices is happening. One can either resist it and stomp their feet that they aren’t on board for “x number of reasons” or attempt to lean their habits towards a better end. My belief is that in time – Critical minds will run out of excuses not to.

        Finally you claim that sustainability for a future of 9 billion people is an issue and I couldn’t agree more. And that is exactly why adopting a plant based diet is the way we will survive. Animal products contribute to malnourishment in developing worlds, water scarcity, pollution, deforestation, species extinction, land degradation and global warming. There’s a reason people say that you can’t be a meat-eating environmentalist. Please search Dr. Richard A. Oppenlander Author of COMFORTABLY UNAWARE.

        Like it or not – Man has the ability to adapt himself when evidence makes it clear that he must. In time there will be no choice but to eat in the most efficient way possible – Filtering billions of tons of good grains and usable human food/water into animals just isn’t likely.

        I’m a big supporter of vertical farms and urban gardens. Many countries, including the US have already designed and built working architectural models. Imagine if in the future if all stores had greenhouses on top of them and your food only had to travel to the level below… Imagine working or living in a building where you could “shop” on the same floor that you reside in or are employed at? Such systems are entirely self contained – They generate their own water through condensation and their own fuel through the use of decomposing the chaff. Oh… And if your next concern is fertilizers — There’s Veganics happening as we speak – And humanure — Frankly — It looks like we’re running out of excuses to continue to consume precious others. 😉

        February 22, 2013
        • TJ

          Yes, change is inevitable, and the winds of change have a funny way of deciding which direction they blow. I admit to playing a bit of devils advocate with some of my points, as roughly 90% of my diet is vegetable based (yes, I do consume fish and poultry: right after clubbing baby seals and flipping through my favorite passages of mein kampf :P). While I agree with you on many points, I can’t let go of the silly black and white arguments. If people don’t believe there are hidden costs for every bit of food they pick up at the grocery store, they are being ignorant. The preservatives lacing peanut butter and other non-refrigerated foods are almost as terrifying as the chemicals and genetic alterations used on most vegetables. Lest we forget the subsidies going to the farming corporations for putting out local farmers and producing land-killing crops. The hiring and abuse of illegal immigrants to turn crops over and keep costs down. How about the stripping of forests outside Beijing, Rio, and other large cities that have destroyed the environment and soil (yes, I realize a good portion is for livestock, but a ton of it is used for farming).

          Farmers markets are great, and urban planning is an amazing idea. Yes, we may become advanced enough to move past killing our animal friends and living solely on plants and supplements. We may start having rational discussions at peace summits and ending war.

          My opinion on human nature isn’t a rationalization for killing animals and eating meat. It is an observation of traveling the world, being a soldier and student, and reading history. To rationalize is human nature. Changing cultures, perceptions, and tastes is about as uphill a battle you can attempt. Not saying it isn’t worth a go, but try to keep the judgement of others in check. Simply because people choose to eat meat does not always indicate ignorance. We all have different values, and no matter how you frame it, eating meat here and there is not the same as enslaving and killing a population of people.

          Thank you for the conversation and references, by the way! Good stuff 🙂

          February 22, 2013
          • Hi TJ – Ah! So I see you eat mostly plants… Except for “a little chicken” (literally) now and then – At least that’s how my nonvegan friends describe their eating habits. And I can’t help but think what did the poor little fish or bird ever do to deserve such callous treatment?

            Regarding fishes — It’s interesting to note that we live in an age where cows, pigs and chickens actually consume more sea-life than man does. Hard to fathom with the tonnage we pull out of the oceans but 40% of it goes into livestock feed:
            And it becomes even more disturbing when we turn around and fight/kill the seals and otters for competing for “our” food. :/
            Just another reason plants make a viable alternative…

            I agree with you that there are hidden costs in everything we purchase – But that doesn’t dismiss the opportunity we have to avoid those that are blatantly obvious.

            I also never mentioned the emotional costs endured by those who work in these “processing” plants – The slaughter industry is a meat-grinder even for the humans who toil on the dis-assembly lines… Slaughterhouses reek havoc on the community adding to crime and devalued property. Of all industries these workers are most likely to abuse alcohol and drugs. They have the highest rates of suicide, depression, and arrests. Needless to say, the domestic violence/spousal abuse is also off the chart. And is it any wonder? They are poorly paid to do for 10 hours what none of us could stand to do for a minute!

            They say there’s two kinds of people who work in a slaughterhouse – Those who love their jobs and those who hate it. And these are the folks in charge of putting “humane” meat on our plate? I venture to say there isn’t even anything “humane” in what we ask others to do in our name and on our dime.

            So yes… Avoiding the “hidden” wrongs in our food choices is a major step towards a better world. Absolutely agree!

            I understand your overall assessment of human nature – I’m not saying any of this change for good is going to be easy… But I do see it as necessary and unavoidable if we wish to proceed with our march towards “civilization”.

            And of course not everyone that eats animals has a clue that there are other options. For most of us – we are indoctrinated as kids and never even question the ethical or health implications. I try most of the time to give people the benefit of doubt that they’ve never been presented with other options.

            But then there are those who have the pre-calculated and memorized list of objections – They’ve thought enough about their position to formulate an argument – But haven’t opened their minds/hearts enough to embrace agreement. There are many instances where “judgment” of narrow minded thinking is justly warranted. Arrogant, willful ignorance is one of them.

            Finally, none of us who care can thrive without the hope that there’s a better way — Perhaps that’s idealistic… Still – I see the possibility of man (despite his flaws), as able to achieve our full potential. And in the scheme of it all we will not suffer if we extend compassion to all who would benefit. Surely after millions of years… The animals have “served” us long enough and it’s time to leave them alone. We can do this more often than not.

            Thanks for the exchange as well – Seems like we’ve got what it takes to possibly avert a war or two. 🙂

            February 23, 2013
  • JJ

    Reading a lot of these comments, this article has hit the nail on the head… So many excuses. It seems that we all justify our own individual actions and beliefs… Horses are eaten regularly in certain countries, as are dogs cats and guinea pigs, the list goes on. All animals have brains. They think, they fear, they protect they love… Yes, make a pet out of your favourite “meat”. Study it, interact with it then decide if you think it deserves to live its own life…And by what virtue other than might, do we have to take that life for our own means.?

    February 22, 2013
    • “And by what virtue other than might, do we have to take that life for our own means.?” Bravo! And in this instance can we even claim that might is a virtue at all? Seems more like a handicap to critical and compassionate thinking.

      I like the point you made – Thank you! 😉

      February 22, 2013
  • Juli

    Look, it boils down to this;
    *All* animals want to live & deserve to do so.
    You don’t need meat to live, & frankly you & the whole planet & all life forms on it would be better off if you didn’t.
    Go vegetarian!!!!

    “The animals of the world exist for their own reasons.
    They were not made for humans any more than
    black people were made for whites or women for men.”

    ~ Alice Walker ~

    February 22, 2013
  • Bianca

    Wat is wrong with animal is an animal they all have minds n souls just like u n me no matter how small or big.this world is disgusting n whoever thinks its ok to eat one animal but not another then u need to go bak to school.a cow has just as many feelings as a cat,dog or horse.whoever eats horses ur sick in the head.

    February 23, 2013
  • Valerie

    My husband, and my daughter and my grandson and myself gave up eating meat and dairy over a year ago, I wish we had never ate any meat or dairy in our lives, our health is fantastic after we gave it up… which proves to me some idiot said we had to have it and we believed it, it is a money making profit, it is horrible, how come they never show animal factories in schools or commercials..

    February 26, 2013