Social Question

ETpro's avatar

How much meat would you eat if you had to kill the animal yourself before eating it?

Asked by ETpro (34415points) May 27th, 2011

I see that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has taken the sustainable farming challenge, For the next year, he vows to not eat any meat unless he kills and prepares the animal himself. It may sound macabre, but aren’t we really doing the same thing by proxy every single time we go to the grocery store and buy a package of meat for our dinner. Because there is the demand for meat, there is an industry of factory farms, slaughter houses and meat packing companies killing in proxy for us. That though came to me as I read the article about Zuckerberg’s challenge, and considered the sensationalism with which the writer covered it.

Isn’t it true that it only seems more humane to let our paid assassins do the butchery for us? Don’t we hold the leader who orders genocide more accountable than the foot soldiers who pull the trigger? The truth of the matter is that factory farming is a brutal scene from each animal’s birth to it’s final, predictable demise and trip to our dinner plate.

What do you think of Zuckerberg’s challenge? Would you try it, and if you did, how much meat do you think you would eat?

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61 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

If you’re going to eat meat shouldn’t you be willing to kill it yourself?

SavoirFaire's avatar

About the same. I don’t eat very much meat right now, and I never eat anything from factory farms. My grandfather was a farmer who had great respect for the animals in his care. He taught me how to kill them humanely and to always remember that they are never “just” animals.

tom_g's avatar

Former vegetarian here (9+ years), who has minimized my meat consumption to the occasional free-range chicken, etc.
It seems to me that there would be much less consumption of meat initially. People are so far removed from their food source. The shock of it might scare them off initially. Eventually, people would come around. Do you think people growing up on a family farm have any problems with killing their dinner?

When I stopped being a vegetarian, it was a long time before I could cook chicken or beef. The initial shock has subsided, but my disgust with factory farming is still with me.

OpryLeigh's avatar

Even less than I do currently which isn’t very much. I’m not a fan of the “you should only eat meat if you are willing to kill it yourself” arguement. I think it is vastly overused and yet, holds very little weight if you are already careful about where you purchase your meat.

King_Pariah's avatar

Still a whole lot.

syz's avatar

From here:

I’d probably be more likely to eat meat.

I don’t eat it now because I don’t like current mega-agricultural methods (callous cruelty, unnatural conditions, unnatural diets, growth hormones, antibiotics, inhumane and sloppy butchering) and I don’t like to eat poop.

(About a decade ago, when hundreds of people fell ill from eating fast food hamburgers contaminated with fecal matter spread during processing, the government response was to require that hamburgers be cooked at higher temperatures to kill the bacteria, rather than require that the shit on the meat be minimized.)

Facade's avatar

Probably none

DrBill's avatar

I do that already

I do wonder about the term Humanely kill

geeky_mama's avatar

I’m with @tom_g – I was a vegetarian for many many years.

If I had to kill and prepare my own meats I’d only be eating chicken and fish.

tedd's avatar

If I had to kill it myself I would probably make an effort to eat the whole thing (freezing portions of it or giving it to friends). If I’m going to make the effort and the animal the unwilling sacrifice, letting any of it go to waste would be stupid and disrespectful.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

About the same amount, although I would be eating more “gamey” meat than I do now. I honestly don’t feel healthy or satisfied unless I eat meat. In fact, I get really shaky if I don’t get enough heavy protein in my diet, and I can’t get enough from soy, nuts and cheese.

If I had to kill it myself, the only thing that would change is I would make more time to go hunting for dove, quail and deer.

rts486's avatar

I think it’s a great idea. I would eat as much as I eat now.

Poser's avatar

Probably less. I don’t know when I’d have time to kill and butcher my animals.

marinelife's avatar

As much of it as I could dress and freeze, which would pretty much be the whole thing with a moose or deer.

incendiary_dan's avatar

My ethical beliefs are based around killing and my effects within the balance of my landbase. On a personal level between me and my food, I tend to consider it an absolution of responsibility to prey to eat supermarket food for many people, though I unfortunately do eat food from the market. I’d rather kill things myself or have a trusted friend do so, so that I know the animal went down fast. I can know that animals I eat weren’t tortured (plants too, to a lesser extent).

Were I a better hunter and angler, I’d probably eat significantly more meat. It’s a lot cheaper, not to mention the nutritional differences between factory farmed and pastured or wild animals.

ucme's avatar

About the same i’d imagine, but please don’t let the wife cook it for god’s sake! :¬(

downtide's avatar

I would be willing to do it, provided that someone trained me how to do it humanely and safely. Whether I’d have the time to be a butcher as well as working full time, probably not.

Blondesjon's avatar

All of it.

And why is reality now called brutal instead?

waste not. want not.

wundayatta's avatar

Where is the logic here? If you want to eat meat, you should kill the meat yourself?

If I want to work in an office, do I have to build the skyscraper myself? What if I want to ride a bike? Or eat potatoes? If I want to dance, do I have to make the music myself? Make the car? The bicycle? The fog horn? The typewriter?

Where is the moral advantage in killing animals yourself? They are lives. So what? Amoebas are lives, too. Should I kill feral pigs myself? Wolves? Rattlesnakes? Cockroaches? Mice? Rats? Never hire an exterminator?

We hire people to do jobs because they are good at those jobs, not because we are shirking responsibility.

ratboy's avatar

I’d have quite a bit more mouse, rat, and pigeon on plate.

bkcunningham's avatar

I have to agree with @wundayatta. I don’t understand the logic in the question.

incendiary_dan's avatar

The logic, as I understand it, is that not knowing how an animal is raised and slaughtered is putting the responsibility of those things into someone else’s hands, who have consistently proven incapable of doing it correctly. Now, I wouldn’t take it to the extreme the Zuckerberg has, but then again I’m not an eccentric rich person. Just knowing the treatment is fine in my book.

ETpro's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe I don’t know. For most city dwellers, those without the resources of a Zukerberg, it wouldn’t be very practical. Are you saying that all who can’t go kill their own dinner should foreswear eating meat?

@SavoirFaire Not many family farms left know. It’s a passing way of life.

@tom_g I am sure you are right about the idea dropping demand initially.. It would climb back up some, but the very inconvenience of it would probably substantially limit the rebound.What made you return to eating meat?

@Leanne1986 Agreed.

@King_Pariah Meat & potatoes type, hey?

@syz Excelent points, particularly on hamburger preparation. I think I’d prefer your way.

@FacadeI really don’t know how I’d react. I’ve fished and cleaned and eaten the catch with no problem. But I’ve never hunted for dinner, or trapped it. Of course, our ancestors did. It was that or starve.

@DrBill There are ways of killing an animal that are relatively painless and terror free compared to the slaughter house where anials are forced through a narrow lane to a point where they see the one in front of them geting bludgeoned in the head with a sledgehammer.

@geeky_mama Yeah, that plus turkey might be my range as well. And that’s the healthiest of meats to eat.

@tedd I agree.

@WillWorkForChocolate I’ve had quali and deer. Both are delicious. Never tried doves though. Are they similar to quail?

@rts486 Only way I could do that here would be fishing in Boston Harbor. It just wouldn’t be practical for me to often get to places where there was live game or free range animals.

@Poser I’d be up against the same limits.

augustlan's avatar

If I had to kill and butcher my own meat, I would, but I’m certain my consumption would go down. Since I don’t have to, I won’t.

King_Pariah's avatar

@ETpro no, just meat, and yes, I’ve fallen in love with raw meat (too bad sashimi is so damn expensive).

ETpro's avatar

@marinelife How does moose compare with other form of deer?

@zen Are you somewhere where you can find a ready supply to kill and butcher, or someone who hardly east meat now?

@incendiary_danThanks. I think you’ve got the sustainability message loud and clear already.

@ucme That bad hey? :-)

#downtide Yeah, I’d be up against the same limit.

@Blondesjon The reality is that factory farms and slaughter house are much more brutal than hubting or free range farming. And the factory farm food is far less wholesome as well.

@wundayatta & @bkcunningham While some respondents seemed to take it that way, that wasn’t at all what Mark Zukerberg was suggesting.He is doing this not because he feels it’s inherently more moral; but because he wants to better understand sustainable farming versus today’s factory farming. #ncendiary_dan explained it well.

@ratboy Ratboy would eat rat? Here in Boston, it would pretty much be one of those three. Of course our wharf rats are at east as big as rabbits.

@augustlan When I was growing up, the nextdoor neighbors had a large chicken coup. During the depression, they had their own source of eggs. They used the eggs regularly, but only butchered the excess rooster they got when they allower fertile eggs to keep the population up;

@King_Pariah Sashimi isn’t expensive if you fish for it yourself. Just consume it on the spot,. or really ice it down for transit.

King_Pariah's avatar

@ETpro I’m talking sashimi grade beef.

fish isn’t real meat. lol

incendiary_dan's avatar

@King_Pariah That’ll take quite a big fishing pole.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@wundayatta—I wish I could give you a kajillion GA’s for that answer. My thoughts exactly.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Leanne1986 But see the responses from @incendiary_dan and @ETpro about what Zuckerberg is actually doing. It’s about living the life examined, not about moral superiority.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@ETpro Yes, dove is very similar to quail. Both are small, “gamey” birds, and both taste excellent when grilled after being marinated in my daddy’s homemade bbq sauce!

wundayatta's avatar

Well, if we are studying sustainability, what’s the big deal about killing animals? Isn’t the real issue what it takes to grow animals? And while we’re at it, let’s see what it’s like to extract oil from the earth. Let’s work on a rig in the Arctic Tundra. And let’s build batteries for “green” cars. Let’s do composting. Build a green building

Give me a break!

The killing animals thing only makes sense as a moral issue and even then it doesn’t make sense. Zuckerberg is being very disingenuous if that’s his reasoning.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@wundayatta First, none of the things you mention are brought up in ordinary conversation. However, I’ve lost count of how many vegetarians have asked me whether or not I could kill an animal with my own bare hands and eat it. My response—“been there, done that”—is often what causes them to shift to their moral arguments. So this is a real challenge that is made to people, unlike the other things you mention.

Second, how do you know that Zuckerberg wouldn’t be interested in all of those things? Maybe you should drop him a line. But even if not, I don’t see how it is disingenuous to be interested in this issue rather than others. I imagine that there are plenty of things you aren’t interested in. Does that make you disingenuous?

ETpro's avatar

@SavoirFaire True, and thanks for the defense here.

@WillWorkForChocolate Thanks. I wonder if pigeons just aren’t very tasty, or if they were smart enough to realize that people can’t hunt them on inner city streets. :-)

SavoirFaire's avatar

@ETpro You are quite welcome, of course. And GQ, by the way.

wundayatta's avatar

@SavoirFaire raising a straw man is disingenuous. Talking about killing meat as if it were only important a sustainability issue, when in fact the real controversy is a moral issue is disingenuous. Continuing to focus only on the straw man when there is a whole crowd of real people standing behind it is also disingenuous.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@SavoirFaire Yes, I am/was aware of that. I still like @wundayatta‘s answer though.

Response moderated
bkcunningham's avatar

How much of any foods would you eat if you had to produce it yourself? Bread, pastries, grains, fruits, vegetables, soups, jams, jellies, tofu, dairy, fish, shellfish…

SavoirFaire's avatar

@wundayatta I haven’t said a word about sustainability, so I’m not sure why you’re bringing it up in response to me. Nor have I said that the morality of eating meat is not a real issue. I’ve been in this discussion many times (both online and offline), and I am well aware that people have moral concerns about meat consumption. I do not think those concerns are warranted, but I am aware that those concerns exist. (Just to be clear, I do think concerns about animal treatment are warranted. But those are not the same as concerns with meat consumption simpliciter.) Moreover, the sustainability issue is often raised as a moral issue. Your attempt to separate issues of sustainability and morality, then, may be premature.

So much for the things I didn’t say. What I did discuss was living the life examined and its relationship to a common challenge that is presented by vegetarians/vegans. Specifically, that challenge is “could you kill an animal with your bare hands and eat it?” I have had this question posed to me many times. Indeed, I have met professional philosophers who like to open the debate with challenges of this kind. The idea is that killing (or trying to kill, or thinking about trying to kill) an animal ourselves would show us exactly what exactly is (morally) wrong with such an act. And if it is wrong for us to do it, it is wrong for others to do it (or have others do it for us).

If you think this argument is a straw man, then it is the vegetarians/vegans who are building their own arguments out of straw. Feel free to tell them so, but many seem to think it a worthwhile challenge to make. It breaks down, however, because it turns out that many people are actually quite capable of doing exactly what these vegetarians/vegans think they cannot/will not do.

The philosopher Cora Diamond, who argues for vegetarianism from the perspective of virtue ethics, alters the challenge slightly. Instead of discussing animals in general, her example of something that people cannot/will not do is kill and eat an animal they have named and taken as a pet. The idea here is that we have an artificial wall separating us from other animals that breaks down when we engage them as fellow creatures (like we do with pets). But unfortunately for her argument, farm children have long been doing exactly what she says they cannot/will not do: raising animals as named pets and then eating them. So again, the argument fails.

Now, you’ll notice that the challenge I’ve discussed is distinctly a moral challenge. This tends to belie your claim that I am not acknowledging the moral issues here. Furthermore, I do not see how any of your objections have anything to do with Zuckerberg. He wanted to see if he could do something, so he did. It was a personal challenge—an attempt to live the life examined. And along the way, he also happens to be learning a wealth of other things (e.g., about sustainable farming). None of this appears to be disingenuous, nor does any of it appear to be objectionable. You will have to go into further detail about what you find offensive about his actions.

wundayatta's avatar

@SavoirFaire Just to explain one thing—it was @ETpro who brought up the sustainability issue, and suggested it was Zuckerberg’s concern. I was not addressing my comments solely to you, but to others, as well—at least in the comments where I did not address anyone specifically.

Since I was rushed, I probably conflated your ideas with others at a certain point. My apologies.

There have been at least two different explanations of Zuckerberg’s motivations in this thread, so, having not read what his thinking was, I don’t know what to believe.

What is disingenuous in general, is to raise one issue as an apparent primary issue, when in fact one is investigating another issue. It is misleading. So to focus on the moral issue to get people all riled up when, in fact, it is the sustainability issue that one is concerned about, seems to me to be disingenuous. Unnecessary, too. But if that is not what is going on (i.e., sustainability is not a concern), the the point is moot.

The moral challenge—well, I think there’s a huge difference between what people say and what they do. Perhaps philosophers are trying to point this out, but I don’t think that any cognitive dissonance here will be very effective. A lot of morality, I believe, is pure whitewash. We say what we think other people want to hear so we can look good, whereas, in fact, we behave quite differently.

People may say that all life is sacred. But they eat meat and squash bugs all the time. One can accuse them of hiding behind some wall so they can eat without killing, but I think they would slaughter their own meat if necessary. It’s not necessary, just as so many other things in our society are delegated to specialists, and thus are also not necessary for us to engage in personally. We hire specialists to do the “dirty” work.

We see this morality argument in other places as well. There are women who believe it is immoral to hire house cleaners to do their dirty work for them. I think it has to do with a sense of class consciousness, but I’m not sure.

People are hypocritical on so many other issues as well, and I’ll bet that, to some extend, this kind of hypocrisy is influenced by class. For example, rich people would buy their sons’ ways out of military service when there was a draft. Or pull strings, like happened for George Bush.

People are almost universally against cheating. But someone posted some data on a question recently that said 60% of men and 50% of women had relationships outside their primary one.

I believe in looking at what people do, not what they say, to figure out what rules they really operate by. People may say that all life or all mammal life is sacred, but we still kill animals willy-nilly. In fact, if we did all go vegetarian, we would see the largest die-off of mammals in human history, as we let all the cows and pigs and lambs and chickens die off, because we no longer took care of them. Or maybe they would go feral, and we’d die off, unable to fend them off or keep them from ravaging our fields.

People may say all human life is sacred, but we treat people differentially based on their skills and abilities. The mentally ill, disabled, and developmentally disabled are routinely treated with aversion and prejudice, if not disgust. And some don’t even think they are worth keeping alive.

So I have little taste for philosophical maunderings. It’s a nice intellectual exercise and a good parlor game, but if you can’t explain how people really behave, then I don’t see the point.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@wundayatta As I am neither a vegetarian nor a vegan, I have no interest in defending vegetarianism or veganism from the various points you made. Indeed, I agree with much of what you said. My purpose in raising the arguments of Cora Diamond and others was simply to point out that I was not ignoring the moral issues.

In defense of my chosen career path, however, I would like to suggest that philosophy is not merely an intellectual exercise. Philosophy has many functions, but one thing it does is teach us to use logic and reason to solve problems that are not purely empirical. “What should I do” is not a problem that can be answered by looking through a microscope or taking its temperature. It requires a different set of skills and considerations.

You complain about moral philosophers because they do not explain how people actually behave, but that is not the purpose of moral philosophy. How the world is and how the world should be are different things, and there is no reason to think “people don’t actually behave that way” is any objection to a statement about how they should behave. If I were to say that murder is wrong, for example, it would be no objection to say “but people do commit murder from time to time.”

This is not to say that I do not find moral psychology to be an interesting field also worthy of study, but only that its importance does not vitiate the importance of moral philosophy. The question of what we should do is one that drives humanity. Moral psychologists gather data that is very useful and of great importance to moral philosophers, and it is very interesting information on its own. But it does not answer the fundamental question that got us started down this path in the first place.

SavoirFaire's avatar

P.S. A more neutral account of Zuckerberg’s personal challenge for the year can be found here.

wundayatta's avatar

In my opinion, morality arises from society; from people living together and needing to develop rules to help them live together more effectively. I.e., they can get more of what they want with reduced costs. These rules arise from negotiations between people, and they are an ever-evolving thing. What is moral in one society is not necessarily moral in another.

Entangled in this are notions about rights. Again, the society gets to decide who or what they will extend rights to. This is decided, again, through negotiations between many different members of society.

People may choose to follow the rules or not, and those decisions are complicated as folks calculate the standing they will have in society if they are caught vs the benefit of getting away with ignoring society’s rules. People also have different understandings of these rules, and different abilities to predict how society will respond to their behavior.

People have a different willingness to lie and different capabilities for self-understanding. People lie to themselves. I do not think people’s words are necessarily the most accurate predictor of what a person believes, but more importantly, how they will behave. I mistrust people’s statements of belief quite often. It all depends on what I know about them.

So I prefer to look at what people do. Behavior rarely lies. Maybe it never lies. I have met many people who have an excellent knowledge of a moral code and yet they break those rules willy-nilly. They are voting with their feet, in these cases. Although the difference between their behavior and the moral code they were brought up in causes them much cognitive dissonance.

ETpro's avatar

@wundayatta The article mentioned sustainable farming. I wondered myself how the challenge Zuckerberg was undertaking related to it.

wundayatta's avatar

From reading these things, it seems that no one really knows what Zuckerbergs moral feelings about the matter are. It doesn’t sound like he’s advocating anything. He’s just exploring to see what it’s like to slaughter his own meat. He’s discovered that he eats a lot more vegetarian meals.

I think this applies to a lot of things though. If I had to build every computer I used, I’d be using a lot more pencil and paper. If I had to build every skyscraper I conducted business in, I’d be using a lot more huts for business. If I had to kill every animal I eat, I’d probably be eating more fish and more vegetables, too. Fortunately, for all these things, we have people with expertise in doing them.

Not wanting to dirty my hands doing things is not an indication that I find them morally repulsive. It just means I don’t want to do them. Anyone who tells me I should be willing to do them doesn’t really get it, in my opinion.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@ETpro Plenty of people do hunt pigeons in the city.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@wundayatta I agree with much of what you say in your post about morality, but I would like to note that it is heavily populated with philosophical claims. Some are controversial, some are not. Regardless, any serious defense of them would be a philosophical pursuit. So again, it seems like the discipline is more than just an intellectual exercise or a parlor game.

downtide's avatar

If I had to prepare all my food myself, I’d end up eating more meat than pastry. I hate baking.

bkcunningham's avatar

@downtide imagine having to grow your own wheat, threashing, separating the wheat from the chaff and then grinding it just to have one ingredient for bread.

ETpro's avatar

@incendiary_dan Really? How do they taste. It’s fine if you have to ask Swim. ;-)

incendiary_dan's avatar

@ETpro From what I hear, chicken. I’ll let you know more definitively when I get around to trapping or shooting a few. It’s been a project of mine.

ETpro's avatar

@incendiary_dan Around here, that would be like shooting fish in a barrel. They will walk right up to you.

wundayatta's avatar

@SavoirFaire In my experience, Philosophy has been pretty abstract. I am always fighting that impulse in myself. Abstractions are too hard to understand and too prone to misunderstanding.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@wundayatta Philosophy involves both the abstract and the concrete. But that something is hard doesn’t seem like a reason to disregard it; it just seems a reason to be careful. This is why clarity and discussion are so important in philosophical matters: important questions cannot be answered with soundbites.

wundayatta's avatar

@SavoirFaire It’s not so much disregarding it as seeking an alternative way to communicate—one that works for me. Philosophers can have their abstract conversations. I used to get into them, myself, when I was younger. Now—not so much. I need stories. Abstractions seem to get in the way of understanding more than they help it, much of the time.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@wundayatta A lot of stories are basically just alternative forms of philosophy, and a lot of philosophy gets done through things like science fiction. I think you have an overly narrow view of what the discipline involves (or can involve).

talljasperman's avatar

I can and have cleaned both fish and fowl. Pork and beef might be harder, but It would be a special treat. Road kill or old age.

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