Cut to the Chase: You are what you eat, but the choice is yours

By Rebecca French Smith

For many, a good ribeye steak, chicken and bacon are all part of their daily diets – salads, corn, broccoli, apples, bananas, mangoes and green beans, too … but not asparagus, at least not for me.
It’s my prerogative not to like asparagus. But eating only fruits and vegetables is an absolutely acceptable diet, and it’s a preference for part of the population as well.
Then there are various levels of the dietary inclusion of meat and/or animal products in between omnivore and vegan. But unfortunately, people on differing sides of the proverbial meat-eating fence don’t always co-exist peacefully.
The New York Times recently opened a rather large can of worms when it sponsored an essay contest in which entrants were asked to make an ethical case for eating meat. At times, a person, omnivore or vegan, will try to influence another person’s way of eating based on their personal beliefs and preferences.
The contest’s creator, “The Ethicist” columnist Ariel Kaminer, noted that vegetarians and vegans often define their reasons for the way they eat ethically, while omnivores, or carnivores, do not, typically. So, here was their chance.
The contest judges were decidedly stacked in opposition to those attempting to explain their ethical position, and as a result the contest was called phony, at the very least unbalanced. Interestingly they did manage to choose a winning essay, written by a “farmworker, plant geek, agroecologist and foodie” from North Carolina, Jay Bost, a vegetarian, who became a vegan, who now chooses to eat meat.
Rather logically, Mr. Bost made his case for eating meat based on whether or not the animal was raised in an ethical manner and that process’s impact on the world as a whole. He made the same case for plant-based foods as well. But there was one area in which he struggled to find a definitive answer.
“The issue of killing of a sentient being, however, lingers,” Mr. Bost said. That is really the crux of it, the moral and ethical dilemma, which is something that each of us must decide for ourselves. So upon returning to being an omnivore, Mr. Bost based his choices on three things: Accept the reality that death begets life, choose food that is raised and grown ethically and give thanks.
So what did the contest accomplish? Hopefully a level of respect, which is somewhat one-sided in the ongoing debate.
During the contest period, a California cattleman wrote an op-ed for Fox News in which he expressed no desire to convert anyone from being a vegan. He respected their personal choice, and that’s really what it boils down to.
Ultimately, there may be disagreement on the definition of “ethical” and too many people succumb to the misinformation of groups like HSUS when it comes to the ethics of food production.  What may be logical for Mr. Bost, may not be logical to others. Decisions should be made based on the facts available, not innuendo from a New York Times columnist or self-professed agroecologist.
The choice is yours.

Rebecca French Smith, of Columbia, Mo. is a multi-media specialist for the Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.

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