Reasons to eat meat

Many Effec­tive Altru­ists ad­vo­cate veg­e­tar­i­anism or ve­g­anism. Eat­ing and pur­chas­ing meat does in­crease the pro­duc­tion of meat, so it con­tributes to an­i­mal suffer­ing. How­ever, in this post I will give some gen­eral rea­sons to eat meat, in­clud­ing fac­tory farmed meat.

  • If peo­ple see a move­ment full of peo­ple who don’t eat meat, they are go­ing to think that it is less ap­peal­ing. Even though veg­e­tar­i­ans and ve­g­ans in­sist that they en­joy their food, pop­u­lar cul­ture widely views ve­gan/​veg­e­tar­ian diets as re­stric­tive and less en­joy­able. Om­nivores greatly de­sire meat, and there­fore they are less likely to want to join the EA move­ment. Even though they the­o­ret­i­cally could eat meat while be­ing EAs, the im­plicit norms and moral stan­dards are dis­cour­ag­ing nonethe­less.

  • Some philoso­phers say that ethics should not be very de­mand­ing. There­fore, stringent re­stric­tions on our diet are un­rea­son­able. Some peo­ple say that any mod­ern ve­gan diet is still healthier and tastier than what 90% of hu­man­ity has had to eat in the past. How­ever, that doesn’t change the fact that giv­ing up meat feels like a very as­cetic thing to me. I feel as though it would rob me of some of my iden­tity and au­ton­omy, as cook­ing meat is one of my hob­bies. I haven’t tried liv­ing as a veg­e­tar­ian, but I’m quite sure that it would be a very stress­ful thing for me.

  • Avoid­ing meat might not be a low-hang­ing fruit. Hu­mans have a static, finite amount of willpower that we can spend on im­prov­ing our lives in differ­ent ways, and we have to choose one thing at a time to fix. Forc­ing my­self to give up meat might not be the most good I can do on the mar­gin, if I could put the same effort into do­ing some­thing else.

  • We should not max­i­mize our im­me­di­ate im­pact on the world, in­stead we should think about long term pro­duc­tivity and com­mit­ment to EA. Eat­ing meat could help my men­tal health. Some stud­ies have shown an as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween veg­e­tar­i­anism and men­tal health prob­lems. I cer­tainly en­joy eat­ing meat, there­fore it helps make me hap­pier. This re­duces the chance that I will burn out from the EA move­ment.

  • Eat­ing meat helps my job and so­cial life, be­cause most peo­ple don’t think highly of veg­e­tar­i­ans or ve­g­ans. If I’m net­work­ing with busi­ness as­so­ci­ates or din­ing with my fam­ily, eat­ing meat alongside them helps to re­in­force our bonds and trust. If I in­sist on veg­e­tar­ian food and restau­rants with veg­e­tar­ian op­tions, then peo­ple will be less will­ing to bring me along for so­cial events, which will hurt my so­cial sta­tus and ca­reer as­pira­tions.

  • Ethics is not the only thing that mat­ters for one’s diet. I be­lieve that we should split our diets, with one part be­ing the al­tru­is­tic part and the other part be­ing the self­ish part. I choose lunch as the al­tru­is­tic part of my diet. Then break­fast and din­ner are part of my self­ish food bud­get, so it doesn’t mat­ter if I eat fac­tory farmed meat at those times.

  • There is no such thing as moral re­al­ism. Hu­mans are self­ish crea­tures who only fol­low their util­ity func­tion. There is no ob­jec­tive moral rea­son to care about an­i­mals, we only avoid meat be­cause our util­ity func­tion some­times says so. Eat­ing fac­tory-farmed meat fre­quently serves my util­ity func­tion, so I do it.

  • Meat has cul­tural and aes­thetic value. I wouldn’t want to live in a world with­out rare, juicy steaks and other culi­nary artistry. Sure, ve­gan food has some art and cul­ture too, but it’s poorer and sparser. The cul­tural value of meat is ir­re­place­able and un­quan­tifi­able.

With all these rea­sons, it’s clear that eat­ing meat is of­ten a good thing to do. Should we then con­sider whether or not to eat meat at each meal? No, that would be too stress­ful. Who could pos­si­bly weigh and calcu­late what to pick for each meal? In­stead, we should pick a pro­por­tion of our meals where we will avoid meat, and stick to that as a rule. I think that 10% is a good amount, it is a nice round num­ber with some tra­di­tional prece­dent. Thus, I eat ve­gan food for lunch on Satur­days and Sun­days, which is 10% of my meals. Other­wise I stick to my usual diet, in­clud­ing fac­tory-farmed meat.

“What is this non­sense?” some of you may be think­ing. Well, this post is satire. Some of these rea­sons are good and some of them are bad, I’ll let you figure out which is which. But all are rea­sons that I have seen EAs give to defend ex­penses on lux­ury items and in­effec­tive char­i­ties. Yet some EAs also push a moral obli­ga­tion for ve­g­anism. My point is this: it’s in­con­sis­tent to have a rule for ve­g­anism and dis­miss these sorts of com­plaints if you also have such a meek view of obli­ga­tions to donate to char­ity. Of course two cases are never ex­actly analo­gous. But if any­thing, I’d say that the cost/​benefit ra­tio of giv­ing more to effec­tive char­ity is bet­ter than the cost/​benefit ra­tio of giv­ing up meat. There­fore, for the pur­poses of im­prov­ing our im­pact, ei­ther we should be ve­gan and donate scrupu­lously to char­ity or we should just donate scrupu­lously to char­ity. It’s not the case that we should be ve­gan yet we don’t need to donate scrupu­lously to char­ity.