Why I Eat Meat

Don’t ask me how I had time, but when the NYTimes ethicist sponsored a writing contest on “Why I Eat Meat”, I felt compelled to enter. I think about this kind of thing all the time. Of course I didn’t “win” the contest. No one even contacted me to say “Thanks but no thanks.” They are busy. I understand. So here’s my essay:

Why I Eat Meat
Last week, someone broke into my backyard and scrawled on my shed, “Don’t Kill Animals—they are our equals.” I’m an urban farmer in Oakland, well-known for raising turkeys, rabbits, goats, ducks, even pigs in my backyard and lot farm near downtown. As a city farmer, I’m used to rubbing elbows—and getting into heated arguments—with vegans and vegetarians. These meat-avoiders don’t want to kill animals. They love animals. Things is, so do I: I love animals and I love to eat them.
The words of a psychopath? In this burgeoning world of designer dogs, pet daycare, and the House Rabbit Society: maybe. But in a world where there is a working relationship between man and beast, no. Increasingly, this world is disappearing; the working animal replaced by pets that are treated like humans.
I read the words again as my dairy goats thoughtfully chewed their cud, a chicken clucked the arrival of an egg, and the meat ducks splashed nearby. Here’s the deal: I feed my ducks and give them shelter—they in turn lay eggs, build nests, and hatch out ducklings. I feed the ducks bugs and excess produce from the garden—and their manure then goes to grow more vegetables. I cull the offspring—process them into delicious roast duck. It’s a cycle. This cycle, this closeness is what I love about farming—and eating meat. It nudges us to think about our role in the cosmos—that one day we too will be food, if only worm food.
Another cycle: my dairy goats. They are bred (which they seem very happy about doing), have offspring which stimulates their milk production. I take some of the milk to drink, and to make cheese and yogurt. The female offspring are retained or sold, the male offspring are processed into meat. I’ve had a Yemeni storekeeper from down the street help me slaughter a young buckling. It involved a prayer and a song. It was, literally, a sacrifice—sacred. I split the goat with the storekeeper who was keen to get the intestines, heart, stomach. His wife would cook their traditional meals with the goat meat; I would make a delicious stew. Nothing was wasted.
Let’s say I took the advice of the graffiti artist to not kill animals, and if everyone else did too—what would that world look like? On my farm, that would mean the ducks would breed infinitely, they would overpopulate the garden, ravage the vegetables and make too much manure; and the young goat buck would grow into an increasingly smelly and feisty beast, making the milk of the does taste foul.
And if proceed to the logical endpoint of a vegan world where we ate tempeh or petri dish grown “meat”: there would be no working animals. No pigs, with their joyous rutting; no chickens scratching for worms; no goats capering. Sure, maybe a vegan utopia would spring up and host a series of “farms” complete with geriatric cows and wizened turkeys, living far beyond their natural lifespan. But would this farm allow for reproduction, a natural process that all animals strive for? What about sick animals?
In the end, domesticated animals are not our equals, they are our creation. We have to take responsibility for them. I do so gladly. I enjoy the antics of the ducks and the goats–of feeding them well so they will then feed me well. I love living in a world filled with animals that remind us that we are part of the cycle, that one day we too will die.

61 responses to “Why I Eat Meat

  1. That was a wonderful reply to the question. I was bashed thoroughly and repeatedly by a woman from Britain who said I should have sought repeated and expensive treatment for my hen because I should do the same for my children. The implication of all those in England that I am cruel to expect cats and dogs to live outdoors with shelter I supply made me look like an ogre who tossed her children on the doorstep in freezing weather even though fifty degrees was too cold in their opinion.

    I do love my animals–outdoors in their own shelter. I don’t have any to eat, just eggs. However, the eating of animals is not something horrific. I applaud your stand and your eloquent words.

  2. Beautifully written. I was vegetarian for 13 years, have been eating meat for three and struggle with the issue. I’m spending the summer in the countryside/forest outside Seattle, and there really is something about being outside more, being physically closer to animals and watching them and living with them that makes you think – no feel – the cycle of life and death. Eating meat thoughtfully, that works.

  3. Once again Novella a GREAT piece.

    Am more vegan from spring to fall, simply because we are able to grow such a huge variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Am more lacto ova vegetarian come fall until spring, which means I do eat eggs,use raw organic milk to make cheese, yogurt. But will eat wild game from family/friends. No one should assume that I think others should live as I do.I come from a fishing and hunting family where if Dad didn’t get wild game we didn’t have meat. And we have many many friends who raise organic meat animals for family consumption

    First off geography 101 clearly shows that someone in the deserts of African or upper Siberia, Alaska, Canada would not be able to be vegan, or even vegetarian sincere climate doesn’t allow for these lifestyles. And I think its rather arrogant for some non suffering, usually white, American to insist that because they have the means to eat as they choose that every one else does as well.

    And I happen to respect those who eat meat that they raise and give thanks for per slaughter and then waste nothing of the animal! Native people have done this for centuries here in what we now call the United States. Go to pacific island areas and one finds this same custom. Go to Prather ranch up near Mt Shasta where they raise 100% organic beef, and slaughter one day a week, where the animals is thanked for providing food for others. Lets remember that the human animal like other animals in nature has been a meat eater since time began. Look at cave drawings from millions of years ago.

  4. I love this, thank you. My husband & I are raising our first chickens this year, both for meat & eggs, & we have to explain to people a lot why we are ok with the slaughter part of the equation.

  5. An excellent, measured, compassionate and rational essay. Thank you.

  6. You’re back! Don’t stop your farm, the blog, anything…. That was the perfect post. I wish that we could get your some cistern’s so you wouldn’t feel bad about continuing your garden year round. California was made to be bountiful:) Be well

  7. About thirty years ago, I lived in Upstate NY on a small farm in rural Columbia County. It was an hour commute to my job in advertising, and the farm provided almost everything we needed…except for flour, sugar and coffee. We had a 2 acre garden, we raised goats, sheep, chickens, ducks, rabbits, the occasional pig, horses and we had Jersey cow named Holly. Once a year, the artificial inseminator would arrive in his truck, and 11 months later, Holly would deliver a calf. That calf usually became the beef for the following year. We had no remorse whatsoever in this process. That’s how our progenitors did it. One of my besties, who was a trust fund baby, lived in York, PA., She was married to the son of a guy who sat on the Stock Exchange, yet they lived like we did, totally dependent on the land. She showed me how to make butter in my blender (you take the top of the cream off the chilled milk, put it in the blender with a like amount of ice cubes, give it a buzz, and voila! Butter!)

    That ability to produce our own food helped me become a sort of cottage industry. One day, on my way home from work, I stopped at an antique store in Hudson. One of the owners had been raised on a farm and was jonesing for organic eggs. We worked out a barter arrangement, and once a week, I would drop off two dozen eggs, two gallons of unpasteurized milk and a couple of pounds of butter. We would determine a fair market price for my goods and a like amount was entered into a balance sheet. Then when I had accumulated enough money, I would exchange it for a chair, a painting, a sled or some other thing that I fancied. I’m sure they were as sorry to see me move to Texas as I was to lose my companion in Interior Decorating.

    Butchering livestock isn’t something that all children need to see, although my kids certainly knew where the pot roast came from. One of the advantages in this life style, at least in my case, is that my four adult children have virtually no cavities, they all know how to ride a horse, hoe a garden, pick beans, make berry jam or deviled eggs, milk a cow or a goat, and they have respect for the farm and the farmers. I have no quarrel with people who are vegan, vegetarians or eaters of seal meat, it that is their preference. Just don’t go painting signs on my fence or denigrating the process. I’m retired and in Texas now, still have a small garden, and my six chickens provide me with eggs and a dose of humor, especially when they find a small garden snake, and nobody wants to share.

    And thanks, Novella….I loved your first book. Glad to see you have another one for me to enjoy.

  8. I love how you’re just publishing yourself, undaunted. Forget the NY Times! They’re crazy for not publishing anything you write! Love your book and looking forward to the next one.

  9. Vegans are lucky they live in a country so rich and bountiful that they can reject whole food groups and still sustain themselves. There is no other time in history that people could be so picky. Our ancestors were grateful for whatever they could grow, buy, barter, hunt or beg. If it didn’t eat you, you would eat it.

  10. This was an eloquent and thoroughly reasonable reply.
    I respect vegans and vegetarians for living their beliefs, but my and our beliefs and lifestyles are different.
    I grew up on a farm where we treated our livestock with the same respect and admiration you have for your livestock.
    I abhor factory farms and how they treat the animal as an unfeeling widget in their giant machines, but that is not how you or I raise our animals.
    Keep up the good work. Even if you don’t stick with the urban farm in Oakland, please keep blogging and publishing. You contribute much to the conversation.

  11. Thanks Novella, You have inspired me and other more than you can know my father past away last year leaving my brothers and I with a quarter section of land in northern California just east of Sacramento. If you have an interest in doing something on a larger scale please drop me a line.

  12. We are all different, we are all the same. I love animals too, but the fact is we are all mortal. Both animals and plants on this planet have to die. It is part of the food chain. The soul is immortal so we have to respect that in both life and death. Cheers

  13. For those who can’t raise livestock, is it possible to kill the meat we eat? I ask as someone who has been vegetarian half my life, now open to the possibility that there is an ethical — or at least, honest — way to eat meat, namely accepting responsibility for the whole process. Can you share any workshops or farms that are set up for this? Thanks.

  14. That depends on where you live. I know of many colleges that have agriculture courses that would probably include butchering. You should check out your area colleges (where I live, Texas A &M has a big Ag school) and ask. There are also some Hobby blogs that have information on butchering, since it is part of the process. Try Hobby Farms online. Anywhere that has deer hunting will also have a place that does processing. Most hunters don’t mind killing Bambi, but they want someone else to make it into venison.

  15. twicecookedhalfbaked

    Having gone from meat eater to vegetarian and back again, I can understand the dilema. It isn’t always a clear choice and sometimes hard to justify when the world could be fed more easily without raising meat on the same land. It is clearly a debate that will continue. In the meantime, I will continue to eat bacon and be thankful for it.

  16. I don’t think you have to do your own raising and butchering, which is a lot of work and takes a certain amount of dedicated space. I had stopped eating meat when I was in my 20s (circa 1980) when all I could find was Perdue, Tyson, Jimmy Dean and various Cargill/ConAgra brands. I was very aware of how they raised and slaughtered animals and I did not want to be a part of it. Now I live in an area that has three butcher shops that all offer local, humanely raised meat and I can even buy meat right from my local farmers. It’s more expensive than supermarket meat, but I don’t eat it everyday. I would like to see the end of factory farming and the answer is to know your sources and be willing to pay more for a good product so it becomes a viable business for farmers and butchers who want to offer it.

  17. It’s great to read a viewpoint in favor of meat from someone who has real experience. In my very young adult life I was vegan for a while, thinking it was the only way to conserve resources, but I also eventually felt this was a bit elitist as this was an unrealistic solution for the majority of peoples.

    I still think factory farming is horrid, but agree that meat eating has its place and is necessary. What WOULD happen to all the domesticated animals? (good point) Hopefully the trendiness of eating local meat from real farms will continue and become less of a trend and more of the norm.

  18. Linda Bateman Rothwell

    Your book was required reading for my granddaughter who is entering college in the fall and since it sounded interesting to me, I read it as well. I’m always interested in making use of what we have – no matter where we are. I do eat meat – somewhat reluctantly – I’ve tried to be a vegetarian but was so hungry all the time, I relapsed! Like Native Americans, I thank the animals for their sacrifice and I see that in you – the respect that they deserve for providing us with life. I hope you and Bill are still together cause he sounds like a real trooper.

  19. twicecookedhalfbaked

    Agreed! I have a couple of local butchers and the farmer’s market where I can buy food I believe it. I would love to raise my own, but I am not the brave soul that I wish I were.

  20. Thanks so much for writing so eloquently what I truly think and believe.

  21. Brian L. Patton who wrote the Sexy Vegan was one of the folks whom the NYTimes chose to write a reply per why he doesnt eat meat, and his reasons for why everyone should be vegan, were lame at best. There are places on the earth where being vegan simply wont work. Of course anyone who raises their own animals and slaughters in a humane manner should be left alone. Wish more people would be concerned about factory farms.

  22. There is a fundamental difference between eating meat the way you do and buying processed, pre-killed, plastic-packaged, water-filled, antibiotic-dosed, cloned, GM-ed, factory farmed, meat derivatives from your ‘local’ economy-draining supermarket. I stopped eating meat because I didn’t want to do it that way but I still love the taste and have no moral objections to eating proper meat.
    I just don’t have the means to raise it myself or the will to butcher it if I could and cannot find a decent supply of such meat. Therefore, I don’t eat it at all. But, if all farmers were like you, then I would happily return to the dark side.
    Keep up the good work.

  23. I tried for years to be a vegan, then vegetarian, then “fish-onlytarian”, etc…
    I was always hungry! I was often ill! I have now come to terms with eating humanely raised meats and dairy products. I no longer care if I am percieved as a beast – I no longer strive for political correctness – It’s all rhetoric, anyway. As long as there is no suffering there is no problem. As a vegan, I suffered (for years!). I don’t eat meat at every meal, not even every day – but I will eat meat when I need to, or want to, as long as it comes from folks like you.

  24. Pingback: Link Roundup 6/30/12 | QuirkyKnitGirl

  25. SherryFromSF

    I love this essay and agree completely. The only thing I would change is the words “graffiti artist” to “vandal”.

  26. Bravo! well said. I don’t personally eat meat but your argument should stand with any reasonable individual

  27. OK, a question, not to stir things up but because I’m authentically grappling with this. I’m totally on board with the ethics of eating meat as long as it is healthily/naturally raised. However, in a recent discussion someone pointed out to me that other carnivore species (or omnivores) have a very short digestive tract in order to expel the waste products from eating meat in a healthy way. That vegetarians are the only ones with a longer digestive tract, and that we humans have the longer tract. And that this is why there are so many health issues (colon cancer etc) with humans, especially those with meat-heavy diets.

    I personally am what I would call “almost vegetarian” and am trying to reduce my wheat and dairy intake due to potential health effects. I would love to determine a clear and settled opinion about eating meat and animal products in general, and this issue is my current mental obstacle.

    Anyone have any clear insights or compelling replies? Thanks!

  28. It’s been too many years since I took Anatomy so I can’t debate the issue of length of digestive tract, but there are many people for whom meat isn’t just their main diet, it’s their only diet. The Inuits have existed for thousands of years without so much as a single salad or Orange Julius. That is called “adaptation.” But we would all do well to eat less meat and if available, locally sourced and organic. When I was in Vet school, a common way to caponize a chicken was to implant stilbestrol into the comb of the young cockerel. This caused his gonads to atrophy thus rendering “him” into an “it.” Imagine having that enter into the food chain as your Sunday chicken dinner.

  29. SueB, I doubt you will be able to “determine a clear and settled opinion about eating meat”, but humans have been eating meat since they were hanging out in trees and caves. We are perfectly evolved to kill it and eat it. Humans have always need meat to survive, especially in cold climates. Eskimos had a healthy diet of mostly animal products until the last 100 years or so, their new diet full of processed soy, white flour, canned vegetables, vegetable oils and sugar is making them sick. It’s why you do not truly vegetarian societies until recent times. We require a reliable system of transportation, refrigeration, and abundance to reject whole food groups and still thrive. You might also want to look into how important healthy fats are to the development of children’s brains. We did not become the intelligent species we are by eating just nuts and berries. It was more likely done with the help of red deer meat, the leftovers of bigger predators and the occasional mammoth burger. Bon appetite.

  30. Sue B, I would suggest its what folks eat,how much they eat and not meat, that is key to most health issues, including colon cancer. Colon cancer is low in Asian countries from what I have read, as well as France, Mediterranean countries.

    Could it be because while they consume meat, fish they do so in lower amounts, (size of a deck of cards) and that the meat is not factory farmed, but raised in an ‘organic’ fashion devoid of the crap American mass produced meat has?

    Coming from a hunting/fishing family, and being lacto ova vegetarian with some fish here and there, I know that those who grow/hunt their own meat, probably eat less meat than someone who goes to the store buys factory farmed meat and eats it daily.

  31. Yvonne Furbee

    Thank you for saying it so appropriately!

  32. It certainly is the amount of meat that is eaten that is the problem. We have evolved to cope with a very varied diet of mainly plants, nuts, honey, fungi and so on, with meat being a supplement to that. See this article on chimpanzee diet as a good fit with our previous diet – http://www.nagonline.net/HUSBANDRY/Diets%20pdf/Chimpanzee%20Nutrition.pdf
    Meat was, once, difficult and dangerous to get hold of. We haven’t changed, biologically, since those times but our diet has.
    Just eat local, organic meat once or twice a week and you should be fine.

  33. SueB here are two things to consider in regards to your question. Firstly the length of the intestine is not a measure of the ability to digest meat for a creature. While humans have a 22ft long, on average, intestinal tract which is about of 4x our height depending on the person. We are omnivores through and through, we have molars for grinding anything that comes into our mouths, plant and otherwise, and canines for ripping uncooked meat. This is much the same case for our closest genetic relations: the great apes. Now lets take an almost pure carnivore: felines, they have a 6.5 ft intestinal tract which is also about 4x as long as their length. Their teeth are structured similarly to our but with even more pronounced canines and there is no doubt that they eat meat. In fact their intestinal length has shrunk in the millennia since they were “domesticated” since they don’t have to depend on somewhat rotten meat.

    Furthermore there’s been some interesting research on the pastoral cultures on the asian steppe who have a diet that is mainly based on animal products. They don’t suffer any of the diseases or illnesses that are considered part of a diet that has a significant amount of meat consumption. While I wouldn’t eat this way, I like my veggies too much, it shows that meat doesn’t automatically equal poor health.

    As a takeaway, what the folks said above about the quality and quantity meat eaten has more of an effect than the fact that you do eat meat is the basic reality of it. If you want meat, eat the best you can in moderation as part of a whole healthy diet, if you don’t then don’t, but never think that we can’t eat it.

  34. People are self-righteous about their lifestyle eating choices on both sides. As a near-vegan, eating animals grosses me out. I believe that goat’s milk is meant for baby goats, just as bitch’s milk is meant for puppies. That said, if people are going to eat meat (and they are — Americans, including Californians, are obsessive meat eaters, even addicts), it’s healthier in a multiplicity of ways to get it from your friendly neighbor down the street with a farm micro-enterprise. *So I don’t judge.*

    But as a near-vegan, sometimes I feel like there’s a crowd mentality, and like the vegans are the enemy. This is BS. There are *some* vegan activists with certain philosophies who are leading the fight against backyard livestock, while someone like me is glad their friends can buy eggs from other friends or micro-farmers.

    I also realize that in some cultures, like Tibet, meat is what’s available to eat. In Tibet, the land provides more forage for livestock than produce for humans. Same with reindeer herders of Siberia, Inuit people, etc.

    On the topic of pets being treated as humans… Humans have had close interpersonal relationships with pets for eons. The reason is that they can be compassionate, loyal, funny, loving, and many other “human like” qualities. They can also be useful co-workers, like herding and guardian dogs. Nothing wrong with loving an animal as much as a human. Animals can love well. They now say that fish are a lot smarter than once thought.

    My .02 cents. Thanks.


  35. Thank you for the post. I raise animals on my own urban farm, but do not eat them. We have ducks for eggs and goats for milk (starting in spring). I take raising my animals very seriously and their health and happiness is always on my mind. Despite my best efforts, we have lost several of our ducks, some to loose dogs, others to raptors, a fox, black snake and in an unimaginable turn of events, a snapping turtle. It is difficult to lose these animals, but I know that very few poultry die of old age. The “natural” deaths of these animals is considerably very likely worse than a quick and humane end.
    In eating animals, I prioritize the quality of life that the animal had. I am willing to pay more and eat less to know that the animals that feed me have had a chance to enjoy their time on earth with freedom to be what they are. Animals. Ducks play in the mud, the goats gamble and climb. Both of these species help me in my urban farming, eating slugs and bugs in the garden, producing manure for the veggies, disposing of our brush and some of the weeks.
    They are not children (though they are partners) and left to their own they would meet a far worse end than is waiting for them from a responsible farmer. There is no excuse or justification for the horrible conditions in factory farms.
    There is nothing more satisfying than a life well lived by human or animal.

  36. Elsie, if you have the room, consider getting a Great Pyrenees dog. They make wonderful companions for other animals and will keep away most predators (especially coyotes and foxes). And they have an affinity for chickens, ducks and geese.

  37. @jennifervizzo – I would love to get a LGD ! I have done some research and the problem is that the ones I have read about bark throughout the night to scare away predators. Great if you live in the country, not so much within the city limits. My neighbors are very indulgent as it is and I don’t want to push it. If anyone knows of breeds that are quiet at night, I would love to hear about them!!

  38. MotherLodeBeth

    Be it urban,suburban,or rural, investing in a system that sends a single inside the home no matter the hour that someone be it human or animal is in an area they should not be in is wise. These systems need not cost a lot. Radio Shake, and I believe even Amazon.com offers them for sale. They work well for inside a hen house, or just the vegetable garden, which friends have had people stealing from.

  39. I think we need to eat like our ancestors ate … food that was on the earth hundreds/thousands of years ago … which includes animals! In fact, I think that might be one of my next blog posts! Love your thoughts on the matter.

  40. I’ve raised chickens for eggs only and always have fruit trees and a giant garden. I can/preserve, freeze, dry and share the bounty. I’m a lacto-ovo vegetarian that has been adding in fish, that is fresh caught, very occasionally and am struggling with that. Everyone should have to raise and kill their own animals if they want to eat meat, imo. Treating animals respectfully, caring for them their whole life cycle and humanely butchering them celebrating their existence, is the way it should be, not factory farming. What people eat is their own choice. How they go about it by supporting fast food, filthy factory farming and accepting the poisoning of our foods by chemicals and GMO seed and designer animals is what bothers me. If everyone cared about their food deeply, everyone would be healthier. I do not believe animals are our creations, or equals either, but we all have a reason for existence and deserve respect regardless of our lot in life.

  41. MotherLodeBeth

    I agree with Modern Pioneer Mom that we need to eat like our ancestors atewhich was food that was on the earth hundreds/thousands of years ago, which included animals.

    Would also add perhaps we need to eat according to our ethnic roots and the climates where we live as well. Living in California where we can grow a vegetable garden year round, and with warmer weather my body doesnt need the heat producing meats someone in a colder climate needs.

  42. There are so many stringent vegetarians out there. Which is fine. For them. But I have to say that I respect an opinion such as yours that has real life experience to back it up. The balance would be so skewed. This is the paragraph that rang true for me,
    “Let’s say I took the advice of the graffiti artist to not kill animals, and if everyone else did too—what would that world look like? On my farm, that would mean the ducks would breed infinitely, they would overpopulate the garden, ravage the vegetables and make too much manure; and the young goat buck would grow into an increasingly smelly and feisty beast, making the milk of the does taste foul.”
    I raise chickens for eggs but am not averse to using them for meat if need be. They are humanely raised, much more so than any battery hen. I appreciate them deeply. Your essay is wonderful. Thank you for sharing it.

  43. Claire in Texas

    I happened onto your blog through http://www.wabi-sabihomeandgarden.com/. I love reading about your lifestyle and your sensible approach to farming. Thank you for sharing. You have a great community there.

  44. Your views on eating meat resonate with me. We are all part of the “circle of life.” One can respect and love animals and eat them, too. My little boy loves worms. He’ll protect them in our garden…making sure they don’t get caught out in the sun on a warm day, for example. But he will also happily feed worms to his grandparents’ chickens.

    I can’t understand the concept that humans are not supposed to eat meat. We are omnivores, so eating animals is part of our natural diet. Do they expect lions not to eat gazelle? Should dolphins not eat fish? Should we feed our cats and dogs vegetarian diets and watch them wither away before our eyes? My body requires some meat to be healthy. It’s just the way it is.

    Farming in a way that is humane and sustainable makes so much sense. The animals get to live happy, balanced lives. If they were in the wild, they would not have human protection and would die from predators or possibly other causes. As you explain, we cannot simply take on all these farm animals as pets. They would all have to be altered so that they couldn’t reproduce, and as you say, reproduction is part of what makes animals happy. The vegan model is completely unnatural.

    At least a caring farmer can slaughter an animal in a way that is quick…animals in the wild don’t even necessarily wait till their prey is dead before they start eating them.

  45. Two days ago on PBS’ pharmacy show, I heard an interesting comment on diet by a doctor who specializes in the treatment of diabetes. He’s been able to alleviate, if not stem, type 1 diabetes through diet, and in his opinion, we should all do as our hominid ancestors did….eat primarily protein and vegetables and no bread or starches. I know a few diabetics whose a diet consists of fast foods or starchy foods, and that’s surely one of the major reasons that we have so many obese children these days.

  46. Our Hominid ancestors and our early human ancestors ate starches people. Think of potatoes, yucca, yams, other tubers, etc all are naturally occurring starches that have been part of our diet for millennia. Also grain is something that has been part of our diet for close to 30,000 years so the idea that these substances are “unnatural” is complete silliness. We are omnivores that ate whatever crossed our path, see durian, almonds, and fugu for 3 of the more odd cases of food we eat that would be otherwise unpalatable. If it was edible we ate it, never doubt that.

  47. I don’t disagree. I thought the connection between type 1 diabetes and a diet lacking animal protein and vegetables was legitimate, but I’m not a dietician or a nutritionist. This doctor said that people can become (I’m paraphrasing) addicted to breads which exacerbates diabetes and that the removal of these foods generally alleviates the symptoms. Which of course makes sense because if your diet consisted largely of over-processed foods, you’d be a likely candidate for obesity which could result in diabetes.

  48. Fair point. Sorry to twitch like that, I’ve just been headbutting with the silliness of the so called “paleo” diet for the past few days and it’s making me twitchy.

    Also yes they are correct but it falls into the simple carbs vs complex carbs it seems. Are your starches coming from chips, white bread, etc or whole grains seems to make some difference. And as a further peace offering I offer this recent examination on the connections of gut flora and fauna and diet: http://humanfoodproject.com/guts-germs-and-meals-what-37-microbiologist-say-about-diet/

  49. I am twitch-proof, David. The program that I was listening to on my local PBS affiliate was: http://www.peoplespharmacy.com/

    The particular program was an interview with a doctor, who, as I said, specialized in the treatment and management of diabetes through diet. An interesting aside is that Joe & Terry Graedon (it’s their show) asked the interviewed doc if his diet was similar to Atkins. He said yes, but that Atkins was (I’m paraphrasing) a sell-out because when Atkins originally formulated the diet, it was strictly animal protein and vegetables for the rest of your life. Then Atkins backed off, the assumption being that the medical community didn’t approve of the fact that being on this diet forever would throw the dieter into ketosis, which is not acceptable. It’s certainly different than most ADA-recommended diets.

  50. I just wanted to say that I’m yet another vegan/ vegetarian who loved your book and loves your reply to this question. I think that for a lot of us, our main problem is not with the consumption of animals and animal products, but with the scale of consumption and with the resulting factory farm and the miserable, sick lives the animals lead before the slaughter. There is no respect, no compassion, no ethics in factory farming. People are becoming more and more aware though. It seems that family farms and small, local farms are on the rise these days. I hope that the trend continues. I hope to have some egg laying hens in my own backyard very soon!

  51. More and more people in our culture tend to see issues as having moral absolutes. It’s as if every detail of our lives from who we vote for to where we buy our fast food chicken has some eternal significance. For some, it’s wrong to eat meat. For you, it’s not. I appreciate that your defense was not defensive. Great work.

  52. I assume the link was to reference the latest study that says eggs are as bad as smoking. Pretty soon, there will be some study that says living near trees gives you herpes. Thanks, but I’ll keep raising my own chickens and eating their eggs. And since I quit smoking, I feel positively sanctimonious.

  53. I enjoyed your session at A.S.U. I work on a farm and hunt and I love meat. This was a great response about why you eat meat. I like how you respect the animal and actually eat them rather than killin for the hell of it.

  54. Very well written article! I agree with pretty much everything you said, especially the part about when you work closely with animals you bein to understand life cycles better.

    The thing that still bugs me about being a an omnivore is the whole argument people make about “keeping the wild animal population in check”. When people say ” I hunt to keep animals from becoming overpopulated” I feel it is a very andropocentric argument… That if such a thing were even off handedly implied about the human race, everyone would be up in arms.

    I think humans need to really start seeing their place in the cycle again, because if anything we are becoming the “unchecked” species on the planet.

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  56. I’d first like to say that I do not condone the behaviour of the people that graffitied your property. Nor do I condone any other form of property damage or theft. I appreciate there is an army of vegans out there that believe these acts are justified. I do not support this conclusion. Regardless of whether the property is a thing or an animal; it’s property and is therefore legally possessed by some agent. The law ought not be broken, regardless of moral convictions. But the law can be pushed to be changed, and this is the avenue vegans ought to travel.

    In this comment I wish to address a few points that you make.

    “Let’s say I took the advice of the graffiti artist to not kill animals, and if everyone else did too—what would that world look like? On my farm, that would mean the ducks would breed infinitely, they would overpopulate the garden, ravage the vegetables and make too much manure; and the young goat buck would grow into an increasingly smelly and feisty beast, making the milk of the does taste foul.”

    You do go on to dismiss this notion, which I appreciate–though it makes its presense rather superfluous. But, seeing it is there, I wish to share my view which echoes Australian philanthropist turned abolitionist vegan, Phillip Wollen’s: “I’ll cut you some slack – I’ll let you eat all the animals [that already exist], just stop producing anymore, okay?” We both know that we wouldn’t be taken over by the animals as, as you rightly point out, “they are our creation”. However, I don’t think that promoting these species can be justified on the sentimental grounds that you proposed: that the world will be devoid of “joyous rutting… scratching for worms…and capering”.

    As for this “cycle” that you mention, it seems to be just another apparent axiom thrown about by those in support of the use of animals. If, indeed, the animals that we use are “our creation” then the only real cycle these animals are part of is one that, too, is “our creation”. Thus, an appeal to nature is indefensible.

  57. Pingback: Why Urban Farmer Novella Carpenter Eats Animals: My Response | The Kind Cleaner

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