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The Ethics of Eating

Global meat consumption is predicted to double by 2020. Yet in Europe and North America, there is growing concern about the ethics of the way meat and eggs are produced. The consumption of veal has fallen sharply since it became widely known that to produce so-called “white” – actually pale pink – veal, newborn calves are separated from their mothers, deliberately made anemic, denied roughage, and kept in stalls so narrow that they cannot walk or turn around.

In Europe, mad cow disease shocked many people, not only because it shattered beef’s image as a safe and healthy food, but also because they learned that the disease was caused by feeding cattle the brains and nerve tissue of sheep. People who naively believed that cows ate grass discovered that beef cattle in feed lots may be fed anything from corn to fish meal, chicken litter (complete with chicken droppings), and slaughterhouse waste.

Concern about how we treat farm animals is far from being limited to the small percentage of people who are vegetarians or even vegans – eating no animal products at all. Despite strong ethical arguments for vegetarianism, it is not yet a mainstream position. More common is the view that we are justified in eating meat, as long as the animals have a decent life before they are killed.

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