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What’s for Dinner?


At least since the publication of Frances Moore Lappé’s Diet for a Small Planet, environmentalists have worried about the consequences of meat eating. Raising livestock is resource-intensive, often polluting, and, as we are beginning to learn, a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. It’s also one of the ways we’ve fed ourselves for millennia. So can a meat-inclusive diet be reconciled with ecosystem protection? Rancher-attorney Nicolette Hahn Niman says, Yes. Lindsay Rajt, a campaigner for PETA, isn’t so sure.

Animals Are Essential To Sustainable Food

By Nicolette Hahn Niman

As Senior Attorney at Waterkeeper Alliance, Nicolette Hahn Niman sought to improve conditions at livestock operations. Today she and her husband Bill, founder of Niman Ranch, raise grass-based cattle, heirloom turkeys, and goats. She is the author of the book Righteous Porkchop.

A chorus of impassioned criticism has been rising against meat and dairy consumption. Many of the critics identify themselves as environmentalists. Their vehemence has been stoked by several reports, most notably one from the United Nations, documenting that animal farming is contributing to climate change, depleting and polluting groundwater, and poisoning rivers and streams. These reports are timely and necessary. But they cannot rightly be used to bolster arguments that farm animals should be scrubbed from our landscapes. The data indict only inappropriate practices in raising animals, not animal farming per se. The prevailing industrial methods differ radically from traditional land stewardship and animal husbandry. The most environmentally sustainable food production mimics nature in all its complexity – and animals are an essential component. …more…

There’s no reason to Eat Animals

By Lindsay Rajt

A vegetarian since her teenage years, Lindsay Rajt manages grassroots campaigns at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Rajt has coordinated campaigns targeting KFC’s “torture” of chickens as well as the treatment of horses at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby.

If we care about the environment and believe that kindness is a virtue – as we all say that we do – a vegan diet is the only sensible option. The question becomes: Why eat animals at all?

Animals are made of flesh, bone, and blood, just as you and I are. They form friendships, feel pain and joy, grieve for lost loved ones, and are afraid to die. One cannot profess to care about animals while tearing them away from their friends and families and cutting their throats – or paying someone else to do it – simply to satisfy a fleeting taste for flesh. …more…


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While it is sad to think of the way we get our meals (in regards to us meat eaters), it is necessary for our sustenance.  As was said in the above article, it is more a question on the practices of animal slaughter at certain ranches.  While vegans argue that it is not necessary to eat meat in order to get protein, meat is the best source of protein for us to eat.  So yes, while some of the methods of producing our meat for consumption may be sad to think about and should probably be updated to be more humane, we need meat in our diets. 

By Ben F. on Mon, October 11, 2010 at 12:37 pm

To Sarah W:

Well said, Well Written! Choices are how we live our lives. To try to disparage, convert, or argue someone’s differing beliefs is disrespect—PERIOD!
Bigotry, prejudice, or intolerance is—dare I say this? YES!!—psychological TERRORISM. No one wants to convert you, but no one wants to hear your tirades, either.
Vegans are vegans. Vegetarians by whatever mode, are vegetarians. Carnivores are carnivores. And so life goes on. We need to live together, to rely on one another, and to interact with one another in harmony.
Thanks For Your Time.

By Rev. David on Mon, August 02, 2010 at 9:23 am

Humans are evolutionarily designed to eat whatever the heck we can get our hands on. That includes meat.

The thing about meat is that historically it is a source of high calorie food that is much easier to obtain than anything you could ever forage through gathering. Once agriculture comes around, there is such a high input of human energy that meat was necessary to have the manpower to harvest vegetables. There wasn’t always a lot to go around, but it was needed. Dairy products and eggs also played a huge role in giving farmers adequate amounts of fat and protein. Even in the 19th century, you have farmers who are burning around 9,000 calories per day during harvest time (hello five meals a day!). 

To be perfectly honest, vegetarianism is fine for people who don’t have to do much manual labor in life. I count myself among those people. I don’t eat a whole lot of meat for both ethical and financial reasons. But I do consume a great deal of dairy to get my fat fix.

One last thing about meat vs. veggies - most vegetables, especially wheat, soy, and corn, are incredibly energy-, water-, and land-use-intensive. Grass-fed and/or pastured meat? Not so much. Humans can’t eat grass and we’d rather not eat bugs. Cows and chickens love both. I’d rather eat grass-fed beef and dairy (and most dairy is grass-fed) than conventionally grown soy milk and tofu.

Your personal choices are your personal choices, but so are mine. I don’t yell at you for choosing to have kids on an already overpopulated planet - why should you yell at me (or anyone else for that matter) for choosing to eat meat?

By Sarah W. on Sun, August 01, 2010 at 6:08 am

An often overlooked fact in this debate is that animals are a required part of sustainable, organic, long-term farming.

I became a vegan to support my Buddhist belief that I should cause as little suffering as is humanly possible. I was a strict vegan for a year before I gave in to the fact that I was unable to provide my body with enough protein and vitamins to avoid anemia and a foggy brain. I know that others can do this successfully, but this was not the case for me.

I transitioned to being a lacto-ovo-pesca “vegetarian,” buying only organic, humanely raised or wild caught sources, for many years and my health was fine.

A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to obtain a small parcel of land and build a small homestead where I can grow my own food through sustainable techniques and do my part to support a sustainable future for our society.  I started purchasing books and reading articles on permaculture, sustainable living, organic gardening and homesteading. The more I read, the more I learned about the key roll that animals play in a sustainable homestead by providing pest control, brush management, fertilizer and more.

Of course, on a sustainable homestead, the number of animals is generally small, they are humanely raised, and allowed to forage for a properly varied diet to ensure that they are as healthy as possible. This increases the nutrition in the animal byproducts, including the fertilizer they provide. But, a healthy sustainable homestead is a delicate ecosystem where all elements are interdependent. If you remove the animals, the system starts to break down.

By Jen Williams on Mon, July 19, 2010 at 5:05 pm

There is actually more evidence pointing towards the human physiology as primarily plant eater than meat eater.

1.B12 comes from microorganisms and animals get it by eating soil containing it. Animal meat have B12 the same way, we have B12 when we eat something that has it. Unfortunately, animal meat comes with alot of toxins and cholesterol and the quantity of meat ingested by most humans far exceeds the dietary requirements to get B12.

2. Anthropology studies have shown that aboriginal and native societies collected more calories and protein from shrubs, nuts and foliage than the typical men hunting meat. Studies of remains have also shown that the ‘rich’ people were also sicker than most of poor people. In fact, illustration depicts them often as fat, while poorer people were leaner. We all know that obesity brings on many disease such as diabetes and cardiovascular mortality

3. Teeth of humans are not teeth of carnivores. Moreover our saliva contains amylase, made to digest carbs, not the enzyme in the feline’s saliva made to digest meat from the prey they catch. Our DNA is not carnovorous, it is omnivorous but with a catch on our physiology when the animal meat exceeds a certain proportion of the diet.

4. More and more medical evidence shows that cancer , diabetes, heart disease are diseases caused by our diet.

The agrochemical business wants to make money. It pollutes the food people eat to deliver it anywhere, anytime to save on production costs.(and pollutes 50% of the water without payment for it) Humans are lazy and blissfully ignorant of where their food comes from. They want someone else to raise the animals, kill them, then cook it for them. If everyone had to kill and prepare the amount of meat they eat, I am sure that amount would drastically decrease! If people had to pay the trues cost of meat production (estimated at 75$per pound of ground beef) meat would certainly not be eaten three times a day, 7days a week!

The pharmaceutical industry also wants to make money by keeping people sick and hooked on their same pills to reduce the progression of disease. ONLY A HEALTHY PLANT BASED DIET can change that.But which corporate interest would that profit?

I do not eat meat for all sorts of reason. As have many cultures around the globe for millennia. However, if someone wants to eat meat, eggs, fish, they should view it as a condiment rather than as a primary source of calories to avoid the contamination by adulterants made to keep the food edible for longer than should be.  They would also avoid the excess calories and cholesterol. most humans in western cultures today are suffering from their fat and sugar addiction and we certainly see the result of that on our total health care expenditures in the western world.

Tax payers pay the cost of their meat addiction with their government’s subsidies of the meat industries, then we pay it again in health care dollars for the diseases it brings on and then we pay it again with our taxes when we purchase those products, and we pay it again when the environment is contaminated by effluent of industries, and we pay it again when oil rigs explode. That’s an expensive addiction and whoever makes the money from it surely doesn’t want the situation to change and will persist in sending disinformation to keep it that way.

By sgdkm on Wed, July 07, 2010 at 5:45 am

If humans were true carnivores or omnivores, they would have the following:

1) real canine teeth and plenty of them (not the mere two with a slight ‘hook’), and would not chew side to side with a grinding action.
2) a very short digestive system (which allows for quick elimination of putrefying material)
3) saliva adapted to break down proteins as well as carbohydrates
4) tastebuds specifically designed for sensitivity to the tastes of amino acids (cats have this; human beings do not at all, which is why we do not desire to catch and eat raw flesh and also find boiled meat, without seasoning, tasteless).
5) the ability to easily eliminate cholesterol

This does not mean that human beings cannot eat meat.  It just means that, from an evolutionary perspective, we are not meat-eaters.  Even if we ate some meat from time to time as “hunter-gatherers”, we never truly adapted to it genetically.  The peoples of the arctic regions, who have for generations upon generations almost wholly subsisted on a meat diet, have not adapted.  They have comparatively short life spans and suffer from the same chronic diseases endemic to other heavy meat eaters: obesity, high cholestorol, high blood pressure, kidney problems, etc.

By Sheila Collins on Tue, July 06, 2010 at 12:26 am

People can thrive on a vegan diet, therefore it’s absolutely inexcusable that they should kill and exploit animals. Wake up people, we’re killing the planet and there’s no point pretending life will carry on as it’s always been. We need a massive paradigm shift and turning vegan is part of that.

By Antonio Pasolini on Mon, July 05, 2010 at 5:08 am

Meat is a good source of fats, proteins and essential omegas (grass fed being the best for the correct ratio of omegas) and other vital nutrients that you can’t get readily from plant sources - the vitamins B12, which ONLY comes from meat sources, iron, zinc and all the amino acids at once. Lack of B12 can profoundly effect mental function. To get the correct ratio of amino acids, you have to know what nuts to eat (no nut contains all the amino acids at once, so you have to know the right combo to eat and you must eat them at the same time or it doesn’t work…)

You can’t readily absorb B12 via the intestines, which is why God in all His infinite wisdom put it in juicy meat… mmm… you have to chew and keep it in your mouth for a while, enjoying the savory juices long enough to absorb B12 sublingually. The only other real effective way to deliver B12 is through injections (which my autistic daughter is on) and so if we didn’t have supplements or syringes, we’d be hard pressed to get enough B12 to stay focused and mentally alert. This is why the gentry in the old days had more smarts than poor people - they could hunt on their own land with permission from the king, and the poor could be hanged for poaching the king’s deer… why would anyone risk hanging for a piece of meat? For the B12 and other nutrients meat contained.

Meat is also a quicker way to get food (for the hunter-gatherer crowd) - if we all went totally natural like our ancestors, I bet the vegans would get tired of having to look for the right kinds of nut trees or have to wait around for their tofu to curdle just right - the hunter/gatherer mode of survival was much faster and more practical, especially during winter months when nothing grows and storage isn’t practical. It’s harder to farm when your starving your brain.

Also, before the loom came around, people decided early on that grass clothes are too scratchy. And unattractive.

Besides all that, we can’t all live in the sun belt on an island where there is an abundance of mangoes hanging from the trees and seaweed washing up on shore. Oh, I do love me some seaweed salad, though. And if I did live on such an island, glory be, I’d fashion me a spear right quick and rustle me up some fish for dinner. And some seaweed salad.

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

By MrsP on Tue, June 22, 2010 at 10:26 am

Understand this: Vegetarianism is a choice. Your DNA is not. Before vegetarianism existed as an entitty separate from human-kind, human ancestors were HUNTER-GATHERERS. This is an archeological fact. The choice to be vegetarian is. It is neither bad nor is it good. being a carnivore or even an omnivore is. It is neither bad nor good. If you abhor meat of any kind, then you will remove yourself from the omnivore culture and place yourself where harvesting of flesh of any specie is frowned upon. We who have a reverence for our food sources, and in our ancestry, ask permission of the animal’s spirit to the harvest, will proceed to be kind to the earth’s abundance. The mobile abundance of wild, unspoiled meat, granted us by our Universe is a gift. Like vegetation it must be respected, nurtured, and harvested at its peak of abundance. AS a “man of the cloth”, don’t be shocked. Before being ordained, I killed humans in South Viet Nam, just so I could be insulted after protecting your freedom of speech.
Thank you for your time.

By Rev. David Bozek on Mon, June 21, 2010 at 7:33 pm

People eat animals because they like the taste of meat and are lazy cooks, not because humans “need” meat.  All of us VERY healthy vegetarians are proof that meat is not necessary for human survival.  There have been successful vegetarian cultures for hundreds of years, both in Europe and Asia.  Sorry to be so blunt folks, but killing animals for taste-bud stimulation is a conscious choice, not a necessity.  And, hunting one’s own meat is no better; it just adds the thrill of killing to the mix and tries to cover that thrill with the “spiritual gratefulness” to the dead being.  It continues to amaze me the 1000s of words of rationalizations humans can come up with to satisfy their self-absorption. But such rationalizations from “men of the cloth”?  I’m stunned.

By GariRae on Mon, June 21, 2010 at 4:22 pm

TO: Douglas C. Smyth

Well said, well written! Your philosophy is in line with what I believe needs doing. Although, in my humble opinion we do not need AK-47’s or AR-15’s to hunt deer—there wouldn’t be much left! But again, in fishing or in hunting for a protein source, respect for the hunted means killing without the prey suffering. Anything else is bad form….

Rev. David

By Rev. David Bozek on Sat, June 19, 2010 at 10:22 am

I’ve been more or less a vegetarian since I read Diet for A Small Planet about 35 years ago, when researching for teaching a course on international economic issues.

I say more or less, because I’m not vegan, and I do include fish in my diet for special occasions—I’ve fished and can kill fish without compunction—but I realize it’s a compromise that’s becoming more questionable with overfishing and the Gulf oil disaster. The compromise is necessary for me to remain largely vegetarian: if I go to a restaurant, I want a little choice, at least.

That said, from late May until mid-October, I eat largely from my own garden. It’s not big enough to produce enough food for extensive canning, although I do produce enough potatoes to keep us going if all else fails.

But, if all else fails (meaning our fossil-fuel based economy truly collapsing—not impossible), I’m afraid that wild meat might have to be part of my diet, and I might consider raising sheep or a few beef cattle simply because it might be the only way to survive in this climate, where there is a real winter.

I agree that commercial meat production is an abomination and a tremendous burden on the Earth.

I do not agree that small-scale farming with a few animals raised for meat is inhumane. Cows, sheep, pigs were domesticated for that purpose, and exist in such great numbers for that reason.

And, in nature, we eat, or we are eaten. Cattle were killed by keystone predators, including humans, and the absence of other predators has created a terrible imbalance in our own natural system here. There are way too many deer, and they not only damage crops, they deter healthy forests from growing the way they should. If we don’t bring back wolves, we should hunt more than we do.

By Douglas C Smyth on Sat, June 19, 2010 at 7:49 am

Whether we deny it or not, humans are omnivorous, at the top of the food chain, and able to plan, think (depending!), and strategize. Yes, we can survive as vegan, and vegetarian. Yes we can survive as carnivores. But this is not the entire make-up of our DNA. We are by our nature, hunter-gatherers. no one can deny that. Therefore, even though meat was not an everyday occurrence in our ancestors’ diets, it WAS part of those diets. It occurs to me, that in the current world of hunter-gatherers, (what we can call the 4th World) hunters who stalk a meal have a reverence for their prey. They call upon their higher Being to insure a good catch, and that the prey does not suffer. This is what the fishing industry does every day!
To the point: It is okay to be as you are but do not tell me how to live my life or how to eat, UNLESS it detracts from the COMMON GOOD. You may discuss, you may educate, you may suggest. I have an open mind; I can learn the why’s and wherefore’s. However, my decision for good or for not-so-good, is mine.
I don’t mean to be a wet blanket. PETA has a good point—the ETHICAL treatment of animals. In that context it means not causing suffering, not wasting them with bad food, not abandoning them during times of sickness or catastrophe. KUDOS!
Meat-eaters also have a point, along with a responsibility. Kill and eat the animal with reverence and gratitude; this animal gave its life so you might live. This is natural; it is the way of life from time immemorial. Treat their bodies as you would your own.
Don’t eat garbage.
Thank you for your time.

By Rev. David Bozek on Sat, June 19, 2010 at 6:52 am

It is question of who’s for dinner not what’s for dinner.  It depends on what you think is valuable in this world.  I happen to think suffering is a bad thing and I like animals.  I think humans are not the center of the moral universe and that other beings count.  In my opinion there are no good reasons to kill animals for food only self centered ones.

By randy on Fri, June 18, 2010 at 10:22 pm

I love the idea of this discussion. A nice volley into a topic which must be more thoroughly discussed in the public sphere. 

That said, I’m not sure that this Rajt’s arguments are more than a series of conclusions. Where are the facts? She’s got spunk and as a matter of personal belief I support her conclusions. I am a vegetarian, recently turned vegan. Rest assured that that my reasons are just as important but are also fact based and principled.  Statistical evidence to support the arguments is readily available. A small nod to this evidence would enhance the passion apparent in the PETA perspective. This is a cool short- hand for a much deeper conversation about relative choice and cumulative impacts. Rajt is anecdotal and a bit insulting in making failed analogy to the entirely inorganic institution to slavery but… nobody’s perfect.

By Tamara Toles on Fri, April 23, 2010 at 5:11 pm

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