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Hobbes's avatar

Does anyone else sometimes feel guilty about eating meat, but can't stop eating it because it tastes so good?

Asked by Hobbes (7311 points ) February 11th, 2011

I sometimes remember the fact that when I eat meat, I’m actually consuming the burned muscle of what was formerly another living being. I also know that the animals are raised in often raised terrible conditions and are sometimes butchered in inhumane ways. I do try to eat organic meat, but it’s not available while I’m at college. Yet, I continue to eat meat because I have a deep desire to do so. Meat tastes delicious to me because people evolved eating meat. I can’t help this, but I still feel bad about it sometimes. Has anyone else experienced this conflict? What did you do?

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51 Answers

BBSDTfamily's avatar

Yep, and I quit eating the meat that made me feel that way. I wouldn’t say I felt guilty exactly, rather that I didn’t quite agree with the processes in place and so I didn’t want to support (with my money- which is what you do when you buy meat) a business that I didn’t agree with financially. Lots of people quit eating meat they’ve loved for most of their life. Be strong and quit if you really feel guilty. At least further research the industry and decide if you’re comfortable with what exactly takes place.

augustlan's avatar

Yes. I even tried to become a vegetarian once (a long time ago) because of it. It’s a pernicious abstraction, to be sure. I’ve pretty much come to terms with it, now.

tinyfaery's avatar

I was a vegetarian for 7 years, before I was too poor to continue the lifestyle. Then I lived for years feeling guilty about eating meat every time I saw a chicken or a pig; I never reverted to eating cow. My New Year’s resolution this year was to only eat organic poultry and some seafood. So far so good. Either you will find some way to subjugate your feelings of guilt or you will live your beliefs.

incendiary_dan's avatar

The inhumane conditions animals are subjected to are why I’m learning to hunt. I prefer to take responsibility myself and not contribute to abhorrent conditions.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

No. I can’t live unless something else dies, and I don’t think sentient life really holds some fabulous superiority to plant life, so I just make me peace with the circle of life.

Hobbes's avatar

Well, animals have nervous systems, and are therefore capable of feeling pain and experiencing suffering.

Garebo's avatar

I love to eat as much grass fed beef as possible, or, elk, buffalo. I feel so much better when I do; I doubt the same effect resides with women.
I would eat as much beef as I could, quality beef that is.
Eating Cannelini Beans and tuna all week tends to make me carnivorous.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I know that feeling. I’m much happier if I know that meat I am eating was raised humanely.

incendiary_dan's avatar

The fact that humane conditions, healthiness of eating that meat, and environmental impacts all overlap for free range and grass fed animals should make everyone wonder why factory farms even exist.

LostInParadise's avatar

My feeling is that it is okay for meat to be part of my diet, but a relatively small part. If everyone cut back on the amount of meat that they ate then there would be no need to mass produce it under inhumane conditions.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@LostInParadise The amount we eat is important, but far less so than what we feed the animals. Grass fed cows, for example, require less land overall to be used, and build soil. On the flip side, the land needed to grow the corn and soy for a factory farmed cow is far more expansive, and is damaged in the process. Demand isn’t the biggest motivator by far. Profit is. But it’s only profitable because of cheap oil, and that’s sure to end at some point.

FabricatingReality's avatar

@Hobbes, I grew up eating meat one to two times a day. I loved it, all kinds, especially pig meats – pork, sausage, and especially bacon. I’d also grown up around animals, so I’d always felt guilty for eating meat. At the same time, I felt like I loved it too much to stop eating meat. One day, some friends were required for a class to become vegetarians for two weeks. I joined them for the heck of it. I immediately felt like a healthier person. I loved it.

I was a vegetarian for three years, until recently. I started to crave meat. At first I ignored it, but then I decided to acknowledge the way my body was feeling and try some chicken. I felt healthier.

I think every person is different, and what each body needs changes over time. If you’re feeling particularly guilty about eating meat, maybe try eating less of it, or even taking a short break from it. The hardest part about being a vegetarian in my opinion is the loss of that meaty, hearty texture, so maybe try vegetarian dishes that can simulate that (not necessarily soy burgers, but maybe chick peas). Hope this helps. :)

jca's avatar

I do sometimes and sometimes I try not to think about it. The Omnivore’s Dilemma is an excellent source of information about the food we eat and how it is obtained.

FabricatingReality's avatar

I completely agree with @JCA. The author, Peter Singer, actually was the inspiration for the class’s (and my, as I heard one of his lectures) 2 week experiment in vegetarianism.

bkcunningham's avatar

@Hobbes what exactly is “organic meat?”

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I was a vegetarian for 4 years, quite a long time ago. I ultimately became very sick (although I’m not suggesting that is the norm!)
I came to find that I have a malabsorption disorder, and my meatless diet caused me a lot of problems.
Needless to say, I eat meat. I have eaten meat for years again, now, although it makes up a very small fraction of my diet. I still eat a predominantly vegetarian diet, but the meat that I do consume makes me feel guilty. I do not think there is anything wrong with eating meat. I believe that it is natural. Humans evolved to eat meat, although I do think that we eat way too damn much of it, as a whole. I have issues with factory farming, and when my budget allows I do my best to purchase locally raised, kosher, grass fed beef and free range chicken. That isn’t always the case, and so that does leave me feeling guilty. I know that many people would disagree and say that killing something is killing something, no matter how you do it, but I do feel that it is different. I respect that belief, it just isn’t one that I necessarily agree with. The truth of the matter is that our current agricultural system needs a total overhaul. The only people that are truly happy with the way things are going for farmers – are the big corporations that are raking in the dough. Your average consumer (that is aware of factory farming and related agricultural practices) is not really happy with it. Family farmers aren’t exactly thrilled, either. I suspect it is only a matter of time before people start raising a real stink about where our food comes from, and hopefully there will be reform.

Cruiser's avatar

Rewind 200 years or so and I would be out with my long rifle picking off deer, pheasant whatever and having to dress and butcher them to put food on the table. It’s what humans have done like forever. I do take pause though over the notion of Veal. I love veal but even I throw back 15” baby Walleyes. Eating baby anything just doesn’t seem right.

Scooby's avatar

As long as it was “humanly slaughtered” if there is such a thing I’ll eat it! :-/
There’s a lot of debate about halal meat at the moment, I’m a little sceptical of but, so long as there’s minimum suffering to the animal & it’s been well looked after throughout it’s life & not hold up in a pen, so tightly packed or chained so it has no kind of natural life… then yeah I’ll eat it, no problem. Veal is totally out of the window for me, I guess it’s a male thing :-/
...... I am quite lucky in the fact that all or most of the meat I consume comes from my local butcher, a man who I went to school with & have known for well over thirty years, I know the meat he buys in has come from animals that have all lived free lives & all been well looked after, up until they come into the food chain that is & “humanly slaughtered”……. :-/

Coloma's avatar

My meat consumption is minimal and I don’t believe in being neurotic about anything.

I primarily eat fish and shellfish, but will consume some Chicken and Turkey and rarely, beef.

I was a strict vegan for many years and live in a rural area where there are many organic farms and options to the traditional processing and raising of meat animals.

I am an animal lover and feel I do many other good deeds for my fellow creatures.

I keep geese and boycott down products and pate, I have kept chickens for their eggs only and the entertainment. Chickens are very cool birds with quirks and personalities just as dogs or cats have.

I did stop eating chicken for about 8 years when I had my flock.

I had one Buff Orphington hen named ‘Picnic’ that lived for 11 years, she was my pal, and got her name from her passion for raiding the picnic table in my yard during outdoor meals.

She refused to roost with the other chickens in their coops and slept in a cat basket on my washing machine in the garage.

She liked to be ‘tucked in’ every night with a little blanket and fussed over. lol

I miss my Picnic, she was one of a kind.

mrrich724's avatar

Circle of life baby. I LOVE eating protein.

jca's avatar

@Coloma – have you ever seen documentaries or news clips about farmed fish? When you get fish from supermarket, often we don’t know where it comes from (Thailand, China, Vietnam) and they have some gross farming methods, or it’s farmed in US, and all farmed fish is full of antibiotics and pesticides. I only ask because about a year ago I saw a documentary about killer whales, and they discussed farmed salmon (and it’s effect on wild salmon) and it made me swear off salmon. Many people eat salmon thinking it’s good for you and healthy, and according to this documentary, it, too, is full of pesticides (to kill the sea lice) and antibiotics. Once I heard about sea lice, that was it for me.

thorninmud's avatar

When I was about 10 years old, I made a slingshot. I lived next to a field, so I went on a rampage zinging pebbles at this and that. At one point, a mockingbird lighted about 20 feet away from me. After several hours of missing what I was aiming at, I was operating under the assumption that anything I took aim at had nothing to worry about. I pulled back the pebble and sent it in the general direction of the mockingbird.

Instead of flying away in alarm, the bird crumpled and dropped. I was horrified. Never in my life have I so wanted to turn back time. It was my first real experience of what killing was. To see this miraculous being transformed in an instant into an inert wad of feathers and blood that would never fly or sing again was a visceral shock. Yes, I knew that that’s the eventuality of all creatures, but I discovered that something in my human makeup didn’t want to be the cause of it.

I resolved than and there not to eat meat again. I told my mother so, but without telling her the reason. For over a year, i stuck to that resolution, but was undone by a cheeseburger at a family cookout (urged on by an uncle who seemed particularly annoyed by my stance).

Almost 20 years later, I recognized that my aversion to killing hadn’t actually gone away, but had just been bound and gagged and shoved into some mental closet. I had reached a point in my life when I was ready to face that being true to my sense of compassion was more important to me than whatever convenience and pleasure meat contributed to my life. I again stopped eating meat, and did indeed find that the relief from that inner dissonance was more than enough to compensate the loss of just one of many pleasures in my life.

I haven’t eaten meat for 20 years now, and no longer miss it in the last. There are so many wonderful things to eat in this world that don’t involve causing so much waste and suffering.

Coloma's avatar

@jca

I’m not surprised. Nothing is what it seems, it seems.

What to do? Live on grass and leaves. :-/

SavoirFaire's avatar

This comment and this comment pretty much sum up my own position. I’ve never felt guilty about eating meat, and doubt I ever will.

This is not, however, due to ignorance of the process. I come from a farming family and am intimately familiar with how non-industrial farms operate. I can kill animals on my own if necessary, and I know how to do it as humanely as possible. This isn’t to say it’s a cheerful affair, but I think we need to realize that something can be bitter without being bad.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
Hobbes's avatar

@satyagraha – I’ve actually read about that, and in fact it’s what lead me to ask this question.

Hobbes's avatar

@admins – How was the previous response off-topic? It had to do with a diet which reduces dependence on factory farming.

tranquilsea's avatar

We sourced our beef to a local rancher who lets his cattle roam free and grass feeds them. We pay $900 for half a cow and that lasts a year.

It really bothers me how cruelly livestock are treated.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

I do feel sad about the way most of the animals are treated and slaughtered for our consumption, but I still eat meat. I went without meat for close to two weeks once, when I was doing a colon cleanse, and I felt really weak from the lack of meat. While I feel bad about the treatment of the animals, I try to not feel guilty about eating meat since it’s a pretty natural human thing…

MilkyWay's avatar

I don’t really think about it too much to be honest. one thing i do know is that i need meat and will probably die if i dont consume it.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@tranquilsea That sounds great. I’ve been working on developing those sorts of relationships with local farmers. My family used to buy a pig from a local farm once a year and have it slaughtered, and divvy it up between the households. Sadly, we didn’t do it this year, which is a shame because it’s the best pork I’ve ever tasted, and doing it like that it costs less than $1 a pound.

jonsblond's avatar

We get our beef from the ranch my husband works at. Nothing tastes better than these guys. You can really taste the difference from grocery store beef. We’re one of the lucky ones that has an opportunity to eat grass fed cattle, so I don’t feel guilty.

@incendiary_dan We get a hog from a neighboring ranch. The best bacon I’ve ever had. I hate having to buy bacon at the grocery store when we run out. Oh, and the ribs! I’m so hungry now.

satyagraha's avatar

I guess what I didn’t say in my response that would have made it more on-topic, was that you probably shouldn’t feel bad about eating all meat. Feel bad about eating stock-raised meat.
@Hobbes

lemming's avatar

Yes, I totally understand. I was a vegetarian for nearly five years, but I have given up in recent years and I don’t think there is any going back. I don’t understand people who take pride in the fact that they don’t care about killing and eating animals. I think this is a bad thing and shows a complete lack of imagination.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@lemming Well, I’m sure that they could say something in the same vein about you.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@lemming Why assume they (which is to say, we) don’t care? Speaking for myself, I care. But like I said before: something can be bitter without being bad.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@jca @Coloma Yea, the salmon are just another factory farmed animal. Gross. I always look for wild caught, but even then I should just get better at fishing and eat the sustainable fish populations here.

lemming's avatar

@SavoirFaire, I’m talking about people who would say outright that they simply don’t care. @papayalily, I’m sure they could say something negative about me, and they could very well be right.

crisw's avatar

Out for a day, and so coming in to this discussion a little late.

Yes, meat tastes good. As you seem to realize, this, in and of itself, isn’t enough of an ethical justification for eating it. I have been a vegetarian for about 27 years now, for ethical reasons. I don’t believe that raising an animal humanely entitles us to take the life of that animal for our pleasure.

You note that “Meat tastes delicious to me because people evolved eating meat.” There are many things that taste delicious to us because of our evolutionary heritage- we crave fats and sweets. However, in our present society of over-surplus, following our instincts isn’t always healthy! And, in the particular case of meat, we have ethical decisions to make as well.

carrielynn's avatar

I liked meat as well when I ate a lot of fast food. I felt guilty about it ever since I was old enough to know where it came from. I thought I would miss the food, but I actually have not had any meat cravings since going vegetarian a couple years ago. It just felt so good to be doing what I wanted, I never knew it would be so easy or I wouldn’t have put it off so long. Now I no longer have the taste for meat.

deni's avatar

I do sometimes feel guilty. But I love it so much that it’s usually a fleeting thought.

perspicacious's avatar

I don’t feel guilty about eating it, and I can stop.

mattbrowne's avatar

I would feel guilty if I ate too much, like I would if I drove a fuel-inefficient car.

jellyfish3232's avatar

I must admit that I have a hard time feeling guilty. Think about the fact that the animal wouldn’t have ever been born if it weren’t raised for you to eat. I really don’t understand vegetarians… Or vegans. Especially vegans.

crisw's avatar

@jellyfish3232

“Think about the fact that the animal wouldn’t have ever been born if it weren’t raised for you to eat.”

So does that mean that anyone who causes a being to be born therefore has the power of life and death over that being? How, morally, is that so? Also, if an animal is never born, how does that cause suffering? A nonexistent being cannot suffer.

“I really don’t understand vegetarians”

How hard have you tried?

Hobbes's avatar

@jellyfish3232 – There’s also the issue of the terrible living conditions to which these animals are subjected, and the often inhumane methods used to slaughter them.

jellyfish3232's avatar

@Hobbes
Of course. However, I only eat organic cows… Which have a very nice life.

@crisw
I understand what you’re trying to say, but if people didn’t eat cattle, the species would be dead. They couldn’t survive in the wild. That’s really all that I have to say.

crisw's avatar

@jellyfish3232

“if people didn’t eat cattle, the species would be dead”

So? No individual suffers if this is the case, so how is it an ethical issue?

incendiary_dan's avatar

@jellyfish3232 Actually, plenty of domesticated species, cattle included, have been known to go feral from time to time. In the case of cattle, there would be a steep adjustment curve, but after adapting a community of feral cows could easily come to behave much like bison or aurochs or something.

jellyfish3232's avatar

@crisw
I can’t win this debate.

crisw's avatar

@jellyfish3232

If that’s so, then why did you make the statements you did? I happen to be someone, that if I made a statement like “I really don’t understand X” would try to take the time to understand X before vociferously berating the position.

You made a claim, it was shown why the claim was faulty. There are two ways to react to this- ignore the facts and keep on making the claim, or change your thinking about the claim.

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