A Defense of Eating Meat

Winter's sausage in white beans

Winter’s sausage in white beans. I give the recipe at the end of the post. Photo credit:MB.

Despite the preaches from your vegetarian friends, there’s nothing wrong about eating meat. On the contrary, meat may even be the answer to how to feed an overpopulated world.

Mother nature doesn’t spawn puppies, it makes food.

This is the inevitable conclusion of any realistic mind observing a horde of little turtles crossing a beach between their hatched eggs and the sea, just to be eaten by birds half way through or by fishes while flirting with a supposed victory.

We humans are  in a much more comfortable situation today: most of us won’t be preyed upon by an eagle or a big cat, common fate of our early ancestors. But many of us will still succumb under the suicidal hungry of parasites or of our own cells eating us from inside. With absolute certainty, each of us will one day be devoured by mindless bacteria with little regard for any of our accomplishments.

And we can’t even complain: every one out of five potential humans won’t even be so lucky, and will be spontaneously aborted and decomposed into its fundamentals, much before any conscience sparks.

These bright Sunday morning reflections just serve me as to support my defense of eating meat.

The richer and more civilized we become, the more acute our sensibilities towards other beings are. Our moral feelings are progressively extending to embrace not only all humans, but also many animals and even some perennial plants, specially trees.

If few decades ago we didn’t care about someone killing a cat, today such an act bears the weight of a crime. We look disgusted at bullfight and sportive hunting. We demand higher ethical standards on the use of animals for research and farming. Even if we don’t have much empathy with a certain animal—say, a rat—we don’t unnecessarily hurt it, more than the necessary for its extermination.

Much of this civilized sensibility relies on illusions and misunderstandings caused by our overwhelming tendency to anthropomorphize anything. We instinctively think that embryos, animals, plants, androids, gods, lawyers, extra-terrestrials feel the world through the same emotions as we do, and that for this reason they should be granted similar rights as ourselves.

Therefore, if we are not careful, a positive feature of the civilizatory process may easily slide down to diverse types of radicalism, as moral vegetarianism, for example.

I got myself few times feeling guilty in front a piece of meat. And this was the point when I felt I crossed the line.

There is absolutely no reason for feeling guilty for eating meat. Feeding from animalia, plantae, fungi, or whatever other kingdom our culinary curiosity carries us is just part of the natural cycle in which organic matter on Earth has been continuously transforming itself for more than three million millennia.

We’re part of those cycles—by definition morally neutral—and any compassion feeling or value judgment reflects only our arbitrary expectations, not nature itself.

We follow different cultural variants telling what is acceptable or not to eat. But there is nothing intrinsically immoral, cruel, or wrong about any of these choices beyond symbolic social conventions.

Just to stay with an obvious example of this cultural relativism, take eating dogs, for instance. Today, the simple idea of cooking a dog is outrageous in most of modern Western cultures, but dog-meat recipes were relatively common in rural regions of Switzerland and Poland till not so long ago; and they still are in Asia, where several million dogs are eaten every year.

Everytime a Western animal’s right group denounces such cultural variant as wrong (and they do it a lot), they’re judging other cultures as inferior and barbaric, ironically acting in the same way as the worst political movements of the 20th century also did to Asian and African peoples.

I’m not a bigot locked into my self-deceiving reality. I recognize that there are problems associated to eating meat.

On the personal side, health. Although it is unclear, it may exist an association between some diseases and excessive or inadequate meat consumption. But this is just a truism. We are awfully complex biochemical systems. Granting the funds, medical research will always be able to associate any kind of food, whatever its origin, to some disease.

On the society side, we can’t put carbon footprint aside anymore. It’s also not clear, but it’s possible that harvesting a kilocalorie from meat may have an ecological impact superior to harvesting the same energy amount from vegetables.

But let me make clear: we don’t know that yet. Don’t let yourself go for simplistic reasonings like “cattle needs ten times more water than soy, therefore…” Human impact on ecosystems is always much more complicated than this type of Malthusian logic. The proper account of the carbon footprint may reserve many surprises. A recent paper, for instance, showed that eating lettuce is over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon for the same energetic content.

Anyway, there are obviously serious problems related to properly feeding almost eight billion people, with or without meat. The economics of this process, with all its externalities, still need to be worked out.

And it may require that we face it mind-opened, including reorganizing the world food production to optimize it; certifying products for adequate ethics concerning human labor and animal welfare; developing genetic modifications of plants and animals to increase their yield and nutrient content. We may even need to rely on synthetic food to some extent. We may also need to overcome our cultural resistance and to harvest arthropods, specially insects, more intensively.

To grant food security on a global scale we will most certainly have to move very far from models based on locally-produced organic vegetarian products as some people advocate. On the contrary, intensive medical, genetic, and agricultural technologies together with the best scaling-up industrial practices must be taken as our allies.

And meat, as an amazing medium to store energy and deliver nutrients is most probably part of the solution, not of the problem.

MB

As promised, here it is my recipe:

Winter’s sausage in white beans

This a simple and comforting recipe for a cold evening at home. It takes about 1:15 h to prepare.

You’re going to need:

  • 200 g of bacon cut in large cubes.
  • 300 g of sliced pork sausage. (Use a hard smoked sausage that won’t melt during the cooking. Paio or cabanossi are good options.)
  • 500 g of white beans.
  • 2 sliced carrots.
  • 1 green bell pepper cut in large pieces.
  • 1 chopped onion.
  • 4 smashed garlic cloves.
  • 5 bay leaves.
  • 100 g of tomato sauce.
  • Salt.
  • Black pepper.
  • Chopped parsley.
  • Olive oil.

In a pressure cooker, add the beans, the meats, and the bay leaves. Cover them with water and cook under pressure for half hour.

Open the pan and keep cooking on low heat. Check the beans’ consistency regularly. You want them cooked, but still with some bite.

In a small pan, fry the garlic in olive oil. When the garlic starts to get gold, add the onions and stir constantly to avoid them to burn.

When the onions are translucent, turn the oil, garlic, and onions into the beans. Mix everything well and season with salt and black pepper. (Remember that the liquid will still reduce, then don’t add too much salt.)

Add the tomato sauce and the carrots into the beans. After 10 minutes, add the bell pepper and cook for 5 minutes more. Keep stirring constant, but delicately to get a cream soup without destroying the beans.

Adjust the salt. Turn off the stove. Add the parsley.

Serve the beans with bread and some strong beer.

If you are too lazy to cook beans from scratch, you may use a can of precooked white beans instead.

And if you’re brave enough, you may add 150 g of washed beef tripes to cook with the beans. I simply love them.



Categories: Culture

Tags: , , , , , ,

4 replies

  1. It seems that your main argument advocating for meat as part of healthy daily cuisine is based on inconvenience and the idea of ‘naturalness’. The key message for the reader is ‘ It’s natural to eat meat as part of the life circle’. Well, it’s also natural to evolve and adapt to changing conditions if you don’t wish to be extinct. To deny the enormous impact of meat industry to the environment is equally naive as denying climate change. Coming back to ‘naturalness’, on that basis one may argue the necessity of any medical treatment preventing death outcome. For instance it would be natural to die from infecting bacteria without using any antibiotics. Agree on the observation that different cultural systems develop varying perception with respect to *eatable* food. Disagree with the statement that ‘animal’s right group’ specifically look down at these cultures as ‘barbaric’. The majority of (meat eating) European consider the idea of eating dogs as gross. This fact is rather due to the deviations in cuisine value system ( carnism ) across the world than the result of being omnivore or vegetarian/vegan or a member of an animal’s right group. If the energy content is really an issue then worms seems to be far better suitable than any of the other animal protein sources.
    http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0051145

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