Monday, 23 April 2012

Read my Failed New York Times Entry

Earlier this month the New York Times put out a call to budding philosophers to explain in 600 words why eating meat is ethical. Thousands of readers submitted essays - myself included. My piece was co-authored with Clare McCausland and was titled 'Let Them Eat Meat – in defence of a premature death'. It was submitted under an alias and is available here for your reading pleasure:

Let Them Eat Meat – in defence of a premature death

Siobhan O’Sullivan
Clare McCausland

Around half of all adults aged over 85 will develop Alzheimer’s disease. For victims, their final years will be characterised by frustration, anxiety and fear. Alzheimer’s cannot be cured and patients’ suffering is shared by carers, especially children who much watch as once vigorous parents descend into a child-like fog of confusion and helplessness.

Who wants to get old?

A survey run by the MetLife Foundation in February 2011 found that 31 percent of Americans fear Alzheimer’s more than any other disease. That compares to 8 percent who said that their greatest fear is heart attack or stroke.

Is it any wonder that some people choose to reject the longevity paradigm? Why not let them eat meat? It tastes delicious and it’s closely linked to a premature death. It has fewer externalities than smoking and much greater social acceptance. Eating meat is clearly the logical choice for those with an aversion to nursing homes or dementia wards.

A study by the Harvard School of Business Health followed more than 100,000 men and women for 20 years. It found that eating red meat is linked to high mortality and premature death. This confirms a raft of earlier studies warning of the significantly increased risk to meat-abstainers of reaching old age.

A few objections to the eat-meat-to-fight-longevity proposal can be anticipated. First, it might be claimed that animals should not be made to suffer in order to ward off the ravages of aging. While that is a reasonable objection, the Harvard study demonstrates that only very small amounts of red meat are required for a premature death. Limiting red meat to 12 serves a year is still fatal, but would remove the need to factory farm. If we limit the eat-meat-to-die-young principle to people in the developed world (those most at risk of old age) we would only need to raise and slaughter around 21 million cows per year. On that small scale it would be entirely possible to offer every single animal an optimal life and a painless death. If death itself is not necessarily harmful to animals, and factory farming is the most objectionable facet of animal production, raising small numbers of animals for the benefit of those who do not wish to live into old age is the perfect solution.          

Another possible objection is the disease caused by meat eating; while it is likely to result in premature death, it will also make some people ill, resulting in a considerable health care burden. While this is a reasonable observation, the costs associated with an aging baby-boomer population are in fact far greater.

Finally, it might be argued that allowing the consumption of meat is environmentally irresponsible because of the excessive water use, methane and waste. Consistent with the scale observation already made, red meat consumption for those who enjoy the taste and wish to avoid old age need only be small scale, radically reducing the environmental footprint.

Eating meat isn’t harmless, but that’s one of its appeals.  Enforced vegetarianism unduly restricts our freedom to eat meat and die young, sentencing many people to the worst death they can imagine or driving them to socially harmful practices like suicide or smoking. Whether you like your ethics to protect individual choice, human and nonhuman welfare, or the environment, a small but therapeutic meat industry ticks all the boxes.  Meat tastes great and it avoids the trauma associated with much feared diseases of old age such as Alzheimer’s. Therefore, why wouldn’t you let people eat meat? 

A big congratulations to the authors who were successful. A short-list of 6 essays is available on the New York Times website. You now have until Midnight on April 24th (US time) to cast your vote for the best essay. Get voting!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment