Moral Reasons to be Vegetarian
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I've never had much luck arguing that eating animals is immoral. People either feel compassion for cows, pigs, and chickens, or they don't. So instead of adding further noise to the already confusing din of animal rights tub beating, I'd rather argue that the morality of eating meat has little to do with animals at all. The moral issue is not a question of treating animals more like people. Rather, it's the absolute necessity that we begin treating people less like animals.

One thing that's certain about the nine billion farm animals raised in the United States each year is that very few go hungry. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for over one sixth of the world's population. While US livestock grow bellies that touch the ground, a billion people worldwide suffer malnutrition. While foie gras farmers use funnels to force feed ducks, sixty million people will die from starvation and related diseases this year alone. We may have shot a monkey into orbit and invented robots that milk cows, yet at no time in human history has a greater percentage of the world's population gone hungry. Fortunately, the explanation for this discrepancy is simple. The blame lies almost entirely on our meat-centered diet.

It's difficult to imagine a more fantastically inefficient way to produce food than raising livestock. Two thirds of US grain harvested each year is fed to farm animals, and, if we're lucky, a small percentage of that grain's nutrients is eventually returned in edible meat. Much of the invested protein and vitamins simply disappear, either absorbed by an animal's inedible skin, teeth, and bone, or excreted out its rear. Frances Moore Lappe, author of Diet for a Small Planet summarizes the problem as follows. "Our food system takes abundant grain, which hungry people can't afford, and shrinks it to meat, which better-off people will pay for."

World hunger is not, as most people assume, a problem of production, and therefore does not require a solution of technology. We need not urge scientists to grow giant, genetically modified tomatoes nor develop ways to harvest corn on the moon. World hunger is a problem of distribution, and, as such, can be solved only with conscience. We simply need to stop feeding farm animals all our food. Of course, the food industry is unlikely to listen to any argument but economics, so the individual wanting change is left with only one choice. He or she must buy less meat.

Unlike fruits, grains, and vegetables, meat is not a primary source food. Every meal that includes an animal product is a meal that you eat twice, with a cow, pig, or chicken digesting the first course. I may only speak for myself, but as long as some people are unable to enjoy food even once a day, eating food twice a meal seems immoral. I imagine it's probably unchristian, unkosher, and unmuslim too. If nothing else, over consumption certainly qualifies as a deadly sin, especially considering that many Americans eat meat well past the point of obesity. And while pointy-tailed devils may eventually punish gluttony with an eternity of force-fed snakes, toads, and rats, I doubt that's much consolation to the world's hungry. Overweight Americans may be a funny bunch, but it's difficult to laugh when your stomach is knotted in hunger.