In his book, “The Reason of Things”, the English philosopher A C Grayling discusses the morality of eating meat in a short essay aptly entitled “Meat”. He does so in the engaging style that makes his short books excellent philosophy for the common man. In making an argument against the eating of meat, he begins by invoking images of burning pyres lighting up the evening skies in the UK’s foot and mouth epidemic of the early years of last decade. He notes the upset, in all its forms, caused to farmers who saw their income for the year literally go up in smoke; the price paid for a vet-slaughtered animal being lower than for an abattoir-slaughtered one. This says nothing of the problem of no reproductive stock to replenish the herd and the expense of restocking from a scarcity market.
Grayling continues well making the economic case that, in terms of energy harvested per unit area of land, it makes more sense to grow crops than to raise heads of cattle. He adds that some intensive cattle-rearing practices also mean increased risk of infection and the presence of biologically significant levels of antibiotics and growth hormones. It’s hard to disagree with the propositions up to this point. Unfortunately, and I’m sure it’s deliberate, he then makes a plea to our innate sense of disgust by making the statement that all ‘fresh meat’, containing as it does its normal supply of hosted bacteria, is, in fact, rotten. He highlights that microbes are a meat-eater’s best friend for, without them, there could be no tender steak, no juicy roast, no tasty chop or rib.
Well, if it takes microbes to make a steak tender and delicious (with or without fried onions, juicy button mushrooms and chips) then I say “Hurrah for microbes”. Using an emotional argument runs the risk of upending your evidence-based, logically-coherent arguments or, what is worse, hiding good arguments behind emotional crowd-pleasing.
“How’d you like your steak, Sir?”